A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Frank Eriksen, who produces the All Things Boulder podcast (which is a really cool show, by the way). In the email, Frank asked me if I had any ideas why my podcasts sound “so much better sonically (louder/cleaner)” than his show. I listened to a few of Frank’s episodes, and here’s what I found.
Although Frank is using an impressive list of equipment (Audio Technica 4033 mic, Grace Design mic pre-amp, Pro Tools, etc.), I did find what I think was the issue. From my email to Frank:
The major problem I found is that you are not compressing/limiting your audio files. If you were to open any of my audio files in a program like Audacity or Adobe Audition (or any other audio editing software), you’ll find that the amplitude of everything is exactly the same. It’s set to -1.0db, which is just below distortion.
I provided Frank with a couple images–one that showed what his show looks like and one that shows what one of our Polycom on Demand episodes looks like.
Frank’s Show (as seen in Adobe Audition):
Polycom on Demand (as seen in Adobe Audition):
See the difference? It’s that roller coaster effect (LOUD. . .quiet. . .LOUD. . quiet. . .LOUD) that’s causing the problem.
Here’s the rest of my email to Frank:
I have a custom built Digital Audio Workstation I use for all my audio recordings (and audio feed to the Tricaster). For the main outs of my recording software (Cakewalk’s Sonar. . .which is the same software I used to record all my music CDs), I use a VFT plugin that is a mastering limiter. It adds gain when needed and at the same time limits the output to -1.0dB. That way, all content (me, my co-host, phone-based guests, Skype-based guests, audio-clips, sound effects, bumpers, songs, etc.) all are played at the exact same level. Also, because my voice is pretty deep/boomy as it is, I also add a 5.3dB gain of EQ at the higher end (1980Hz). This is done within the DAW software as well.
If you’re wondering why your audio isn’t as rich/full as you’d like, take a look at your waveform. . .are you seeing a roller coaster? If so, create an even better sounding file (and make it easier for your fans to comfortably listen as well) by applying some limiting/compression yourself!
(Thanks to Frank for allowing me to blog about this!)
1. Nobody Cares What You Do.
Time and time again, I hear corporate/business podcasts go on and on about how great their latest widget is. Here’s the truth – nobody cares what you do, they only care what you do for them.
Instead of speaking from a company-centric perspective, speak from the customer’s point of view. What are the problems they face? Why are they in trouble in the first place? What have many of your customers done in the past to try to solve their problems (but have come up short).
You bond with people on their problems, not your solution. Before you offer me a solution to my problems, prove to me you know what problems I’m dealing with in the first place.
2. Adding Video to Your Podcast Will not Help if Your Audio is Poor.
I’ve written about this before. If the sound on your video podcast sucks, nobody is going to watch. Those developing video content must recognize that the most important component to your video is not the video. It’s the ability the hear the story being told. If I cannot hear that story, or if the quality is so bad that it is distracting, you’ve lost me.
3. An Un-Prepared Guest is a Boor.
If your podcast consists of interview employees and partners, take the time to prepare them for the interview. It is VERY difficult to listen to somebody who stutters, hems and haws, “uhhs”, “errrss”, “you knows” through an interview because they simply aren’t prepared to answer your questions.
We solve this problem by pre-interviewing the guest ahead of time. You want the guest to know what to expect before you hit “record”. Learn before the interview what’s important to them. Help them understand the point of Scary Fact #1. Then, prior to the recording, let them know what the questions will be (and, depending on the guest, remind them of what they felt would be their important answers).
4. An MP3 Link is Not Enough.
I would guess that over 90% of all podcasts I’ve come across only provide an MP3 as a means of listening to their show. This is not enough if you want to increase the probability of listenership. Besides providing an easy way to access your RSS feed (for those who want to subscribe to your podcast), do not forget to provide a Flash Player for each episode. Failure to do so ignores the fact that many people dislike having to click. . .then wait. . .for the MP3 file to load in their browser. Instead, adding a simple Flash Player for each episode gives a new visitor a chance to audition your show. . .something he may otherwise not be willing to do.
5. If You Don’t Plan Your Podcast, You Will Hurt Your Brand.
It’s shocking to me how many podcasts get started with their first episode (or dump a few episodes all at once), and then stop producing any more episodes. Developing a great podcasting is like being asked to develop a new radio/TV talk show. It takes work and can be overwhelming. This, more times than not, leads to “podfading”, which is the premature ending of a podcast series due to lack of time, resources or planning.
Frank Sinatra had a great line. He said that he had his whole life to record is first record but only six months to record his second album. In podcasting, you have your whole life to record your first podcast episode. Guess how long until the next episode is expected?
Of course, if I was talking about an amateur podcast, this wouldn’t matter. But because of the subscription nature of podcasts, this is poisonous for a corporate podcast. By podfading, you’ve told all those subscribers that their interest in your show doesn’t matter to you. . .and that their vote doesn’t count. From a branding perspective, this is bad new.
A well-planned podcast will drive show momentum and increase listenership and reduce the risk associated with failing to deliver what is promised to your audience.
In the previous post about the criteria for a successful business podcast, we approached it from the listener’s perspective. Today, let’s look at the company’s side of things.
