Ben Aston is joined by Steve Pratt—the Founder & Lead Content Strategist at The Creativity Business. Listen to learn how to launch a world-class branded podcast.
- What are branded podcasts and why do they matter? [1:16]
- Brands could be media companies. In a digital world, you don’t need transmitters. You don’t need licenses from the government and you don’t need to advertise on traditional media companies as the only way to reach people.
If you make something that’s great and you market it properly, you can build up your own audience and talk to them whenever you want.Steve Pratt
- A couple of years ago Steve and his team realized that there’s a lot of loaded terms or connotations with the idea of branded podcast. In some ways, the term “branded” is accurate, but it also gives this idea that it is a hidden secret ad. And that’s not what they’re trying to do. [2:48]
- They changed the language from branded podcasts to “original podcasts with brands”, and that was a big turning point for them. [3:32]
- Brand storytelling: the idea that brands are making media products designed to create value for the listener as much as themselves. [4:30]
- Audio is an amazing medium if you have a brand voice, to actually have a voice out there that people can hear in the tone, the writing, the music, and the sound design. [5:19]
- Steve’s company developed this show called Trailblazers that’s hosted by Walter Isaacson—the guy who wrote the Steve Jobs biography and that is working on an Elon Musk biography right now. [6:58]
- How to define success in podcasting [8:33]
- A great question to ask at the very start before you know what show you’re making is, ‘what does success look like and how do we know whether it’s going to work or not?’
- The answer is different for everybody. It can be an increase in the company’s brand lift, or what do people think about when they think about the company after having listened to the podcast. It can be that they’d like to build an audience that they own instead of building audiences on other platforms and podcasts. [8:47]
- If your goal is targeting a very specific group of people and wanting to have an impact on them, it’s really a lot more about, “Is it working?” [9:35]
- Some key ingredients that characterize shows that have been successful. [10:34]
- At Pacific Content, they came up with a very basic X, Y Graph. They would show it at the start of every kickoff with a new client. They would keep showing it over the course of a season to see where they were at. It’s almost like a little success graph.
- The bottom axis they had a term called “creative bravery”. It’s, “Are you making a real show? Are you interviewing your own customers? Are you talking about your own products and services?” [10:53]
- The vertical axis was commitment. It’s, “Are you going to put the budget behind making a good show? Are you going to put the time and resources into making a good show? And are you going to market it and use all your resources to put it in front of exactly the right people in the right way?” [11:35]
- When you make a creatively brave show and you know exactly who you’re making it for and you put it in front of the right people, you end up in the upper right quadrant of high commitment, high creative bravery. It’s a huge win. [11:53]
- On the path of creative bravery, what are some of the things that make a bigger, better show? [13:11]
- Differentiation is a huge one. Think about what success looks like, why are you making the show and who’s it for? Go look and see what everybody else is doing in your competitive field and make something different.
- If you’re a brand and you’ve got a decent amount of budget, relative to video production and ad campaigns, making a podcast that has some narrative elements in it is very inexpensive and it’s a huge differentiator. [13:31]
- You could make a magazine show that has four or five different little mini stories in it (ex: This American Life). You could make half hour documentaries, or a serialized season. If you really wanted to go big, you could do fiction. [14:00]
- When you start describing things in audio, you’re picturing it in your mind. There’s a term in a lot of audio and radio circles called “Theater of the Mind”. [15:21]
When you start describing things and telling stories and you have music that conjures certain emotions, you’re really having a very high level of engagement.Steve Pratt
- One of their core things for every creator or client that they talk to is “what’s sustainable?” [17:47]
- Podfade: a phenomenon of people who get very excited about a podcast and they make their first episode, they publish it, then they commit to putting it out weekly, and then real life intervenes and their motivation goes down. Or they miss an episode or two, and then it just fades off into darkness and it never comes back again. [17:54]
- Some best practices of getting your podcast in front of the right people [19:21]
- Their first client at Pacific Content was Slack. They made this wonderful show called Slack Variety Pack. It was really quirky and fun, and it was about the future of work.
Putting the right show with the right pitch, a listener-centered pitch in front of the right people, converts pretty well.Steve Pratt
- Do an audit of yourself and of your own company. Think about the channels that you already have and the people that you already reached. Think about what the purpose of the episode is and what the value and the benefit people are going to get from listening to your episode. [22:37]
- If you want to grow people that are outside of your existing universe, think about the competition that you have in podcasting and all those other shows that are after the same listeners in the same subject matter. [23:07]
- How much should a podcast cost? [22:53]
- There are some people who could make their own podcast with a very strong listener-focused concept (e.g., Seth Godin’s podcast).
