5 reasons to start a study abroad podcast

5 reasons to start a study abroad podcast

As educators and study abroad facilitators, we’re always looking out for new ways to reach our students. Generation Z are quick to embrace new technology and ways of learning (often quicker than us), which is why podcasting offers such a great opportunity to present information in a new and engaging way.

With on-campus interaction looking increasingly unlikely for the coming semester, podcasting is a great way to stay connected with students. As people adjust to the ‘new normal’ and daily life is put temporarily on lockdown, planning a study abroad adventure could be exactly the escapism that our students need.

With that in mind, here are five great reasons to consider creating a study abroad podcast:

1. Podcasting is becoming more mainstream

Although traditionally seen as a music streaming platform, in the last year alone Spotify has reportedly spent around $1bn on their podcast offerings, including a deal with MMA commentator and podcast host Joe Rogan worth a rumored $100m – and it looks like their strategy is paying off. In the first 3 months of 2020, Spotify reported a rise of 31% in paid subscriptions, taking their total to 130 million premium subscribers. Market analysts are forecasting further growth to 136.5 million and although this can’t be attributed exclusively to the availability of podcasts, it is certainly a contributing factor.

Many major Universities worldwide have also already embraced podcasting on a plethora of subjects: Oxford University has a Medieval English podcast, Yale has a Modern Poetry offering, MIT offers introductions to many science-based subjects in both audio and video formats and Harvard explores black holes, string theory and the laws of nature among other topics in their podcast series. With 150,000 new podcasts uploaded to Spotify in April 2020 alone, it’s high time that study abroad got in on the action.

2. Gen Z are major consumers of podcasts

Traditional marketing methods like email marketing or print advertising are proven to be less effective with younger markets. In order to recruit students, who typically tend to fall into that category, it’s time to embrace newer methods of communication – like podcasting. Research shows that 7 out of 10 Generation Z and Millennials listen to podcasts. Over one third (37%) of 13–37-year-olds listen weekly. Of these, the most avid listeners are in the 21–24 age bracket, 51% of whom report listening to podcasts on a weekly basis.

Getting the message across to members of Generation Z is often a challenge, and although it’s not the only way, podcasting is definitely an important tool in your arsenal.

3. Podcasts are engaging

If I had a dollar for every time a student arrived onsite and asked a question that had already been answered in their pre-departure material, I could have paid Joe Rogan’s Spotify fee myself.

While we all do our best to make sure our students are prepared for their study abroad programme, there is no point pretending that they actually read all (or any!) of the material that we send them. Whether it’s emails, blogposts, handbooks or even PowerPoint presentations, Generation Z won’t sit down to read information – regardless of how important it is.

Podcasts offer us the opportunity to engage our students where they are. Between 96 and 98% of Generation Z students own a smartphone, and smartphones are the most popular way to access podcasts. Of all podcast streams, 49% are from home, 22% are in the car, 7% are while commuting and 4% while working out. The ability to multitask and listen to a podcast means podcasts have a huge advantage over written material.

4. Podcasts allow you to build connections and relationships

Ultimately, people buy from people they trust. If your aim is to fill your study abroad programme, then building up a rapport with prospective students and their parents is key, particularly at the moment when you might not have the option of meeting face-to-face on campus. While email and social media marketing are fine in terms of getting your message out, they lack the personal touch. Podcasts give you the opportunity to form a deeper connection with your listeners and build a community.

In addition to sharing your own content, inviting guest speakers to feature on your podcast allows you to make new connections with people working in your field. By inviting thought leaders, influencers or people of interest, you can benefit from their expertise in a particular area. Podcasts are also a great way to engage with students post-departure, by asking them to collaborate and share their experience with prospective students. Generation Z are used to documenting their every move on their social channels, so sharing their real-life anecdotes on your podcast can help build the sense of community and is more likely to resonate with future students than a typed list of things to pack, for example.

5. Podcasts can boost your social media following

Research shows that podcast listeners are more active on every social media channel (94% are active on at least one platform, compared to 81% of the general population). They are also loyal and are more likely to follow and engage with brands on social media.

Engaging with students through your podcast is a great way to cross-promote your social channels by providing additional information and resources there. Growing your social media following can increase brand awareness, drive traffic to your website and boost recruitment.

Our media landscape is rapidly evolving, and the ways in which prospective students engage with media are evolving just as quickly. Especially in these challenging times in which face-to-face contact is temporarily not an option, higher education institutions will need to diversify the set of tools they use to reach their target audiences. Hopefully the five points explained here have highlighted some of the ways in which podcasting can be a powerful tool to add to your marketing and recruitment toolkit.

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Kayte O'Malley
Go Study Ireland, IrelandKayte is Director of Go Study Ireland.