In the last article we took a closer look at some of my favorite podcasts and what keeps listeners coming back to them. This time we’re looking at applying your podcast to produce a larger audience. Podcasting is one of many ways to promote a ministry. Content, preparation, and quality are the most important factors to creating a highly desirable podcast. So what is the next step? What do you do with your recorded podcasts?
I’ll pose the question to you this way: what would you do with a billion-dollar idea if you already had the inspiration and tools to create the prototype? The answer is: You would find a way, any way, to get the word out even with a limited budget. There are a few best practices in podcast promotion and websites, blogs, and video podcasts are a natural extension of a podcast’s reach.
Simple websites give a home to your online persona, a place for your audience to find out more information about you and to follow up on information heard on the podcast. If your church or ministry already has a website, it’s easy to set aside a page for your podcast. A website is a fundamental promotion tool for a podcast ministry. It allows the author to keep in touch with the audience and measures growth through number of hits on the site.
Once you have a website, the next step in promoting your podcast is to blog. Blogging is a written podcast, another way to communicate with your audience without a bunch of technical knowledge required. To those of you unfamiliar with the term, “blog” comes from the abbreviated “web log.” Bloggers write weekly, daily or multiple times a day short scribes. Every blog can be archived so people can download not just today’s writings but all of the previously written blogs as well. Similar to podcasting, blogs are subscriber based. When your audience has the ability to subscribe, the information is pushed to the subscriber regularly without having to do anything. People can use a web browser or a mail application as an RSS reader which is how blog and podcast technology works. A blog can be a dissertation or, more commonly, a short two or three paragraph scribble about what’s going on.
The audience is made up of audio and visual learners. Some authors record both video and audio at the same time and then making movies available through video podcasting, Youtube or a similar means. This hits home for storyteller pastors who can emote through nuance and facial expression. Another application of the video podcast is to just record the audio from the podcast and then show slides that reflect the subject matter of the podcast.
Learning to broadcast different kinds of information is key. Not every author is a dynamic speaker or eloquent writer. But by varying the communication style, by making all of these mediums available, the author gives the highest probability of reaching an audience. In the end, the listener has gotten to know the many dimensions of the author. The more supporting media that’s available the more likely the listener is to subscribe and make a commitment to hear the message.
Consistency is imperative. Regular publishings are necessary to keep an audience’s interest. However, time plays a key role in all of this. As with most non-traditional marketing, money is not usually a factor but time is. A video is more difficult to produce, edit, and convert than an audio podcast. And audio is less time-intensive than blogs. So my rule of thumb is: blog once a day or more, podcast weekly, and video podcast once a month.
I’ve enlisted some church marketing experts who regularly participate in podcasting as a part of their day-to-day work. I spoke to Anthony Coppedge from Church Media Group and Peter McGowan from Plainjoestudios. Both Anthony and Peter are consultants for businesses that want to penetrate churches, and for churches that want to re-brand themselves.
I asked Anthony the “billion dollar question” and he told me about when Google was scouting for math geniuses. Google created a website with these incredibly complex math problems with no indications what company was behind it. If one problem was solved, the answer led you to another page with another math problem. Finally, when the candidate made it to the end, the final page revealed a place to submit an application and a message that the website was set up by Google.
“Like a needle in a haystack, Google found who they were looking for. It’s the opposite with marketing an idea to an audience. You’re the needle finding people who have similar interests.”
In addition to his successful podcast, website, and blog, Anthony intentionally searches for people who have mentioned him on the web. Free search engines email him when anyone has posted new information that includes his name or an assortment of his name and some key words. He then finds other people’s blogs who have mentioned his name and sends them a thank you. This network of similar-minded people cause conversations between blogs and websites. It’s called “link love”. He also hosts like-minded authors on his podcast and, in turn, they host him on theirs.
I asked the same question to guerilla marketing specialist Peter McGowan. He says that the nature of podcasts and blogs assists in building a listenership. Because it’s being pushed to people and their devices, people always want to know the author.
“Even if it’s a blog and it’s only a few lines, it reveals the character of those who write it. I am approached by people all the time who ask how to market themselves. I have the job of explaining to them, ‘You are not what you say you are, but what people say you are. The only thing that podcasting will do is reveal your character.’ If you have a decent product you can grow listeners. You can’t fake it and expect your audience to grow.”
From what Peter was saying, to have a successful following you need to be transparent. This is what genuinely draws people in and causes that audience to share with others what they have found in your podcast.
I asked Anthony about what to avoid when promoting a podcast. He said this: “Don’t suck. Do it right. It doesn’t have to be polished but it does need to be authentic and it must be intentional. What do you want to say? Don’t just put your sermon online. That’s not a podcast. That’s an online sermon. A podcast is an audio file produced for consumption. A podcast can be so many things. Make it about things people are interested in. What are you doing for the community? What do you see? Hey did you see what’s going on in the local paper? What are people spending time on? Make God real and close.”
For really great promotion ideas, check out churchmarketingsucks.com. They speak volumes on what works and what doesn’t; what draws people in and what repels them.