This just in: Emergency association podcasts

Blake's Banter Pre-Production

Although a consistent schedule is a good thing, emergency and special podcast episodes have their time and place. Here is what I think about them.

When is it time for an EMERGENCY association podcast?

New laws, conflict, just in time events–all great times to get the word out. What things are important to you and your industry? And how do you capture them on audio so they’re not old news by the time you release them?

What is in Blake’s big black BAG?

Blake's Banter Pre-Production

When I record on location people see me walk up with a rather large case. Sometimes people have asked me “we have 4 mics…what is all that stuff?” My answer is “PEACE OF MIND.” I won’t bore you with all of the strange scenarios that I have found myself in over the years. Sure sometimes schlepping a 40-60 pound bag with my clothes bag and laptop bag around the nation can be a drag (pun intended). But I have found that being overprepared is much more comforting than the comfort of a slightly lighter case.

So what is in that case I bring? Let’s start with the basics, microphones. I ALWAYS have at least one extra of whatever my main mic will be. So if we are using headset mics and the most mics we need at one time would be 4, I will have 5 or 6 mics. A mic failing mid-show is bad enough, a client may be understanding about that. A mic failing mid-show and no replacement is catastrophic and you probably won’t get hired again. I also bring a handheld field recording mic. Sometimes you may not be able to get a guest to the rig you may have set up. But at least you can get some recording then come back and fix it in post. Or you can go out on the expo floor and grab some recordings quickly on the fly.

Next is computers and audio interfaces. Though some people think it’s bold, we do most of our shows straight to a computer. If there is an absolute mission critical recording then I will use a hard disk recorder. For example, when we recorded an interview of William Shatner at the NACS show in Chicago I was not recording straight to a computer. Mr. Shatner had limited time and if something failed on the computer I was certainly NOT going to ask him to wait 2 minutes while I restart than ask him to pick it up again. I went straight to the ZOOM H6. The odds of that failing are REALLY slim, (BTW make sure you have enough space on your SD cards BEFORE YOU LEAVE!)

So any time something is a LIVE event in front of an audience I go hard disc recorder. But if we have any leeway then straight to computer it is. For computers here is what I bring:

  • MacBook Pro
  • MacBook Air
  • iPad
  • iPhone
  • 2 Zoom H6’s (with a bunch of batteries)

Obviously, the 2 macs are just for backup purposes but why the iPad and iPhone? Answer: triple redundancy. If for some reason I lose my laptop bag or if it is stolen (yes that happened), I have the iPad in my gear bag. I have all of the show opens and music on it as well as my iPhone. So I can run the whole show laptop computer free if need be. PEACE OF MIND.

I have not had lost luggage…. yet (knocking on wood). Though if on some rare occasion my main case doesn’t make it, I am going to have to find a Guitar Center like a madman and start coming up with a replacement rig. I look up the closest one before I leave.

FUN TRAVEL TIP!! Sometimes if you know your bag is going to be over 50 pounds it is actually cheaper to fly first class than pay the $100.00 bag fee. As of the time I’m writing this, 1st class gets a 70-pound limit. You also get a much better lunch, free drinks, and a seat designed for a human being.

More surprises in the bag: a little tiny PA speaker (Kustom KPC4P Powered Monitor Speaker)! “Why a PA speaker Blake?” I have had many occasions where the client tells me they don’t want a PA speaker or there will be a sound system. Then we get to the location and one of two things happens:

  1. I was on location in a bar and the “sound system” was a few little stereo speakers in the ceiling. The speakers were directly over the stage so when we turned on the mics the feedback was awful. So were set up the little PA speaker out in front of the “stage” and, though not perfect, it saved the day. And I seemed like a hero to the client!
  2. The next example was when we set up in a lobby area right outside the breakout room in a Hilton Hotel. The scenario was that the podcast would happen all through the day whether the breakout rooms were in session or not.  But when the session broke the lobby would fill with people. Not only could you not hear the podcast but the optics of having a major thought leader in a major trade event not being able to be heard was very odd. So: into my trusty case and in 2 minutes – problem solved. Hero again, was that worth the extra 12.2 pounds? You tell me.

I top off my bag (and this may seem simple) with tons of audio adaptors, extension cables, and power strips. This is a must. Two quick scenarios on this:

  1. First I was doing some live podcasts at a convention center and I was told the sound company would assist me in anything necessary. When the sound person showed up, he was very polite. But there was a look of horror when he saw my audio interface output 1/4” cables. Luckily in my trusty case, I had 1/4” to XLR adaptors.  
  2. The next scenario happened at the Las Vegas Convention center. I know this will sound unbelievable but the organizers of the podcast area we would use forgot to request electricity to be run. Long story short, into my trusty case I dove to grab my 50-foot extension cord. That may seem like way too much cable for a podcast. But that day was sure saved as I snaked that cable through booth after booth finally finding a booth that had electricity and begged them to let me plug in.

