How to Start a Brand Podcast - A Slack Conversation

Our client Traackr, an influencer marketing platform, recently launched their podcast, The Fast Traack, discussing issues in influencer marketing in 30 minutes or less. We’ve been really impressed with the caliber of guests and a wide range of newsworthy topics they’ve covered in their inaugural season. Given that marketers across the globe are scrambling to find new avenues to reach their target audiences during the pandemic (check out our interviews with senior marketers here and here), Gravitate VP Heather Sliwinski sat down with Evy Lyons, VP of marketing at Traackr, to find out how to start a brand podcast.

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Evy Lyons
Evy Lyons

Hi Evy! Thanks for chatting with me today.

I’m excited to chat with you, Heather!

I’ve been following your new podcast, The Fast Traack, pretty closely and I’m really excited to learn more about how your team decided to launch a brand podcast and how it’s been going.

For sure! It’s been a wild ride the last few months.

Have you ever created a podcast before this?

This is the first time I have personally created a podcast. Same for Traackr. It was something we have talked about doing f o r e v e r. It took COVID-19 to spur us to action.

Why did Traackr want to launch a podcast? Was there a gap in current conversations that you all felt like you could contribute to?

Our audience is hungry for examples and we found that many influencer marketers are asking themselves the same questions. So we wanted to create a space where we could ask those questions and provide inspiration.

We noticed that many influencer marketers felt like they were going at it “alone” or doing things that felt uncharted. We wanted to create a space where marketers could share their experiences and get ideas or even reassurance that they are not alone in trying to figure this newish field out. Our social media and influencer marketing manager Mackenzie has spearheaded crafting the conversations we wanted to have.

Influencer marketing is still so new – it feels like everyone is still experimenting and trying to figure out what sticks.

It also seems to change and evolve every quarter!

Did you need to sell the idea to anyone else internally? Do you have specific metrics or goals for the podcast? i.e. how do you know if the podcast is “working?”

I didn’t need to sell the idea to anyone and to be very transparent, we didn’t have specific metrics for the podcast. We really didn’t know what to expect at all. What we did know was that we wanted more stories, more examples, more case studies, more conversation with our customers and experts in the field (aka our influencers).

We were very surprised by the initial feedback we received from the larger Traackr team and our customers. So we just kept going. We’re now about 3.5 months in and have started to get a feel for the reach and engagement metrics so we have a baseline now to start improving. (edited) 

I hear that – it’s hard when marketers so often have to have hard data to support an initiative, but sometimes the most worthwhile programs have qualitative value.

It’s great that you have the room to experiment.

We knew it was working because a) we were able to get guests very easily – especially once we had a few episodes to point to as examples and b) people in our target audience would tell us that they enjoyed it.

Yes – sometimes you just have to try something. Get it started. Then iterate.

So how did you plan out your editorial calendar? Do you record all at once or publish as you go?

Ha! Plan

For the first couple of episodes, we recorded and published as we went.

Our first episode was in the early days of Shelter in Place in the U.S. The question we asked our guest, Katie Martell, was how do you avoid pandering to the pandemic. It was timely.

From there, we started to record regularly – one every week or two. We started to have a backlog, which was amazing.

Recently, we decided to create Seasons. So Season 1 is about to wrap up and we are developing the calendar for Season 2.

My advice to someone starting out is to go with the flow for the first few. Learn and then figure out what you want to change. If we had tried to plan the entire season at first, we may never have started.

Will you record all of season 2 before publishing?

No, I don’t think so. If we’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s that we have to have a plan, but be prepared to switch it up if needed. So we will have an outline of the entire season, with pre-selected guests and topics, but we will remain flexible in case a great story comes our way or the world needs a different topic.

This may sound dramatic, but the world is so different from when you launched the first episode. How do you keep the content fresh and react quickly to the news of the day?

It’s not that dramatic!

One: by not locking ourselves into a firm editorial calendar, you have the flexibility to change.

Two: We are not afraid to ask hard questions so we don’t sit around when something happens. For example with Black Lives Matter, we learned about one of our customer's responses to the movement, reached out right away and asked them to join us to share their perspective.

That brings up another question – how do you find guests? Are most of your guests from your own personal networks or do you stretch outside your sandbox and reach out to people you don’t know but would love to talk to?

I would imagine it’s hard to convince someone to join a podcast that is brand new vs. one that has more clout or an existing listenership

(if you don’t know them personally)

We started with our personal networks and our customers but very quickly we started receiving inbound requests from super interesting folks. We will keep aiming high and will reach out more and more beyond our own networks.

Wow that’s amazing!

It is much easier to get started with friendlies. We started with Katie Martell, who is a B2B marketing expert, who has written for the Traackr blog before. What was amazing about Katie is that she has done a lot of podcasting and live events before so not only did she accept to be our first guest, she also ended up giving us a ton of insight and advice that led to major improvements in episode 2.

For example, she introduced us to our editor!

So you don’t handle all the techie stuff yourselves? For others reading this, is there specific hardware or software you recommend for people who know nothing about recording and editing audio?

We do handle most of it ourselves. But we have a video editor who helps us clean up the sound and adds in our intro/outro. You could do this on your own too. For publishing, we use Buzzsprout. For captions we use Rev.

Are there things you know now about podcasting that you wish you knew before you started?

Great question. I personally think we still have a lot to learn.

Good sound is critical. I don’t think we always succeeded with that, in part because we have to do this fully remote.

And perhaps the biggest thing I wish I had known was that it is not that hard. I’m not saying it’s easy but I imagine a lot of people get held up thinking it will be hard. Yes, there is a learning curve but it’s possible to get started with very little.

Interesting – I’m sure others would be doing this remotely as well right now due to the pandemic. We briefly discussed goals – in addition to getting a few inbound pitches for guests, are there any other value adds you’re seeing from hosting a podcast? Even anecdotally?

Yes! It has become a huge source of additional content for us. We turn most episodes into resources. Instead of simply sharing a transcript, we use the content to create guides or case studies are super useful on their own and feed our other channels (email, newsletter, LinkedIn, etc.).

Gotta feed the content beast! I love the idea of repurposing the content – bigger bang for your buck. Is there any other advice you’d give to marketers or content creators who are considering starting a podcast? Or anything else I didn’t ask but should have?

You don’t need to have it all figured out to start.

But it is a different format, so think about the listener’s perspective (we are still learning here).

Try different formats out too to see what works for your audience.

Thanks so much for sharing your perspective! One last fun question: Who is your dream guest on the podcast? (You never know who might see this!)

Ah! I had a feeling you were about to ask that.

New York Times internet culture reporter - Taylor Lorenz is for sure up there. Also, any CMO at one of the many companies who have pulled out of Facebook advertising.

Oh, I read everything Taylor writes! I am fascinated by how she always seems to know what’s on the horizon before anyone else. Her recent coverage around TikTok social justice pranksters killed me!

Yes! That’s why it would be so fascinating to have her!

Well, I know I’m looking forward to Season 2 – can’t wait to see what topics you cover next. Thanks again for joining me today!

Thank you Heather! It’s been fun to reflect on the last three months. We had no idea we could build something up so much in such a short period of time. Also LOVE this interview format 🙌


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Post Author

Heather Sliwinski
Heather was a vice president that manages client strategy for B2B and B2C clients. She has worked on various award-winning campaigns, with expertise in areas including media relations, content marketing, influencer relations and event planning. She has a passion for telling stories about how technology is changing our everyday lives.

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