Archive for the ‘podcast’ Category

Which Podcasts Have Inspired You?

One of the things I like best about listening to podcasts is the ability to find insightful, thought-provoking content that I might otherwise have missed.

Tonight I managed to get out for my first decent run since racing in the Cabot Trail Relay a few weeks ago. While out pounding the trails for what felt like forever, I was able to catch up on some of my podcast listening. I highly recommend you check out two of the episodes I listened to, from two of my favourite podcasters.

TVO Search Engine

If you’re not a regular listener, you may not know that Jesse Brown‘s excellent podcast recently moved homes – from CBC (their loss) to TVO (their gain).  Michael Geist has done a wonderful job recently of drawing attention to plagiarism and bias in a  report by the Conference Board of Canada claiming that Canada is a hot-spot for internet piracy (the report has now been recalled by the organization).  In his second Search Engine episode in his new TVO home, Jesse interviews Anne Golden, CEO of the Conference Board. It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s fantastic journalism from someone that doesn’t let people get away with a template messaged response to questions. Make sure you check it out.

CBC Spark

Nora Young‘s Spark podcast has long been a favourite of mine. While it has a similar tech focus to other podcasts to which I subscribe, Spark tends to cover stories I might otherwise overlook. In Spark episode 80, Nora interviews Andrea Reimer from Vancouver City Council about Vancouver’s plan to open up municipal data (in the same manner also announced by David Miller for the City of Toronto at this year’s Mesh Conference).  I found the interview immensely refreshing. Coming from a government background, I know that there’s often a fear within government of what people will do with information. This often leads to the minimum information necessary being shared with the public. Reimer’s take, in contrast to that:

“…we shouldn’t, as policy makers, fear the public knowing what we know when we’re making decisions, and in fact by knowing it perhaps we could inform ourselves better… maybe they’ll think of new creative or throw in more information that we didn’t have…”

I found myself nodding and smiling throughout the interview. Well worth a listen, for a refreshing take on how governments can go about sharing information with the people who are funding its collection. What other podcast episodes have caught your eye (or ear) recently?

Why Podcasting Is Like Photography

Daniel Steinberg‘s guest post on Chris Brogan’s blog this Saturday got me thinking. He noted: “we don’t know what podcasting really is any more than we know what photography really is.”

When you think about it, podcasting as a communications medium has a lot in common with photography.

  • Niches - while they don’t need to by definition, many podcasts serve narrow niches – they focus on a tightly defined topic. Photographers often focus on specific niches – Caralin, for example, focuses on portrait and wedding photography. There are plenty of other forms out there, but she’s decided to focus. Your podcast is more likely to succeed if you do the same.
  • Comments after the fact – unlike Twitter, for example, podcasts don’t involve a rapid free-flowing conversation. Comments are possible, but they are submitted after the current content is posted.
  • Large or small audiences – most photographers have a relatively small audience for their photography. The vast majority of photographs aren’t taken by people who would consider themselves ‘photographers’ but who take photographs anyway. Meanwhile, a small number have very large audiences for their work. The same goes for podcasts. Most have a very small audience. Others enjoy large followings. Both are fine. Don’t expect your podcast to go nuclear just because you produce it.
  • Perfect for some means, limited for others – as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. However, in some cases photographs just can’t capture the moment effectively and a different medium – perhaps video – would work better. The same goes for podcasting – just like any other communications tool, it’s not suitable for every occasion or every audience. Pick your use effectively.

What do you think? Are these comparisons on-target? Way off-base? What would you add?

Top 12 Communications, Marketing And Social Media Podcasts

I’m a podcast junkie. I listen to them whenever I’m outside, and I get through a lot. It helps that I run marathons, so I spend an hour or two on the trails most nights and have plenty of time to listen.

If you’re into PR and social media and you’re new to podcasting or are looking for a few new shows to check out, here are my current favourites, in no particular order:

Six Pixels of Separation

As I said in a call-in comment to this show last week, Mitch Joel‘s ‘Six Pixels of Separation’ is one of the shows that got me into listening to podcasts. Mitch’s enthusiasm for his subjects is infectious. What’s more, his commentary, insights, interviews and useful tips make for essential listening if you’re even remotely connected to digital marketing.