So now you know what is in that giant bag I schlep around. Just a case full of peace of mind.

On The Road Again

Blake's Banter Tech

The only thing people usually see and hear is the final product. But just one technical glitch behind the scenes can be a VERY expensive mistake. What can you do to avoid these challenges?

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst

When you’re on travel, so many things can go wrong. What will do you if your laptop fails? Your remote site doesn’t have internet? Your headphones go all crackly? We find it’s best to think it all the way through, prepare for everything, and test, test, and retest everything every show. Watch this video to see how we keep things running smoothly away from home.

How to attract sponsors

Blake's Banter Marketing

“Sponsors aren’t interested.” I hear this often. Either from the organization making the podcast or from the sponsors themselves. Sponsors aren’t interested. Really?

OK. Sometimes it’s true and there are a few reasons for it. But basically, it all boils down to one thing. Your show isn’t ready for sponsors yet. What can we do about it?

Some of you may know I’ve been doing some diamond shopping lately. It’s actually fascinating how that sales process goes, and if you’ve ever shopped for a diamond, you are probably familiar with the four Cs and how the cut, clarity, color and carat contribute to the stone’s worth.

But did you know that there are four C’s of podcasting as well? Of course you didn’t because I just made it up. And I think it’s a great way of evaluating your podcast’s worth to a potential sponsor.

The 4 C’s

  • Consistency
  • Content
  • Count
  • Crowd

If you can get each of these to at least a 7 on a scale of 1-10 there is no reason your podcast shouldn’t be getting sponsors.

Consistency

Almost all sponsors will want to see a consistent show and you can’t blame them for that. They want to see that you are serious about your show. Look at it from their perspective. If you see a show that has three releases in one month, one in another, a missed the month in July–what would that say about your show? Shows that reliably come out on the same day, with the same hosts, for around the same length demonstrate that you have a format and you can deliver a consistent message. By the way, consistency is not only important for your sponsors. Your listeners also need to know they will be able to find your show when they expect it. A reliable show makes for reliable listeners, and that contributes to the 3rd C, count. More on that later.

Content

This can be one of the biggest challenges to get right, and it’s hands down the most important one for attracting listeners and sponsors. Ask yourself a few questions about your show. Are your hosts entertaining and personable? Do your topics speak to your membership? Are you booking quality guests? Do you have a consistent and repeatable format? Are you trying new segments to keep it fresh? Are you staying within your niche or going too broad? Would you listen to this show?

And don’t forget the basics. The show has to sound good technically. Unless your download numbers are spectacular, having a bad-sounding show is one of the worst things you can do. You’re going to want to learn a lot about how to record, edit and mix. There are lots of tips and tricks for making a great sounding show in my other articles and videos. Or you can always hire a good team to do it for you.

Count

Yep, you knew we’d come to this. We’re talking about download numbers here. This doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds. Organizations often think huge download numbers are the main concern of sponsors. And sometimes that’s right. But I’ve seen podcasts with zero listeners get greenlit by a sponsor, and produced just based on the show’s idea.

Some sponsors will be interested in quality over quantity. For example, the widget association has a show with only 7 consistent listeners. No sponsor would pay attention to a show with those kinds of numbers. But the widget association was great at communicating with the potential sponsor and got the point across that those 7 listeners weren’t just any listeners. They are CEOs and board members of the seven biggest widget companies in the world. Quality over quantity can make the difference for you.

Crowd

This last C may sound like we’re talking about download numbers again. But we’re not. This is about using your organization’s mission and other outreach opportunities to make the podcast more attractive to sponsors.

Can you record live at your annual convention? This can be a huge draw for sponsors. Not only do they get normal ads on your show but they get all the benefits of sponsoring a big event bundled in. Try to make a spectacle out of the live recordings. Be sure to have your show’s logo everywhere. Take advantage of the attendees while they’re in front of you and get to know your potential audience even better. Put postcards on their seat and poll them. Ask them:

  1. Do they already listen to the show?
  2. What topics would they like to hear about in the future?
  3. What guests would they like to hear from?
  4. How has the show helped them?

You’ll learn who is listening, find out what they need from you, and you’ll create awareness of your show to people who haven’t known of it before. I have even seen organizations put representatives in the room to greet people as they come into the room, or hold “meet and greets” at the sponsor’s trade show booth.

Once you get your 4 Cs up a few levels, you can be sure you’ll find some sparkling opportunities to get more exposure and revenue for your show and your organization’s mission.

