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At New Narrative we have seen a surge in clients asking us to support them in creating and publishing podcasts, and with good reason — podcasting is growing fast. It has global appeal, with listener figures as high in Asia as can be found in Europe and America, and offers exposure to a key target audience for many financial services companies. According to research, the average podcast listener is 45% more likely to have a college degree, and 45% more likely to earn over US$250,000 per year.

But, if, as a marketer, your palms are beginning to sweat as FOMO takes grip, pause for a moment and beware the pitfalls of SOS: ‘shiny object syndrome’; the graveyard of many a content marketing endeavour!

The number of podcasts may still be rising — up from 550,000 in 2018 to 700,000 this year — but average download figures are plummeting. Where once 1,000 downloads for a new podcast was typical, the figure now stands at below 200.

Still, there remains every chance of creating a new podcast that makes a big impact with your intended audiences. Here I share my thoughts how to make you podcast stand out from the rest.

Learn from the best

Begin by taking inspiration from what is already out there. There are some excellent finance-based podcasts – from broad-based to niche offerings. You don’t have to be the Financial Times (FT), the BBC or The Economist to gain yourself a community of loyal listeners. But, unless you can match these publishers for their quality of research and originality of insight and perspective, you may find your own efforts stuck in the auditory shadows.

Leverage influencers

On that note, consider the calibre and range of guest speakers you wish to invite. It may be tempting to use the podcast to showcase only the internal expertise of your organisation. After all, the FT typically does. But unless you can consistently roll out experts with unique insights and a strong media profile, this may well be a game of diminishing returns. Once the marketing hype has passed, people will likely drift away.

Introduce a range of perspectives

Sharing a wide range of perspectives is useful to help articulate the nuance and diversity of thought surrounding a topic. Your financial organisation might have its ‘party-line’ on global phenomena like US-Chinese trade tensions or China’s Belt and Road Initiative, but it can be useful still to convey the alternate viewpoints to gives listeners a more rounded understanding.

Perspectives taken from alternate fields of study can also prove highly engaging. I may be able to pre-empt what a macro-economist is going to tell me about the risks of Brexit, (not to diminish the value of their insight), but what about a celebrated physicist, or an award-winning philosopher? That’s a perspective I’m intrigued to hear.

Be big and bold

Big picture content is key to framing and giving the contextual narrative to your podcast. In marketing terms, it is the top-of-the-funnel content that draws in the broadest audience. Just as I may be intrigued to understand what a physicist may make of Brexit, I’m equally keen to understand – in the context of a podcast on US/Chinese trade disputes, say – how trade disputes have played out over the past 200 years. This context offers broad-based appeal that helps draw in listeners before drilling down into more specific analysis.

Coverage of big and bold of ideas will also do much to garner widespread appeal, and help position your brand as a business at the cutting edge. Think, for example, of the exciting innovations taking place in particle physics, data and AI or animal and crop gene-editing and the applications these fields of study can have on the challenges facing our world.

Play with the format

Format is another important consideration. Not only does it lend a sense of dynamism but helps also to break down content into digestible chunks. It is worth thinking carefully therefore how you can diversify the format within individual episodes, and across the series.

Consider for example interspersing an interview-style format with vox-pop interviews, or a monologue. Where possible, have some fun with the format. Recently the FT launched a light-hearted take on finance with their Finance Room 101 podcast, taking inspiration from the popular TV show. Here they asked industry-leading commentators what they would banish to room 101 to improve UK’s finances. The result is an highly engaging podcast.

Distributing your podcast

Podcasts are an excellent way to showcase the fresh thinking and passion that drives your business. But it alone will not drive audience figures. Like any other content marketing asset, it needs a sound distribution and promotional strategy.

If you want to build a solid community of listeners, and not rely solely on traffic to your website, you will need a media host. As of 2019, the most popular host sites are: Buzzsprout, Transistor, Simplecast, Captivate, Podbean and Castos. Of these, Buzzsprout is the most popular, but all offer roughly equal services with free-trial periods, so it is worth exploring around to see which service suits you best.

Once you have decided on your host, you will also need to think which distribution channels to sign up with. The most popular by far is iTunes. iTunes podcasts can be accessed via Android, but since not everyone will be familiar on how to do this, consider using additional distribution channels, such as Spotify, Google Play Music or Stitcher. As a note of caution, be sure to check first these services are available in your target markets. (Google Play Music is not available in Singapore, for example).

Marketing your podcast

To promote your podcast, I recommend allocating an advertising budget to purchase air-time from related shows in which to promote your own podcast. A short, snappy and enticing audio ad campaign strategically positioned will do much to generate interest.

Creating a teaser containing short snippets and sound bites of content from your podcast is another way to build interest. These teasers can be posted onto target social media channels with a ‘Listen Now’ call to action to broaden appeal to those who may not be podcast converts.

