What is a podcast?• A podcast is a series of digital audio or video files which are distributed via the internet, downloaded and listened to using portable media players and personal computers. Creating a podcast is a great way of communicating within an organisation, or enhancing the promotion of its products, services, employer brand and job vacancies to an external audience.
Why use a podcast?• Podcasts can be used in many different ways: – as a source of information – to educate and enhance learning – for entertainment purposes – to enhance brand marketing and communicationPeople can subscribe to a podcast and have new content automatically downloaded to their computer or media player, which they can listen to whenever they choose.
First steps• Before starting out, it is a good idea to listen to some existing podcasts to get a feel for what style best suits particular organisations and subjects. Find out if similar organisations produce podcasts and what features they use. It is important to have a clear idea of the purpose of the podcast, and who it will be aimed at. The podcast is a reflection of your organisation and as such should convey your personality and the type of work you do. Make sure you know what you wish to achieve from your podcast.
The basics• Depending on the type of podcast, there are a few pieces of equipment that are required. For conducting a face-to-face interview, an audio recorder is essential. Using headphones can help to determine that the recording is in progress, whilst individual microphones may be necessary depending on the interview environment. Using individual microphones can help to reduce background or ambient noise.• To conduct an interview over the phone, a cost-effective method is to set up a Skype account. A call recording system will need to be used in conjunction with Skype. There are a number of options available, such as Pretty May (which incurs a small cost) or Call Graph (which is free).• There are also inexpensive websites that allow you to record podcasts. Spreaker is one that allows live broadcast or podcast.
Editing an audio recording• An audio editing program is essential for creating a professional podcast. There are a number of free packages available online, for example, Audacity offers basic functionality. More sophisticated packages such as Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio or Adobe Audition can be purchased which offer a more comprehensive range of tools. Online tutorials, self-help guides (and podcasts!) are also available to help users understand how to edit an audio recording.• Many organisations use audio branding as a means of strengthening their brand identity. By incorporating an element of audio branding content on a website, users are encouraged to make a connection to a specific brand through recognition of a particular sound. A number of audio directories such as Audio Jungle offer stock music and audio effects for a small fee. Alternatively, some organisations use musicians to compose a bespoke audio brand. Some well- known examples of successful brand identifying audio ‘signatures’ include the ubiquitous McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” jingle or Intel Corporation’s distinctive, four tone audio signature.• There are a number of ways to enhance a basic podcast recording, for example: – using an audio signature (e.g. music or other recognisable sounds) at the beginning and end of the podcast – inserting a introduction and ending to signpost, draw attention and excite interest in the podcast content – using presenter links within the podcast to highlight material that is still to come
Publishing a podcast• The next step is to publish your podcast and make it available on the internet. Many organisations use a hosting service such as Jellycast or Switchpod to host, publish and promote their podcasts. Although many options are free, a complete professional service will incur a fee. Alternatively, it may be possible to use your organisation’s website to host your podcast – contact your IT department for more information.
Podcast promotion• An RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed is a file which people can use to subscribe to regularly updated web content such as blogs, news headlines, podcasts and video files. RSS means that users don’t need to visit these sites individually, as updates are automatically provided via their RSS feed.• Setting up an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed can help to promote and raise awareness of a podcast to a wider audience. Individuals who subscribe to your organisation’s RSS feed will automatically be informed of the latest updates to the podcast series.• Once you have an established URL for your RSS podcast feed, the next step is to get your organisation’s podcast listed in a number of online podcast directories such as iTunes. Directories are particularly useful for promoting podcasts to an external audience, as people use them to look for specific podcast content. The free Feedburner tool is a useful means of promoting podcasts and developing user statistics.• Including details of the podcast in a press release or written article for an industry journal or magazine will also increase its exposure. Some organisations also use blogs and discussion forums to publicise and provide links to their podcasts.
Developing your podcasting skills• Once the basic podcasting skills are established, why not be more adventurous with the format? Enhanced podcasting is a relatively new technique that uses a multimedia format to combine audio recordings in time with images or video. Many organisations (particularly those in the education sector) are using enhanced podcasts to create online demonstrations, tutorials and presentations. Presentation sharing websites Slideshare and Myplick offer an easy way to share enhanced podcast episodes.