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Should Professional Services Firms Podcast? It’s Complicated.

Podcasts are an ascendant media form right now. According to a recent report from Edison Research and Triton Digital called “The Infinite Dial 2021,” approximately 28% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 listens to a weekly podcast, a 17% increase from the 2020 survey numbers. In addition, 62% of the same group listens weekly to online audio, with more than a third owning a smart speaker.

For professional services firms looking to creatively market and communicate with clients and prospects, podcasts are ripe with potential. However, just like the blog dialogue that has gone on for more than a decade, careful consideration is warranted.

The internet is littered with the tombstones of abandoned domains that once were blogs. Accounting, legal and real estate companies enthusiastically jumped into blogging only to lose momentum. The prime culprits?

Audience opacity – Measuring audience (including filtering out internal/cell phone/working-from-home employee hits) is very technical – ripe for exaggeration by outside measurers (number padding) — and often too complex for in-house resources. How much of our target audience “read” our blog last month? Much of the time firms simply aren’t sure or are looking at bad data.

Audience size and growth – With or without good data, lots of blogs fail to attract many eyeballs. Building a core audience, sustaining the group and tacking on modest – but not infinite growth – should be the goals. However, lots of blog stewards see early numbers with big jumps up and down and react like overconfident or panicked stock investors, pushing a flood of content or shutting things down.

Losing a “champion” – Blogs should have a stable of active writers and, ideally, an editor overseeing the content to fit the puzzle pieces together. The editor, star writer or invested marketing/BD partner is often its “champion.” When they leave or lose interest, a blog often struggles.

The “next big thing” – Blogs beget social media which beget podcasts. All of these initiatives can work in synergy; but, cohesive content planning takes effort and a fair amount of manpower to pull off. When marketing departments are sent to explore new communications vehicles, they are often pushed to launch new channels without considering the impact on existing plans. “We need to have a podcast because I love The Daily” shouldn’t be the sole factor driving a program’s development.

All of the pitfalls of blog launch, maintenance and growth apply to podcasts. Here are some “must haves” if you are really serious about the space:

Technical acumen – Whether in-house or partnering with an outside provider, podcasts need to both sound professional and be visible on major platforms.

A host or hosts – One or a rotating set (up to three) of familiar voices who set up episodes and often conduct interviews is ideal.

Something unique – This is probably the most challenging one. Here’s the hard truth: No one is going to choose a law firm podcast over their favorite true crime series. You are competing, not for leisure hours, but for working hours – and you need to offer actionable content. Reading client alerts aloud isn’t it. Tell stories, field questions, unveil data and reports. Then, do it again.

For all the interest in podcasts, measuring ROI remains challenging. Creating a content-hungry channel can exhaust contributors and drain resources away from existing and under-consideration developments. What’s the alternative?

Be a guest – Identify and develop a relationship with a podcast that reaches your target audience. Land a booking, and let the producing team handle the rest. Once posted, you and your company promote the heck out of it.

Do a limited series – Find sufficient content and technical tools to skillfully publish a multi-part series. Then, just end it. Evaluate the results and consider if you want to do it again or try something broader.

Podcasts are an effective tool for reaching audiences, but they should be part of a balanced media and content diet. Consult your marketing and communications professionals for the approach that’s right for your firm.

Michael Bond

Blattel News

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