Forty percent of Americans age 12 or older have listened to a podcast at some point. And, according to consultant, Jay Baer, “67 million Americans listen to podcasts monthly. That’s more common than Catholicism.”
Humor aside (c’mon, that was funny), podcasting is finally a legit channel for companies big and small after years of languishing in anonymity. So, it’s no surprise we’ve seen more mid-sized and larger companies experimenting with podcasting in the last year.
Companies like U.S. Bank, which launched its “Power of Possible” Podcast earlier this year. So, I thought I’d sit down with Susan Beatty, vice president-external communications manager, to talk about why they started the POP podcast, how they go about producing it and a host of others questions.
Why did you decide to start a corporate podcast?
I have been inspired by other corporations and organizations that have started podcasts. It is such a popular way to get caught up on news and stories. Think of all the time people spend commuting or otherwise listening to media on their devices.
About a year ago, we were starting a sponsorship/partnership with Meet Minneapolis. It was then that I said, I really want to start a podcast and my colleagues had the equipment and knowledge to produce one. So I said, you (Meet Minneapolis) should start a podcast about what’s happening in Minneapolis. We will help arrange content and produce it and we’ll learn about how it works. The Insider podcast which Meet Minneapolis produces has been going on for over a year now. About 6 months ago, I remember thinking – ok it’s time for us to start one of these as well. And so the Power of Possible podcast was created.
What were your goals going in? Have they changed yet?
Our brand voice is to be relatable and earnest for a large bank. We have so many experts in our organization that cover the financial services spectrum and they know a whole bunch of smart people. We knew we needed to bring on those outside guests to make the podcast really come to life. A U.S. Bank focused podcast wouldn’t work. So we structured it in that way. We used a program we started called the U.S. Bank Coaches program which included leaders that were experts in consumer fields such as personal finance, innovation, community relations, cybersecurity, omni-channel and financial education.
Our goal was to create a podcast that highlighted our brand voice and interesting to the general consumer. One of our strategic goals is to be our customer’s most trusted choice. We strive to earn that trust by using our experts to relate to consumers on topics they care about.
Any sense for internal expectations? What has been the reaction amongst employees so far?
Our employees love the podcast. We have had very positive feedback from those that have listened. With 73,000 employees we have an enormous opportunity to build our audience. It is a continued education and work in progress to promote the podcast with our employees.
In your description you say the podcast covers topics such as “banking innovation, financial education, corporate social responsibility, personal finance, cybersecurity and diversity and inclusion.” That’s quite a wide range–why did you decide to go wide on topics instead of more niche?
We debated about this topic and truthfully we may end up going in more of one direction eventually. However, we have so many experts across the bank and we really wanted to reach the consumer audience. Given that, we didn’t think focusing just on personal finance was unique enough for our industry. Or we thought we might have a situation where we would end up creating 7 podcasts as opposed to just one.
What’s been your strategy so far in terms of building an audience for the podcast? What’s worked, and what hasn’t so far?
We knew when we launched the podcast that it might be a bit “messy” and no polished. We were OK with that. Our strategy was to get a few episodes produced and get it launched. The podcast is about five months old at this point. We are still identifying the best way to promote the podcast. So far we have been sharing it with employees, through various business line communications, via social media posts and word of mouth. We also ask our guests to help promote the podcast through their channels as well.
Let’s talk production–who produces the podcast, and did you feel you had the skills and expertise in-house to do that? Has there been a learning curve? Can you talk more about that?
This is key. Without my colleagues help this podcast would not have happened. A big shout out to my colleagues in the social media team who have helped shape this podcast and produce it. The main force behind the production of our podcast is Troy Janisch, our social intelligence director. He has produced some of his own podcasts, had the equipment and have been instrumental. Another key contributor was one of our U.S. Bank interns Jordan Pinnix (currently a senior at the University of St. Thomas). He helped produce the first few episodes as well and also helped us with the music. The podcast is produced completely in house and we are proud of that.
You’re only six months in, but any key learnings to share so far?
The biggest learning to date is the logistics of lining up the podcast episodes. Our leaders are busy people and when you start to juggle calendars for their famous friends and contacts, it gets even crazier. We have had many starts and stops. We also pulled together a core podcast team to keep topics going and a calendar. We meet two times a month.
You’ve had a few different hosts so far in your first 6-7 episodes. Why did you decide to go with multiple hosts instead of just one?
We also debated about this as well. We may even go to one host at some point. Because we are a bit messy in our approach, we decided to give a few members of our team a chance to serve as the host. At the end of a period of time we may realize having one host is better.
You can listen to the PoP podcast on multiple platforms including Google Play, iTunes and PlayerFM. How did you choose those specific platforms, and why did you go away from other popular platforms like SoundCloud?
Again, I deferred to my expert in residence, Troy Janisch. He helped us get this listed on Lipsyn where it then gets added to these various channels. I think this is an area we will continue to explore. We want the podcast to be accessible wherever people typically find their podcasts.
How do you select guests for future podcasts? Do you have a hard-and-fast strategy? Or, is it a bit looser approach? Why?
I stated it earlier, but we have a core podcast team that meets twice a month. This team helps identify topics and then we decide as a group what we think will work well. We also as I mentioned have these U.S. Bank coaches and we know they have many outstanding contacts that would be good guests. We also try to take advantage of what’s happening at the bank. For example, October is cybersecurity month so we will feature our cybersecurity leader in October. We also have a leader speaking at DreamForce in November and so we are looking at a podcast around that topic as well.