Podcast to keep an ear to the ground


Internet association is encouraging firms to podcast to connect with their clients, writes KARLIN LILLINGTON

IF YOU are trying to work out how businesses can benefit from podcasting, what better way to approach a discussion on the topic than to podcast it? That’s how the Irish Internet Association (IIA) highlighted a roundtable working group deliberation last week over what to include in a white paper that the industry organisation is preparing on the subject of making downloadable audio files.

As with the group’s white paper on blogging and business, the document is available to its members and the general public as a “wiki” – an editable web page to which anyone may contribute. The IIA says using such social networking tools enables broad participation and feedback.

“Why are we doing any of this? To encourage businesses in Ireland to explore social media as part of their online digital strategy, be that building a community, engaging with potential customers or current clients, building visibility or marketing,” says business and social media consultant Krishna De, an IIA working group member who facilitated last week’s podcast discussion.

“We have actively gone about trying to be inclusive in developing the white papers with a small group looking after each and then asking for input and feedback,”

Other participants included working group chairman Brendan Hughes, Eoin Kennedy of Slattery Communications, audio media specialist Brian Greene, and IIA communications director Roseanne Smith.

The first issue was the question of why businesses make podcasts, or should think about podcasting if they don’t. All agree that it’s the ability to connect to customers.

Greene, who produces professional podcasts for companies like Microsoft and RaboDirect, notes that podcasts allows anyone access to an audience. “It’s a channel to the client’s customers. It’s a huge opportunity for businesses to use messages in this medium and meet people directly.”

Kennedy sees podcasting as a way that businesses can address the problem of conveying information in a very accessible way, or as he puts it “huge amounts of text vs hearing it explained”. And De sees podcasts as being “about building community”, whether for a brand, or inside an organisation.

Another advantage of the format is its portability and availability – podcasts can be downloaded to a PC, but also to a device like an iPod or MP3 player to be listened to at someone’s leisure, the group says.

While an interview or a discussion of services or products is an obvious topic, De notes that she has found them an excellent tool to create soundbite “teasers” taken from keynote speakers in advance of a conference. After an event, the keynotes and the associated slides from a presentation can be made available, perhaps restricted to membership of an organisation or paying attendees.

Greene notes that an event – such as a breakfast meeting with a keynote speaker – can be professionally recorded and packaged into a podcast, in his case, for a relatively modest sum of about €700.

For members around the country who cannot attend the meeting, the podcast then becomes a valuable resource for distributing information.

Workshop members all noted that podcasts can be done on a low budget and basic technology, even using a good quality mobile phone with a built-in recorder. De notes many business people carry mini recorders on them and these are excellent for recording.

If people are going to incorporate video into their podcasts, Greene mentions that video from a Nokia N95 smartphone will often work out to be of better quality than video taken on high-end equipment and repurposed for a small screen for videocasts or YouTube add-ons to a podcast.

For businesses, another cheap recording option is internet phone service Skype, says De, which makes it easy to set up recordable conference calls for roundtables. “Do have a good quality headset, and a microphone using USB [to connect to a PC],” she says.

But generally, businesses will want to invest a modest sum in a good portable microphone and something to record on, such as a digital recorder or a MiniDisk recorder. MP3 players and iPods and a microphone will also work, but the point of podcasts is that professional, studio-grade equipment isn’t necessary.

Editing can be done using free software like Audacity, says Smith, or the GarageBand application that comes with Apple Mac computers. But don’t edit out every “um”, says De. “People want to experience the real person.”

Just doing it is the most important part of learning, says Greene. “To begin is very important and to dabble. Then you have a template to work from. You can learn from your own mistakes.”

The first few podcasts will be the worst, he warns, but people can get up to scratch with a few attempts.

The group gives a few warnings: be sure to understand the basics of when permissions need to be obtained for using audio, images, or other content. Then, they close with some encouragement. “Have a bit of fun,” says Hughes.

“And find your inner voice,” adds Greene.

IIA podcast wiki: www.iia.ie/resources/podcast/