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Henley Business School – ‘Leading Edge’ Podcast Campaign

One of the biggest challenges for business leaders is how to inspire. The need for leadership support drove Henley’s Podcast series and resulted in phenomenal engagement.

The Challenge

This best-in-class campaign which was highly commended at the HEIST Awards and a finalist at the Higher Education Content Marketing Awards, had an impact in every continent. It further positioned Henley Business School as THE place to study and has continued to run as a brand awareness campaign since its launch over 3 years ago.

The brief

To find innovative ways to show our audience how Henley Business School was the ‘go to’ solution for tackling the leadership challenges of the 2020’s.

Our target audience was a combination of C-Suite, aspiring leaders and influencers to the board such as HR Directors.

The big challenge we identified was that the executive education sector was already flooded with competitors all trying to do the same thing. As an organisation, we wanted to stand out and lead in this sector.

The SMART objective

To raise awareness for Executive Education using the greatest asset available – Henley’s people – to showcase the innovative research, practices and methodology they had in leadership and management.

Success would be measured in the following ways:

  • A 50% increase in year-on-year organic traffic to the website compared to the 60,221 visits for the same period in 2019

Defining the campaign strategy

We brought together stakeholder groups from alumni, faculty and marketing to brainstorm Henley’s faculty research outputs and curriculum methodology.

We considered how we could frame these to bring them to life, create the biggest impact and be highly relevant to our audience. Research (source: RAJAR) showed considerable increase in ‘C-Suite’ consumption of podcasts – the medium is ideal for providing high-profile thought leadership information and delivering it efficiently during commutes and leisure time.

For our podcasts to be engaging, any leadership topics would need to tap into trending issues and offer fresh and interesting angles. To maximise audience size and ensure our series was enjoyable, thought-provoking listening, we knew we’d need specialist talent from an experienced broadcaster. As a result, we recruited BBC business journalist Thomas Mason to host Leading Edge.


Dedicated Leading Edge landing pages: https://www.henley.ac.uk/leading-edge

During planning, COVID hit and in fact delivered us an opportunity. Lockdown would mean more time at home and more time contemplating the changes leaders needed to make to their businesses. The promotional channels that we chose and teaser content we deployed reflected the growing trend large brands were adopting to provide innovative content for free.

Media and channel approach

We ran intelligent and intriguing digital creative in programmatic, remarketing and social channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter). We sponsored a package of presenter led audio teasers across both Acast and Spotify News & Politics podcasts.




All supported by email marketing to harvest interest and PPC activity to support SEA.

Throughout the campaign we utilised as many social techniques as possible to engage our audience in the platforms they use when working (LinkedIn) and in their down time (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter).

The podcasts themselves were rich pieces of content with a long lifespan. But they became the source of much more: off the back of each episode, we developed articles for use in email and long-form LinkedIn posts which smashed platform averages with 4.17% engagement vs 0.9% industry average.

We filmed the recording sessions and produced short ‘behind the scenes’ and ‘series taster’ videos, which we showcased across all our social platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook) and were seen 336,211 times in the three weeks they were promoted.

Each episode’s audiogram was successfully promoted on Twitter, with a 45.7% CTR exceeding our KPI for the channel of 10%. LinkedIn was utilised to grow ‘look-a-like’ audiences, building out from our core.

Within Twitter we even utilised UGC short poll content with posts to incite debate and encourage audience engagement prior to each new podcast release.

Campaigning after the pandemic got bigger and better, we partnered up with the FT in digital and press…

…and targeted commuter routes in OOH.

Measuring and evaluating the impact of the campaign

The campaign surpassed its primary objective of raising awareness for Executive Education. Year-on-year traffic to the main Henley Business School website increased by 65% against the target of 50% (60,221 in 2019 vs 99,617 for the same period in 2020) and 80.7% of the visits to the website during this time period were new. By the end of Series 1 there had been 11,125 visits to the Leading Edge specific landing page.

Since the podcast launched it’s had a total of 16,989 downloads across the 18 episodes, which puts it in the top 10% of new podcasts.

Henley also played up to its global credentials, reaching listeners in every continent. This infographic, taken directly from analytics behind Leading Edge shows just how far Leading Edge has spread globally in the 3 years since it started in April 2020. It’s been listened to in all continents (Purple shaded regions represent listeners). And given that we’ve only amplified it through paid media in the UK, goes to show just how well this medium can capture the audience’s attention.

All ratings on iTunes have been 5*.

The campaigning also gave us a much better understanding of the audience, what interests them and what content works well. Learnings which was fed into Series 2 and 3. Not only did Leading Edge reflect the quality of Henley externally, but it was well received by senior stakeholders internally, helping to ensure we continually had high profile academics ready to collaborate and record new episodes.

Although this was predominantly an Executive Education campaign, it has been utilised across the organisation for wider brand awareness. Subject matter continues to excite and engage our audience and Leading Edge is now a critical pillar of our brand activity with its own visual identity.

Leading Edge was highlighted in a spotlight interview with one of our podcast academics on BBC Radio Berkshire and they were also picked up by several influencers on Twitter, which further helped promote them to our audience.

It’s well known that results from brand activity are gained over the long term, however, we saw an almost immediate return. Following the campaign, Henley launched two new online programmes – Board Directors’ and High-Performance Leadership, run by Leading Edge academics. The podcast content was used to support lead generation activity. 609 registered for the three introductory webinars and we went on to exceed targets. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

To find out more on how we can help you deliver a game changing integrated campaign or want to know more about podcasting, contact nick.friend@hunterlodge.co.uk


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