You've probably considered your branding and promos as tools to grow your podcast audience, or to look and sound better. But are these worth the costs, or might there be better ways to reach these podcasting goals?
Challenging the Podcasting Assumptions
This is a special miniseries to challenge the ideas podcasters have accepted as truth for years. Some will stand up against the challenge while others crumble, and some will reveal new options you may have never considered.
- Are you really a “podcaster” and should you really be podcasting?
- Does your podcast NEED interaction or an email list?
- Is iTunes really THE place for podcasts? Do you NEED a mobile app?
- Does SEO really matter in podcasting?
- Do you REALLY need to edit your podcasts? What about authenticity? – TAP178
- Do you REALLY need audio/visual branding or promos for your podcast? – TAP177
- Should you launch your podcast with Episode 0? Does iTunes New and Noteworthy REALLY matter? – TAP176
- Are episode numbers REALLY necessary? – TAP175
- Does audio/video quality ACTUALLY matter? Is a dynamic mic REALLY the best? – TAP174
- Do you REALLY need passion? Is consistency THAT important? – TAP173
Do you need audio/visual branding?
We're surrounded by branding. We even use some branding trademarks as regular English verbs (like “Google,” “Xerox”) and nouns (like “PowerPoint,” “Chapstick,” “Kleenex”).
Branding is hugely important to companies; should you care about branding for your hobbyist or professional podcast?
What is branding?
If you have any public presence, you have a brand—you! What are you known for? What do people associate with you? How would other people describe your personality? A brand will combine these things in a way that connects with your audience factually and emotionally. Your brand differentiates you from the other options.
Create a strong brand that connects well, and people will remember it.
What is audio branding?
Aside from your own content and presentation style, audio branding usually refers to the following elements.
Each of these can be as simple or as complicated as you want. The Audacity to Podcast has simple audio branding right now—Different parts of the same song used for opening and closing, and no extras.
Other podcasts may have more highly produced audio branding with a custom intro, a variety of bumpers for selected segments, a custom outro, and maybe even a custom promo. Each of these may voiceovers, production effects, sound effects, custom music, and more.
Here's a test for audio branding. Ignore the words and listen to anything else. If you associate what you hear with that particular podcast, then it has its own, unique audio branding.
What is visual branding?
Video-podcasting will share many of the same branding elements as audio-podcasting, just with a visual form. For example, the intro or outro may have a montage or animation, and the bumpers may include on-screen text and transitions.
When you step up from audio to video, you allow more branding options.
- Lower thirds
- On-screen display style
- Set design
Visual branding also covers the world outside of your podcast media.
- Website design
- Podcast cover art
- Physical promotional materials
The strongest branding will tie in across all platforms, but can still leverage each platform's uniqueness. For example, The Audacity to Podcast website uses the exact same colors and fonts as the podcast cover art; and my Podcasting Video Tips show (on iTunes and YouTube) uses the same visual branding plus carries over the same audio branding from my audio podcast.
Benefits of intentional branding
You have branding, even if you don't mean to have it. But intentionally designing your audio and visual branding will give you several benefits in podcasting.
- Associates you with your content
- Sets the tone for your approach to the content
- Differentiates your show from others, even before you get into the content
- Makes your show memorable, maybe even to “meme” status
- Communicates a higher level of professionalism, even for hobbyist content
When branding is missing or unintentional, it will seem unpolished, amateur, and leave nothing memorable. It's worse than plain vanilla ice cream—it's just the ice! (Even vanilla ice cream follows certain branding formulas, like color, texture, and flavor. Think of how weird purple ice cream would be!)
Disadvantages of branding
Let's be realistic. Coming up with great audio or visual branding can be hard!
- Takes time to refine
- Becomes inflexible if you want to change too often
- Gives a bad impression if done poorly
How to handle branding better
Whatever kind of branding you have, remember these tips to communicate your brand effectively.
- Make your branding fit your personality—If you are soft-spoken and monotone, your branding should scream with high action and bright colors.
- Don't let branding get in the way of your content—Your audio intro or outro shouldn't be two minutes long (I've heard podcasts like that!), your video branding should be even shorter.
