Podcasts are pure sound; a total listening experience. It’s a medium that can be theater of the mind using voice, rhythm, sound design, ideas. Podcasts are a sonic tapestry: conversations, interviews, music, messages. Podcasts are very different from text, info graphics, photos, surveys, blogs, white papers, articles, videos, CDs, vinyl records and commercial radio.
After twenty years as a composer producer for radio, TV and Film, and then as a ten year veteran podcast producer and host, I ask: what is it really that makes podcasting different from other types of online media platforms? How is podcasting unique in its capacity to build brands and drive business growth? What factors make a podcast successful?
Let’s first explore what a podcast is and what promise it holds when it comes to measurably building your brand and your business.
What is a Podcast?
The word “podcast” is a hybrid word formed by combining “iPod” and “broadcast”. I like to think that podcasts are the natural technological evolution of traditional ‘old school’ radio broadcasting. There are some similarities between terrestrial radio and internet podcasting but many differences.
At the most basic level, a podcast is an audio file that is created by anyone and then distributed on the Internet.
The most salient feature of podcasting is its ability to deliver media messages over the internet without broadcast schedule or distribution constraints. The listener chooses when and where to tune in. And the podcaster can potentially scale their distribution and audience size as far as the Internet will allow.
More than a mere audio file, a podcast series creates focused, habitual listening experience that we design for our audience. There are a range of creative forms a podcast series can take. Underlying the ability to attract audience is the production quality and the value delivered with the message.
To podcast or not to podcast.
While there’s a robust and fast growing online culture of podcast producers and consumers (aka prosumers), the reason podcasters podcast varies widely. Some podcasters produce podcasts as an end in-and-of -itself. They may or may not directly monetize their show, but it is the end product. In this instance, the purpose of the podcast is to spread knowledge, entertainment, news, information, experience, stories, or just have fun with original content.
At the same time, many professionals create podcasts to help grow their businesses and build their visibility to attract new followers. They podcast to expand brand awareness, establish market position, build both ‘social authority’ and professional credibility. Our company helps business professionals who wish to podcast consultation on the form of a podcast; or how best we might shape it in order to achieve stated business objectives. Together we design the show format and platform, and develop a distribution strategy that is transparent and where the effects are clearly measurable. The objective: To co-create an original podcast as a key element of a company’s total digital marketing plan.
What are some of the unique benefits of Podcasting as differentiated from other digital marketing platforms?
Positioning. Podcasting is powerful because you get to create a sustained, unique listening experience for your audience. That experience is an entire universe that you create; a venue, a platform, a narrative, all designed to condition your audience about how to think of your brand, and how to communicate it effectively to others. An important effect of podcasting is the formation of a sustained, durable relationship with your listeners through repeating, habitual, subscribed listening.
Comfort, Familiarity and Trust. People do business with people who they know, like and trust. In the digital world, we are persistently connected but often not speaking to each other nearly enough to establish heartfelt, human, emotional connections. Ah – enter, the human voice!
Unlike a blog, article or white paper, with the sound of your voice you have a unique opportunity to develop a close, trusting relationship with your audience.
The sound, the color, the rhythm, the nuance, the tone and value of your voice is uniquely yours. It projects the WHO behind your business. As the face of your brand and the host of your podcast, there’s simply nothing like the sound of your voice to convey the authentic you. As a product and service provider, and as a brand, you want your customers and clients to know you. Through the repeated listening of your show over time, your audience will build more and more comfort, familiarity and trust as get to know you better and better. And this leads to deeper connection and sustained relationships with your clients and customers, which can drive business growth.
Credibility and Authority. There is something magical that happens for those that host a podcast or radio show. With you behind the microphone, somehow, automatically, your credibility is assumed. It’s a celebrity factor, perhaps created from our collective experience from generations listening and watching traditional radio and TV broadcast hosts. Today, along with the world of democratized publishing comes the ability to celebritize any podcaster or radio show host.
