Content Overload Dilemma – Or – Why Podcast

By Tracy Schario, APR, and Meredyth Jensen

We’ve been talking a lot about podcasts over coffee this summer. Meredyth produces The 10-Minute Mentor, an executive management conversation series for Merryck & Co. Tracy regularly consumes Dear Sugars (one of whom is Cheryl Strayed, best known for her memoir Wild), Dinner Party Download (DPD) and The Splendid Table, among others. We muse about what makes a good podcast. Finding women’s voices in the audio stream. The myriad of marketing podcasts that are somewhat lackluster, yet popular. Creating podcasts that offer distinctly different content rather than merely another distribution channel for content. The challenges of marketing and distributing a podcast. The possibility of creating our own PR/Marketing mavens series.

A few facts that inform the deliberation.

pexels-photo-347700-torsten-dettlaff

Courtesy: Pexels/Torsten Dettlaff

With more than 42 million weekly listeners, according to The Infinite Dial 2017, an annual trends report by Edison Research and Triton Digital, podcasts have proven their staying power. In fact, it is their power of connection that makes the medium so effective. The listener chooses the topic that speaks to his or her need for information, education, entertainment or inspiration. Dear Sugars may bring one to tears but the Icebreaker on DPD most always brings a chuckle.

Podcasts also appeal to a wide range of listeners – nearly equal thirds for Ages 18-34, 35-54 and 55 and older. The Edison Triton researchers conclude, “The audience for podcasts continues to be predominately 18-54, and leans slightly male.” If you are considering launching a podcast, understanding your audience is a critical first step to developing content, length, format and frequency.

With today’s smart phone driven culture, it should be no surprise that 81% of subscribers listen on a mobile device. While many download podcasts and listen immediately, 41% download for later and 27% subscribe. Not only are podcasts convenient for on demand consumption, you can multi-task while listening, while driving or working out, for example. Stop. Start. Rewind or fast forward in 15-second increments. Pause and continue later.

One of the most essential findings from the Edison Triton research is that 48% of monthly podcast consumers follow company brands on social media. That number is sure to increase. Podcasts are an opportunity to build your multi-channel content strategy and utilize social media for promotions.

Why podcast? An ROI case study illustrates the business value.

For Merryck & Co., the catalyst for developing a podcast series was a way to build their brand position as a global leader in executive advisory and leadership development. Their unique value proposition is having a cadre of experienced C-suite executives who provide 1-on-1 mentoring services to Fortune 250 senior leaders. We started with an audio storytelling strategy on a topic Merryck knows best: leadership in the age of disruption. By featuring authentic, pragmatic, and thought-provoking conversations between Merryck’s CEO and top business executives, each episode uncovers crucible moments that defined them as leaders.

Whether the discussion dives deep into managing through crisis, leading through transformation, or dealing with activist investors in the boardroom, Merryck has put a content stake in the ground with subject matter experts that have helped countless listeners accelerate their own leadership impact. And the return on the investment speaks volumes. The series has driven a 10X year-over-year increase in web traffic, while the dedicated podcast page of Merryck’s website is consistently one of the top three most visited pages on the site since it first launched last November. Additionally, two new (six-figure) clients who listened to The 10 Minute Mentor were inspired to hire Merryck based on topics that resonated with their current leadership challenges. Another outcome is the increase in executive visibility – not only for Merryck’s CEO, who has doubled his public speaking engagements this year – but a surge in client inquiries for each Merryck mentor who has been featured on a podcast.

Conclusion?

By now, if you haven’t considered creating a podcast, it’s time to contemplate this compelling distribution channel for content, brand management and as a potential new revenue driver. It requires skill in audio recording and editing, a vision for how you can advance the conversation in an increasingly crowded space and the ability to engage an audience through dialogue. Sounds easy, right?

As you explore the pros and cons of podcasting, here a few good reads to help develop your business case for the investment.

As for our coffee chats, perhaps we’ll soon be podcasting to test out our hypothesis that there is space for more women’s perspective on the happenings in our industry. And you can bet we’ll be scouting for more great podcasts.

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Thoughts On Our Profession, Past and Future

Judy Phair, president of PhairAdvantage Communications, LLC and a former president of PRSA National, was inducted into the National Capital Chapter Hall of Fame on September 18 during the annual Thoth Awards Gala. Below is an excerpt from her acceptance speech. She can be reached via Twitter and LinkedInAJ4A1052-2775787939-O

The National Capital Chapter Hall of Fame is one of the most esteemed in our profession, and I want to express my deep and heartfelt thanks for this honor.  With your permission, I’d like to take just a few minutes this evening to share some thoughts on our profession, past and future.

