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Get to Know Pacific Content: Q&A with Co-Founder Steve Pratt

Jordan Kelley, Content Director,

Curious to learn more about brand-funded podcasts? Submit questions here to have them answered in a future article!

Pacific Content is a leading podcast services company, helping some of the world’s biggest brands create and market compelling audio stories. A diversely talented group made up of veteran media professionals, production experts, and sound design specialists, the Pacific Content team brings decades of experience, expertise and insight to the table. They’ve created successful, ambitious, and influential podcasts for brands like Ford, Charles Schwab, Rocket Mortgage, and more.

Brand Storytelling caught up with Pacific Content Co-Founder & VP, Podcasts Steve Pratt to learn more about how these audio pro’s help clients amplify their voice with original branded audio content:

Thanks for joining us, Steve. How did you get your start in storytelling?

I have been obsessed with storytelling since I was a kid. I remember writing a story about a group of vampire cows in grade 4 and thinking it was the greatest school assignment in history. As I got older, the stories stayed fairly weird - I did an entire project about a fictional heavy metal island resort called “Dio.” At university, I took English Literature and soaked up everything I could learn about story structure and formats. I also started doing a lot of sketch and improv comedy, which forces you to think about conflict, structure, and character in real-time.

When it came time to make a career decision post-university, I hit a fork in the road. I was ready to go to law school, which was a safe choice but didn’t feel right in my gut. The storytelling voice inside me was too loud, so I bailed on law school at the last minute, took a job in television, and have never looked back.

When and why did you and your Co-Founders launch Pacific Content?

In 2014, we saw three big trends in the media and advertising landscape.

The first was that advertising dollars were flowing out of traditional broadcasting and shifting to digital and on-demand platforms. And technology was empowering consumers to skip interruptions that they didn’t want. We felt this did not bode well long term for media companies.

The second trend was seeing brands like Red Bull actively thinking and acting like a media company. They were making world-class content and amassing large audiences by telling stories infused with their values and how they want Red Bull to make you feel. It was exceptionally inspiring and made us realize that smart brands are extremely well-suited to making high-impact shows and telling powerful stories that also deliver brand marketing results.

And the third trend was the launch of the hit podcast, Serial, and Apple’s decision to make install the Podcasts app on every iPhone by default. Our founding team had a lot of experience in the audio storytelling space and had been podcasting since back in 2005 (!) in public media. We realized that there could be a significant opportunity to help progressive brands build phenomenal and compelling podcasts and bypass the need for traditional media companies entirely.

Slack was the first company we pitched—they said yes after two meetings. The Slack Variety Pack podcast was a quirky hit and we have been working with creatively brave brands ever since.

Why podcasts? What in your opinion sets podcasts apart from other storytelling mediums?

Podcasting offers several unique strengths to storytellers and marketers.

The first is reaching audiences where screens can’t. Podcasts are consumed when people are in their cars, on public transit, walking their dogs, working out, cooking dinner, and any other number of activities where screen-based content isn’t possible.

Podcasts also provide exceptionally long periods of engagement compared with other media. Well executed podcasts can deliver 85-95% completion rates on 30-minute episodes over and over again. The ability to create shows where audiences voluntarily spend over 25 minutes listening on an ongoing basis is a true superpower of podcasting.

Finally, podcasts allow you to create a theatre of the mind experience for listeners. Without visuals, podcasts use words, music, and sound to paint pictures and scenes in the imagination of the audience. It’s an exceptional depth of engagement that only audio storytelling can deliver.

As a leader in branded audio content, what would you say makes for a great brand story?

There are a few ‘golden rules’ for brand storytelling in the podcast space.

The first is to think of your podcast first and foremost as a gift to your target audience. Podcasting is an opt-in medium, so there has to be a very strong value proposition for listeners.

The second is to develop an “only we” podcast. What is the podcast that “only we” can make, and that our target audience would value highly? What are the stories that we are uniquely suited to tell? What is the expertise or point of view that only we can offer in a series?

Finally, look at all the marketing superpowers your brand has at your disposal. It could be powerful owned channels like websites, apps, retail locations, or your own products. It could be internal channels like a large number of employees, an intranet or Slack channel. It could be strong PR resources that can create earned media opportunities to promote your podcast. Aligning all your brand marketing strengths to launch and support each episode of your podcast can quickly put a series from a brand into the top 1% of all podcasts on the planet.

What are some of the latest brand-partnered stories you’ve developed and distributed at Pacific Content?

We worked with Ford on a podcast tied to the relaunch of the Bronco, called Bring Back Bronco - it is a serialized documentary series that explores everything from how the rise and fall of Detroit is mirrored in the history of the Bronco, from the O.J. slow-motion police chase to the 20-year underground movement to bring the Bronco back to life.

Education through storytelling is very effective as a podcast strategy for brands. We have fantastic show about the psychology of decision making that we make with our partners at Charles Schwab, called Choiceology with Katy Milkman. We also explore how modern teams work and the chemistry behind them in our show with Atlassian, Teamistry. And in the world of business, we work with Dell Technologies to tell amazing stories of how companies and entire industries are born or disrupted in Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson.

What words of advice would you give to a brand looking to break into the podcasting space?

Always consider sustainability before you launch. Determine how much work it will take, not just to produce the podcast, but also to market the podcast and ensure you have enough people and time to do both well on an ongoing basis. If your podcast does well, audiences will regularly want new episodes—setting yourself up for success from the start will pay dividends down the road.

Related to this… doing fewer things really well makes for a stronger podcast strategy than doing more halfheartedly.

What’s next in podcasting and audio?

We talk a lot about Creative Bravery as a value and there’s still a lot of “blue ocean” for brands to explore in the podcasting space.

We’re bullish on Microcasts - short, regularly published shows that exist as their own podcast series, but that can also be inserted into other podcasts as content-based ad inventory, or used as daily smart speaker content. It’s a really smart way to make high-impact content and also guarantee significant reach.

We are seeing growing interest in non-traditional podcast formats, ranging from scripted fiction to game shows.

And finally, we are excited about the possibilities of interactive and/or personalized podcasts - through dynamic content insertion, smart speakers, or a variety of other strategies, there are bold audio experiments waiting to happen that will push the entire medium forward.

Where can readers learn more about Pacific Content and engage with your library of work?

We have a popular blog and a weekly newsletter where we share everything we know. It’s a great resource for any brand storyteller curious about the podcasting space. Education is a huge part of our business, so if you can’t find it on our blog, feel free to reach out - we always love to talk about podcasts!


Curious to learn more about brand-funded podcasts? Submit questions here to have them answered in a future article!


About Steve Pratt

Steve co-founded Pacific Content in 2014 to help brands and marketers transform into successful media companies through podcasting. He loves helping brands turn strategy into compelling podcasts and showing brands how to tap into their superpowers to build audiences.

Steve has always been obsessed with what is new and next in the media. Prior to Pacific Content, his career included TV startups, satellite radio startups, and digital music startups. He has been podcasting since 2005 when he co-created one of the world’s first and most successful music podcasts at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).


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