Business podcasts need to be stand-out, not standard

Corporate podcasts shouldn't sound like eavesdropping on a conference call

It’s now a couple of weeks after the British Podcast Awards, and I’m still pinching myself that one of the podcasts we make won the gold award for the Business Podcasts category. It’s not that I think it wasn’t worthy - I’m hugely proud of that podcast (and all the branded podcasts we make at 18Sixty) - but the competition was as stiff as it gets! We were up against some big podcasts, including shows from the FT, The Economist and the BBC.

The podcast that nabbed gold, The Third Angle, is at its heart a design and engineering podcast, meeting the people behind some of the world’s most innovative products. It’s also a corporate podcast for PTC, an industrial software company. You may not have heard of them unless you work in engineering and design for some of the world’s biggest companies, in which case you definitely will have.

Corporate podcasts can get a bad rep (though there are some great ones out there). Some can fall foul of veering into advertorial territory or giving the listener the impression they’re eavesdropping on a conference call rather than listening to an exciting piece of journalism. So how did The Third Angle scoop Best Business Podcast? 

The judges said they “love the fact that they get more from the guests than just a simple interview. The tours and interactive parts bring this to a different level. It's a blend of geeky and clever - but also really accessible.”

Recording on location with female F1 Academy driver Abbi Pulling to hear how she experiences the technology the podcast is celebrating

It’s recognition of the fact that The Third Angle sets out to be a different kind of business podcast. So, I wanted to share the secrets behind our production process of making a corporate show that really stands out.

The first question any good business podcaser should ask is; Who are we making this podcast for and why would they be interested?

In this case for our client, PTC - whose design software is used by many of the world’s most well-known companies, from Audi to Amazon, M&S to Casio - we wanted a way of showcasing what their technology does and how it’s being used. However, without us answering the audience question - who’ll be listening to this podcast - the podcast would likely have been purely self-serving. 

Of course we want to reach business decision makers and new potential customers, but we knew that by making a podcast that tapped into that curious, techie state of mind that many engineers and designers have, we’re casting a wider net and creating a podcast that people are more likely to tell their friends and co-workers about.

The Third Angle producer Clarissa Maycock recording host Paul Haimes experiencing a driving simulator at UK technology company, Dynisma

Podcasts can take on so many different formats, so when developing The Third Angle, it could’ve been easy for us to take an admittedly simple and overdone route within the corporate podcast world: two people, having a chat, over Zoom. 

We wanted to do something more. Rather than hearing from someone in the business talk about the problems their software solves, we knew that the best way to showcase PTC’s incredible technology was by hearing directly from the people who use it, day-in-day-out. And because PTC’s customers are all over the world, this meant going on location!

From brief to episode: The importance of planning and research 

After knowing the format The Third Angle would take on, we had to ensure that we could execute it well. It’s crucial that we capture the human stories behind the technology, so a key aspect of our production process is the pre-interview. Scoping out the right guests for your podcast and spending time fact-finding (and fact-checking) are tried and tested methods for great podcasts and great journalism.

Our process at 18Sixty is driven by creating a solid brief for our producers. Since our guests could be anywhere globally - whether it’s a shopfloor in Nairobi, a lab in Denmark, or a workshop in Essex- we need to make sure that the producers we use know exactly what they’re doing - from what questions to ask, to the exact type of sounds we need captured. 

In each pre-interview with the podcast guest, we’re asking for background on them and what drives them, but also details about the product, and importantly where we can go on location, who we can talk to and what we can see, and if possible, demo! These interviews not only help shape the questions we ask, they also ensure the guests know what we’re after and what to expect on the day.

The goal for The Third Angle is to be accessible, always engaging, create plenty of ‘wow’ moments, but also have a unique identity. We’ve really created a mini-brand for the podcast, from the custom-made podcast artwork to the audiograms and social posts that promote the show. 

Rather than selecting an off-the-peg (*search “Uplifting Technology Corporate”*) royalty track as the title music for the podcast, we created bespoke production music. We wanted it to sound like any great podcast: something people would recognise and return to episode after episode. The brief was to create something that felt a bit futuristic, a bit pop-science, but also fun.

We also have fun with sound design to help tell stories beyond just interviews; whether it be the purr of an electric motorbike, or the whirr of a robotic arm as the guests are telling us about it, or even layering other sounds from the products we feature, later in the edit. We want to transport the listener so they feel like they’re there with the guest, experiencing the technology. After all, audio has the power to spark the imagination, so use that to your advantage!

It’s important to us that at every touchpoint, the podcast doesn’t sound or look like another corporate podcast. All of these bespoke elements work together to give The Third Angle something different from the extremely busy business podcast world.

The success of PTC’s The Third Angle just goes to show that corporate podcasts can cut through, stand out and be memorable. But, it takes a lot. It takes determination and commitment to believe in a format, which I’m happy to say we get from PTC. It also takes a willingness and bravery to embrace something different. And, it takes a whole lot of planning, week in, week out, with a team of people to put in the work and see things from a different (or maybe, a third) angle.

Next time you’re planning a new business podcast, ask yourself; How can we make this different? How can we stand out?