Corporate Podcasting Strategies for 2007

I visit quite a few of PodTech’s clients, most are tech companies in Silicon Valley with our Account teams as a Social Media Resource. By the conversations that clients have with each other, I’ve a good sense of where they are in the evolution.

Having been in the core team that deployed Corporate Podcasting at Hitachi Data Systems last year, I’m familiar with the challenges, pitfalls and evolution.

Here’s some common Podcast Strategies that seem relevant for the start of 2007:

1) Resource Existing Content
Many podcast program managers are at a challenge when it comes to creating a podcast content program. It’s not as hard as it looks as there’s quite a bit of content that can be converted to conversational podcasting. Whitepaper content can often serve as Podcast content. Nearly each of those white papers MarCom has created can be converted into a topic, perhaps have a host and invite the content contributor or domain expert to participate in the podcast.

Check your search logs on your website for common asked terms or phrases, there’s some clues there. Blog posts in your industries with intense conversation and activity will suggest hot topics.

2) Extend your Podcast with Social Media Features

Many corporate marketers fail by only dropping an mp3 file and alink to iTunes on a ‘podcast page’. You can benefit from interaction and building better podcasts by allowing for feedback by enabling comments. Perhaps using blog software to publish your podcast.

3) Deliver Podcast on a “Viral Player”

Ideally, the best case scenario is to embed a viral player that can be shared with your audience that also allows comments. This player easily has copyable code that lets the content be shared on other blogs, forums, and websites in your industry. Here’s an example of how I’ve deployed my latest podcast on Social Media Strategy using a viral player. Get the word out.

I’ve seen some recent stats that suggest that 60% of podcasts are consumed within the browser and 40% on mobile devices.

4) Align content strategy around existing corporate Initiatives

Your podcast schedule and content should line up with your product offerings. Build a row or column into your communications plan that includes social media podcasts. Many marketers struggle that blogs are not ‘message controlled’ by corp communications, however podcasts are a great place as a happy medium as there is some control by corp communications to keep the message on target.

Of course the balance is to make the content helpful and resourceful for the listener, as they can change it with a simple click, or even worse, unsubscribe and never return.

5) Podcasting is for the long term
Many corporate marketers forget that the goal of Podcasting is to get your listeners to subscribe and this takes time. Podcasting programs need to be expected to have duration for 6-12 months. Don’t sell yourself short in an embarrassing situation by not planning or budgeting for that period of time. If time is an issue or resources, find a podcasting partner that can assist.

6) Duration varies

I’m often asked “How long should my podcast be”. It really depends, for the average tech corporate podcast, I’m noticing durations from 5-10 minutes. Of course when you have more in depth topics, or interviews or conversations with multiple individuals you’ll want to extend this.

7) Interactive and interesting
Please don’t be the corporation that creates the talking head podcast. Podcasts need to be interesting, engaging, and interactive. How can podcasts be interactive? By involving the audience by reading comments, reading their blog posts, or letting them submit questions via email, or even by using audio tools to let them pre-record their questions in advance. The more you involve the audience, the more it’s a real conversation.

8) ‘Pull’ content not ‘Push’ content
This is one the biggest challenges. Remember podcasting is a “pull” channel, meaning the content needs to be interesting and resourceful for the listener. It’s very easy for them to click away, so always think of the user first. I’ve noticed this content strategy in some corporate podcasts, they list first the Problem, then all the Market Options, what Pitfalls to avoid, and then finally at the end of the Podcast the corporate offering.

Today’s modern marketer is a story teller, not a FAB (Feature Attribute Benefit) or stats pusher. Please remember that the user already knows what your company does, and knows how to use the web to find your content so you don’t need to hit them over the head with your latest offering, make them want to come to you.

9) It’s about the listener, please remember

Involve customer participation, listen, improve. Please don’t put barriers up in front of the user to consume this content. I know of at least 2 companies that have put registration forms in front of the podcasts for access. Bad idea, that really sends a bad message on many fronts, and may reduce subscriptions.

10) Create as many series as appropriate

Some Marketers make the horrible mistake of cramming to many lines of content into one podcast. I recommend creating separate podcast channels based upon market or audience type. Remember to think years out when selecting the channels, it’s not easy to change without user fall off in mid flight. I’d rather you consider to start pretty narrow and then add on additional podcast programs, remember the future of marketing is about small niche audience rather than broad mass audiences.

