More and more companies are turning to podcasts for their communications - but often have unrealistic expectations about how easy it is to produce one. Instead of "microphone on and off you go", a thorough planning and a coherent communication strategy is required. Tilo Bonow, founder and CEO of the PR agency PIABO and presenter of the successful Business Class Podcast*, offers companies his top tips for launching an in-house podcast.
Companies today have a variety of communication formats at their disposal. However, none of these has recently risen as rapidly in its reach as the podcast - with currently a third of the German population listening to podcasts at least once in a while. No wonder, because users benefit from a wide range of entertaining information that is available anytime and anywhere at the touch of a button. The popular medium thus also opens up new opportunities for companies to make themselves heard within the target group and position themselves as experts on the topics currently relevant in their industry.
With all the advantages that a company podcast offers, many however underestimate the knowledge and the effort necessary for a podcast’s long-term success. Thus, companies should first ask themselves some basic questions before they can even start with the technical preparation and content planning.
Step 1: Why am I actually doing this?
Podcasts are becoming a hype phenomenon - and some companies are jumping on the bandwagon recklessly without knowing exactly why and what they are doing. If you don't want to carelessly waste your marketing budget and ultimately risk damaging your image, you should first of all answer the following important questions: What expertise does my company have? What target group do I want to reach with my podcast? And what added value in terms of content can I create for my target group based on the company's know-how?
Step 2: The choice between many formats
From the answers to these questions you should arrive at the basic thematic concept of the podcast. However, it is still far from clear how the individual episodes should ultimately be structured. Podcasts can follow many different formats and strategies. Whether they are short 10-minute bursts on specific topics (like Joel Fixe from digital compact crispy), explanatory or advanced training formats that make complex specialist content more accessible (like the online marketing podcast from OMT magazine), or journalistically structured podcasts on current news (like the t3n podcast). Each format has its own advantages and can contribute to achieving different company goals. On the other hand, podcast episodes that have not been thoroughly prepared in terms of content – just the "microphone on and I'll start chatting" route - are doomed to failure. Instead, each episode should be based on a coherent script that is appropriate to the format, and the narrator(s) should be able to implement it confidently and naturally.
Step 3: Clarify your people
This brings us to personnel issues. Because no matter whether it is a conversation format for two, with guests or a mono format: eloquent speakers are needed to give the podcast a voice and face. There are several ways to find your people: externally hired presenters often have the necessary experience and talent. Cheaper and more effective for branding, on the other hand, are internal and suitable spokespeople - ideally the CEO - who are also well-known and have a broad reach.
In addition, you need a team with the necessary editorial and technical expertise. If internal resources are not available, it is possible to find this team externally. Many communication and even experienced podcast agencies now offer not only support and advice, but also a complete service package: from the development of the podcast concept to professional production and marketing.
Step 4: Clarify technical setup
Professional support can be helpful not only in terms of people, but also in terms of technical setup. After all, in addition to the content design, a podcast also requires the basic technical equipment for the actual recording. A textile-rich room with carpets, sufficient sound absorbers and few windows is just as beneficial for the recording quality as the choice of a suitable microphone. The microphone should be tailored to speech and have an integrated filter for background noise. Established brands in this area are Rode or Sennheiser.
Last but not least, a good editing programme is needed to go from the raw recording to create a podcast episode ready for publication. Among the free tools, Audacity - a free audio editor which supports all steps from editing to exporting the finished episode - is particularly useful.
Step 5: How and where do I publish the podcast?
Now that the podcast has been recorded and produced, it finally needs to be published. A growing number of platforms, large and small, are available for this purpose – although you can usually limit yourself to a selection of the most relevant and widest reaching platforms such as iTunes, Deezer, Spotify and Soundcloud. In addition to the platform, there is also the question of how often the podcast should appear. After all, sporadic and irregular episodes are unlikely to attract a large audience. A successful podcast thrives on the fact that it appears at regular fixed intervals and at the same time of day so as to continuously build a loyal community.