The Criteria for a Success Corporate Podcast: From the Company’s Perspective
For a podcast to be deemed useful by the company that is either producing or funding their own podcast, one of two things must take place:
- It must either make them money
- Motivate listeners to take action on their behalf
Simple enough, don’t you think? (You might be surprised how many podcast experts are unable to articulate that simple fact.) Yet the reason most business podcasts fail to fulfill either of those two criteria goes back to what I wrote about in the previous post. That is, before your listener will separate himself from his money or do something you ask them to do, you have to establish your credibility in such a way as to influence that listener to want to follow your call-to-action, whatever it is.
First, by proving you are familiar with the problems your listener is going through. You’re going to have a hard time getting me to buy your widget if you spend your whole time pitch, Pitch, PITCHING me without showing any indication that you know (or care, for that matter) about what motivates me. It might be because I’m trying to relieve some pain OR it might be because I’m trying to achieve/strive for something better, but regardless of what it is, if you can’t explain it, I’m not buying it.
Second, after you’ve shown me you “get” me, DON’T SELL ME. As I’ve said, telling is not selling, teaching is. Spend less time repeating the products name and more time telling me how the product works. If you do a good job in creating curiosity, I’ll pick up the phone and ask for more details.
And speaking about picking up the phone, did you remember to include a call to action at the end of the episode? For the first podcast I ever produced (Great Relaxation Music Podcast), all we did was play some music, teach people about who the artist was, and then we gently invited people to hear more free music at the website.
That gentle call to action improved sales by 23%.
For many of my customers, we’ll include the interviewee’s phone number or email address to make it easy for somebody to take action. And if we have a promotion/special going on, we’ll tease the listener by mentioning the promo in the website and RSS feed text.
These are just a few ideas. What about you? What are you doing today that makes your podcast listeners pick up the phone and call you?
The practice of selecting a corporate podcast to criticize in a public forum is a common one. I’ve had the displeasure of listening to, or reading various "podcast experts" trash other company podcasts under the heading of education.
To me, that practice is just plain hurtful. As I read elsewhere, you can teach without being cruel.
It is unnecessary to tear something (or someone) down to teach others. I haven’t done it. . .and I won’t.
On the other hand, I do think it’s important to point out a collective error that many corporate podcasts suffer. This problem has to do with a persistent disconnect between the majority of corporate podcasts and their audience. The good news is that if you understand the criteria for every corporate podcast in the world, you’ll be better able to develop a show that works for you and your listeners.
The Two Groups We Care About
As I’ve said previously on this blog, there are two groups of people I care about when PodWorx begins to plan, produce, publish and promote a new show.
- The Listener
- The Organization for which the podcast is developed
Today’s post will focus on group #1: The Listeners
The Criteria for a Success Corporate Podcast: From the Listener’s Perspective
For a podcast to be useful in the eyes of a listener, one of two things must take place:
- The listener must be entertained
- The listener must be educated
And if the podcast Gods are smiling, the listener will be entertained and educated.
The Living in Las Vegas Podcast, a Las Vegas Podcast that speaks to the experience of living in Las Vegas, does a good job of doing both. We hear from people every week asking for advice about living in a place where 5000 people move to each month. We’ve developed a nice community that appreciates the dual educational/entertainment nature of the show.
But for a strictly corporate podcast, while it can certainly have both entertainment and educational elements, the key piece is that of education. If you are not educating your listeners, you are not helping your listeners.
Now, educating your listeners does not mean spewing forth a bunch of features and benefits about your latest product or service. This is where most corporate podcasts go terribly wrong. And, this is where it becomes painfully obvious that the marketing department is running the show.
Instead, you must remember that you bond with people on their problems, not on your solution. If you are able to clearly articulate the challenges, problems, concerns, goals, dreams, aspirations and desires of your customers and prospects (ie; listeners), you break down barriers and create an environment that says to your listener, "we understand what you’re going through, and we can help".
If you do spend time speaking to the problems your listeners are faced with (and be sure to recognize that a problem can be the desire to remove pain OR the drive to be in a better place), you further establish your credibility and are looked upon as an expert. Once you’ve done that, your next step is to teach people how to work and/or live smarter.
If you spend time listening to any of the public podcast we produce for our customers, you’ll notice a common pattern to the story we tell:
- We first speak about the problems facing our listeners
- Next, we talk about the ways these listeners might try to fix these problems (and how many of those attempts aren’t working)
- Then, we teach people how to solve those problems
And when we get to the third step, while we don’t disallow the mention of the products or services the company offers, we don’t dwell on them. Instead, we focus our attention on what the products and services do and how they help. Less about the name, more about the action behind it.
The fun fact about selling is people don’t like to be sold, but everybody likes to buy. And for those of you who are dying to use their podcast to improve their bottom line, remember that telling is not selling, teaching is. For me, instead of pushing sales and marketing content down somebody’s throat, I like to explain, in the simplest form, how stuff works. And let the listener decide if it’s helpful or not.
What does this mean to you? When you are preparing your next podcast, ask yourself if you are helping your listener. What’s in it for them? Why would they appreciate receiving this content? How will it make their life at home or at work better? And then keep your eye on the content. Make sure your are teaching your listeners about a better way of getting stuff done.
What about you? What do you specifically do to help educate your podcast listeners? What feedback have you received proving you’re doing the right thing? Let me know!