Podcasts have taken a leap in popularity among brands looking for ways to boost awareness and engagement. But while the appeal is obvious to many, creating a podcast that works is not always easy.
Experts on a PodPod panel at the Podcast Show in London revealed there are seven key things brands need to know.
1. Understand your brand
Gareth Evans, founder of branded podcast agency 18Sixty which, works with glamping and luxury camping brand Canopy and Stars on its podcast, A Life More Wild. The crucial first step is a thorough understanding of the brand, he said. In A Life More Wild, guests travel to a favourite spot and talk about their relationship with it, and the podcast is infused with lots of sounds from nature. “It was about understanding who Canopy and Stars are, and who their audience are,” Evans said. “We could have just scheduled loads of remote interviews with people, and talked about nature. But Canopy and Stars is about putting people in nature, so we felt that had to be core to the podcast.” A Life More Wild is the number one nature podcast in the UK, now in its third series.
2. Understand the audience
Second to this, Evans said, is knowing what the audience wants to hear. “Ultimately, you need to understand who you’re making [the podcast] for. Everything comes down to knowing your audience. If you’re not making it for that one listener that you know you want to be making it for, you’re going about it the wrong way.”
3. How do you want to sound?
Canopy and Stars PR manager Alice Cottingham said the team had a strong feel for how they wanted the podcast to sound before they started recording and inviting guests. “When we first started thinking about it, we knew it was important that it sounded like nature, and that it wasn’t going to be a sales tool but building the lifestyle element and engaging people. So we had a strong feel for how we wanted it to sound before we started recording and going out to guests.”
4. Focus on depth of engagement, not sales
Cottingham added that the podcast was about engagement and awareness from the start. “In our wider strategy, the podcast is about building a brand and making people feel connected, driving loyalty and engagement. It’s not about our holidays or the places we offer, it’s about a bigger content piece that makes people feel engaged.”
5. Learn as you go
Evans said part of A Life More Wild’s success has been down to watching and learning as the project has progressed. “You learn as you go,” he said. Initially the podcast had a second interview as part of it – “we thought it would be a nice way to showcase some of Canopy and Stars’ places, so the secondary interview was with people who own some of [them].” While the second interviews were interesting content, feedback showed that the elements of the podcast people were listening most to were “"the nature bit - these walks with fascinating people, that's what keeps them coming back.” Evans’ advice is to “use the data as you go” and allow the podcast to evolve. This is crucial to making it a success and also helps divert resource towards the content that is chiming with people.
6. Take a 360 approach to marketing
Cottingham says Canopy and Stars sees the podcast as being at the start of the marketing journey, building awareness and loyalty. But the entire marketing team works on getting the word out, and the podcast is fully integrated into the content strategy. “For every episode, we have behind-the-scenes videos and photos to share on Instagram; we produce as much content as we can to talk to our audience who might not have discovered the podcast yet.” In essence, “we try and take a 360-degree approach.”
7. Stick to what works
Once you get a format that works, Evans advised sticking to your guns, even if it differs from the norm, or takes more work to produce. In Canopy and Stars’ case, this meant knowing that people love the nature sounds and use it as a form of escapism from their daily routine. “We make sure we leave much longer pauses than you would expect to hear in a normal interview, and we fill them with the sounds of the surrounding nature.” When organising interviews with guests who get asked to do a lot of podcasts, the team often receives requests for remote interviews. But, he said: “We know being out there [in nature] is what makes it special, so if someone is only available on remote record, it won’t chime and isn’t what the podcast is about. It’s about sticking by your guns.”