The podcast was once a niche format. During the heyday of the iPod from around 2004 to 2007, the earliest podcasts provided something else to listen to besides music on Apple’s portable MP3 player. These audio shows were free and easy to download via iTunes, but never generated a comparable number of downloads to the then-thriving music purchase business on the iTunes Store.
However, following the breakthrough success of This American Life’s true crime “Serial” series in 2014, podcasts entered the mainstream and quickly became some of the most widely consumed digital content. Google, which now develops its own podcast client for Android devices, estimated that there were more than 2 million downloadable podcasts in 2019. According to a 2018 report from Edison Research, more than half of Americans had listened to a podcast at least once in their lives, and over one-third had listened within the past month.
Why podcasts make sense within a modern PR and marketing strategy
The evolution of podcasting as a format has also transformed it into a powerful tool for content marketing and public relations. Podcasts now provide a useful form of owned content within the PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned) model that many PR professionals adhere to as part of an integrated marketing strategy. More specifically, an organization or cause can closely control how its podcasts are recorded, edited and distributed so they reach the right audiences with relevant content.
Looking ahead, podcasts should continue to be a great area for PR professionals to invest their time, due to their:
- Suitability to mobile lifestyles and workflows: It’s simple to listen to a podcast virtually anywhere, on any device.
- Simple, standards-based technology: Podcasts are distributed via RSS and can be easily downloaded and synced using a podcast client.
- Ability to replace other forms of content: A weekly or monthly podcast can be easier to consume than a video or blog post, since it can be listened to on a commute or in the background.
The best marketing and public relations podcasts follow many of the same best practices as the most compelling podcasts on other subjects. Let’s look at some of the common podcast strategies in PR, along with some tips for making a podcast as accessible and enjoyable as possible.
The benefits of podcast marketing
First and foremost, a podcast provides a way to reach a highly specific audience.
Advertisers have long taken advantage of how podcast ad reads — i.e., someone (usually the host) reciting a short script about a sponsor’s product or service — allow them to granularly target certain groups by picking a podcast with a similar/overlapping audience demographic. Likewise, podcast creators can home in on their desired audiences by focusing their shows on current topics of interest in their area of expertise — for example, a recent industry development or something that was discussed on their website’s forums — or scheduling interviews with interesting guests, such as subject matter experts or celebrities.
Some podcasts also have premium tiers, with content that is accessible for a monthly fee, usually paid via a service such as Patreon. This structure can open up an additional income stream while growing the podcast’s audience, as listeners who see value from the podcast’s free content may feel compelled to consume even more of it. It’s a similar setup to how companies will offer free samples of something, knowing that doing so will often greatly increase public awareness of and interest in their products.
Podcast creators can also control every step of how this content is presented to their listeners. They control the audio quality and show editing, how sponsorships are structured and/or memberships are paid for, the release schedule of episodes, what cover art appears in the show’s thumbnail, where the podcast is hosted and what platforms (Apple, Google, Spotify, etc.) it gets syndicated to.
Creating a podcast also has search engine optimization benefits. Podcast episodes are often posted to high-traffic websites that routinely appear on the first page of search results. Clicking through to a result will often take the viewer to a page that contains not only the audio episode, but possibly a link back to the creator’s website or to other sites listed in the episode’s show notes, too.
Podcast best practices
A successful podcast marketing strategy will be built upon close attention to many technical details, as well as adept management of show’s subject matter and guests. Some reliable podcast best practices include:
Using high-quality equipment
A suitable mic, mic stand, mixer, headphones and editing software is preferable to recording with a smartphone or tablet, as the quality will come through and make the show seem more professional.
Lining up the right guests
Interviews and guest conversations are great ways to diversify a podcast’s content and increase its visibility. Industry conferences and events are great ways to find individuals who might be interested in appearing in an episode.
Marketing the show across social media
Podcasts should be part of an integrated media strategy. Accordingly, it makes sense to promote them on channels such as Instagram and Twitter to raise awareness and grow their audiences.
Creating a great introduction
A podcast is similar to a radio show. As such, it should have an interesting intro that piques the audience’s interest and creates a distinctive impression of the show.
Transcribing each episode
Podcast transcription is a useful way to make episodes more widely accessible and also potentially transform their contents into written media such as blog posts.
What you can learn about podcasts in the GW SPR program
The fully online Master’s in Strategic Public Relations (SPR) program at the George Washington University (GW) offers comprehensive preparation for becoming a PR professional capable of managing a podcast marketing strategy. One of the program’s courses, Strategic Marketing Communications, covers the role of podcasts and other formats in modern integrated marketing communications strategies. Students also gain the opportunity to apply their research interests in the real world via a capstone project conducted in tandem with a faculty member and organization of interest.
To learn more about the GW SPR track, visit the main program page today.
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