Make Podcasting Work for Your Firm
BY Jason Bland STAFF CONTRIBUTOR
Podcasts have launched careers for comedians, turned amateur pundits into TV news anchors and broken down the exclusivity of the airwaves. They are powerful communication tools and powerful marketing tools.
Podcasts are a powerful way to generate leads. They are also extremely underutilized by attorneys, which means you may possibly be the first lawyer in your market to hit iTunes. A few years ago, Apple reported 125,000 podcasts available on iTunes. Current reports say that number has doubled. Last year, iTunes reported 225 million iTunes users had credit cards on file, not including the full number of people who just have an account but do not purchase music files.
At 250,000 available podcasts in a network of at least 225 million users, podcasters are outnumbered: 900 users for every one podcast. When you compare that to search engines and social networks, you have very strong odds in your favor if you are a podcaster. Of course, many of those users are downloading songs and music, but millions are downloading free podcasts or even better, subscribing.
Apple released the number of users who have credit cards on file. Many iTunes users want to download free podcasts and news stories and may not keep a billing profile. Thus the actual auditorium of iTunes software users consists of far more than 225 million people.
The audience is there. Grab a microphone and say something interesting. Here’s how to get started.
Frequency: Be Realistic
One of the reasons why podcasting is a sidestepped frontier in the legal community is because they require the one resource that attorneys avariciously protect and always come up short: time. Podcasting is not a trinket that can be toiled with in rare moments when your time has no stake holders. You must develop a schedule to which you can realistically commit.
When the podcasting libido is active, it’s easy to get fired up and declare that you will release a new episode on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week. A stroll through iTunes will show a series of shows that have started strong and now struggle to push out a new episode every quarter. It is better to start with an achievable goal of one to two episodes each month and then grow.
Topics: Choose Wisely
While your podcast will develop a loyal following of subscribers, your new cases are going to come from episodes that focus on niche topics. For example, a business attorney is going to have loyal subscribers such as accountants, other business attorneys and consultants, basically people who will be a great source for referrals. Business owners may select only episodes that relate to them.
A small business owner might be very interesting in an episode on contracts or vendor disputes, but mergers and acquisitions and buying multimillion dollar commercial properties will not keep their interest. At the same time, a CFO may be very interested in the mergers and acquisitions episodes but bored with the difference between a Ccorp, S-Corp and LLC. Consider your audience when coming up with topics and know you will have a lot of periodic episode listeners and a smaller audience
of loyal subscribers.
You want topics that are both relevant and have a long shelf life. Anyone can browse the archive of a podcast, so you want your old episodes to offer value to listeners months down the road.
Length: Keep It Short
You should establish a length target for each episode. This is not network broadcasting; your episodes don’t have to be 30 minutes to an hour. In fact, podcasts should be brief. Episode lengths should stay within five to 15 minutes, unless you are talking with a guest and having an interesting dialogue. People listen to podcasts on trains and ferries, in their cars and while working. You want your episodes to fit conveniently into their podcast listening schedule. That means, you must keep it short.
To recap, you are doing one to two episodes every month, topics will be crafted around loyal subscribers, which will be valuable referrals and nonsubscribers, which can bloom into individual clients. Each episode is going to be 10 minutes, more or less.
Content: Write a Script
While many lawyers are proficient public speakers and disciplined auditors, others may be surprised at the skill required to avoid nonsensical filler while recording a podcast. Words that are acceptable in every day conversations such as “um,” and “let’s see” or more than two seconds of silence will cause your listeners to lose interest.
Even people who deliver speeches without missing a beat or saying “um” can be easily intimated when starring at the cold medal casing of a microphone.
To make sure your point is delivered, your speech isn’t interrupted and your audience isn’t distracted, write a script. While you don’t have to write a script for the whole show, give yourself sage paragraphs to read in between nonscripted
For example, you could start with a scripted introduction. Then, move into your scripted topic. At the end of that scripted statement, you could share a story from your experience. The story wouldn’t be scripted, and mild verbal stumbling is acceptable but have a scripted topic to immediately start reading once you have completed your non-scripted story.
A podcast that is 10 minutes will take about an hour to write and record. If you are doing two each month, allocate time to do a handful, maybe a whole day to complete episodes for the next three months. Keeping a schedule is important to the loyal subscriber group of listeners.
Gear: Get a Quality Microphone
Over the years, I have podcasted with microphones of the same quality as the disposable earphones airlines freely hand out, I have called toll free numbers that email phone-quality MP3s to my Inbox and even used the integrated microphone in my laptop.
None of those qualify as solutions for the serious podcaster. While phoning it in may be ok for your guests, and quite an acceptable practice, the host should be clear and crisp. Photographers can make subtle mistakes and call it creative choice. Ears are less forgiving. If your podcast sounds like you are broadcasting live from your vacuum cleaner or directly in front of an industrial strength fan, you will annoy your audience and discourage listeners from tuning in.
For about $100, you can buy the Samson C01UPAK USB microphone. It’s not music studio quality, but it is podcast quality. Using a quality microphone and noise reduction tools available on Apple’s Garage Band or the freely available Audacity (compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux), a solid microphone can give your podcast a crisp voice of legitimacy.
Put on the Finishing Touches
Each podcast episode should have a professional introduction and closing. Having a studio quality voice recording and a little music from a stock house like Stockmusic.net, iStockphoto.com or Premiumbeat.com will add a subtle mood that your listeners will appreciate. Expect to spend about $30 on royalty-free music and $200 to $300 on a voice talent.
Include the introduction and closing at the start and finish of each podcast. Your voice talent can even turn your closing into a commercial for your firm. Include both in a template with Audacity or Garage Band and then paste your vocal track in the middle.
Formatting future podcasts will be a breeze once everything is in place. You will also need attractive cover art. This will display in iTunes to potential listeners and subscribers. You should include your law firm’s logo but also make the cover art unique to the podcast. You are now ready to be heard but not
If your law firm’s website is based on WordPress, you can find a handful of help plug-ins to turn your website into a podcasting server. If you are not running WordPress, a quick search in Google for “podcast hosting” will provide a variety of options. Ultimately, you need your audio files in an RSS feed. Once you have that RSS feed either through your website or a third party podcast host, you are ready to submit your podcast to iTunes.
Before submitting, make sure you have one to two episodes already published. Apple will not approve your podcast if you haven’t created your first episode.
To submit your podcast to iTunes, open up iTunes on your Windows or Mac computer. Click on “iTunes Store” and then “Podcasts.” On the right menu, you will see a link that says, “Submit a podcast.” You will need to login with your Apple ID to continue. Apple will ask for your cover art, your RSS feed, a description and other information about your podcast. Make your description compelling. Explain why someone should subscribe to your podcast.
Once your podcast feed and information is submitted, Apple will review it and hopefully approve it. The approval can take a couple of days or up to four weeks. Once included, anyone can access your podcast via the iTunes software on their iPhone, iPad or iPod.
Podcasting is a great way to reach out to potential new clients and build credibility for your firm. Target your messages, keep it concise and pack it with useful information your audience can use. That is how you make a podcast work for your law firm.