Content Creation

How Narrative Shows Work Best for Branded Podcasts

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Not enough brands like to talk about why they care. Why does the CEO run this company? Why did they found this company rather than any other company? What makes this one special? –

Sam Datta-Paulin, Executive Producer Producer at Lower Street

Brand messaging and polished marketing can only take a brand so far in the eyes of everyday people. At the end of the day, we aren’t looking for more sugar-coated advertising., We’re looking for honesty. 

Honesty builds an audience that understands you and sticks with you. How do you create that trust? One way is with a narrative-style podcast.

When you consider brand podcasts, your mind probably jumps right to the tried and true interview style. Interviews are a classic format. They’re fairly easy to approach, organize, and produce. But most brands massively underinvest in uniqueness and storytelling. 

The ability of narrative podcasts to engage, captivate, and leave a lasting impression makes them unbeatable for building brand loyalty and achieving business goals.

A narrative podcast isn’t about reiterating brand messaging. It’s about sitting down with individuals, treating them as humans, and having a conversation with them about what makes them get up in the morning.

If there was a company focused on watching paint dry, we want to know: What makes them interested in watching paint dry? What makes someone interested in building lawn mowers? Get to the heart of that story, and then build something around it. The great thing about a narrative podcast is you’ve got that theater of the mind you can build that love into. You can build that emotion through storytelling.

Sam Datta-Paulin, Executive Producer Producer at Lower Street

At Lower Street, we consider narrative podcasts to be one of the best options for brands. Here’s what podcast producers Sam, Jackie, and Erin think you can do to leverage the power of narrative storytelling. 

What is a Narrative Podcast?

We should be clear, a narrative podcast can have interviews. Rather than a Q&A list-off, the interviews incorporate extra narration to guide a story arc, helping to tell a more engaging perspective of the core topic. 

Storytelling is the obvious appeal of a narrative show. But the way this style can be flexible and control the output of information and value for listeners is the real reason that they are so effective. Narrative podcasts are awesome because they can organize a story really well.

Erin MacIndoe Sproule, Executive Producer Producer at Lower Street

Stories help us slow down enough to connect with the content and retain information. They are also inherently more shareable. We’re hard-wired to love them. A good story sticks in your brain and makes you want to pass it along. Hence why storytelling has become essential in modern marketing.

The Benefits of Telling a Story

By being able to create a share-able story, narrative-style shows help boost brand awareness. When a brand story sparks interest and engagement, it compels listeners to share it with others, creating a ripple effect that extends its reach.

That’s what’s most important, whether you incorporate interviews or not – you need to focus on the stories that resonate and make your audience feel something. 

Any old interview can bring on experts, ask them about their CV, and call it an episode. But by seeking out people whose stories haven’t been heard, and by getting into the heart of the story with the right guests, you can uncover a more compelling story.

Focus on storytelling over information and make it entertaining, not something that could be a written resource. Use the power of immersive audio as much as you can.

Erin MacIndoe Sproule, Executive Producer Producer at Lower Street

The benefits of storytelling for brands go beyond mere word-of-mouth promotion. At its heart, storytelling allows brands to form deep, meaningful connections with customers by taking them on a journey. As they listen, they have an experience with the brand that plugs into their emotions and memories. 

In essence, brands that effectively leverage narrative storytelling in their podcasts can tap into a deep-rooted human instinct to share and connect, cultivating a solid and engaged community around their brand.

More than storytelling in the sense we might think, it’s about organization and narration. How can you make your message clear for the listener?

Why Narrative is the Right Choice for Brands

Simply put, narrative podcasts work for brands because they build trust, but there’s more to it.

Narrative podcasts work better for brands because truth is a rare thing in marketing. And by telling an honest story and bringing an audience along with you, you’re not just trying to sell them something. You are trying to bring them into who you are, the fabric of what makes you as an organization, and honestly, why you care. And that’s really important.

Sam Datta-Paulin, Executive Producer Producer at Lower Street

In fact, Signal Hill found that audiences were 14% more likely to “listen again” and 11% more likely to “recommend” a narrative show vs. an interview show. The research also revealed that brand favorability was 10% higher for narrative shows. 

There are a couple of reasons why they tend to receive higher ratings. 

First, they’re more likely to create a personal and emotional connection with listeners.

If you’re going to make a narrative-style podcast, you have to tell a story that has truth in it. Not a curated story focused only on brand messaging. Try and think about what your audience wants. Give that to them first. People like an ugly truth. People like self-reflection. People like honesty which will get you a lot more points than trying to curate an image.

Sam Datta-Paulin, Executive Producer Producer at Lower Street

Second, narrative shows are more likely to share compelling and memorable information. They have a natural story arc (clear beginning, middle, and end) and often use suspense and drama to keep listeners engaged. This can make listeners more likely to come back for more and share the show with others.

Unlike traditional linear storytelling, narrative podcasts have much more flexibility, and layers.

The most significant benefit of narrative podcasts is effectively being able to highlight what was in the raw interview. Being able to do callbacks, being able to simplify, being able to just say it over and over again. 

Jackie Lamport, Senior Podcast Producer at Lower Street

This ability to repeat a message, in different ways, makes this format so powerful in resonating with listeners.