Writing for a conversational podcast

Blake's Banter Pre-Production

When people attempt to actually write out podcast content, whether it be news, a segment, or just a script in general…bad things can happen. Here are some tips for avoiding badly scripted podcasts.

Write for listening, not for reading

There are differences in how you would write for something that will be read out loud versus writing for someone reading off a page. This video walks you through the differences and helps you plan for your next project.

Podcast Communication Can Be Easier Than You Think

Blake's Banter Why Podcast

*Hint: Think Audio

You need to communicate with your members, attract new members, educate and inform the public. There are so many ways to get the word out there. Which do you choose? And how do you make it effective? Which types of communications are suited to which purpose? How much money should you budget for campaigns?

Audio Before Video

There is nothing wrong with video. It has its place and can achieve some valuable objectives audio cannot. The message I want you to understand is that video should not necessarily be the first production you should undertake. Video is difficult and expensive to do well. It requires a large, sometimes virtually limitless, budget and talented staff. Then, even when you get the necessary high-quality video, you must consider reaching the audience you want, and grabbing enough of their attention to sit down, watch, and absorb your message.

Those last few words are important.  Sit down. Watch. Absorb. Watching a video requires you to pay attention to a screen, usually remaining in one spot while you do so. I don’t know about you, but when I have time to sit down and watch something, I’m usually reaching for high value entertainment. I’m choosing The Walking Dead, Stranger Things, ESPN highlights, or even that hilarious cat video my friend keeps telling me I HAVE to see.

Contrast that to a well-crafted audio show. Audio (and podcasting in particular) is designed for listeners to be mobile and still fully absorbed in the message. Listeners do not have to keep their eyes on the screen to be able to absorb the full message. So, you can do other things while you listen! And you can even turn tedious and boring activities such as a morning commute or household chores into productive time.

You can listen almost any time, while:

  • Driving your morning commute
  • Driving your evening commute
  • Watching your child’s t-ball game
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Vacuuming
  • Doing your expense report
  • Filling out your time card
  • Doing your daily run
  • Cooking dinner
  • Eating lunch

You get the idea. What I have not explained yet is that, because listeners are doing other things while listening to your content, and because you’re giving them interesting and more intimate content, they are more likely to listen longer. They are more likely to become aware of not only subject matter, but the lives of the host(s), interesting characters at the association, and the weekly segments they do.

So, how do you give them consistent interesting content? Think of a podcast. You are creating a conversation among people, experts, and colleagues in your industry. The format lets you dive into a topic on a much deeper emotional and technical level. You can and will make your association much more human–not just a place where their dues go every year. What do I mean by that? Take the CEO, Executive Director, or President. When you hear “CEO” an instant image comes to mind. You are probably thinking of a stiff collar and crisp suit. Corner office. The boss. Responsible for the bottom line. Maybe someone to whom you cannot always relate on a human level. This is someone you want to impress and probably slightly intimidates you. Case in point. A while back, I had the opportunity to interview John Graham, the President and CEO of ASAE, on our show Though the Noise. We covered a myriad of topics, from the executive certification process, to the annual event, and a ton more. A few months later I found myself at the ASAE headquarters in Washington, D.C. When I told people who I was, their eyes lit up and they would say “oh you interviewed John Graham, I loved that interview!” Being a curious talk show host I would ask what they liked about it. The answers were one of a few things: “I didn’t know he had twin daughters,” or “I thought it was really moving that after his father passed away is when he decided to come work at ASAE,” or “I had no idea he was an eagle scout.”

The information listeners take away from an audio podcast doesn’t surprise me anymore. It is usually the things that make us feel something, the human experience. But I did learn something new that day. In fact, I was astonished when I discovered later that the section where John talks about his father’s passing came more than 36 minutes into the show. I must repeat this for emphasis. 36 minutes in. Can you imagine watching any association video for over half an hour? What would it cost to make fifty-two 36-minute-long videos, and do you think anybody would watch that far in? Major television networks have trouble holding your attention for that long. Yet the human side of an association president (not a comedian, actor, musician, or entertainer) held people’s interest for at least that long.

There is one last point I would like to emphasize. I have seen first-hand what happens when you tell a potential guest “it’s audio only.” A huge sigh of relief, you can hear it through the phone. I have done podcasts with very senior people in their flip-flops and shorts. Audio takes off all the pressure of having to “look good,” and it becomes easier to get guests to agree to be interviewed. The tie can come off and the hair can come down and the guest can really open up and get into the subject matter, which often happens to be why they are personally involved in the organization. They can talk about first-hand accounts of how the organization has benefited the membership and all the good work its doing. But not just in a bullet point format but with their personal stories. “I remember when XYZ member joined up years ago and they had three employees, they came to our conference and events and now they have 40.”

