There are lots of ways to generate and publish content for your inbound marketing efforts. From the tried and true written word that powers your corporate blog to infographics, webinars, video and ebooks, the number of channels available to you seem almost endless.
It can be frustrating at times to try to cut through the noise with this much content being published. While publishing relevant information can help you create a loyal community of constituents, do you ever wonder if you could reach more people by adapting your content to a different style?
If you're struggling to figure out "what's next," you might want to explore the idea of hosting your own live internet radio show.
Talk radio is big business. The top shows have audiences in the millions and generate a great deal of revenue from advertising and sponsorships, not to mention the ability generate more revenue through promoting their own products and services.
Talk radio is a very accessible and convenient way to get information because it's a passive way of digesting information (listening versus reading) and it can be consumed while doing other tasks, like driving or working out. Additionally, it creates a bond between the host(s) and the listeners and can be a more personal way to connect with someone teaching a concept.
So how can this apply to your company? While you may not achieve the same status as Dave Ramsey or Terry Gross, you do have the potential to connect with your own smaller community made up of your customers, prospects, and partners.
Back in the day, getting on the radio was an old-school game of gatekeepers and auditions and the barrier to entry was very high. Now, the technology exists for anyone to create their own online "radio station" and broadcast to anyone in the world.
So how can this be used as a marketing tool for your organization? Think of all the things you have to teach your customers and prospects that can help them make better decisions. Think of all the conversations you have over and over with potential clients that help them trust your company resulting in a sale. Extending all that content to a radio show can really accelerate your ability to connect with more people and ultimately generate more leads.
Imagine a hospital that interviews physicians live on the air and takes questions from members of the community with health concerns. Imagine a manufacturing company that hosts a weekly show with continuing education for distributors who want to up their game on product knowledge. Imagine a non-profit that shares inspirational stories of the good they do in the world. The possibilities are endless.
If you think it sounds daunting, don't worry... the basics are not too difficult. It does, however, take some planning and setup.
At SpinWeb, we launched a radio show at the beginning of 2015 called SpinRadio. We did lots of research, testing, and setup before launching the show and while there is probably still some tweaking to do, we've got momentum and have found a groove that is working well for us. We've even started generating leads from it! This guide draws on our knowledge from going through this process.
To help you plan, set up, and start producing your own live internet radio show I've broken the process down into three sections. Let's get started.
The first thing you'll need to do is create a concept for your show. What is your theme? Who is your audience (hint: probably your buyer personas)? What do you want to teach them? This is your starting point.
For SpinWeb, we knew that we wanted to talk to our buyer personas which consist mainly of marketing directors and CEOs. We deliver corporate websites and inbound marketing solutions and we typically work with the marketing director or the CEO. We know from experience that a lot of our time is spend answering questions for them like "how do I get my website to rank better with search engines?" and "how do I use social media to drive more traffic to my website?"
Like most organizations, we have a rich supply of content in the form of answers to questions we get during the sales process and also during projects. The same is true for your organization. Think about who you serve and how you can help them.
Next, you'll need to decide who within your organization is going to host the show. I recommend having two hosts. While it's possible to host a successful show with only one host, we've found that having two hosts really keeps the energy up and the momentum strong. The conversation will be livelier, the show will be more upbeat, and it will be more fun.
SpinRadio is hosted by me (SpinWeb's CEO) and Abby Stearns (our Director of Business Development). This brings me to my next point: the hosts have to be outgoing and fun. I've seen too many podcasts, shows, and interviews fall flat simply because the wrong people were chosen to do it. Not everyone is comfortable "on the air" and that's okay. But be sure that whoever is hosting your radio show has the right personality for it.
A good host will be comfortable speaking their mind, have confidence, and not take the whole thing too seriously. Nothing will kill your radio show faster than a host who delivers content in dry robotic tones as if they are reading the side effects off a medication bottle.
Your co-hosts should also be thought leaders from your organization. Some good examples of co-host teams that can work well include:
- CEO and Marketing Director
- CEO and VP of Sales
- Marketing Director and Product Manager
- Marketing Director and Lead Engineer
- CEO and Customer Service Manager
- VP of Sales and Customer Service Manager
You get the idea. Pick two people who get along well, can talk easily, and feel comfortable with each other (and potentially banter a little). At SpinWeb, that's easy for us because we're a close-knit team that gets along well and enjoys working together. In a larger company, it may be more difficult to find that cultural match so you may need to explore a few different combinations.