- If you want to make a really great and differentiated show, something that you could hear on NPR, CBC, or BBC and you’re looking to hire people to do it, you’re probably looking somewhere between $25,000 and $35,000 an episode. [26:54]
- The average cost for a large company is probably between $100,000 and $200,000 of marketing per podcast in the USA. [27:46]
- Steve talks about his work at The Creativity Business [29:06]
- The Creativity Business is about helping businesses and brands be more creative effectively to drive business results.
- Steve is trying to get better at staying focused on the things that he really enjoys doing and that play to his strengths and resisting the pressure for growth. [30:30]
- Steve’s recommended books: “Linchpin by Seth Godin” and “War of Art by Steven Pressfield“. [34:12]
Meet Our Guest
Steve is the founder of The Creativity Business, a firm focused on content strategy for brands and business strategy for the creative industries.
Steve has always been obsessed with what is new and next, and his career is defined by reinvention and innovation. Prior to The Creativity Business, he started, built, and sold Pacific Content (the world’s first and leading branded podcast agency), and worked in TV startups, satellite radio startups, and digital music startups.
Named one of Entrepreneur’s 100 Brilliant Companies, Pacific Content works almost exclusively with U.S.-based brands, including Ford Motor Company, BMW, NYT, Dell Technologies, Facebook, Rocket Mortgage, Slack, Shopify, Zendesk, Morgan Stanley, Charles Schwab, Prudential, Adobe, and Atlassian.
You could earn time and attention by being great and making real shows.Steve Pratt
Resources from this episode:
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- Connect with Steve on LinkedIn and Twitter
- Learn more about The Creativity Business
Related articles and podcasts:
- How To Choose The Best Content Marketing Software In 4 Easy Steps
- 6 Essential Questions You Should Ask Before You Start A Podcast
- How To Develop A Content Strategy That Actually Works
- About the Indie Media Club podcast
Read the Transcript:
We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.
Ben Aston: Welcome to the Indie Media Club podcast. I'm Ben Aston, founder of the Indie Media Club. We're on a mission to help independent, bootstrapped media entrepreneurs succeed to help people who create, promote, and monetize through content, do it better. Check out indiemedia.club to find out more.
So today I'm joined by Steve Pratt and based in Vancouver, he's lead content strategist at The Creativity Business. He's the former founder of Pacific Content. They're a podcast agency for some of the world's biggest brands. Some of their clients had included Dell, Slack, Shopify, Atlassian, and Ford—brands looking to amplify their voice in audio.
So his work has reached millions of people. He's won numerous awards, and the podcast consistently appear at the top of Apple podcast charts. So keep listening today to learn how to launch a world-class branded podcast.
Hey Steve, thanks so much for joining us today.
Steve Pratt: Hey, thanks for having me. Looking forward to talking.
Ben Aston: Well, I wanna start by setting the scene and let's dig into actually what branded podcasts are and why they matter? Tell us about some of these podcasts that you've created and why these brands wanted to do them in the first place.
Steve Pratt: Well, it's interesting, I think it's a really good question to say, what is a branded podcast? Because I think you'd get different answers from different people. And you know, I, I is a, an odd server.
When we started our company, it was with the idea that brands could be media companies, and that in a digital world, you don't need transmitters. You don't need licenses from the government. You can, if you make something that's great and you market it properly, you can build up your own audience and talk to them whenever you want.
And you don't need to advertise on traditional media companies as the only way to reach people. And so when we started, we, you know, a bunch of us had, who started, had done some podcasting in the past, but it had hit this new wave when Serial came out. And it was almost like it had this big pop culture moment where everybody's like, Ooh, podcasts are really exciting and growing.
And we'd seen companies like Red Bull that were thinking and acting like media companies and having a lot of success with it and we all had media backgrounds. And so we're like, well, let's take our media background and move into the marketing space and help a lot of these companies figure out how to make things that people actually really wanna listen to.
And we'll do it in podcasts and we'll be the weirdest weird business. We'll be a podcast company before there were many podcast companies and we'll be a branded podcast company as the, I think we were the first one in the world, just to focus on that. And so when we started, we had this thing on our website above the fold that was just this, these huge letters that just said we make branded podcasts.
