The key to podcasting is community

FIR Podcast Community on Google+Podcasting should be the PR consultant’s best friend, says Phil Szomszor in a good assessment of podcasts and their role in public relations.

Or, rather, the role podcasts ought to have in PR.

In his optimistic assessment, Szomszor cites the rise of smartphone use and growth of free or cheap tools to create podcasts, plus a focus on content marketing, that have created a mini-revival of podcasting in the UK.

He notes three specific reasons for public relations practitioners to take an interest in podcasts:

1. Listen: learn about your industry.

2. Reach out: get your clients or your company featured on leading podcasts.

3. Speak out: make your own podcast and reach your target audience in a different way, at a different time.

Phil asked half a dozen podcasters – Bernie Mitchell, Jon Buscall, Kelvin Newman, John and Ruth Arnold, and Neville Hobson (that’s me) – what they think “to get an insight into why they do it and ways PR people can engage with them, with some surprising insights.”

Phil’s captured some great comments and perspectives from each of these podcasters: read his post for the details.

One point I want to offer some additional thoughts on, to extend what I said to Phil, concerns his second reason for why podcasts should be of interest to PRs – get your clients or your company featured on leading podcasts.

I have a strong view that podcasting is not about setting up an interview for a client with the PR listening in, or 30-second ad or promo spots, or even looking at podcasts as traditional media channels.

If you really are interested in engaging with the listeners of a particular podcast – say, For Immediate Release, the show I co-host with Shel Holtz each Monday – your key to the success of your goal is to become a valued part of the listener community.

We welcome approaches from PR people with ideas and suggestions for topics to talk about or people to interview. But traditional pitching doesn’t work as we’re more interested in embracing a business as part of the community.

Nowhere is this better seen than the role our two sponsors play in the success of our podcast. Instead of treating their 60 seconds or so time slot in each episode purely as an ad spot to pimp their products – nothing wrong with that, of course – each has taken a different and more effective approach, one that puts them and their content at the heart of each show.

CustomScoop – our very first sponsor back in 2005 – has “The Media Monitoring Minute,” a regular slot in  which Jen Zingsheim talks about a newsworthy topic or issue that, broadly, is related to their business area and reflects the focus of our show. It doesn’t say anything about their business or their products and services.

Ragan Communications -  our primary sponsor – uses their time to talk about upcoming conferences and other events they do across North America. Jenny Fukumoto, the voice of Ragan on our podcast, is so engaging and genuine in her vocal delivery, geared specifically to the show, that you never think it’s an ad spot.

We also do interviews in a separate FIR Interviews podcast. While some of the interviewees have been proposed by PR agencies, the majority either come from contacts Shel or I make ourselves, or are suggested by listeners.

So if you would like a word of advice on how to get your client or product mentioned in our podcast, here are three connected tips:

  1. Listen to a few episodes to get a sense of what the show’s about and how we talk about brands, products, businesses and issues (especially our popular “kerfuffle” reports). Read the show notes in each episode’s blog post.
  2. Join one of the online listener communities on Google+ (currently the most active), Facebook or Friendfeed. Don’t lurk, join in and contribute. (Bonus tip: comment on a topic: almost guaranteed to be included in a show.)
  3. Then the big one: Have a genuine and compelling story to tell, one that is likely to engage with the listeners and the wider community.

Of course, as we all believe, content is king. In podcasting, though, that goes hand in hand with community and being an integral and genuine part of it.

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About Neville Hobson

Entrepreneurial business communicator with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Co-host of the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Also an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.