04 August 2015

Marketing to the Military Using Podcasts

David Yoo, RallyPoint Civilian Careers.

What is a podcast?

The word "podcasting" was introduced by Ben Hammersley in The Guardian newspaper in an article published on February 2004, when discussing the growing popularity of audio broadcasting and audio blogging. It is a combination of "pod" from Apple's popular product iPod and "broadcast." 

According to the Merriam Webster Tenth International Collegiate, a podcast is "a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet." Specifically, a podcast is simply an audio file you can listen to on a computer or MP3-type player, often distributed via RSS or iTunes, as defined by the Content Marketing Institute. 

It's a great way to reach audiences online in audio format. As Hammersley suggested in his article, podcasts can have the nature of an audio blog. Defense contractors and many other companies catering to military audiences have some form of audio-related 

Why start one?

1) It's a growing channel. 

You might be thinking whether investing in having podcasts can help your business, especially when targeting the military. The author of Godfather of Government Marketing and Selling to the Government: What It Takes to Compete and Win in the World's Largest Marketmentions that podcasts are essentially "audio white papers."

With the advent of smartphone technology and consumerist culture, podcasts have become increasingly popular. In fact, Apple reported that podcast subscriptions through iTunes reached 1 billion in 2014. Government contractors (like defense contractors and other military contractors) as well as smaller businesses are starting to take advantage of podcasts in order to provide its prospectives more access to information and a more authentic, insider understanding of the business.

Why is it growing, you might ask? If you recall, perhaps from your own experience, the podcast industry after Apple officially rolled out the program was meager. 

Kevin Roose from New York magazine explains that the resurgence in podcasts is due to the automobile industry. 

"Both Google and Apple have rolled out connected-car platforms (Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, respectively), and most new cars sold in the U.S. these days come with the ability to play smartphone audio over the car's speakers, either through Bluetooth connectivity or through a USB or auxiliary plug. One industry group, GMSA, estimates that 50 percent of all cars sold in 2015 will be internet-connected, and 100 percent by 2025.

Connected cars are a boon for the entire streaming audio industry, but they're especially exciting for podcast makers, whose shows are perfectly suited to in-car listening. Just as TV watchers can now choose Netflix or Amazon streams over surfing channels, radio listeners will soon have a bevy of on-demand options at their disposal."

This is a significant development for those willing to invest some resources in gaining visibility in the podcast arena. The costs are far less than creating a television or radio show, as all you need is a few microphones, an editing software, and a hosting service for the audio files, so the returns on the investment can become well worth the time if your content is valuable

2) It gives you access to an audience you may not have been able to reach.

As Josh Steimle, a contributor on Forbes, cites one example of the power of using podcasts as a part of a robust content marketing strategy:
"Michael Hyatt, author of the best-selling book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, practices what he preaches. His 'This is Your Life' podcast is downloaded 250,000 times each month. As Hyatt elaborates on his blog post 4 Reasons You Should Consider Launching Your Own Podcast, 'A podcast gives you visibility in a completely different world—primarily iTunes. I have had scores of new people say they had never heard of me until they stumbled onto me in iTunes.' Hyatt gives valuable information and advice in his podcast–all for free. But that podcast leads to more sales of his books, signups for his courses, and requests for him as a speaker."
Podcasts not only gain you visibility to a growing audience that tune in to learn more about what you have to say, but they also help restructure the nature of your marketing from B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumer) to "P2P" or person-to-person if you so choose. Podcasts can be conversational and personal (accepting callers to jump in for opinions while airing) while also being informative and interesting. 

If you recall our previous post on content marketing, the advertising industry is facing new challenges because the advent of the Internet has made individuals accustomed to ignoring blatant attempts to push one-way advertising techniques (see "banner blindness"). What makes podcasts great and what immunizes marketers from the fear of having their content ignored by users is that, according to Entrepreneur.com, podcasting can be described as "push" audio content. The article states that "the "push" is to a targeted audience or an "on-demand" audience; those who want it...Podcasts show up (pushed) when new content is produced." 

Just like books, podcasts can introduce prospective consumers to the type of services and products you provide without overtly sacrificing the integrity of the content you are creating. In other words, podcasts inform listeners of the type of organization you are and create loyal brand fanatics who care deeply and invest much into feeling as if they are a part of the organization. Tapping into a market with millions of listeners can be well worth the dime, considering the steady growth of the podcasting industry. 

3. It can help drive traffic to your website, product, or service.

It's important to recognize that podcasts are mediums that encourage users to find out more about your organization and about the other types of content you create. In fact, many businesses and organizations supplement blog posts with podcasts and encourage readers and listeners to tune in for more relevant podcasts when they airPodcasts are great for bolstering an existing marketing strategy. 

Joe Pulizzi from Content Marketing Institute writes "What’s great about podcasts is the possibility to reimagine your content. Consider taking the original podcast to develop an article, white paper, case study, presentation and more. Even though the podcast itself can be powerful, it’s what you can do with it that will have the most impact." 

University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner, authors of Freakonomics have regular podcasts related to the same subject matter underlying the nature of the book and its sequel SuperFreakonomics. It ranks within the top ten podcasts on the iTunes marketplace, affording first time visitors the opportunity to explore the type of content Levitt and Dubner investigate in their broadcast to be a reflection of the type of material covered in their books. 

Michael Hyatt's experiences mentioned earlier is another testament to the power of podcasts. Create valuable content that listeners would voluntarily want to tune in for, and the rest will be taken care of. If what you create or talk about is of value, you are effectively increasing your inbound marketing flow by having prospective consumers go out of their way to find out more about your service. 

Make the Most of It

The CMI lays out three things to take into account when utilizing podcasts: 

1) Define a podcast theme and stick to it. 
2) Establish a release schedule listeners can expect: weekly, biweekly, monthly, etc. Be consistent. 
3) Integrate podcast content with your blog to gain listener insights.

But remember the most important rule: content has to be valuable and created with the listener in mind. Understand not only your typical listener's interest, but also your typical listener's listening habits. Remember that your listener can tune out whenever he or she starts getting bored. 

Live content tends to attract more than pre-recorded ones. Diverse but thematically consistent content can help retain your listeners; think of educational, informative, motivational, entertaining, or inspirational material to talk about. Think about having individuals to interview in a talk regarding a particular subject of interest to your listeners.

After all that is done, do not forget that you are still in the business of holding more than just 5 minutes of your listeners' attention. You want their loyalty, and you have to encourage and facilitate that process. Provide voluntary sign-ups with automatic updates, or post your live podcast link on your website. Include podcast availabilities in your email signature or send out a periodic newsletter. Having some trouble figuring out the first steps? Check out a simple guide like this.

For more information about creating valuable content for marketing to general audiences as well as for specific military audiences, check out some of previous blog posts about content marketing and using video campaigns.

Check out some of RallyPoint's unique Business Services here and have access to more than 740,000 members of the military and former military on our social network.


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