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Podcasting suggestions, advice from a guy who doesn’t podcast

mic.jpgSo I’m not a podcaster. I’ve participated in a few podcasts. I’ve recorded things on my computer, but never made a podcast. I’ve never even recorded a Skype call. So you might be wondering what qualifications I have to make suggestions or give advice about said medium.

Well, first of all, I’m not going to, because Donna Papacosta already podcasted the concept I was cooking up and going to write about, so there! (I’ll be coming back to this.)

Secondly, I listen to a lot of podcasts. And to me, knowing what one likes or doesn’t like about podcasts really gives that person ample qualification. Plus, I was in a band for over six years, engineered two full-length CDs and still record my own little ditties occasionally, so I know a little bit about recording equipment.

Tertiarily, this is my blog. I don’t have to have authority, experience or knowledge, I just have to have an audience. Which I’m sure I’m losing at about 6 readers per word at this point. Hey, isn’t that the point sometimes when you’re blogging? Isn’t that the blogosphere motto: Don’t have any facts, figures, or knowledge, but write vehemently about stuff you don’t understand.

Gosh, I’m snarky today. Sorry I’m so cynical, but you’ve got to tell me you’ve noticed. It’s either an echo chamber or it’s a blind rant…no, wait, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive, sometimes it’s a complete echo chamber of ranting blindly. You wouldn’t know it, but I do love the medium. I love the whole shebang, bad and all.

Anyway, I’ve been listening to many, many podcasts since I first discovered them, oh…late 2005. Some good, some bad, and they’re getting better. I started thinking I’d write up a little top ten on what my suggestions would be to future or newbie podcasters. Things that people wouldn’t ordinarly think of without a little recording experience. The beauty of the medium is that the barrier to entry is so low, right? But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things you should think about first.

However, in traditional I-used-to-live-in-New-York -and-then-I-moved-to-Canada-so-long-ago- I-forgot-how-to-carry-my-own-illegally-concealed-firearm fashion, Donna Papacosta came out with this great podcast on January 10th titled Insider’s Podcasting Secrets: 10 Things Every Podcaster Should Know, which is a cumbersome title and not one I would have used, but it’s straight forward and to the point. It was also featured on the Feedburner site, which must mean something because I know what Feedburner is and therefore what Donna has achieved must be important.

No, for the title of this post/podcast I would have chosen something with a little more panache. Something like, “Ten Ways To Cast Your Pod Appropriately” or “Don’t Screw This Up: How to avoid making your podcast the laughing stock of the entire freakin’ world,” or even “Podcasting suggestions, advice from a guy who doesn’t podcast.” But it’s Donna’s show, so she can call it whatever she wants.

This is a must listen – I’ll repeat – This is a must listen! Put your eye right up to the monitor just so you get it – this is a must listen for the podcast novice or anyone who has ever thought that maybe they would podcast or even participate in one just once. Even if you’ve done 10 shows, listen to this podcast. Her advice is simple, to the point, and very important. My big argument about podcasting is, yes, content is king, I’ll gladly put up with the occasional poor audio quality of a presentation because I know it’s going to be worth it. Better yet, next episode I might be able to actually hear something. It all evens out. But I have – those of you with weak stomachs might want to skip to the next paragraph break – but I have unsubscribed – YES, I ADMIT IT, unsubscribed to podcasts because they were the audio equivilant of fingernails on a chalkboard.

Oh, wait, that is audio. Bad metaphor.

Anyway, it was terrible to listen to episode after episode and no amount of “great content” can stem the flow of unscribes to that malodorous effluent. Yes, I had to look those words up.

