Why and how you should use podcasting—externally and internally

This audio channel is ideal for connecting with on-the-go consumers and hard-to-reach employees. Learn the reasons and ways you can get started with a few simple steps.

Podcasting is not just red hot; it’s here to stay.

Twenty percent of Americans are regular podcast listeners, which mirrors the 20 percent of spoken-word audio content that Americans consume. (Eighty percent of the audio that Americans consume is music.)

The growth of podcasting has been steady for over a decade, and it shows no signs of abating. Money is pouring into podcasting in a number of ways. Mainstream media outlets are investing in it. Advertising networks are popping up. Sponsor dollars are pouring in. (Podcast advertising commands higher fees than other forms of online advertising.)

Despite this, few businesses are podcasting.

A friend who does business presentations for communication audiences told me he has been asking for a show of hands: Who listens to podcasts? Nearly everyone in the room raises his or her hand. When he asks whose company is producing a podcast, nobody raises a hand.

Why the reluctance for businesses to jump on the podcasting bandwagon? I suspect there are four reasons:

  • Businesses don’t know how to use audio. Outside of radio advertising, most businesses have done little with audio as a communication medium. When planning communication, audio just doesn’t leap to mind.
  • There’s a perception that it’s still just a hobby. For those who don’t listen to podcasts or follow the medium, podcasting is still perceived as a bunch of amateur shows produced by hobbyists in their homes.
  • Nobody has conceived a use case. Podcasting may be interesting, but communicators and marketers haven’t figured out how they could use a podcast in pursuit of their objectives.
  • They’ve been there, done that. Several businesses, from Westinghouse to Speedo, tried podcasting in its early days, producing great content that didn’t deliver the results they had hoped for.
  • Bonus: Employee communications. Two obstacles have prevented internal communicators from pursuing podcasting (in addition to those listed above). Though content isn’t a problem—most internal communicators have good ideas for employee-focused podcasts—concerns about the time and cost of production, coupled with confusion over how to distribute an internal-only podcast, have held them back.

The mainstreaming of podcasting should elevate it to the first tier of media available for communicating with stakeholders. In addition to the variety of benefits podcasting offers, it’s just as important to consider whether your competitors are beating you to the punch.

Developing this vital channel

As the means of distributing audio grow more sophisticated, the definition of podcasting is evolving. Ultimately, it’s best defined as nothing more complicated than a spoken-word show. The only question, really, is whether you can produce a show that your audience wants to listen to.

GE did. It produced a science fiction series that incorporated elements of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math), part of an effort to inspire young people to pursue those subjects to fill the pipeline of future GE employees. It was a hit, downloaded more than 5 million times.

GE isn’t alone. eBay is podcasting with “Open for Business,” a podcast about the various aspects of starting a business. Collaborative software company Slack podcasts in support of its employer brand. Prudential, Umpqua Bank, Netflix and dozens of other companies are recognizing that the 46 million Americans who listen to an average of six podcasts a week (according to Edison Research) are worth reaching.

They also understand that one of podcasting’s great strengths is its ability to attract a niche audience.

Prudential’s podcast, for example, is “40/40 Vision,” exploring what it means to be 40 or older. Umpqua Bank’s “Open Account” addresses financial literacy. The first three episodes were downloaded 70,000 times. Although those aren’t Sunday Night Football numbers, they do represent significant reach to a target audience for relatively little effort.

How you can ride the podcasting wave

To help communicators get up to speed quickly on podcasting, I’m presenting a daylong workshop for Ragan Communications in Chicago on Wednesday, Oct. 26.

The “Podcasting Bootcamp for Communicators” will cover creating an attention-grabbing concept, planning a podcast, and the nuts and bolts of recording, producing and marketing a show.

My goal is for attendees to leave the workshop ready to tackle podcasting and deliver results that will have company leaders sitting up and taking notice.

We’ll even produce a complete podcast, from soup to nuts, during the session just to demonstrate how unintimidating the fundamentals are.

I hope you’ll join me so you won’t miss the boat as podcasting continues to surge—and so you won’t let your competitors get the upper hand.

Register here: http://bit.ly/2bMRySP

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