20 February 2023


Also Known As: Vidcast

Problem: You want to improve the feeling of "connection" to your customers, and provide a more "human" face to your product/service, company, or team, but in a relatively high-reach manner.

Context: Reading a website has all the "human-ness" of staring at a billboard or reading a brochure, and often offers the viewer nothing in the way of culture or engagement. The phrase "putting a face to the name" (and, for that matter, even just knowing the name!) is a common one that indicates that the more humans can see other humans, the more we begin to feel a degree of connection or empathy to the company, team, or even the product/service itself.

Solution: Create a series of recordings (audio-only or audio/video) in which one or more members of your DevRel team host a variety of different individuals for an interactive conversation about one or more particular topics relevant to your product/service, your customers' concerns, or the larger technical domain in which your product/service exists.

The conversation can be formal or informal, but keep in mind that the formality of the conversation will have a great deal of impact on how the viewers/listeners perceive the culture of the company. If, for example, the desire is to project a very formal and corporate-friendly culture (so as to be more attractive to more formal corporate environments, like financial services firms), then having a more scripted format helps present that. This may come as a "turn-off" to smaller, scrappier-culture companies (as in, startups), however, so a more informal, free-wheeling conversation can help project that image instead.

Consequences: The choice of "audio" or "audio and video" is a complex one, and one that will depend on a variety of factors. Audio-only is easier to capture, but video provides another dimension of capture, particularly with guests who are animated when they speak. Video does require greater bandwidth, however, both at time of capture and when being viewed, and keep in mind that many podcast consumers do so while doing other activities (driving to work, for example) which preclude being able to watch what's happening on-screen. Video is also more complex to edit. If in doubt, consider doing audio-only at first, and if your audience starts agitating for video, or if there are reasons to support it (such as screen-sharing during the podcast).

Finding guest participants will be a significant time commitment. While there are many, many people in the technology industry who are excellent podcast guests, you will want to find people who are somehow relevant to your product/service, and are willing to be a "friendly guest" (as in, someone that isn't a competitor or isn't going to subtly bad-mouth your product/service) on the show. You are not interested in "cross-examination" of a "hostile witness" on your podcast, you are interested in providing content that is both interesting and entertaining. (Leave the "shock jock" radio DJ antics to the radio.)

Recording a podcast/vidcast requires not only the time to record, but also time to collate (certain recording tools will record locally on each participant's machine, then the localized audio and/or video streams are combined into one finished format), edit, potentially convert to different formats, upload/store the finished stream someplace publicly accessible, as well as write "advertising copy" to notify interested customers and/or other developers in the content.

Some podcasts are scheduled and held live (usually over a video chat platform) so as to facilitate open Q&A from audiene members, and/or to allow for targeted questions from a certain user community. Doing so requires choosing a time, however, and that will often make live consumption uncomfortable for two-thirds of the timezones in the world. Noon PST, for example, which is easily accessible to individuals residing in North or South America, will be late-night in Europe and middle-of-the-night or pre-dawn in Asia. If your audience is global, consider varying the scheduled time for live participation to allow for participants from other regions. (Also, consider the guests' own timezone!)

Another consideration around live podcasts is that of potential mistakes or liability from what is spoken; many guests, particularly if they represent large companies, will want to make sure there is an opportunity to edit out any accidental reference to topics that large company does not want discussed on your podcast. You will also want to weigh the opportunity to edit the podcast to ensure it follows your company's code of conduct policies and/or meets your desired projected image against the increased interactivity of a live recording.

Podcast platforms also typically have some form of notification system in place, in which interested individuals can subscribe to receive notifications (and sometimes automatic download) of new episodes. This can also help draw more interested parties to your content, since most of these platforms have the ability to categorize ("tag") your podcast to certain kinds of audiences, or with certain keywords, or as being similar to other podcasts, and so on. The platform can then suggest your podcast to those who consume similar content.

YouTube is a common place to host and share podcasts, which provides the potential for extensive reach. However, YouTube has come under criticism in recent years for its suggestion algorithms, often leading viewers to content that may not be in keeping with your company's image or culture. Pay careful attention to any feedback your customers provide around any concerns or unpleasant experiences there.

Podcasts also are a great segue into or from Live Streaming; live-streams can find topical material from conversations had from a podcast, but podcast conversations can also be inspired from experiences has from a live-stream.


Tags: devrel   patterns