11) Podcasting as an alternative to Blogging

At many corporations, there’s a ‘corporate blogging’ initiative underway. For many, they simply don’t have the time to do a blog, Podcasting may be a better avenue as it requires less time. I’ve found that sometimes great speakers make horrible bloggers, and great bloggers are horrible speakers.

12) Integrate with other programs.
Encourage your corporate and customer bloggers, community managers, or those involved with forums to integrate the podcasts, raise awareness by emailling them, and then thank them in the comments for embedding. Your podcasts should be contextually displayed on your product pages, microsites, extranets and intranets.

13) Criteria for your Podcasting Partner
I’m somewhat biased here as I work for PodTech, a podcasting partner, There are many companies that offer podcasting services, in fact basic production is a commodity. Here’s some criteria in selecting your value added podcasting partner:

A) Experience in creating professional audio content
Your partner should already be able to demonstrate the various clients they’ve already served

B) May have voice or media talent

For many listeners, a familiar or friendly voice or maybe listening to an existing program would be welcoming, if not inviting.

C) Existing distribution Network

While it makes sense to present your content on your corporate domain, if you partner with a podcasting provider that has an existing media network, (esp if they are already talking to your audience) they can help extend your message to the right audience quickly

D) Tools and Metrics

Your partner should assist you with not only just creating the podcast but distributing it using social media tools such as a viral player and providing you with metrics

E) Ability to cover live events

Your Podcasting partner should be willing to send teams or crews out to your events for demos, interviews and other venues to capture and then re-use on your podcasting program. See this post on how to use social media as an overlay.

E) They get it

Consultation and Expertise should be a core part of your partner should really get social media, to help you maximize your efforts in this new space.

Update: Below I’ve added some additional strategies that round out this guide (Jan 21st):

14) Link from your Press Release
It’s often overlooked that podcasts are released around product announcements and can tie nicely into your press release. By providing a ‘learn more’ or ‘listen in’ for supplemental information, it would be a great and authentic way to tie in Social Media to your press release. Corporations may find podcasts to be a happy medium between social media and a somewhat controlled message so it really is a great tool to include.

15) Podcast library

Create a podcast library page on your website. This is simple to do, and if you’ve selected a podcasting partner based upon the criteria I’ve provided above then they should offer a player for your use on your website. Try to allow comments on each of your posts, and link to supplemental information. In suggestion #1 suggests to reuse existing content, so it should be very easy to link to that content. Build up this library, make it a frequently accessed knowledge center.

16) Inform Employees, Partners

So often is the interactive marketing manager working so hard to hit the deadline that they forget to encapsulate an internal and lateral message to employees. Make sure you send out an email blast to the appropriate teams, get on the intranet or weekly newsletter. Remember, these tools are ‘sales’ and ‘marketing’ tools much like collateral, so please train them. Raise awareness, have an FAQ, suggest how to use, and be open to receive feedback and suggestions. Podcasts can be a great sales training tool for your internal folks that travel, are on the go, or work remote or in some data center and not connected. Some companies have provided iPods for their employee base, perhaps create an award system or contest for those that engage.

17) Inform Public
Many corporations are so afraid to contact those outside of the traditional media circuit. The Press Release is not the only way to get information out about your brand new podcasting series. Inform bloggers in your industry, either leave a comment, or even feel free to email them. Ask them for your opinion. Find blog posts where your specific podcast topic is relevant and leave a thoughtful and original comment to encourage them to learn more by listening to your podcast and provide feedback.

Learn more

Here’s an excellent book: that over 100 contributed to (including I) on Blogging and Podcasting, if you’re interested in picking it up, it has insight from many industry experts, all which are more intelligent than I. If you found this post helpful, also read 10 Social Media Strategies for the Fortune 1000 Corporations. Update Jan 21st: Yestereday I published some strategies for using Online Video for your Execs.

Add your own
If you’ve any corporate podcasting strategies you’d like to add, please leave a comment below

Update Jan 19, 2007: Dana Gardner has added some supplemental information around pricing, costs, and economics. His additional notes on transcriptions are also valuable.

Update: Feb 12, 2007: eMarketer suggests that “spending on podcasting advertising will quintuple over the next five years, from a paltry $80 million base in 2006 to a $400 million market in 2011.”