For Immediate Release

This is another one of the foundations of my podcast playlist. Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson, together with a plethora of regular correspondents, lead their listeners on a bi-weekly tour of the world of communications and social media.

For Immediate Release is divided into several ‘streams’ – the Hobson & Holtz report; book reviews; interviews and live call-in shows. They’re available individually or aggregated together as a single feed.

The regular shows are usually about an hour long, so if you don’t have lots of time for your podcast listening it can be a bit infeasible to listen to them all (I quickly fall behind when I’m not training every day).

Inside PR

The first of several Canadian podcasts on this list, Inside PR is one of the shows that I make a point of listening-to as soon as it is published each week. Hosted by Dave Jones, Martin Waxman, Julie Rusciolelli and the guy-next-door-to-me, Terry Fallis. The show focuses on public relations from an agency perspective, and was actually the first podcast to which I ever listened.

Managing the Gray

Along with Mitch Joel, CC Chapman has one of the most energizing, infectious voices in podcasting. He can be sporadic in posting new episodes sometimes, but the energy level alone makes them worth checking out. I had the pleasure of hanging out with CC at PodCamp Montreal this year, and the energy is there in real life as well. The marketing thoughts in his show are helpful, too…

License to spyCBC Search Engine

This is the first show I listen to every week. Unfortunately Jesse Brown’s lively, insightful show got cut from the CBC’s regular schedule and the length has suffered from the lack of resources Jesse now has. Regardless, it’s still essential listening for me. It doesn’t hurt that I love the way the show is structured – the music, the tone, the topics all fit together perfectly.

CBC Spark

Nora Young hosts Spark, another CBC podcast which explores issues in technology and culture. I met Nora and her colleague Dan Misener at Podcasters Across Borders this year

Media Bullseye Radio Roundtable

The most recent addition to my list (as the folks at Custom Scoop just added it to iTunes); every week Jen Zingsheim and Chip Griffin invite a different person from the social media sphere to join them for a discussion of the latest news in the blogosphere. The different speakers each episode mean there’s always a new perspective on things. Well worth checking out.


The cast of PRobecast has changed over time as people have come and gone from the Topaz Partners team, but the show has retained its focus on social media and public relations. Nowadays the cast includes a couple of people who are new to/haven’t bought-in to the social media ‘thing’ so there are plenty of interesting discussions.

Marketing Over Coffee

Christopher Penn and John Wall meet at a Boston-area Dunkin Donuts every week to discuss the latest in marketing trends and techniques. I have a habit of referring to the show as “Spam over Coffee” due to their focus on email marketing, but whichever way you cut it, there’s more knowledge jammed into each show than I possess in total.

(Also check out John’s other show, The M Show, for his take on recent news and entertainment happenings; and Christopher’s Financial Aid Podcast for… well… financial advice.)

Trafcom News

The lovely Donna Papacosta’s podcast is one of the more irregular shows on my listening list, but it’s worth it for the useful, practical podcasting and audio production tips, and Donna’s dulcet tones (she’s like an audio massage).


One of the more irreverent shows on my list, this one makes it on here due to its occasional tangential mentions of PR and marketing. I primarily listen to Shill for amusement while telling myself it’s educational.

With an apparently random show schedule, Dave Jones and Doug Walker take a tour through whatever catches their attention at the time. Throw-in the occasional F-bomb, plenty of self-mockery and copious ribbing of their listener, and you’ve got a thoroughly amusing show (to me, anyway… but what do I know?).

Tip: The show notes are often as amusing as the podcast itself.

Media Driving

The show title is apt, as Jay Moonah quite literally drives while recording this podcast (I wonder how that will work with Ontario’s proposed new cellphone driving law…)! The shortest show on my playlist, the ever bubbly Jay usually gets into just one topic within the umbrella of “communications, content, messages and marketing” on each show. This makesMedia Driving perfect for when you’ve got a spare minute or 10 on your hands.

So now you know what I’m listening to. What about you?

My Social Media Life And Why Walled Gardens Don’t Work

While out running recently, I re-listened to a Six Pixels of Separation podcast during which Heidi Miller talked about the social media overload in her life. I got to thinking about how I feel about social media overload and the implications it has for the tools I use.