- Never forget your branding—Imagine if Coca-Cola let out a shipment of cans that were missing the logo! If you have good branding, use it!
- Keep your branding simple until you can afford more—You don't have to have highly produced branding. The more complicated you make it, the easier it becomes to mess up. You may not be able to afford the time or money for the ultimate branding yet.
- Stay consistent across platforms—Everywhere you are representing your brand, you should carry the same branding: social networks, website design, videos, audio podcasts, emails, business cards, podcast cover art, etc.
- Be yourself, or get someone else—If you are the voice of the branding, be personal and don't talk about yourself in the third person. Otherwise, get someone else to talk about you.
Do you need to hire a professional?
We call them “professionals” because they're really good at what they do—usually far better than we are. If you don't have the necessary production experience, you will probably save a lot of time and end up with a far better result if you hire a professional to create your branding for you.
I do design work, and I highly recommend Music Radio Creative for audio branding production.
You can also do it yourself if you keep it simple! For audio branding, find a royalty-free, unpopular piece of music and cut it up into pieces you can use in different ways. Sites like PremiumBeat.com, JewelBeat, and other will offer multiple versions of a single track. Buy all of these for your song and use them for different things.
For podcast cover art, think clean, big, and simple.
For website design, buy a great theme like anything from StudioPress.
When you're ready to make your branding amazing, that's when you should hire a professional if you can't do it yourself.
Conclusion: branding highly recommended for success
Do you need branding? Yes! It will be very difficult to reach any kind of “success” (however you define it) without any kind of branding.
Should you produce and distribute podcast promos?
Part of your branding will be in how your promote your podcast.
What is a promo?
A promo can really be anything that promotes your show.
- Video teasers
- Audio or video promos
- Physical products
- And much more
A promo for your show would be directed at people who don't already follow you. A teaser for a particular piece of content may be for both your existing audience and your potential audience.
How to create a promo
I previously had Mike and Izabela Rusell from Music Radio Creative share “10 elements of powerful podcast promos.” Listen to that discussion for more information, but here's a quick overview of the ten parts of a good podcast promo.
- Call to action
- Short length
- Clips of your podcast
- Use professional voice talent
- Think about music choice
- Consider your promo as a donut
- Keep it clean
- The name of your podcast
- Be shareable
The most important thing to remember for any promo is that it should communicate what you talk about and why people should listen. A long promo may do more harm than good.
Is a promo really the right way to go?
This contains a lot of a opinion. I think promos are trying too hard to apply an impersonal, traditional media approach to new media.
I have never decided to subscribe to someone else's podcast because of their own promo. Maybe I'm an anomaly (I also resist irresistible offers).
Most of the promos I hear are very poorly executed. Either the audio quality is horrible, it tells me nothing about the show content, it's over-produced, it's too long, it's too corny, or it tries too hard to sound like a movie trailer.
Personal endorsement is far more powerful than someone else's commercial. As a podcaster, I'm far less likely to play someone else's promo in my podcasts than I am to give them some kind of endorsement.
It's almost a self-defeating cycle. Sometimes, the podcasts that produce promos are the ones whose promos make them sound bad.
A promo may also be a very lazy approach to promoting your podcast, when you would have far greater success engaging with people and those engagements could lead to a personal endorsement.
What about using your own promos?
Instead of making a promo for others to use, consider making promos for you to use! It could be for a product or service you offer (listen to Michael Hyatt's promos for Platform University, Michael Stelzer's promos for Social Media Marketing World, and so on), or it could be for another podcast you host (listen to Dave Jackson's promos for the Podcast Review Show).
These promos serve a completely different purpose and seem to accomplish it well. The promo may allow you to replace a regular announcement with a refined message (like Michael Hyatt's), or the promo can be a segue to talk about what you're promoting (like Michael Stelzer's).
Conclusion: get a professional promo, or skip it
Do you need a promo for your podcast? I don't think so. I've seen (and host) successful podcasts that have grown very well without ever producing a promo. I also see podcasts get greater results from a personal approach instead of a canned promo.
But if you want a promo, get it professionally produced or else it may be a waste.
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