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Audio podcasting has now become a mainstream medium. You only need to see how the BBC has jumped on the band wagon to realise that it now stands alongside TV, radio and audiobooks as an essential ‘broadcast’ medium. The number of podcasts is huge, and the great joy of audio podcast is that it can be a long-format medium. Whereas a video clip that you want to put on social media will probably last between 30 and, at a stretch, 180 seconds, audio podcasts can easily run for 20-35 minutes. Podcasts can also have the advantage of being ‘evergreen’ content. Not content that just vaporises as Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook posts move on, but something that, if it is discovered, people can subscribe to and listen to a whole series. The final thing is, if you are attracting the executive market, podcasts allow people to listen in their downtime. They can listen to the podcast whilst they are doing their gardening or taking their kids to school or driving to work or commuting or sitting on a plane. It’s an opportunity for people to engage while they are not having to interact directly with others.
The best podcast can develop an intimacy, style and a following that can be very compelling. You can support the podcast with promotion on other social media. For example, introducing podcasts with short video clips, taking the content of podcasts and turning it into blogs or using a podcast series as the basis for a book. It is a very flexible medium.
But who should your podcast be for? At one level it doesn’t really matter. But I do think there are 3 distinctive options for a podcast.
1 – Develop Fans
The first option is just to develop fans. So, let’s say you are a Finance Director Portfolio Executive, but you are passionate about trainspotting. Building a train related podcast could be a great way of developing fans. You might be surprised how many people out there care about trains, or model railway sets or the age of steam or great railways journeys or great railway stations of the world. It has been a refuge for many TV personalities to extend their careers! Your fans can then make other people within their sphere of influence aware of what you do, and you are developing a distinctive persona as the ‘Trainspotting FD’ that makes you recognisable in the marketplace.
2 – Appeal to your buyer
The second thing is to appeal directly to your buyer. So, if you are an FD, your buyer is the CEO or maybe the Chair of the Board. Is there something that you care about that is relevant to a CEO or Chair where you can have a distinctive point of view and build up a regular podcast? Is there a rich enough seam for you to mine month after month? As a Finance Director, appealing to CEOs and to Chairmen, you could develop a podcast on the world of capital fundraising. Or maybe you want to talk about how organisations are re-organising themselves. Or, perhaps, you want to talk about how companies respond to the environmental, social and governance agenda.
3 – Become an expert
The third thing is to be seen as an expert in your profession or industry. You might be bringing insight and opinion to the Finance Director community. Then Finance Directors will talk about you and your name will be mentioned by Finance Directors to the CEO or Chairs they know.
You now need to decide what style of format is right for your podcast? Here I think there are real insights to be gathered from the way that radio works. I have been a Radio 4 listener almost from when it converted to Radio 4 from the Home Service and there are three kinds of radio programmes that could be models for your podcast.
1 – A magazine programme.
If you ever listen to Radio4’s Money Box, it’s a typical magazine programme. It lasts for around 30 minutes, and they will have four or five items. It’s fairly topical and it is based around interviews and investigations.
2 – The guest format.
For Radio 4 listeners this is the Desert Island Discs scenario: a guest that you give an extended interview to with some kind of little twist that draws people in. The Food Chain has adapted this format to walk through the career of a famous chef linking their journey to five favourite recipes. For your guest format, you need some kind of link, twist or theme that makes it more than just a very long interview and establishes a distinct style and audience.
3 – The discussion programme.
This is a hybrid of the guest and magazine format. The classic Radio 4 example of this is ‘Any Questions?’. You have a set of guests on the panel to whom you bring one, or possibly a number of, discussion points for the panel to explore. The key to a successful discussion programme is to ensure the panel members have sufficient diversity to bring a good debate and enough experience for their opinions to have weight.
You may well have your own favourite format. Perhaps you are going to draw on the reality TV genre or draw on the lone ramblings of an individual where you just have somebody who does an extended monologue. There are a variety of formats, but talk radio gives you a set of models that you can adopt.
Making the most of your Podcast
As in any content-based brand development or awareness building process, it is all about rhythm and consistency so that you can build an audience. I would strongly recommend that you get a number of podcasts ‘in the can’ before you start promoting them. I would also suggest that you plan a sequence of podcasts as a season. You can do a season and then take a pause before you do another season. Or you might want to leave a podcast theme if it’s run its course and develop a new podcast.
Don’t forget that your podcast will be invisible unless you actively promote it through all the channels that you have access to. If it’s a panel based, magazine based, or guest-based format then use your guests and their own social media profiles to promote your offer to your widest possible audience.
There are a whole series of technical issues that I won’t get into, but there are distribution platforms for podcasts that it’s well worth investigating.
Finally, remember that any content can be re-used in other media. So, if you are going to produce a podcast, why not capture it on Zoom and then you can use video segments to promote it? Why not transcribe it and then you can convert it into articles that can go out as blogs?
There are a whole range of ways to take a podcast and turn into a powerful tool to build your personal brand, promote your offer and to develop relationships either with fans, your target customers or as a guru within your own profession.
Audio podcasts can be a powerful tool to build awareness of your offer as Portfolio Executive but make sure you are clear about your audience, your format and plans to promote it.
Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.