Podcamp Toronto 2007: Corporate podcasts link staff, enhance marketing strategy


There’s definitely a burgeoning trend towards podcasting as the new arsenal of choice for corporate communication, said a Toronto-based podcasting expert.

Besides revealing a different element of a company’s personality that an audience might not otherwise get from more traditional channels, podcasting is quite functional, said Leesa Barnes, president of Toronto-based Caprica Interactive Marketing Inc.

“As more of the workforce becomes dispersed, podcasting is a very useful communication tool, but more than that, it’s becoming great for marketing,” she told IT World Canada. Caprica Interactive Marketing provides podcasting and Internet marketing services.

A podcast is an audio or video media file that is available on the Internet by downloading or streaming. The file can be played on mobile devices or PCs.

Barnes is one of five organizers of Podcamp Toronto 2007, a free, volunteer and sponsor-supported event that’s intended to share information and techniques on podcasting and discuss its application in various areas.

Delegates at the grassroots event held on Saturday and Sunday included a medley of just over 300 podcasting experts and rookies. The growing trend of podcasting as an additional method of corporate communication was evident in one of the enterprise-focused sessions.

Podcasts are a great way for a company’s executive leadership to connect with employees, said Sabita Singh, director of strategic communications at Ottawa-based iStudio Canada Inc. “I think podcasting has become an important communications vehicle for businesses,” she said.

Singh presented a case study of an Oakville-based client that employs a monthly podcast to connect with its 200 employees – half of which work out of the office.

The podcasts provides the workers with practical perspectives on key business strategies and developments, she said.

ALTANA Pharma Inc.’s podcast series has a radio-show feel and is hosted by the company’s vice-president of sales. The podcast features his insights and anecdotes and interviews with guests.

Over 60 per cent of staff tune in regularly to the 10 to 15-minute episodes, said Singh.

Integrating podcasting into a company’s communication strategy requires some homework, she says. “You need to take a look at the company’s communication strategy and see where podcasting might fit and support it.”

This is especially relevant, she says, when an organization is undergoing a change in its communications approach.

Having enough content to produce regular podcasts is also vital to maintaining the channel of communication. “While it is fairly easy to do, it still does take time to put together,” says Singh.

And there should also be an easily accessible location where podcasts are archived by staff. In the case of ALTANA Pharma, the monthly episodes are placed on the vice-president’s blog on the company Web site.

Podcasting as a means of marketing communication to customers and potential customers was also discussed at another session, where Scotia Bank’s foray into podcasting as a vehicle to dispensing personal financial advice to clients and leveraging the bank’s products was presented by Michael Seaton, director of the Vault relationship team at Scotia Bank.

Clients can listen to The Money Clip – a series of short episodes about mutual funds, the stock market, and registered savings plans (RSPs) – by streaming or downloading from the corporate site, or subscribing to it from iTunes.

Besides, educating clients and selling the bank’s wares, these regular and non-intrusive podcasts are interesting, at the very least. “It enhances the overall digital experience for clients,” said Seaton.

While these case studies suggest success in the area of corporate podcasting, the practice is not all that popular, said Richard Sharp, CEO of Toronto-based PodChannels Inc. that provides enterprise and social media podcasting services.

“I would say that we’re still in the early days,” he told IT World Canada. Sharp was also a speaker at Podcamp Toronto.

Some of the barriers to corporate podcasting, says Sharp, include confusion around the term “podcasting”, which people often solely associate with iPods. Also, he says, the average user typically has difficulty understanding how the technology actually works.

Like Singh, Sharp agrees that creating a podcast is not complex – the challenge is committing to producing the content on a regular basis. “Podcasting is a frequency medium. When done correctly, it’s an exercise that engages a community.”

An effective podcast is one that’s frequent, of sufficient length, and that doesn’t try to accomplish too much in one episode, he says.

Podcasting is also an exercise that doesn’t exist in a vacuum when applied to the world of business communications, he says. “It’s more of an evolutionary technology, rather than a revolutionary technology.”

By that, he means podcasting should be considered alongside other channels such as newsletters, Web and e-mail.

Sharp thinks that banks and client-facing organizations would benefit from interacting with their customers through podcasts. He thinks it’s a great way to deliver knowledge to niche audiences, or on niche subjects.

In addition, it’s a conveniently mobile channel of communication, he says.

“Podcasting channels are here to stay.”


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