Top Podcasts for Every Content Marketer’s Play List

Today, we live in what Wired calls the golden age of podcasting. Exciting times, right? And yet, one of the more shocking details in Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 trends report is that “Podcasts” ranked dead last in marketing tactics used. Last! Of the 24 strategies mentioned, “Podcasts” was one of only three that decreased in usage in the last year.

I can only deduce that clients are asking about podcasts, and marketers are like:

Even if you’re not specifically looking to add podcasts to your marketing portfolio, I see three ways every content marketer can benefit from listening to them: industry education, content enrichment and strategy inspiration. Here are my picks for the best marketing, storytelling and brand podcasts.

Marketing Podcasts

“This Old Marketing”

The crown-jewel podcast for the Content Marketing Institute and its loyal acolytes in the field. Produced weekly, the show brings together CMI Founder Joe Pulizzi and Chief Content Strategist Robert Rose to discuss the latest trends in content marketing. Each episode includes a “Rants and Raves” segment and a profile of a successful content program of the past. The show is consistently funny, brutally honest and loaded with useful takeaways for any content marketer.

Start with: Episode 119, “How to Pen a ‘Content Marketing Is Dead’ Article.” The guys break down the impact of Instant Articles opening to the public, and Pulizzi asks, “Is Facebook the devil?”

Want more from CMI? Pulizzi also hosts a mini-podcast called “Content Inc.” designed to offer one big idea, lesson or inspirational whiteboard message.

“The Craft of Marketing”

Marketing strategist Seth Price invites a different marketing guru onto his podcast each week to share strategies and processes of success. The show, which began as a Kickstarter project, has featured a veritable who’s who of the marketing landscape, including Seth Godin and the aforementioned Pulizzi.

Start with: Episode 19, “Insider Secrets to Leverage Your Video Marketing.” Guest Ezra Fishman, of Wistia, breaks down how his 11-person marketing team produces weekly long-form content, usually with a video component. I was sold, and the visually rich Wistia blog is now one of my favorite examples of killer content.

“Content Warfare”

This is a platform for rising marketer Ryan Handley to chat with established content creators about marketing, writing and audience building. If you’re looking for a young, fresh perspective in content marketing, go with “Content Warfare.”

Start with: Episode 139, “On Speaking, Podcasting and Creating Valuable Audio Content.” It’s just Handley, by himself, speaking into a mic, which is what he advises you to do when you’re launching your own podcast. This episode is a good introduction to the host and offers some juicy tips for anyone looking to improve their public speaking and interviewing acumen.

“Marketing Smarts”

Another interview-style podcast, this one produced by MarketingProfs and hosted by Kerry O’Shea Gorgone. Each episode is only 30 minutes long, and Gorgone does a great job asking probing questions and getting guests to share related anecdotes.

Start with:Tell Your Brand Story in Just Six Seconds.” “Every great story, every great brand is built around simplicity, clarity and alignment,” says guest Bill Fasig, COO at TopRight Partners. “And you either have that or you don’t.”

“The Marketing Companion”

Mark Schaefer, of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, hosts this podcast with Tom Webster, vice president at Edison Research. This show runs about 30 minutes and touches on trends in digital and social media marketing. It’s a hilarious, data-driven program.

Start with: Episode 62, “Stats-A-Palooza.” “Here’s a statistic that boggled my mind,” says Schaefer. “There are more than 400 million Snapchat stories created each day.” He adds that it would take someone 10 years to view all the photos and videos created on Snapchat in one hour.

“Rough Draft”

This podcast from Copyblogger is essential for writers and content creators. Host Damien Farnworth offers tips for writing online in a show that marries personal anecdotes with industry lessons. For instance, in one podcast, Farnworth asks do millennials really hate long copy? The answer is no; that age group is actually out-reading their elders, but long copy does need to be partitioned and easily scanned. If you’re short on time, this podcast usually runs less than 10 minutes.

Start with: Episode 99, “A Better Way to Find Big Ideas (That Make You Stand Out).” Can being well-traveled help you land a big idea? What’s the impact of a consistent content calendar? This episode has answers.

“Grammar Girl—Quick and Dirty Tips”

Speaking of better writing: If you work with words, you need to get to know Mignon Fogarty, a.k.a. Grammar Girl. You’ll find she takes the “quick and dirty” disclaimer very seriously; her weekly podcast is only about 10 minutes long and lacks any production value outside of the #dope hip hop intro. This show is a great companion to “Rough Draft.”

Start with: Episode 392, “Why Do We Call People Redheads Instead of Orangeheads?” ”Any logical comparison of colors would conclude their hair is much closer to orange things like carrots and pumpkins,” says Fogarty. This etymology lesson also covers why we aren’t using “ginger” to mean “blonde.”