And that was it. And so it was like if you showed up and you're looking for a branded podcast, you knew you were in the right place and if you weren't, go somewhere else. But after a, you know, maybe a couple years of it, we realized that there's a lot of loaded terms you know, or connotations with the idea of branded podcast.
And I think in some ways the term "branded", you know, it is accurate, but it also gives you this idea that it is a hidden secret ad, or it's a, you know, you're gonna click on it and it will suddenly be an infomercial, or it'll pretend to be interesting and the very end, there's like a turnaround. Gotcha! You know, here we're trying to sell you something.
And that's not what we were trying to do. Our belief was that you could earn time and attention by being great and making real shows, and that they would be aligned with a business's value and voice and their business goals, but it would be something that people voluntarily opted into because it was great. And so we changed the language from branded podcasts to original podcasts with brands.
And that was a really big turning point for us language wise, because it said you've there, there's a higher bar to reach your, that you have to make something that is so good that people will look past the fact and their skepticism that it's coming from a brand.
It has to be so good that it competes not just with all the other podcasts out there, but that also overcomes this suspicion. There may, it may be an infomercial in disguise. It has to be so good that you would wanna listen to it if you didn't work there.
And so that, you know, I, that's a long answer to what is it? But it's kind of important in some ways that, I think in other areas of content, you know, there's content marketing and there's a range of different ways that you could approach content marketing. And some of it is very funnel-driven in terms of driving business results and clicks going through.
And then almost at the higher end there's a thing that is a kind of an emerging term that I love called "brand storytelling", which is the idea that it is again, this idea that brands are making media products designed to create value for the listener as much as themselves.
Ben Aston: Right. So, and that is in terms of reputation building and that being the important aspect of it in terms of building the reputation and trust rather than necessarily loading the top of the funnel?
Steve Pratt: It's interesting. There, there's a whole bunch of reasons and it that companies decide to make podcasts and I think it was a big aha for us, the more companies that we talk to hear the different reasons that people might wanna do it. Usually it's something around brand positioning and, and how you want people to know who you are.
And you know, when you're thinking about audio, it's an amazing medium if you have a brand voice, to actually have a voice out there that people can hear in the tone and the writing and the music and the sound design and all those sort of things where it's like, I understand who that brand is because I hear it all the time.
It's also things like, you know the types of stories that you're telling what are, what's the subject about and how are you demonstrating the things that you are interested in as a brand or the things that you're curious about? Or what is the information that you are able to share that only you can share that is like something uniquely from you that is valuable to the audience you're giving out.
That is all really interesting brand building cuz you know, really interesting example we did a show fairly early on that's still going with Dell Technologies. When they merged with EMC, it was this huge tech merger and ended up being, I think, about eight different companies all coming together.
And the goal was what is the new brand of Dell Technologies compared to the previous brands of Dell and EMC and VMware and all these other companies. And it was trying to say, we understand digital disruption and digital transformation and innovation, and we know we wanna reach this group of C-suite decision makers.
And they've told us in research, they don't want tips and listicles. They want stories from people who were there in their positions at really tough times in their industry when they kind of came to a fork on the road. And they had to make a call that would either make or break their company or make or break their industry. And we wanted to go through the thought process and figure out how it turned out.
And so with them, we developed this show called Trailblazers that's hosted by Walter Isaacson, who's the guy who wrote the Steve Jobs biography and that is, is working on an Elon Musk biography right now, which is gonna be fascinating.
Like a real expert who's written tons and tons of books on disruptors and innovative thinkers. And basically the show that is made as taking a different industry every single episode and telling the story of how it evolved over time and where the big points of disruption or innovation took place, and going and interviewing the people who were there and having them talk through how, you know, where those came from.
And so every episode, you kinda have a different history of an industry through the lens of the disruptors and innovators and the over and over again, the message is, we understand this, we're telling these stories over and over again, and there's really never mentions about Dell Technologies or Dell Technologies services or laptops or servers or cloud infrastructure or any of that sort of stuff.
It's making a really fabulous business show that is about a certain topic or theme that is a hundred percent in keeping with what Dell stands for and where their expertise is.
