What can podcasting add to your proposition?

17 April 2024 by
Memcom, Rachel Appleton

What if… we all worked from home forever? As questions go, it doesn’t get more immediate or intriguing – in 2024, it’s a topic on which almost everyone has an opinion. It’s also just one example of an episode of Work. magazine’s What if? podcast – produced, like the magazine, on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and designed to be squarely of interest, first and foremost to senior leaders in the HR space, but also to almost anyone who works. 

The idea behind the venture, launched at the start of 2022, was not only to offer senior HR professionals another channel through which to ponder the big, existential questions prompted by our rapidly changing working world, but to take the CIPD and what it does to a new audience. 

We’re now onto series five, with previous episodes including What if… all pay was transparent? What if… we all got high? (tackling the topic of microdosing at work) and What if… there was another pandemic? Each episode features two speakers, ideally taking opposing views on the same question – and always rigorously sourced to ensure the highest calibre of guests (including professor David Nutt on psychedelics and the controversial commentator Toby Young on cancel culture). Each series is downloaded on average more than 1,000 times across platforms including Apple and Spotify and the most popular individual episodes can number more than 4,000 downloads. 

But why is a CIPD sub-brand which exists to engage and reward senior CIPD members producing a podcast anyone can access? The answer lies in the power of soft influence. The CIPD’s strapline is ‘Championing better work and working lives around the world’ – that includes, but also goes far beyond, simply supporting HR to do a better job. The institute wants a voice and to influence crucial workplace debates at a time when AI is reshaping entire industries, and businesses are demanding workers come back to the office. To do this, it has to reach as many people engaged with the world of work as possible.

It is a similar story with another of the podcasts produced by Wonderly, the agency responsible for Work. magazine and What if? The team behind Motability’s Lifestyle magazine, which goes out to all Motability Scheme customers, decided to launch a podcast when it became clear – via Instagram in particular – there was a massive audience engaging with Lifestyle’s mobility and motoring content outside what would previously have been considered its core readership.

One of Motability’s key tenets as an organisation is true inclusivity. So there was arguably a particularly pressing mandate to explore formats beyond print, ensuring anyone – no matter their disability – can access content. The podcast launched in July 2023, with editor Sophie-Marie Odum joined by a co-host from the disability community, actor and activist Samantha Renke, and guests including paralympian James Freeman and comedian and Vogue model Fats Timbo. 

Lifestyle is currently believed to be the only podcast to publish a video version featuring not just captions, but also British Sign Language (BSL). Again, this ensures the emphasis is on total inclusivity – and the power of soft influence: the hope is the wider industry will catch on and start to include BSL as standard, with positive feedback from fellow podcasters suggesting this could soon be the case. 

What marks out the What If? and Lifestyle podcasts is an adherence to editorial storytelling that runs through the DNA of all good membership association sub-brands, in any medium. Just as a great membership magazine or website speaks to the immediate challenges of its readers, in a language they understand, so a genuinely compelling podcast is born out of its community, utilising the knowledge and passion of its audience, and the contact books of its journalists.

Increasingly, podcasting represents a huge share of the media landscape. That is a threat as well as an opportunity – if you aren’t talking to your members in a medium they may be using on a daily basis, who is? Wonderly is part of the wider Haymarket Media Group, which is now the largest producer of B2B podcasts in the UK. We’ve been on a remarkable journey to upskill our editorial teams, build in-house production capability and help our clients maximise the exposure podcasts afford them and their brands. 

For us, understanding how to maximise the opportunities of podcasting is a work in progress, just like it is for membership associations who may still be grappling with how podcasts fit strategically into their communications mix. But the good news is there’s no deeper way to engage your audience: across Haymarket, listeners spend an average of 18.5 minutes listening to an episode of our podcasts, equating to lengthier engagements with our brands (and our clients) each month than other channels. Membership associations concerned about a fragmented mix of comms channels and their ability to engage increasingly time-poor members could find it’s the answer to their prayers. And ironically, it’s working from home that arguably drove the podcast boom in the first place – little wonder it’s a topic listeners seem to find particularly fascinating. 

To discover more about how podcasting can support your membership engagement contact us now. We’d love to share our experience and explore ideas with you.

Wonderly is a progressive award-winning marketing agency inspiring and engaging your audiences through remarkable content, thriving live events and innovative tech solutions.

By Jenny Roper, Editor, Wonderly.

Memcom, Rachel Appleton 17 April 2024
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