One thing Donna doesn’t cover is sound effects. And this might seem a bit advanced, but it’s the only original thing I can come up with that she hasn’t covered. All I’m asking for here is a “ding” a “ping” or a “bong.” A musical trill, the sound of a drill, a reverberous gong. Arpeggio, just so you know, three notes of a chord. A puff on a flute, a little horn toot, a boat horn on the fjord. The point is, sometimes a little musical umph (technical term) can help separate segments of your show. I hate to brag, but one person who does this really well is Donna Papacosta. Just short little anythings can help tell your audience that something is changing. Visually, we’d see paragraphs indented in print or a super-bright flash in a video. Aurally, we need the help. So if you’re introducing an interview, ending an interview, going to a new segment, or having a flashback of an earlier show – help an ear out. And I like them short. I love FIR, but I can’t stand the musical introductions to their segments…too long. You could listen to Inside PR for the jingle I wrote for the Inside PRoper English segment…funny how they only used it for two shows…

Now, go listen to Donna’s Trafcom News podcast #48.

I have the Power of 150, you insignificant noisemakers, you

No, wait, I wrote that incorrectly. I am one of the pr/marketing bloggers that made it into Todd And’s The Power 150: Top Marketing Blogs. In fact, I’m lucky number 100! Take that Steve Rubel of Micropersuasion! Oh, wait, he came in at 15. Take that Kevin Dugan of Strategic PR and The Bad Pitch Blog! No, shoot, both of his blogs beat me at 24 and 45, respectively. Who else, ah, have at thee, Shel Holtz! Crap, he’s 28. I’ll bet I beat that good-for-nothing Todd Defren – let’s see…curses! He soundly beats me out at 34. Ha! I beat eSoup, whatever the hell that is.* I guess that’s some consolation.

Todd rated these blogs using Google PageRank, Bloglines Subscribers, Technorati Ranking, and the ever subjective Todd And Points. I’ve got to admit, when I set up those other 234 Bloglines accounts and subscribed only to my own blog and The Daily Dilbert, I felt kind of stupid. But it’s all paid off now.

Seriously, I think what Todd has done is really quite amazing. You can read his original post here. If I weren’t so busy faking podcasts and writing about the important pr/marketing issues that made me of the the Power 150, I’d have thought of something equally as clever and subjective. Something like “The Chainmail Armour 200,” “125 Blogs in Shining Armour,” or, perhaps, “The stuff I try to cram in my head every week from smart people on their blogs 2.1!”

Honestly, Todd, thanks for taking the time, for enjoying my shambles…uh, rambles, and for contributing so joyfully to this social media space. Congrats to the other 149, yes, even those of you from 1-99.

*note: I’m just kidding. Well, I wasn’t, but I wanted to know what eSoup was really all about, so I visited the site and it looks really good. Sharon has some impressive things on both eSoup and her own website. So, no hard feelings, Sharon, I just…I went for the funny line, okay? Please forgive me. I mean, eSoup? It’s a punchline in this context. How’s that for a tagline? eSoup: simplify, organize, punchline

The Newspaper Dichotomy

I just recently found the American Journalism Review and am obsessed with it. Lately I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more and more fascinated by the journalism side of our jobs. There are so many reasons this could be, most of it is my profession. Kevin Dugan has had a lot to do with it, too.

The article “Center Stage” really intrigued me. It’s about how four large newspapers are coping with print and online, merging the two, and keeping the whole machine running. It’s amazing. Check it out.

Really puts into perspective the journalism dichotomy of print vs. online and how we as PR pros need to understand the flip side of the coin…or the third side of our triangle, if you’d rather.

Cleveland PR/Journo Thoughts

As I posted last week, I attended a BusinessWire breakfast in Cleveland last week. Cleveland’s kind of a hike for me, especially at 8am, but I persevered and made it. I also managed to forget my camera so I don’t have any cool photos to prove I was there. Except this badge they gave me I took a picture of when I got home.

I had been especially interested in the panel of speakers as well as the topic. Panelists were John Kroll, Deputy Business Editor of The Plain Dealer, and author of the retirement blog Not Fade Away; Thomas Mulready, founder of CoolCleveland; and Chris Thompson of the Transparency Works blog and Vice President of Edward Howard & Co. Moderator was Denise Polverine, Editor-in-Chief, Cleveland.com.

