Tuning in

Organizations find podcasts a way to connect with consumers

Posted on Oct 30, 2020 :: Insight Insider
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

It’s no secret consumers are bombarded by more information from an ever-growing number of sources. Podcasts are one way organizations look to cut through that noise.

Last year, an estimated 88 million Americans listened to podcasts, with forecasters anticipating that number to grow to 160 million in 2023, according to Statista. Through podcasts, businesses can build stronger connections with their customers, says Vallari Chandna, chair of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s marketing and management department.

“With podcasts, you can easily get 20 minutes of engagement, which is way longer than a YouTube video,” she says. “Podcasts can make a brand seem more trustworthy, and it’s a really good way to engage with customers.”

But that engagement shouldn’t be an obvious advertisement — for example, a 20-minute podcast on why your product is better than the competition — since that may turn off consumers, Chandna says. The promotion of a product needs to be more subtle, such as the way McAfee, a producer of antivirus software, handles its podcasts. The company’s podcast focuses on a theme, such as protecting yourself from hacking, and through that entire discussion, the solution — one of its own products — is subtly injected into the conversation.

“The podcast’s goal is to provide ancillary education, but everything you’re listening to relates back to that (company’s) product or service,” Chandna says.

When Statista surveyed podcast listeners on why they tune in, 74 percent say it’s to learn new things. That’s something listeners of Marco’s “Let’s Tech” podcast will find, says Dawn Zimmerman, Marco’s director of communications. Launched in July, the tech-related podcast is hosted by Marco’s top two leaders, CEO Jeff Gau and President Doug Albregts. And while the podcast shares tech-related information in a new format, non-tech related topics also pop up.

“Marco’s podcast brings together two passions of mine — leadership and technology. I like the more conversational format of a podcast and the ability to interview thought leaders and share what they’re learning,” Gau says. “We like to keep trying new things at Marco, so I welcomed the idea of using the contemporary format of a podcast to connect with customers and our communities.”

Gau and Albregts “are actively engaged in all parts of the podcast development process,” which adds to its success, says producer Brittney Goebel. “They share ideas they’re interested in covering in upcoming episodes and craft questions they want to ask each guest. Then our podcast team works behind the scenes to get everything scheduled and prepared for each episode. It has been a fun collaboration between executive leadership and the marketing team.”

Connection point

For an organization that gathers en masse once a year, podcasts are just one way the Experimental Aircraft Association connects with its members. Launched in 2017, Green Dot provides EAA members a direct connection to the organization and all things aviation, says Ti Windisch, EAA’s assistant editor and producer of “Green Dot.”

“We post a lot on social media (within various groups) and saw a podcast as another way to connect with members,” he says. “We have three well-spoken aviation enthusiasts as our hosts and will discuss who would be a good guest or if there’s a topic we haven’t covered lately. It’s a very collaborative process.”

As for the podcast’s name, Windisch says it refers to the large painted dots on the runway at Oshkosh’s Wittman Airport, which also serves as EAA’s airport. It’s a nod to where the control tower frequently advises pilots to land.

“They’ll often say, ‘You’re clear to land beyond the green dot,’” Windisch says, adding it connects audience members immediately to EAA.

“Green Dot” usually runs between 30 and 50 minutes. “People really feel like they’re part of the conversation. It’s just a bunch of aviation junkies having a good time,” Windisch says.

Sharon Hulce, president and CEO of Employment Resource Group in Appleton, was planning a speaking tour for her book, “A Well Done Professional Midlife Crisis,” when the pandemic hit, bringing travel and large in-person events to a halt. Stuck at home, Hulce still wanted to get out her message, and launching a podcast seemed an ideal way for her to stay connected with those interested not only in her book’s message but also leadership advice.

“I decided to start interviewing some of the people featured in the book, and eventually it evolved into discussing how their leadership style evolved,” Hulce says, adding her podcasts are also videotaped so people can either listen or watch. “That allows people the opportunity to choose how they want to experience the podcast.”

Since launching “A Well Done Professional Podcast,” Hulce has interviewed several notable regional business leaders, including Oshkosh Corp. CEO Wilson Jones and Dave Kievet, president and COO of The Boldt Co.

“The podcast featuring Dave got 11,000 views — it was amazing. He talked about how it was a little rough making the transition from working in the field to working in the office and going from managing processes to managing people,” she says. “I think people like to hear that realism.”

Making the move

For some businesses thinking about hosting a podcast, the pandemic provided that final push to get the initiative off the ground.

Red Shoes Inc. in Appleton took several months planning its “Sole Source” podcast, including possible guests, the format and a projected launch date, which would have been this fall. Then the pandemic struck and Red Shoes President Lisa Cruz decided to move up the podcast’s start date.

“Launching the podcast was a way to tell stories from different perspectives … we thought (the pandemic) was a good time to launch because there were and are so many stories to tell,” she says. “The other driver for me as an employer was to launch something creative and inspiring as a way to pull the team through a very serious, chaotic and uncertain time. This was our passion project, and it has inspired so much dialogue among team members when it comes to choosing topics, questions to ask, how to reach audiences and more.”

Cruz says the podcast is an extension of Red Shoes’ brand and “allows us to get out of our own day-to-day world and explore topics and meet people that we and our listeners want to learn more about.”

Addie Teeters, head of marketing communications and public affairs for Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s Food Packaging & Technical Solutions business area, says COVID-19 forced her to evaluate the company’s communication strategies. That proved to be the catalyst “to take the leap into some new methods, such as podcasts, webinars, virtual trade shows and a more enhanced social media plan. It’s been very successful for us. We need to reach a global audience, and this is a fantastic way to do that.”

Ahlstrom-Munksjö teamed up with BConnected in Appleton, which provides support during the podcasts. Teeters says its “Food and Technical Solutions” podcast  is more than just recording the discussion, but “we are capturing videos and photos so we can use the finished format in multiple mediums … It also allows us to amplify and promote the podcast via social media.”

Teeters says the podcast topics are relevant for the marketplace and everyday consumers. A podcast can be a good opportunity to educate someone who, for example, is looking to reduce her plastic consumption. “The podcast formula allows us to do this in a more conversational and transparent way versus a very scripted presentation,” says Teeters, who hosts the podcast.

While many organizations offer monthly or biweekly podcasts, Red Shoes produces a weekly podcast. “It’s like anything else you pursue, I call it feeding the beast,” Cruz says. “You have to be committed to the long-term plan and set it up in a sustainable manner.”

When organizations launch a podcast, Cruz says they should expect a few bumps along the way since it’s a new process and product, but it’s vital to keep moving forward.

“As an entrepreneur at heart, I love strategizing and then getting to go-time while learning along the way,” she says. “Making mistakes is part of the process, but it’s what we do after making the mistakes that’s so important and valuable.

Ready, set, launch

Is your business thinking about adding a podcast? If so, Lisa Cruz, president of Red Shoes Inc. in Appleton, has some advice.

Don’t plan or strategize in a vacuum. Develop a plan with multiple employees, and reach out to other professionals who have podcasts to get varying perspectives and insights.

Thoroughly plan out the first few podcasts before hitting “Record” on that first one.

Get the right equipment. Red Shoes purchased a microphone, podcaster pro board, cables, camera and microphone stand. Investing in quality equipment makes the final product sound better.

“Podcasters and their suppliers are a community within itself, so we reached out to numerous professionals to learn and research details before we began. Everyone was extremely helpful and willing to share what they had learned,” Cruz says.