Here is the ultimate branded podcast investment breakdown.
By Jen Moss (CCO/Founder – JAR Audio) & Jeff Vidler (President/Founder – Signal Hill Insights)
Table of Contents
Why you should read this guide
You have an inkling that making a podcast would be a good thing for your brand. But the podcasting ecosystem is vast, and for the uninitiated, it can be challenging to clearly define the shimmery, multifaceted value of a great podcast. It’s a bit like the question posed by the old nuns in The Sound of Music about the young Julie Andrews: “How DO you hold a moonbeam in your hand?” The more you try to shove podcasting into a traditional marketing “box,” the more it wants to escape the abbey and run outside shouting “The Hills Are Alive!” You need answers to critical questions about whether a podcast is worth the investment, and how to measure its success.
Well first of all – trust the instinct that brought you to this blog post.
Podcasting is incredibly valuable for brands. The trick is to recognize and define HOW it is valuable, in specific ROI terms that your CEO, CMO, CFO, or – if you’re with a creative agency – your client, will understand.
We’re here to help.
In this comprehensive guide – we’re updating our previous post, and talking about the different kinds of podcast ROI. And with the expert help of Jeff Vidler from Signal Hill Insights, we’ll tell you exactly how to measure them. Along the way, we’ll answer some of the main questions we hear on a daily basis from our clients in various verticals and roles about how to measure it.
Not All ROI is Created Equal
The first question we always get asked is:
“What sort of ROI should I expect with a branded podcast?”
Brands start a podcast for different reasons. And those differences affect how they should think about ROI. Audio podcasting is considered the world’s most intimate medium. The message, or story, is literally being whispered in the listener’s ear. If you’re a brand that wants this kind of unprecedented access to your audience’s “headspace” – then podcasting, when handled correctly, offers terrific ROI. The quality of an audience’s engagement with a great podcast is more than fleeting. It’s deep, emotional, portable, educational, and habitual. Brands who embrace their own well-produced podcast along with a carefully planned audience growth strategy see one of the highest ROIs for a marketing channel compared to other forms of content.
Here are some different reasons you might be looking at Podcasting ROI:
- You could be the CMO of a brand, responsible for increasing revenue
- You could be a brand manager responsible for building affinity and increasing awareness of your product or service.
- You could be the head of Internal Comms looking for a way to connect with your overseas employees.
- You could be an Account Director at an agency, responsible for selling a smart idea to your client that’s connected to a larger campaign.
- You could be the Executive Director of a non-profit organization responsible for changing the public’s perception about your cause
Given all these different perspectives, it’s important to take the time to define what “good ROI” means to you, based on your business or organizational goals.
Another question we often deal with is:
“But how do I measure the ROI of a podcast?”
Short answer: It depends.
Better answer: There are a number of ways to define and measure a show’s benchmarks for success and ensure you are getting the best return for your marketing dollars. You can look at things like downloads, followers, consumption rates, time spent listening, cost per minute, brand lift, brand engagement, conversions, and more. Each approach to ROI has its own metrics, Key Performance Indicators (KPI) or Key Results Indicators (KRI) to measure.
Below are some types of ROI podcasts can provide – and the methods for measuring them.
Types of ROI:
- Brand ROI: Affinity, Positioning, Customer Acquisition, Thought Leadership
- How to Measure Brand ROI
- Financial ROI: More Conversions, Increased Revenue
- How to Measure Financial ROI
- Internal ROI: Employee satisfaction, Recruitment, Retention
- How to Measure Internal ROI
How Podcasts Support Brand ROI:
- Improved Affinity and Brand Lift
- Better Brand Affinity
- More Respected Thought Leadership
- Customer Acquisition and Retention
- More Earned Attention
- More Educated Customers
1. Improved Affinity and Brand Lift:
If your boss wants to know, “what kind of brand lift can a podcast deliver?” you’re in luck! This type of ROI is one of the things great podcasts do best. Well-produced podcasts are phenomenal at delivering brand “LIFT-off”. They can help your brand step forward into the light a little bit. Helping people understand the “big picture” that your brand upholds. Addressing the issues, or challenges in communities your brand cares about, and the ways your brand can wade in and help them. Demonstrating what kind of workplace culture and values you support. In other words, (and because we can’t just drop a good metaphor): A podcast lets your audience see who you really ARE as a brand when you rip off your nun’s habit and streak out into the mountains under the big, blue sky! This increased transparency around brand values impresses audiences – particularly values-driven Millennials and Gen Z’s – and ultimately helps with brand lift, and brand affinity. Basically, a good podcast creates something valuable and authentic that engenders trust.
