Branded podcasts: Listen to your audience

The earliest form of storytelling is oral and had its heyday when it took to the airwaves in the commercial radio era. It is still one of the most powerful ways to communicate in the modern age, even as visual stimuli are everywhere you turn. I’m talking about the rise of the podcast.

Sure, podcasts have been a thing for a while now, but they have been niche –digital radio for tech nerds. They have also for a long time been the sole domain of Apple, if the “pod” didn’t give it away. But listening to a podcast is now easier than ever, with many different apps available to download to your smartphone to get you started.

But even as podcasts went mainstream with popular series such as “Serial” and “The Nerdist”, brands have not been using the medium as much as they should be. That’s all changing.

We’ve seen a spike in branded podcasts by the likes of eBay and Forbes, and this trend is set to continue if a recent article by Adweek is to be believed.

With radio still being such a hugely popular medium in Africa, the increase in smartphone usage across the continent and podcasts becoming more of a trend locally, we can expect branded podcasts to migrate to our shores soon enough.

But before you dive head first into this new trend, be warned that this form of storytelling is not as simple as uploading a 30-minute commercial. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Invest in quality, or get out of the game

Successful podcasts are not produced in people’s basements – the level of production, scripting and sound quality is on a par with professional radio. If you aren’t prepared to invest the time, money and resources in a consistently great branded podcast that will have people coming back for more, don’t consider the medium.

Don’t be deaf to your audience

In much the same way you wouldn’t launch a branded blog on Reddit without adapting your content strategy for a famously hostile audience, you shouldn’t launch a branded podcast without understanding the culture of the community and what it responds to. Define who you are trying to reach, and think about what your audience may find interesting.

Be valuable and interesting

As in all things, and forgive the cliché, content is king. Tell an interesting story that subtly promotes your brand in an unexpected way. Part of the reason GE’s eight-part “The Message” podcast was so successful – over 5 million downloads – is because marketing the brand wasn’t at the heart of the story.

Be transparent

Your audience doesn’t want to be tricked. Feel free to blur the lines between fiction and nonfiction as some of the best podcasts such as The Black Tapes do, but don’t be untruthful about your brand being behind the content.

Written By: Ines Schumacher, Account Director, ContentWorks 

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