There’s no question that podcasting has exploded in popularity. Publications like Adweek, Forbes and others have been touting some impressive stats. Friends and colleagues mention their favourite shows – from politics to comedy to PR to history. And I’m seeing an upward tick in interest among my clients.
Since 2005 I’ve helped many organizations, from small nonprofits to large global corporations, launch podcasts for both internal and external audiences. In this post, I’d like to outline the ins and outs of organizational podcasting.
This information is not geared towards hobbyists or those who want to produce a podcast as a quick way to make money. Good luck with that, by the way!
The benefits of podcasting
In my experience, podcasts work nicely with other communications materials. Based on my clients’ successes, I’m convinced that audio content, including podcasts, can help businesses to demonstrate value, cultivate relationships and gain new clients. In the B2B world, a podcast can allow you to shorten the sales cycle, because your prospect already has a feel for who you are and what your company or product or service can do.
I can’t tell you how many times someone has met me at a conference or phoned me and said, “Because I’ve heard your voice on your podcast, I feel that we already know each other!” The conversation usually continues from there and we find a way to work together.
A podcast rarely succeeds alone. In fact, this medium plays along quite well with your blog, case studies, white papers and other marketing collateral, adding the warmth of the human voice to the mix.
Over the years, I’ve worked on several projects where we produced written case studies based on interviews with my clients’ subject-matter experts and their customers. In addition to the traditional written case studies, we published podcasts of the interviews, which dove deeper than the print material. Listening to the customers engage verbally with the experts gave the clients’ prospective customers a higher level of confidence in the solution being offered.
In a nutshell, people like podcasts because they are portable, and can be listened to whenever it’s convenient. From the podcast producers’ point of view, podcasts offer many benefits, including:
- The relatively low cost to create a podcast
- Adding value to existing corporate and marketing comms
- Building relationships with listeners through the “intimacy of the earbuds”
- Boosting search-engine rankings (when combined with written show notes)
- The ability to subscribe to your podcast, which means listeners are saying: “Send me more content!”
Begin with the basics
As with any communications project, you need to have a clear purpose and measurable objectives for your podcast. What problem are you solving? Which audience are you trying to reach? For many of my clients, the addition of a podcast to the communications mix adds the human touch of audio to the other ways in which they reach out to clients, prospects or employees. They’re not going to curtail their articles, blog posts, newsletters or videos; they’re adding a podcast.
Decide on in-house or hire an expert
Clients usually approach me because either they don’t have in-house expertise to produce a podcast, or they have technical expertise (audio editing, for example), but they don’t know how to actually start a podcast.
Let’s unpack this. A consultant can advise on how to plan, produce and promote your podcast. In some cases, I guide clients through the initial phases, and they take over production themselves. One client wanted to learn how to podcast, but in the end decided to record their own audio, but outsource the editing. After listening to advice about gear, along with a few recording lessons, they were in good shape, and have continued to record a monthly podcast for their employees, while outsourcing the chore of editing, mixing and production.
Be careful if you have a person on your staff with technical expertise but no experience with podcasts. Just as a copy of Microsoft Word doesn’t make you a writer, a license for Adobe Audition CC doesn’t make you a podcaster.
Plan the first six to 10 episodes in advance
Create an editorial calendar geared towards your objectives. Choose your guests wisely; make sure they speak well. Sometimes the biggest subject matter expert is not the best talker.
As you plan your podcast, be sure to listen to others’ podcasts. Discover what you like and don’t like. Keep in mind that you don’t have the budget of This American Life or S-Town.
An idea for you: The limited series
Let me let you in on a little secret. Often an organization will like the idea of podcasting, but they’re hesitant to commit to producing a weekly or even a monthly show. I suggest they launch a limited series, usually six or 10 podcast episodes. To the organization, it’s a pilot project, but to listeners, it’s a series of podcasts on a particular topic.
In my experience, after a successful limited series, the organization usually launches another series, or decides to produce a podcast on a regular basis in the future.
Deliver what you promised
If you say your podcast will present interesting interviews, be sure you’re not boring people to tears. If you describe your podcast as being published every Monday morning, stick to the schedule. It’s all right to recalibrate your podcast as long as you keep your listeners informed.
What about an internal podcast?
We don’t hear about internal podcasts often, because they’re usually consumed only by employees or association members and hidden behind a firewall and. Organizations as diverse as IBM, Disney and Whirlpool are purported to be producing employee podcasts. I can’t tell you about their podcasts, but I can share what I’ve learned by producing many internally focused podcast series for my own clients. Read my post on this topic for more information.