Can we have a word in your ear?
Markettiers’ Cheryl King says we are entering a golden age for podcasts and brands have three main ways of capitalising on the medium
Podcasts are entering a golden age, says Markettiers managing director Cheryl King. So how should marketers use them?
“I was listening to a great podcast this morning…” has become a common refrain at office coffee machines around the world of late. Mass reading of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Fifty Shades of
Grey, even Harry Potter in days gone by, has been replaced by mass listening to the likes of smash-hit podcast, Serial, or BBC R4’s Desert Island Discs, or comedian Adam Buxton’s conversations with other comedians. Podcasts have taken a big slice of our media diet and the way we now consume information, education and entertainment.
Yes, it’s true that podcasts have been around for years but greater wireless connectivity and the proliferation of smartphones (penetration among millennials in the GCC is over 90 per cent), tablets and, more recently, smart speakers, mean the little Podcasts app embedded in iPhones has finally got its day in the sun. And with that, it’s time for marketers and PR professionals to take note.
Podcasts are booming around the world. The number of podcast downloads crossed 2.6 billion globally last year. Audiences are typically skewed towards young, affluent and educated people, often a primary target audience for brands – and one that the UAE boasts a high population of. But how can you cut through the noise and take advantage of this media format?
There are three main routes for brands in the region to capitalise on the podcast opportunity: sponsor an existing podcast that has an established audience representative of your target audience; place a brand or campaign spokesperson on an existing podcast as a guest; or produce your own brand-funded podcast series.
Sponsorship is the classic paid-for media option. However, despite Apple alone having a podcast inventory of more than half a million ‘active’ shows globally, since there are relatively few podcasts dedicated to audiences in the region, this approach risks a great deal of message wastage, not to mention a potential first-mover disadvantage in your sector. Most podcast apps also inadvertently give the listener an easy option to avoid ads by tapping the 15-second skip-forward button.
Guest placement is a more traditional PR avenue, similar in many ways to other forms of broadcast PR, where opportunities to deliver editorially balanced brand messaging to relevant audiences is achieved by the judicious placement of interviewees on established content producers. Much like traditional broadcast media relations, however, you’re still at the mercy of the podcast producer to agree to interview your spokesperson, and you’ll rarely have influence over the questions they ask.
Producing your own podcast series requires you to build an audience, but gives you total control over the content. Total control shouldn’t mean you create a long-form audio advert. Instead, create content that is aligned to your business and its value but isn’t about your business. If you are a beauty product for women, talk about issues women are concerned with. If you are a technology business, talk about the most exciting new technology coming from around the world. As human beings we like good storytelling, and as communicators we’re in the business of storytelling. Then, using the social channels owned by your brand and those belonging to the presenter and/or guests appearing in your podcast series, you can effectively build a community of fans. 94 per cent of podcast listeners are active on at least one social media channel, so this is a good way to engage with them and recruit them as listeners.
Before embarking on a brand-funded podcast series, make sure you audit the existing podcast landscape. The riches are in the niches so make sure your content will offer something new to your intended audience. You’re not producing the next Serial with a huge global audience, but since podcasts deliver a deeper relationship with listeners than other forms of content – it’s lean-in, rather than lean-back media – it is that intimacy that adds value.
Evaluation is also a key consideration and another reason why producing your own content has advantages, since you can access your own dashboard to view downloads. Beyond quantitative metrics, as a matter of course, we build into our brand-funded podcast strategies a qualitative evaluation of the content. This involves online research amongst a sample of podcast listeners that matches the target audience. Respondents are required to listen to a podcast episode, then answer a series of questions to establish how effectively it’s delivering on objectives. Insights gleaned are then used to inform and improve the production of subsequent episodes.
That’s not to say these three routes to taking advantage of the podcast opportunity are mutually exclusive in your communications strategy. They can all play into one another – paid-for presenter reads and placing guests on established podcasts is an excellent way of introducing relevant audiences to the existence of your own brand-funded podcast series.
As human beings we like good storytelling, and as communicators we’re in the business of storytelling. Audiences are typically skewed towards young, affluent and educated people, often a primary target audience for brands – and one that the UAE boasts a high population of.
CHERYL KING Managing director of Markettiers