Trust is the precursor of financial ROI.
2. Better Brand Affinity:
There’s really no better way to help your brand position itself. A carefully thought-through podcast strategy is an opportunity to distinguish yourself from amongst a set of similar competitors. It’s your chance to stick your neck out, be seen, and above all – heard above the noise. If you’re strategic about it, you can make a great show, one that offers your specific target audience something they need, and positions your brand where you need to be. The ability to really take your time and unpack ideas, explore subtle differences, present stories that affect peoples’ lives, identify strategic allyships, feature case studies, and have meaningful, teachable moments enables people to see you for who you uniquely are – distinct from all your competitors.
3. More Respected Thought Leadership:
Many brands are powerhouses of information, data science, insight, and analysis. If this “internal” brand knowledge is framed correctly – and tied to audience’s lives in ways that feel useful, entertaining, and relevant, a podcast can firmly establish a brand’s thought leadership in a particular industry or subject area. Podcasts also offer a chance for brands to lean into socially relevant conversations. It’s not just about demonstrating your in-house expertise. It’s about demonstrating your social relevance. What voices can you facilitate, feature, and stand behind? What debates matter to your industry? What conversations simply can’t be had in a TikTok video or a Tweet? We encourage our clients to create podcasts that explore big questions they feel are important, and that speak to audiences they want to reach.
4. Customer Acquisition and Retention:
The equation: great shows –> trust –> relationships –> more customers
A podcast is the perfect opportunity to engage deeply with potential customers and earn their trust. Podcasts are persuasive, intimate, and interesting. A good podcast “speaks” directly to the audience, addressing their needs and implicit questions throughout the show. With audio storytelling, the audience member listens, and imagines whatever is being described. They actively picture it. This type of exchange, known as “co-authorship,” creates a profound sense of empathy. It’s almost like a real conversation, though the audience is technically silent. Not a 10 second TikTok conversation, either (though they can be fun), but a deep, stay up all night, “is there really a God?” kind of conversation. A podcast can contain a direct Call to Action, such as “Go out and vote,” or “Sign up to learn more,” or a more implicit message that leads to a profound mental shift. A definitive study by the BBC on branded podcasts (BBC Audio:Activated study) showed that through the high engagement levels of a branded podcast, brands saw 16% higher engagement. What’s more, the study found that because 94% of podcast listeners are mobile and active, they absorb and retain information at a 22% greater rate.
This is why branded podcasts are fast becoming one of marketing’s most engaging mediums. Name another medium that regularly gets audiences consuming 80-95% of the content. And while length varies – most episodes are 20-30 minutes long! You typically don’t get that kind of sustained engagement with a short YouTube video, or a blog post, or a radio ad. And you definitely don’t get that level with a print ad or billboard. It just doesn’t exist outside of podcasting. This unprecedented level of time spent with your material leads to stronger relationships with potential customers. Your audience will “think of you first” the next time they need the product or service you provide.
5. More Earned Attention:
One of the ways to earn attention is by providing entertainment value. A brand can capture an audience’s attention in a fun and entertaining way (eg: through comedy or mockumentary, or by highlighting a collaboration with an author or other celebrity). This can garner earned media coverage, while demonstrating the sincerity, social conscience, or the “cool factor” of a brand. A great podcast helps connect your brand in listeners’ minds with a pop culture, sport, social, or lifestyle trend. Your target audience gets the idea that your brand likes the same things they do. Audiences also appreciate the “time out” your entertaining branded podcast offers from the slings and arrows of daily life. If they see you as a champion of the arts, or of comedy, or sport, again – this further increases brand affinity.
