Lush Digital Media’s Brand Newsroom leaves the keen listener looking for a pen.
All business podcasts have an obvious weakness: they are fundamentally ephemeral. Like a radio program, they wash over the listeners’ ears, often leaving just flecks of intelligence, memorable moments and potential action points. It’s not good to be part of the ephemerati if you want to entertain and inform, and make a lasting impression.
Blogs, articles and even videos have the advantage of being easily shared and sliced into chunks for later consumption. Profound insights and nuggets of truth can be linked to emails and phrases (or grabs) can be sent around via social media or text message. They can be used in memes or GIFs, and their wisdom can end up being attributed to Winston Churchill or Steve Jobs.
Podcasts, on the other hand, are just played – generally from start to finish. It’s unusual to stop a podcast and relisten to an interesting monologue or sliver of opinion or fact, let alone record it in some way to be digested later. How many use the plus/minus 15-second function while listening to a podcast while driving? Most of the time, the experience is like listening to a classic hits radio station, waiting for a song you like.
Podcasts in the content marketing era are popular for those who prefer speaking to writing. As long as their podcast sounds professional, speaks a version of the truth, finds a niche and is backed up with solid marketing support and a decent opening theme song, it should find an audience … somewhere. And if you’re nice enough, people will leave a comment and subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud or whatever platform is being prepped for launch tomorrow. It’s hard work. Good luck.
Of course, this doesn’t make the podcast platform any less potent or important. Podcasts remain incredibly popular and are only increasing in number and status. Edison Research says 42 million Americans – 15 per cent of the population – listen to a podcast every week. An amazing 85 per cent of the respondents in Edison’s survey said they listened to all or most of these podcasts.
But reach and popularity isn’t the problem. What podcasts are not good at is providing moments of clarity that are easily shared among our peers.
There are exceptions, and the weekly Brand Newsroom podcast produced by Perth-based Lush Digital Media is one. The podcast, which is for “anyone who has a say in how companies are communicating”, as its introduction says, was first released on iTunes in September 2014. It skipped past its 150th episode in July 2017.
The place of origin isn’t clear when you listen to the Brand Newsroom hosts. Regular ABC Radio host and Lush Digital Media founder James Lush has a delightful broadcast voice straight from the BBC graduate school of elocution – rounded tones and perfect diction. Sarah Mitchell, who is director of digital content at Lush and a noted content marketing authority, has a warm and engaging American accent that persists despite her 10 years in Australia. Nic Hayes, managing director of talent consultancy Media Stable, simply speaks fluent West Australian.
“It never fails to offer practical and actionable wisdom you wish you could collect for prosperity.”
Each weekly podcast is not lengthy – generally 20 minutes, often shorter. The three hosts are likeable and knowledgeable, and tap into their various experiences to help listeners better understand the worlds of content marketing, PR, advertising and traditional media. They all have day jobs in the content field, so their insights are based on real-world knowledge.
But this podcast isn’t a mutual admiration society. Discussions are lively and disagreements are common, with Lush often forced to play the straight guy (or agitator) while Mitchell and Hayes engage in an effective Punch and Judy routine.
The dynamic works because of the ethical and moral uncertainty around many marketing and media topics. It also makes for good entertainment.
A more extreme example was the debate over KFC’s “hot and spicy” ads in episode 84 – “Is sex in advertising ever OK?” The finger-lickin’ #NFWS ads featured the image of a couple on a sofa, with the female enjoying something pixellated on her male friend’s lap. The ad was pulled from circulation after just one hour following a stream of complaints:
Mitchell: It’s a ridiculous picture. I tweeted out when I saw it, saying ‘here’s another example of a brand getting it wrong. Is anybody ever going to learn?’ And then the fallout started …
Lush: But is it going to sell more chicken as a result?
Hayes: It will not sell more chicken as a result but it will not sell less chicken …
Mitchell: I disagree.
Hayes: I will take you on this one … We know something is pixellated here but you’re assuming it’s one thing, but that might say more about you, Sarah, than it might say about the photo.
Banter aside, Brand Newsroom shines because of the breadth of topics it covers expertly. It often features noted media and marketing experts as guests, such as Bernadette Jiwa, Jonathan Crossfield, Jay Baer, Mark Masters, Rand Fishkin and Simon Holt, who add substance to any discussion about their special subject. Recent episodes have covered the value of marketing awards, how to tweet like Donald Trump, how to communicate bad news, how much virtual reality will impact on marketing and the likely future of media.
It’s a broad mix, yes, but each subject is covered succinctly and skilfully in the time it takes to boil a kettle and enjoy your cup of tea. And it never fails to offer practical and actionable wisdom you wish you could collect for prosperity.
Note: Brand Newsroom ended production in early 2019. The back catalogue is available here.
Links & references
Brand Tales Q&A with Sarah Mitchell