The big time for branded company podcasts is competing in the open market of general interest podcasts in your related market. One of the shows with the most successful extended track record is Choiceology from Charles Schwab.
Let’s dig into the blueprint they followed:
- Identify the right mainstream category
- Invest in the production quality to compete
- Build the audience over time
- Bring in the right host for the show
- Keep the brand CTAs light
Identify the right mainstream category
For Schwab, the pop-psychology / behavioral economics category is a good fit. There’s overlap with their customer base of knowledgeable, self-serve investors. And they can tell stories about decision making and psychology - both the topics on Choiceology and the narrative style is perfectly suited alongside the original bellwether Freakonomics, and my personal favorite Hidden Brain.
Invest in the production quality to compete
Schwab has been working with Pacific Content for the full history of Choiceology, and it shows in the high production value. Interviews are crisply edited between guest, live interview, and voiceover. The soundscape of the episodes are immersive. And a lot of work goes into developing the episode and season long themes.
Build the audience over time
Schwab has been remarkably consistent with their seasonal show structure. They’ve released one season in Feb-Mar, and another in Aug-Sep, of around 6 episodes, in a pattern that has been running twice a year since 2018 and across 75 episodes. You can do short seasons like this, you can do a perpetual regular schedule, you just need to be consistent without major gaps when your audience will move on.
Bring in the right host for the show
Choiceology has been hosted by Katy Milkman for all but the first season of the show. It’s a great fit - she has the academic credentials, interviewing skills, and ability to make economics topics approachable to form the right relationship with the audience. And it’s an impressive long-term relationship between host and brand. Brands just need to be comfortable that they’re sharing the spotlight with the host - Milkman gets promotion for her book and newsletter just as prominent as the show.
Keep the brand CTAs light
If the goal is competing in the general interest market, rather than just reaching your existing brand superfans, you need to make a trade-off in how prominent the brand promotion and calls-to-action can be. Choiceology finds the balance of this really well. Schwab is mentioned in the intro, credits, and show logo. In many episodes, they use the topic to cross-promote another Schwab podcast like Financial Decoder