Podcasting has been around for more than a decade, but has entered a renaissance thanks to the popularity of such podcasts as Serial, This American Life (which spawned Serial), TEDTalks, Stuff You Should Know and many others. As marketers fight to get in front of their target audience’s eyes, there exists a great opportunity to reach their ears.
Many commuters and long-distance drivers now prefer listening to audio books and podcasts over radio. The earbuds of joggers and gym-goers are increasingly filled with podcasts rather than music.
As a healthcare marketer, it’s time to consider adding podcasting to your content marketing strategy.
So, What Exactly is a Podcast?
In case you’re not familiar, podcasting refers to the digital distribution of audio files, usually in a syndicated manner, to computers and mobile devices that the user can play or replay at any time. (The name is said to derive from “iPod” and “broadcast.”)
Podcasts can also be video, known as “vodcasts,” but this article will concentrate on audio because there are so many other ways to consume video these days while audio has the unique ability to be enjoyed when the listener’s eyes are otherwise occupied.
Not surprisingly, podcasts are a great way to target younger audiences, such as millennials, who are big consumers of this medium.
Some radio or TV shows are redistributed as podcasts, but the majority of podcasts are created solely for this medium. The subject matter includes news, technology, financial advice, episodic storytelling, relationships, politics, history, culture and, yes, healthcare.
There are numerous health-related podcasts you can use as models when creating your own. Some are targeted to medical professionals, which is an approach you might consider for establishing your hospital or health system’s credibility to help with recruitment or referrals. Examples of podcasts targeted to industry insiders include Healthcare Tech Talk and Clinical Practice Innovations.
Podcasts that target consumers run the gamut from general health and wellness advice to education on clinical topics. They’re also highly effective at showcasing your physicians in a way that their expertise and personalities truly come across.
Mayo Clinic produces a wide variety of podcasts in a news-magazine format aimed at patient education via Mayo Clinic Radio. A recent episode included specialists who discussed using low-dose CT scanning to diagnose lung cancer earlier; how to avoid household hazards such as radon gas, carbon monoxide and lead; and what a diagnosis of prediabetes means.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America offers regular podcasts featuring physicians discussing the diagnosis and treatment of various types of cancer.
Cleveland Clinic runs the Health Talks series of podcasts, as well as a program produced by a third party, and available on the hospital website, called RadioMD.
In fact, most of the big hospitals and health systems have at least dabbled in podcasting. The key to acquiring loyal listeners is to release the episodes regularly on an ongoing basis. Even if you do it just once a week—or once a month—your consistency will improve your credibility.
Why Podcasts Work for Healthcare Marketing
Podcasts have a big advantage in educating patients about your hospital’s service lines and physicians. Generally, people tend to be interested in your offerings only if they or loved ones have, or may have, a certain condition or face a certain procedure. In other words, they’re not likely to scour the internet for information about knee replacement surgery unless their knees (or their mom’s) are hurting so badly that “it’s time to take this seriously.”
On the other hand, if a potential patient subscribes to a hospital’s podcast about health topics and today’s episode about knee replacement surgery pops up on her phone while she’s driving to work, she’s more likely to listen to it. It’s easier than dedicating four minutes to focus on watching a video; she has time to kill while she’s driving and her ears are unoccupied. Therefore, after she listens to your podcast she’ll already be educated about arthritis of the knee and already know that your hospital is good at treating it should she or her mom need care later. And the procedure will seem less scary.
If this podcast features a surgeon who performs knee replacements, the listener will feel she already knows this physician and will thus be further along in the conversion process.
How to Produce a Podcast
Some podcasts are recorded in an audio studio with all the professional gear. But the good news is all you really need are headphones, a decent microphone and a computer or tablet with an easy-to-use application such as GarageBand. The preferred file format is .mp3.
Then upload it to a content distributing service such as iTunes or Stitcher. More specific details on how to do this can be found at HubSpot or here.
As for the show’s format, interaction between two or more people is more interesting than a monologue. Interviews work well. The interviewer should put him- or herself in the mind of a patient and ask the kinds of questions a patient would ask and, especially, the questions she might be afraid to ask.
Be sure to promote your podcasts
Produce your podcasts according to a regular schedule and locate them in an easy-to-find location on your website. Also, make sure they’re also on iTunes or a similar content distributor. Then link to them like crazy. Mention them in the call-to-action of your ads and content.
Wait, are you thinking podcasting sounds like too much work? Well, you can always let someone else do the work: you can sponsor an independent content producer’s podcast. As for the efficacy of doing this, the email service MailChimp received a huge bump in awareness by sponsoring the Serial podcast. They received an 81 percent increase in Twitter mentions at the premiere of Serial’s second season.
So remember, your target audience only has limited time to read or watch the endless amounts of video and text content generated by hospitals. But their ears are wide open.