I took away some valuable statements that really made me think about some things. I wanted to share those with you in no particular order.

  • Kroll mentioned that the communication that we’re having today is different, that it used to be two companies communicating. Even though it was it was reporter to PR pro, it was really the two companies talking. Now it’s people talking, bloggers blogging, conversations raging. The Cluetrain is apparent in Kroll’s comments. “Bloggers are not a species,” Kroll said, “bloggers are people.” This comment reminds me so much of Shel‘s common phrase that it’s not that we don’t trust blogs, it that we’re skeptical of anyone until we learn to trust them. In person, in print, or online, it doesn’t matter.
  • Thompson pointed out that new analytics in the online world are making it easier to measure almost everything. He said we’ve “gotten rich by not measuring anything and telling the client it’s all fine.” Times are changing. Are we ready? My view is that some of us are ready, but most aren’t. I’m hedging on this one my self. As an industry, I think PR is not ready. As an industry I think news media is not ready. But we are moving forward, just behind the tide.
  • As I huge fan of RSS (I recently gave a talk to a PRSSA chapter on RSS), I was shocked to think of a negative side to it. Thompson made a great point that perhaps RSS makes things too segregated. We’re narrowing ourselves into ignorance. This is something I struggle with everyday. Personally, I avoid this by subscribing to RSS feeds that I don’t have any personal interest in and then scanning the headlines just to keep rounded. But he’s right. The narrowcasting approach has made it very easy to target certain people, but infinitely more difficult to hit those people who reside on the fence. In any given opinion-swaying campaign, be it political or consumer, B2B or otherwise, the only people you really target are those who are decidedly undecided. You’re never going to change the minds of the top percent of supporters for both sides. But with this incredibly narrow focus, how do we attempt to reach the minds of the undecided? Demographics (and psychographics, etc) for television and print change daily, I’m guessing, as new technologies are adopted by more and more people. Advertising and PR is getting more and more difficult, while getting seemingly easier. Not to mention Thompson’s point about narrowing ourselves to ignorance. I thought we, as Americans, were ignorant enough. Hold me, I’m frightened.
  • Kroll made a great point about newpapers going online. He said, “we’re still a traditional media,” referring to the Plain Dealer, “[companies] still talk to us as little as they ever used to.” I laughed about that. Isn’t it funny? PR people are always pitching stories, but journalists are looking for real news. It’s laughable to see how often we miss each other. Kroll’s point demonstrates that things are surely slow to change. There’s some comfort in that(?)
  • Kroll also noted that the great thing about the new media tools is that the news media and PR are finally up to where education was decades ago. It’s sad to think that PR and News take so long to adopt change and new technologies. However, I’m not sure education is on top of it either… I mean, I just got my Masters and one of our undergrad professors was still using her doctoral notes from 20 years prior to teach us PR. Maybe it was my school, but there is NOTHING comforting about that. I mean, a colleague of mine even told her, “that’s kind of sad, don’t you think something’s changed in twenty years?” The prof hasn’t budged.

So the event was excellent. Denise and Thomas also said some great things, but I only jotted down so much and it’s taken me ages to post even this. I also had the privalege to meet Cleveland’s own civic voice, George Nemeth from Brewed Fresh Daily who left me this thoughtful comment on another post.  Thanks, George, hope to see more bloggers in NE Ohio soon.

BizWire Breakfast

Headed to Cleveland tomorrow for an early breakfast sponsored by BusinessWire entitled 100 years in the making: Public Relations Past, Present and Future —The Changing Face of Journalism and PR

Should be fun, one of the speakers is blogger Chris Thompson (Vice President, Edward Howard) from the Transparency Works blog. I’ll be reporting on that sometime later this week.

