Podcast strategy

Pre-production and what you need to know and do before you launch

What you'll learn in this section

  • Why you should be podcasting - what makes this a great medium for content marketing
  • What do you want your podcast to do? - setting goals for your podcast
  • Planning your podcast's format
  • How to record your podcast and what equipment you need
  • Finding and hiring a producer or editor
  • How much does a podcast cost to produce?

Why you should be podcasting

Everyone is talking about podcasting at the moment, but what are the real benefits of the medium and is it right for your business?

First, let’s take a look at what makes podcasting so special...

Podcasting builds an engaged community

Podcast audiences are loyal. Research shows that 80% of listeners hear all or most of each episode they consume. Can you say the same of your blog reading or video watching habits?

In fact, Paul Colligan took a look at podcast consumption over Facebook video to validate this further and the results were amazing. He saw 30 times the consumption of podcast content over video. That’s a high level of engagement.

And this is where podcasting really begins to gets exciting. When you have an engaged and loyal listener, spending time with you week after week, you have the opportunity to build a long-lasting and meaningful relationship with them.

Studies consistently show audio to be more engaging than video, and because most listening happens on a mobile device through headphones (69% in fact), it’s a really intimate, one-to-one experience. Consumers listen while commuting, studying, working out, driving, or cooking, which builds trust for a brand in a truly authentic way that we don’t see anywhere else.

Podcasting builds trust and authority in your industry

It’s generally believed that people do business with people they like. To like someone, we have to trust them, and voice is intrinsic to establishing this trust. We’re less inclined to trust a faceless corporation than a friendly, “smiling” voice from a real human being, for example.

Podcasting’s strength is in its intimacy. By using your most natural communication medium – the voice – you can establish trust and authority in your field of expertise much faster than communicating at the organisational level.

Guest speakers can also help illuminate key messages while adding credibility to your brand. Engage your listeners with experts and insight, and you earn their respect (and ultimately, their custom). Become a thought leader on your own show and you’ll be invited to speak on others, where you can continue to share ideas, network, and grow your brand.

Podcasting helps communicate complex ideas

Few, if any, of us write the way we speak. We tend to be more expressive when we talk, more effusive, describing things in our own words. Our personalities shine. Our pitch, timbre, and tone convey more meaning than is possible with the written word, and these cues help us follow the logic of the speaker.

Podcasting is therefore perfect for breaking down complex or difficult messages into understandable chunks. How you deliver these chunks is up to you – you can use examples from your own life or business, include the odd joke or two, and even split topics over several shows.

Podcasting is the perfect medium for communicating complex subject and ideas.
Podcasting is the perfect medium for communicating complex subject and ideas.

Podcasting sends NPS through the roof

Your strongest asset is your existing customers. They spend up to 67% more money, cost less to sell to, and will promote your business to colleagues, friends, and family. But are you engaging them in the right way?

Smart speakers, the Internet-of-Things, and other on-demand audio are rapidly appearing in homes across the globe, creating a relaxed environment in which you’re invited to speak. Treat them to valuable content, and your Net Promoter Score (NPS) will skyrocket.

Few customers have time to read your company blog. But with podcasting, they can multitask while driving or cooking dinner. Your voice, content, and mode of delivery build better relationships with your customers. Make them happy and they’ll return time and again, and will recommend you to friends or family members.

Podcasting helps connect you with peers and industry influencers

Once you’ve built a community of engaged listeners, your podcast takes on a life of its own. You’ll find doors open, and people will want to talk to you. This is your opportunity to learn from your peers and influencers in your industry – they could be fellow podcasters or bloggers, thought leaders, or innovators.

Inviting these people to speak on your show is a simple way to learn and grow your brand simultaneously. You’ll find plenty of volunteers: people love talking about themselves and their businesses – it’s human nature, and a bit of promotion for whatever it is they’re doing.

Guest speakers can also help your business in surprising ways, by becoming customers, offering investment, or giving advice. That’s what happened to Dan Murray, host of the Secret Leaders podcast. Dan had this to say about the power of podcasting:

Two of my guests became investors in my company, five or so have become really good friends based on shared values, and beyond all of that, I have learned so much from their experiences that I’ve avoided making the same mistakes. All in all, it's been a very strategically valuable process.

Podcasting creates high-value content for all channels

Whether it’s writing a blog based on the transcript, publishing the transcript itself, or writing show notes to accompany each episode, your words can be easily repurposed for every channel you operate on, including social media.

This dramatically cuts down on time and marketing spend, since you generate content for all channels instead of different content for each. Yes, there’ll be a bit of work involved to modify the content, but it’ll be much faster (and cheaper) than starting from scratch.

