Category Archives: Podcasting Tips

Plan Your Podcast

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Step 1: Identify Our Objectives for the Podcast

• What should the podcast accomplish for our business/organization? What is the call to action for this podcast? What are we trying to persuade our podcast audience to believe or do?
• Are we informing or entertaining our audience? Or (recommended) both?
• How will the podcast benefit our business/organization? Is the investment of time and money practical?

Step 2: Describe Our Target Audience

• Who is our target audience? What is their age, gender, occupation, location, buying behavior, preferences & podcast experience level?
• Why would they want to listen to our podcast? What would they expect? What do they want to hear? What’s the end benefit of taking the time to listen to our podcast? What’s in it for them?

Step 3: Describe the Attributes of this Podcast

• How is our podcast unique/original?

o Tone, attitude, personality
o Content, subject matter, theme
o Format

• Monologue Commentary by a single host or duo hosts
• Interviews, guests, live podcasting
• Audio, Enhanced Audio (with graphics), or Video Cast
• Scripted, Outline, or Spontaneous
• Duration in minutes
• Frequency: weekly, monthly, sporadic

Step 4: What is the Big Idea?

• Define the podcast’s key message for our audience:

Step 5: Discuss Logistics

• Brainstorm podcast topic and format ideas
• Outlines and/or scripts
• Equipment (microphones, computer, editing software, etc.)
• Intro Music (podsafe)
• Graphics (podcast logo, handouts, web links, photos)
• Schedule production, and post-production and editing time
• Web server to host and insertion in podcast directories

All About Podcasts

PODCASTS

A podcast is a digital broadcast available on the Internet, which may be downloaded onto an MP3 player, such as an iPod. There are three kinds: audio podcasts, enhanced audio podcasts (with still images), and video podcasts.

Good for
Communicating detailed information to small audiences who are passionate about a specific subject, or who are members of a defined group.

Not good for
Reaching broad audiences.

Cost
Professional production of an audio podcast episode, including recording and editing, starts at about $1,500.

Did you know?
• 19% of all Internet users have downloaded a podcast to listen to or view later, and 43% of Internet users own an iPod or MP3 player.
• Consumers remember more about products and services they see advertised on podcasts than on television or online videos.
• Only 3% of people who listen to podcasts download them on a typical day.

Tips
• Invest in good recording and lighting equipment, or hire someone to produce your podcast for you.
• Don’t just list your podcast on iTunes. It’s not searchable. List it on other podcast directories to grow your audience.
• Tag your episodes with search-friendly keywords.

Try This
• Download an episode of “The Fletcher Prince Podcast.”
• Find out how to peel a pineapple on “The Produce Picker Podcast.”
• Attend a free meeting of the DC Podcaster Alliance.
• Fletcher Prince can help you create a podcast plan, and help you produce and edit your podcast.

Effective podcast advertising

Study results released this spring found that podcast advertising is three times more effective than online video advertising and seven times more effective than television, when measured in terms of unaided ad awareness 52 online shows and podcasts participated in the four campaigns studied and 6,869 audience members participated in the research.

Ad formats consisted of: embedded :15 and :30 host-read audio and video ads, embedded :10 and :15 produced video ads, ad banners on publisher websites, and social networking in the form of publisher blog entries about advertised brands and related topics. Podtrac developed the advertising effectiveness methodology in conjunction with TNS.

The study showed embedded advertising in online shows and podcasts to be highly effective for increasing brand awareness, usage intent and positively impacting brand perceptions across four diverse product categories: television programming, automobiles, financial service, and digital imaging. Results included:

• Average unaided ad recall of 68%
• Average aided ad recall of 89%
• 73% average increase in likelihood to use/buy vs control group
• 69% having a more favorable view of advertiser due to ad exposure

“The unaided awareness level of 68% is considerably higher in podcasts and online shows than in other offline and online media,” said Mark McCrery, Podtrac’s CEO and Co-Founder. “Narrowly targeted audiences, appropriate ad formats, content relevance, and show host involvement are some of the factors which come together to produce highly effective ads in online shows and podcasts.”

