Why podcasts work for brands

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Starting a podcast can be a great way to get your business noticed. Here's what we've learnt after producing two branded shows.

Sophie Hull

Podcasts have been around for more than a decade but the medium really hit the headlines in 2014–15 with the smash-hit US true crime series, Serial. Since then, podcasting has truly entered the mainstream and audience numbers in Australia continue to grow.

Podcasts offer a fresh way to tell stories and are a powerful way connect with niche audiences. Storytelling is in our blood so we jumped at the chance to dip our toes into the format. Last year we partnered up with podcasting agency Nearly to produce the Halliday Wine Companion podcast and the Navigating Parenthood podcast for HCF.

Making these two podcast series was exciting but we also encountered plenty of challenges and questions along the way. Here’s what we learnt and what you should think about, if you’re considering branching out into audio.

A man wearing headphones leaning into a microphone

Do people listen to podcasts?

Australia has 3.5 million podcast listeners from the ages of 16 to 64, representing one in four of us. And this figure is growing rapidly; 20 per cent of us weren’t listening just six months ago.

Does podcasting engage an audience?

This is an intimate and trusted medium. If you can produce a genuinely interesting podcast that puts the story first, you’ll be able to grow an audience that regularly interacts with your brand. Nova Entertainment reports 61 per cent of listeners take action after hearing a podcast episode – for example they will look for more info, share information about the advertised brand or purchase an advertised product.

It’s a valuable audience, too. Not only is the audience a fairly even mix of men and women, listeners are recognised as affluent community influencers. In short: they are probably people you want to reach.

Are podcasts a cost-efficient way to engage people?

When it comes to cost, it’s worth bearing in mind how valuable podcast audiences are, and how long and how regularly these audiences tend to engage with podcasts. Despite the cost of talent, studios, production, editing and project management, podcasts are still a very cost-effective medium.

With Facebook marketing, you can pay around 27 cents for an engagement, which could just be three short seconds of a video or a like. With podcasts, you can engage people for much longer, say 20 minutes for around the same cost per engagement, particularly if your content is evergreen. If you keep promoting your content, people will keep finding it over time.

Making the podcast is the hard part, right?

Making the podcast is just the beginning. Like websites, you can’t just build something decent and hope people will come. Building your audience is half the work, so a marketing plan is key. Who’s your audience? How do you usually reach them? What channels do you have available to you? What channels can you put advertising dollars behind? When you look at the podcast analytics, you can see downloads rise in line with your marketing efforts.

Which podcasts are great?

Well, we’re pretty proud of our own podcasts. On the Wine Companion podcast Halliday editor Amelia Ball talks with key wine people about cellaring. We knew exactly what the audience wanted to know based on a cellaring survey that got a great response.

The HCF Navigating Parenthood podcast lets parents share their real stories – their joys and stresses, in conversation with an expert for practical insight. In the six-part series we cover topics like parenting a child with special needs, having twin babies in intensive care, and more.

The following by other podcasters are recommended by our editorial team.

Reply All by American company Gimlet Media covers the internet and modern life. It’s downloaded about five million times per month. Courtney Carthy, chief creative officer, Nearly

GuildSomm is a non-profit organisation for sommeliers and wine professionals. Their podcast covers the international wine industry, whether that’s a deep-dive into a specific grape varietal or wine region or more broad subjects like tannin, or how to taste wine. Our resident wine nerds swear by it. Nola James, editor

Conversations with Richard Fielder. Richard Fidler can get an interesting story out of absolutely anyone. Even so, his interviewees are already all incredibly well-spoken, learned and experienced people with fascinating stories to tell. He’s interviewed authors, midwives, botanists, psychologists and jackaroos. Georgia Lejeune, managing editor

Chat 10 looks 3. This is less of a podcast and more of a chat with two of your closest friends, who happen to be award-winning journalists Annabelle Crabb and Leigh Sales. Amid the discussion of books, articles, TV shows and literature are crack-up one-liners, munching of delicious homemade goodies and the occasional plane flying overhead. Georgia Lejeune, managing editor

BBC’s The Documentary Podcast covers global news in depth and you get something new nearly every day. Some of the correspondents also invest in real deep-dives into one subject area and episodes then run as a series. Correspondents are "on the ground" or they bring in real-life experts to a studio space, which ensures that episodes are always different and interesting. Lucy Siebert, head of editorial, Melbourne

Sophie Hull, head of editorial, Sydney

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