To sum up, audio is more affordable to produce, and can create an intimate connection with your audience, it’s designed for a captive audience in a mobile setting so it can be longer format and still be heard, it turns boring chores into productive time, allows for much deeper coverage of your guest and topic, and it is less intimidating to potential show guests.

Again I do not dismiss video. But every day I see so many missed opportunities to effectively use podcasts and audio content to maximize organizations communications. Start with audio.  You’ll thank me later.

Learn how to dip in Ableton Live

Blake's Banter Tech

Don’t tell your trainer. I wouldn’t want them coming after me. Because I’m going to teach you to automate your dips. No workout required.

Dipping audio automatically in Ableton Live

All the knobs, faders and buttons can look intimidating at first, but just a few minutes will explain the ones you need to automate your music volume to lower itself when you talk in your podcast. Watch this video to learn how to do it yourself. (No dieting required either!)

Podcasts are now essential to your marketing plan

Blake's Banter Why Podcast

Ok, I get it. You’re the head of an association. You have a marketing budget. For the marketing and communications plan you MUST do some or all of the following things:

  • Build and maintain a web page
  • Host one or more trade shows, award ceremonies, and/or other live events every year
  • Create one or more videos for your annual event
  • Develop and maintain social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • Gather information and news to publish in your weekly/monthly/quarterly newsletter

I am about to give you yet another thing to do. Start a podcast.

In other articles, we’ve discussed many reasons to start an audio podcast. It can create an intimate connection with your audience. Usually, your audience spends more time with a podcast than with other forms of marketing because they can do other things while listening. It turns boring chores into productive time, allows for much deeper coverage of your topic, and it is less intimidating than video to potential show guests such as members, policy makers, donors,
experts and others. I am going to go into another key reason why an audio podcast is essential to getting your message out to as many people as possible. It’s all about the guests.

Yes! When it comes to guests on a podcast like this, associations have a very wide playing field. You can reach out to so many people to come to spend some time talking with you in an intimate, let your hair down setting. Start with the obvious–experts and specialists on your staff who will have lots of stories and information to share, guests from outside the organization, high profile members of your association. Soon you will think bigger. Like anything else, your show will slowly get better and better, and the market impact will increase. At that point, all sorts of guests will want to be a part of it. Members of Congress, other elected officials, executives, authors, and celebrities are always looking for exposure. Your podcast gives them what they are looking
for, and it’s win-win, because those people have their own followers who are sure to learn about your association. Having listened for at least that one episode, they may turn into loyal listeners. Other associations are also great sources for potential guests. I have seen this happen on many, many occasions.

Break it down. Suppose your association has a mailing list of 35,000. You invite a guest from an association related to your field, for example, a convenience store association may invite a guest from a beverage association. The guest’s association also has a mailing list of 35,000. You both promote the episode to your mailing lists, and now 70,000 people have exposure to one of your episodes that will be (like every podcast episode) available until the end of the Internet (or until you choose to take it down). Now compound that by a weekly show. 70,000 x 4 weeks = 280,000 potential listens in one month. Obviously, not every person on the mailing list will listen to the show. But if only 15% open the mail and only 5% actually listen, consider the fact that the shows are available until the end of the Internet. With good search engine optimization, people will continue to listen for many years, and, most importantly, prior shows will still be available when the next association guest sends out the episode to their mailing list. Some of our clients have had exponential growth right out of the gate going from 500 total downloads in the first month to over 20,000 by the end of the year, with little to no marketing other than to their own and their guests’ mailing lists.

I have talked about your podcast reach in terms of numbers of listeners. And yes, that is one reason guests and their mailing lists are an important motivation to make podcasting a part of your marketing plan and a way to measure success. But consider this thought: let’s say you are an ice cream association. If the CEO and executive team of Breyers, Häagen-Daz, Drumstick, Nestle, Turkey Hill, Hershey’s, and Ben and Jerry’s listen to this show, would that be a success? In addition to the number of listeners, the quality of listeners that podcasting makes possible is enormous. Just think of the benefit to the association of having industry or group leaders as
your podcast audience. In developing shows for associations, we find the outreach to industry leaders is a key component of a great podcast appearance.

Lastly, there may be that Gold or Platinum level member that you have been dying to have a conversation with but just cannot seem to get in for a real conversation. Imagine calling that person or their assistant and inviting them on to a show that has already hosted 3 elected officials, 2 of their competitors, and maybe 3 of their clients. That could potentially get you in the door or rather they will walk through your door.

Of course, there are many other reasons to have an audio show or podcast developed for your organization. Member engagement, outreach, awareness campaigns, personalization of a brand, etc., but maximizing the quality of your guests and expanding your reach to include all your guests and their organizations is a modern day reality of marketing efforts and goals.