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What Healthcare Organizations Need to Know About Podcasts and Podcast Listeners

• Author: Caitlin Nicholson, Sr. Social Content Manager

What Healthcare Organizations Need to Know About Podcasts and Podcast Listeners

Since Apple first launched podcasts 15 years ago, we’ve seen a huge growth of this medium. If you’re a fan of podcasts, you definitely know how addicting they can be, and you also know that there are so many of them out there. In fact, as of April 2020, Podcast Insights reported that there are over 1 million podcasts (though “only” half may be active). All that content – there may be over 30 million episodes – is designed to entertain and/or inform its audience, an opportunity not lost on healthcare content marketers.

Insights from Edison Research’s The Podcast Consumer 2019 tells us that 51% of Americans ages 12 and over have listened to a podcast, with 32% having listened in the past month, and 22% in the past week. Overall, this report provides great detail into the size and scope of interest in the medium. In addition, insights from our 2020 Senior Media Habits Survey point to an increase in listenership from 6% to 12% YoY among seniors ages 63+.

When it comes to podcasts and healthcare content specifically, there is definitely a demand. The 2019 Nielsen Scarborough Podcast Listener Buying Power Survey says 26% of podcast listeners polled are interested in health-related podcasts. MM&M says this places health podcasts eighth overall in popularity, just behind science and history, but just ahead of business, arts and sports.

To help you get inspired, here’s a round-up* of just some healthcare podcasts from health insurers, health insurance organizations, hospitals and health systems followed by some recommendations for those considering launching their own podcasts:

  • Anthem’s FitLife (‘Each podcast lasts 10-15 minutes, and gives real-life, practical advice on everyday wellness topics”)
  • BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York Point of Health (covers “health and wellness, health care reform and health care cost-saving tips”)
  • Cigna’s Changing Lives by Integrating Mind and Body® (CLIMB) (“mindfulness and stress management best practices”)
  • Clover’s Healthy Aging Podcast (hosted by Chief Scientific Officer and geriatric cardiologist and focuses on the “most pressing senior health questions”)
  • Hartford HealthCare’s Coping through COVID podcasts (focused on helping front line healthcare workers)
  • Health Alliance Allied and Well (“each episode explores a different topic with a medical expert”)
  • Humana’s Grow Your Book podcast series (“hear from agents like yourself and leaders at Humana talk about ways to take advantage of Humana’s tools and support to grow your book of business and retain customers”)
  • National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) Healthcare Happy Hour (“includes a recap of the week’s top issues in healthcare and health insurance politics and policy”)
  • Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System (SVMHS) Ask The Experts (“each episode features board certified physicians, registered nurses, registered nutritionists, respiratory therapists as well as other experts from the health system”)
  • United HealthCare’s The Health Plan Edge (Conversations with small business owners on being smart about health plans, keeping costs low, employees happy, etc.)

After looking at (and maybe even listening to) some of these examples of healthcare podcasts, you might be considering launching a series for your healthcare organization. First, look at your business goals. Could a podcast meet an existing need in your overall content marketing strategy? For example, Joe Kim, senior adviser in clinical development innovation at Eli Lilly and host of Elixir Factor, their monthly podcast, told MM&M that he initially wasn’t sold on podcasts, but found that his experience really opened his eyes:

“We’ve found that human stories are the best way for us to connect with listeners. While we have a pretty high bar intellectually, we’re as authentic and empathic as possible. And that casts a nice light on our company name.”

“Branded podcasts are an effective means of advertising and a powerful addition to the marketing mix, generating real cut-through with audiences – particularly ad avoiders,” says BBC Global News. Consumers can listen to podcasts while on the go and doing other tasks such as chores, commuting or driving.

Indeed, it’s important to identify a strategic role for your podcast whether it is to engage with consumers, other healthcare professionals and/or current and future employees. From there, here are some additional considerations:

  1. Who is your audience and what will your podcast be “about”? Decide whom you’d like to reach, get to know what’s out there currently for that audience and determine what you may be able to contribute based on your brand personality and expertise. To best serve a targeted audience and build a following, we recommend avoiding a focus that’s overly broad (i.e. “health tips from Brand X”), drilling instead into niche topics.
  2. What’s the best format/style for delivering your content? Options include storytelling or reporting, one-on-one interviews, panel discussions, etc. Consider also host, tone and episode length and what production quality matters to your brand and how to achieve it (in-house or outside professional services). Decide if you’ll sponsor the podcast series, partner with an influencer/celebrity to develop and promote content or use your own in-house voices.
  3. How often will you publish episodes? One episode a week? One a month? Instead of committing to a schedule in perpetuity, it makes sense to think in terms of seasons with preset numbers of episodes. This not only helps with editorial planning but also facilitates production of all episodes ahead of the series promotion and release. This prevents interruption of the schedule, which can look unprofessional. (We’ve seen even popular podcasts from major brands stall out.)
  4. How will you showcase the podcast on your website? The user experience in the above sampling of healthcare podcasts varies dramatically. Some have pages that offer overviews/descriptions the help the listener know what to expect, and some don’t. Some provide easy navigation between episodes, and others don’t. Be sure the content on your website supports existing listeners (and makes a solid pitch to potential listeners).
  5. Can listeners subscribe to your podcast? It’s highly recommended that you publish your podcast on common streaming services, like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, etc. Doing so allows listeners to seek out your series and then receive new content on their devices as it’s released. Be cautious about only housing/listing audio files on your website: web navigation isn’t how people are consuming podcasts.
  6. How will you promote your podcast? As you know from your other content marketing efforts, the competition for consumer attention is fierce (including on those streaming services). Be sure to have a plan for distributing and promoting this new, high-value content.
  7. What measures of success will you track? We’re huge advocates for defining success and measuring ROI. Make sure you can track the forms of engagement that matter in your overall strategy.

* An alphabetized list of healthcare podcasts with episodes published in the last 12 months and/or listed in “evergreen” resource centers on their websites. The list, which is not comprehensive or exhaustive, was assembled via research conducted on search engines and social media in late June 2020. Please contact us if you have active healthcare podcasts you’d like us to include.

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