Podcasting has enormous growth potential

Right now, there are over 550,000 podcasts in existence and somewhere north of 35 million episodes. That’s a lot of audio, but many of these are inactive: only 25% have released an episode in the last 12 months. Compared to the estimated 173 million blogs, podcasting therefore has plenty of room for growth.

Podcast listenership is growing every year. According to a 2018 study by Edison Research, 26% of Americans listen to podcasts every week. These listeners skew affluent and educated, and are listening to 40% more shows than they did last year (the average listener consumes seven shows per week).

Edison Research shows consistent growth in the medium.
Edison Research shows consistent growth in the medium.

See the jump in 2016 from 17-21% – this is the year that Serial came out and podcasting began to become more broadly adopted. We’re expecting another spike as Spotify and Google make podcasts accessible to Android users (who make up 88% of all smartphone users). According to Google, podcast audiences set to double in the next two years.

Still, just any old podcast isn’t going to cut through the noise. You have to make something really great to stand out. But with less competition than other mediums, and a growing audience and appetite for audio content, podcasting could help grow your brand in ways you never thought possible.

Should you have a podcast?

If you want any of the benefits listed above, you should seriously consider adding a podcast to your content strategy. But it won’t be right for everyone, so you should focus on what is most important for your business and not make a show for the sake of it.

After speaking with potential clients we often suggest that, actually, perhaps podcasting isn’t the right fit for their goals. They might be better off doubling down on their blog or shifting over to video, live events, or something else entirely.

There are lots of things that podcasting is better at than any other medium and some things less so. So let’s call those out and plan accordingly.

It’s time to establish what your goals are and plan a show that helps you reach them – in our next blog, we’ll help you do just that.

What do you want your podcast to do?

Podcasts can attract big audiences, but that shouldn’t be your primary goal.

The size of your audience is usually less important than the quality of your audience – especially in business – so your goal should be a measurable business outcome.

And that outcome determines what kind of podcast you should make. It’ll dictate the subject matter, the format, the frequency of release and length of the podcast, and whether you should make a daily flash briefing, a week-to-week show, or a seasonal one.

So let’s explore some of the most common podcasting goals and how they might affect your podcast content strategy.

These are just a few of the most common goals we see, but they’ll get you thinking about what’s important for your business so you can approach the project in the right way.

  • Before we get stuck into the good stuff, remember that podcasting isn’t for everyone. We sometimes advise our clients that their goals would be better met with blogs, videos, or live events. Our guide should help you make this decision, but you can always get in touch with us if you’re still unsure. We’ll help point you in the right direction should other mediums better suit your time and resources.

Goal #1: To build trust and authority for your brand

If you want to connect with your audience, there is no better medium than podcasting.

The vast majority of podcast listening is done alone, through headphones, on a mobile device. This makes it an intimate, one-to-one experience.

As a result, listeners get to know you and your brand on a personal level. You can build authentic relationships with your customers that result in unbeatable NPS scores, passionate audiences, and loyal and engaged clients.

To build that trust and authority, you first need to understand your listeners. What do they value the most? What would be most helpful to them? This might be advice, information, news and analysis, or something completely different.

  • What are other thought leaders talking about? What fresh perspective can you bring to the table? You’re the expert in your field, so give your listeners the insight they need.

Case studies and white papers are a great starting point. While they don’t make for compelling listening out of the box (reading a white paper aloud is more likely to lull your listeners to sleep than excite them), they’re filled with valuable, engaging content. All you need is a little editorial zest to set it free.

You can ask your clients to tell their stories first hand. Or, invite industry peers to share their thoughts on trends in your market in a way that inspires conversation and dialogue. Hook listeners in with your expertise, experience, and advice, and they’ll stick with you for life.

Goal #2: To grow brand awareness in your market

You might be launching a new brand and want to get the right people talking about it. Or you might have an established network in your industry, but want to extend it further.

If this is the case, there are lots of ways podcasting can help.

Flash briefings

One way is to become a source of news and information for your industry. If you want to be a part of the discussion, why not own it?

You might do this with a daily two-minute update that goes out every morning. You could do this as a flash-briefing that exploits the growth of smart speakers while seamlessly integrating into your listeners’ daily routine.

A fantastic example in our industry is Podnews, a daily digest of the latest industry news and trends in podcasting. It’s two minutes long, and as a result, I listen every day without fail. Sure, Podnews is a dedicated news platform, but there’s no reason that a business can’t be the go-to source of information for their industry.

Podcasting as a source of PR

Podcasting for business is still relatively new. If you create a podcast that provides value to your field then you could find yourself featured in industry press (especially if you ask their writers or editors to be featured on the show!).

It’s hard to be newsworthy with a single episode, but a series that is tied together with a theme – answering a big question your listeners care about, for example – could inspire dialogue between people in your industry.

