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Clarian climbs aboard podcast bandwagon: Hospital network finds new way to broadcast its message to employees and the community

March 6, 2006

Communications experts say the medium, which has been around only a couple of years, carries loads of marketing potential. "You're immediately tying a voice to the company and a face to the company. That's a powerful thing," said Kelly Hendricks, president of BLASTmedia, an Indianapolis-based public relations firm. "It's going to be interesting to see how this evolves." Evans decided to try Clarian's hand at podcasting after his research found it costs "almost nothing" to produce a message and upload it to the Internet.

He produced a test podcast last fall, and employee e-mail feedback motivated him to plan more.

"I think what it shows is the modern worker is comfortable with an electronic interface, and if you keep it short and sweet-five minutes or less-you can get people to listen," he said.

Last month, Clarian posted a conversation between Evans and Dr. Craig Brater, dean of the Indiana University School of Medicine. Evans opened the segment by welcoming viewers to the "third podcast in a series that we hope will go on forever."

The two sat on stools against a gray, dropcloth background and discussed Clarian's relationship with the school.

Future podcasts will follow the same, unscripted format to cover Clarian's expansion in Lafayette and Riley Hospital for Children's strategy, among other topics.

Clarian is investing $20,000 to design a podcast studio, said Ed Simcox, Clarian's director of enterprise technology planning.

The hospital network also will equip the 10,000 new Dell computers it starts receiving this spring with software to download the podcasts and to notify users when a new one becomes available.

But Clarian officials want patients and community members, not just the network's 13,000 employees, to view them. "Podcasting is just taking off like wildfire," said Simcox, who foresees a "very bright future" for it at Clarian.

Other podcast users include IUPUI, where several professors make audio versions of lectures available for students. Daniels also posts audio podcast links on his Web site to press conferences, town hall meetings and his State of the State address. Last November, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art started audio podcasts of gallery tours and artist interviews. The museum encourages people to bring their iPods when they visit, Communications Manager Anthony Scott said. Lilly podcast use is limited to its Elanco animal-health division, but the company wants to find other ways to employ the technology, spokesman Ed Sagebiel said. Podcasts can help companies deliver presentations to a sales force, which can listen to the messages on the road, noted Brian Coles, an account manager with Indianapolis' Coles Public Relations.

BLASTmedia's Hendricks said they can help companies explain products to customers.

"We're having lots of conversations with our clients about it," he said.

Coles, Hendricks and Evans say companies and other organizations are only beginning to tap the potential.

"It didn't exist a year and a half ago, and now there are thousands of them, so my guess is Mr. Market is telling us we better get with it," Evans said.
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