Podcasts are beginning to make the leap into the law firm world. They are a great way to reach new audiences by demonstrating a firm’s thought leadership. In 2016, my firm decided to start podcasting. After three years of recording, editing, and publishing, I’ve learned several tips and best practices through every stage that should be kept in mind if you’re considering starting a podcast at your firm.
Like any new project, start with buy-in from partners and a commitment from involved attorneys to create content and stick to a recording schedule. Work with them to scope out the project and to develop a good concept.
The concept and scope may go hand in hand. A great place to start could be to take something that’s already being made, perhaps a blog or client alert series, and turn it into audio form. Our first podcast was a biweekly five minute overview of recent government contracts legal news. The content was already being produced as a report for a client, and the attorneys received permission to reuse the report for this effort.
The concept should be narrow enough to appeal to a specific audience, but not so narrow that you can’t come up with a lot of good topics. Consider whether one of your practice groups has access to particularly interesting people to interview, or a timely topic that makes for a good series, such as our Trump: First 100 Days and Trump: The First Year series which predicted what the Trump administration would do in various areas.
Decide how often to publish podcast episodes. Remember, it’s not just the time of the technician that’s difficult to manage, but also the non-billable time of the attorneys involved. Many popular non-legal podcasts are weekly, but producing a weekly podcast would be an almost Herculean effort in many law firms. I find that a weekly release schedule is best reserved for only the most dedicated of teams, or for extremely short episodes. I recommend a biweekly release schedule for shorter episodes and monthly for longer ones.
Episode length depends on your intended audience and intended topic. Anywhere from five minutes to an hour and a half might be appropriate. Our news podcast is very effective because it is short, and clients love getting a quick hit of the news. Covering more complicated topics would take longer.
Create a recording schedule. Determine who’s in charge of scheduling and planning, whether it’s the same person who’s recording, someone in business development or marketing, or the attorneys themselves. Make an editorial calendar even if you are not tasked with scheduling. That way, you know when they should be recording and can help to keep them on track. I recommend recording several episodes before you launch.
Choose a good microphone. A great starter microphone is the Yeti Blue series; it only costs around $100, and you only need one to record everyone in the room, which is how I started. I have since upgraded to using one Audio Technica ATR2100 microphone (roughly $70 each) per speaker and using a Mackie mixer to pull it all together, which has increased sound quality and reduced editing time.
Choose a good room for recording. Find a room that is just big enough to fit everyone, ideally one without windows or too many harsh edges. Carpeting, wallpaper, books, and anything soft will reduce the amount of echo in your audio. Be aware of how loud the HVAC system is, and make note of squeaky chairs or anything else that can add unwanted noise. My firm recently built out a recording room with additional soundproofing, which has noticeably improved our audio quality.
Having speakers participate from multiple office locations can be complicated, but there is technology to make it work if everyone cannot be in the same recording room. Record them through Skype for Business or similar, have them record themselves on an iPhone or through web apps, or have a technician at their office.
Record your first episode. Record more than you need; it is much easier to cut excess audio than it is to go back and record more later. Communicate how long the first cut takes to edit. For us, it takes around six minutes to edit each minute of recorded audio, but if you are new to editing, it may take two or three times as long. Build in time for second takes, adjustments and attorney-approvals, if necessary.
You might be tempted to go with fully scripted podcasts, which can indeed be helpful with getting the content approved in advance. However, most speakers sound like they are reading when using a script, and it is better to have an outline with talking points instead.
How much you edit your podcast episodes is up to you and your firm. You can use Adobe Audition, which I use, or other sound editing programs such as Audacity or Garage Band. These programs can also be used for recording. Filter out any background noise, and decide how polished you want the audio. For example, you’ll need to decide whether to remove ‘umms’ and other filler words, or to leave them in for a more natural sound.
I recommend adding a transcript for editing purposes (and posting it to your site for accessibility and SEO). There are online services that produce transcripts, or you may have in-house document resources. This is very helpful for when attorneys want to mark edits on longer podcasts, as it enables them to redline the script.
Launching Your First Episode
Decide how to brand your podcast. A good title that lets your audience know your topic and entices people to listen. You need a short description as well, one to three sentences that will appear when people search for your podcast, and a square logo to upload in Apple podcasts and other podcast aggregators (1000 x 1000 pixels is recommended).
Choose where you’re going to host your podcast. It could be on your website or through a popular podcast hosting service such as Libsyn or Podbean. If it’s on your website, it’s fully yours, but podcast hosting services can help with submitting to Apple Podcasts, provide analytics and offer audiences another way to listen.
Publish your first episode or two. It’s not a bad idea to launch with two episodes, as it gives the audience a better idea of what to expect from your content and encourages subscribers. If you are not using a podcast hosting service, make an Apple and Google Play account, so you can publish them on Apple Podcasts and Google Play yourself. You will need an RSS feed link to be able to submit to Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and elsewhere. Podcast hosting services make this easy, as they help you add in the necessary metadata into the feed’s code.
Once you’ve published, market your podcast. We send our podcasts as email client alerts, post them on our site with an embedded player, and promote on social media.
Keep up the momentum. Stick to the schedule, and do not skip episodes! This is helpful to maintain your audience, who may expect a podcast at a certain time of the week or month. As a podcast consumer, I always forget about podcasts that don’t update regularly, so your audience likely will too.
Provide analytics. The podcast hosting services can provide analytics, and you can use Google Analytics for podcasts published on your site. Apple Podcasts is beginning to provide analytics as well. I recommend standardizing the time after each podcast that you will gather analytics. Because our episodes have a long tail, I gather analytics two weeks after launch, so that episodes can be compared fairly.
By Rachel Patterson, Digital Marketing Technology Senior Coordinator, Crowell & Moring