Brian Haven, Sr analyst, Forrester Research

While podcasting has seen mild adoption growth in the recent past, it has still not experienced the popularity explosion that blogs have seen. However, this does not mean that marketers shouldn’t offer podcasts to their customers, as we see it picking up the momentum.

Once companies understand how the podcasting world works, and determine to leverage podcasting for their audience, the next course of action involves choosing the appropriate type of podcast. From leveraging existing audio to creating entirely new content, there are several ways marketers can use podcasts — video counts, too. But while doing so, one must keep in mind that podcasts don’t have to be all fun and games, they do need to be valuable — and hopefully, entertaining — to their audience.

Here are the five commercial podcast options available to marketers when deciding what type(s) of content to produce:

• Repurposed broadcast content. Look internally for existing audio content and convert it into a podcast. This includes earnings calls, product launch presentations, conference presentations, radio and TV interviews, advertisements, and training materials. For example, companies like IBM, Cisco Systems, and McDonald’s offer podcasts of press and investor relations calls, while Apple makes its TV commercials available. Additionally, EarningsCast! aggregates earnings calls from many companies and converts them to podcasts for individuals that missed the original broadcast.

• Original, brand-extending content. Here, marketers can create new podcast content to extend their brand awareness. Opportunities include educational material, informational content, brand-related lifestyle content, events, or extensions to a blog. These podcasts don’t specifically address your products or services, but instead relate to your brand to build awareness. Purina offers podcasts about pet advice and Whirlpool offers advice about parenting and retirement. Neither of these podcasts specifically discusses the merits of pet food or appliances.

• Product and services demonstrations. In some cases, podcasts about a product or service make sense, and these are great opportunities to use video and enhance value. From simple PowerPoint slide presentations synchronized with audio to how-to instructions describing how a product works, these types of podcasts help move a buyer from the consideration phase to purchase. For example, Unica offers industry insights and makes connections to the company’s service offerings, while BMW provides podcasts about the latest car models and company innovations.

• Internal communication and training. Podcasts aren’t just for your customers anymore. Companies can use podcasts for internal sales meetings, planning and brainstorming sessions, training, and events — all to benefit and educate employees. According to the Forrester Research report released late last year (Social Computing Reshapes eLearning), "Centralized learning no longer meets the needs of today’s workers, and podcasting is one technique that helps achieve peer-driven learning."

IBM encourages employees to use its podcast publishing tool to upload media (audio, video, and data) for use by fellow employees. Since its launch in October 2005, employees have created more than 700 podcasts, which have been downloaded almost 1 million times behind the company’s firewall.

• Sponsoring podcasts from other sources. If developing your own podcasts isn’t a reality for your company, consider getting involved with other podcasts related to your brand via advertising and sponsorships of podcasts. For example, Volvo sponsors the audio portion of Autoblog with a 15-second promotional spot near the beginning of the podcast. MommyCast, a parenting podcast created by two mothers in Virginia, is sponsored by Dixie with a "sponsored by" tagline and logo, a short intro at the beginning of each podcast, and a commercial that runs once in each podcast. When taking the sponsorship path, consider allowing podcasters to create the ads for you. GoDaddy sponsors podcasts but provides the podcasters only a basic list of talking points, allowing them to create ads that they think will garner a positive response from their audience.

At Forrester, Brian covers the intersection of rich media and Social Computing, including user-generated content, podcasting, and immersive video gaming environments in addition to social networks, blogs, and other social media technologies. He advises Marketing Leadership professionals world over through workshops on emerging interactive channels and Social Computing.

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