Ben Aston: So in terms of, I think it's interesting because from a marketing perspective, I think getting buy-in for, you know, the funding, so to produce a show like that is interesting because I'm curious as to how you worked with them to define success and in indeed, like across podcasts in general, how do you define success? Is it in the number of downloads or is it something else?
Steve Pratt: It's really interesting cuz every brand or every company or you know, and even if you're making your own podcast, it's a great question to ask at the very start before you do anything, before you know what show you're making is, what does success look like and how do we know whether it's gonna work or not?
The answer is different for everybody, and some of it is, you know, we would like to see an increase in our brand lift, or, you know, or what do people think about when they think about our company after having listened to this podcast? Some of it is we'd like to build an audience that we own instead of building audiences on other platforms and podcasting.
Everybody who signs up for it, you can talk to them whenever you want, and as long as you keep being great, they're probably gonna keep listening. Some of the measurements that we would talk to clients a lot about is, you know, I think because so much of the media is based on ad supported business models, a lot of the traditional metrics are about reach. And it's, you know, it is about how many downloads did you get and how are we, you know, and some people would come in like, well, how do we compare to This American Life?
It's not really about that. If your goal's targeting a very specific group of people and wanting to have an impact on them, it's really a lot more about is it working? And then so for that, we would look at engagement numbers, like what are the completion rates on a podcast out of everybody who started playing it, how far did they make it through?
And are you growing new people every episode? And are your completion rates high? Would say you're hitting the right people and they're spending 85% or 95% of a half hour episode or 45 minute episode with you. That's huge success compared to what most people are getting on YouTube, for example, where you might struggle to get a 40% completion rate on a two minute video.
Ben Aston: Yeah. So earlier on you talked about two components. You talked about making it right and marketing it right in terms of the production of the podcast. Are there some key ingredients in your mind that characterize shows that have been successful that enabled you to get those completion rates? What works?
Steve Pratt: So we have, this is a very reductionist, but we had at Pacific Content, we kind of came up with this very basic X, Y graph and we would show it at the start of every kickoff with a new client. And we would keep showing it over the course of a season to see where we're at. And it's almost like a little success graph to see where you're at.
And the bottom axis, we had a term called "creative bravery", and it's, are you making a real show? And we're gonna hold you accountable and say like, you know, are you interviewing your own customers? Are you talking about your own products and services? Or are you giving a gift to the listener and making a real show, again, that you would listen to if you didn't work at this company? Or you would tell other people about if you worked in this industry but didn't work there?
And so it was really like, you know, and everybody is a different scale as to what creative bravery means for them in their company or their industry and like, you know, their business goals, but can you make the best possible show that you can so that when you expose it to the right person, they're gonna say, this is a really wonderful surprise. I love this show. I'm gonna subscribe to it.
The vertical axis was commitment, is, are you gonna actually put the budget behind making a good show? Are you gonna put the time and resources into making a good show? And are you gonna market it and use all your resources to put it in front of exactly the right people in the right way?
And when you make a creatively brave show and you know exactly who you're making it for, and you put it in front of the right people, you end up with, you know, in the upper right quadrant of, you know, high commitment, high creative bravery. It's a huge win. Anytime, anybody does it, any indie creator could do the exact same thing for figuring out what success looks like.
But if you make, you know, start sliding down the creative bravery access, and make a show that's more about yourself, then something for the audience, right? You could tell all the people about it in the world and they will show up once and they will never come back. And you could make the greatest show in the world that has really high creative bravery and you don't tell anybody about it, and you'll end up with a hundred people that have their favorite show on earth, and it never grows beyond that.
And we've had examples of both of those. And so that's why we kind of put out the graph and then at key points we'll put the graph back up and be like, where are we on here?
How do we push it in there? You know, what are the tools we could use to put it in front of more people? Or what are the ways we could make the show a bigger, better show? And you know, I still use that honestly for anything I put out or anything I do. I think it's a wonderful little shorthand to push yourself.
Ben Aston: Yeah. So, I mean, let's talk about a bigger, better show. What, in your mind on that path of creative bravery, what are some of the things that make a bigger, better show?
Steve Pratt: I think differentiation is a huge one. So what do you know, when you think about what's success look like, why are you making the show and who's it for? So having a really good idea of who the audience is that you're trying to reach, and what the subject matter is that you're both. Go look and see what everybody else is doing in your competitive field out there and make something different.
