I am relatively new to the podcasting phenomenon, but I have fully embraced this great method of law firm marketing.
Arguably, the concept of podcasting in its broadest sense – making digital audio files available – has been around since the ‘80s, but the ability to easily syndicate podcast shows to a mass audience did not really take off until 2005, when Apple added built-in support for podcasts to iTunes. (After all, they’re called podcasts because they could be downloaded to iPods.)
But here is the great news for attorneys wanting to build their reputation in a given area of the law. Podcasting had really taken off, and it is the perfect time to get in on the ground floor, at least as to podcasts discussing the law. Previously, the podcasting app was one you needed to download to your iPhone if you wanted to listen to podcasts. Now, the podcasting app is a “native” application on all iPhones, and is available on Android phones. You send text messages, retrieve email and use your smartphone as a navigation unit all because somewhere along the way apps were added that could perform those functions. Listening to podcasts may not become quite as omnipresent, but just as with those other apps, people will be introduced to podcasts simply because the app is there.
But wait, there’s more. There are many applications that can be used to listen to podcasts, and one of them is called Stitcher. The publishers of Stitcher have been very aggressive in getting their player out there, and have persuaded car manufacturers to make Stitcher native in some new cars. So, just as you can listen to AM, FM, Pandora, Spotify or satellite radio in your car, Stitcher will now be an additional option available from the car’s media touchscreen. Accessing your podcast will be almost as easy as accessing any radio station.
One of my blogs I use for content marketing is CaliforniaSLAPPLaw.com (hereinafter, “CSL”). If someone searches for an attorney for that practice area, CSL often comes up number one on Bing and Google, and one of my static websites comes up number one on Google, but I must have dated Google’s girlfriend or something, because it won’t show me any love for CSL. It really doesn’t make any sense, because CSL is chock full of content on SLAPP law, and should rank very highly, but there you are.
Then I created the California SLAPP Law Podcast, which is hosted at CSL. (It’s actually hosted on a service called blubrry, but it originates from CSL. I’ll explain all this geek stuff when I do the series on podcasting.) Google, for its part, likes to offer a “mix” of search results, so when you search for “California SLAPP Law,” it wants to return some scholarly articles, maybe a Wikipedia article, some web pages, blogs, and some media files such as YouTube videos or podcasts.
So shortly after I started releasing episodes of the California SLAPP Law Podcast, whammo blammo, the podcast began appearing on page one of the Google search results with a link to CSL, because it now contains audio files on that subject. I’m still not number one, probably because of that girlfriend thing, but at least I’m finally on page one.
[UPDATE: I had to add an update to this article, because the SEO benefits derived from my podcast have proven to be even more impressive than I first reported. Out of curiosity, I ran a Google search, using keywords from the title of a podcast episode I had recently published. This was the sort of search someone would likely run if they were looking for the information discussed on the podcast. As always, the podcast was published from CSL, with an accompanying article.
Google returned a link to the podcast on Stitcher, iTunes and Spreaker in the first, second and third spots, respectively. The actual blog post on CSL came up number four. The article also occupied the number five position in the search results, via one of my static sites. On that particular site, I had added the articles from CSL as a feed, as a means to make the site a little less static. At the bottom of the website, the ten most recent articles from CSL are displayed. I always wondered if adding a feed to a website provided any SEO benefits. When you add a feed from a blog like that, it’s really just code rather than real content. In other words, in the case of the CSL feed, when the website loads, the code tells the visitor’s browser to also load the last ten articles from CSL, but those articles don’t technically exist anywhere on the static site. I didn’t know for sure whether Google’s search spiders would see that as real content, but apparently they do.
So, the bottom line is that my podcast resulted in my article/podcast occupying five of the ten search positions in a Google search for those relevant keywords. Good stuff. Now, back to the article.]
Far less competition.
The challenge behind any marketing is to rise above all the noise and competition. Most attorneys publish a blog, but very few do podcasts. I can’t find the numbers specific to legal blogs and podcasts, but overall there are 152,000,000 blogs and only 150,000 podcasts, and only a small number of those podcasts relate to the law. Further, aside from the numbers, it is a completely different delivery method. People wanting to read about your topic will find your blog, and people wanting to consume audio content will find your podcast. Most people who are introduced to podcasts for the first time become converts, and look for content to absorb.
