podcast microphone and computer
Starting a podcast may seem exciting and glamorous initially, but there is a lot of planning and consideration that needs to come first. — Getty Images/nortonrsx

If you could create your own fantasy Board of Directors who would be on it? CO— connects you with thought leaders from across the business spectrum and asks them to help solve your biggest business challenges. In this edition, a CO— reader asks when, and how, a business should consider starting a podcast.

Giles Martin, EVP of Client Strategy and Media Operations at LA ad agency Oxford Road, answers…

Many companies are rushing to implement a podcast. The fact that the herd is running in that direction doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea, however.

Let’s start with the basics: Starting a podcast is easy. Maintaining one, and growing it, is much harder. How much time do you want to invest in being a publisher, and how much in your core business? There are now over 700,000 podcasts available to listen to. The number who are actively publishing in any given quarter is estimated to be around 20% of that number (i.e. 80% of podcasters no longer publish).

If you still think it might be worth the time investing in a podcast, the question you need to ask yourself is this: Is the podcast internal-facing (e.g. for employees) or external?

Most podcasts by businesses are internal. They’re by large organizations (that can afford to devote resources to publishing) who use them to drive alignment across large, often geographically diverse, workforces. While some are popular, from what we can glean, engagement is not always high — about 11% of American Airlines employees listen to their podcast; Verizon’s numbers are even lower.

Generating a large audience is speculative, and a lot of work.

Giles Martin, EVP of Client Strategy and Media Operations, Oxford Road

If you don’t need a podcast to engage with your staff, perhaps you need one that’s external facing. Then the question is: Is the purpose customer retention or customer acquisition?

Starting a podcast for customer acquisition may make more sense if you’re in a category that is highly niche or specialized, where customers are hard to find. If your product has a wider market, you’ll need to generate a large listener base to make a meaningful dent in acquisition. Generating a large audience is speculative, and a lot of work. You’re probably better off paying for advertising.

It may be best used, then, for customer retention (although marketing science demonstrates that acquisition has primacy.) Much the same principles apply. If you have a lot of customers, it’ll be hard to reach many of them without growing your podcast into something substantive. If, however, you have more of a niche product, especially if the product is technical or complex in some way, perhaps a podcast could be used effectively to drive engagement with and understanding of the product, to answer customers’ questions, to provide tips, etc.

Consider a related point: if the product has a longer (re-)purchase cycle, if it requires deeper consideration, building trust and keeping the brand regularly in prospects’ or clients’ awareness is likely to be valuable. A podcast, once you’ve attained some subscribers, can do a really great job at this. At its extreme, if you’re lucky (or if you have a great product), you might be able to generate some real passion among your listener base to create even more desire for and stickiness to your brand.

That’s pretty much it. The bottom line is: A podcast seems easy and attractive, and – let’s be honest – the idea of putting ourselves out there and being a publisher is tinged with glamour and appeal, but it’s probably more work than you think. If you’re considering it, spend some time thinking about what specific outcomes you want to achieve, and then ask yourself two questions: is a podcast the best way to drive those outcomes? And, are you willing to commit to the demanding publishing and content development schedule?

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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