In podcasting, in a lot of ways, it's depending on where you decide to plant your flag, it's not often that hard to be differentiated compared to a, a sea of, you know, very efficiently produced chat shows. And so if you're a brand and you've got a decent amount of budget, we would say, well, you know, relative to video production, relative to ad campaigns, making a podcast that has some narrative elements in it is very inexpensive and it's a huge differentiator.
You could make a magazine show that has four or five different little mini stories in it. You know, it's kind of something like of This American Life. You could make half hour documentaries, you know, or you could make a serialized season. If you really wanted to go big, you could do fiction. But almost anytime you think about something that is not an interview or a conversation show, there's not very many people making it, and it's easy to be the better show in your category and, and differentiate that way.
Ben Aston: Interesting. Yeah. So what you're talking about is, I mean, the type of show, maybe opposite, I'm not necessarily the opposite, but an extension of, so it becomes more of an audio experience than it is just listening to a conversation, which typically most podcasts are probably that.
Steve Pratt: Yeah, it's really interesting because, you know, like the origins of podcasting are kind of about the democratization of being able to create a show and distribute it, and it's still wonderful for that. And there's like an enormous market for chat podcasts and interview podcasts, and there's nothing wrong with them at all.
Like I listened to lots of them and I learned tons from them. But if you're a brand and you have the ability to do it, or if you're a creator and you decide that you want to differentiate yourself, one of the really magic things about audio that is not taken advantage of by most interview and conversation shows is it's all in your head.
And when you start describing things in audio, you're picturing it in your mind. And then, you know, there's a term in a lot of you know, a lot of audio and radio circles called "Theater of the Mind". But you know when you start describing things and telling stories and you have music that conjures certain emotions, you're really having a very, very high level of engagement.
And it's almost like you're having a vicarious experience because it's all taking place in your head and you've, you kind of disappear for a while you're listening to a podcast and leaning into that is, you know, is a huge advantage that not enough people I think, understand that the real power of audio when it's done well to give you that.
And those are the sorts of things where you come a way having had a really powerful experience and those are the sorts of things that people will go tell other people about and generate word of mouth or where you sit in your car in the driveway because the story's not done for an extra 10 minutes.
Cuz you can't bear to stop. You want to hear how it ends. It's an extraordinary medium. It's just that the, you know, the catch of it is, it's a lot more work to do that well. So it's you know, there's a spectrum of options out there.
Ben Aston: Yeah, and I, I'd love to know, I mean, we were talking about the making your show different, we're talking about adapting the format to be more engaging and to make use of audio.
I'd love to you if you could share some flops some maybe your biggest screw up in show concept or where bravery went too far. Any stories you can share about that?
Steve Pratt: You know, like, I dunno if there's a weird one, but like, you know, we are a podcast company with no podcast. And we thought about it for a long time and we tried many different variations of what a Pacific Content Podcast could be.
And it turned out that the best thing for us was a newsletter. We put out a blog post and a newsletter, and it was, you know, and curation of news that was related to brand marketers, but also to podcasting and audio. And having a point of view to share knowledge in a newsletter allowed her to get picked up and shared in a lot of other podcast industry newsletters or marketing newsletters, and get the word out more efficiently for a small company than making a high-end differentiated podcast.
Because we didn't we didn't have the resources to make a podcast that was befitting of the type of stuff that we wanted to put out there. And one of our core things for every creator that we talk to or any client we talk to, is what's sustainable?
And I, I think, you know, there's a term called "podfade" in the industry, and it's this phenomenon of people who get very excited about a podcast and they make their first episode and they publish it, and then they commit to putting it out weekly, and then real life intervenes and their motivation goes down, or they miss an episode or two, and then it just fades off into darkness, and it never comes back again.
And I think we kind of realized we did not have the resources to put out a highly differentiated, narrative-based podcast on an ongoing basis, but we did have the resources to share all of our best practices on all those sorts of things in a newsletter and that was the right strategy for us.
And it, and it worked. Oddly, like, like we had no Salesforce, like really, like there, I, I shouldn't say that. We had no outbound strategy. It was people read our blog, people searched for branded podcasts, and people would fill out a contact us form on the website and uh uh I believe that's still how most of it still works today.
Ben Aston: So we've talked about making a great show and some of the components that the characterize that. The other part of this is obviously marketing it and growing your audience and building your audience.
