Get to Know Pacific Content: Q&A with Co-Founder Steve Pratt
Jordan Kelley, Content Director, BrandStorytelling.tv
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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.