“The data also suggest audiences are paying close attention to show content and the embedded ads within them which greatly increased ad effectiveness in the studies,” said Doug Keith, former Vice President of the Media & Entertainment Group at TNS and currently President of Future Research Consulting. “The high unaided ad recall figures are no doubt the results of a less cluttered environment.”

“Online shows and podcasts have loyal audiences who pay attention to advertisers who support the shows they regularly listen to or watch,” said Velvet Beard, Podtrac’s Vice President of Products. “The studies showed a 73% increase in likelihood to use or buy an advertised product which is an indication of successful targeting, the unique relationship audience members have with the hosts of today’s online shows, and their ability to quickly move audiences from awareness to consideration to purchase. The studies showed that 69% of audience members have a more favorable view of in-show advertisers, which means a tremendous amount of goodwill goes to advertisers of online shows when show selection is intentional and advertising and ad formats are integrated into show formats.”

The 52 podcasts and online shows studied as part of the research include: This Week in Tech, MacBreak Weekly, net@night, and Daily Giz Wiz all with TWiT.tv’s Leo Laporte; MacBreak, MacBreak Tech and This Week in Media with PixelCorp.tv’s Alex Lindsey; Geek News Central with Todd Cochran;SDR News with Andy McCaskey; Feast of Fools; Filmspotting; and FlashTV.

Improving the Sound Quality of Your Podcast

IMG_00101.JPGIs it too lofty a goal to create a sound and recorded content that is as well-produced as, say, NPR? That may be a very high standard, but everyone can improve the sound quality of their recordings with these easy tips.
At the Podcast and New Media Expo, I had the opportunity to attend a session presented by Bruce Shape, the inventor of the Levelator. For those of you who may be new to podcasting, the Levelator is a wonderful, free tool that I have personally downloaded and used for the Fletcher Prince podcast.

If you’ve never podcasted before, this discussion does get a little technical. But if you have an interest in audio, read on. And if you’d like someone to work with you on your podcast, please do contact us at Fletcher Prince.

The Levelator automatically evens out the volume of your recording, producing a sound that is more pleasing to listen to than a recording with unadjusted levels.

As Bruce Shape described, there are several steps to recording great sound:

  • Record well. Here’s a tip from Bruce Shape: if you’re conducting an interview, and your subject goes off on a tangent and doesn’t really answer your question, but their reply is useful, then after they finish, record the “question” for that answer. Then splice in the right answer. No one will notice, of course, and your interviewee will sound so much better.
  • Use a bandpass filter (on sound effects).
  • Peak normalize (another sound effect feature).
  • Apply noise reduction judiciously (it has its drawbacks).
  • Adjust the levels with Levelator. To do this, download Levelator (it’s free) from http://www.conversationsnetwork.org/levelator. Then drag your wav file into the Levelator window. Like magic, in seconds, it creates another wav file that has automatically adjusted the levels of volume in the recording to sound much better, more even, with less peaks and valleys of volume. This is especially useful if you have two people talking, and one of them has a soft voice (like mine) and the other has a more powerful voice (like David’s). The Levelator brings those volumes closer together.
  • Edit out distracting sounds, such as “um” or other mistakes. After you have identified the segment of sound you want to delete, Bruce Sharpe recommends using a cross fade on the cut so that the sound cut-off isn’t so abrupt. I use Garage Band for audio editing, but if you’re using Audacity to do post-production editing, you can download Bruce Sharpe’s handy plug-in to smoothly handle cross fades. This plug in can be found on http://www.singularproductions.net.

Podcast Gear: Choosing a Microphone

Remember when Harry Potter wanted to choose his first wand at Olivander’s, and was told that the wand would choose him? You know, it’s not so different with microphones. Different microphones sound good for different people.
Many microphones aren’t returnable, however, so to find the one that is right for your voice, experiment with the sound of different microphones at a music store, such as Guitar Center.