6. More Educated Customers:
Statistically, podcasts attract lots of educated listeners. But podcasts are also a great tool for educating customers, (i.e. an audience). For example, by presenting an enlightening panel, or a compelling audio documentary about a topic relevant to your brand, a podcast can reduce the number of obstacles or questions customers have, smoothing the way for more sales. A podcast can directly tackle “frequently asked questions” in depth, and create an evergreen resource of vital information to be shared widely. Podcasts are also directly applicable as language-learning and training tools, since many people are auditory learners.
> How to Measure Brand ROI:
Ok we’ve told all the ways podcasts help Brand ROI. Now here’s what Jeff Vidler from Signal Hill Insights has to say about some of the best ways to measure Brand ROI.
- Measure Brand Lift
- Do a Controlled Exposure Brand Lift Study
- Do an Engagement Brand Lift Study
- Track Engagement Performance of Podcast
- Track Brand Positioning
- Measure Thought Leadership Engagement
- Measure Customer Acquisition through Customer Tracking
1. Measure Brand lift
- Studies that compare brand metrics among podcast listeners and non-listeners to demonstrate brand lift delivered by podcast.
- Keep track of earned media coverage
2. Do a Controlled Exposure Brand Lift Study
- Panel survey with pre-screened podcast listeners, split randomly into 2 samples:
- Exposed sample listens to podcast and completes survey, including brand questions
- Unexposed control sample, asked same brand questions as exposed sample
3. Do an Engagement Brand Lift Study
- Listener survey (via CTA in the podcast), getting feedback from engaged listeners and asking brand questions
- Followed by a survey among a control group of non-listeners recruited from a research panel to match the demographic profile of listener survey, and asked the same brand measures.
4. Track Engagement Performance of Podcast
- Measure consumption rates (how much of the episode people listen to)
- Measure TSL (Time Spent Listening) (cumulative data across multiple episodes – measured in hours)
- Track of podcast reviews and reviews on other platforms
- Incorporate the podcast into the brand’s reputational listening studies
5. Track Brand Positioning
Add questions from corporate Brand Tracking or Brand Love research into Brand Lift studies among listeners and non-listeners, customized to deliver brand attribute comparisons and competitive analysis.
6. Measure Thought Leadership Engagement
- Measure industry-wide recognition:
- Track industry awards for podcast content
- Virality tracking:
- Track engagement level with podcast posts on LinkedIn or other social media
- Track inbound requests for speaking engagements, interviews, conference appearances and guesting on other podcasts
- Track quotes and mentions in other media
7. Measure Customer Acquisition through Customer Tracking
- Digital attribution: actions taken after listening via pixel tracking
- CTAs directing listeners to vanity URLs for more information
- Inbound tracking of “how did you hear about us?” (include podcast as an option)
How Podcasts Drive Financial ROI: Drive Conversions, Increase Long term Revenue, Customer Acquisition
We understand that at the end of the day, conversions matter. Direct sales matter. Revenue matters. Podcasts support all of these things – but in very specific ways:
- Drive Conversions
- Increased Revenue
1. Drive Conversions:
For starters, podcasts are great for content-to-content conversion. You can bake the referral to your other marketing assets directly into the DNA of your podcast. A podcast host can easily say something like, “Want to know more about X? Go to our website” or “Check out our white paper.” And the attribution technology exists to monitor how many people actually do. For example, using 3rd party services like Claritas you can match downloads with on-site visits through household IP. Podcasts are sticky places that customers gravitate to, predictably and repeatedly. After spending time getting to know you via your podcast, customers are more likely to move further into your marketing funnel on the web.
2. Increased Revenue:
Increased revenue is definitely supported by your branded show, though it’s typically more of a long game, (unless you’re buying direct response ads). Podcasts themselves need to build up audience trust over time by consistently offering great content and value, which ultimately leads to purchasing.
JAR’s advice to clients is always: Do a good job on your show – then stand back and reap the rewards later in terms of improved revenue that is the direct result of improved brand affinity. We find that when brands keep their brand presence minimal and implicit, audiences respond in kind. As it turns out, people appreciate it when brands respect their time and offer real value and authentic content, resisting the temptation to “sell sell sell.” The mantra of long-form content marketers is that if you have great content that is consistent, on-brand and delivers loads of value to the listener, it will ultimately drive sales. This makes sense… because if listeners are more likely to become invested in your product or service, they are also more likely to one day purchase that product or service.
