When COVID first struck, podcasts took a hit. With so few people commuting to and from work, podcast shows lost their most captive audience. In March, podcast monitoring company Podtrac found that total downloads and unique listeners dropped during the month—10% and 20%, respectively.
But this isn’t an indicator of the podcasting trend puttering out. It is simply evolving in light of new audience needs and contexts. In fact, Podtrac found that overall growth is still positive year over year, which means people are still hungry for some ear candy.
Listeners may have less time throughout the day to catch up on podcasts, or they may be listening to episodes sporadically and at different times throughout the day. I personally look forward to my daily workout to listen to an episode.
That means B2B brands that are currently podcasting or looking to venture into the medium may have to try new things to stand out.
I connected with my colleague and podcast producer Devin McDonnell to discuss ways B2B brands can shake up their podcast strategies. Here are some quick-hit ideas we discussed.
- Bring in a co-host: It’s standard practice to feature a host with a lot of personality and great conversational skills. But sometimes that’s not enough to keep listeners’ attention. Bringing in a co-host can make episodes more interesting and bring in diverse viewpoints and experiences. This is especially valuable if you’re following a traditional Q&A or news format for your series. Listen to the Pivot podcast from Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway to see great host chemistry in action.
- Get creative with your questions: There will be foundational questions that you want your podcast guests to answer, but asking more personal or quirky questions can help your series stand out. For Retail TouchPoints’ Retail Remix series, we asked a number of guests about how they were staying sane (and inspired) when we were sheltering in place. A lot of our discussions revolved around the pandemic’s impact on retail, so adding these questions made the discussions more personal and interesting.
- Record mini episodes: Based on the different podcast series we’ve produced over the years, listeners typically drop off Q&A episodes around the 45-minute mark. But different personas, like C-level executives, may only have short spurts of time throughout the day. Micro episodes that are five or 10 minutes could give them quick nuggets of inspiration to fuel their days. Use these to grab their attention and drive them to engage with your longer episodes when they have time.
- Add a recurring segment: Talk shows have recurring segments that their viewers look forward to. (Who doesn’t love The Daily Show’s “moment of Zen”?) Is there something similar you can do every episode? If your series is focused on digital transformation, maybe you can do a weekly segment on a cool new app. If you’re focused on the VC space, you could have a weekly “company to watch” segment. This is your chance to add extra value for your audience and stretch creative limits.
- Shake up your formats: Q&As could be the foundation of your series, but don’t feel like you need to be limited to this format. Try to integrate more narrative episodes in which the hosts discuss the latest news and research. This helps position your hosts as experts in the field and elevates the overall credibility of the series.
- Craft seasons around key events: In-person events and conferences aren’t on our calendars right now, but many are pivoting to webinar series and virtual events. Use these to guide your seasonal structure. This gives you some time to prerecord episodes and craft your strategy around key topics and themes.
- Repurpose existing content around a central narrative: This is a great case of “use what you have.” If you have webinars or video interviews that align with the theme and topics of your podcast, export the audio and use it for one or several episodes. For the season finale of the B2B Marketing Exchange podcast, we integrated clips from all episodes to spotlight the “top moments” from the season. Editorial podcasts from companies like Gimlet also have great models for inspiration. Slicing and organizing quotes and building a voiceover narrative around these quotes is a lot of work, but the final product is worth it.
- Extend beyond top-of-funnel: A lot of podcasts are focused on top-of-funnel brand awareness and engagement. They’re used to build editorial credibility and establish trust. But acclaimed speaker and podcast producer Tina Dietz told me in a recent chat that you can create great podcasts for existing customers, partners and even your internal teams. Think of how your sales team could benefit from a podcast series featuring the latest tips, tactics and insights from sales experts. Listening to an episode doesn’t take a lot of time, and they can easily take notes and apply these practices.
- Amplify using video: Everyone has their own unique content preferences, so it’s always a good idea to cover several bases with your content. Recording your conversations as video and then cross-posting them on LinkedIn, YouTube and on your audio podcast helps maximize reach and promote your series to new audiences. It’s also extremely efficient, because you’re only doing one recording for three different platforms.
These nine ideas scratch the surface of all the ways you can spice up your podcast strategy. If you’ve seen success with your podcast strategy, I’d love to hear what has worked for your audience. Or if you’re looking for more ways to connect with your audience, check out our Field Marketing Workshop, which digs into some other cool formats and experiences you can create online.