Friday, May 02, 2008

How to Brand Yourself as a Thought Leader through Podcasting

Podcasts may not have become “the new blog” that some experts touted them as early in 2005, but many savvy marketers are utilizing podcasting as part of their web strategy to achieve a variety of communications goals.

According to a 2006 Neilson Research study, 6.6% of the U.S. adult online population had downloaded an audio podcast within the previous 30 days. Popular topics run the gamut from comedy to news, marketing to parenting, sports to gaming, technology to cooking and everything in between. The audience for podcasts is huge, but they have definite demands – few, or no, advertisements and interesting, fun or useful content.

Getting Started – Brainstorming Content

1. Decide upon a tone for your program.

If you’re going to be speaking to a podcast audience – and particularly a consumer audience – it’s important to stay away from a heavy “advertising” tone, but you can still get your message across within some creatively communicated content. One way marketers can do this is by creating content relevant to their brand that would be of broad interest to listeners without specifically referencing the brand, and then inviting listeners to visit their brand website for more information on the subject. This sets the tone as informative and useful without being pushy or product-focused. Another way, particularly for business audiences, is to present a case study that speaks to a current, interesting topic. Invite a client to talk with you about how, together, you have dealt with a challenge or successfully implemented a strategy that is directly related to the subject of the podcast. Without being obviously promotional, you can still get the idea across that your product or service might be of value to the listener.

2. Brainstorm overarching content ideas that can be continually updated and revisited over time.

You don’t have to stick with one topic that’s covered in every podcast. You should strategize ways to change the focus regularly while still maintaining the ability to fit your brand message into the content. Sometimes just changing the format of the segment will keep things interesting for listeners. For example, go from a single speaker format to an interview format to a Q&A format, etc., to switch things up a bit. A marketer promoting an all-natural plant fertilizer, for instance, might have a program lineup that includes a segment on gardening tips for the season, then an interview with a landscape engineer, then a Q&A session during which the speaker answers frequently asked questions about soil conditions, then a discussion with some gardening hobbyists, and then a segment on organic gardening, etc. An underlying brand message can be communicated throughout any of these content ideas.

Producing your Podcast

1. Research audio recording options and decide upon a solution that works best for your needs.

There are many packaged solutions available that allow non-expert users to easily record and edit audio files. You’ll likely need to purchase a decent microphone, and perhaps some software, to get started. Another option is working with a production company to create your segments from start to finish. Depending on your goals and budget, there are many options available that make it easy for anyone to get a podcast going.

2. Create your RSS Feed

Once you’ve created your podcast, the next step is to create the RSS, or Real Simple Syndication, file. This allows listeners to subscribe to your podcast via their feed reader, so your content is distributed automatically to your listeners each time you upload a new podcast. There are many tools available for helping to create RSS feeds, including Podcast RSS Feed Generator and ListGarden RSS Feed Generator.

Promoting your Podcast

Make sure to add your podcast feed to the many online directories that maintain searchable lists. Podcast Alley,, iTunes, and even Yahoo are just some of the websites you can visit to submit podcast feeds.

The Payoff

Think of podcasting as a public relations tool more so than an advertising vehicle. The idea is to reinforce your brand messaging within content that is interesting, on a continuing basis, to your target audience. If speaking to consumer audiences, you can position your brand as an innovative, hip and fun contributor in the Web 2.0 environment, or as a solid, reliable source of important information. For business audiences, you can position your company or team members as thought leaders, industry experts, or sought after sources for ideas and information about your particular product, service or business area. Ask your PR partner to make sure that editors covering your industry are aware of your podcast and you may find that your content will inspire valuable coverage in your target media as well. Mention your website as a resource for more information about your topics to drive additional traffic from your listeners.

Some podcasts to check out

Take a look at the online directories mentioned above to check out some successful podcast programs that may inspire your own podcasting ideas. Here are some favorites from the DBE team.

  • Manager Tools – a weekly podcast focused on management and leadership strategies.

  • HBR IdeaCast – Harvard Business Review’s bi-weekly podcast addressing current topics of interest to the business world.

  • The Onion Radio News – a daily podcast of short news clips from The Onion, a popular opinion news website

  • The Word Nerds – a podcast focusing on language and wordplay

  • NPR Technology – National Public Radio’s technology program

  • Grist Environmental News - Weekly podcast on environmental issues and information about green living

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