The members of the Hall of Fame have inspired me with their accomplishments, their integrity, and their advocacy for our profession.  Looking at their names leads me to reflect on what a difference their accomplishments and those of many others in our profession have made – and how much more there is to do.  Here are a few examples:

Equality and diversity – As a woman who was a teenager in the Mad Men era, I benefitted from wonderful parents who instilled in me the belief that it was possible to pursue and succeed in the career of my choice.  That was very different from the experience of many of my friends.

Bill Novelli Judy Phair Samantha VillegasWomen have come a long way since then, but, while there are more women than ever in our profession, they are still scarce at the very highest levels – and continue to make less money than their male peers.  Ironically, while men may predominate at the highest levels, fewer and fewer men are entering our profession – and that’s not good, either.

In addition, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans are underrepresented – and we suffer from it.  So, we also have some work to do in this area.

  • We must all be ambassadors for our profession – I think the reputation of public relations – our brand, if you will – has improved. However, I still hear the term spin-doctor more than any of us would like.  All of you in this room have helped build a better reputation—and will do so in the future.

PRSA offers us one important way to work together for our profession.  Like so many in my generation, I came to public relations from journalism. I’m not sure that I really knew much about the profession then, but I quickly fell in love with public relations and its potential to make a positive difference.

I connected with PRSA, and found a special community of others who shared my passion for our profession.  I believe even more today than I did then that this is indeed a higher calling.

PRSA has helped me advance my career, work with an incredibly talented group of colleagues, and learn the joy of mentoring others.  I’ve also come to understand that recognizing what you don’t know is always more important than what you do know.  Education is a lifelong process.

  • Every one of us must speak up when the practice of public relations is misused and work tirelessly for the highest standards of ethics and excellence in our profession.   In today’s fast-paced world, where information – accurate and inaccurate, beneficial and harmful – can circle the globe in seconds, we must conduct our work in an environment defined by ethics and excellence.  It is crucial to economic progress and human rights.
  • I hear a lot about how much public relations is changing, but I wonder – it seems to me the technology and the tools may be different, but some things remain the same. Developing an effective strategy, based on research and understanding, remains at the core of our craft.  And no matter what technology we use, relationships – built on trust — are the currency of public relations.

We must effect and enhance all communication – whether it’s a blog, a tweet, a Facebook post, an op ed, a You Tube video — in an atmosphere of respect and trust for our audiences.

  • We are an increasingly global profession.  Some of my most exciting work in the past 15 years has involved learning about new cultures such as India and China – and also learning that the same basic tenets apply to effective communication in these regions.

You can’t communicate if you don’t take the time to know and understand your audiences. For example, in helping some colleges in the Midwest attract more students from India, we did some research that reinforced some pretty basic principles:

  • Personal contact is more valuable than electronic outreach
  • Generic doesn’t work
  • Messages need to be targeted for specific audiences and cultures
  • And, authenticity and transparency are non-negotiable.

Whether in Mumbai or Baltimore, the audiences we are trying to reach want to be served, not sold – involved, not told.

  • A few other observations:
    • If I were entering the profession today, I’d grab every international opportunity I could – we really are in a global marketplace.
    • I’d be sure I knew sound business principles and practices – we need to speak the language of our employers in order to effectively communicate with them.
    • And if I were just starting out I’d probably be a whole lot better at touchscreens than I am today.  When you begin your career with a typewriter, it’s hard to get over the need to pound those keys!
    • Finally, perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is that no one succeeds on his or her own.  Each of us owes so many others for what we are able to accomplish, and I strongly believe that each of us has a responsibility to give back to our profession – through volunteer work in PRSA and other organizations, through mentoring, through sharing our passion, our knowledge, and our connections.

In fact, becoming a member of the Hall of Fame makes me feel that I have an added responsibility to work harder for our profession, and to help future leaders achieve their dreams.  Our daily work offers us all an opportunity to make a difference.  I hope that we all grab that opportunity.

PRSA Members Shed Light on Future of Public Relations

Steve Radick is one of the leads for Booz Allen Hamilton’s social media practice where he supports clients from across the public sector on how to integrate social media into communications strategies and tactics. He blogs about social media and Government 2.0 at Social Media Strategery, and was recently named one of PRNews’ 15 to Watch for in 2009.  He also serves on the Advisory Board for the SmartBrief on Social Media and Governingpeople.com.

