Business partnerships aren’t always easy to navigate. There are mutual goals, audiences, and results to maneuver between scores of back-and-forth emails and meetings.
So when you partner with another company on an initiative, how do you make the most of it, while ensuring both teams emerge at the end having had a positive, repeatable experience?
All of these questions ran through our minds, along with ripples of excitement, when we teamed up with WBUR for their latest podcast, Endless Thread.
For many Bostonians, WBUR is a mainstay of daily life, accompanying them during their commutes, on their jogs, or while they run errands. One of the most recognizable NPR stations in the U.S., WBUR is known for producing some of the most popular radio shows and podcasts out there, including Here & Now and Modern Love.
Even though they already have a robust podcast output, WBUR decided to go in a possibly more unusual direction recently when they joined forces with one of the most visited websites on the planet, Reddit, for what would be that site’s first dip into the waters of podcasting.
Enter Endless Thread, which just released its first episode (which you should definitely check out, by the way). A joint effort of WBUR and Reddit, this new podcast features the most interesting stories posted on subreddits by interviewing Redditors and following the story “beyond the thread.”
So when the chance to be a launch partner with WBUR and Reddit presented itself, we jumped at the opportunity. After all, the idea of a storytelling podcast seemed perfectly aligned with our brand: the concept was unique, fun-loving, and delightful.
“The idea of a storytelling podcast seemed perfectly aligned with our brand: the concept was unique, fun-loving, and delightful.”
Still, working within the aural medium isn’t something we do very often — we’re a video company, after all. And with the weight of two super recognizable brands riding on our shoulders, the stakes were high.
“From a partnership standpoint, we knew that teaming up with WBUR and Reddit was going to allow us to do unique things that you don’t typically see between podcasts and brands,” said Barb Gagne, Wistia’s Director of Demand Generation. “Because Reddit users are known for being honest and authentic, they have no problem calling you out if they don’t like what they see, so you have to be a true voice within that channel.”
Cue the collective brainstorming from our Creative team, who were tasked with reinforcing that “true voice” as video promos, sound bites, and digital ads were all devised.
One thing we didn’t have to worry about, however, was whether or not our brand voice would resonate or be taken seriously with Endless Thread’s listeners. As the show’s producer, WBUR is a trusted name, so with that built-in foundation, we felt more confident about veering into a slightly zanier, but no less engaging territory with our creative deliverables.
Shocking as it may seem, when it came time to announce the launch of Endless Thread, we turned to video.
In some ways, the idea of using video to promote an audio podcast seems idiosyncratic. Were we copping out by using the visual medium to compensate for the seemingly fewer advantages audio offers? Au contraire! Working with host Ben Brock Johnson and producer Amory Sivertson, we scripted and shot an intro video at Wistia HQ.
“Because audio alone doesn’t travel well on social channels, creating a video explainer about the new podcast was a key element,” said Kristen Holgerson, Director of Marketing & Promotion at WBUR. “Sharing the video got people excited about the podcast to come well before its debut — it introduced our charming podcast duo, gave a ‘101’ on how Reddit works, and helped build momentum heading into our first episode.”
The inclusion of the video in the press release gave the podcast an even greater chance for exposure, especially when the story was picked up by outlets like Variety.
Yes, podcast ads tend to be pesky interrupters, and who among us hasn’t skipped ahead 15 or 30 seconds to get back to what we wanted to listen to in the first place? This was a big hurdle we faced as a sponsoring partner: how do you get an audience to care about a company they may have never heard of, let alone one that has a name that sounds like a flower? The “MailKimp” tactic was already taken, so clearly we were going to need to approach these precious slots of time as creatively as possible: run-of-the-mill podcast ads weren’t going to cut it.
“Clearly, we were going to need to approach these slots of time as creatively as possible: run-of-the-mill podcast ads weren’t going to cut it.”
When you listen to Endless Thread, you’ll notice a few Wistia-shoutouts both at the beginning and midway through the show. For the ads themselves, we wanted to avoid the typical “read from the script” approach that probably wasn’t going to get anyone too excited. So we sent Ben and Amory a few talking points, and they riffed between themselves on topics that related back to Wistia. Any doubts we might have had initially (“how will they present us?”) were immediately cast aside. Because WBUR had worked hard with us to forge a mutually beneficial relationship, we had full confidence in them pulling it off with aplomb.
“We really wanted to customize the ads to the typical audience member and make it true to the listener experience as much as possible,” Barb said.
Thankfully, Ben and Amory are wonderful hosts with boundless spontaneity. Entrusting them with those ads turned out to be a perfect representation of two brands having complete creative trust in one another.
Similarly, the digital ads we produced kept the upbeat tone of those sound bites and video clips, creating a seamless listener experience across multiple platforms.
Endless Thread may be finally out in the world and finding fans, but our work isn’t done just yet. In the weeks to come, we’ll be tracking results and evaluating various outcomes to see how we can improve our creative work for future partnerships.
But the finished products — from the ad concepts to the video and the podcast itself — are outcomes we’re incredibly proud to support and put our name behind. “Showing off a brand voice that’s true to who Wistia is, while being part of a podcast that matches that tone, was huge.” Barb said. And ultimately, the best partnerships allow you to stay true to that voice. “At the end of the day, it let us make our media and marketing work harder for our brand.”