Podcasting has never been more popular.
For years, podcasting was overshadowed by other forms of emerging media, but its momentum continues to grow. More than 10 billion podcasts were downloaded and streamed on Apple devices alone in 2016, an increase of more than 2 billion from the year before. And many brands are jumping into podcasts with gusto, using them as a dynamic form of content marketing to attract new customers.
But for brands looking to build an audience, the key is to focus on content first and marketing second, says Mike Fishbein, host of the popular "This is Product Management" podcast and a speaker at the upcoming PR News webinar “How Brands Can Use Podcasts to Captivate Audiences and Generate Leads,” on Thursday, July 13.
“Professionals listen to podcasts to level up—people want to learn, not to be sold to,” says Fishbein, whose podcast—which has more than 15,000 weekly listeners and more than 1 million total downloads—helps promote his company, B2B software maker Alpha UX. “Aggressive calls to action interfere with content quality.”
Fishbein dubbed his podcast “This is Product Management,” and not “The Alpha Podcast” for a reason—it puts the content, rather than the company, front and center. But he drives traffic to Alpha’s site by directing the podcast’s audience to a URL in the episode description on iTunes, as well as during the introduction and ending of the podcast itself.
To generate content ideas, Fishbein says it’s key to survey your audience—you have to learn what they want to learn. You can’t rely on metrics alone to understand what resonates since podcasts currently have limited analytics capabilities, he says. So “This is Product Management” subscribers are sent emails asking for feedback, and Fishbein sifts through social media sites and constantly attends in-person events to identify the challenges and opportunities faced by his audience.
For some brands, this focus on quality means telling stories that have nothing at all to do with the product they’re selling. Zendesk, a customer relationship software seller, casts a very wide net with its podcast content, offering human interest stories that are more akin to something you’d find on NPR than any sort of traditional B2B content marketing. For instance, recent episodes have focused on parenting issues and travel stories.
“No one is forced to listen to your podcast—your job is to make them want to,” says Monica Norton, Zendesk’s senior director of content marketing. “You need to make it interesting, relevant, even fun and entertaining.”
A podcast has to offer a clear and obvious benefit to the listener, she says—it can’t just be a soft-sell advertisement. If you beat listeners over the head with company and product messaging—or even if the podcast is a thinly veiled sales pitch—the audience will likely never tune in again.
“The less the content is about you, the more likely the listener will continue to listen and be willing to make an appointment to listen by subscribing,” Norton says. “And, importantly, the more likely they are to remember your brand in a positive light.”
Connect with Mike Fishbein: @mfishbein
Connect with Monica Norton: @monicalnorton
Connect with Jerry Ascierto:@Jascierto