Of all the elements of a good content marketing strategy, audio -- or podcasts ---is the one least embraced by marketers. There's a lot of good reasons for this: podcasts are not as widely consumed as video, blog posts, photos or games; and, producing a podcast isn't as easy as many of the other content types.
So why bother?
Increasingly, podcasts are a popular way for people to get information, to learn or to be entertained. People who work out or who have long commutes each day use podcasts as a way to fill time productively without having to turn their eyes to something other than the course before them. Moreover, it can be a great way for your content to stand out from the crowd, especially if you use meta-tags wisely and properly optimize the recordings for search on the Web and in iTunes.
As I've written already in this series, one-time audio recordings can be extracted from video. This form of repurposing one form of content for use in another channel is a highly effective way to efficiently fill out your content marketing strategy. All you need is the right software and an embeddable audio player, and you can publish audio to a blog post or a Web page pretty quickly. The headlines and copy surrounding the recording are critical, of course; be sure they accurately reflect the content in the podcast and your keyword strategies.
Podcasts require you embrace the four Ps: plan, produce, publish and promote.
Podcasts can be tricky because they usually require a well-articulated strategy and dedicated focus that plays out over a series of recordings. This means: (a) setting up a theme for the series; (b) blocking out -- or story-boarding -- what each installment will cover; and (c) making sure you've set an objective for the entirety of the series (product education leading to demand generation or lead generation, for instance, or advancing a thought-leadership program for you or your brand.)
You'll also need to decide on a format. For instance, will it be a series consisting of a single talking head? Or will it be an interview-style series involving a host and one or more guests responding to questions? Or will it be the audio of a series of live presentations before an audience, which a host introduces and closes? Think carefully about this and study broadcasts on your local public radio station for inspiration ("Morning Edition," "Fresh Air," "This American Life," "Car Talk," and City Arts and Lectures all provide good study material).
Podcasting can be done using equipment you've likely already got at your office. All you need is a computer and a good microphone (I like Blue Mics). You'll also need the right software. Macs come pre-bundled with Garage Band, which is a great piece of software, and the open-source Audacity is free, widely used and hugely popular on both PCs and Macs. Both are relatively easy to learn (you can get a Dummies books for Garage Band!) Of course, you'll need a quiet room with carpeting, and no echo or ambient background noise. When creating your podcast, think about using opening and closing music and title segments (without infringing on anyone's copyright!) -- this is a great way to differentiate your podcasts from others and build familiarity with your audience. And always, always end with a call to action.
Because you'll want to distribute your podcasts in multiple ways across the Web, including on iTunes, you need to publish your podcasts with an RSS feed. Which is why you'll very likely want to use a third-party host. PodBean is very popular and perfect for novice users, and it's inexpensive to use. Podomatic is also very popular. Both make it easy to publish first on their own platforms, automatically get an RSS feed, and then republish on iTunes or your own blog or Web site. Using a third party to publish and promote your podcasts on iTunes is highly recommended, as Apple's service for podcasters isn't for the faint of heart!
Promote your podcasts and their RSS feeds (which your host will provide you) in all your marketing channels. The audience for podcasts may be smaller than, say, for videos, but many marketers find their podcasts convert better than other forms of marketing content because of the intense engagement they deliver over time. Be sure to publish the meta information about your podcasts on the hosting platform and in iTunes carefully so they can be successfully indexed and surfaced in search results.
Bottom line: know your audience and the ways they like to engage with educational, inspirational or entertaining marketing content. If your research indicates a podcast series is something your audience would embrace, follow the four Ps of podcasting and you just might see success.
Of course, the space available here means I've given short shrift to this piece of marketing content strategy, so leave your comments or ideas below - I'd love to see them. Next week in this series on effective content strategies for marketing: What kindergarten taught us about curating, aggregating and activating good social content.