We often talk about how your brand “shows up”. Well, fair to say that we mean that more figuratively than literally these days. The pandemic has shifted in-person engagements online for over a year, and as we are all maxing out our screen time, an old-but-new-and-cool-again medium has had a major resurgence: we’re talking about all things audio. While the Clubhouse hype may be waning, its initial popularity generated quick responses from established social platforms, such as Twitter Spaces, Facebook Sound Collection, and even a new partnership between TikTok, SiriusXM, and Pandora. Whether it’s social audio, podcasting, or even good old-fashioned radio, there are so many opportunities for organizations to take advantage, join conversations, and build their unique “earprint” as part of their brand strategy.

Before you dive into the deep end of the audio pool, here are a few observations and considerations:

Podcasts

The most notable advantage of podcasts is the immersive opportunity to tell a more extended story to a defined or even niche audience. You’re not limited to 15-second spots, a programmatic banner or a few quotes that make it into a news article. They can be wonderful opportunities to provide more detail and communicate a more complete picture of your organization’s narrative.

So, should you start one? Or try to land a guest spot? If we wrote a book titled “So, you want to start a podcast…” this year, it would probably be a bestseller. Like anything, creating a content machine like a podcast series requires a consistent commitment and time investment. If done well, you can create an owned channel with a strong following and great brand-building opportunities, but it takes work. Remember, an organic audience is earned; what information or experience can you consistently offer that your target market would find interesting? Before taking the plunge, we often recommend starting with guest appearances on existing podcasts to begin testing the waters and building your reputation. Just as we would pitch to have clients featured on the news, we now pitch to have clients featured on relevant podcasts.

Social audio

What started with Clubhouse has now spurred development of the tried-and-true social platforms introducing their own new features. Twitter Spaces and Facebook Sound Collection have been first on the scene, and now TikTok, and we can expect to see updates rolling out from the other social platforms—likely each with their own unique spin on the feature to compete with one another.

With the right execution, we are seeing some intriguing possibilities for building brand presence and communications strategies.

Hosting conversations in an audio-only environment not only eases the burden on our already Zoomed-out audiences but can also lower your production budgets. Where a polished video has become the expectation (and a big piece of any marketing budget) audio-only content typically requires less production investment and more flexibility for both the speakers and the host in terms of participation (i.e.: your speaker doesn’t need to be camera-ready, and your listener can passively listen).

Choosing when and how to experiment with audio content will require careful consideration of time, place, and audience needs. Is it a live broadcast of a timely message where Q&A will be a possibility for audiences to respond? Is there a conversation that your organization wants to host to build community and collaboration? We see this channel as a great opportunity to have a more engaging conversation with customers and prospective customers, stakeholders, and team members. Brands should consider the topic, be attuned to the mindset of their audience, and be prepared for feedback—social audio will bring new meaning to true direct-to-consumer communications.

What this could mean …

We see a few implications for communications and marketing with the rise of audio content:

  • New opportunities for communications professionals. We may be adding facilitator, moderator, talk-show host, and sound engineer to an already impressive list of job roles and responsibilities.
  • Choosing spokespeople to speak on behalf of your brand may not always fall to the usual CEO or CMO. Do you have multiple leaders within your organization who are well suited and trained to represent the organization in these formats? Are they well prepared to engage in dialogue and answer questions on the fly?
  • Do you have clear key messages or an organizational narrative that spokespeople can touch on during these audio opportunities in a way that feels organic?
  • The return of sonic branding that begs the question: does your brand need a signature sound? And do we hear a jingle coming on?

What remains constant in the ever-evolving world of content creation is the recipe for any good strategy. That means understanding your audience and focusing on creating something of value for them while staying true to your brand… with just a dash of creativity.

This article was co-authored by Kristie Forbes, Director of Marketing, and Madeline Postle, Consultant, at partner agency NATIONAL Public Relations.


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