Podcasts attract loyal audiences

Learn how others have adopted podcasting and learn how you too can be a podcaster, too. Video

Learn how others have adopted podcasting and how you too can be a podcaster, too

What do government agencies, killer whales and mommies all have in common? Why, social media, of course.

Paul Vogelzang, senior vice president of persuasive technologies at the Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm Porter Novelli, has made the use of social media tools a Web content must for all three.

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Take this example from Vogelzang: When the popular killer whale Shamu decided he’d had enough with life in captivity and attacked his trainer, Sea World learned the meaning of viral video. David Letterman lampooned the 2006 incident on his late-night talk show, and the segment became the most watched video on YouTube that week. But instead of becoming a PR nightmare, Sea World used the opportunity to get its feet wet in social media.

Fortunately, the trainer wasn’t hurt in the incident. But Vogelzang says it could have been worse for his company’s client. “A video like this airing on YouTube might have seriously soured Sea World’s image in its community,” says Vogelzang, who spoke about the incident to a group of communicators at Ragan’s Social Media Revolution Conference. As a means for Busch Gardens/Sea World to respond to any future PR gaffes, Vogelzang and his team created BG Blast, a podcast for theme park patrons. “Should a video like this surface, and should a conversation like this begin, there is an automatic response team in place,” he says. “Sea World didn’t have a venue for a blog or response to this video and no forum to respond to the outcry. They do now. This is a pre-emptive way to jump into the conversation.” From top-down to side-to-side The work Vogelzang is doing with Porter Novelli is part of a larger trend of corporate Web sites offering ways for consumers to engage in dialogue with the brands they’re consuming. Information used to reach the consumer using a top-down approach, with companies deciding what message they wanted to send to consumers. That paradigm has shifted—big time. Increasingly, the Web is becoming a place for companies to foster discussion among its customers.

Social media expert Steve Crescenzo explains what makes podcasts interesting, and why they don’t have to be perfect.

Prior to Porter Novelli, Vogelzang worked as a communicator in the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The department had one simple, yet extremely important message to get across to the American public: There’s a lot of debt in this country. Officials were worried that if people weren’t aware of the problem, then they wouldn’t be interested in purchasing the debt through treasury auctions. That’s where Vogelzang stepped in and suggested the implementation of social media tools to get the word out. Though the department was reluctant at first, it eventually acquiesced, and Vogelzang began running podcasts of the Treasury Secretary’s speeches, which were recorded using a $20 recording device attached to an iPod. These podcasts were posted to the department’s Web site and became an educational tool for its users. And a little something for mommies too As Vogelzang was beginning to change the Treasury Department’s view of social media, his wife, Gretchen, suggested they start a podcast of their own. She had a great idea for one. As a mother of two young children, Gretchen Vogelzang, with Paul as the producer, decided to launch MommyCast. The site is generally regarded among the first social media sites geared specifically to mothers. In 2007, the site won a Webby award as the top family and parenting site on the Web. The most interesting aspect of MommyCast from a Web content perspective is the site’s relationship with the Dixie company, makers of a wide variety of disposable cups and plates. The company wanted to join the conversation and connect with their main target audience: mothers. In MommyCast, Dixie saw a built-in audience they were trying to reach and a great opportunity. Now, when you visit the Dixie Web site, MommyCast is prominently displayed. Further, any time MommyCast receives press coverage, Dixie is mentioned. Dixie gets the nontraditional benefits of being part of a viral Web site. As Vogelzang explains, “Think of it in a broad way: You get traditional PR benefits when you get these sort of new media benefits. One really begets the other.”

Rules of the Road

Considering using podcasts internally to communicate with employees? Follow these tips from social media expert Steve Crescenzo.

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