By Nick Parker

Podcasting was not in my original business plan. Grabbing a microphone was not the creative outlet I sought. I (and you can, too) blame my friend Jason’s resistance to penning a regular column for Link 2 Lee’s Summit. Well, Jason and maybe the fine proprietors of Fringe Beerworks for the excessive production and service of quality brewed beverages.

For nearly 25 years, my life has been spent in and around the media business. I’ve been a reporter, an editor, a publisher, even a corporate goon. I fully understand the power of the written word, and how the message grows in strength when packaged with photography and art. I had even embraced the internet with its electronic newsletters and the viral reach of blogs and social media. What I hadn’t grasped was the full power of digital channels and their ability to not only pass along news and information, but the ability to foster conversation in a community or industry.

I like to joke about my stumble and fall into the world of podcasting. But the truth is it was one of the greatest accidents I’ve experienced. What was essentially a Grapefruit Wheat Beer-induced whim, Link 2 Lee’s  Summit’s “Town Hall” podcast has evolved into a regular show nearing it’s 100th episode and climbing toward an audience of 10,000 people each week.

The show, which focuses its conversations on local government, local issues and community involvement, follows the same mission as all content created for Link 2 Lee’s Summit. Every idea and topic is faced with three questions.
Does this conversation: tell a local story; promote local business or serve our community? If the answer to at least one of those isn’t yes, then the idea is either scrapped or tweaked so the conversation meets our business’ mission.

What I’m learning (what we’re all learning) is that podcasting is becoming an incredible tool for our businesses. Taking hold of a  microphone and hosting a show not only helps build your customer and brand audience, it has the added bonus of making you better at your job. How does it do this?

“¢ Truth in numbers. 26 percent of the U.S. population listens to podcasts at least every month. 17 percent of the US population listen to podcasts weekly. 80 percent of listeners listen to an entire podcast episode or most of the episode. Podcast listeners subscribe to an average of 6 shows. Podcast listeners listen to an average of 7 different shows per week. Weekly podcast
listeners spend an average of 6 hours, 37 minutes per week listening to podcasts. (Source: musicoomph.com)

“¢ Podcasts can fit into anyone’s schedule. The great thing about producing content through a podcast is your audience can consume that content at any time. They can listen while commuting, working on other projects, working out, or even while doing the laundry.

“¢ Passive communication is actually a good thing. As noted in the statistics above, the very nature of a podcast’s engagement means you’re less likely to lose your audience to all the other distractions floating around in their world. In short, they listen longer and more often.

“¢ Build your own stage and let them get to know the real you. We all know the cliché about building business is building relationships. The annoying thing about cliches is their origin in truth. You’re a thought leader in your industry. Your own podcast lets you build the stage you need to broadcast your message and industry insight. Your show becomes a new  networking tool, letting your audience get to know you and connect with you based on your messaging.

“¢ Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but it will make you better at your job. Let’s face it, one of the hardest things for most of us to do is to tell our own story. Most of us have an inherent distaste for boasting about our own knowledge and successes. Hosting your own show forces you to become a better communicator and hone the skills you need to tell your story and grow your business.

I’m fond of telling people all forward progress comes on the heels of conversation. Whether we’re talking about our personal lives, our communities or our businesses. Conversations bring ideas, hone plans and invite others to take part in the movement. They may not always happen with an obstinate friend in a local brewery, but they are, nevertheless powerful and important. It’s what made me pick up the microphone.

Nick Parker is publisher of Link 2 Lee’s Summit, and through his podcasting network serves as host and/or producer for a variety of podcasts, including “Lee’s Summit Town Hall”, “Varsity Kansas City”, “The Story Effect” and “Shredd.”

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