Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Podcasting for Marketers

In recent weeks I’ve been talking to two people in very different situations about adding podcasts to their marketing communications offering. The situations are different, but the common theme is the desire to provide detailed information and various perspectives to identifiable niche markets. I’ve been looking at both the mechanics and best practices for those who wish to podcast. For marketers who don’t want to podcast themselves, podcasts that successfully reach their target audiences offer another advertising opportunity.

A 2005 post on the O’Reilly digital media blog outlines the basics. It all still applies except that the hardware changes quickly, so you’ll want to look for latest, well-reviewed pieces of equipment. The good news is that not much is necessary—a mic for your laptop and podcasting software will get you started. Active podcasters like to record in the field and there are many cool new devices for capturing live events. You’ll also notice that there is more software available for Apple systems than for Microsoft—surprise, surprise!—but whichever operating system you use, you can find what you need, and free software will meet most needs. That said, it’s not the technology that’s the issue, it’s identifying the need for podcasts and integrating them into your overall marketing communications strategy. Christopher Penn, CIO of the Student Loan Network, is well known in the podcasting community for the success of his podcasts. He has a clear target audience—prospective and actual college students and their parents. They need the information in his podcasts and he makes it easy to subscribe, even pointing out that an iPod isn’t necessary. Most podcasters simply have a page on the main site. Chris has a well-organized microsite that is visually integrated with the main site while it focuses visitors on the podcasts. He podcasts on a consistent schedule and often brings in outside experts. His microsite is welcoming to parents who aren’t into the new media scene, while it encourages their children to do things like “add this to your Facebook page.” It also has other features that engage his high-school and college age audience such as links to “free stuff” and job search information. Brian Carroll offers good advice for beginning podcasters on Marketing Profs (free registration required).

Lesson #1: Producing your own podcasts must be an element of overall communications strategy. In developing a podcasting strategy, ask questions like “is this a customer acquisition or retention mechanism?” and “how am I going to attract listeners/subscribers to the podcasts?” Answering the second question will put the issue of integrated marketing communications squarely into focus.

It has been a couple of years since leading-edge marketers recognized that advertising on or sponsoring podcasts was a targeted advertising opportunity. One of the first to acquire sponsorship was MommyCast, still sponsored by Dixie. Since I was last on the site they have added a weekly Internet radio show to their product line. Young mothers rely heavily on the Internet for information and this successful podcast has turned out to be a great way to reach them. Ad networks Radio Tail and Wizzard Media help marketers reach the niche markets represented by podcasts and Podbridge/Volo Media offers metrics services. Here’s some advice for advertisers.

The conventional wisdom is that B2B marketers have been slow to adopt podcasts, which seem a natural for reaching customers with current developments. Current data about B2B podcasting is in short supply, but a directory called PodFeed lists over 600 podcasts that have the tag “business.”

Lesson #2: Marketers can sponsor individual podcasts or use ad networks to reach podcast audiences with their online advertising.

Podcasts probably aren’t for everyone (marketer or user!) but their ability to deliver information to customers and advertising to targeted audiences makes them worthy of consideration.
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2 comments:

Jammin Dave said...

There is a free course on planning your podcast at www.planningyourpodcast.com and if you are looking for a real example of how podcasting can boost sales, listen to episode #120 of the School of Podcasting's "Morning Announcements" (http://media.libsyn.com/media/schoolofpodcasting/SOP120_011407.mp3 )

Dave Jackson
www.podcastfastpass.com

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