Envoy is trying to change the way reception rooms work. It enables visitors to enter contact information, sign documents, and capture their photos from an iPad. Envoy then automatically prints badges and notifies people that their visitors have arrived. The San Francisco-based company names Yelp, Pandora, and Lyft among its customers.
Content marketing is hot, but many companies find that actually producing quality content on a regular basis takes too much time. Similar to those companies, Envoy wanted to give back to its customers by creating engaging, useful content in the form a podcast, but the small 37-person team didn’t have the resources to spare for in-depth content marketing efforts.
Vendors of Choice: Pacific Content
Pacific Content has a very simple focus: It makes branded podcasts. Despite its deceptively simple concept, it was named one of Entrepreneur’s 100 Brilliant Companies of 2016. Pacific Content produces podcasts for businesses such as Slack and Spotify.
The Problem In-Depth
According to Convince and Convert, podcast popularity is on the rise—which you probably already knew, just by the number of people you know who can’t stop talking about their new favorite podcast. The statistics bear this out. Listenership grew 23% between 2015 and 2016. Slightly more than 20% of Americans older than 12 have listened to a podcast in the last month, according to Convince and Convert (which is roughly the same percentage of the population that uses Twitter). We can all thank Sarah Koenig and the Serial team for putting podcasts front and center in the minds of many tech-savvy consumers. Even former President Barack Obama knows that if you want to have an in-depth, free-form conversation that truly engages people, you need to stop by Marc Maron’s garage to record an episode of WTF. And in recent years, companies are catching on to the potential this personal format holds when it comes to content marketing.
Envoy is one of those companies. Larry Gadea, CEO of Envoy, sees his company as a bit of a disruptor, transforming the way we see waiting rooms and check-in. He knew he wanted to tell the stories of other companies that are turning the workplace on its head—and Gadea thought a podcast just might be the best way to do that. “I love taking technologies and leveraging them in the most powerful way,” he says.
“The office place doesn’t have to be this thing you’re used to,” Gadea says, and he wanted to show the world how the office place is changing. Beyond that, Envoy was also looking to employ some of the principles that are core to content marketing. “We wanted to create something extra that’s not 100% linked to our company,” he adds. “We wanted to create original content that people would find useful.”
With that in mind, Gadea wanted to explore this notion: “Whatever makes a company unique is the thing that will make it successful.”
Envoy had recently raised money through Andreessen Horowitz, which gave it access to all the other companies in the Andreessen Horowitz portfolio, including Slack. Gadea turned to a mentor at Slack, asking, “What’s the one secret they don’t want you to know about marketing?” His answer: the podcast.
But creating podcasts isn’t as easy as it sounds. In fact, according to Ascend2’s “2016 State of Content Marketing” report, videos and podcasts are the toughest content to produce. So Envoy needed some help. Luckily, Pacific Content is devoted to helping brands create just this kind of content.
Pacific Content is made up of media veterans who saw the emerging power of podcasts and created a company based on helping brands tell their stories through this growing medium. Steve Pratt, director of Pacific Content, says that his team would normally work up a content strategy to match the brand, but Gadea and the Envoy team had a nearly fully formed idea from the start. “He had this percolating, and we were like, ‘This is genius,’” says Pratt. Thus, Office Hacks was born.
But we’ve probably all found ourselves with an idea for a podcast before. The hard part is implementation. That’s where Pacific Content comes in. Pratt explains the process this way: “We have about 3,000 active customers. I would love to visit every one of them, but that’s not super practical. … What we do is ask them if they have something they would like to highlight, and we pick the most interesting [story ideas].” The Pacific team takes it from there. In the case of Office Hacks, that means sending someone to the offices in question to record audio—and attempt to describe some often very visual ideas to the audience.
Take, for instance, the secret room in the middle of Weebly’s office. Someone from Envoy was visiting Weebly and noticed this unusual space—which is only revealed if you remove The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy from a shelf. He told Pacific Content about the room, and soon someone was on the scene, recording a podcast episode.
You might think finding these kinds of interesting office eccentricities would be tough, but you’d be wrong. Whether it’s the ball pit in Mozilla’s office or the stuffed goat in the middle of Mode Analytics’ office, it seems that there is no end to quirky office hacks to talk about.
Pratt says Pacific Content arranges interviews with someone involved in the project and usually spends about 1.5 hours conducting interviews and taking pictures. The team eventually returns to the Pacific office to edit the episode. From there, the episodes are made available through all the apps podcast consumers are used to, such as iTunes, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.
“Scheduling [the podcast interviews] can be tough and takes up a lot of time, it’s not something that magically happens,” says Gadea. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.” Of course, that’s exactly why Envoy is outsourcing the work to podcasting professionals at Pacific Content.
“We make a specific effort not to brand it as Envoy. We say the name twice, but don’t push any messaging on you,” says Gadea. “It’s supposed to be fun … not a secret marketing thing.” That being said, Pratt points to concrete numbers that suggest the effort is worth it for Envoy.
When I spoke to Envoy and Pacific Content, there were 24 Office Hacks episodes, which accounted for about 1.4 million downloads. They also reported 50 five- star ratings on iTunes. Pratt adds, “Even though it’s not an explicit marketing tool … people will get that Envoy is about hacking the office to make it a better place.”
Gadea backs this up. “It’s definitely a fun thing, but there is actual impact,” he says. He reports that people will create an account at Envoy and then submit a support ticket—but they will also tell the folks at Envoy that they heard about the company on the podcast. “They’ll email us about getting a T-shirt,” Gadea adds. But what Pratt says podcasts are best at doing is helping build relationships that wouldn’t otherwise exist.