The thing with audio is that it’s not as easy to retain as reading. Whereas in an article, you might read something once and then maybe it didn’t sink in, you can just reread the same sentence, in audio, it kind of just happens, and the moment moves on.
So I like to make sure that the most significant points are made multiple times.  And that’s something that narration does well, making it more memorable.

Jackie Lamport, Senior Podcast Producer at Lower Street

Crafting Compelling Episodes for Your Narrative Podcast

We know what you might be thinking: Aren’t narrative podcasts a ton more work?

We won’t lie, making a great narrative podcast does take extra input, but the boost brands can get from the output is well worth it. 

Here’s how our producers approach making high-quality narrative podcasts.

Balance Information and an Engaging Story

I like to start with the episode’s foundations, and the expertise given, then condense and find the key value moments to pull forward. This keeps the core value of what experts have to say but lets it flow more as a story.

Jackie Lamport, Senior Podcast Producer at Lower Street

Jackie often works with brands that have very information-heavy interviews or episodes. The goal is to pull forward the information, line it up in a flow that keeps the listener engaged, and make sure the message gets across. It takes a good ear and a lot of re-listening, but the result is worth the time. 

Sometimes the informational part can be long, and while very interesting, there is a lot of context needed. Narrative podcasts have the power to significantly condense long parts that are needed for context but aren’t necessarily interesting to listen to.

Jackie Lamport, Senior Podcast Producer at Lower Street

Guests can be a great addition to telling your story, but you’ll want to introduce a guest selection process that can help you choose the right people.

You want to find the right people who can illustrate the story you need to tell. And then, from a production perspective, it’s important to start the guest booking process really, really early. That part is hard and it can take a while to find the right people.

Erin MacIndoe Sproule, Executive Producer Producer at Lower Street

Make sure your podcast tells a story, through the episodes, and through the whole series. It can be easier to see the big picture, but listeners are tuning in one episode at a time, you want to give them something to keep them on their toes and listening in.

You want a narrative arc across the entire series as well as episode by episode. Ideally pick a topic, not a timeframe. That’s generally not the most interesting way to do things. Exceptions can be made per episode and weaved together so that listening to the whole thing as a series, it flows together beautifully. But make sure there is something to pique your interest and a story arc in every individual episode.

Sam Datta-Paulin, Executive Producer Producer at Lower Street

Create a Full Audio Experience

Use soundscapes and immersive sound as much as possible. It’s way more interesting to hear someone at their place of work interacting, to hear them with their family, you go somewhere, by just using sound as a way to transport the listener to a new environment that is related to the topic that you’re looking to get across. – Erin

Erin has worked in both video and audio production and encourages us to “show, not tell” across both mediums. But in this case, it’s about not over-explaining, and letting the extra audio elements help paint the picture for listeners.

Editing Your Narrative Podcast

In terms of the editing phase of your narrative podcast, Lower Street producer Sam Datta-Paulin has some excellent advice.

Don’t start at the beginning. Start with the most exciting thing that happens and then build an arc around that. What is the bit that your audience is gonna find the most interesting in an episode? Boom. That’s your cold open. Everything else that follows is the Why and the How do we get here?

Sam Datta-Paulin, Executive Producer Producer at Lower Street

Unlike with a standard, once-off-recorded interview, with a narrative podcast you can go back into the recording. If you forgot a key point, or you spoke about things spontaneously, you can either re-record a new narration or move clips for a better flow.

We can add in things that weren’t there to maximize value for the listeners. It could be things or points that weren’t there at all. So when we listen back we can say we’re just like, oh, and also, you know, on this topic, here’s another thing to consider, and add it in. Or we can bring forward things that were maybe between the lines. It’s all about adding value.

Jackie Lamport, Senior Podcast Producer at Lower Street

When having a listen to your raw recording, take note of places where there could be a better explanation or a key point was missed, and work on clarifying that through existing clips, or inserted recording.

Last but not least, make sure the show you create has an aim, and value for your listeners. That’s what really matters.

Narration isn’t just about making it sound more polished, it has to have purpose or it’s effectively a waste of the listener’s time.

Jackie Lamport, Senior Podcast Producer at Lower Street

Final Thoughts on Narrative Podcasts for Brands

When it comes down to it, you are probably starting a brand podcast to connect with your audience. If it was just about spreading the word, you might be better off investing in advertising. 

But if you really want to connect, you’ve got to be honest, and you’ve got to be compelling. Tell your audience a story they hold on to. A story they want to share. A story that keeps you in their mind.

Your first step to doing this is your story arc concept, but then through the power of audio editing you can create an engaging show to keep your listeners coming back for more.

And if you need a hand? Lower Street is here to help.

The Expert Producers From Lower Street

Sam Datta-Paulin is a former journalist, Youtuber, TV and radio @ BBC and ITN. He’s also a multi-award winning executive producer at Lower Street.

Erin MacIndoe Sproule is an award-winning executive podcast producer, recognized for her outstanding contributions to BCG’s flagship climate and sustainability podcast, Climate Vision 2050.

Jackie Lamport is an award-winning senior podcast producer with extensive experience in audio journalism and branded content.

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Harry Morton
Hi, I'm Harry. I'm a father and the founder of Lower Street. I like mountain biking, making music, and traveling.

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