Scale. I’ve worked with many professional consultants over the years who have been looking to find a way to effectively transform their current one-to-one “practice” into a scalable business, aka “one-to-many”. As a communications platform, Podcasting is naturally a one-to-many solution. It scales the messaging in a way that much less expensive than traditional advertising, much more robust in content, and is directly measurable. For those looking to scale their professional services, podcasting is a powerful way to boost lead generation and conversion by creating specified landing pages and text links in the show notes of each episode. Scaling the messaging can scale the business.
Invitation. One of the fascinating side effects of hosting your own interview show is that you get to invite clients, prospects, experts, authors, speakers, thought leaders, fascinating people, celebs… whoever – to be on YOUR show. Not only does the act of extending this invitation connect you to new and amazing influencers, but it gives you “air time” with them on your show to co-create engaging conversations. It’s a very powerful connectivity tool. And, every guest you bring on your show will surely promote the segment to their own universe online, generating more scale and viral promotion!
Intimacy. Like radio, podcasting is essentially an intimate listening experience. Unlike public speaking where you have a proverbial roomful of people, podcasting connects you and your microphone to one listener at a time. While many frame “broadcasting” as mass communication, in fact, it’s a very intimate and direct form of communication.
Think of your microphone is each and every person’s ear.
You are right there with them, communicating directly to them with every show you do. And let’s not forget that the hosting itself is a fantastic platform to improve your own speaking chops. It helps you learn how to improvise, get the flow, how to ask great questions and co-create a compelling conversation. And the more you do it, the better you get at communicating your brand, and helping your listeners understand you, who you are, how you work and what you really care about.
Distribution. The podcast distribution ecosystem is beautifully engineered to distribute your content on the internet. With RSS feeds, each new show gets distributed right after it’s published, to multiple destinations automatically, including iTunes, Blog Talk Radio, Stitcher, Google Play, YouTube and many others. And, because podcast content is easily accessible via mobile devices, it fits squarely into the “hyper-local” idea… this is the way most listeners consume. Where they want and when they want.
Control. When you appear on a radio show, TV show or podcast as a guest, it’s great exposure for you and your brand. But when you are the host of your OWN show, you are in control of your content and messaging. When I work with podcasters, we co-create a show format that suits your brand, your personality, your content. With you as the host in the proverbial driver seat, you control the show, the message, the interview, the pace and the entire listener experience. In effect, you, the podcaster, become your own media “company”. At the heart of podcasting is this ability to control the content, the message, the distribution and the listener experience. And these production and distribution efficiencies translate to marketing dollars saved.
Connection. Above all, podcasting is a way for you to connect to your market. The idea of connecting regularly while making your podcast a habit for your audience is key to success in your content marketing (aka connection) strategy. While content quality is certainly a factor, the true measure is the success of your podcast is the quality of connection you achieve with your audience. In fact, sometimes “too much” production can cause listeners feel like your show isn’t authentic, isn’t connecting in a real, human way. The quality and quantity of connection, it turns out, is more important than the production value. In practice this means, produce shows often, deliver them regularly, and with a predictable level of quality. Make your podcast a habit for your listeners.
Conversion. In business, it’s critical to quantify the investments you make in content marketing. As a core content strategy, podcasts can be engineered to drive lead generation and ultimately… customer conversion. URLs for landing pages can be mentioned on the audio podcast. They can also be included in the show notes for each episode. Or, you can create a promo code to identify that visitors came from the podcast listening experience. If you deliver the podcast from your website, you can create gateways for listeners and acquire more names and emails for remarketing.
Summary. Think of podcasting as the “voice” of your business. It helps your market and audience get to know you over time, building trust loyalty, and familiarity.
Podcasting is a natural extension of your business development plan and your digital marketing strategy. You create and share content which demonstrates your expertise. Podcasting helps your business articulate a clearly defined position in its market space. This becomes one of many vital tools, your own media platform for you to promote your and grow your business.