It’s been almost a year since I last battled the crowds on a South Western train to get to work on a wintery March morning, writes Kaye Rawlings. In order to cope with said commute, I amongst thousands of others, would try and block out the world with my earphones in and my head down. Back in the day, the sounds of choice might be my Spotify playlist and my preferred reading material would be the Metro, of course.
Then came lockdown. And instead of the two hours I previously spent battling to and from the office, my morning was focused on getting that exercise class in, or dare I say it, a slightly longer lie in, a lovely long walk at lunchtime, or even a run if I was feeling ambitious. But this time, somehow, my favourite playlists to accompany such jollies didn’t seem to cut it and I was looking for something more.
A sense of community? A chance to learn something new? Simply a bit of light relief? Who knows, but before you knew it, I was binging on true crime podcasts (RedHanded is my personal fave), tapping into the world of Louis Theroux and learning How to Fail. From interviews hosted by Z list celebs to parenting podcasts (I’m not even a parent), I haven’t been able to get enough. And I’m not alone.
Tsunami of interest
Apparently more than 15 million of us in the UK were tuning into podcasts in 2020 and it’s estimated that this will keep growing, with an expected 19.39 million by 2024. This isn’t just a lockdown thing – this format has been creeping up on us over the last few years. Arguably spring boarded into mega numbers by podcasts such as Serial, a piece of investigative journalism hosted by Sarah Koenig, which is apparently the most downloaded podcast of all time. (If you haven’t already heard it and you are into true crime, you must go check it out). But I digress.
This absolute tsunami of interest in podcasts hasn’t just affected the true crime, comedy and lifestyle space. This is now a serious format contender within all industries the world over and another incredible platform for entertainers, personalities, brands and companies to engage with their audiences.
If you are a signed up and paid member of any print magazine or newspaper, (and unless you have been living under a rock) you would have noticed that many media and content platforms have pivoted over the past few months, turning to an online first approach. And now, to accompany the digestible and bite-sized content available online, podcasts have been added to their armoury as an effective way to not only stay relevant, but to provide more long-form in-depth content that allows for a more intimate insight into the subject at hand. And additionally, industry podcasts have popped up to fill the gap that media titles may not have been designed to deliver and fulfill a need we didn’t even know we had.
What is so fantastic, in my opinion, is that yes, we have all gone digital, but the podcast isn’t really a new format. Remember radio? With podcasts you get all the best bits of radio with the authenticity, intimacy and great content – along with the fact that it is available on demand, anywhere, anytime, at the tips of your fingers.
What is the lesson here? Well consider this an effective and progressive way to get your message across. Whether it is aligning your brand with an existing well-known podcast, appearing as the subject of one, or even creating your own. Let’s not dismiss it.
Branded podcasts are a thing – but if you are a brand it is not necessarily a case of simply setting up a microphone under a duvet and getting your team to shoot the sh*t. It has to be tactical, clever and it has to mean something. NatWest saw the upward curve around podcasts as a medium and invested early – it has since enjoyed a steady growth in listeners and engagement. The company regularly produces a thought leadership podcast series for a corporate banking audience that delivers industry insights and ‘dynamic conversations’ – becoming a content platform in its own right.
If this example is the tortoise, McDonalds was the hare – successfully using the podcast format as a clever tool to amplify the story that it was re-releasing its Szechuan sauce. Imitating the successful (and previously mentioned) Serial podcast, ‘The Sauce’ examined the controversy surrounding the condiment and what caused the customer outcry for its return. Very tongue in cheek. Very clever. Very big budget.
How to use podcasts as part of your wider comms strategy, could be another whole blog post in itself frankly. Simply put – they should be properly considered as a viable channel. And that’s what we are here for – so why not task us to help you instead?
Meanwhile – what I will leave you with is some of the FSC team’s favourite industry podcasts to whet your appetite. Enjoy.