Walking the Line Between Creativity and Brand Success in Podcasting

Why you need to balance creativity and business goals in podcasting.

By: Roger Nairn, CEO

I was recently interviewed by a group of college students during a speed mentoring evening, and one of them asked me: “What is it about advertising that has kept you in it for over 20 years?” 

I’ve always loved the ability to approach hard, cold and unforgiving challenges (like hitting a business goal) with fun and creativity. My first boss in advertising called advertising the “rock & roll of the business world.”

When I worked for the global advertising agency, DDB, I led our client relationship with Netflix. We were tasked with introducing the streaming giant to the Canadian market. Armed with the audience insight that those who subscribe to Netflix love to share the twists and turns of the latest episode of House of Cards or Orange Is the New Black with other fans of the service, the creative team launched the “You Gotta Get It To Get It” campaign. Playing off the tropes of our favorite movies and TV shows (like the coach firing up his team, or a young couple getting engaged over dinner), the campaign was an instant hit, and led to a lot of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) across the country. 

The creative was great, but was the campaign a success? Along with being short-listed at the Cannes Lions, winning at the One Show and being featured in scores of media (we were even referenced by the coach of the NY Rangers during the Stanley Cup Finals) the campaign kicked off a wildly successful subscription campaign in Canada and the service quickly became a fixture of the country’s media lineup. The campaign walked the delicate balance between strategic goals and creative storytelling.

“Pep Talk”

“Test Results”

“Airport”

“Proposal”

Netflix You Gotta Get It To Get It

The same lesson should be applied to a brand’s podcast. A great branded podcast walks the delicate balance between strategic goals and creative storytelling.

An example of a show that beautifully balances a great podcast that ALSO drives business results is Infernal Communication, by Staffbase. This successful show is all about the art of communication, specifically aimed at an audience of internal comms professionals – but broadly appealing to anyone who cares about the power of words. 

What can Infernal Communication teach you about balancing business results with creativity?


Have Clear Business Results in Mind

The first step was to get crystal clear on the job that the podcast needed to do. Staffbase wanted to increase brand awareness and engagement with internal communicators in North America. Staffbase is a Saas software for internal communicators, so this became the north star for all future decisions on the podcast. 


Understanding Your Audience

Knowing the job of the podcast, Staffbase sought to deeply understand their audience. So they turned to their Slack community, or “Comms-unity,” for insights. By tuning into the conversations of over 2,800 communications professionals, they identified a crucial need: content that is entertaining and that teaches them something they can apply to their jobs, but  that “doesn’t feel like work”. 


Crafting Creative Content

With this brief in mind, Infernal Communication was born. It’s a podcast that blends high production value with a unique brand voice. The podcast’s tagline, “Communication is hard. Being a communications professional is even harder,” perfectly captures the blend of humor, insight, and relatability that the series offers. It sounds nothing like “work” but is highly educational. Episodes like the mock trial for the font Comic Sans are a great example of the podcast’s creative approach, making complex topics both accessible and enjoyable, and pushing the boundaries of non-fiction storytelling with a hilarious scripted-fiction kangaroo court scene.


Balancing Business Goals and Creativity

The success of the show proves that you don’t need to choose between performance and creativity. 

A great show brings in engaged listeners. A strategically designed show brings the business results. You need both, and they need to be balanced.


Engaging Through Storytelling

One of the questions the team asked themselves while creating the podcast was: “are we giving our audience what we want?”

Great storytelling plays a massive role in making a podcast audience-first. Infernal Communication excels here by exploring the tensions and triumphs of communication professionals through inspiring stories, practical takeaways, and even tackling heavy subjects with a light-hearted touch. This approach ensures that the podcast is not only a learning experience but also a source of delight and inspiration.

 

Learning and Evolving

Staffbase learned a lot during their production. A key takeaway from the success of Infernal Communication was the importance of being open to learning and evolving based on audience feedback. And they did a lot of listening. Consistent listener feedback helped to make sure the content was engaging yet not overly work-related—it was key to its success. They took an adaptive approach to the show. The data informed the creative, and they evolved their show to ensure they were hitting the right notes with their audience, and thus reached their business goals. But at season’s end, Staffbase used the data to inform Season 2. This information made the next season perform even better (which you’ll learn about on a later post).

 

Measuring Success

So how does Staffbase know if the creative execution is delivering the business outcome of increased brand awareness and engagement? The show 10x’d its download target, achieving 63,000+ downloads in Season 1, which considering the niche nature of their audience (internal communicators) they were very happy with. But the engagement performance was outstanding. The show saw an average consumption rate for Season 1 of 90%. And audience members have spent hundreds of hours with Staffbase via the podcast on Apple Podcasts alone. Now ALL those people now know about and engage with Staffbase. Staffbase got their business result! 

The journey of Infernal Communication shouldn’t be unique. At its core, a great branded podcast needs to have a deep understanding of its audience, coupled with a commitment to creative storytelling. Only then can it achieve business objectives while profoundly engaging listeners. By focusing on what your audience truly values and creatively presenting your brand’s message, you can create a podcast like Infernal Communication that stands out, inspires, and cultivates a loyal community.

Now let me ask you: How will you balance your brand’s objectives with the creative storytelling needed to captivate and engage your audience?


Key Takeaways:

  1. Establish your business objectives and who you need to reach
  2. Talk to your target audience to understand their needs and desires
  3. Figure out what you – and only you – can offer to serve that need
  4. Tell engaging stories to capture and hold their attention
  5. Continuously adapt. Use your data to make the current season better and more in line with what your audience needs, but also use your data to make your NEXT season better, too. 

How are you using creativity to reach a business objective?

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