A Guest Post by Christy Maguire, Graduate Student at American University, PR Expanded Blog Contest Winner
Podcasting is the quickest growing communications medium, and it seems like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. Research shows that there are more than 750 million podcasts and that 22% of Americans over age 12 have listened to a podcast in the past week. It’s a crowded field to be sure, but it also offers an excellent, and even underused, opportunity for businesses to increase engagement with its community. It’s an intimate medium that builds trust and authority, offers inclusiveness and provides both information and inspiration.
Universities, nonprofits, museums, law firms, associations, and small businesses have branched out into podcasting – expanding their online presence in ways that serve their business and community. Now is the perfect time to begin. Earlier this year, Google began including direct podcast links in its search results, providing an immediate opportunity for potential listeners to discover and sample podcasts.
While podcasting is a great tool for optimizing SEO and visibility, these shouldn’t always be the main focus. Businesses can get too caught up in using podcasting solely for promotion, without looking closely at building engagement and loyalty. Don’t forget that engagement can also be measured. Have you increased website traffic, comments, reviews, membership, feedback, and event participation through your podcast? Have customers mentioned your podcast on social media, in blog posts, or through referrals?
Whether your business already has a podcast, or you are considering starting one, there are several factors to take into consideration to increase engagement:
1. Invite Feedback
- Issue a Call to Action
At the end of every podcast episode, issue a call to action. The best calls to action invite your listeners back to your website to further interact with your content, obtain their email address or offer a freebie.
- Invite Listener Questions
Get listeners involved by inviting them to ask questions of future guests. This is not only an excellent way to promote a future guest or episode but encourages loyalty by making listeners feel like part of the process. A growing trend is to ask listeners to call in to leave a question, which can be directly embedded into an episode. Google Voice is easy to set up and convert into usable audio.
- Welcome Comments
Basecamp, a project management software company, encourages feedback by making each show a separate blog page with a comments section. They recently aired an episode around their new logo, which generated a mix of reactions. The company even did a blog post about how important feedback was to them by detailing their inspiration for past episodes, indicating that much of it came from listeners, coworkers, businesses and PR firms.
- Make it Easy to Connect
Some constituencies may not be familiar with podcasting, so teach them how to use the technology. For populations who may not be acquainted with podcasts, the most straightforward way to tune in is to embed a podcast player directly in a blog post.
Establish a social media account on a platform that has the best reach for your audience, and tell your listeners where they can find you. The Smithsonian has its own social media accounts, but they established a separate Twitter account for their main podcast, Sidedoor Podcast, allowing listeners to share, comment on and engage with the content.
2. Be Creative
Podcasting is personal. The medium offers a chance for your business to tell your customers how to engage with content, build your brand and tell stories. We can’t always predict what will resonate, so it’s important to not stick to a formula or rigid guidelines. Harvard Business Review offers a discussion guide for each podcast episode of Women at Work signaling that this content is intended to be discussed widely, similar to a book or article.
Trader Joe’s podcast, Inside Trader Joe’s, is fun and is filled with puns, which is perfectly aligned with its reputation. The company planned for just five episodesbut continued after gaining a quick following by customers who wanted more.
Nonprofit Save the Children did a six-episode drama series called Anywhere But Home based on true stories of children’s harrowing, yet inspiring journeys. Stories offer hope and connection on a level that direct appeals do not.
3. Leverage Relationships and Build Partnerships
- Invite Guest Hosts and Feature Client Stories
A simple way to build relationships with top executives, clients, and members is to invite them to guest host an episode on a relevant issue or to share their business story.
Membership organizations have an excellent opportunity to spotlight their members. By doing so, organizations create opportunities for its members to network and connect, immediately drawing them in and illustrating the organization’s usefulness. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s podcast, The Bloodline With LLS, covers a range of topics, including information and resources, but also has diagnosis stories offering hope and connection to those living with blood cancers.
Clothing retailer Rebecca Minkoff hosts a popular podcast called Superwomen. Every week she interviews female CEOs, business leaders, and artists, not only promoting the brand’s values of supporting women-led businesses but sharing their platform with potential partners.
- Collaborate with Targeted Partners
The lifestyle brand goop has a successful podcast and recently partnered with the clothing brand Banana Republic on a limited series called “Women on Top.” These conversations featuring boundary-breaking women promote their joint efforts to discuss issues around women empowerment. Loyalists of both companies are introduced around shared values.
- Host Live Events
Listeners like, and are beginning to expect, live podcast events. This affords businesses the opportunity to interact with its community in real-time. There are two ways to do this. The first option is to tape a live podcast event, which could be held at a summit or conference. Be sure to advertise this before the event. The second option is to use audio from conferences, meetings, and panels to engage those who are unable to attend, widening your reach.
There are no hard and fast rules for engagement, though consistency is key. Podcasts can be as short as 5 minutes but would be better suited to daily or biweekly episodes. Longer and more complex shows might only air once a month. They can be limited to a short series or be tailored around a special event. Be sure that it’s on a schedule that allows your business to take full advantage of engaging your community in a meaningful way. Experiment, enjoy and tweak as necessary.
Christy Maguire produces and hosts the podcast Forties Stories, which amplifies the voices of 40-something women and promotes connection and compassion – one story at a time. She is currently a graduate student in American University’s Strategic Communications program. Connect with her on Twitter @_christymaguire.