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Experts Share How to Get Episodic Content Right

Imagine if your audience came to the end of your article or podcast episode and couldn’t wait for the next one to publish.

An effective episodic content strategy can make that happen. It’s one way to build a media company within your B2B or B2C brand – something where the audience connects with your company brand as more than a provider of a product or service but as a deliverer of great, interesting content they want to consume.

“This episodic content world, I think is where we are headed. If you wanna build great, sustainable, long-term content marketing,” Rand Fishkin once said in an interview on Typeform.

Episodic content is a lot of work. What goes into a successful strategy? Here’s what some experts had to say.

Set a theme

First, find a theme for your episodic content – the thread that will tie it all together.

Jamie Sheldon from MyUKMailbox explains: “This will give you the right answer for the important question everybody will ask you: ‘Why are you doing this?’

“As Simon Sinek said, ‘The why is the purpose, cause, or belief that drives every one of us,’ and that’s the important element of your episodic marketing strategy. Before you launch the first episode (of a podcast), before you write the script and do everything you have to do to launch the show, just write down in one simple sentence “Why are you doing this?”

When it comes to episodic and binge-worthy content, Netflix takes the cake. However, they can do more than stream video content. Their WeAreNetflix podcast is a good example. It clearly states its why – employees talking about work and life at Netflix. And it’s quite a simple goal – to set up clear expectations and present Netflix’s organizational culture.

Think anticipation

Your theme also requires something that will make your audience crave the next content.

Ana Darstaru from Creatopy says: “The best thing a marketer should do is to identify how to keep the audience hooked, so people come back for more. Build anticipation by giving consumers a reason to look forward to and get excited about your next releases.

“You need to plan each piece of content accordingly so people will never want to miss an episode and even tell their friends about it – just like a good Netflix show. Capitalize on creating a compelling narrative that’s relevant to your audience and lets you tell a story in a memorable way.”

That’s what Creatopy does for its Drag and Drop podcast. It also releases one season at a time:

Tell stories

With your theme and hook, you can better identify the stories to tell.

Producer and writer Sylvie Lubow mostly is the current co-host of Talking Too Loud with Chris Savage – Wistia’s series exploring the wonderful world of creating content, brands, and companies – at a slightly higher volume.

“(T)here’s always a compelling narrative at the heart of their shows. We connect to each other through stories; why should it be any different for brands? … (W)hen it comes to episodic content, establishing a strong story through line creates a deeper, more dynamic connection with your audience.”

A great narrative. A compelling story. Those are the cornerstones of today’s marketing and are what Wistia’s Talking Too Loud does well:

Plan the execution

With your theme, hook, and storytelling ideas identified, it’s time to pull it all together.

“Get all of the topics for all of the episodes lined up in advance. When you know what’s coming next, you can write/record great calls to action for each episode, teasing the reader/viewer on what’s coming next,” says Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media Studio.

But don’t lock yourself into a plan. As sales expert and author David Fisher says: “The key to episodic content is to find a balance between long-term planning and short-term responsiveness. It’s too easy to fall to one side of the spectrum or the other.

“When that happens, you either have a rigid plan that can’t respond to current trends and topics or spontaneous programming that doesn’t actually support your business goals.  Creating an outline of how you want your content to be structured while leaving some flexibility in the execution is important. That way, you have a unified vision that can leverage relevant topics in the moment.”

Now, that you have your content promise of the why and what, it’s time to detail the promise on when and where. The Tilt founder and Content Inc. podcast host Joe Pulizzi says success usually depends on consistency and timing.

So set a schedule and let your audience dictate what that is – whether it’s ongoing episodic content like a weekly podcast or an eight-episode season delivered every six months. Then, deliver on that promise.

Take, for example, Simon Sinek’s relatively new podcast, A Bit of Optimism. Every week, he consistently delivers on his promise of a little bit of optimism at the same time:

Launch the episodes

As you finalize plans for your episodic content, you need to think about the launch of your series.

Videographer Chris Lavigne says, “(T)he key to a successful marketing strategy for an episodic series is all about having an awesome rock-solid launch plan.”

He says it needs to match the creative input you put into making your episodic content.

In Chris’ video series, Show Business, guest David Cancel likes to think episodic content involves 80% promotion and 20% creation. “That’s pretty extreme, but I share the same sentiment,” Chris says. “Every good episodic series all starts with having a great launch plan and that should happen right from the get-go.”

TIP: Andy Crestodina says after publishing an episode, go back and add the “next” button in previous episodes to guide the audience deeper into the content.

Episodic content itself is an amplification tool. As Rand Fishkin from SparkToro explains: “The best thing episodic content does is create fans that build and amplify a flywheel effect. “Growing the audience becomes easier with each episode, increasing the return on investment every time you publish.

“To do that, you need a phenomenal answer to one question: Who will amplify this and why? That answer will be how you get a fan base, and how that fan base will grow your creation’s reach.”

What’s next?

Episodic content is a trend from the last couple of years that more content marketers should focus on. It’s still at the core of what most good content marketing is – telling stories that resonate with your target audience. But it adds the all-important layer – episodic – to use the content itself to bring people back to consume the next piece.

Are you using episodic content in your marketing? Please share examples or talk about your experiences in the comments.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute