This article is based on Shira’s standout interview with Mark Assini on (fittingly enough!) the Product Marketing Life podcast. Check it out here.
In recent years, major platforms like Spotify and Amazon have invested heavily in podcasting. At the same time, many B2B and B2C brands have launched branded podcasts. So what value do they provide compared to traditional ads?
Well, audio’s immersive intimacy makes podcasts the perfect medium for branded storytelling. Podcasts allow brands to connect with audiences in a deeper way than conventional ads. They should be part of your integrated marketing mix alongside video, social, and email campaigns.
I’m Shira Atkins, the CRO and Co-founder of Wonder Media Network, an audio-first media company, and I’m here to share my advice on podcasting for brands. I'll cover topics including:
- How to get started with a branded podcast
- Measuring success
- The advantages of building a podcast network
- How to cut through the noise
- Options beyond launching a podcast
- Tailoring your approach for B2B vs B2C
Let’s jump in.
Key considerations for launching a podcast
Launching a company podcast often seems simpler than it really is.
To do it right, start by defining your budget and ideal target audience. Conduct market research into what podcasts your audience already listens to. This will help determine the best format, release schedule, hosts, and general approach for your show. For example, decide whether you want interview-based or narrative-style episodes, seasonal or always-on cadence, and so on.
It’s also vital to set realistic expectations upfront. An ongoing weekly interview show requires a big time investment to continually generate fresh content. Be honest about the level of resources you’ll need to produce the podcast you want to create.
The key is understanding your goals, audience, and competitive landscape before you even start recording. That insight will allow you to launch a podcast that truly connects with listeners rather than just ticking a box for your company.
How to measure the performance of your podcast
There are several ways to gauge the success of a branded podcast. Of course, you can look at standard metrics like downloads and impressions – just be sure to tie these back to your sales funnel to see if the podcast helps drive conversions.
Here are some other clever approaches I’ve seen brands use:
- Invite prospective clients on as podcast guests to build relationships. The Trade Desk and Greenhouse HR software do this brilliantly.
- Use the podcast to test storylines and dabble in entertainment. For instance, let’s say you want to put a docu-series together, but first you want to see how the narrative is received – podcasting could be the way to go.
- Align with influencers to reach their audiences. You could even have an influencer host a podcast for you.
Podcasts also provide long-term brand awareness gains that are harder to quantify directly. Ultimately a quality show brings you closer to your audience and helps you stand out from competitors.
The power of podcast networks
Recently, some major B2B brands have launched their own podcast networks rather than a single branded show. They partner with existing creators or acquire podcast content to bring under their umbrella.
What’s the strategic play here? It depends on the specific company and goals, but here are some key advantages:
- Leveraging influencers’ followings: For instance, not so long ago, LinkedIn launched its own podcast network as a way to tap into popular platform users with engaged followings and bring their shows in-house – essentially making them foot soldiers for LinkedIn.
- Controlling distribution: Owning multiple shows lets LinkedIn feature them all natively on their platform and control the listening experience.
- Showcasing thought leadership: For instance, Klue and HubSpot partner with prominent voices in competitive intelligence and marketing to position themselves as go-to thought leaders and boost their own legitimacy.
- Delivering an in-demand service: Part of what HubSpot promises its users is guidance on how to carry out various marketing tasks. One way it does that is through podcasts.
- Building loyalty: If you’re putting out high-quality content at a regular cadence, that’s a great way to ensure users keep coming back for more. resources to users.
- Facilitating cross-promotion: A network allows easy cross-collaboration and promotion between shows under one brand umbrella.
- Curating quality content: Finding the best possible podcasts for your niche and then bringing them in-house means users don’t have to trawl Apple Podcasts and hope something good comes up. Instead, you’re doing that work for them. It's good for the podcasts that are now part of your network, it’s good for your potential clients, and it's good for you.
How to make your podcast stand out
It’s harder than ever for podcasts to find an audience amid the explosion of content. Platforms prioritize their own shows, and it’s easy to get lost in the mix. So how can you make sure your branded podcast stands out?
Having a talented, charismatic host is number one. They need to feel approachable and leverage their own existing following. interview people at random.
Also, resist calling it “The [Company] Podcast” or over-focusing on your brand. Hyper-targeted niche topics tend to grab more attention. Find an underserved “job to be done” that your show can uniquely fill, rather than interviewing people at random.
And, of course, providing real entertainment value is key. Useful, buzz-worthy narratives will interest people more than yet another egocentric sales pitch. For example, Pushkin’s branded show “The Legacy” tells a fascinating decades-long story about a track coach – and just happens to feature the sponsor’s CEO occasionally. It works brilliantly because the content stands strongly on its own.
Finally, it may sound silly, but high-quality cover art also matters. Podcasts may seem like an audio-only medium, but people still discover them through visual platforms. A boring stock logo could cause someone to scroll right by.
In every other aspect of marketing, we sweat the tiniest details of the color palette, the composition, and more. We have to do the same for our cover art. This visual identity can set your show apart subliminally. It’s all part of a cohesive experience.
Podcast partnerships beyond branded shows
If creating your own branded podcast seems too daunting, don’t worry – there are plenty of other ways to engage audiences through podcasting.
The best approach is to strategically partner with relevant shows that reach your target customers. Start by conducting market research to identify which podcasts your audience already listens to. If you’re in B2B, get hyper-targeted. Say you’re in healthcare. Don’t just look at general science or medical podcasts – survey doctors to find which specific shows they tune into.
Once you identify the niche podcasts your customers love, reach out to those show producers about opportunities for sponsorship, partnership, or content integration. Creative options could include:
- 30 or 60-second mid-roll audio ads
- Fully sponsored bonus episodes focused on topics that align with your brand
- Sponsoring limited series within established shows
- Bringing your executives into segments as expert guests
- Participating in live events hosted by the podcast
Podcasters also often have engaged followings outside their audio content, like newsletters and social media groups. Explore promotional collaborations through these channels too.
The key is seamless alignment with podcasts where your positioning makes sense. Don’t force it. Hyper-targeted partnerships can actually be more powerful than trying to launch your own isolated show. Independent creators are generally more nimble and authentic. Plus, supporting indie podcasters is great for the podcasting space as a whole.
Optimizing for B2B vs. B2C audiences
Your podcasting strategy is going to differ depending on whether you’re a B2B or B2C brand.
For B2C, podcast ads can directly drive conversions through concise calls-to-action, discounts, and trackable referral codes. It’s basically just a question of buying ads on shows that your audience listens to.
But it’s best to avoid a pure sales pitch approach with B2B podcasting. Instead, highlight thought leadership, company culture, executive perspectives, and customer stories. They help humanize your brand and build authority over time.
Pfizer takes this branded content approach with their show "Breakthroughs," which profiles scientists and researchers making strides against disease and tells stories about how they've changed patients' lives. They're not trying to acquire customers for specific drugs; they’re simply reinforcing their position on the cutting edge of medicine and raising their profile as an employer.
That said, some direct response strategies can work for B2B too. As I mentioned, The Trade Desk invites prospects and clients on as guests to talk about their experience in digital media – that’s a great approach as long as you focus your conversations on their challenges and insights, rather than pushing your product.
A final note on launching your podcast
So there you have it – a guide to making podcasts work for your brand, whether you opt to launch your own show or build strategic partnerships.
The podcast realm may seem saturated, but if you do it right, you can still grab your audience’s attention and build a connection. At its core, it’s all about crafting stories people genuinely want to hear. Be creative, be bold, and most importantly, be human, and your podcast will pay dividends.