PRSA Cover

Download the Report Here

As the line between communication sender and receiver continue to blur, and the concepts of news cycles and gatekeepers become outdated lexicons of an industry that is undergoing a major transformation, public relations professionals find themselves at a cross-roads.  Let’s face it – public relations itself is having a bit of an identity crisis.  Between the decline of the newspaper industry, the personalization of mass media, and the expansion of social media into every segment of the population, the image of the public relations professional of Edward Bernays and Ivy Lee has become barely recognizable.

What is the role of the public relations professional in today’s communication environment?  What does the future hold?

Well, according to a recent survey by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and Booz Allen Hamilton (full disclosure – I work for Booz Allen), the future of public relations will be marked by three topics:

  1. Justifying return on investment (ROI)
  2. Fighting to stay current with the latest technologies and methodologies
  3. Managing the ever-expanding channels of communications

“Social media tools will continue to change and evolve – we should not get stuck on a particular tool but be flexible and put our strategy to work on the appropriate platform.”
–    PRSA member and survey respondent

More than 2,000 PRSA members responded to the survey and provided their thoughts on the challenges they were facing, future trends, and those skills highest in demand now and in the future.

When asked to identify the top challenge they expect to face over the next five years, almost 60% of all respondents said that dealing with limited resources due to economic pressures would be a “great challenge.”  Justifying return on investment and finding the time to engage in online social media communities were the other two top challenges identified by more than half of the respondents.

The major findings are available in the full survey report and you can download that here.

In reviewing the results of the survey, there were a few other interesting points that jumped out at me that didn’t make it into the final report:

  • Almost 70% of respondents were women, matching closely the PRSA membership as a whole.
  • 93% of respondents identified themselves as white or causcasian
  • 29% of respondents were 32 years old or younger, the most popular age group among respondents
  • Compared to more than 40% of respondents who update their website every day, less than 20% comment on, or create content for, blogs on a daily basis
  • The skills identified most often by the respondents as being in highest demand over the next five years are strategic communications, social media, and crisis communications

On Monday, November 9th one of Booz Allen’s Vice President’s, Maria Darby (and one of my friends and mentors), will be briefing the results of this survey and discussing the future of communications and the public relations industry at the PRSA International Conference in San Diego,.  I’ll be joining her for a panel discussion following her presentation so if you’ll be there, make sure you stop by and say hello!

Market research – smart expense in a bad economy

Sandra Wills HannonSandra Wills Hannon runs a public relations and market research firm. runs a public relations and market research firm.
xG Technology - VOIP marketers

xG Technology - VOIP marketers

While economic indicators show an improving economy, most businesses are still reeling from the recession. We continue to see layoffs, plant closings and store closings, to name a few. For those of us in public relations, marketing and advertising, we know too well about drastic budget cuts. In addition, market research is taking a hit.

But of all things to cut, market research is a critical component of any communications campaign that can save communicators from serious mistakes. Market research provides the insight that is the pulse of your consumers. It tests your campaign messages and your creative concepts to see if it will move consumers or audiences.

In short, market research takes the guess work out of your campaigns so you are surer that your messages and concepts will hit the mark. Skip this process in your campaign planning and you court disaster, risking damage to your campaign, company or organization.

Here’s one story to serve as an example. In 2006 we (The Hannon Group) were secured by xG Technology to market test a prototype of new VOIP technology that was going to offer consumers very low cost telephone service to beat any other product on the market. The company decided to market test it for attractiveness and preferred price points.

It’s a good thing.

We designed and executed a multiple focus group study in multiple cities with a variety of participants from college-age adults to retired seniors. It turned out that the prototype was deeply disliked — across the board. The company decided not to rollout the tested prototype and, instead, marketed the TX-60, a “sexier” phone that participants said they much preferred.

The research saved xG Technology hundreds of thousands of dollars in production and promotion costs for a product that would have surely tanked in the market…just around the time that the economy started to tank. Can you imagine the impact that would have had on the company? Instead, with the introduction of a more attractive consumer product in 2007, the company managed to make a profit in 2008, while other companies were going belly-up.

I like to think market research helped to save xG Technology from financial disappointment. Maybe that comment is an over-reach, but there is more than an element of truth to the statement too.