More and more people are listening to RNIB Podcasts, made by and for blind and partially sighted people. Photo shows presenter Jill Barkley

How RNIB Is Successfully Growing Digital Audio Podcasts

Using Smart Content Marketing and Social Media Promotion

1. What is the background behind RNIB’s move into digital audio podcasting ?

In 2016 RNIB undertook a review to improve the impact, reach and effectiveness of its content marketing strategy. RNIB is a UK national charity providing more than 600 specialist services to blind and partially sighted people of all ages and capabilities. These include pioneering accessible audio services such as the flagship library service Talking Books and award-winning national radio station Connect Radio. For the latter, which broadcasts 24/7, the ambition is to continue to build audience, awareness and reach through providing a mixture of predominantly talk radio programming which is relevant and interesting to blind and partially sighted people, and to serve this across a mix of format and channel. Connect Radio broadcasts on FM (in Glasgow), online and on Freeview TV Channel 730. RNIB successfully switched from satellite to Freeview in 2014 recognising that many elderly people who lose their sight only in old age continue to listen to their existing technology (TVs) rather than learn braille or use specialist accessibility tech. Total measured listenership surpassed 150,000 blind and partially sighted people for the first time ever by late 2016. RNIB also wished to build listenership amongst the digitally-savvy, which required new activity targeted and tailored to appropriate digital channels.

2. What steps did you undertake and why?

The first step was to identify the most relevant programming to attract and retain different interest groups. RNIB has a strategic priority to develop a peer-to-peer Community initiative called Connect, so three programme titles were chosen which best reflect the Connect ethos ie “produced by the community for the community”.

i) THE WEEKLY CONNECT — a brand new programme capturing news, views and topical issues from across the sight loss community

ii) TECH TALK — an established programme offering an informative weekly walk-through the latest in accessible tech

iii) READ ON AIR — a relaunch of an existing programme celebrating the love of reading, libraries, writing and publishing and featuring guest host blind author and climber Red Szell

A dedicated editorial and production team for these three titles was formed which produces whole episodes and reformats stories into shorter self-contained individual features for click-and-play promotion via social media. Programmes feature regular presenters and a network of contributors from across the community.

Then, RNIB partnered with Audioboom to provide the main platform and distribution channel for podcast episodes, individual features and playlists both directly and through third parties (eg iTunes, RSS). Each new weekly episode (60 minutes x 3 titles) is promoted across social networks upon release with The Weekly Connect episodes also highlighted on the main RNIB website.

RNIB Website features the current week’s episode of The Weekly Connect

Individual features are also promoted separately on social networks, often being used to start conversations, to ask for comment/feedback and to encourage contributions.

Each episode is also broadcast two or three times weekly by Connect Radio.

3. What was the impact?

As of today, September 20th 2017, RNIB’s podcast channels have already surpassed 300,000 digital listens through Audioboom from a mix of episodes and features in the last 12 months! This number is all organic growth (ie no paid advertising) and is in addition to those listening to the regular scheduled radio broadcasts of the three programme titles via Freeview. Digital listenership, awareness and engagement continues to grow, with many blind and partially sighted people saying they enjoy being able to listen to what they want when they want via podcast and/or click-and-play.

digital listens of episodes and features have soared to more than 228,000, mainly since September 2016 when the new RNIB podcasts were launched (graph from Audioboom analytics for ‘RNIB Podcasts’)

4. What lessons are there for other charities ?

· Know your audience segments, which channels they use and what type of content works best in each channel

· Give your audience the convenience and control to choose how and when they wish to listen

· Build awareness and reputation slowly and steadily through consistent quality output and regular promotion

· Audio recording capability is now on every smartphone. How can you harness this to build engagement and participation ?

Comments welcomed

About The Author

Clive Gardiner, is a Digital and Content Strategist and founder at Headstretch Ltd. He was formerly Group Head of Digital and Content at RNIB and is now Head of Digital at NSPCC & Childline. Feel free to connect on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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