Spotify’s For the Record podcast just turned one month old. Reflecting on the past few weeks, the company’s global head of comms and PR, Dustee Jenkins, said the process has been much harder than she thought it would be, but it’s also been worth it.
The podcast series, with a new episode every other week, dives into major moments in music, podcasting and tech and features interviews with Spotify employees and industry experts. It’s hosted by Shanon Cook, Spotify’s senior manager of global consumer comms, and Kevin Turner, head of podcast comms. Seven episodes have been produced, featuring people from Katy Perry to Ben Jaffe, creative director of Preservation Hall.
Spotify’s podcast is produced in-house by a team of seven, led by the company’s head of consumer PR, C.J. Stanley. Group SJR has been providing Spotify with feedback.
Spotify was inspired to launch its own podcast after noticing the explosion of podcasts on its platform, from 450,000 to more than 1.5 million in the past year. In Q4 2019, it also saw a 200% year-over-year increase in podcast listening.
Jenkins said Spotify has seen brand communications shift from press releases and traditional media to “us telling our own story via the blog to now being about audio as the next evolution for us.”
Here are her tips for brands starting their own podcasts:
Make sure a podcast is right for you
For Spotify, audio is a natural extension, because it’s in the music business.
“Our employees are leveraging audio every day,” said Jenkins. “They are on Spotify and engaging with it. Tech and media industries are also leveraging podcasts.”
Take a deep breath, because podcasting is hard and gets harder
Jenkins acknowledged that she went into creating a podcast naively. She figured it would be an easy weekly task, but it has been “incredibly difficult.”
“It requires tons of work in advance,” she said. “Paper cuts, briefings, seeing what audio you do or don’t get. You might think you have an angle going into an interview, but like a journalist, we might not get that from the person speaking on the other side. We might have to shift gears. We also might not be able to use audio because there’s not enough of a story there.”
Don’t sound like an ad
A corporate podcast should never feel like paid media for your company.
“No one wants to listen to that,” said Jenkins. “So the stories we tell need to be compelling and rich, and we need to have a human connection and go deeper into topics people care about.”
Have a clear, relevant angle
Spotify’s series is focused on artists talking about how they have managed through the pandemic and how they are putting music out.
Leveraging other voices has been important for Spotify.
“To have Spotify people talk about how artists have managed through COVID-19 is not a very compelling story,” said Jenkins. “But to hear that from Katy Perry, it is very compelling. Have an authentic voice and clear angle.”
Get interesting guests
A successful podcast requires people who will speak directly and who are willing to tell a story.
“Katy Perry was vulnerable, talked about depression and how COVID-19 impacted her,” said Jenkins. “She also talked about how she had to get creative to put videos out there during COVID and rethink her launch approach for her new album because she was releasing it during the pandemic.”
Another way companies can tell compelling stories is by being vulnerable and honest about areas where they need improvement.
Spotify’s first podcast episode discussed how it supports the Black community across the company.
“We didn’t pretend we had all the answers,” said Jenkins. “Our own team said we have more work to do. We talked about where we are on the journey.”
Ask yourself: Will people care?
Spotify was encouraged to start a podcast because, given the media coverage the brand generates in any given week, there is “clearly a lot of interest” in the company, said Jenkins.
“There is a lot of interest in companies around the world at a time like this,” she said. “Consumers are asking more questions such as: What kind of company are you? What are your values? How do you treat employees?”
A podcast provides one more mechanism “to dig a little deeper into who Spotify is,” Jenkins added.
Thousands of people have downloaded Spotify’s podcast, said Jenkins, who didn’t provide a specific number but said people are listening all the way through each episode.
She added that the company’s goal is not to create a mass market franchise.
“We created it for people curious about Spotify’s business, such as influencers, tastemakers across music, tech and media,” said Jenkins. “It is also for our employees to hear about the work happening across the team and feel good about that.”