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Insights for Marketers Making Podcasts and Video Shows

Marketing Showrunners covers the movement of marketers making shows to build brand affinity.

By: Molly Donovan on November 15th, 2019

Purpose > Appearance: What to Consider When Budgeting for Your Show

November is Make the Case Month at MSR. Every week, we’ll load you up with the big-picture ideas and tactical tips you need to sell your  branded show concept to the “powers that be” within your organization. We know that shows are the best vehicle to help grow brand affinity among your customers; this month, we’re helping ensure everyone else at your company understands that, too. If you’re as pumped as we are, catch up on the content we’ve already published and subscribe for exclusive bonus content and conversations here.

I have a bone to pick with “influencers.” 

For a lot of reasons, honestly (you click on a Home Chef ad ONE time and then BAM! Weeknight Chicken Fajitas everywhere you look), but one big one: they’ve made audio/visual marketing look both easy and cheap

If you watch a fashion blogger’s Instagram stories, for example, I wouldn’t necessarily blame you for concluding “Hey…we could do that.” An enterprising marketer might determine that their company could create a video show with little more than an iPhone, a tripod, and some good hair days.

As you prepare to make the case internally for your company’s show, you might find yourself in a similar situation. When you ask for a sizable budget to devote to showrunning, your boss might balk, pointing to the incredible tools largely available (and largely free) today. They might celebrate the authenticity of speaking directly to the camera without an elaborate set or flashy production elements. They might say: “Before we set a budget, why don’t you see what you can do without spending…anything.” 

Gulp.

Alternatively, you could find yourself at the opposite end of the spectrum, facing pushback about creating the show at all simply because you don’t have the budget for the high-gloss elements that would lend it a greater air of professionalism. If your boss has high expectations regarding quality and production value, they might miss the forest (creating a differentiated and well-loved show) for the trees (perfecting the show’s production). Your boss might point to those same pesky influencers and say: this is not who we are. 

Another gulp!

So what do you do? When making the case for your show, how can you sell the Goldilocks amount of budget, which is neither so small that you can’t guarantee quality, nor so large that securing it is unattainable? 

You need to think about the purpose of the show more than its appearance. 

At the end of the day, (we hope) we all want to do the same thing: create a show that becomes a thing of value for its audience. If that’s not something your brand can do, then sorry, you’re done. Don’t create a show. It’s not worth your while — no matter how much or how little budget you’re prepared to devote to it. 

When it comes to budgeting, assess the elements of your show that directly affect the audience’s experience, and spend up to ensure those elements run as smoothly as possible so your show continues to be valuable, informative, helpful, and entertaining for your audience. Everything else — especially when you’re getting started — is gravy. And gravy’s great, but it’s not the meal. 

As you prepare to make the budgetary case for your company’s show, focus on crafting a meal that’s nutritious, delicious, and keeps your customers coming back for more. Because the best marketers (and showrunners!) know that great marketing is not about who arrives. It’s about…well, you know the rest.

So when great marketers are making their podcasts or video shows, where do they spend, and where do they save? 

At the end of the day, (we hope) we all want to do the same thing: create a show that becomes a thing of value for its audience. If that’s not something your brand can do, then sorry, you’re done. Don’t create a show. It’s not worth your while — no matter how much or how little budget you’re prepared to devote to it. 

The Gear

Investing in gear for your podcast or video show is kind of like investing in a car. There’s a baseline you need to get moving, but there’s also a nearly infinite number of add-ons you can choose to totally trick out your ride. (A moon roof! Apple car play! SEAT WARMERS!)

The same logic applies to a podcast or video series. Here’s the baseline: you need to make sure your audience can see and/or hear you. That’s kind of it. 

But of course, that’s really not it at all. When it comes to A/V equipment, the sky’s the limit. You can always buy a higher-quality microphone and a higher-quality camera and a better camera stabilizer and a professional green screen and a custom soundproof recording booth and megawatt lighting and custom-composed music for your score and and and…

Stop. Recalibrate. What are you trying to do? 

You’re trying to captivate a recurring group of watchers or listeners who passionately support your show. To do that, you mainly need a good idea, a tantalizing concept, and a format that works for your audience. You need to invest most of your time in forging a strategy that ensures consistent, high-quality show content that meets a distinct need for your customers. When your audience interacts with your show, they should just keep nodding their heads and saying “give me more of this.”

That’s why you need to eliminate the frustrating tactical barriers that stand in their way. For example: if your audio quality is bad and your audience has to keep fiddling with the volume on their device in order to hear your message, fix it. Spend up for the right microphone for your project: a high-quality mic and windscreen for your podcast. A sensitive lavalier mic for your video interview series. A boom mic for capturing high-quality audio when you’re filming on location. You don’t necessarily need the priciest, most top-of-the-line equipment, but you do need equipment that serves its ultimate purpose: providing a solid experience for your audience.

So what do you absolutely need? For a podcast, basics include:

  • A microphone (spending more here pays the most dividends; throwing money on the remainder of this list will yield diminishing returns)
  • A pop filter and/or windscreen
  • A quiet place to record (weird but necessary to say out loud — have you HEARD some branded podcasts? I mean, seriously, McKinsey, you have the money…)
  • Headphones (the bar here: You can hear audio. Don’t worry about massive “cans.” We’re talking about getting started, not morphing into an audiophile overnight).
  • Recording/editing software (some options are even free! I’m looking at you, GarageBand, and sure, you’ll lose some friends the way a marketer would lose a designer pal by divulging they create graphics in PowerPoint, but if the resulting product is great — great! It’s the wizard, not the wand, that wields the power.)