Association of National Advertisers Steppin’ Up

Stuart Elliott is at it again. Using mainstream media to bring awareness of new media. His recent article covering last week’s 96th annual conference of the Association of National Advertisers made me feel like cheering. Some highlights, which do not preclude reading the article, include some big names from big brands. They see the trends and understand it. “Too late” some would say, but I don’t. Hell, a majority of PR people are just figuring this out.

Said Stephen F. Quinn, senior vice president for marketing at Wal-Mart Stores:

“Today, the customer is in charge,” Mr. Quinn said, “and whoever is best at putting the customer in charge makes all the money.”

Said James L. McDowell, managing director at Mini USA:

“It’s a great thing every day to wake up and see what consumers have done to the brand…”

Burger King is one brand that has been pushing the limits in the social media space. Said Russ Klein, president for global marketing, strategy and innovation at Burger King:

“It’s more important for us to be provocative than pleasant.”

And perhaps most importantly:

“We can’t manage what happens out there,” said Lawrence Flanagan, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at MasterCard Worldwide. “It has taken on a life of its own.”

Are you proud of PR?

Here ye, here ye. If you’re proud of PR, we want you to shout about it!

Well, maybe shouting is a bit harsh, but my good friend Paull Young wants to hear why you’re proud of PR. And I mean “hear” you. Paull’s seeking audio comments for an October release of the Forward Podcast. Read his post here for more information. Deadline is October 5th.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned pro, new hire, recent graduate, or freshman in college. There’s got to be a reason why you choose PR as your career. Even if it was a terrible mistake and you’re miserable, send Paull a comment so we can save other almost-PR-pros. Seriously, be proud of our field, stand up and tell someone. So fire up your Waxmail, your Audacity, your lame Windows Sound Recorder, your GarageBand, your Skype, or audio recorder of choice and send him an mp3 today!

Second Life: It doesn’t matter if you like it

I’ve been trying to avoid Second Life as much as possible, both in writing about it and getting involved in it. Mostly because of the contention between some of the folks in the PR blogosphere. I have my own thoughts on Second Life and they’re not much to write home about. I haven’t tried it, I’m not planning to for a while, and I’m not sure what the draw is. However, one thing I am doing is paying attention to it. And I’m doubly glad there are communicators out there who are paying attention to it and reporting it so I don’t have to. The fellas at For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report are doing just that.

And they’re getting bashed for it by some folks who I believe have little right to criticize. Students and young PR professionals, still wet behind the ears, are giving these two highly seasoned verterans a hard time? Ridiculous. I see where they’re coming from, but to voice one’s opinion with such arrogance to people who were practicing communication professionals before some of them were born is distasteful. What really kicks me in the pants is FIR is Shel and Neville‘s podcast, they could talk exclusively about edible underwear if they wanted to, it’s their show. Don’t like it, don’t listen. They welcome comments, so make your point and leave it. Don’t harangue them, am I right here?

But like I said, I’m not a huge fan of Second Life, because I personally think it’s pretty stupid. That really doesn’t matter, does it? I think eating fruits and vegetables is stupid, too, but the truth is you can’t avoid it. If you don’t like SL and think it’s a waste of time, that’s okay, so do I. But to blindly ignore or refuse to talk about anything that affects the communication field – that’s a mistake.

I think Second Life is an odd time drain, but there are many, many people who don’t. And that’s what matters. How many people thought the owning a car was stupid? How many people thought reading was stupid? How many people thought the Internet was stupid? FIR Show 170, Shel Holtz says it very well.

For more information, read about Kami’s PR meetup in SL and Lee Hopkins’ rather humorous take on it. Also, Shel points to Text 100’s YouTube Video explaining the connection between SL and PR. The video is a must watch for beginners. It doesn’t make me want to sign up, yet, but at least I have a few answers if a client asks me about it…

The Good-Bye Daily

I’ve posted before (actually here and on Forward) about the supposed demise of newspapers. I didn’t buy it.

