Should your accounting firm have a podcast?

Podcasts can allow an accounting firm to showcase its expertise.

Podcasts can reach virtually anyone, anywhere, anytime, but for an accounting firm, launching a podcast is not a decision to be made lightly. Here's what to think about before you decide.

Podcasting has been called an unstoppable force in marketing.

Around 3.5 million Australians aged 16 to 64 listen to podcasts, or one in four people in that age bracket, according to a survey for Nova Entertainment in September 2018.

The study of over 1500 people found 20 per cent started listening to podcasts in the preceding six months and 21 per cent are listening more than they were a year previously.

The key question, however, is whether podcasting is appropriate for accountants. While podcasts are gaining momentum, they are not for everyone.

Before you decide on the way you want to share information, always consider the audience and what they want to know. 

Unless you are comfortable with technology or have the budget to outsource production, a podcast may not be the easiest choice to communicate your messages.

Creating credibility with podcasting

A notable exception is self-managed super fund (SMSF) specialist advisor Aaron Dunn CPA. His popular SMSF Podcast Show is delivered each week and includes a diverse range of guests to discuss the latest legislative changes, key strategies and SMSF industry intelligence.

“Podcasting can allow an accounting firm to showcase its expertise,” Dunn declares. 

“It enables me to talk about a topical issue, whether I’m doing it myself or in conversation with a specialist interviewee.” 

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Also, because his target audience knows that he has his “finger on the pulse”, the podcasts often lead to new business referrals.

Keeping podcasts snackable

According to the ABC Audience Insights’ second annual podcast survey, weekly podcast listeners who listen to at least five hours per week increased from 37 per cent in 2016 to 44 per cent in 2017.

It found 62 per cent of listeners use smartphones to access podcasts. 

“People commonly listen while to or from their way to work,” Dunn says, “which is why I try to keep mine under half an hour, which is long enough for people to gain useful information.”

Podcasting time efficiencies

Dunn started blogging in 2009 but found it laborious. Now his podcasts are transcribed, topped and tailed with intros, outros and brief summations, and loaded onto his website within 90 minutes. “You can’t write the equivalent of eight or nine pages at that speed,” he says.

Founding partner of The Practice, Jason Cunningham CPA, a guest on CPA Australia’s podcast series, says, “Because everyone is time-poor, I turned my book Have your cake and sell it too into an audiobook. I’m a big advocate of podcasting.”

Dunn builds a prep sheet for guests “and we’ll come up with three key issues around a given topic. It’s still free flowing and I take note of the questions that arise afterwards, which can in turn become the subject of new podcasts.”

Marketing matters when podcasting

As Dunn says, podcasting content is easily repurposed and inquiries from mainstream media outlets often amplify the message. Constantly adding content to your website and using search engine optimisation can also improve your site’s search performance and drive more people to your podcasts.

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Technical podcasting considerations

Audio quality is critical, and one of the biggest complaints from audiences. 

That means it is worth investing in a good microphone [the Rode Podcaster is an ideal starter] a room with minimum echo, and recording and editing software.

Although Cunningham believes “raw and real stuff” can have more authenticity and resonance than professional productions, Dunn says, “It doesn’t have to be radio quality, but it should be good.”

For editing, Dunn uses Audacity, a popular free option, but there are paid alternatives such as Pro Tools or Adobe Audition.

Be prepared to spend some time to become familiar with your choice of technology.

Consistency counts

CPA Australia’s podcasts moved from being ad hoc to weekly in July 2017 and the audience has grown significantly since. 

“Consistency is paramount,” says Dunn, as a lack of this is why many podcasts fail. “Good podcasters plan content two or three weeks ahead, because if you miss an episode audience interest and engagement will start to wane.”

Podcasting hosting, distribution and promotion

Some say all you need to get started with podcasting is a laptop and microphone, but there’s more to it.

The CPA Australia podcasts are hosted on Libsyn, which is relatively inexpensive, connects to key distribution services like iTunes and Stitcher and provides basic analytics. 

Once a podcast has been uploaded to your hosting server, you may also be able to embed it to play direct from your website, depending on the content management system (CMS).

Some people will subscribe to a podcast channel via iTunes or similar, but you need to consider your mailing list and/or e-newsletter, social media and other channels to alert people to new episodes.

Legalities of podcasting

“If you’re talking in the context of licensed advice, be aware of what you may or may be able to say legally,” Dunn warns. Also remember that even an innocuous tune for an intro theme could be subject to copyright.

The median audience for podcasts is 200 listeners, but either side of that is the podcast that attracts millions or the one that attracts a handful of listeners.

A key question for accountants is whether the potential benefits of podcasting outweigh its challenges.

Read next: Should you start a business blog?

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