Podcast Tips & Tactics

Years ago when I was a kid, I remember playing in the basement of a friend whose father was a prominent cardiac surgeon. The walls were lined with hundreds of cassette tapes in cases with very boring, technical titles. I wondered what that was about. Now I know my friend’s dad was listening to CME audio cassettes in his car on the way to the hospital or medical meetings, to make the most of his time and also to advance his medical knowledge.

Now with the iPod, the cassette has gone the way of the 8-track but we can accomplish the same thing as the prominent doctor by listening to Podcasts—and the technology is easy to use and open to everyone for every purpose from the hobbyist to the heart surgeon. For B to B, Podcasts have increasingly had real business applications, for busy execs to download and listen to on the go, in the car, in the plane, or during workouts.

Since most of my blogs are about public relations tactics, Podcasts as a PR tactic will be the focus here.

If you are trying to get out on the speaking circuit, or looking to garner exposure for a client, a Podcast is an excellent way to start. Whether audio or video, it’s a great way to position your spokesperson as an expert and give potential bookers a sense of what they sound like (and/or what they look like). The more professionally produced Podcasts are going to get better bookings on the speaking circuit and/or more attention from larger (perhaps national) news outlets. The better they look and sound, the better you will look and sound from a credibility standpoint, in particular.

Before you get started, you might try a Google search around your topic to see what is already out there, to assess the quality and freshness of existing content, your competition. There are dozens of reliable Podcast Directories which can give you a broad overview of the market. Download a few Podcasts and take a listen—you’ll quickly have some ideas of your own about what is listenable and engaging, and what does not work very well at all.

Podcasts are an excellent part of improving your clients’ net visibility and increase their SEO. Many of the search engines favor multimedia (no accident that Google owns YouTube and YouTube postings greatly increase SEO).  While we typically think of Apples iTunes, since the term Podcast comes from the original iPod Apple product, there are increasing places to post Podcasts these days, the most notable of which is actually Google-owned YouTube. I’ve gotten increasing traction for my clients’ Podcasts by adding a title card and posting them on the video sharing social media site.

You’ll note the recording industry has also taken note—with the departure of Napster and other illegal audio file sharing sites, many are posting their favorite songs to YouTube often with very minimal video support. There are a number of programs that then allow you to take the audio assets out of these songs and then “share” them. No comment on the legality of that, but this is a trend you could exploit from a PR standpoint, in thinking of YouTube as more of a Podcast medium (and even an important “search” engine), even for traditional audio Podcasts, which many people haven’t considered.

Music groups have long realized that Podcasts allow their fans to go behind the music and build a stronger following. The same applies to authors and/or any content creators, regardless of the type of content. That’s also true of many B to B applications for Podcasts. Increasingly, when someone wants to know how to do something, or how to find a service, a Google search is the first resort.

When I used to work producing airline in-flight videos for major airlines, it was thought that airline in-flight was the best way to reach the C-suite and important decision makers on the go. A lot of these important people simply did not have time to watch conventional TV. That was back in the days when you had only one channel to watch on the plane. Now Podcasts offer the same reach for a fraction of the price. Granted, like the multiple TV channels on the airplane, there are literally millions of Podcast now on the internet to choose from, so how do you make yours stand out?

First, going back to my earlier point, quality matters. To paraphrase former President Jimmy Carter, why not the best? Being the best or at least among the best will help people find you. But this is also a case where you need quality and quantity. You want to build up enough of a library of content to have an RSS Feed and give the audience who finds you incentive to click the “subscribe” button.

When you promote your Podcasts, don’t forget to cross-promote your Podcasts on all social media, not just Twitter and Facebook. I recommend LinkedIn in particular for B to B—I think its way underused for this purpose. There are many LinkedIn groups for business that might be a perfect fit for your messaging (you’ll have to a member of the group first, but joining is an excellent way to find out if it’s relevant and open to your ideas, your contributions and/or pitches).

Measuring the success of your Podcast is tricky. Not everyone uses iTunes – either they use another podcast ‘podcatcher’ application, or they download the podcast direct from your site.  Rather than downloading shows, many people “stream” the shows from a web browser, mobile device or Internet radio. Streaming versus downloads is not always easy to track and differentiate. When stats show a download, it’s not clear if the person started to download the show and cancelled, perhaps only hearing a few seconds.

In many cases, it’s best to keep two sets of stats – how many times shows have been downloaded, and how many people subscribe to your podcast feed. You can use this information to view trends (increase/ decrease) as opposed to an actual fixed audience size. The most relevant stat though is ultimately intangible—when you get an unsolicited lead, or an invitation to speak to an influential group you didn’t submit a proposal to, or a strong media inquiry, you’ll know your Podcasts are working their magic and that may be the most important measurable of all.