Paychex has three ongoing podcast series for human resources (HR) professionals: PULSE, which features Parsons interviewing business leaders on HR trends and best practices; THRIVE, a weekly HR news round-up; and Inside Paychex, a behind-the-scenes look at the company. Paychex also presents several webinars each month about regulatory issues, workplace trends, and other topics.
“We’ve done webinars for over a decade, and started doing podcasts about three years ago,” says Parsons. “We’ve learned a lot along the way about connecting with an audience and building relationships with listeners.”
BREDIN: At what points in the sales funnel are podcasts and webinars most effective for engaging prospects?
PARSONS: Podcasts are higher up in the funnel than webinars. In general, podcasts go out to an unknown audience. They’re not a gated asset people have to register for to listen, so this makes them very much a brand-building type of activity.
In contrast, you’re usually promoting webinars to a known audience. You might use paid advertising or organic search to raise awareness, but in general, you’re emailing your house list to encourage people to register. That’s a difference which influences the type of content you present and what you do with it following the event.
BREDIN: What are the benefits of each format?
PARSONS: Podcasts are usually audio only and typically more bite-size in length, 15 to 20 minutes maximum, so people can consume them on the go or during their commute. Webcasts can be a great way to present complex information in a multimedia format. It can be interactive — you can bring on guest speakers and accept questions from the audience.
BREDIN: What type of content do you share in podcasts and webinars? For example, is your content best practice or product oriented?
PARSONS: For us, podcasts are more about sharing advice and information. I often interview a guest and have a free-flowing conversation on an issue business owners face, like shift swapping or financial fitness. Because podcasts are very top of funnel, we stay away from suggesting products and instead talk about challenges and strategies to solve them.
Our webinars are 80% to 90% educational, but at the end offer insight on “how Paychex can help.” It’s a missed opportunity if we don’t talk about how our solutions can address a problem.
BREDIN: How do you measure the success of your podcasts and webinars?
PARSONS: It can be a challenge. The KPIs must match the medium and your objectives. With podcasts, a lot of it is just raw downloads. It’s almost like old-fashioned advertising — what is the cost per impression, what is the reach, how many people are seeing or sharing it? When people listen to a podcast online, we can provide show notes with links to other assets, and we can track those clicks or downloads. If an asset is gated, it gives us an opportunity to share something valuable enough for a prospect to share their email address.
As for webinars, it’s easier because we know who registers, so they are a known lead. We know where they came from, and we can see where they are in the cycle. If they turn into a marketing qualified lead (MQL), we can easily track them. During a webinar, we can also do polls and ask if people would like more information. Then, we can follow up on that specific topic with people who raised their hands to be contacted.
BREDIN: What are some best practices for a successful podcast?
PARSONS: Be consistent about when you release episodes. Think of it like a television or radio program. Podcasts rely on repeat listens. If your audience is interested in you as a host and the content you’re providing, they will have an expectation that new episodes will come out on a regular schedule.
When I started the Paychex PULSE podcast, we were doing in-depth interviews that ran 30 to 45 minutes. But when we looked at the metrics, we saw people falling off at the 10-to-15-minute mark. The lesson was to have shorter, more concise discussions that got to the heart of the content right away. If a guest has a lot of great insight to share, we split it into two episodes, to give listeners a shorter, more easily consumable format.
BREDIN: What can you do after a podcast or webinar, to extend the impact and reach?
PARSONS: That depends on where the content lives on your website — can people easily find them? Think about where they fit in terms of your editorial calendar. Once you have a library of podcasts and webinars, you can incorporate them into your promotions. For example, if you’re featuring mental health as a topic for June, you can go to your library and repromote evergreen podcasts or webinars on related topics via a hero page on your website. Your sales team can also share links with prospects. They can be a real door opener to help start a conversation.
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