UPS podcast explores the future of trade, tech, logistics

Seeking to grab decision makers on the commute to work, two UPS communicators interview experts—and go beyond the delivery trucks to showcase their organization.

UPS podcast Longitudes

Dual hosts James Rowe (left) and Brian Hughes give UPS’ Longitudes Radio podcast a conversational tone. Photo by Mason Beckman.

You might think of UPS only as the person buzzing your doorbell to get a signature on a fruitcake from your grandma.

But UPS is using a podcast on its Longitudes blog to offer expertise far beyond home delivery, looking at areas as futuristic as blockchain, artificial intelligence and cities of the future.

“When people think of UPS, a lot of times they think of delivery drivers in brown shorts,” says Brian Hughes, managing editor of Longitudes  and cohost of the Longitudes Radio podcast. “They’re great, and we love them, but there’s so much beyond that that’s going on here that people might not realize.”

The podcast looks at the future of technology, global trade, sustainability and logistics. Since it started last fall, the podcast has been hosted by Hughes and Longitudes creative director James Rowe, both of whom are members of the executive communications team at UPS. Its guests include not only UPS people, but outside authors and industry experts.

Longitudes is UPS’ corporate thought leadership blog, and the podcast was added an attempt to reach audiences beyond the more static medium of digital text. “We wanted to add a little bit of energy to it with personality and characters,” Rowe says.

Getting them on their way to work

Hughes and Rowe try to add levity to the podcast to make it fun and engaging, and the podcast gives them a chance to be with audiences for a longer time. The goal is for interested listeners to get notifications through iTunes or the podcast app Stitcher so they’ll know when a new podcast is published. (Hughes and Rowe initially produced Longitudes Radio weekly, but now that more people know about the podcast, the shows appear roughly once a month.)

“The strategy is to try to get to people before they get to their inbox at work and give them something for the commute in to work,” Hughes says.

Most recently, the podcast interviewed business expert Gene Marks for a discussion pegged to National Small Business Week about how small enterprises can grow. In another, the two interviewed TED Institute editorial director and curator Bryn Freedman on the topic, “What Makes a Good Public Speaker?

That episode grew out of a TED event UPS hosts every year. Freedman offered advice on overcoming the fear of public speaking. Think of your talk is a gift to the world, she says, not as something you do it for your own benefit.

“If you think of your talk as a gift,” she says, “then you stop thinking about it as, ‘How do I look?’ and more about, ‘How do I help this audience? How do I help people understand what I’m saying? How do I communicate it in a clear way?’”

The episode was popular because it covered a topic “universally appealing to all of us, whether you’re just doing PowerPoints or whether you’re going out on a big stage and trying to win over audience,” Hughes says.

City of ‘The Jetsons’?

In a three-part series, the podcast looked at planning cities of the future.

In the first, a vice president and senior analyst at GreenBiz Group discussed the business challenges tied to urbanization. In part two, the director of the MIT Megacity Logistics Lab considered “the most exciting innovations surrounding city delivery.” Part three offered ideas on how businesses can help curb congestion.

The podcasts pull in listeners UPS wouldn’t typically reach through the usual sales funnels. They have won an eclectic audience of city mayors and planners, directors of logistics and even professors.

“We’re getting to the people that won’t speed-dial UPS,” Rowe says. “Maybe it’s a professor at MIT, and they’re not thinking of us as a service, but if they see something that we’re talking about that really strikes their interest, that really starts to forge a relationship that might go somewhere.”

In terms of return on investment, Longitudes Radio’s goal is broader than just making sales. The objective is to get the right kind of executive-suite listeners, who might turn to UPS for logistics solutions.

“If we can change perception about what we’re doing and the problems we’re solving,” Hughes says, “and get people to re-analyze what it is that UPS is doing every day, I think that is successful.”

Listeners have said they were pleasantly surprised that rather than “trying to get people to drink the brown Kool-Aid,” the podcasts are offering perspectives on how to solve problems for multiple industries, Hughes adds.

One thing that fuels the effort is the realization that audiences seem to find podcasts relevant longer than print stories, which quickly grow stale.

“The podcasts seem to have a longer tail,” Hughes says. “So it doesn’t necessarily just spike and go down. It’s continuous and more sustainable.”

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