Raising your voice: How to use podcasts as a platform for thought leadership

Ben Harrison

History’s defining moments are sound-tracked by great orators and public speakers. A powerful speech by an influential voice gives any message – whatever its content or purpose – authority, potency and permanence.

In the context of thought leadership, clients often want research that they can present at events, or that their senior leaders can talk about as part of profile-raising PR initiatives. But where else in their marketing strategies can they exploit the power of speech?

The audio boom

Consumption of audio content has grown rapidly in recent years, and not just in terms of music. According to Activate’s latest Tech & Media Outlook, both monthly podcast listeners and annual podcast listening will increase by 50% within the next three years.

Podcasts have gained astonishing momentum in recent years after a decade on the margins – largely off the back of high-profile dramas such as Sarah Koenig’s Peabody-winning series Serial.

The advantages of podcasts are well documented, but one of the primary benefits for is their portability – the ability to consume them on the move. That’s a benefit that B2B audiences also appreciate: : four in 10 content consumers actively recommend that content is more mobile-friendly in order to consume on the go. As our mobile devices have grown in both size and performance, demand for mobile content has followed suit – and podcasts are the most portable content there is.

Fear of pod

Until recently, however, there was a problem: establishing key metrics for podcasts was incredibly difficult, with hosting, access and streaming often managed across multiple disparate channels. This made them a tough sell for marketers, as it was virtually impossible to track the ROI.

That’s now changing. Third-party hosting platforms such as iTunes and Libsyn have improved their analytics, giving marketers greater insight into the all-important audience stats and the chance to present a stronger business case for investment.

Casting a spell: Who are the B2B podcast leaders?

Most marketers will have been keeping a watchful eye on podcasts’ rise in popularity, curious to see if they translate to B2B marketing.

Unsurprisingly, tech firms are leading the way, with companies like Oracle and Verizon experimenting with podcasts. Oracle’s Cloud Café series, for instance, which provides listeners with news on cloud transformation from customers, partners and Oracle product experts, has been gradually gaining momentum since its launch in February this year. Verizon’s Up to Speed podcast, meanwhile, features stories about how technology and the people behind it are building the future, and is just one of several podcast series produced by the telecoms giant.

How to make your voice heard

Podcasting is still rarely used in thought leadership, and it remains an untapped opportunity for brands.

At FT Longitude, we’ve dabbled in the format ourselves, and have picked up a few pointers along the way. Here’s what we recommend keeping in mind when you embark on producing a thought leadership podcast:

1. Exploit your narrative

Story-based dramas like Serial have been the leading lights in the podcasting world over the past few years. And storytelling is also a vital component of thought leadership, so bring the two together by finding a common thread in your research narrative that gives your editorial content a coherent shape. You can then bring this to life with engaging delivery and a strong voice (see ‘Make it dynamic’ below).

And if you know from the outset that you want to create a podcast, that can help you to form your thought leadership narrative right from the start. As you bring stories together, think about creating ‘chapters’ of your insights. Also, when you approach your subject matter experts to comment about the insights for your core content assets, think about their suitability for a podcast and tee them up to be involved in the audio output at the same time.

2. Make it dynamic

Your podcast host must be engaging and knowledgeable in order to hook the audience and retain their interest, and your guests must have the same winning qualities alongside a fresh and informed perspective. Ensure that your podcast has a strong personality, and make it a point of differentiation.

Podcasts can be the answer to a common thought leadership problem: they can transform a dry or heavy topic into a captivating, meaningful discussion. Designing your content to make your topic as engaging as possible should be par for the course, but produce a well-paced podcast with interesting speakers as well, and you could give it an extra boost.

3. Showcase your own expertise

At the heart of good thought leadership campaigns lies a clear understanding of what you can add to the debate with your internal expertise. In large organisations, senior business leaders are often your greatest asset – don’t be afraid to use them.

Interviewing internal stakeholders and business leaders allows you to introduce your own experts to the conversation and can help you to articulate your company’s take on a topic in a credible way. It can also help marketing teams gain the trust and support of senior executives, helping them to raise their profile and prepare them for any upcoming events where they can discuss the findings.

Third-party advocates – your clients and other influencers, for example – provide an excellent source of external insight for your company, and interviewing big names can be a significant draw.

4. Prove commercial viability

As marketing budgets are scrutinised and stretched to their limits, the commercial viability of any new marketing venture must be proven if it’s to stand any chance of long-term adoption.

Building a podcast into a lead generation strategy is a strong approach. Yet nurturing those leads over time to help move them further down the funnel is just as important, and here’s where a podcast can really contribute. A series of podcasts gives you the greatest opportunity to raise brand awareness over time through a variety of topics and interviewees, and can build a loyal audience of attentive listeners – and even brand advocates.

Podcasts also have relatively low set-up costs compared with other forms of marketing. The real challenge is in creating the content. Ensure that you have a strong schedule of content that will consistently capture interest and build momentum, and line up an influential set of speakers to keep your audience hooked.

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About the author: Ben Harrison

As marketing executive, Ben leads various marketing activities such as the firm’s social media effort, our always-on content programme, and all aspects of the website – from maintenance to re-designs. He also manages the department’s tech stack, delivering an increasingly seamless experience from marketing all the way through to the sales team.

Ben also contributes to the marketing team’s overall strategy and goals, helping to plan, execute and effectively measure all our content and engagement that push the firm towards brand- and commercial-oriented goals.

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