My thirteenth show in the series that I produce for the CIPR’s Social Media Panel was all about podcasting.

I was joined by Neville Hobson, who — after over 800 shows and 10 years of podcasting — had just recorded his final Hobson & Holtz for the FIR Network that he launched with Shel Holtz.

My other guests in the studio were Tom Ollerton, Marketing and Innovation Director at We Are Social, and Alastair Cole, Chief Innovation Officer at Partners Andrews Aldridge, who together produce the Innovation Ramble, a podcast that only launched a few months ago (it’s backed by The Drum).

The aim of this episode was to investigate how brands and organisations could use podcasting as part of their communications mix, be that sponsoring existing content or creating their own.

There were a number of take outs from the show and tips that were provided.

Format: Firstly, I agree with Tom’s view that podcasting is a long-form format — something you can listen to on a walk or the commute — although Neville stressed the fact that you can, of course, listen to podcasts whilst doing other things, unlike video or the written word.

The Central Question: Neville believes the decision of howwhy, and when to enter podcasting for a brand all comes back to the goals you’re trying to achieve. For example, is it simply to generate brand exposure or perhaps be seen as a subject matter expert?

The Serial Effect: One of the issues that may arise is that many brand owners may have unrealistic expectations due to the huge exposure that Mailchimp gained from sponsoring the incredibly successful ‘Serial,’ which created a resurgence in podcasting.  In the show, I referred to an article that I had read in Vanity Fair by Sarah Ellison: the co-creator of Serial, Julie Snyder, hoped for about 300,000 downloads when they launched. The sponsor slots were sold to Mailchimp before they knew how valuable they would be; because the podcast was ultimately downloaded 97 million times, they may have left a good deal of money on the table.

Don’t Worship at The Shrine of Big Numbers: Tom was quick to point out that Serial is an anomaly and was a year’s work with some of the top radio people putting it together — and he felt that brands are missing a trick if all they are looking for is a ‘killer’ CPM.  He thinks the opportunity for brands is to innovate with the format, rather than stick their advert at the beginning, middle or end of the format.  He suggests brands concentrate on creating their own content, particularly given it is relatively cheap to do and therefore recommends finding an opportunity, producing a pilot, and if no one downloads it? Pivot, iterate, change and do it again.  Tom said that you can roll out ten different podcasts on ten different subjects, look at the data and see what is connecting with people.

Tell Your Story: Neville believes what it comes down to is having compelling content, telling a phenomenal story and ensuring there is something different about you than other podcasts.  For him, podcasting is not about mainstream media type numbers — but instead, it’s about the small niche audiences that are interested in a specific topic.  Neville therefore thinks that brands would be more satisfied if they thought like that about the medium rather than thinking about ‘mega’ numbers.

Alastair agreed and said that the right way to go is for brands to be looking to ‘scratch their own itch,’ i.e., find something that they are genuinely passionate about.

Promotion: We covered off a number of ways to help promote podcasts, which included:

  • Ensure you are on iTunes
  • Host your podcasts on your own site or social community where you can drive listeners to and encourage further engagement and discussion
  • Ask listeners to rate and review you on iTunes, which will help your positioning in the iTunes charts
  • Encourage guests (if you have them) to promote the fact they were on the show to their own email databases
  • Share your content across social media

Within the show, I also featured a short interview with my CIPRSM Panel colleague, Rachel Miller of All Things IC, who also produces a podcast focusing on Internal Communications.

Rachel’s five key tips for organizations looking to produce content for internal communications purposes were to:

  1. Create your own content; it doesn’t have to be a big ‘polished’ production
  2. Make it for employees by employees
  3. Encourage your employees to get involved by using their own devices
  4. Have real conversations
  5. Experiment with frequency and see what the appetite is for the content

Finally, some other podcasts we mentioned that are worth checking out, if nothing else, just to hear how others do it and how varied podcast content can be, included:

If you are interested in getting involved in this series, whether as a guest or as a sponsor, please do get in touch with me directly.  You can also keep the conversation going on Twitter around these podcasts using #ciprcsuite.

About Russell Goldsmith

Russell Goldsmith is Founder of marketing consultancy, Audere Communications, and is Director of Conversis Corporate, a translation and localisation agency. He had previously spent 16 years as Digital & Social Media Director of broadcast communications specialists, markettiers4dc before leaving in April 2014 to become an independent consultant and trainer. An active member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations' Social Media Panel (CIPRSM) and a Public Relations Consultants Association trainer, he regularly presents at conferences and contributes to industry books and blogs as well as regularly judging industry awards too.

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