There are three types of microphones: dynamic, condenser, and ribbon microphones.  Microphones come in all kinds of sizes and dimensions, from little lavalier mics that you clip onto your lapel and small mics you attach to an iPod to snowball mics that can be fun for group interviews, to wireless mics, and more.  There are inexpensive USB microphones that record right into  your computer, and other mics that require special cables, digital recording devices, and external power sources.  We use a wide assortment of mics for our work at Fletcher Prince.
Dynamic microphones are relatively inexpensive, produce a punchy sound (warm, round, and full), and are forgiving about extraneous noise.  Condenser mics are more expensive but they can produce wonderful sound.  At Fletcher Prince, we use both condenser and dynamic mics for recording, depending on the situation.
Nearly as important as the quality of the microphone is how you use it.  Never hold a microphone and speak into it. Use a good quality microphone stand, instead. Angle the microphone stand so that the microphone, ideally, is aimed down at a 45 degree angle, to pick up resonance from your chest. (If you still need more “bottom” as my soft voice often does, you can also add this quality artificially in post-production sound editing.)  Do not speak directly into the microphone.  Speak “across” the microphone and slightly off to one side.

At Fletcher Prince, we use a shock mount on the microphone (most good quality mics come with a shock mount) and a pop filter.  The pop filter protects the mic and helps to eliminate the “popping” sound that can be recoding when people say words with the “p” or “b” sound in them.
For assistance with podcasting, you know who to call–your friends at Fletcher Prince!

Audio Recording Techniques for Your Podcast

At a recent seminar conducted by John McJunkin of Avalon Podcasting, I learned these tips for making The Fletcher Prince Podcast sound great. Please contact me if I can help you with your podcasting needs.

There are three problem areas for sound:

  • Distractions, such as mouth noises.
  • Masking–hiss buzz, music, sound effects, and acoustical blurring from the room.
  • Distortion–that you add electronically, e.g., the by-products of sound editing.

Recognize up front that there are elements of sound production that you can control, and ones you cannot.

You can control:

  • How you prepare and speak.
  • The equipment you use, such as quality microphones.
  • The sound editing equipment you use, such as compression.
  • The digital encoding rate and other features you employ.

But you can’t control how the listener accesses the podcast, for example:

  • the quality of their computer and the speed of their download.
  • the quality of their MP3 player.
  • the quality of their earbuds or head phones.

It seems obvious, but it’s good to remember what you can control for in sound production.

Recorded ambiance–or noise from within the room–cannot be removed in editing. It can be adjusted, with noise reduction, but that can cause its own challenges. The goal is to record in a small, innermost room with absorbent elements, such as draperies or furniture. The standard is to use auralex foam. Barring that you can use heavy rug and draperies. Cover up anything hard that will reflect the sound.

One idea is to record the environment before you podcast. That way you can identify the sounds you may otherwise miss (and correct). For example, passing cars, computer fan (record in another room), a/c, cellphones/pagers (do not
put on vibrate), jingling jewelry, change in your pockets, squeaky chairs, and paper shuffling.

It’s hard to do a podcast without a script or outline, but the papers do create noise. To minimize this, put your papers and notes on a music stand covered with a carpet remnant and arrange so you don’t have to shuffle them.

Avoid wearing headphones if you can. Have someone else wear them to check for sound while you are recording.

Prepare your mouth for podcasting! A dry mouth may cause you to make unattractive mouth sounds. Drink and swish with warm water, not cold (which will constrict your vocal chords) and not hot water. Don’t drink milk,
which will cause mucus, and don’t drink soda or fruit juices, or anything with sugar. Don’t eat before you
podcast. Use lip balm, to keep you from smacking your lips.

Video Podcasting – The Basics

Video casts are a great way to promote your business or organization, and they’re wonderfully viral. But on the downside, producing a video cast is a LOT of work. Hiring professionals, like your friends at Fletcher Prince, is a good idea. Before you make a video cast, ask yourself these questions:

  • what’s the subject?
  • why am I creating this?
  • Has this been done before?
  • How will I do it differently?

