The biggest podcast mistake brands make is thinking: if we build it, they will come

Podcasts may be the smart way to whisper directly into your customer's ear, but how will they hear you above the voices of a million alternatives? Mamamia's head of content Holly Wainwright explains.

“We need a blog,” said every brand back in 2012. “A place where we can share the message of just how very excellent and unique our product is. Somewhere we can be ourselves, talk directly to our customer, cut through all that noise. Somewhere we can be heard.”

Now, it’s happening again.

“We need a podcast,” said every brand in 2019. “A place where we can share the message of just how very excellent and unique our product is. Somewhere we can be ourselves, talk directly to our customer, cut through all that noise. Somewhere we can be heard.”

Fast-forward to 2020, and it’s not only every brand who’s thinking that. It’s also your brother-in-law, your auntie and the place that cuts your dog’s hair.

More than 8m Australians call themselves podcast listeners in 2020. And as every brand now knows, they’re the millions you want – educated, affluent, savvy and on the young-ish side. Eighty-five percent of them are listening via earbuds, moving through the world in their own little audio bubble. The market’s well and truly awake to the power of that kind of intimacy. But how will they hear you against the deafening hum of competitive white noise?

The phone in your hand – and more importantly, the one in your customer’s hand – has approximately one million podcasts inside it. Access to an almost unthinkable number of hours of listening, choice that never ends. If “getting to the end of Netflix” was a 2020 isolation goal, the same could not be said of Spotify or Stitcher or Apple Podcasts.

So how to be the brand who makes the thing that gets listened to, that connects? That, dare we say it, inspires action?

Firstly, play to your strengths. You and your team are proficient at many things. Excellent at many things, even. But if audio story-telling isn’t one of them, don’t do it. Find the partner who knows how to craft a conversation, who knows how to keep listeners coming back, who knows the all shades of “no, not that,” that must be waded through to get to the gold. Ask them about attraction and retention, ask them whether they think a three-hour lecture from your marketing wunderkind would be a great first episode. If they say yes, run. Don’t look back.

You’re looking for the partners who’ll say yes, but also no, because they will be the ones who are going to put audiences at the heart of every decision made, and to ultimately get your message into your customer’s earbuds. Collaborate with the network who understands the people you’re selling to.

Next, think about what permission your brand has to jump into someone’s ear-bulbs (trust me, it will catch on) and start selling to them. Does your brand have the necessary relevance to the storytelling space you want to step into, in the ears of the audience you want to be listening? ‘Authenticity’ might be the most overused word of the past two years but if you don’t have it in the link between your brand and the subject of your podcast, it’s doomed.

But back to the issue of getting heard above the literal chatter.

Since you started reading this article, 20 new podcasts have dropped into that crowded phone of yours. Without an expert guide, no-one is going to find the one you make.

Just like the brands who plugged away at their blogs and wondered why the masses weren’t flocking, building your podcast and expecting an audience to find it en masse is like being an avocado farmer and setting up one of those little DIY stands on the road outside your farm. Sure, a few people driving past, like maybe your marketing manager or someone who got lost on their way to find their AirBNB. But nobody is waking up in the morning and asking themselves “Hey! I wonder if there are some tasty avocados for sale along a small back country road? I should go driving to try and find one!”

Anyone who wants an avocado is likely to go to the markets, where they will also buy other things like flowers and bread and maybe a dreamcatcher for their niece’s birthday. This is the principle of discovery and it’s one that marketers forget every time they try to make their own content and launch it directly to their customers.

It might be sonically orgasmic, but if you build it and think that they will come, you will be underwhelmed, and fast.

Holly Wainwright is the head of content at Mamamia.


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