My client for this case study was a financial data company that was once part of a well-known two-hundred-year-old financial institution. Today, the company makes $6 billion in revenue and has over 10,000 employees worldwide.
I was hired for this project because the company had just created a new ESG product that they wanted to promote. ESG data (environmental, social, and governance data) is a metric for measuring intangible assets. It is currently very popular, so my client developed their very own cutting-edge ESG-related product.
Although they are a large institution, they still needed to do some major legwork to raise brand awareness because many of their smaller competitors had been providing ESG-related products for longer.
A small budget was allocated to create some evergreen content on the subject and with some strong expertise behind us, we set out to create an informative podcast that would help my client become a thought leader in this space. Big companies like this often struggle to do things quickly and efficiently, so we tried to keep our team small.
I was a particularly good fit for this project because I’ve mostly worked with startups — places, where things are fast-moving, conditions change all the time, and your budget tends to be minuscule.
For step one, we planned our podcast. There aren’t too many in this space, which made it easier for us to establish ourselves as an authority.
We decided that, for every episode, we would invite an industry expert to speak on topics connected to ESG. I found some speakers on LinkedIn, and I read lots of industry articles to find other suitable candidates. Consistent quality was the key to our success.
It would have been easy to use in-house experts for this, but we are a big company and our people are very busy. While finding outside influencers was tricky initially, once we started to gain traction, we built a strong network of partnerships.
Podcasts come with their own unique set of challenges. For one, there simply aren’t that many channels you can promote them on. Spotify and Apple Music are the main two. To make matters worse, Apple doesn’t allow for much optimization. With all this in mind, getting people to actually listen, especially when a podcast belongs to a small niche, is a big deal.
Creating the actual content itself turned out to be quite easy; we planned our topics and made sure we had quality speakers. We mostly focused on writing the interview script, because the actual expertise was coming from our guests. This made each episode sound more genuine and more natural than it would have done if we had scripted whole episodes.
Posting content regularly was also important. As with other social media platforms, you need to be consistently active.
It only took a few months for us to start reaping benefits from the podcast. We soon had 4000-5000 plays a month. People began to approach us to speak, rather than vice versa. In a sense, we had already achieved our original goal at this point because we were attracting our target audience.
We shifted our focus from raising awareness to identifying clients we wanted to talk to. The podcast enabled us to build relationships with important people in the industry, including the chief investment officers of big companies.
These relationships were very important to my client because their product was complicated, their sales cycles were long, and it was never easy for them to convert leads into sales.
Next, we decided to push the project a step further. By this point, we had an entire community surrounding the podcast that we could leverage, so I reached out to 15 of our top contacts and asked them to come up with an ESG trend that they thought would dominate the industry in 2020.
Our copywriter then took this information and transformed it into a 2020 ESG playbook — roughly 100 pages in length. We only spent around $5k on this project and it has since generated over $400k in revenue.
The genuine relationships we established with our podcast influencers turned out to be invaluable — and after creating the playbook our relationship with them only strengthened.
Our podcast is still running and the playbook we created stayed evergreen for a year, which was fantastic.
After Covid changed a few things we created a second edition of our playbook, with updated content. We gained the same sorts of benefits from the second book that we did from the first — including new relationships and major leads. The company now has the most valuable network of connections in the industry.
The playbook is fast becoming a valuable tradition. Once a year from now on, my client will be the ones defining upcoming trends in ESG.
With a budget of about $5,000, we generated over $400k dollars. The podcast itself reached 5,000 plays a month, which is really high number for a niche subject, and the podcast webpage reached 200k views while I was still working with the client.
The ESG playbook is now a regular publication that creates a concrete pipeline of leads, in addition to supporting brand awareness. Our podcast and playbook have cemented my client as a market and thought leader in the ESG space. Influencers in ESG now regularly approach my client, asking to be part of the project. As a result the company now has a vast bank of content and relationship resources they can use for future campaigns and projects.
In a big company, it’s too easy to start a project with the hope that somebody else will pick it up when things get tricky, but I don’t work like that. I've learned from my time working in startups how to take ownership of a project and do a lot with very little. While others would probably just have written a white paper and left it at that, I came in with a fresh perspective.