There is a simple rule relating to marketing on the internet: Be everywhere. A recent study revealed that if you offer audio and video content (i.e., podcasts and YouTube videos) in addition to your blog posts, your reach will multiply an incredible 22 times. Videos are my next project, but my experience with adding audio to the mix certainly supports that number.
You’re not producing the Tonight Show.
Whether anyone ever subscribes to your podcast will of course depend on the topic and the way you present it. The good news is that there are very few lawyer podcasts and hence very little competition.
When considering doing podcasts for my various practice areas, I was stymied into inaction by a fundamental misconception. Most of the weekly podcasts I listen to are on topics that I want to learn more about, and I look forward to the next installment. I was envisioning my legal podcast in that context, sort of like tuning into the Tonight Show, but I could not imagine any legal topic that would attract an eager weekly audience wanting to hear the latest on, say, defamation law.
But then I realized that a legal podcast should be viewed instead as a resource center, no different than all the articles that are posted on a blog. My podcast is a library of spoken articles that potential clients and other attorneys can refer to when the need arises. Thus, even if no one ever finds and downloads your podcast on their own, it is still a worthwhile investment of your time because you can direct prospective and existing clients to episodes that explain topics relevant to their situations.
Incredibly, people DO listen to podcasts by lawyers.
As you’ll read in a moment, my enlightened view turned out not to be entirely true. I do have regular subscribers to my podcast; other attorneys who want to stay current on this area of the law.
Let me tell you about my own meager effort. My eventual plan is to create a podcast for Your Own Law Firm as well some of my other practice areas, but I wanted to gain a little experience first. I decided to devote my first podcast to California SLAPP Law specifically because I anticipated few if any would listen to a podcast on that narrow legal topic. If the podcast stunk, at least no one would hear it. I would still get any SEO benefits, and I would be able to add “host of the California SLAPP Law Podcast” to my resume. I always intended to make the show as good as possible, but it was going to be my test project.
I created three episodes, put them up on iTunes and Stitcher, and much to my utter surprise the show was downloaded hundreds of times. By the time I hit episode 10, I already had three new cases that directly resulted from the podcast. Go here for a detailed explanation of how the podcast has generated work for my firm. From my experience, podcasting is a great form of content marketing, and I think every attorney should include at least one podcast in their marketing mix.
How to create a podcast.
There are many great free resources available to show you how to create a podcast that will provide you with much greater detail than what I am going to provide here, but I need to give you a warning before I send you to them. There is a broad range of equipment you can use to create a podcast, ranging from just an iPhone all the way to a full-blown recording studio costing tens of thousands of dollars. The host of one of the podcasts I listen to was on vacation, and he recorded his show on an iPhone, and it sounded pretty good. The audio suffered, so it’s not something that would work on a steady basis, but I use this to illustrate the point that you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment.
Some podcasting “experts” make the process far too complicated, and they will suggest that you need a lot of equipment. Let me tell you the setup I use, so that you can take what they say with a grain of salt. Following the plan I propose, you can set up a podcast recording studio for less than $100.
This set up assumes you have or have access to an iPad, or at least an iPod or iPhone. It is not my intention to discriminate against Androids, but it just happens that the recording app I use is only available for iOS. If you don’t have an iOS device, you can skip the part on the Bossjock app, and I’ll tell you at the end how you can record a show without Bossjock.
The microphone is the single most important piece of equipment. Most people will listen to your podcast with earphones while running or performing other tasks, so your voice is going to be beamed directly into their ears and brains. The sound quality needs to be top notch, and that all comes down to the microphone. From my own personal experience, there are two podcast shows that I began listening to because of the interesting subject matter, but which I stopped listening to because the sound quality made it too painful to my ears; like listening to a radio station not set to the right frequency.
After very extensive research on various mics, I bought the Audio-Technica ATR2100 USB/XLR Microphone. It is pretty universally agreed among podcasters that this is the second best mic available. Why would I recommend the second best microphone? Because in my opinion it is number one, and at about one-sixth the cost of what others claim to be the number one mic. The best price I have found for the ATR2100 is $39.99 on Amazon, discounted from a MSRP of $80. (Again, Amazon prices fluctuate day to day and even hour to hour, so when you check it may be a little more or less. It was $50 when I bought mine.)