Abby and I work well together because we each take a different angle. I cover inbound marketing topics while she covers sales topics. Both are extremely relevant to our audience and we show how they work together as part of a system.
Now, on to the format. I absolutely do not recommend scripting out the show but I do recommend defining a general format. This is not a speech or a presentation. This is a conversation. With that in mind, come up with a format that is easy to understand, introduces some variety, and moves along at a good pace.
As an example, the format of SpinRadio is this:
- Intro and Welcome
- Weekly Roundup (inbound marketing news and trends from the week)
- Deep Dive (Abby and I each teach a marketing/sales concept)
- Tactical Top 5 (5 quick, actionable marketing and sales takeaways)
- Random (a few minutes of goofing off)
- Questions from Listeners (we answer any questions that we've received)
- Weekly Inspiration (inspirational thoughts, highlight a client with a shout-out)
- Closing and Sign off
The whole show lasts around 45 minutes on average. Each week we compile general notes for each of these sections and then we simply teach in a conversational format as we go through each section. Notice that the show is all about helping our listeners. It's not a commercial for SpinWeb. It's a show that is devoted to helping our busy CEOs and Marketing Directors stay on top of trends in inbound marketing and sales and get the information they need to help their companies grow.
You might decide you want to bring guests on the show as well. You can have them either Skype in or you can get a third mic and have them sit in your studio with you.
Your show can be shorter or longer (though I wouldn't go longer than an hour) and your format will be different but the point is to give the hosts a framework to use every time that still allows spontaneity and flexibility.
Finally, let's talk about timing. We broadcast SpinRadio once a week and I think this makes a lot of sense for most organizations. If you broadcast less than once a week I don't really feel like you have momentum and it doesn't really feel like a show. More than once a week is good if you have the time to maintain it but I feel that once a week is ideal for most organizations. We broadcast every Friday morning at 10am Eastern.
Whew! Now that we've covered some of the basics of the concept of the show, let's talk about actually getting the show on the air.
Now that we have a format, the next step is to actually broadcast. First, you'll need to find a quiet room in your office to run the show. This will become your "studio." It doesn't need to be fancy... just a basic room with decent acoustics (not a lot of echo). You may also want to put some sound padding on the walls to help the acoustics. This is where we will set up the equipment.
While it's certainly possible to produce your show with minimal equipment, I believe in doing it right so I recommend investing in some decent audio equipment to make sure it sounds really good. I'll cover the hardware first and then we'll talk software and production.
Here is the list of the hardware we use at SpinRadio:
- Blue Microphones Yeti Pro USB Condenser Microphone, Multipattern (quantity: 2)
- Behringer Xenyx 802 Premium 8-Input 2-Bus Mixer with Xenyx Mic Preamps and British EQs
- Neewer Broadcast Studio Microphone Suspension Boom Scissor Arm Stand with Shock Mount and XLR Male to Female Cable (quantity: 2)
- Audio-Technica Closed-Back Headphones ATH-M30, Black (quantity: 2)
- Blue Yeti Pop Filter by Auphonix (quantity: 2)
- Behringer UCA202 Audio Interface
- Hosa Cable CRA201 Dual RCA To Dual RCA Cable - 3.25 Foot
- Hosa YPP118 1/4 TRS To Dual 1/4 TRS Female Y Cable
Aside from a computer (which we'll get to in a minute), this will give you a complete shopping list and is everything you need to broadcast your show with two hosts. If this seems complicated, don't worry. It all fits together and makes sense once you set things up. Here's the gist of it:
- Clamp the suspension booms to the desk or table and attach the mics to the ends
- Attach the pop filters to the mics
- Plug the mics into the mixer
- Plug the headphones into the mixer via the splitter cable
- Plug the mixer into the audio interface
- Plug the audio interface into your computer via USB
That's the general setup. You might get a little stuck when it comes to "what cable goes where" so if you need some help, post a comment and I'll try to offer feedback.