I first dipped my toe into creating content on the web back in 2000 when I managed the website of a division of Hitachi Europe Ltd. I’ve maintained my own personal website since then, but I’ve only recently launched myself headlong into social media.

I can’t believe how much my life has changed since then.

I plotted a timeline of my adoption of web 2.0 tools this year. It’s not comprehensive, but it’s sufficient to make my point:

This isn’t a linear chart; if anything, the increase is exponential:

One look at my average day shows the central role that social media plays in my life:

I love this new lifestyle. I’m always connected. Nothing I do happens in a vacuum any more. I’ve met a tonne of new people. What’s more, my lifestyle accomodates my new-found passion, so I don’t have to sacrifice anything except time to accomplish all of this.

There’s just one cloud on the horizon – the chart above.

The line can’t keep going up. There isn’t enough time in the day.

I see three options:

  • Option #1: Burn-out
  • Option #2: Level-off
  • Option #3: Aggregate

Option #1: I can continue to use more tools and burn out (no thanks).

Option #2: I can stop using new tools, or I can keep using new ones and let a few less valuable ones drop off. I can see this happening, but it would be more through necessity than choice.

Option #3 Find ways to keep up with multiple tools through one interface. I like this option. A lot.

I already have a few tools to do this:

Twitku is a great tool that lets me watch and update my Twitter and Jaiku feeds at the same time.

Google Reader lets me keep tabs a bunch of sites. As a result, I only need to check sites like Technorati or Facebook occasionally.

iGoogle lets me watch Twitter, Gmail, Google Reader and GTalk while accessing my Google Notebook, TinyURL and Google Docs… all from one page. Vista’s sidebar does a similar job, although with less gadgets available for now.

What ties all these applications together? Information sharing.

In a world of information overload, walled gardens don’t work.

In the future, tools will only fit into my toolkit if they’re opened-up. I need to aggregate their information through other tools. RSS feeds, open APIs and widgets are essential.

I’m not arrogant enough to believe I’m the only one thinking this way.

Companies need to share information through these tools or risk falling into obscurity.

5 Questions From ‘New Media’ Newcomers

I attended an IABC seminar this week where Cyrus Mavalwala and Joseph Thornley explored the transition from ‘old’ to ‘new’ media.

Joseph structured his presentation around some interesting questions posed by the audience. Five questions in particular captured my attention, so I thought I’d share my perspective on them:

Why Should I Care About Blogging?

I don’t think there’s a simple answer to this question – it will depend on you, your situation and your objectives. However, I don’t think there’s any question – if you work in PR or marketing, you should care.

Joe Thornley used the case study of Jeff Jarvis and his experience with Dell to effectively illustrate what can happen when companies don’t pay attention.

I’d like to focus on a slightly broader picture. In brief, here are five reasons why I think you should care about blogging and more broadly about social media in general:

  • Important: social media isn’t about the technology; it’s about people. Blogging, podcasting, Facebook, Twitter, Jaiku – they’re just technologies. Don’t focus on them. As PR pros, we need to focus on the consumers on the other side of the technology. Increasing numbers of them communicate through social media. You can’t control those conversations, but don’t you want to be part of them?
  • You might not care about social media, but does your company’s target market? If they care, you should
  • Social media gives you a chance to build a relationship with customers and thought leaders in your field
  • When something goes wrong, people go to your website. You need to be able to respond quickly; blogging allows you to
  • You can’t get instant credibility in the blogosphere – you need to build it up over time by engaging in conversations either on your own blog or on others. When something goes wrong, people will go to your website. You don’t want to have to establish credibility while simultaneously managing a crisis
  • It’s true, you can’t control conversations on today’s Internet. However, wouldn’t you rather conversations involve you rather than revolve around you?

Why Do You Do It?

I have two blogs – this one and The Toronto Runner. My motivations for each are different in most respects, but I’m passionate about both of them.

I use this blog as a way to:

  • Educate myself more about PR, social media and marketing
  • Stay on top of emerging trends that will impact public relations
  • Share my thoughts and perspectives on topics that I find interesting

I use my running blog to:

  • Share my passion for running with other people
  • Provide accountability – it motivates me myself to push myself harder
  • Pass on tips and routes for local runners

I Have A Podcast; Do I Need A Blog?