The really nice thing about the ATR2100 is that it has connections for both USB and something called XLR. If you are unfamiliar with XLR connections, just know that if you decide to someday upgrade and use a mixer, you’ll likely need an XLR connection for that purpose. Also, the ATR2100 has an audio out plug, meaning you can listen to what you are saying right from the mic. This is crucial, because if you listen off of your recording device, wonky things can happen.
The mic that everyone claims is the best is the Heil PR-40, which sells for $327. I really think it’s just an ego thing. In the podcasting world, if you use a Heil PR-40, it is assumed you must have a successful show since you can afford such an expensive mic. There is a group of videos at the end of this article, and in the first video these two mics are tested and compared, along with some others. I much prefer the sound quality of the lower-priced ATR2100. Listen to the audio from these two mics, and see if you agree. If you prefer the Heil PR-40 and aren’t put off by the much higher cost, go for it.
[UPDATE:] It’s like taking a stand in favor of mullets, and then finding that there are scores of mullet lovers who were afraid to come forward until you spoke up. OK, maybe not. But since I announced my preference for the ATR2100 over the Heil PR-40, many have come out and agreed. This one great mic, and I am flabbergasted by some of the bad audio I hear on podcasts, given there is such a low entry point for this mic. By way of comparison, the Audio-Technica AT2005USB is the exact same mic, but with a black matte finish some prefer, and that is currently $79.99 on Amazon. Speaking of price, at the time I am writing this, the ATR2100 is just $39.99. I bought one just to have as a backup, or in case I decide to do an interview.
Backpack on an iPad, iPhone or iPod.
The recording device you will use to create your podcast will be your iPad (or iPhone / iPod Touch), using an inexpensive app called Backpack. When I first started, I used an app called Bossjock Studio, which is still available, but don’t get that one. The publisher hasn’t updated it for years, and it’s becoming more and more wonky. I was having to use workarounds to keep it functioning, and I was very happy when Backpack came along. I think the two programs are actually published by the same company. I hope they don’t abandon Backpack.
Backpack and Bossjock are the equivalent of what we called a cart machine back in my top-40 AM radio days (“Lucky-13 KHYT, where AM means Aaron Morris!”). We had pre-recorded audio on something similar to an 8-track tape, that you would slap in and play. For podcast purposes, it allows you to create an entire show in one pass with an intro, outro, sound effects, or whatever, without having to mix it later.
One of the coolest features of Backpack is that you can set sound elements to “duck.” For example, if you start the show with music, when you hit the mic button, the music volume is cut way down while you speak over it.
You simply record your show directly onto your iPad, iPhone or iPod with Backpack. As with all apps, if you buy it for one of your iOS devices you can use it on all of them. I like the added screen space offered by the iPad, but as a test I recorded one show using Bossjock on my iPhone, and it is totally workable. In fact, I’ve seen a few YouTube videos where the person used Bossjock on an iPhone, with the earbud mic that comes with the phone. The sound quality wasn’t fantastic, but neither was it so bad that I would turn off a podcast recorded in that manner. That totally portable combination opens up some real opportunities if your podcast has that need. As in, “Recorded live at the Orange County Superior Court, this is the Family Law Podcast.”
One major thing I learned about recording a podcast is that the pause button is your friend. When I recorded the first show, I was thinking in terms of recording a 30-minute show, and having something to say that entire time. Instead, break your presentation into parts. Record five minutes, hit the pause button, collect your thoughts for the next section, drink some water, and resume recording. Just be sure that when you resume you do so at the same volume and tempo. If you’ve ever listened to an audio book wherein the narrator fails to observe this rule, you know how distracting it can be.
At the conclusion of the recording, you hit the “finish” button and Bossjock saves the file, which can then be exported in a number of formats. Although your actual podcast will be in mp3 format, save it in wav format for reasons I will explain.
Before going any further, you should watch this video, which shows Bossjock in action on an iPad, using an ATR2100 microphone. I couldn’t find a good video demonstrating Backpack, but the concept is exactly the same, and I wanted you to hear the quality of the ATR2100 mic. You’ll also see the mic stand that comes with the ATR2100, and the camera adapter plug for the iPad that we’ll be discussing in a minute. Discussing the process and equipment can make it seem intimidating but, from the video, you’ll see that it is not nearly as complicated as it sounds. Ignore the prices he quotes. The camera adapter and app are much cheaper now, while the mic has gone up about $10.
