Podcasts: The voices in my head
I love radio. I got my first clock radio (the legendary Sony Cube) when I was about 11 years old and it formed an instant, symbiotic relationship with my insomnia. Can’t sleep? Listen to talk radio.
Growing up in London in the 1980s, I had the best of the best to ease me through the night. Between the BBC and local commercial stations, I could flip easily through talk genres; sport, music or politics and experience the joy that comes with changing the station in response to an annoying caller. Unfortunately, the golden age of radio in the UK is behind us most local stations replaced by McRadio. Fortunately, the Podcast has come around to not just replace local radio but to far surpass it in every conceivable way.
Just shut-UP, Daniel
Podcasts are my constant companion and their primary purpose is to stop the noises in my own brain – to replace the work / life internal dialogue that invariably becomes stressful and unproductive (I know how to wind myself up) with more positive, more neutral and more enjoyable conversations with the world’s leading journalists, politicians, artists and comedians.
Podcasts don’t just bring these figures into my house, it feeds them straight into my brain; even when I’m not looking, even when I’m not listening. Podcasts create pictures in my head and I willingly give them access to conscious and unconscious mind at almost any time of day.
In the moments when I am not listening to podcasts, I am a sonic branding consultant. What does that mean? It means I work between the music and advertising industries. I help brands to understand how to use music and sound as essential parts of their corporate identity and the broader experiences they deliver. As such, my work takes in every kind of thing a brand gets involved with; from TV ads to retail music, from telephone hold systems to ATM buttons.
Podcasts account for about 5% of my working life (over-indexing versus the amount of media budget that is spent on podcast advertising) yet the skills that I have and the methods that can be used to help a brand sound good and be recognisable are almost entirely the same as those used to make a great podcast.. Podcasting, as an industry and as a creative discipline, has everything to tell brands about how to design and build fantastic, relevant, mutually beneficial and enduringly loyal relationships with their customers – in sound.
Ears, not eyes
Obvious point – but it points to the fundamental challenge podcasts present. We live in what has become, since the dawn of print and television, a largely visual world. We all have the inherent ability to listen and hear but our once-keen ability to remember and recall what we hear has been eroded. Why do you need to remember anything when you can just write it down, bookmark a website, tear out a page?
Whatever you are doing on a podcast; presenting, branding, telling a story or selling a product, the over-riding challenge is to be memorable in a world where people readily forget what they hear.
Why is memorability important? If you’re a podcaster, memorability leads to repeat listening, leads to fame. If you are a podcast network, memorability leads to loyalty, leads to streams and downloads and revenue.
“the over-riding challenge is to be memorable in a world where people readily forget what they hear.”
As a brand, memorability is fundamental. Very few consumers act immediately on commercial messages – instead they build up in the memory over time and lead ultimately to an understanding, or a sense of knowing, that makes the consumer more willing to spend at a premium.
I like to think of memorability as ‘owning a piece of real-estate in the listener’s minds’. That real estate is important. It’s what you invest in and it’s where you build your business.
So what makes you memorable? Here’s my take on that. I call them the 3 ‘C’s:
The more you hear something, the more memorable it becomes.
The more recently you heard something the more memorable it becomes
The more relevant the message is to you, the more memorable it becomes
Do you remember that I love podcasts? I hope you do, because I’ll reinforce that point now by stating that every one of the 3 ‘C’s is fantastically served by the medium.
For a start, relative to other media, it’s still pretty inexpensive on a CPM (Cost per thousand) basis. That means that a brand can afford to buy more of it and can hammer home their messages.
And of course, it stands to reason that the more frequently the message is heard, the more chance there is that the last hearing will be recent. Ticks two boxes. And as if that wasn’t great enough news, the fact that podcasting is such a prolific and segmented medium means that anyone can find a niche; which means podcasting can be super targeted.
And there’s exciting news regarding relevancy because hyper targeting can now go hand in hand with personalisation as the programmatic and highly customisable audio trend gathers speed.
So that’s the good news. Podcasts must be the go-to medium for memorable communications.
But there’s bad news too.
The 3 ‘C’s of memorability are a force of nature. But like any force running in one direction, there is an equal and opposite force in the other direction. That force is summed up by the 3 ‘I’s:
Changing the sound of your communications every time you are on air confuses the listener. Unfortunately, most brands are guilty of this and hyper targeted and personalised creative could make matters worse rather than better.
Shouting, talking too fast, rambling. Any brand or podcast host that fails to recognize that the medium is like a one on one conversation not like a political rally is missing the point. You don’t lean in as if to whisper in someone’s ear and then SHOUT AS LOUDLY AS YOU CAN!
The whole world of branding and communications is dominated by the visual. Very few people have received any real training in how to get a point across without the help of pictures or Powerpoint!
As with any force of evil, the only real way to combat the 3 ‘I’s is through education.
Everyone needs to learn and understand the value of consistency. A podcaster doesn’t change their voice every week if they want to build a loyal following – nor should a brand change its music or a network change its image.
The branding and advertising industries continue to want to recreate new every time they go on air. In doing so they fail to build success upon success and often blame the medium rather than the message for any failings. The remedy: pick a voice, chose some music, develop some sonic branding. Stick to the choices.
And lastly, we need more creative people in the industry who understand the value of intimacy and learn how to write and produce content that whispers and talks rather than shouts and bellows. Ad creative are shouters. We need more story-tellers with dramatic training.
“And lastly, we need more creative people in the industry who understand the value of intimacy and learn how to write and produce content that whispers and talks rather than shouts and bellows. Ad creative are shouters. We need more story-tellers with dramatic training.”
Do you remember that I love podcasts? Well that’s true. But what I really love ARE GREAT podcasts. A consistently run show with fantastic talent, a consistent image and a healthy load of advertisers who know how to talk, not shout. Give me that over the crazy voices in my head any time.
Daniel M Jackson