Law firms need to find better ways to reach new audiences. Podcasts can provide an opportunity for lawyers to share knowledge with clients and prospects. There is a steady increase in the number of people listening to podcasts and a steady decline of traditional media consumption. Over 15% of people in the United States listen to podcasts on a weekly basis. Compare that to the mere 20% of people under age 45 who read a newspaper.
A podcast is simply an audio recording that you can play on your computer, mobile, or smart home device. You can download a podcast online or on iTunes, or you can stream the audio without downloading it at all. Podcasts cover many subjects and provide anything from economic lessons to cooking courses. And the number of people listening to podcasts is booming.
We will skip the history of the podcast and jump right into how your law firm can start your own. It is surprisingly easy to launch a podcast. Just make sure you have the right plan and equipment before you get started.
But the key is to get started. This is certainly a marketing strategy that is better done than done perfectly. In the beginning, you will have very low listenership—no one will know you’re out there—and that gives you an opportunity to test a few things out on a smaller audience.
There may be a need to edit a lot or a little, depending on the style of podcast you are creating. Here are examples of 2 different styles. The first episode was highly edited in the post-production phase, and it includes a lot of narration. The second example is more conversational and thus required less editing.
But whichever style you choose, you need to take a few necessary steps when creating a podcast for your law firm.
Planning is key
You should decide on a few items before you start:
1) How frequently are you going to podcast? You should release podcasts on a regular schedule. That might mean once a day or once a month; the important thing is to stick to something consistent.
2) What type of podcast are you going to have? In the beginning, you should decide if your episodes are going to be interviews or straight narration. You can change your format over time, but it will be easier to get started if you have a set model.
3) How long will each episode be? Again, there is no magic number here; just try to be consistent.
4) Where will the podcast live? There are several places you can put your episodes. This decision is important because moving everything over to a new website after a year will be a huge and difficult task. There are several options for podcast hosting, but only 2 make sense: host the podcast on your law firm website or create a stand-alone website for the podcast.
5) What will you talk about? If you can, decide on a theme or style before you start, and don’t try to be someone you are not. If you are not funny, for example, avoid launching a podcast called Laughing with Lawyers. Start with one theme, but understand that this decision can change over time if your podcast moves in a new direction.
Equipment is super important
There are many types of microphones, and they can get pretty expensive. But over the years, one microphone has stood out as a steady workhorse: the Yeti mic.
Even though the Blue Yeti microphone has an XLR microphone plugin, the audio quality is great with the USB plugged right into your computer. It is much easier to record the audio using your computer rather than a portable recording device.
This portable sound shield was designed to help decrease the amount of echo your microphone picks up. It is a great audio shield because you can set it on your desk and put it away when you are finished recording. Poor audio will ruin your podcast, so using a sound shield is important. You do not need a professional sound studio, as a shield is enough to dampen the echo and prevent a hollow room sound.
I actually mounted the sound shield to my tripod (any stand would work) so I can stand when I record my audio.
When you are recording into a microphone, the device will pick up a popping sound from certain letters and words. This little shield helps mitigate the loud popping sound created by hard consonants like “b” and “p.” Using a pop filter will resolve this issue. This pop filter fits best with the Yeti stand. For the stand-up setup, just clamp it on the sound shield.
All said and done, this equipment, including a stand, costs about $500. This may seem expensive, but the audio sounds so good, and the sound quality is worth the investment. The only item on this list that you shouldn’t go cheap on is the microphone. For everything else, it’s fine to go down or up in price. I picked mostly middle of the road equipment. After all, you’re not recording an album; you’re just making a podcast.
How to record
If you have a Mac, you are in luck, as they come with GarageBand, software for recording, already installed. So, all you need to do is select “podcast” when you open a new file. If you are using a PC, there are a ton of software options.
For recording Skype interviews, you will need special software. I’ve found that Ecamm works best. This software records the video and audio but allows you to export the audio only.
When you are speaking into the Yeti microphone, make sure it is set to cardioid (directional) recording. There is a knob on the back of the Yeti that looks like a heart. This setting causes the mic to record audio from a single direction instead of 360 degrees. You want the “blue” logo pointing at you when you record, and the microphone should be standing up. It feels like you should speak into the top of the mic, but you actually speak into the side.
Feel free to do what feels best for you, but my personal preference is to put the pop filter about 4 inches from the mic and the mic about 4 inches from the back of the sound shield.
You’ll sound the best if you record standing up. Your intonation and energy will be higher. That’s why most voice-over professionals record in a standing studio. Even some radio hosts record standing up. It just sounds better.
If you are just starting out, it is probably a good idea to avoid as much editing as possible, but adding some kind of intro is a nice and easy touch. There are several places you can get royalty-free audio. Click here for a few examples.
For the Legal Coffee Break podcast we used a voice-over artist hired from Fiverr to record our short intro. Click here for a list of options for voice-over professionals. The great thing is that the voice-over will only cost you between $5 and $15 depending on how complicated you make it.
Once have your voice-over and introduction music, you can splice this into each episode. That is just one edit—not too shabby.
Publishing a podcast
Now that you have recorded your episode, you need to give it a place to live. SoundCloud is a great place to upload episodes that you can then easily embed on your website or blog. In this Forbes article, you can see an example of an embedded SoundCloud file.
There are platforms specifically designed to host podcasts. We use a platform designed by Copyblogger called Rainmaker.FM. This sort of platform requires some technical setup, so connect with someone who knows how to design websites. The cost for this type of platform is around $400 a month. There are a couple of advantages to using systems like this since they are built for generating leads with podcasts.
And make sure you share your podcast with people. Whether it is through social media or an email newsletter, devote a little time and energy to driving traffic to your episodes.
Finally, here are a few of my favorite podcasts, both inside and outside the legal profession:
- Lawyer 2 Lawyer
- Legal Coffee Break
- Serial (season one)
- The Missing Link
- Science Friday
Don’t miss Jabez LeBret on May 12th at 10 a.m. PST! Register here for his upcoming webinar, “Fake reviews, bad reviews, and why reviews matter.”