Even Harold Burson said that PR should be so lucky to be in the shoes of the newspaper industry.

But I don’t know…
Sure, this isn’t a surprise to anyone. But as someone recently involved in media relations as part of my new job, I can tell you that getting someone to cover your news is nearly impossible as it is. I mean, this is stuff that would actually be considered news, newsworthy, worth takin’ a look at, something to write home about. But getting someone to write column inches about it is a different story. Especially with newspapers slashing staff.

The newspaper industry is affecting more than the newspaper industry, it will trickle down. Media giants will continue to snap up small newspapers and radio stations. Local news will become antiquated and we’ll all be force fed the same tripe from city to city, from print to video. Except for those little community newspapers. I mean, it might not be journalism, news, or even proper grammar sometimes, but it’s targeted and relevant. And thank goodness we have online. But clients and CEOs still want print, they want actual ink. And they don’t understand what’s happening in the industry ’cause they have their own industries to worry about. And this is mine to worry about…

Long Term Strategery

I think most PR professionals would agree that PR is best as a long-term strategic plan. I know there are quick and dirty ways to do certain aspects of PR. Publicity springs to mind, as well as developing a crisis communication message for a client who calls in a panic.

But it’s best when it’s done carefully and strategically.

Or you could say it’s best when it’s done with common sense and a touch of ethical behavior.

Or you could say, as my co-worker and I have decided, that good PR is Strategery and Truthiness. In fact, we’ve made that our office mantra. But strategery is a made-up word poking fun at the president, I can hear the critics say. And Truthiness is, by Colbert’s definition, truth without fact, but with feeling. So how does that relate to PR? Well, strategery is just fun as hell to say. Truthiness is a little more difficult. PR people are already considered subhuman, unethical Kool-aid pushers. But we shouldn’t be. Truthiness is telling people what you believe is the truth because you feel it. Pitching is telling the truth as you see it. I hope you honestly believe you’ve got the best widget on the market and you’re trying to spread that news. I hope your issues management is based on the belief that you feel your corporation or client really has gotten a raw deal. Truthiness isn’t spin or lying, it’s telling how you believe it is. ‘Cause seriously, isn’t all cola chemically the same? Sure it is, but to believe that your brand has something others don’t is true. Because cola and the brand are not the same. After all, aren’t we all brand ambassadors? Don’t we all believe our products and services are different? Don’t we all speak with truthiness? (mixed with the actual *gasp* truth!?)

Richard Edelman wrote a post the other day that resonated with me. He took quite a few hits for it, too, in the comments (those of you who want to see case studies of blogs by executives who allow the negative comments – here’s one). He walks a fine line. PR people have the reputation of doing whatever it takes to spin the story or show only the good. Well, sure, people do that. More PR people do it than would admit it. Some are proud of it. But I maintain that true PR is still pure, and I imagine it gets harder and harder to do proper PR the larger your agency (or corporation) gets, the larger and more demanding your clients (or superiors) are.

I believe that PR students, APRs, ABCs, IABC members, CIPR members, PRSA members, and the myriad other ethical PR organization members want to do the right thing. That these people want to be telling the good stories, pitching the products properly, acting creatively and ethically. But it’s difficult. The lines blur, the ideas seem okay at the time, unlike those practices you see those other flacks engaging in.

Richard writes:

“PR firms have the right to be advocates for their clients. What they cannot do is dissemble about client or motive. Nor can they put up content, then take it down after achieving the desired viral effect. We should stop thinking that short term tactical advantage is intelligent strategy. The best public relations is done in the open, with real debate on the issues. Our job is to provide full information to facilitate better decision making. As Harold Burson notes in the Der Spiegel article, ‘PR is about doing good and being recognized for it.'”

Let’s all hope that’s what PR really is. That at the end of the day people really are doing good. That we don’t get buried under the questionable practices that we all deny. That we can turn this image around. That at the heart of every PR person is strategery and truthiness.