For a video series, you might add:

  • A video camera (all things being equal, buy an *actual* video camera. But if all things are not equal, as is often the case, you can get by making a pretty impressive-looking video by making a few small tweaks and enhancements to your iPhone. Check out Wistia’s guide to shooting with an iPhone here.) 
  • A tripod (no matter how steady you think your hand is…it’s just not. And a shaky video does not make for a good viewer experience.) 
  • Lighting (you may be able to jerryrig proficient lighting with existing lights, or by making a relatively small one-time purchase to set you up with the lights you need.)

(Interested in seeing exactly what equipment a tech CMO used to create his company’s TV-style show? Check out this post and take notes.)

While you probably shouldn’t get started with just your iPhone and Airpods (note that Bluetooth-connected audio is often wonkier and weaker than hardwired options), you don’t need to blow your whole budget on gear right away. In a survey MSR sent to showrunners, 60% of respondents noted that they spend under $500 per month producing their show. A full 80% spend under $3,000. These budgets produced a wide range of show types, from interview-style podcasts to TV-style docuseries. Each respondent indicated an overarching truth: that it is indeed possible to create a unique, non-cookie-cutter show of value without breaking the bank.

In a survey MSR sent to showrunners, 60% of respondents noted that they spend under $500 per month producing their show. A full 80% spend under $3,000.

“While many immediately think that gear is the most important thing you need, it’s really a minor consideration compared to a plan and commitment,” advises Ryan Estes, Senior Content Marketing Specialist at Frontline Education and host of their Field Trip podcast. When it comes to gear, invest in what you need to ensure a positive customer experience. Spend the rest of your time and resources on the more strategic elements of showrunning.

The Personnel 

Another consideration when setting your show’s budget? Personnel — the actual human beings you need to devote time and bandwidth to making your show.

When it comes to people, keep the same overarching premise in mind: what is the goal of your show? How can your personnel allocations help you achieve that goal? 

For example: you might wonder (and your boss might demand to know) if you can produce a full podcast or video series with the talent you already have in-house. Do you need to hire a full-time production associate? A full-time videographer? A full-time editor? Or can the various people within your marketing team pinch-hit, at least in the early days of the show? 

The answer to that question will vary by company and by show objective. Have you concluded that a regular (i.e., anything more regular than monthly) show will best fit your audience’s needs? Then think about the personnel resources you need to meet that cadence. Will your existing team really be able to consistently produce a show of the quality your boss expects and your customers demand while they’re simultaneously working on other projects? 

For some companies, that answer could definitely be yes. For others, choosing not to allocate budget to a full-time hire could be a penny-wise, pound-foolish choice. The number one thing an audience wants to see from a podcast or video series is consistency. If you can’t meet their expectations — on quality, theme, or regularity — then your show won’t survive.

“Without someone dedicated to [the technical stuff], we wouldn’t get the quality we’re looking for,” explains Dan Slagen, CMO of ThriveHive and Host of the company’s TV-style video series, Locals. “You can contract this work out, but it has been so nice to have this person internal and a part of the marketing team, because then they can work off of our designers and content writers and interact with sales much more fluidly than an outside firm or contractor.” 

Likewise, have you identified someone who can step into the role of Producer — i.e., the person responsible for project managing the show? You could argue that this person is the most important party in the creation of the show. The producer’s role is to focus purely on the logistics that, if decentralized and dispersed around the team, could become unwieldy and potentially derail the show. The producer focuses on things like securing guests to interview, prepping guests for their appearances, prepping the show host, etc. While it might feel difficult to justify devoting an entire role to project managing your show before you start, think about how much time, energy, and angst that person could save your company in the long run — and how their presence could ensure a better show (and a more intrigued and engaged audience) from the get-go.

(Interested in learning more about a show producer’s day-to-day? Read about Kristen Bryant’s job at Wistia here.)

When Budgeting, Think About ROI, Not ROP

If you’re wondering how much you need to spend to create a quality show, you’re not alone. 

But like many things, the answer to that question is a frustrating one: it depends. As you prepare to make the case for the budget you need, remember what that answer depends on in the first place: securing the necessary elements to offer a consistent, high-quality audience experience that turns your customers into ardent fans.

When you think about budgeting, think about what it will take to develop the rabid passion you’re going for. It will take a unique idea, commitment from your team, and time. Time to find your show’s groove. Time to build an all-in audience. Time to entice your audience to stay with you.

Too often, marketers think about ROP — Return on Purchase — rather than ROI — Return on Investment. A show is an investment, not a one-time purchase. Over time, you will learn how you can improve. You will see how the show influences your customers’ purchasing decisions. You will understand how it creates affinity for your brand. You will continue to make investments as a response to what you learn along the way.

So as you’re getting started, keep that long-term view in mind. When you begin, make the case for spending what you can afford to produce the best-possible experience for your audience — and give yourself the flexibility you need to read and react to that audience’s feedback.

 

Subscribing to our newsletter is a good idea any time, but particularly exciting during November 2019. During MSR’s Make the Case Month, subscribers will receive weekly newsletters with exclusive invitations to chat live with the MSR team. What are you waiting for? Subscribe now!

 

Join subscribers from Red Bull, Salesforce, Mailchimp, Zendesk, Adobe, and Shopify.

On the last Friday of each month, we share 1 big new idea to help marketing execs to challenge the status quo, and a roundup of the best stuff we created or found for making great shows.

A somewhat accidental marketer, I’m first and foremost a writer. I’ve spent a decade working with global brands to craft on-target content and streamline complex ideas into clear (and even…exciting?!) language. Now, I get to spend every day immersed in content and strategy here, as Managing Editor of Marketing Showrunners, at my company, Molly Donovan Content & Communications. I’m thrilled to be a part of this community of eager next-generation marketers and marketing showrunners.

Reach out! molly@mshowrunners.com

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