Storytelling Podcasts

“The Gist”

This is my favorite daily podcast. “The Gist,” a 30-minute news and culture show, is truly a master class in the art of concise storytelling. Host Mike Pesca interviews and spiels with an unparalleled cadence; his words are at once exuberantly floral and snappy. Oh, and laugh-out-loud funny. “The Gist” covers the day’s relevant cocktail topics, but that’s a secondary (if at all) appeal. The delivery is what brings me back, and it’s a recipe worth investing in for any content creator.

Start with: Episode 409, “Near-Death Winter Tales With Matthew Dicks.” A professional storyteller tells a story to demonstrate how to tell better stories.

“The Moth”

The quintessential storytelling podcast, “The Moth” has showcased thousands of true accounts, told live and without notes. Famed storytellers have included Margaret Cho, Ethan Hawke and Malcolm Gladwell, but often the best tales come from everyday voices. Stories run the gamut from tear-jerking to hilarious, and are always meticulously crafted lessons in content structuring.

Start with: Episode 1425, “Family, Friendship, and Mother Nature.” Carl Pillitteri’s story of working at a nuclear power plant when disaster strikes is a gut-wrenching example of establishing and building stakes in storytelling.

“This American Life”

If you listen to podcasts, you undoubtedly already listen to “This American Life.” “TAL” brings in half a million downloads every week and almost always tops the iTunes podcast charts. The weekly show is a mix of investigative journalism, essays and experimental storytelling, all wrapped up in one neat, thrilling hour.

Start with: Episode 549, “Amateur Hour.” Here’s four stories of people who are thrust into positions they’re completely unqualified to handle. Take Rachel, a high school student who takes care of a robot baby for two days of pretend parenting. Her first thought: “Let’s kick it!”

Brand Podcasts

“The Message”

This eight-part blockbuster soared to the top of the iTunes podcast charts last fall. The story follows a fake popular-science program called “Cyphercast” and a team of cryptographers investigating a mysterious alien transmission. It’s as hokey as it is creepy, like a fictional Sarah Koenig piecing together an interstellar murder case.

The biggest shock for listeners might be learning that General Electric—along with its ad agency, BBDO New York—created “The Message.” Mac Rodgers, the series’ writer, explained in an article for Slate that GE wanted the podcast to touch on themes related to its research, without sounding like an ad. Rodgers learned that at the time, GE was one of several companies leading work in sound-based medical treatments.

“My mind immediately jumped to: If a sound can cure a person, maybe it can also make them sick?” recalled Rodgers. “And just like that I knew I had my monster.”

Beyond that veiled connection in the story, “The Message” lacks any form of advertising. The series subtly relates listeners to what the brand is about without explicitly pushing the brand. It feels like the future of branded audio content.

Start with: Episode one. To quote the King in Alice in Wonderland: “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

Variety Pack

Slack, the Silicon Valley darling of business communication, is no stranger to podcasting. The company was a sponsor of many popular podcasts before it decided to launch its own program last May. Slack hired podcasting pros to create the show, and true to its name, the podcast is energetic, quirky and unassuming. Fans of Slack’s other content marketing arms will find a familiar voice and quality to its new audio extension.

Start with: Episode 1, “Starter Pack.” Listen for Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield’s brief cameo in the inaugural episode, interviewing actor B.J. Novak at a hockey game.

Miscellaneous Podcasts

Looking to add podcasting to your own content mix? Here are a few more examples to learn from:

Prudential’s four-episode “40/40 Vision” podcast is a radio-quality component of a sponsored campaign for the 40+ demographic. You can find the audio show comfortably tucked in alongside videos, polls and photo galleries.

Another successful brand podcaster is Umpqua Bank, which recently launched “Open Account.” The podcast, hosted by former MTV correspondent SuChin Pak, breaks the air of silence on common money issues with celeb guests.

If you’re looking for a more niche field, you can check out “Cutting the Curd,” a full-service cheese podcast created by Anne Saxelby of Saxelby Cheese. Or perhaps “Ready, Set, Knit!” the official podcast of WEBS, “America’s Yarn Store.” There’s only one brick-and-mortar WEBS location, but thanks to the podcast, owners Kathy and Steve Elkins have a dedicated worldwide following.

Adobe made three of its marketing research white papers available as podcasts and they’re a big hit. These “podpapers,” narrated by actors like Malcolm McDowell, have received six times the number of downloads that the traditional PDFs receive. And Adobe says it’s cheaper than making a video of the same duration. I don’t know about you, but I like the sound of that.

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What podcasts do you love? Share your favorites with us in the comment section below.

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