Beer company pours on the podcasts

Approaching a corporate podcast initiative entails choosing the right content and style – choices that could ultimately mean the difference between success and failure.

When done well, the podcast medium is great for targeting niche audiences with domain-specific content, said Brandy Fleming, vice-president of iStudio, a Toronto, Ont.-based Internet marketing firm. “If you have content that’s very deep or a subject that’s very niche that people are passionate about and want to learn more about, then absolutely a podcast is a great fit for that.”

And given the ongoing, episodic nature of the medium, it’s perfect for establishing a relationship with that niche audience, she added.

Podcasts are becoming relatively commonplace on company Web sites as businesses strive to incorporate more multimedia content.

Ontario Craft Brewers sought to achieve exactly that and build relationships with customers with its podcast series. Launched last April and airing every two weeks, they feature interviews with brew masters from its 29 micro-brewers situated across the province.

The series lets beer drinkers get to know the actual makers of the beverage – insight that’s seldom granted by larger brewers, said David Jones, senior vice-president at Toronto, Ont.-based Fleishman-Hillard Canada Inc., the marketing firm that created the podcast for Ontario Craft Brewers.

“A lot of the small brewers are just that, they’re small brewers with small places, with small breweries making small batches. The guy who you will hear on the podcast is the person who actually made the beer you have in your hand,” said Jones.

An interview style worked best for Ontario Craft Brewers, he said, due to the minimal time investment – no script preparation – required by the interviewee. Furthermore, the company wanted to keep the dialogue natural, rather than promotional. “We tried to make it as real a conversation as possible.”

Fleming agreed with the informal approach, adding there is always the danger of over scripting across a medium that’s really designed to be conversational and drive dialogue. “You don’t want to hear someone just reading. If you’re going to do that sort of thing, you should just stick with plain Web content.”

Actually, the style was conducive to Ontario Craft Brewers’ message. The company wanted to convey what was new and exciting among its micro-breweries, rather than make a blatant promotional sell, said Mary MacIsaac, director of marketing at Ontario Craft Breweries.

When crafting a message, avoid a sales pitch and make it interesting by way of rich and unique content, suggested Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image, Montréal, Que.-based marketing agency.

General Electric Company podcasts, Joel pointed out, feature scientists who talk about the technology behind its products, akin to what would air on the Discovery Channel – in fact, delivering this niche knowledge is the “biggest [use] that we’re seeing with it.”

Besides being good for targeting niche audiences, podcasts are just as favourable to thought leadership pieces, said Fleming.

“If you’ve got someone within your organization who has got a great personality and is very knowledgeable, then what a great opportunity to get that person heard. It’s like giving them a megaphone.”

Ontario Craft Brewers’ podcasts also currently include news items, which Jones predicted will be discontinued due to the realization that current material quickly becomes dated, rather than remaining “evergreen.”

Another way to stay current is to set up an editorial schedule and stick to it, suggested Fleming. “If you said to your audience that you’re going to be publishing weekly, it’s important that you meet that expectation.”

A common misconception, said Joel, is that podcasts can be a one-time thing, when in fact it’s a serial. To manage audience expectations, he suggested indicating whether it’s a three or four-part series, for instance.

Given that podcasting can be created on a low budget, the downside is it runs the risk of looking cheap, warned Joel – the challenge is to use the available software and hardware to produce a decent quality product.

“So the trick is to do what we call champagne on a beer budget.”

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