What does it take to achieve podcast glory?
As with all other communication formats, the glory’s in the story, but getting an effective work-related podcast off the ground requires more than scintillating content. To start, you’ll need equipment. You’ll also need a plan. These questions are crucial:
- Who is your target audience? Do you want to reach all your colleagues, or just a certain group?
- What types of formats and segments do you plan on recording?
- What sorts of content will you cover?
- How will you promote your podcast—internally and externally?
- If it’s strictly an internal podcast, how do you plan to secure leaders’ buy-in?
- What kind of ROI do you anticipate, and which metrics will you prioritize?
Creating a new podcast is no small commitment. For some, the best podcast strategy might be to appear on more-established programs.
Starting a podcast for work—either external or internal—can be a powerful way to communicate, but it’s a commitment. Anyone who says doing a podcast is easy has either never done one or never done it well.
Often you can get much better return on investment being a guest on other established shows.
Schwab emphasizes that guests must merely “perform,” whereas the podcast host handles the recording, editing and promotion. There’s also the potential of reaching a larger audience.
Schwab points to data presented in the 2017 State of Podcast Interviews Study—which surveyed more than 10,000 podcasters, guests and marketers—and showed that podcast interviews yielded the “highest ROI of any marketing channel.” (Facebook ads and email marketing ranked second and third, respectively.)
Go for podcast launch
The key when you first launch a podcast is to start building awareness before your first episode. You can use teasers about the launch date, and also include images of upcoming guests. Reach out to potential promotional partners to see if they can help you spread word about the podcast.
Production and audio quality are important, but they should not be a hindrance to getting started. Shows often evolve over time in terms of the quality and the format. Investing in a decent starter microphone can be as little as $50.
One of the most underused promotional methods of podcasts is to treat it like a TV show. Take a cue from how companies like Netflix promote upcoming season premieres and episodes. They use clips, get fan reactions, and make bite-sized content pieces from each episode. With your podcast, create similar content such as videos that are animated text from a quotable moment, graphics that highlight the topic, or an image with a review from a listener.
- Assemble a “pod squad” of people with varied strengths and expertise. You’ll need someone with expertise in IT to set up the hardware, a marketing person to design the format and messaging of the show, and a PR pro to help promote it.
- Use high-quality equipment to record your voices. I recommend a Yeti microphone, pop-filter and headphones. We use Skype to connect with remote guests, and we use Audacity to record and edit.
- When you’re trying to get co-worker buy-in, seek their input for things like logo design and intro sounds.
- Seek guests you have access to. We tapped into our own clients with niche expertise as guests. Prior to interviewing, we researched trending and relevant topics for discussion and tested the equipment. (We work in an office, not a soundproof room, so we minimized sound by letting colleagues know there was a recording session in progress.)
- When it comes to editing your sessions, teach everyone on your pod squad how to use the software. Podcasts are not a one man/woman show, and it could be the difference between launching the show in one month versus three.
- Invest in Ian Robinson’s Udemy podcasting course.
‘Don’t chase the shiny object’
Just like you’d unveil any other initiative, you have to undertake a marketing campaign. Is it going to be just one more channel? What’s in it for them?
Before launching anything, Holtz suggests crystalizing what you hope to accomplish:
Is your goal to get them to adopt new behavior? What’s the purpose? Is it strictly entertaining, or feature-oriented? Is it to reinforce your values? Do you want to offer how-tos? Is it for convincing people, or a vehicle to organizational changes? Is it for news or to supplement company news?
If you’re not sure where to start, Holtz offers a few beacons. Try interviewing interesting, gregarious people in the company. Let them tell their stories and share about the work they do.
Holtz points to Pepsi, which aired podcast episodes featuring executives candidly answering employee-submitted questions. Holtz referenced Quaker Oats, as well, which used podcasts to inform employees in the lead-up to the launch of its “30-day Oatmeal Challenge” campaign. Quaker Oats aired an interview with their chief nutritionist to reinforce the science underpinning the initiative.
Podcast format and content is another key issue. What should you talk about? Holtz says “fast-paced news roundups” are a reliable option. As for time, he recommends shooting for a sweet spot of 10–12 minutes—possibly even shorter. Don’t ask too much of employees.
However, the world is your audio oyster here. Give the people what they want. You can use your program to explain upcoming marketing and advertising campaigns. It can be a platform to convey company benefits, announce staff events, discuss industry trends—or just be an uplifting forum to boost morale. Whatever you do, just make sure you nail down a core purpose. As Holtz says:
Don’t just chase the shiny object; use podcasting when it serves you. Then promote it.
Here are more podcast tips from Holtz:
- Hosting and distribution can be a challenge. You can either pay for an account or host it on a server and pay data costs. Libsyn.com is designed to host podcast files.
- Make sure your files are optimized for mobile.
- For internal marketing, use whatever channels you have access to. If you have digital signage, use that. If you have an intranet, use prime real estate for podcast promotion. Link to the podcast in your newsletter.
- When you launch the podcast, view it as a marketing campaign. How do you market your new benefits or intranet? Build excitement and awareness.
- Try to tell stories that reinforce your company culture and values. Talk about employees doing interesting things.
- What kills engagement is when leaders don’t walk the talk they tout. Try to get company leaders to participate in the podcast and show a more human side.
- Audio quality is crucial. Invest in a good microphone. If you’re interviewing in the field, you need something sturdy. Audacity is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
- Your audio files should be MP3s. All files should have relevant tags.
- Consider building a simple podcast website to house and explain your work.
- To build your case for podcast investment, Edison research shows the worth of podcasting.
- Podcasting is gaining in popularity. It’s a chance to reach employees you’re not reaching now. Holtz says: “Podcasting is intimate; it’s a one-to-one connection.”
- Podcasting is a low-cost investment, compared with video.
- To gauge whether a podcast is worthwhile, you must measure metrics. Find out how many people are listening to it. Don’t expect too much, though. Holtz says: “Podcasts won’t be the primary communication channel, but if you’re getting 20 to 30 percent listening, that’s compelling stuff. Ask: Do people take action? Does it change opinions and behaviors? Find out if people are doing something because of listening.”