Now you need a computer and broadcast app. I strongly recommend Spreaker, which is what we use for SpinRadio. Spreaker is a fantastic service that enables live broadcasting and a slew of other features that we'll get into shortly. The audio for your show will go through the mics and into your computer where Spreaker will then take it and broadcast it over the Internet.
You'll need to sign up for a Spreaker account (I recommend the "Anchorman" plan) and configure your show settings. You will want to create a nice show avatar image, enter a description, broadcast schedule, and show title. You'll also want to set up your music before your first show.
Spreaker has some good built-in music tracks you can use for intro/outtro music but I'm picky so I grabbed some custom tracks from Tunefruit. I then uploaded the tracks into my library to use during broadcast. We have three tracks we currently use for SpinRadio: a show intro, an intro for the Tactical Top 5 section, and an outro track for closing out the show.
Once you've set up your show in Spreaker, you're ready to broadcast. When you set up a new broadcast you'll be dropped into the Spreaker console which will allow you to go on the air. You can queue up your music tracks, raise and lower volume levels, and start and stop your broadcast. After a broadcast ends Spreaker will store the show as a recording which you can then distribute (more on this later).
Naturally, you'll want to run a few test broadcasts and listen to the recordings to make sure everything sounds good. The Blue Yeti mics sound amazing but you'll probably need to run a few experiments to get the best audio.
Here are some general broadcasting tips that may help you:
- Wear your headphones during the show so you can get clear audio for reference
- Position your mouth a few inches from the pop filter for the best sound
- Bring water or tea in with you to keep your voice clear
- Designate one person as the "board operator" to control the Spreaker console
- Relax and have fun with it!
If you've made it this far, you're on the home stretch. Now let's talk about actually getting people to listen to your show.
Now that you're broadcasting your radio show, you need a way for people to listen to it. The good news is that Spreaker makes this very easy. Some people will want to listen to your show live, while others will listen to the recording. Don't feel bad when you notice that live listeners are in the minority. This is just human nature. Most people are too busy to commit to listening at a specific time but they will happily listen to the recording later. You'll find that you will develop a loyal following of live listeners but most of your reach will come from those listening after the fact via podcast.
For the live listeners, you'll want to use Spreaker's live broadcast widget. You can embed this widget on your website and allow listeners to tune in live when you broadcast. If you're not currently broadcasting, it will allow you to listen to the latest recording until the next live episode is broadcast. For an example, see our SpinRadio landing page.
Below is the widget embedded directly on this page. It will always show the latest recording or will display a live feed during broadcast:
You'll notice on our landing page that we have a fancy timer that counts down the days, hours, and minutes until the next show. Additionally, if you're viewing the page as it becomes 10am Eastern (broadcast time) the page will auto-refresh so you can immediately see the live feed.
So how do you get people there? We use our Friday blog post slot to share show notes for that day's episode of the show. Every Friday at 9:45am a blog post goes out with a preview of the content for that day's show with the player already embedded. We also promote the show via social media to remind our audience that they can listen live.
During the show, our social media marketer live tweets show notes and links to articles we reference during the show. We use the hashtag #SpinRadio to group them together on Twitter. This also allows us to take questions from listeners by encouraging them to tweet their questions using the hashtag #SpinRadio.
In order to ensure that the recording is available after the show, we configure Spreaker to distribute episodes via iTunes, Stitcher, and to custom apps for both iPhone and Android. The smart phone apps also allow your audience to listen live right from their phones. Once you've gotten at least five episodes out the door and have proven that you keep a consistent broadcast schedule, you can even apply for iHeartRadio.
To promote recorded episodes after the fact, we also run social ads on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn that use custom audiences and other targeting tactics to make sure each episode gets in front of the right people.
While we still have plenty to learn and we will most likely tweak and optimize our show over time, we've gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback so far on our show. We've even started generating leads from it. Abby receives calls from prospects who have listened to our show, liked what they heard, and decided to call us to open a conversation.
Is an Internet radio show right for you? If you and your team are passionate about teaching your customers and prospects and you are ready to take your inbound marketing program to the next level, it might be worth exploring.
After all, in a world filled with automation and detached marketing, a radio show might be just what you need to create a stronger bond with your audience.