People are exposed to so much advertising in their daily lives. There are millions of organisations trying to connect with people every day. With so much competition, organisations need to find interesting and engaging ways to connect with their target publics.
Podcasting – regularly distributed audio content delivered on a subscription basis – is becoming more and more common, but is it really an effective way for is an effective way for organisations to develop effective relationships with their listening target public?
Benefits of podcasting
One of the key advantages of podcasting is that they are relatively quick and cheap to create and can be delivered within a very short time-frame. Like blogging they don’t require a high level of technological know-how or prohibitively expensive equipment; thanks to the growing popularity of smart phones its now much easier to create and listen to podcasts. This means that podcasting is a great PR tool for smaller organisations, such as not for profits (NFPs) or Small- to Medium-Enterprises (SMEs) who often lack the time and financial resources of their much larger, corporate competitors.
However, unlike blogging, podcasts can be listened to on-the-run. Podcasts can be “time-shifted” , meaning that audiences don’t need to listen to them in real-time; they can download them to their personal devices and listen to them whenever they have the time, whether that be while they are getting ready in the morning, sitting on public transport, or gardening in the backyard. Moreover, as a subscription service that people receive regularly, podcasts have the added benefit of building more effective and honest organisation-public relationships.
Giving the (target) public what they want
While podcasting can be an excellent PR tool, organisations need to carefully think about the content they want to distribute via podcasting; no one is going to download a podcast if it’s not interesting. This means that organisations must provide the customer with the information that they want, rather than just the information that the organisation wants to provide.
I’m a podcaster. I spend two hours of each work day sitting on a bus commuting to the CBD, and podcasts liven up an otherwise dull (and sometimes incredibly frustrating) public transport experience. For me it’s almost a ritual; each Sunday evening I scour the internet for interesting podcasts from a wide variety of sites and organisations to keep me entertained for the better part of 10 hours of the coming week. Sometimes I even look forward to finishing work, not because I get to log off and head home, but because I get to sit down for an hour on the way home to a particular podcast that I’ve been looking forward to.
In other words, I’m a podcaster’s target public. I invest time in searching for podcasts, I regularly listen to them and I’m always eager to explore new podcasts.
Being a podcaster’s target public, however, does not automatically translate into being a PR podcaster’s target public. This is one of the limitations of podcasting.
Building relationships through podcasts
It would be incorrect to say that podcasting isn’t t relevant to all organisations. Rather, podcasting is only relevant to organisations who are willing to invest the time and resources into developing content (in the form of stories, facts, exposes or interviews) that their target publics are interested in.
Many organisations that currently podcast are those which are more traditionally aligned with news or media (two of my favourite places to source podcasts are the ABC and the BBC), however that is not to say that only news organisations can produce interesting podcasts.
Experienced PR practitioners who understand how to communicate with publics use podcasts as a tool to tell the story of the organisation. Messages from the CEO, service use information, financial news and technology briefs are all examples of podcast content are used by corporations, but organisations can also use podcasts to leverage the insight they have over their target public’s interests and connect with them on a more personal level. This may include interviews with celebrities and personalities (for example a bike company undertaking an interview with Tour de France winner Cadel Evans or a film company interviewing a director or actor just before the release of their new film), providing industry insights (for example a digital data management firm producing a podcast about discussing how the Facebook’s latest algorithm changes will affect your personal cyber security) or related any information (for example an organic food store releasing a regular recipe podcast).
In the opinion of this avid podcaster, a successful podcast is one of the most effective tools organisations can employ to tell their story, provide interesting news and information to their listeners and help build a relationship with their target public. There’s lots of great ways for organisations to connect with their target public through podcasts (if you’re looking for some creating ideas about podcast content, check out this great blog post 20 Creative Uses for Podcasts). They key to successful podcasting – and the subsequent organisation public relationship building – is to provide interesting information that your target public actually wants to hear.
 Christopher S. Penn in Scott, DM 2007, ‘Podcasting and video made, well, as easy as possible’, The new rules of marketing and PR: how to use news releases, blogs, podcasting, viral marketing and online media to reach buyers directly, John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey, pp. 217–27