Consumer behavior has been turned upside down by COVID-19. As personal and work routines continue to be disrupted, businesses are scrambling to find the best place to reach customers during these crazy times. Many are turning to podcasts.
While podcasting has been on the rise over the past decade and a half, the numbers have steadily increased in recent years. Monthly listenership is up 16% year over year at 104 million listeners—37% of the US population—and weekly listenership is up 10% year over year with 68 million listeners according to the 2020 installment of the Infinite Dial study from Edison Research and Triton Digital. On top of this, there’s another 75% of Americans who say they’re aware of podcasts.
Another podcasting perk? Unlike live events and professional sports advertising, podcast listenership is one of the few things that’s been relatively unfazed by COVID-19. In fact, these numbers appear to be holding strong with the most significant change being where people are listening as most are enjoying podcasts at home these days.
It’s no surprise that many continue to look at podcasting as a strong means of connecting with customers online. The medium can be a highly personal extension of your brand.
But what should you consider about your podcasting brand before you start?
Know Who You Are
Again, your podcast can be a very personal extension of your brand. As such, you need to make sure that it’s a good fit for your brand. Like other exciting new platforms, it can be easy to see podcasting as another shiny new thing. First and foremost, you need to make sure that it’s aligned with your brand promise—who you are and what you stand for.
For example, marketing software giant Hubspot is all about helping marketing and sales professionals grow their businesses. Their podcast The Growth Show is a logical extension of their brand. Each episode explores inspiring stories of how people grow businesses, ideas, and movements.
Go back to your brand promise. Does your podcast idea align with your brand’s mission and what your customers expect from you? When you know who you are as a brand, it’s much easier to determine what you need to do and how you’ll do it.
Your Podcast Brand Touchpoints
From your logo to packaging to employee email signatures, your brand has many touchpoints. As a rich form of media, your podcast also has several unique touchpoints you need to consider as you build your podcast brand. Here’s a quick rundown:
Name—This is a piece of your brand DNA that you should definitely overthink. It’s often the first touchpoint people will encounter from your podcast and it has implications for how your show appears in listeners’ feeds. You want to be clear, concise, and clever. Paint a picture of what your show is about and what you want the tone to be.
For example, I wanted to establish that my podcast was a talk show about branding. In mulling over branding phrases I thought of how much people talk about being “on brand.” This reminded me of NPR’s show On Point and also Stephen King’s book On Writing. From here, I added one other key structural piece to reinforce the format of the On Brand podcast. Most “talk shows” include a “with” and the host’s name, so I added “with Nick Westergaard” to make the format clear and to build my brand as a host.
Positioning—In addition to your show’s name, you can also add a subtitle or sub-heading. If your show name is less obvious, you may need this secondary bit of positioning to help reinforce your show’s brand and positioning.
Structure/Format—Perhaps the most unique brand touchpoint in podcasting is your show’s structure and format. Is it an interview show? A new shows show? An educational show? There are several popular formats to choose from. You can even invent your own. Beyond format, remember to think about your show’s length. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, a good rule of thumb is to work in half-hour increments as this is the length of the average commute and also fits conveniently into morning work-out routines as well.
Audio elements—Another set of brand touchpoints unique to podcasts are additional audio elements such as your show’s introduction/voiceover, opening and closing music, interstitial music (often heard during segment transitions), and other show sounds. Earlier, I noted that podcasting is a very personal extension of your brand. That’s because you—sometimes literally YOU if you’re the host—are in your customer’s ears talking to them. This is a very intimate relationship to foster with your community. Add to this personal experience with music and sound effects that match your show’s tone.
Marc Maron’s long-running WTF podcast opens with a quick audio clip of his small but memorable role in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous shouting, “Lock the gates!” setting the stage for the host’s latest irreverent and in-depth conversation.
Show art—It can be easy to fixate on your podcast’s show art in the same way that we over-index on logos. Visual touchpoints are easy to see. That said, provided you’ve carefully considered your show’s structure and other critical podcast brand touchpoints, your show art is something that deserves careful thought as well. It should reinforce your show’s brand name and positioning. Remember, your show art is often first viewed as a thumbnail by a user scrolling through shows in Apple Podcasts and Spotify. That means it needs to stand out. Your show name should be big and hard to miss.
You also want to stand out from the other shows in your category. The Salesforce Admins Podcast changes their show art every few years for this very reason. Their most recent art features a rainbow of colors, which stands out in contrast to the other more reserved shows in the technology category.
If there’s one thing to consider before starting a podcast, it’s that this is potentially something you’ll be living with for a long time. What does this mean? Make sure your topic, format, and how you’ll produce your podcast are things you actually enjoy doing or have the resources for others to assist you.
For me, as an author, teacher, and speaker on the subject of brand building, serving as host of the On Brand podcast and talking with in-the-trenches practitioners and thought leaders is how I do my “field work.” The interviews fuel my book research and provide the cases and stories I share on stage and in class. My podcast is a vital part of my process that I couldn’t do my work without. Make sure you have alignment between your show and what you do.
Once you’ve considered where your podcast fits into your work and the brand touchpoints outlined here, you’ll be ready to launch your podcast and build a very personal extension for your brand.