Tell me a bit about what you found that has worked. How were you able to end up at the top of the charts? Are there any hacks, anything that works that other people can replicate in terms of getting your podcast in front of the right people?
Steve Pratt: Yeah, for sure. And I would say probably not hacks, but there's definitely some best practices and it was an interesting learning process for us because we, our first client, we got very lucky. Our first client ever was Slack. They made this wonderful show called Slack Variety Pack, and it was really quirky and fun, and it was about the future of work.
And again, it was very early in this space. And so when they put out, it did really well because it was novel and unusual. And I remember one of the headlines that they got was, "Slack is making a podcast, for some reason". And it was in like Forbes or Time or something like that. And so it did really well outta the gate.
And we were like, oh, this is great. And we thought about audience development and marketing for the podcast and Slack, you know, did use some of their own channels and they got great earned media for it, and it did well. And we thought, well, you know what? They're not gonna give us access to their social media or any of their channels, and we don't have an audience of our own that is who Slack is trying to reach.
It's the client's job to do all this stuff. And then we made a few shows with other clients, and they did not, they were great shows, and the people who listened all the way through and had high completion rates, but they did not do any marketing for it with their own channels.
And they didn't get any earned media and the numbers were really small. And we kind had this 'oh crap' moment as a company of like, we better figure out how to do audience development and really dig in and or else we're gonna be toast. And so we spent a quite a lot of time and built up some really deep, weird expertise in building audiences for podcasts from Xero.
And part of it is that brands have really unusual superpowers for this and they're just not, they don't think of them as marketing channels for content, but they have websites with huge amounts of traffic. They have a lot of newsletters that go to tons of people. They have social media channels.
They have thousands of employees sometimes that can be, know, reached and become advocates and champions for shows. Some of them have apps. There, there's so many there, some of 'em have physical locations with signage. Some of them have, you know, billboards and you know, ad units all over the place. And so we ended up doing, you know, almost like an audit of every client around like, let's look at all the different channels that you have and which ones are gonna be conducive to growing a podcast audience, and which ones can we activate and which ones can't we activate?
And part of it was helping a lot of clients figure out how to navigate their own organization and to act like a media company and use all the assets and all the fire power pointing at this new thing that is a gift to the people that they're trying to serve. And you could see it like every, if they put it in a newsletter that was generally filled with, you know, sales pitches or products or those sorts of things, the top performing thing in the newsletter would be the podcast.
And you know, eventually the podcasting industry, after a few years, some really smart people, like at companies like charitable and pod sites created attribution for podcast marketing. Where you could actually see the click-through rates on things and putting the right show with the right pitch, you know, user-centered you know, a listener-centered pitch in front of the right people, converts pretty well.
And, you know, if I were a podcast listener today, I would say like, well, think about all the, do an audit of yourself. Do an audit of your own company. Think about the channels that you already have and the people that you can already reached and think about you might be growing new podcast listeners, and don't put out things like, Hey, I've got a podcast or new episode, just dropped.
Think about what the purpose of the episode is and what the value and the benefit they're gonna get is from listening to your episode. And really think about what's gonna matter to the listener on the other end of it. And if you want to grow people that are outside of your existing universe, think about the competition that you have in podcasting and all those other shows in the, that are after the same listeners in the same subject matter.
Maybe there's opportunities to do swaps with them and promote each other and to grow the over, overall area. Maybe you could buy ad inventory on their shows. The real dream is like an episode swap, or putting a trailer or an episode at the end of somebody else's episode where it's, you know, if you like this show, here's another one you'd also like.
You can buy ads and podcast apps, certain ones and target them for certain, you know, types of podcast listeners or subject matter. I think the bonus of those strategies you're, is you're talking to people who already listened to podcasts and helping them, you know, they're probably already in a podcast ecosystem of some sort.
That it's an easier conversion than going from social media where you're on a screen in a short form scrolling context to say, please jump out of here and listen to our half hour audio product.
Ben Aston: Yeah, so leverage your owned media channels and look at people who are already engaging with podcasts and see how you can get in front of them cultivating relationships with other podcasts or buying ads on those.
Is there anything else that was surprising to you where you saw massive growth in a podcast, cuz something strange happened?
Steve Pratt: Well, I mean, if I go back to the Dell example, Walter Isaacson got invited to go on, I think it was Good Morning America. And you know three minutes of talking about Trailblazers on Good Morning America, it went straight to the number one business podcast in Apple in the States.
