Business

Public relations: Done right, podcasts can really promote your company

Ann Marie van den Hurk
Ann Marie van den Hurk

If you've doubted the power of podcasting as a business tool, take note.

Southland Christian Church has been using podcasts to broadcast weekend teaching and various events, and it's garnered a following worldwide, so much so that the tales of who listens are fascinating.

Derrick Purvis, the church's communications director, said leaders have been e-mailed by a fan in Africa who lives in a remote village. The person walks into a more densely populated town once a week for supplies and, while there, uses the Internet to download Southland's podcast. Message in hand, the person then heads back to the village and shares the teaching that was done on the other side of the world.

That kind of customer accessibility and devotion is what many businesses hope for with any level of communications. And podcasts are just as rewarding for consumers, if not more so, because they reach them on their own time and schedules, unlike many advertising messages.

But just recording a video or audio message with little planning or strategy isn't the way to go. If done right, podcasts can be very useful. For example, they can instruct customers how to use your products, offer a tour of your location or demonstrate your thoughts on leadership within your industry.

Purvis' advice to organizations considering podcasts is that consistency is key. You can't launch podcasts and not follow through with a regular schedule. Eventually, it becomes white noise to consumers, he said. Also, he said there must be consistency in context. Be sure to replay why you're doing a podcast in every recording. It's easy to get in the habit of thinking your listeners know what you're talking about, but most listeners won't tune in every week, month or episode. You need to be sure to give them the context in which this episode is delivered. Make it easy for them to catch on.

As managing partner of Professional Podcasts, Steve Lubetkin is an expert in the field. He suggests your podcast or Web video should not be produced as a commercial, as most people are turned off by slick productions. It should be more conversational. He offered these key elements to consider when podcasting:

Planning: What is the focus of your video? Are you talking about your services or showing how to use your products? Decide that before you press "record."

Your content needs to be of a high quality. Make it dynamic, so there can't be any monologues or talking heads for 5 minutes. If you're using audio only, use different voices and background noises. For video, use photos or actual footage. For example, if you're a landscaping business, show off your work by using photos or footage of work sites or your team working.

Production: You will need tools including a video camera or portable dictation device and editing software. Lubetkin suggests Olympus for audio recording or Kodak Zi8 for video.

Remember, you will need an external microphone to have good sound quality. The investment for hardware should be $200 to $500.

There are many options for editing your audio and video. For audio, Audacity is a free program available online and very easy to use. When working with video, Kodak and Flip cameras come with pre-loaded software, which include wizards to walk you through the process.

Don't forget to include a call to action in the beginning or end with your Web site and phone number.

Distribution: Post your podcast or Web video on more than just your Web site. You want to reach as many people as possible, so post it on your blog and upload it to sites such as YouTube, Hulu, iTunes and Blip.TV.

If this all sounds overwhelming, don't be afraid to bring in professionals. You should ask for samples of their work and what tools they use. Also, their personality is important, as you need to be able to work well together.

With podcasting, quality is key here. You want your brand to be represented well so podcasting can move your business or organization forward.

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