> How to Measure Financial ROI
1. To Measure Longer term revenue: Follow listener journey from listening to purchase through continued purchase
2. Customer generated revenue tracking :
- Digital attribution: actions taken on website after listening via pixel tracking
- CTAs directing listeners to vanity URLs for more information
- Inbound tracking of “how did you hear about us?” (include “podcast” as an option in the answer set)
- Track direct sales (e.g: offer code to listeners)
- Track Net Promoter Score (NPS) in listener surveys
How Podcasts Drive ‘Internal’ ROI: Internal Comms, Recruitment, Employee Retention
This is arguably a “subset” of Brand ROI – but we think it deserves its own category. In a remote work environment, the ability for employees to feel “part of something” is vital for employee communication, recruitment, satisfaction and retention. But when you have people spread all over the country, or all over the world – it can be challenging to adequately get your values and culture across. While newsletters can be effective tools, many CEOs will tell you they have trouble getting employees (or prospective employees) to read official communiques in written form. This is where a good podcast can really be of help!
- Improved Internal Communication
- Employee Education and Satisfaction
1. Improved Internal Communication:
An “internal podcast” can help employers share company initiatives, issues, and ideas in a more accessible way. It can also be a vehicle for employees to raise issues or concerns they’d like to hear senior management address. Podcasts are a brand safe, controlled way for people to “have their say.” They offer a private, mobile, and flexible experience – and what’s really great about them is they can be consumed on the employee’s timeline and terms. This increases the chances of uptake.
A carefully positioned ‘internal’ style podcast that talks about your brand culture in an interesting way can be of interest to certain people outside your organization who are curious to know more about it. Shows like Inside Trader Joe’s, or Waste No Potential (Salesforce / Traction on Demand) do an excellent job of walking the line between public-facing and internal engagement, and are therefore strong recruitment tools. Podcasts are also great for new employee orientation and onboarding.
3. Employee education and satisfaction:
Internal pods can be excellent onboarding tools, and are a great way to demonstrate to new employees that the place they’ve just started working at is prepared to offer them something of value. Whether it’s a “How to” learning-type show that helps them level up their professional game, an interview-based show that gives behind-the-scenes insight into leadership decisions, or something more uplifting and related to personal growth – the message is the same: You’re a company who cares.
> How to Measure ROI from Internal Podcasts
1. Employment brand positioning & lift:
- Employee satisfaction surveys
- Employee retention rates
- Downloads (tracked with IP / company addresses)
- Episode consumption rates
- Conversions to newsletter or website (track with pixels or through Vanity URLs)
2. Subset – Internal Comms: Follow-up employee survey to compare educational comprehension after podcast to other communications
Making the Business Case for Podcasts
Phew! You’ve made it this far? Thanks for sticking it out! There’s a lot to learn about measuring ROI for podcasts, but hopefully we’ve set you on your way. All-in-all, a well-produced podcast can serve as an excellent point of entry for potential customers as they engage with a brand in a meaningful and authentic way. A podcast listener – when deciding between two brands of mattress, software, or moisture-wicking underwear, will be inclined towards the brand that has already shown its stripes and earned their trust. Depending on where your potential customers are in the sales funnel, your podcast can help deliver what they need to bring them closer to that point of purchase.
So, let’s review some of the most important questions to help you make the business case for a podcast:
- What kind of ROI is important to my brand or organization?
- Who do I need to convince and what kind of ROI information will they be looking for?
- What tools do I have in order to measure the ROI of our podcast?
Hopefully this article has given you the facts you need to go forward and talk to your client, CEO, CFO, or CMO about the case for podcasts. If you want to engage in a serious brand lift study – we highly recommend Jeff Vidler’s Signal Hill Insights. And if you’d like to workshop your ideas a little more – be sure to check out this free “Podcast Business Case” resource, or reach out to JAR Audio directly via our website. We’d love to hear from you, and would be happy to answer your questions or kick some ideas around!