You know, I, a lot of people dismiss traditional media sometimes, getting in front of tradition, you know, a very large audience with a compelling hook for a show can drive a very large amount of short-term sampling. And your goal is to convert those into being like, be ready for the onslaught. Have it be a really welcoming place where you're giving a lot of context.
And ideally you have kind of an onboarding process where people are like, what's a podcast? I wanna listen to this show and I don't know how to do it. Sometimes just making it really easy is a big deal for that.
Ben Aston: Yeah. Cool. And so, I mean, you talked a bit about, you know, the degree to which you invest in the podcast and part of that is, you know, your level of investment will reflect in the quality of the production in how you, a leveraging audio as best you can.
How much do you think is an average amount, if you could put a good price tag on a, you know, tier one podcast, how much do you think a podcast should cost? A minimum budget? I'm curious what your thoughts are?
Steve Pratt: So there, I guess the, there's no right or wrong answer to this because I could say there's some people who are just fabulous storytellers who could make their own podcast with a very strong listener focused concept. And you know, like Seth Godin does a fabulous podcast and it's just him. And I'm sure it's a very efficient podcast to make and it does really well, and it creates lots of value for listeners. And it's probably like a nominal amount other than he's a, his time is very valuable. So whatever time he's putting into it, hugely valuable.
If you have a differentiated format, you don't necessarily need to have This American Life or cereal or something like that if you're speaking to a very small group of people and there's nothing else out there for them. But if you're in a crowded field, you know, and I could say you could make a differentiated show with some editing and some script and some sound design.
I don't know if you're charging for it, probably five or $10,000 an episode. If you wanna make a really great show, a really differentiated show, you're probably like, like something that you could hear on NPR or CBC or BBC or those sorts of like fabulous shows.
You're, and you're looking to hire people to do it, you're probably looking somewhere between 25 and $35,000 an episode. Sometimes more if it's gonna be a really slow process, if you're in a regulated industry and you have tons of compliance and legal reviews that are gonna take tons of time. And then depending on the size of your audience you're trying to reach and how specific it is, you probably want a marketing budget on top of that.
And we've had clients that have spent $5,000 on marketing to a very distinct group of people, and we've had clients that have spent into seven figures marketing podcast to a very broad audience people. I think the average for a large company is probably between a hundred thousand and $200,000 of marketing per podcast in the States.
Ben Aston: And so that would be for the kind of media that you'd been talking about buying ads in other podcasts and that kind of thing?
Steve Pratt: Yeah, I think once, if you go into the seven figure mode, you're looking at like out of home or like an unusual, active, unusual things that are not in the podcast industry. I think very targeted, it is a really interesting thing too, like if, you know, if you're buying ads to grow your own podcast, your goal really isn't reach. Your goal is like, how much are you paying per download?
And so finding smaller shows that are exactly the right people and having paying them more to do a fabulous job promoting your show or a really differentiated thing like having a whole episode in somebody else's feed or a trailer put in, or like, those sorts of things are probably better than having a 30 second generic ad going out to a million people that aren't the right listeners.
Ben Aston: Yeah. No, that's helpful. Thanks for that. So I wanna switch gears. Obviously we've been talking about your work at Pacific Content, but now you are doing your own thing. And tell us what you are up to now with The Creativity Business and what that's all about.
Steve Pratt: I need a shorter elevator pitch on this cuz it's not as elegant as I would like it to be. But yeah, so the, it's called The Creativity Business and it's got this built-in tension between creativity and business that I'm just, I've always been fascinated by and I love it. And part of it is doing content strategy for businesses.
So helping businesses and brands be more creative effectively to drive business results. And there's also a part that is helping creative businesses drive, you know, on the business side. So I loved all the time I worked at Pacific Content figuring out how to build a business model for creativity and to build a culture that enabled people to do their best creative work and get paid well.
And to figure out, you know, how to make a business out of helping brands achieve business results that are also valuable to listeners that also let people do top tier work that they wouldn't be able to do in an ad supported model. So kind of advising other companies in the creative space on how to do that sort of stuff, I find really entertaining and interesting as well.
Ben Aston: Sounds good. And I'm curious.
Steve Pratt: That was a long answer. Sorry. I, like I said, I need I don't know. You can, maybe you can help me with a better elevator pitch.
Ben Aston: No, that was good. I'm curious, as you've kind of transitioned from or back into solopreneurship, what are you trying to get better at?
