Communications people in associations are always trying to find new ways to engage members: throwing events, publishing newsletters, creating magazines, making flashy, creative videos and so much more. “Communications” simply means having a conversation with our members — attempting to show that we hear them and understand their issues and that we are working hard to enhance our–or more importantly–their industry. We create all this content and hold these events not just because we want to show we are working for them, but also because we want to understand the issues that are important to them. What’s important? What are the trends? What does the research say? –and on and on. We have analytics, CRM systems, surveys and much more. All these modern tools are wonderful for data but what it all comes down to is a conversation between members and the association. The data is great but let’s not forget the human factor. Why do I bring this up? Because it’s all about conversations. But more importantly, the quality of conversation determines its impact.
Does anybody know who wrote the article in the monthly newsletter? You may have a favorite columnist or writer that always has good analysis and insights into future trends. It may be that “Member of the Month” bit towards the end where readers learn about what exceptional members are doing. Or it could be something else you always turn to immediately because you like the style of writing. The readers know where to find what they like and it becomes a habit for them to check it out each month. These are good conversations.
Now let’s step it up a notch. A podcast, when done effectively, comes out at least once a week. That’s four times more often than the average monthly newsletter. Every week, you get to know the hosts a bit more. The sound of their voice, what they thought of the convention last week, what their views are on the upcoming legislation, what that new survey means in plain terms for you, and so on. But more importantly, you know through listening that the host is a mother of two and her co-host is a grandfather. She was the vice president of sales for an industry leader and her co-host still works in the industry. You not only receive expert analysis from industry guests, but you hear the tone of their voices, their personal stories, learn why and how they got into this line of work, what motivates them, you get to laugh with them, hear both their current stories and their stories from back in the day and so much more. This creates intimacy and memorable moments. Listeners are engaged and develop a desire for more. And a podcast can deliver more. Because podcasts, when done correctly, are essentially evergreen (always timely and not outdated), and because of the way they are published, they create an easily accessible series. Listeners who are grabbed by one episode can now binge listen. And the podcast you created 8 months ago or 2 years ago is still fresh to a new listener. On top of this, your hosts are continually developing their interviewing skills and the content will become more and more intimate.
On the Through the Noise show, we had a communications director open up and tell about what the organization went through when one of his co-workers was killed in another country. How he knew the person and her family. How he remembered when she was hired and how much she liked the job. What it was like when he got the news and thinking about how to do a “press release” trying to sum her life up in a few hundred words.
This kind of content can be told very well in many formats, print, video etc. But audio paints the picture in a uniquely personal way. Hearing the tone of his voice and the way he talked about his colleague painted a vivid picture of the scenario.
There is a desire from many advertisers and marketers to attempt to create habits and trust within a brand. The trust in a brand whether it be a toothpaste, automobile, service, or association has to have a certain visceral connection. To do this you must be honest with your listener. Howard Stern, whether you love him or hate him has always boasted his show is always honest. And I think few would disagree with that. With that, he has been very successful, to say the least. He taps into the raw emotions of a broad general public.
Associations and non-profits have this same opportunity through audio. Every organization has a niche audience that wants to hear what’s really going on in their industry’s universe. Stories of success, failures, industry analysis, what does it mean, what does my future hold? All these are compelling to them and done correctly the audio podcast format creates the most vivid, compelling, and honest pictures of all media. And it’s that intimacy that makes the content memorable and keeps listeners coming back for more.