While podcasting is a tantalising addition to the marketing mix, Sophie Walker, host of the popular podcast Australian Birth Stories urges marketers to lead with the ethics
2022 was the year Australians became the biggest podcast listeners in the world. Forty percent of us are tuning in every month, dedicating just over seven hours per week to listening to our favourite podcasts. No matter what you’re into, you’re likely to be spoilt for choice. There’s over two million podcasts to choose from globally and over 73 million episodes.
Like any trend that captures the public’s imagination, brands have jumped on the bandwagon. From Telstra to Tinder, it seems like every organisation on earth is dipping its toe in podcasting. While some are absolute fizzers (I’m not naming names), others such as Beauty IQ from online beauty retailer Adore Beauty, transcend its marketing purpose and become mainstays in the podcasting landscape. Consistently ranked in the top five in the Apple Australia’s Fashion and Beauty charts, Beauty IQ is an organic extension of the Adore Beauty brand. It perfectly captures the awkward and hilarious side of beauty, capitalising on this authenticity to build trust and community with its audience.
There’s no denying, podcasts are a good marketing move
They’re a beacon of owned media. It offers control over the marketing message, the opportunity to find new audiences and the space to build engaged communities. While social media often serves up algorithmic whiplash, owned channels such as podcasts, emails and websites take the power away from Zuckerberg and allow for more control over the success of marketing strategy.
Take BedThreads for instance. By heavily investing in their owned content, BedThreads grew its email database of over 300,000 in four years. Rather than bombard their email list with one sales message after another, it presented beautifully curated lifestyle content that added value to subscribers. Not bad for an online organisation shilling sheets.
Much like email, your podcast subscribers are actively choosing to engage
Podcasts make for a lovely experience when building a community. I’ve been podcasting for seven years, and it’s allowed me to form deep connections with mothers craving connection and a safe space. It’s also acted as a launchpad to other ventures and is still my main marketing channel.
However for brands looking to add podcasting to the marketing mix: be warned. Brands can’t simply jump behind the podcast mic and wait for the metrics to swing in their favour. Out of respect for the audience, we need to pay particular attention to the ethics of our programming.
There may be great value in podcasting but with that, comes great responsibility
While the major platforms have content guidelines, there are no specific standards that podcasters have to adhere to. Mostly we’re left to our own devices to make smart decisions around the content we produce.
Brands, and by extension the podcasts they produce, aren’t journalists. They’re not held to the same ethical standards as a news channel. But they are broadcasting to potentially large audiences that they have a responsibility to protect. Along with a responsibility to the brands they look after.
For me, this has meant turning down five figure ad deals and deleting podcasts that I’ve felt were at risk of putting mothers in danger.
Brands need to be even more rigorous with who they partner with and the guest appearance they allow on their podcasts. This means doing the research. Next year, Young Folks is predicting a rise in purpose-led brands investing in ethical marketing practices. But also significant greenwashing. In order to produce responsible and ethical content, brands need to ensure all the components align with their vision and values.
For anyone that’s not sure where to start, Social Traders, B-Corp and Climate Active are some of the certifications that you can look out for when choosing who to partner with.
As always, ask yourself ‘what’s in it for the audience?’
I get enough targeted ads on social media to know when a brand is adding value and when they’re trying to spray ‘n pray me into (costly) action. If there’s nothing in it for your audience, you have nothing interesting to say and you offer no value, why invest valuable brand spend in this channel?
Branded podcasts are riding the wave of ethics, audience and commercial decision making. But at the end of the day, it’s not dissimilar to any other marketing channel. As marketing becomes more personalised and content is placed at the forefront of strategy, the brands that put their audience first will be the ones that succeed in 2023.
Sophie Walker is the founder and host of Australian Birth Stories podcast that has over 11 million downloads and is endorsed by the Australian College of Midwives. Every week on the podcast she shares an interview with a woman who steps into her most vulnerable space to detail all the precious details of her pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience.
Sophie’s first book, The Complete Australian Guide to Pregnancy and Birth, published by Murdoch Books hits stands in February 2023.