Steve Pratt: I think I'm trying to get better at staying focused on the things that I really enjoy doing and that play to my strengths and resisting the pressure for growth.
I have several weird mantras, but one of them is "fewer things better". And I would prefer to stay small and be very choosy in about the work that I do where I'm, I can be up to my elbows working with really awesome people on solving interesting problems or building different strategies to help their businesses.
Instead of getting to the point where I'm trying to scale my own business for any other reason. I did it. I loved it. Like I really enjoyed the journey of kind of starting and scaling, and a business and it was a ton of fun. But at the end of the day think I ended up in a place where I wasn't, I missed all the things that were the reasons why I started the company.
That I wasn't doing a lot of client work and I wasn't doing a lot of content strategy, and I wasn't in there solving creative problems as much day-to-day.
Ben Aston: Yeah. Cool. Well, this is a good transition into our lightning round. I'm curious, what is the best advice that you think you've ever received?
Steve Pratt: The best advice I've ever received. Geez, man, that's a really, that's a really hard question. I think it's a version of the you know, I, the flip side of 'treat everyone the way that you would want to be treated' like the golden rule of treat everybody the way they would like to be treated and have a lot of empathy.
Ben Aston: And next up, which of your personal habits do you think has contributed most to your success?
Steve Pratt: I think I like to question the status quo, and I like to find a different way of doing things. Like I've always, you know, when I was doing job interviews in the media, I would always say, you know, people say like, oh why should we hire you? And I'd be like, well, if you lined up all the people that are applying for this job and you gave us the same, the same assignment, at the end of the day, my goal is always to be the one that's different that you're gonna remember a week from now. And I've kind of had that attitude in everything that I do, and it's served me very well. And it's been like a really fun path to creativity.
Ben Aston: Can you share a tool that you use regularly?
Steve Pratt: Yeah, it's a, this is a weird one cuz I, I feel like it's probably maybe this is not what you're looking for, maybe this is not what you're looking for. Actually, no. I'm gonna give you two. I'm gonna give you one really cool one and one really unusual one.
So I've used all sorts of note taking apps and I use like a total dork for like getting things done and all, like all sorts of stuff. And in the last six months, I have for some reason gone back analog and have been using a paper, just a paper notebook, and it's for some reason better than all my digital stuff. And I know that's probably, that's the part you probably don't want to hear the,
Ben Aston: no, that's good.
Steve Pratt: The best cool thing, like the tool that probably not enough people know about if you're, especially if you're interested in podcasting or video production, is a software company called Descript and it's so cool. You take your audio or video recording and you plug it into the script and it automatically transcribes it with AI in just a flash. And then you edit your audio and video by text. So if you're, if you've ever used an, a non-linear editing program for audio or video, you know how painstaking it is.
You have to go cut and paste and move these chunks of audio and video around. It's like editing a Word document and then it reverse assembles everything with the audio and video in there. It's a bit of a game changer and kinda makes your head explode the first time you use it.
Ben Aston: Yeah, it is. I recommend that too. And for finally, what book would you recommend and why?
Steve Pratt: I think I would probably, I have so many books that I recommend to different people and I guess I would say Linchpin by Seth Godin has always been like a real touchstone for me around the fact that anybody can make a change and make a difference and be a linchpin.
And you know, if I'm ever suffocating in a bureaucracy or a frustrating situation, sometimes I'll go back and read that. Cause it's a real kick in the butt to know that you can make your own decisions and go make stuff happen. And on the creative side, the other one I love is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
Just around the challenges of the voice in your head. He terms the resistance that is always telling you're not good enough or people aren't gonna like it, or whatever it is, and how to get through that and that every creative faces that and get through it and put out your best stuff.
Ben Aston: Awesome. Steve, where can people find you if they want to find out more about what you do and what you're up to?
Steve Pratt: Creativity-business.com. And I have a, you know, every two weeks I put out a newsletter with kind of content strategy and creative business advice. And that's a just substack publication you can find on the on the website.
Ben Aston: Awesome. Well, Steve, thank you so much for joining us. It's been great having you with us today.
Steve Pratt: Hey, thanks so much, Ben.
Ben Aston: And if you like what you heard, please subscribe and stay in touch on indiemedia.club, and please leave us a review on iTunes, too. But until next time, thanks so much for listening.