By Rachel Patterson
Podcasts are a great way for a law firm to reach new audiences and showcase the firm’s thought leadership. After four years of producing podcasts with my firm, I’ve learned several tips and best practices for every stage of the process.
Like any new project, start with buy-in from partners and a commitment from involved lawyers to create content and maintain a consistent recording schedule.
To develop a concept and scope, consider turning something that’s already being made, like a blog or client alert series, into audio. Our first podcast was a biweekly five-minute overview of recent government contracts legal news, a report our lawyers were already producing. 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.
Decide how often to publish 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. I recommend a biweekly release schedule for shorter episodes and monthly for longer ones.
Episode length depends on your intended audience and topic. Anywhere from five minutes to an hour and a half might be appropriate. Our news podcast works because it is around five minutes, and clients love getting a quick hit of news.
Create a recording schedule. Determine who’s in charge of scheduling and planning, and make an editorial calendar (even if you are not tasked with scheduling, you can still help keep them on track). I recommend recording several episodes before you launch to establish a strong presence on the platform and keep your audience interested.
Choose a good microphone and setup. In pandemic times, most speakers will be participating from multiple locations. Record them through Skype for Business, Zoom, or similar platforms, or have them record themselves on a smartphone or through web apps.
When it’s possible to record together again, find a recording 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 echo in your audio. Note the HVAC system, squeaky chairs or anything else that might add unwanted noise. My firm built out a recording room with additional soundproofing, which has noticeably improved our audio quality.
If you’re working on a limited budget, basic microphones from a computer or smartphone work fine. If you can upgrade your equipment, a great starter microphone is the Yeti Blue series, which only costs around $100. 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.
Record your first episode. Record more than you need; it is easier to cut excess audio than to record more later. A script can help get the content approved in advance, but most speakers sound unnatural when they rely on a script while recording. We prefer using an outline with talking points.
I use Adobe Audition to edit episodes, but you can also use programs such as Audacity or GarageBand, which can also be used for recording. Filter out any background noise and decide how polished you want the audio to be. For example, will you remove “ums” and other filler words, or leave them in for a more natural sound? It takes us 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.
Add a transcript — you’ll want to post it to your site for accessibility and SEO and use it for editing purposes. Online services or in-house document resources can produce transcripts, which make it easy for lawyers to mark edits on longer podcasts.
Launching Your First Episode
Decide how to brand your podcast. You need a title that lets your audience know the topic and entices people to listen. You’ll also need a short description — one to three sentences that will appear when people search for your podcast — and a square logo for most podcast aggregators (1000 x 1000 pixels is recommended).
Decide where to host your podcast. It could be on your website or through a 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 and other platforms, provide analytics and offer audiences another way to listen.
Publish your first episodes. As previously noted, it’s a good idea to launch with at least 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 episodes on Apple Podcasts and Google Play yourself. You will need an RSS feed link 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 client alerts, post them on our site with an embedded player, promote on social media, and ask our lawyers to share on their personal accounts.
Keep up the momentum. Stick to the schedule, and do not skip episodes! This helps maintain your audience, who may expect a podcast at a certain time of the week or month. Podcast consumers tend to forget about podcasts that don’t update regularly.
Provide analytics. Podcast hosting services and aggregators can provide analytics, and you can use Google Analytics for podcasts published on your site. 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.
Podcasts are an increasingly popular medium in the law firm industry, and they get great feedback from clients. Using these best practices, you’ll be able to successfully launch a podcast at your firm and give clients and prospects a new way to engage with your content.
Rachel Patterson is the digital marketing technology senior coordinator at Crowell & Moring. She runs the firm’s award-winning podcast program, manages the client alert program, and keeps the website current. She is also a current member of LMA’s Mid-Atlantic Region Newsletter and Social Media Committees.