I’ll never forget about ten years ago, the digital VP at the PR agency I was working at was always suggesting podcasts as a new, hip tactic for our clients to gain visibility. I wasn’t quite sold on the idea at that time and always wondered, “Were people really listening to them?”
Podcasts have been around for quite some time now, traced back to the boom of Apple products like the iPod. But let’s face it – podcasts were boring then. The trend never really caught on and after just a few years, it diminished as we moved on to exciting advancements like tablets and Twitter. But with these shifts, we’ve evolved into a world of “on demand,” more commonly with TV formats. Forget commercials, forget moving plans around to make it home in time for the start of your favorite prime time show, it’s now all about watching when you’d like and without interruption.
But then came Serial, the podcast spin-off of radio program This American Life that lured listeners in. Serial became on-demand sensation by way of audio, opening the floodgates to today’s new podcast listener. Listeners tuned in when and where they wanted, while creating the visual representation of the story in their heads. Almost as addicting as Homeland, this podcast made listeners want more. I’ll admit, as soon as I was done with the series, I was searching for the next podcast to load.
Thanks to Sarah Koenig and many other successful podcasteurs (yes, I made that word up), podcasts are back and they’re better than before. We tend to see big production teams behind the modern podcast and well-known hosts leading the way, which has created a whole new platform for PR folks to engage listeners who want to listen. In my last blog post, we looked at value of media placements that reach the right audience, as opposed to any wide net of people who may or may not take an interest. Podcasts now become an opportunity to share information with a group of listeners who are eager to hear more about a designated topic. This isn’t just drive time radio on the way to work, but a program whose audience selected to tune in, and have an invested interest in hearing more.
Whether it’s a blog-style podcast for mommies like Zen Parenting or Manic Mommies, a scientific discussion like with Scientific American podcast, or an extension of a traditional media outlets like Time or New Yorker, there’s something for everyone. For the PR pros in the house, I’ll plug the PR Week podcast. In a world where we’re constantly “plugged in,” information received through the headphones of a smart phone may have great influence and lead PR professionals down a new road to successful audience enagagement.