How to make a branded content podcast...zing!
Challenge: How do you make branded content sound...interesting?
Here's a question I've been exploring and playing with for some years now.
Many people may be surprise that I don't just make podcasts about losing weight, or arts and culture.
I also produce podcasts for big brands, corporate companies based across the world.
Often as a ghost producer.
Yet these series - can be the hardest to bring to life.
Over the years, I've worked with some big brands - Boehringer Ingelheim, Age UK, Africa Energy Forum, Aptus Health, European Investment Bank and the National Football Museum to name a few.
And the challenge has always been how to share their stories without sounding too pushy with the underlying commercial message.
In short, here's what I've learnt:
Quite simply, successful series aren't afraid of pushing the boundaries in format.
The marketing directors behind these projects don't opt for one to one interviews like everyone else.
Instead, they showcase stories first, not experts and talking heads.
They allow room for personality, not just factually perfected scripts.
They look for ways to repurpose great video content.
They explore soundscapes to tap into the fact many of their listeners will be wearing headphones and listening solo.
And they welcome a lot of play and experimentation - right from the planning stages.
ASFB Productions' latest episode of SES's Satellite Stories toys with this idea.
In fact, much of the series does.
If you don't know who SES are - they are the world's leading satellite operator.
Chances are from the TV streaming service you subscribe to, to the Facebook live you watched last week, to switching on the news broadcaster of your choice...you've probably consumed some of SES's partners' services without even realising.
We've been working together for almost two years now. Both the host Kristina Smith-Meyer and I have grown infinitely in our knowledge and confidence in understanding what works, and what doesn't for our series now.
Over the years, we've tried multiple approaches, we've mixed up the formats and styles. And that's kept things fun - both for us, and the listeners.
On a personal note - I am so proud to hear (quite literally!) how Kristina has grown in confidence as a presenter and storyteller.
As someone who had never previously stepped in front of the camera and been 'on -mic', it's been a joy to mould the way I work to enhance her strengths and map out a series which celebrates her style - instead of creating another 'off the shelf/do what everyone else does' series. (Which to be honest would have been easier for us both!)
What really sets Kristina aside - is her magic in taking us for an aural walk. Her writing, her ability to take us back to these places she has visited with her clients is simply brilliant.
We create room for these descriptions in our episodes - we allow her room to share her view of what it's like to be sat in an empty 50,000 seat football stadium in Brazil.
We walk alongside her on the streets of Luxembourg as she reflects on her and her company's lockdown legacy.
And we smell the coffee being ground during an Ethiopian welcoming ceremony, as she paints the picture of a giggling group of older women sat in a semi-circle in front of us.
As a producer - I could keep it simple.
But in my experience, great podcasts are about celebrating personality.
The personality of whomever the client has chosen to host.
And so I consider it my job to be adaptable as producer, and willing to approach each project with a completely blank canvas.
I mention the word stories often in my blog. Because after personality - finding what's at the heart of the story you're trying to tell is essential.
What can be unique about podcasts is the ability to allow the listener a chance to escape.
And that can be by demonstrating the elements of the story you're sharing - not just telling.
Just like reading a good book - you want your audience to feel like they're there with you, painting a picture and experiencing the story for themselves.
If I said OU Flex, Ethiosat or Luxstream - the words and services probably wouldn't mean much to you.
So instead let me give you a flavour of some of the topics we've covered on Satellite Stories over 17 episodes - all stories tapping into what and why these 'products' matter.
Previously on the series, we've walked through the stadium tunnel during a Copa America football game...
We've heard the grunts of a European Snow Volleyball game being playing on an Austrian mountain.
We've been sat next to a pilot making his pre-flight checks in the cockpit of a private jet.
We've explored how a 12 inch tail-mounted antenna is enabling CEOs, rockstar and heads of state to continue with their online business whilst flying 30,000 feet above ground...
...to the sailor spending months at sea miles from home, yet still able to read his 3 year-old daughter her bedtime story every night on a video call.
We've travelled to Addis Ababa to meet the city's TV broadcasters and the trainers empowering local satellite dish installers with the skills ordinary Ethiopians need, to find work on and off-screen.
And we've even witnessed the sounds and stories about the end of a satellite's life in space...apparently, the final stages sound just like bird chirps...
On the most recent episode - SES partnered with UNICEF to create a free to air satellite TV channel for the remotest communities in Africa & beyond. We explain why and how.
The Fight Covid-19 channel features informative, educational and entertaining content about coronavirus. Because in these places - this important health information is rarely available, accurate, or reliable.
It's a service and story demonstrating how SES's platforms are being used for greater good, not just profit.
So take a trip through the eyes and ears of Kristina and learn the ins and outs of the satellite industry.
What it means, what difference it is making and where the industry is heading to next.
An industry - until two years ago - I hadn't a clue about either. But now - I've opened my eyes to the possibilities of what is even possible with satellite technology, and approach my own use of home gadgets much more mindfully.
If you're a marketing expert pondering your first steps into the world of podcasting, then listen to the latest episode of Satellite Stories - or some of the others - as an example of what a branded content podcast can really be - with a little imagination and creativity.