by Mike Consol
If you’re still not sure what a podcast is don’t feel bad. You are one of millions of intelligent, informed people who are missing this piece of the New Media puzzle
Having excused you, now permit me to chastise you. All businesspeople should know what a podcast is, especially considering there are tens of thousands of them and their legions of listeners are growing. Podcasting can also be very beneficial to your company or you as a business professional.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, a few basics.
Podcasts are audio files, mostly composed of people talking and often including music and sound effects. They can be downloaded and listened to on a computer, or transferred to your iPod (hence the “pod”-cast name) or other MP3 player. The vast majority of podcasts are free of charge through iTunes, Podcast Alley and other outlets.
To give you some idea, I subscribe to more than a dozen podcasts that range from audio versions of TV shows such as Meet the Press and Face the Nation to Nation Public Radio interview programs Fresh Air and the Diane Rehm Show, to academic and business programming like the Harvard Business IdeaCast, McKinsey Quarterly Podcast and The Economist magazine.
It’s great stuff that will feed your head and keep you atop modern day events.
Podcasts are convenient because they can be listened to while driving, pumping iron at the gym, hiking, zipping to the office on the train, sitting on your sofa or dozing in bed at night (one of my favorite ways to enter the Land of Nod). It is this kind of flexibility that helps make podcasts so popular.
That’s one of the big advantages audio podcasts have over video – they require one rather than two senses, meaning they don’t require your undivided attention. You can listen to audio while participating in any number of activities. It’s probably not a good idea to watch a video while you’re riding a horse or trying to stay balanced on a treadmill.
All one need do is check out some of the organizations that podcast to realize its value and implications. There’s the legendary consulting firm of McKinsey & Co, accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers and academic icon Harvard Business School. These are sophisticated organizations that don’t waste time on useless activities. Why do these organizations podcast?
Here are seven good reasons.
DISPLAY EXPERTISE. When McKinsey & Co. conducted its annual global survey of business spending on Web 2.0 technologies, it not only released a written report, it produced a podcast consisting of an interview with one of the research report’s authors. Another example is a podcast titled Connecting Climate Change and Economic Recovery, featuring an interview with economist Nicholas Stern. People seek out expertise. Demonstrate it and you will win customers and respect.
DISPLAY LEADERSHIP. Harvard Business School does exactly that with its IdeaCast. The Harvard Business IdeaCast has tackled subjects bearing the following headlines:
>> Use right incentives for Gen Y, Gen X >> Winning in a turbulent economy >> Redesigning health care >> When high performers struggle >> Is executive pay broken? >> The 5 leadership essentials >> Being a good boss in a bad economy
EDUCATE. The Britain-based podcast The Naked Scientists uses British humor and interesting topics to teach people about scientific and technological breakthroughs. It’s an effective and entertaining approach. Some recent subjects were:
>> Where do lost socks go? >> The diseased brain >> High altitude adventures >> Why does water expand when it freezes? >> Catching up with cancer research >> Building bodies and mending broken hearts >> Can you run faster on the moon?
PROVIDE VALUE. Grammar Girl and her brief 10-minute podcasts have become widely popular in part from publicity she has received in magazines such as Business Week. But she has sustained that audience by giving them valuable information pertaining to the proper use of grammar. She makes it fun and easy to learn proper English skills. And who doesn’t want to sound like they didn’t fall asleep in English class?
BRAND YOUR COMPANY. If you’re British Petroleum and you’re trying to position yourself as a forward-thinking company, wouldn’t producing podcasts about clean and sustainable forms of energy help immensely to burnish your image as a company operating in future tense? Podcast about topics that core to the company’s brand.
BRAND YOURSELF. If you’re the brilliant management consultant or life coach you claim to be, prove it with a weekly or monthly podcast with a snappy title. Consider how much credence would be lent to your reputation by podcasts that offer terrific advice and success stories about your own clients? Demonstrate your ability and your podcasts become testimonials.
CONNECT WITH KEY PLAYERS. Imagine you’re a regional bank that wants to reach out to key players in your market. Rather than your standard sales letter or cold call, what if you invited your target to be featured on the bank’s CEO Spotlight podcast? Now the CEO can share his or her wisdom and is likely to be flattered by the invitation. You get a face-to-face interview out of the deal and the start of a personal relationship that could be parlayed into a client relationship. The caveat, of course, is that no one will be interested in subscribing to your podcast unless you provide interesting and educational content. So don’t make the mistake of using it strictly as a relationship building tool. That will bore or offend people and cost you listeners.
About the Author
Mike Consol is president of MikeConsol.com (http://MikeConsol.com), which provides business writing seminars, PowerPoint presentation skills training, Web 2.0 strategies and media training. Consol spent 17 years with American City Business Journals, the nation’s largest publisher of metropolitan business journals.