The editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary may not have consulted with the nation's PR pros before declaring "podcast" last year's word of the year, but they were definitely reading from the same page.
Podcasting has grown from a geek-culture pastime to a highly regarded brand-outreach tool.
Podcasting offers a great opportunity for PR firms, says Jeff Beringer, director of GolinHarris' Web relations group. It's especially useful for "a company with a unique story, one you can't get elsewhere, one the audience is passionate about," he adds.
The Disneyland Resort, a Golin client, was one of the first major brands to incorporate podcasts in its corporate communications plan. The Anaheim, CA-based resort introduced its podcasts last May as part of a global campaign to generate interest in the park's 50th anniversary celebration.
"In a very short period, consumers that choose not to hear from a given brand will screen it out," says Duncan Wardle, Disneyland VP of press and publicity. Podcasts offer entertaining, informative content people can access on their own schedule, he adds. And unlike many outreach efforts, podcasting opens avenues for dialogue, allowing potential consumers - or in Disneyland's case, "guests" - to respond with feedback almost immediately.
Although Disneyland's measurable results were impressive - 64,000 downloads in the campaign's first five months - Wardle says numbers aren't the key. It's more about engaging an audience, and essentially leveraging the brand with a dedicated pool of Web-based advocates.
"Word of mouth online is a powerful tool," he notes.
"It's not a numbers game," agrees Paul Rand, partner and global chief development and innovation officer at Ketchum. "It's a targeting game. As communications pros, we need to get our minds around that."
Complementing a corporate PR plan with podcasts also makes sense from a financial perspective.
"If a top-level product came to $10,000, I'd be surprised," says Rand, who adds that podcasts are "more straightforward than traditional media coverage, less expensive than traditional advertising, and there's still a cool factor."
Podcasts' on-demand nature allows users to download and listen or view at their leisure
Podcasts can reach a highly targeted audience
Podcasts allow for instant consumer feedback