Post-production is where you clean up your audio. Don’t be intimidated by the audio editing; it’s actually kind of fun. I knew nothing about digital audio editing (back in the day, we actually cut and spliced the audio tape), but I taught myself the process in about an hour. Bossjock saves the file I just created to my dropbox (or wherever you want to keep it), making it available on my computer. I drag the file out of dropbox and drop it into a free program called Levelator, which equalizes the audio file. Try as you might, your recording will have soft and loud parts, and you don’t want your listeners struggling to hear you through the soft parts and diving for the volume when it gets too loud. Levelator brings it all to the same approximate level. Levelator won’t process an mp3 file, so that’s why you need to save your original recording as a wav.
I then open that processed wav file in another free program called Audacity (if you are a Mac user, you can use Garage Band). When I was recording, if I made a mistake, I just paused for a few seconds and then tried again until I got it right. With Audacity, I just go through and cut out all the mistakes, leaving only the corrected parts. I can also trim out breathing sounds and any “umms.” I have a subscription to the Adobe suite that comes with a high-end audio program, but I've never used it, because Audacity is so good.
Some podcasters like a free-flow show and leave in all the mistakes. I recently heard a show where one of the host's children came in and asked about bedtime or something, and it was all left in. That certainly makes the post-production a lot simpler, but you’ll need to decide if you want to be that informal on a legal podcast.
Next, I save the file in mp3 format, add the necessary “tags”, and the show is finished and ready for publishing. There is a free WordPress plug-in called PowerPress, that I use to upload the file to my hosting service, which happens to be blubrry. You can actually host your files right on your WordPress site, but it’s a bad idea because it uses a lot of bandwidth and can slow your site to a crawl for other people who are visiting.
Once your mp3 file has been uploaded, you can submit that “feed” to iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker and dozens of other podcasting providers. This is a one time process, because once you have submitted the feed, the providers will automatically make your new shows available.
A few more things.
The ATR2100 plugs into your iPhone or iPad through a Camera Connection Kit,which is just a little one-inch square thingy that plugs into the iPhone or iPad. It's less than $4. If you went all fancy pants and got the Heil PR-40, then you must use an XLR to Audio In Adapter, which is about $11.
If you want to get impressive and feel like a radio announcer, you can add a $16 Suspension Boom Scissor Arm Stand to hold your mic. It’s actually a very good thing to have because you can mount the mic to a surface other than your desk or table, which prevents the sound from being transmitted up to the mic whenever you hit the desk or table. The ATR2100 comes with a mic stand, and that works just fine if you rest the stand on some foam rubber or some other dampening material (or just make sure you never touch the desk or table).
In a perfect example of getting something just because the "experts" said I should, I also bought a TASCAM DR-07MKII Portable Digital Recorder. It can be heartbreaking to do an entire show, only to then realize that your computer or iPad hiccuped somewhere along the way and failed to record all or part of the show. As a backup, you run the audio to a digital recorder, and use that recording if necessary.
I've never had that happen, and the problem with that approach is that unless you also pause the digital recorder every time you pause the master recording, you end up with a long recording of everything, including breaks to take a drink of water. That would be a very raw recording from which to create the show, and given that my shows average 30 minutes, I would probably just re-record it. I think a digital recorder is necessary only if you intend to do interviews on your show, since those could not be so easily re-created.
Still, I don't regret buying the TASCAM, because I'm sure I'll find a use for it someday. I have heard podcasts recorded remotely from conferences, where they just plugged a couple of lapel mics into a digital recorder, and it sounded great. For some other podcasts I have in the works, I'll use it for that purpose. Also, some people record their podcast only on the TASCAM, rather than using a computer or iPad for the recording. Unlike a computer, there is almost no chance that a digital recorder will crash during recording. This also leaves your computer free during recording in case you want to use it for notes or whatever.
Here is the podcast recording system in a nutshell.
