Podcasts are still—yes, still—having their moment.
More than a third of Americans have listened to a podcast, and avid users consume six hours a day. With this sort of listenership and the ever-rising interest in new ways to connect with consumers, it’s no surprise that brands are publishing their own original audio content, too.
But as with any emerging medium, the first time is rarely the charm. For many brands that are dipping their toes in the podcast pool, the content, organization, and promotion of these programs are leaving much to be desired, including a passionate listenership.
Podcasts are a growing medium, and there are possibilities for engaging consumers on your value, expertise, and offering. That said, here are four ways to steer your podcast program off-course.
Mistake #1: Prioritizing What You Want To Say Over What People Want To Hear
Teaching your listeners is important; it’s likely why they have tuned in in the first place. But educational content is only successful if it’s entertaining enough to keep listeners engaged and coming back.
Many companies have podcasts hosted and guested by in-house experts, which, while educational, usually turns the episode into a boring recitation of internal marketing (or worse, sales) priorities. Instead, recognize that a podcast is also an opportunity to connect and round out how you’re viewed by your listener.
In 2015, GE released The Message, a sci-fi series that quickly ascended to No. 1 on the iTunes top podcasts chart. The content of the podcast didn’t push any of the brand’s products or services; instead, it was true white-label content, driving back to GE’s ethos of “imagination at work” with an entertaining and engaging series that inspired listeners to wonder “what if?”
While this is the best of all worlds—entertaining, engaging, and true to your brand mission—for many brands it’s just a matter of switching your host for someone energetic and charming who can set and carry the tone of the show while in-house experts join as guests.
Mistake #2: Trusting That Inspiration Will Strike
Effective branded content, including a good podcast, does not come easily. So it’s critical that you plan early and often in order to ensure that you have solid topics and smart, energizing conversation.
Begin with a basic and realistic editorial calendar for your series. Establish a cadence that your brand will stick to that will allow you to build a regular and loyal listenership. Plan a number of podcasts around timely topics (like back-to-school season or the Olympics) and fill the rest of the calendar with evergreen program ideas that can be moved around if guests fall through or priorities shift. The Slack Variety Pack centers on workplace habits and culture, publishing every two weeks. Topics range from a January episode about workplace resolutions to timeless topics like productivity and using emojis.
Mistake #3: Expecting People To Listen
“If you build it, they will come” does not apply here. Once podcast content is created, there’s post-production work that, if neglected, can easily result in low listenership and unengaged users.
For instance, one major financial services company has produced a podcast through simply recording a conference call between in-house experts and posting the calls on iTunes. While informative, the calls are only labeled by date, so identifying a specific topic or guest is nearly impossible. Instead, be organized and clear; understand that not all listeners will stay for your whole podcast, and if they do, it’s unlikely that they will listen intently to each episode.
Even NPR had to take a creative approach to market its wildly popular series Invisibilia, hosting more than 200 listening parties across the country and a companion Facebook Live program. If a major podcast player with an established listener base needs to do this, brands need to work even harder.
Mistake #4: Overestimating Your Website Traffic
When it comes to podcast listening, 82% of it occurs on an iPhone, primarily through the iTunes Podcasts app.
While your blog may be highly read or your website may generate most of your sales leads, the reality is that while loyal customers may listen on your website, it’s unlikely that your podcast will be discovered that way. Instead, take an omnichannel approach by posting your program on your website, promoting your content over social media and through employees, and recognizing the power of a well-maintained iTunes presence with a profile image, program description, titles, and links back to your website.
TGIM, a program on entrepreneurship from Shopify, is found easily on iTunes, Stitcher, and SoundCloud, as well as the brand’s own site. For JPMorgan’s Insights podcast, a strong iTunes presence and clear CTAs at the end of each episode to visit the company's website or connect with an advisor help usher customers toward action—the ultimate goal of branded content.
Developing a podcast is no easy feat. Without the right host, the right planning, the right topics, and the right promotion, the value that your brand will bring to your listeners—if you’re lucky enough to have them—will be little. It’s a competitive space and a channel that requires near-constant attention and shepherding. But if you manage to strike the right balance, you’ll convert strangers to listeners and listeners to customers.