Here are just a few tips to consider as you get started with video casting…
Lighting: Remember, the lights and darks of your video cast will get crushed a bit in compression for the Internet. You can decide to be a little creative with this lighting limitation and go for mood. Use natural lighting whenever possible. Otherwise, get a basic light kit so you can do some multi-point lighting. “The Hands On Guide to Video Blogging and Podcasting” is a good book to read on lighting and other video cast basics.

Microphones: Pick up a nice Shure dynamic mic to record focused sound that will not pick up a minimum of extraneous, environmental noise. Conducting interviews? Be ready to go with a digital recorder or camcorder (or both), and have a release form handy when you are in the field and might be recording.

Using two cameras? (Lucky! ) ) As you start to film, clap so you can sync your sound on the audio track. You will see a big peak when you go to sound editing. I use iMovie but Final Cut Pro is a great step up for sound and film editing.

When you have completed and edited your video, you will need a high broadband provider to host your episodes. Look into Tube Mogul, which will host your video free, and place it on up to fifteen sites, including YouTube. You might also look at services offered by companies such as Podango, Podshow, and Libsyn. And don’t forget iTunes!

Being Strategic About Social Media

In my discussions with people who are new to social media, I typically encounter one of two reactions: utter dismissal of the medium and its potential, or unrestrained and underinformed enthusiasm for social media.  The first group tends to include veteran communicators who appear unimpressed with social media’s results and are admittedly reluctant to learn about a new communications method.   The latter group embraces social media, and is enchanted with its low cost and few barriers to entry.  But these adherents don’t always seem to understand how social media can best be used for their clients, so they try everything — taking more of a shotgun approach.  Which isn’t really harmful, but it’s may not be the best use of their resources.

Taking a strategic approach to social media may be the prescription for both of these types of communicators.  The traditionalists may not realize that using social media is a lot easier than they might have imagined.  On the other hand, the early adopters need to understand that social media is not a magic wand, and it does require planning and resources to use it as a communications tool.

The strategy boils down to relevant content and targeted audiences.  Social media works to raise your online profile but it works best as a niche marketing tool.
Let’s take the example of podcasts — the audio or video equivalent of a blog.  Podcasts can be a wonderful way to communicate key messages, but they aren’t appropriate for every marketing campaign.  Podcasts require a great deal of planning and resources to execute well.  To be successful, podcasts have to deliver highly useful, educational, and relevant content.  Content that is still branded.  Anything overly promotional will not go over well with podcast audiences.  And podcasts, at best, have a limited, but targeted audience.  While the audience has increased by 12% over the past two years, you can’t invest in podcasting expecting to reach millions, or even thousands, of people.  Podcast are best to used to reach an audience of impassioned brand ambassadors, membership groups, and people are dedicated to a particular issue.  According to the Pew Internet and Amerian Life Project, researchers have found that while nearly 20% of Americans have downloaded a podcast, very few do it on a daily basis.  Podcast audiences are heavy online users, are highly educated, tend to affluent, and still skew slightly male.  The number of women who have downloaded podcasts has doubled in the past two years, however.

The podcast audience is predicted to grow by 250% over the next four years, and advertising spending on podcasts increases signficantly each year.  So podcasting looks like a great long-term communications strategy for organizations and companies that will benefit from it.

Social networking — creating an online prescence on Facebook, MySpace, and other social sites — is a popular marketing communications strategy for companies and nonprofit organizations.  But in the US, less than 24% of Americans use social networks frequently (every other day).  eMarketer predicts that this figure will increase to 44% by the end of this year, however.  Globally, social networking has varying levels of adaptation.  Social networking is even more popular in the Netherlands, the UK, and Taiwan than it is in America, but social networking is less prevalent in countries like Mexico, Pakistan, Turkey, and the Phillipines.

As with podcasting, social networking for marketing purposes works particularly well for specific, defined membership groups and other well-defined groups of people who share a common interest, passion, or mission.  Creating and disseminating highly relevant, high quality, valuable content for these groups will increase the social network outreach strategy’s success rate.

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