So, in summary, here is my entire set up. I have the ATR2100 mic, plugged into a camera adapter, plugged into an iPad, which is running the Bossjock app. I have some headphones plugged into the ATR2100, to monitor what is being recorded, and I plug the TASCAM into the headphone jack of the iPad. I have no particular suggestion for headphones, and even earbuds would work, just make sure that they sound good, so you won't be left wondering if the tinny sounding recording is something you are doing wrong or just the headphones.
I had an old first generation iPad laying around, so I use that second iPad for my outline. I found a free PDF app called PDF-notes, that allows me to mark up the outline on the fly. If I stumble on my words, I just do a little sweep with my finger on the iPad, which leaves a line in that spot. When I do post-production, I know where to find the mistakes for editing.
I did pop the $16 for the boom scissor arm stand, just because that’s what I had back in my radio days so I’m used to it. Also, you want your mic about two to four inches from your mouth. If you use a mic stand on your desk, that's tough to accomplish. I position the mic so that I talk across it, not into it. That eliminates most of the popping, but you should also get a Pop Filter, which is just a simple screen you put in front of the mic to eliminate the popping. I did a couple of episodes without the pop filter, and sure enough there were a few bad pop sounds.
Previously, my über impressive recording studio consisted of a card table set up in my walk-in closet. All the clothes make for great sound dampening, and the closet is isolated enough from the rest of the house that the mic doesn't pick up any household sounds. But when my son left for college, I set up my studio in his room. I’m thinking of putting one of those big red “RECORDING” signs over the door.
If you don’t have an iPad (or two), iPhone or iPod, you can still record your show, but you’ll have to put it all together in post-production since you won’t be able to use Backpack. That will only make a difference if you intend to use effects, intro, outro or music in your podcast. If so, then you must drag those elements into Audacity or GarageBand and combine them manually. Without Backpack, just plug your ATR2100 into your computer, and do the recording there.
When presented in this manner, creating a podcast seems like a lot of work, and it is initially. It took me most of a weekend to outline, record and produce my first podcast. But thereafter, it becomes much faster. As I have gained experience, my outlines have become much less detailed and the shows sound much more natural. (I completely scripted my first episode, and not surprisingly it sounded like I was reading. I then reduced it to an outline and re-recorded the show.) I’m down to about a five to one ratio. For a 30-minute podcast, it takes me about one hour to prepare, thirty minutes to record, and another hour to edit and publish. The prep takes some time because I have to read and summarize the cases I want to discuss, but if your topic is one where you could just talk of the top of your head, the prep time would be far less.
I should mention that everything I have discussed is based on the assumption that your podcast will strictly be a one-man or one-woman show. If you want to have a co-host or you are going to do interviews, then you will need to add a mixer.
Let’s get started.
So there you have it. You can set up a great recording system for less than $100. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. As proof, listen to an episode of the California SLAPP Law Podcast. I think the production quality is very good. Incidentally, you’ll hear a professional introduction, followed by some intro music. That all came from Fiverr.com. The music came from a royalty free music pack that I think I paid $10 for, and the introduction cost about $20.
The best free podcasting tutorial I have found is offered by Internet entrepreneur Pat Flynn, and I have provided those videos below. These videos are so good, I see no reason to reinvent the wheel. I also recommend that you read the excellent guide, Podcast Launch, by John Lee Dumas, which also comes with free access to its own excellent videos. It's free if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, and just 99 cents if you aren't.
The first video below launches right into a review of the various microphones. You will hear the extreme difference your mic will make, and I think you will agree with me that the ATR2100 sounds fantastic. That same video discusses some of the other equipment that Flynn uses, but then he sends you off to a website where you can buy a complete podcasting setup. That's where you need to be strong, because it will try to convince you that you need so spend more than $1,600 to get the proper equipment. As I've just shown you, you don't need to spend anywhere near that amount.
And finally, for now, the last article in the Law Firm Marketing Series. You have learned many ways to market your firm, but it will all be for naught if you can't convert callers to clients. Here are Six Rules for 100% Caller to Client Conversion.
If you came to Your Own Law Firm through this article, and want to get the full benefit of the site, then please click on the START HERE button to begin at the beginning. I'll show you step-by-step how to launch your first niche site. If you already have a website where you are utilizing content marketing (or want to try something different), then here are some more articles on how to market your law firm.