This blog is based on the original journal article in the Public Relations Journal. The Public Relations Journal is a peer-reviewed academic journal presented by the Institute for Public Relations and the Public Relations Society of America.
Whether it’s one of your favorite pop culture celebrities, political analysts, sports commentators, or even one of your own friends, it seems that everyone is getting into podcasting these days. In fact, recent studies from Edison show that there are currently more than one million active podcasts and over 30 million podcast episodes available for streaming. A few short years ago in 2018, Edison reported just over 500,000 active podcasts – proving that use of the medium is growing rapidly. However, the many complexities of podcasting have yet to be wholly explored in scholarship. Bearing this in mind, questions arise about how podcasting influences or affects communication (and in particular, strategic communication.)
There have been many scholars who have studied the impact of new media in public relations campaigns. Those studies, however, emphasize social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. But, how can PR practitioners utilize podcasts as a means of connecting with existing and new publics? And, is podcasting a medium that PR practitioners should invest their time into? While we still continue to learn about podcasting, the medium has become a social media phenomenon to pay attention to. Even more, its implications for connecting publics and creating networks seems to have natural symmetry with the field of public relations.
Messaging and Framing Factors
With little information on the influence of podcasting in PR, the phenomenon can be explored through a myriad of perspectives and theories. One way to understand how podcasts can be used by PR practitioners is through understanding how messaging is used in public relations campaigns. Wentzel, Tomczak, and Herrmann (2010) suggest that advertisements and public service announcements include narratives in their messaging, and like so, brands can also have a vested interest in using narrative-based messaging in public relations.
Additionally, by understanding framing theory particularly within public relations research, we can investigate how frames are utilized on podcasts, similar to how they are used on other social media sites. Hallahan (1999) suggested that PR practitioners are frame strategists who determine what choices, actions, situations, and responsibilities should be presented to have favorable outcomes.
Social Media Brand Marketing
As podcasting consistently increases in popularity and use, questions remain about whether this will be the new medium for brands to utilize in brand building. Because the nature of podcasting is intimate and podcasts often have a niche listenership, companies would be remiss in not exploring all the medium has to offer. The fashion industry has somewhat embraced the medium which opens a space for being considered as an interesting case study for understanding the role of messaging, branding, and framing through podcasts.
Fashion Brands Podcasts as PR Case Studies
When we think of high fashion, generally there is a level of exclusivity involved. Consumers who can afford the glamour of expensive bags and high-end clothing can generally only shop in certain cities where these luxury stores are available. Even more, these brands often neglect the convoluted world of advertising and rely on their brand’s reputation to retain a loyal customer base. Yet, this hasn’t stopped these brands from using various social media platforms to engage more consumers. Even high-profile brands like Chanel and Nike – which are multi-billion-dollar corporations with millions of loyal consumers – have decided to employ podcasts to their advantage.
What this research reports is that podcasts can offer a level of detail and intimacy that other media platforms cannot. While Facebook and Twitter can directly engage the organization with individual stakeholders, they are still limited in length (character limits on tweets/posts) and they emphasize engagement above all else. Podcasts, on the other hand, not only emphasize engagement but they also allow the brand the space and time to tell its own stories. Fashion brands have developed a way to allow their stakeholders to have an exclusive (or what feels like an exclusive) behind-the-scenes look at their brand.
Though we still know very little about the nuances of podcasts, existing research tells us that whether inside or outside the fashion industry, there is great potential for incorporating podcasting in PR practice and research.
Tegan R. Bratcher is a Roy H. Park Doctoral Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Edison Research: https://www.edisonresearch.com/the-podcast-consumer-2019/
The Lyst Index: https://www.lyst.com/data/the-lyst-index/q419/
Hallahan, K. (1999). “Seven models of framing: Implications for public relations.” Journal of Public Relations Research, 11(3): 205-242.
Wentzel, D., Tomczak, T., & Herrmann, A. (2010). “The moderating effect of manipulative intent and cognitive resources on the evaluation of narrative ads.” Psychology of Marketing, 27: 510-530.