With the vast number of podcasts in the world, we may have finally reached peak podcast. But with focus and determination, you can still cut through the noise and win the hearts and minds of your people…through their ears.
Alas, if you don’t pay close attention to the platform, process, and audience you may end up wasting a whole lot of time and energy. In the course of our work with brands global and local alike, take great care to avoid these five common ways the best podcast intentions end up like that tree falling in the middle of the forest. Unheard.
Fixate on controlling distribution
Safely distributing your podcast can prove a frustrating challenge. Listeners want to enjoy the portability and flexibility of podcasts across devices and services, no matter what your enterprise file management protocols are. Many prefer downloading episodes rather than streaming them. If your company seeks a secure internal podcast solution, start building the internal platform long before you plan to launch your series. Why? Many podcasting solutions require enterprise authentication on mobile devices and only offer episodes via streaming. Internal podcasts often have smaller audiences and require aggressive awareness campaigns to remind people to return. In light of that, making listening as seamless and familiar as can be is critical.
The alternative: Run an externally-friendly podcast initiative through a popular podcast service that offers downloads and a familiar user experience. This will double your listenership – no matter the target audience – and potentially eliminate lengthy and costly internal tool integration requirements.
Manage creative development by committee
Design by committee rarely works. Workshopped graphics, photography, short films, and podcasts that have had their margin of error whittled away, so too have had their chance at originality whittled away.
The alternative: Choose the right creative leader under a clearly defined general editorial approach, and get out of their way. If they have been chosen well, the podcasts will have a unique personal spark, will breathe, and should prove consistently excellent. Low risk = low inspiration.
Avoid emotions at all costs
If the work you produce lacks emotion or does not inspire, you are simply re-creating work that is found everywhere already. Instead of adding to the noise, cut through it. Podcasts need to be educational, inspirational, insightful, emotional, authentic, open, relatable, and should never try to sell products and services too obviously. Their primary goal should be to trigger an emotional response. That’s it.
The alternative: To engage listeners, hold on to them, and leave enough of an impression to spark a response (comments, questions, shares, company loyalty, etc.). Too many content creators jam-pack business goals into each episode. Podcasts are series-based. Let each episode breathe and connect through smaller business hooks. Use your most skilled communicators and make the deepest connections possible and listeners will want more.
Try to reach everyone
A clearly defined target audience is critical for any podcast series. Are you trying to reach employees? A certain segment of them? New hires? Certain geographies or demographics? The more you know about your target audience, the better you can help to define the tone of the show, the format, select themes, determine the length, and create the package.
The alternative: Develop a clearly defined audience and check in with them regularly to see if your work resonates. This approach will also heavily impact how you select your on-air talent from hosts to guests. It will impact your distribution decisions, your engagement processes, and it will be the backbone for how you determine your KPIs and how you ultimately measure success. Understanding your target audience will define the series you create.
Don’t bother with branding
When it comes to content presented serially, consistency in branding is critical – the editorial theme and flow, what the series sounds like, what the graphics and messaging look like, are all success factors. We’ve seen too many podcasts where the first episode is great, the second one not so much and the third one (if it even makes it out the door) goes completely off the rails. A series without consistency is just a random audio hodgepodge.
The alternative: Develop a theme, a name, visual identity, and a tone — and stick to it. Your editorial theme will be the primary hook for grabbing listeners. They will rely on that hook to remain steady and loyal. The way the show is sequenced and flows will provide sonic familiarity and a level of comfort. The quality of the recordings should be excellent and steady too. The hosts, reliable and familiar. The music and bumpers, consistent. Visual branding should be as excellent as the episodes themselves. The ways in which the series is promoted, discussed, tweeted, marketed, etc. should have a clear, simple, engaging center. Everything related to the show should feel like a singular brand experience.
And a tip for success
Although we live in an era where everyone can become a content creator, the basic rules of producing great creative have not changed. The barriers to produce and publish have simply been lowered and have enabled a crowded playing field. Avoid the temptation to ignore or to jump over those barriers (and allowing your employees to do so as well) without first understanding how to avoid the most common pitfalls.
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