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By Peter and Barbara Marx
By incorporating podcasts into your communications mix, you can expand the ways you reach potential clients and other audiences. Podcasting offers great opportunities for immediacy, authenticity and believability in marketing, client education and recruitment efforts. And it does so in a cost-effective and efficient way, making it an especially appealing medium for smaller practices.
Podcasts—digital recordings made available on the Internet for downloading—are inexpensive to produce and require minimal technology—just a PC, a microphone, simple software and access to the Web. But producing a great podcast is not as simple as it may seem. Creating one that represents your firm in the way you want to be perceived and helps you achieve your goals requires thoughtful planning, strategic messaging and effective execution. Here are eight strategies to consider before creating a podcast series for your firm.
Know your audience. Podcasting is not for everyone. Consider whether your particular target audience would be inclined to listen to a podcast. For example, it's an ideal vehicle for reaching the younger generations, who want to control how, when and where they get their information. But it will probably not be as effective in communicating with senior executives. It's all about your audience's personal preferences.
Beware of the home video syndrome. Do you like to watch your friends' shaky videos of their trip to the Bahamas? To be effective, a podcast must be professional and compelling. Make sure that what you are producing will convey the right image and be of interest beyond your office walls.
Recognize that technology is a means to an end. The technology is user-friendly, readily available and affordable. But good podcasting is about the messages you convey. This is where you should spend your time.
Be authentic. Don't use professional speakers. They may have terrific sounding voices, but your listeners will be able to tell that it's staged. Pick an articulate person from your firm who is knowledgeable and passionate about the subject and make sure the spokesperson doesn't read from a prepared script.
Use an interview format to elicit spontaneity. You may or may not include the interviewer's questions in the final, edited podcast, but setting it up in an interview format will provide structure without sounding forced. Interviews have a way of putting a speaker at ease.
Understand how your audience will listen. Although the word podcasting was derived from a combination of iPod and broadcasting, many people will listen to podcasts on your Web site rather than downloading them to an iPod. Think about where on your site you will place the podcasts—for example, under a practice area, the recruitment pages, a "New Developments" section—and consider what other content will accompany them. Done right, your podcasts will extend the value of your site.
Take advantage of the medium's immediacy and frequency. For example, in practice areas where the law is rapidly changing—such as tax law—lawyers can provide weekly podcasts on new developments to showcase their expertise. In addition to communicating a lawyer's knowledge of the intricacies of the law, podcasts provide an added benefit of conveying the personality of the lawyer. Podcasts are also effectively used in teaching. You can prepare an instructional podcast series on how to set up an affirmative action program, comply with Sarbanes-Oxley and other issues.
Don't use podcasts for everything. Podcasts are great for conveying passion, personality and a limited amount of content. On the other hand, if you have a lot of material to cover, the written word may be better.
You can create a great podcast, but if no one listens, it won't matter. Like all other marketing and recruiting programs, you need to create awareness for your podcasts. The power of your podcast will increase exponentially if it is integrated into your overall marketing plan.