Focusing on pre-launch promotion is “big mistake”, says BBC Sounds exec

Emma Conneely and Danni Haughan talk podcast discoverability at Radio Academy Festival

Large podcast companies should avoid building anticipation for new shows before they’ve actually launched, according to BBC Sounds head of metadata and publishing management Emma Conneely. 

Speaking at the Radio Academy Festival 2023 in London today, Conneely detailed some mistakes to look out for when trying to make a podcast more discoverable for new listeners, during a session with freelance podcast strategy consultant and former Apple head of podcasts Danni Haughan.

She added that expecting listeners to come back on a certain date once the podcast launches is too much of a commitment, and companies should instead focus on building an audience once there are key actions they can take, such as downloading an episode, subscribing, and so on. 

“There are so many decisions that a listener has to make before hitting play,” said Conneely. Think about what you’re asking people to do… When you think about raising awareness, there needs to be an action they could then take.”

For independent creators looking to make their podcasts more discoverable, Haughan added that it’s important to think about which podcast platform they are using and their promotional strategy. With certain platforms such as Apple and Spotify, creators can submit a public form to the platform and request help with promotion, but it’s important that they have a “tight concept” when pitching their shows. 

“Think about how you would fit into their editorial promotional spaces,” said Haughan. “There’s no secret sauce but a key thing is to have a really obvious and comprehensive plan - What is it about? Who is it for?” 

Haughan said that she’s bound by confidentiality from her time at Apple so is unable to answer specifics around this public form, but confirmed that it doesn’t process as many requests as people may expect due to the lack of awareness around it, and claimed that the average figure is likely less than 1,000. 

Other mistakes to avoid when thinking about podcast promotional strategy include focusing too much on social media, as it is unlikely that people would switch from the app to consuming something that is long-form, and Conneely points out that these apps are “not designed to disrupt people in this way”. If creators are using social media, they need to make sure that the content is engaging in itself and does not rely on the full audio of the podcast.

Wording is also important when it comes to picking show titles and writing descriptions for episodes, she said, as something like wordplay can make the podcast less discoverable for listeners and “that friction is going to lose listeners”. Descriptions also need to stay “as tight as possible”, according to Haughan, and the title needs to be clear and understandable, so putting the talent’s name in the title and using subtitles can make them more discoverable.