To Podcast or Not to Podcast? Stitchered Up, and How to Create PR in the Spoken World

By Jim James,
Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast
Podcast statistics
Podcasting is not only moving into the corporate branding arena, but is becoming a consumer lifestyle platform, and what a platform it has become. On March 19, 2020, Edison Research released The Infinite Dial webinar which states that there are currently over one million different podcast series and episodes on the internet. True crime and comedy are the most popular genres, and Apple Podcasts is the dominant podcast distributor with over half a million active podcast shows including content in more than 100 languages. Podcast listene say they are primarily listen to podcasts when in transit with 22% of people listening in the car. Listening at the gym or home tends to happen less, possibly because there are other mediums to log onto, and the third place people are tuning into podcasts is at work.

There are a growing number of distribution platforms: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Podbean, and Spotify. Buzzsprout is a platform for managing the hosting and then distributing it to the other platforms through an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed. For $12 a month, you can host two hours a month of audio, and you can increase the amount of storage by paying a little more. It is remarkably good value by anybody’s terms if you’re going to distribute content to those who aren’t subscribed to the listing. 

Stitcher alone has over 100,000 independent podcasts listed on their platform, and in 2019, they published 6.8 million episodes. Interestingly enough, the top seventeen shows in 2010 are still in the top 100, possibly even the top 20. This shows that longevity is one of the keys to doing anything in podcasting if that were to become one of your plans. A separate report shows that episodes are getting shorter. On average, episodes are going down by approximately two and a half minutes, which suggests a trend towards either extremely short or extremely long-form content. The listeners, depending on whom you are working to promote to, appear to be in the eighteen to thirty-four age bracket, which represents the largest number of listeners. However, it’s the age group of thirty-five to fifty-five-year-olds that are more dedicated in terms of the number of listening hours as well as the number of shows added to their favourites. Generation X likely acts more as browsers while leaning towards other mediums, and then there are those who see podcasts as an alternative to radio. 

Podcasting is becoming a narrowcast for specific interest areas. Stitcher CEO Eric Diehn said that the data found in their report shows that the unique appeal of podcasts makes its fans the most loyal and passionate of any medium, and it enables people to create intimacy as well as an understanding, which public relations is all about. It helps people’s perceptions be aligned with one’s view of himself or himself. Public relations is about getting depth out of a story, which is why we like to try to have interviews, and having long-form articles published gives texture of what the company is doing – this makes podcasting a fantastic medium to be using. Stitcher reported that Monday through Thursday is the prime time for people to be listening, which mirrors the idea that most people are listening when commuting between work, home, the gym, or other places. According to a statistical report, South Korea leads consumption with 55% of survey respondents saying they listen to podcasts, followed by Spain at 40%, Sweden, Australia, and the USA at 33%, and Italy, Canada, France, Japan, and Germany at 18%. In a recent press release, the Office of Communications in the UK has said that nearly 6 million adults are tuning in to podcasts each week. What is undeniable is that as a medium, podcasts are here to stay, because it’s a low cost, easy way to produce content.

Case studies of podcasts

An obvious implication to podcasting is that it is extremely crowded, as evidenced by the million podcasts available today. Also, like print newsletters, podcasts produced in-house require a lot of resources. Ryan Williams, who wrote an article about this in the Influencer Economy, suggests that it takes twice as long as you think it will take. If that worries you, fear not, because not everybody has to create a podcast of their own. It’s possible to create different strategies for podcasts without trying to post your own show. General Electric did this in 2017 with a program called The Message, which was an eight-part science fiction podcast series that connected listeners with the GE brand. Shopify, the online e-commerce software, has a site called Thank God It’s Monday about what works and what doesn’t in entrepreneurial life. Mark McDonald, the content manager, prefers audio content over traditional advertising; they would rather focus on the content than the advertising since creating something people want to consume, rather than interrupting something they want to ignore, is more powerful. In other words, if you are creating content that people are interested in, you may get loyalty in return. 

The Umpqua Bank created a podcast in 2017 called Open Account to discuss America’s cultural taboo: money. They had frank chats about losing and living with money, but a quick check shows that they only got to 21 episodes. The Distance, from the people who created Rework, which is the software company Basecamp, had a strategy to interview companies that have been around for at least25 years. These episodes were diverse, 15 minutes long, and they achieved 258 episodes before stopping. The podcast is now Rework, which is the same name as their book which discusses how they built Basecamp as a culture and a product for people to work remotely. Sephora launched a podcast in 2017 called Lip Stories, but they only managed to get to fifteen episodes. The team behind Zip Recruiter also launched a podcast called Rise and Grind with a man called Daymond John. They worked from Daymond John from the Shark Tank to create a series focused on the hustle and pursuit of success in business and achieved nineteen episodes. 

SPEAK|pr is proof of what podcasts can do for a business

The SPEAK|pr podcast is produced six days a week, because as entrepreneurs, it is necessary to think about the PR and the communications of a company, and the knowledge shared on SPEAK|pr comes from 25 years worth of experience of running companies in Asia and around the world. The key message for podcasting is that it needs to be aligned with the brand, and what SPEAK|pr does is it helps other entrepreneurs and businesses speak and share about what they do. Text can be read, but it’s impossible to communicate all the nuances with writing. Therefore, podcasting is an effective channel of communication for getting the message across.

If you’re looking to start a podcast, first contemplate if you can follow through or take the approach that General Electric did. The cheapest, easiest, and least-commitment route into podcasting could be sponsoring, participating, or being interviewed by an established podcast that has the audience you wish to target. This would be a good place to start, as podcasting takes more time than you think. But at the same time, it can be very rewarding as it is part of an integrated strategy, it serves as a holistic approach to communicating what the business does, and it can be a fabulous way to learn and share information. To echo what the Stitcher CEO said, there’s a belief in the unique and intimate appeal of podcasting, which makes people loyal and passionate, which is what anyone would want from employees, partners, and customers. With luck, SPEAK|pr provides you with engagement and sparks ideas as to what you can do with your business and public relations activities to get noticed.

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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