  • Could you create a 12-part series that dives deep into a particular trend in your market, where each episode focuses on a different element of that problem/innovation/trend?

If the answer is yes, then expect your brand awareness to soar. Businesses that fearlessly yet intelligently tackle the big questions facing their industry gain the respect and admiration of their peers, and in many cases, their custom too.

Goal #3: To generate business leads

Podcasting is the Trojan Horse of sales.

Within that gift of valuable content (or that invite to speak on your show) lies a place where sales are made. Without interruptions, pressure, or obligation. Indeed, everything is on your listeners’ terms.

How many times has your ideal client been asked to be interviewed on a podcast? Probably few. It’s the perfect conversation starter. And once you’ve provided them a platform for free publicity, they’re indebted to you.

You also get to spend an hour in a room or on the phone with them. It’s the perfect way to start new relationships or build on existing ones in a non-salesy way. Then you can build a genuine relationship based on an exchange of real value, which makes your prospects much more likely to be receptive to a pitch when it comes.

By taking this approach, an audience of listeners is a secondary consideration. You’re getting ROI right from the first episode.

For example, one of our clients, Stephen Callender of Commerce Minded, bagged a new client for his ecommerce agency after the first episode of his podcast:

They needed help with a project that happened to be our theme of the week. He hadn't known of us before, so we wouldn't have landed it without the podcast.

That being said, if you’re featuring your ideal clients as guests, in all likelihood their colleagues, competitors, and friends in the industry will also find the content relevant and interesting, so audience growth will happen organically.

Goal #4: To build your personal brand or network

Inviting someone to speak on your podcast is like asking them out for coffee. Few people would say no, and it’s a wonderfully informal way to get to know the most talented minds in your industry while adding value to your respective brands.

It’s still rare to be invited on a podcast, so people are normally excited to be a part of it. It’s like appearing on a chat show (but without the pressure of a studio audience). Not only does an invite play to someone’s ego, which is only natural, but the value is spread pretty equally between both interviewer and guest.

Together, you can share advice and stories from your industry. You might even benefit from guest speakers in ways you didn’t expect, such as receiving investment, business advice, or in developing new friendships.

Podcasting is a great tool for building relationships with influencers in your space. By making yourself a focal point of your industry, you can quickly develop a strong personal brand in the community and a network that can deliver value in all sorts of ways.

Goal #5: To create content efficiently across all target channels

If you’re trying to create fresh material across multiple platforms, a podcast-first strategy could save you hours of time.

Content master Nathan Barry wrote a great piece about making podcast content viral (more on that later). But what the article also highlights is that there is a huge opportunity to take your audio content and repurpose it in a bunch of different ways.

Firstly, it can be transformed into an in-depth blog post. The source material is right there, complete with quotes, data points, and research to back up your claims (or those of your guests). After using an automated transcription service like Descript, a lot of the hard work is already done!

Clips can be taken from the episode and turned into animated videos for social. As well as written quotes which can be shared as images or text posts.

For example, this is a video we created for the European Investment Bank to promote an episode of their podcast Future Europe. We created a 30-second trailer for the episode based on the most compelling quotes and had our animator create an animated transcript. The result was a high level of engagement on social media:

You can film the recording of the podcast and either livestream the video or release it as a well-edited piece later on.

And after all that, the podcast is a perfect piece of content to share with your email list, offering valuable lessons to your subscriber base.

If you’re thinking about a podcast-first content strategy, then you need to consider all your target channels and plan a podcast format and structure that allows you to repurpose the content effectively.

Goal #6: To grow an audience

"We want to grow our podcast audience."

Our clients tell us this all the time. Usually, we can help with an amplification strategy that boosts listenership, and we’ll explain how to do this later.

It’s possible to make a podcast that reaches a large and passionate audience right out of the gate, but it’s not all that common in the business world.

Often, however, the subject matter is pretty niche or nuanced, and not the type of show that resonates with a broad listener base.

Neither is podcasting is an inherently viral medium. Unlike a Facebook cat video, podcast recommendations spread slowly as one passionate fan tells another, often by word of mouth, and there aren’t that many shortcuts.

But as we’ve written already, once the audience is listening, they are engaged and loyal. Unlike the cat video, they’ll remember you tomorrow, next week, and next month.

It’s an amazing audience to have, but one you have to earn over time. You have to consistently create quality content that educates, inspires, or entertains.

As we’ve seen in earlier examples, building a larger podcast audience doesn’t have to be your primary goal. You can derive value from so many other angles that a growing audience is simply an added bonus of a well-executed show.

If you’re planning to start a podcast for your business, your first priority is a positive ROI on the content you produce. So we encourage you to shift the focus from audience acquisition as the primary goal to something else. The rest will follow.

  • Up next, we’re going to look at specific show formats to consider for your podcast and what’s involved in each.

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