In addition, consider posting a transcript of your podcast. It will increase engagement and also helps your SEO, particularly where guest ‘influencer’ names can be dropped in.

Looking ahead

Podcasting remains in its early stages of evolution. Over the coming years we can expect to see publishers evolve the format and feel of podcasts, even incorporating tools like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to deliver an interactive element.

As this process unfolds podcasting is sure to become a much more mainstream marketing tool. But, as it does, the keys to its successful delivery will remain much the same, and common to other content marketing assets, with an overriding importance on detailed planning, a focus on quality content and a good investment of time (and sometimes) money.

I’ve outlined just a few pointers here, enough I hope to offer some inspiration to those considering starting a podcast. For anyone looking for some help along the way, the team at New Narrative are always on hand to support.

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Here at New Narrative we have a long history of railing against jargon. We’ve even created handy guides to help people cut through it. Yet every once in a while we have to (quietly) admit that an expression that might be in jargon territory, bandied around a bit too much but not necessarily well-understood, has its place.

Take ‘value proposition.’ It makes regular appearances in marketing presentations and pitch sessions the world over. Pretty much every enterprise (and more than a few individuals) agree they need one. But start asking what it is or how to ‘get’ it, and you’ll be treated to a lot of different answers.

Common definitions frame a value proposition as the statement that captures the essence of what makes a company, product or service relevant to current or would-be clientele. Or a succinct answer to the question that’s on the mind of every prospective investor or buyer, but usually not directly articulated – if I give you my money, what’s in it for me?

These definitions are fine as they go – but also a touch superficial, and tend to provoke a knee-jerk response. Most organisations are (rightly) confident that they have a pretty clear idea about what they bring to the table, and how to express that. And so after some quick internal deliberations they go a few steps beyond the company’s slogan to come up with a definitive statement on their corporate character, or world-beating capabilities. We are constantly client-oriented. We innovate in our sleep. Value proposition job done. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it essentially limits the value proposition to a self-contained marketing exercise, suitable for propping up a website or providing a ready-made answer to employees who wonder just what it is they’re all doing around here, anyway.

That’s a shame, because done right, a value proposition is capable of so much more. Far from being an empty catchphrase, a value proposition with real, well … value, can serve as the foundation for an editorial campaign with long-lasting impact. That requires developing a proposition distinctive and intellectually credible enough to strike a chord with a time-starved and information-saturated audience, and that touches on big ideas that lend themselves to repeated exploration as you publish and communicate over time. A tall order, but certainly not impossible. Here are a few tips on where to start.

*It’s not all about you. A value proposition naturally has to say something about the organisation, but given the purpose is to communicate and build connections, must also make it clear what the organisation brings to the table for everyone else. That means the focus should be less on what the enterprise ‘does,’ or excels at; more on the problems or issues it allows others to overcome, or the contributions it makes to a bigger picture.

Put another way, rather than what an enterprise ‘has’ – even if their talent, technology or competitive advantage is worth boasting about – a solid value proposition explains what the company creates, and at least hints at some kind of higher purpose. Saying you’re building the infrastructure for a borderless world, for example, is a message that will travel a lot farther, and to a lot more people, than insisting you’ve got the fastest networking technology.

*Cast a wide net. Creating a value proposition that connects with external audiences and a wider cause is tough to pull off if you’re only consulting stakeholders or conducting brainstorming sessions in-house. Seeing the big picture means almost inevitably looking outside the organisation, to consider the changes sweeping your industry and society; the issues that are emerging as a priority; and how competitors and peers frame their arguments in response.

Given the amount of background noise in any market this is best tackled through a structured research process that includes systematic analysis of the content coming from leading voices and peers in the field, and in-depth consultations with both internal and external authorities to zero in on the themes or concerns that emerge as common and consistent. This allows the enterprise to determine where it is best positioned to speak to those concerns – and to develop a value proposition that does so in a direct, and distinct, way.

*See the proposition as a starting point. Consider a value proposition the opening shot in a protracted battle – or if you prefer a warmer, fuzzier image, the shelter under which everything to follow is built. If you’ve done your research homework, the proposition will touch on a broad issue that can be broken down into any number of sub-themes or topics – each of which could be seen as an opportunity for further discussion or publication on the organisation’s associated views or capabilities.

A value proposition based on the company’s commitment to financial inclusion, for example, could give rise to content on everything from pushing the limits of mobile financial services, to the most pressing needs for regulatory reform. One built around technological advancement could lead to an in-depth report on balancing privacy and consumer convenience, or a roundtable on best practices to promote innovation.

Template for building value proposition content marketing

Map those out systematically – a basic structure that we’ve employed in our consultations is above – and you’ve got the basis for a full-scale content campaign that’s united on a powerful core concept, yet still capable of supporting dialogue with diverse audience groups. With a bit of work, a value proposition can move well beyond the realm of jargon, or serving as an internal creed, to actually deliver what the label promises.

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