How Your Podcast Can be an Engaging Research Tool
There’s quite a lot to be said for the informal tone of a podcast. The oft-conversational format resonates with most listeners and is easily consumed (without being too much of a burden on one’s schedule). Naturally, the format’s exploded in popularity—it’s not quite as casual or tune-out-able as music, not quite as attention-demanding as documentaries or similar visual mediums, but ultimately can still be an engaging and information-rich experience. Given the format, there are some interesting opportunities for secondary content generation in the wake of a podcast, such as white papers or various reports.
One example of this in practice is the comprehensive guide to B2B brand strategy recently published by Drew Neisser, CEO & Founder of Renegade, a NY-based marketing agency. The podcast in question—Renegade Thinkers Unite (RTU)—has been a project of Drew’s for a few years and, given the weekly release schedule, has resulted in a few hundred chief marketing officer interviews. Now, the biggest mistake one could make when sitting on a treasure trove of CMO wisdom such as that would be to just let it idle in cyberspace. That said, a core goal of the podcast is to help inform Renegade’s modus operandi—as such, with a little help from a few tools, something relatively informal can be distilled into research usually tied to more academic studies—highlighting that the conversational approach to understanding marketing belies how valuable the conversations of a podcast can be. To understand the process of podcast distillation, we’ll first take a look at the basics of setting up a podcast, successfully rolling it out each week, promoting it, and then converting it into actionable research.
Before breaking down at the “how” let’s take a closer look at the “why.” Recently, Drew & Renegade published the ’12 Steps to an Effective Brand Strategy in 2020’ special report. Though supplemented with a CMO survey, the RTU podcast was foundational in crafting this. The easiest way to get a sense of how a podcast can be broken down into vital information is through the RTU example. After spending time collecting information from the podcast, and organizing it (a vastly underrated step), Drew found that guests’ successes highlighted a few categories of productive behavior for marketers—this would be the basis of the report. For example, section 3 of the behemoth report focuses on purpose-driven marketing, and why it is absolutely crucial in the modern business era. Specifically, Drew cites the phenomenal example of Bank of the West’s purpose-driven marketing that was extremely risky, potentially financially draining, but ultimately wonderfully successful. That particular example, which serves as a thematic lynchpin for the section, was uncovered in a discussion with Ben Stuart, CMO, in an interview that predated the report by roughly a year. However, there was quite a bit more that went into forming this section than the sole, quoted episode. Drew’s fascination and commitment to brand purpose, while longstanding, picked up considerably in a separate podcast interview that occurred before Ben Stuart’s, with Leela Srinivasan of SurveyMonkey. Later on, Drew built on those first two discussions by exploring how purpose-built up a massively successful tech company through creating customer communities in a later interview with Tim Yeaton of Red Hat.
The point here is, a distillation of these interviews helps identify patterns, that can be factored in into later discussions, and can ultimately create multiple interviews that all provide relevant perspectives which can be plotted out to form a pretty amazing case (and how-to guide) for implementing purpose to boost your brand’s marketing efforts. If you’d like to get a better sense of how exactly it manifested, it’s worth taking a quick look at the linked episodes, and then taking a look at the fingerprint they left on the report—all the content is ungated as well. Now, let’s take a look at an overview for how the podcast is made, and how the information is organized.
First, the basics: a microphone (or two) for in-person interviews. A lavalier microphone that can be attached to a shirt collar can be quite helpful and can be found relatively inexpensively online. However, in-person interviews, especially when the guests are often busy, can be difficult to schedule. A simple solution is to employ an online conferencing software. A video chat service can be a huge boon when navigating stuffed schedules and can still create a face-to-face environment conducive to casual, candid conversations—which is crucial. Furthermore, most platforms allow for audio recording, making it easy to come away with clear, editable audio, even if you both aren’t in the same room mic’d up. For Renegade Thinkers Unite, Drew leans on zoom.us, which offers competitive video conferencing, clear audio quality, and cloud storage for recordings. Once you’ve got raw audio, some basic software (such as Garageband) will more than suffice for cutting out any extraneous bits of the interview. Once episodes have been edited, you can create basic graphics—Drew recommends creating an easily tweakable photoshop template where guest pictures and key episode information can be subbed in each week. Check out the visuals on their episodes here for reference. Then, following that, select a podcast syndication platform that can publish your mp3 to major channels each week. RTU uses Libsyn, and publishes to just about every major podcast platform.
Following the basic production of your interview itself, you’ll want to create transcripts. For Renegade Thinkers Unite, the audio from each episode is uploaded to Sonix, AI-driven software that creates rough, readable transcripts. Though somewhat tedious, the editing down of these transcripts is crucial, as it gives you a written, easily referenceable and searchable record of information. Each week, RTU cleans and edits podcast transcripts, then condensed them down to inform key takeaways. The distillation process reveals crucial thoughts and opinions from marketers, that can then be considered in the context of other interviews. This helps identify correlational trends in marketing that can be the basis of substantive research—this is really where the gold flakes start revealing themselves in the panning process. Another pro-tip: Drew’s portions of the transcript get edited down significantly and are rewritten to highlight the key question (and key topics) being discussed—this helps improve how quickly different answers from different podcasts can be connected (especially once you’ve accrued somewhere far north of 300 interviews, like Drew!).
Over time, you’ll develop a catalog of searchable interviews that will certainly contain a wealth of information waiting to be mapped out and organized. That is, provided you stick one overarching theme (such as marketing). Interviewing one guest about the subtleties of medieval political structures and another about the mechanics of Larry Bird’s jump shot, while certainly interesting, won’t do much to reveal any larger patterns about basketball or political systems. A data set needs multiple data points, after all. Now, you’ve got the basic skeleton of how to create and publish a podcast, and then how to organize it so you and your team can sort through and start pulling crucial business insights from engaging conversations. Now you’ve just got to select your subject and start messaging guests you’d like to interview.
Drew is notably reachable and eager to share his wisdom on marketing and podcasting—should you find yourself with any other questions about the podcasting process, or B2B marketing, you can find him on LinkedIn here.