This leads me to a wider discussion of new media and how people view it.

I think it’s important for PR professionals to treat new media technologies as tactics, not strategies.

We shouldn’t look at Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and their kind and wonder how we can make them work. None of them are one-size-fits-all solutions. If they’re appropriate to a situation, use them. If they’re not, don’t.

In relation to this particular question, it may well be that a blog would help the podcast. However, without looking at the bigger picture, you can’t know for sure.

For a great example of what I mean, check out this audio excerpt from How To Do Everything With Podcasting by Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson. They discuss using podcast to solve a problem rather than as a strategy by itself.

What Sources Do You Use?

Again, this answer is very contextual. I blog mainly about my thoughts on emerging PR tactics, not on mainstream “news.” Therefore, I tailor my reading accordingly:

How Do You Find Time?

There’s no avoiding it, staying on top of all the emerging new media technologies takes a lot of time. I’m fortunate in that I’m fascinated by it so it doesn’t feel like work, but sometimes I still have to consciously make time for life outside the web.

My job currently doesn’t directly involve any of these online activities so I try to work them into my day as seamlessly as possible:

  • I limit my blog reading to three periods each working day (I read the rest in the evening):
    • When I get to work
    • During lunch
    • When I’m about to leave
  • I listen to podcasts while commuting and when I’m out running. I run for between 60-90 minutes three or four times a week, so that adds up
  • I use Twitter via instant messenger on my mobile device so I can do it on the move

There’s no way I can, in good conscience, take time during my work day to write a blog post, so I do my blogging and social networking in the evenings.

So there you have it. Five questions asked by people new to the world of blogging, web 2.0 and social media, and my humble perspective.

Panel Discussion: "Is The News Release Dead?"

Last Thursday I attended a panel discussion, organized by my department, entitled “Is The News Release Dead?”

We had a great mix of speakers:

The panel members provided an interesting mix of viewpoints, from very pro-social media through to quite sceptical, leading to some interesting exchanges of views.

Rather than sticking purely to looking at the news release, the panel explored the broader topic of the role that web 2.0 can play in government communications. I continued my social media education by live-blogging the event.

I normally shy away from writing about government communications or anything too closely related to my work, but after careful reflection I decided to make an exception here for three reasons:

  1. The panelists gave their own opinions; they didn’t speak on behalf of the government
  2. These issues aren’t confined to the public sector
  3. I think we should be proud of having these conversations.

Some key points raised by the panel included:

On news releases:

  • The news release, in its traditional format, doesn’t work. It’s due for a significant overhaul
  • News releases are often used incorrectly – at a minimum you need to put news in it. If there’s no news, don’t do it
  • Social media news releases can combine multiple media with succinct content, tagging and content sharing to provide a new way to bring our messages to the public
  • The news release isn’t dead. However:
    • Our focus needs to change from getting content to the media to getting it to the public
    • We need to re-examine why we issue news releases. It’s a tool in our toolkit, but shouldn’t be the default

On traditional media:

  • Traditional media outlets are slowly realizing that the world doesn’t end when the newspaper hits the doorstep. Consumers expect continuous new content
  • The Globe and Mail now allows readers to comment on some stories on its website
  • A majority of consumers still don’t trust online sources as much as traditional media
  • Communications professionals need to stop thinking about the media as the end audience. They’re an essential part of our communications but we communicate through them, not to them

On social media:

  • If organizations delve into new media, transparency is critical. If you aren’t transparent, you will get found out
  • Views differed on whether it’s appropriate (or useful) for government to use social media tactics like blogs, podcasts and social networks
  • The time-shifting capability of podcasts has given radio stations a new lease of life. What’s more, they’re still evolving:
    • Imagine re-mixable podcasts where users can pick and choose the content that interests them
  • The conversations organizations have about Facebook now resemble the conversations they had about the web back in 1994
    • Any organization that ignores Facebook (or any other communications tool) is shutting off a way to communicate with its audience

I have a few thoughts on the discussion:

  • We’re playing catch-up: The discussions that we’re having now in the public sector are the ones that the PR industry as a whole have already had over the last couple of years. The leaders are figuring out how to use these tools; we’re talking about whether to use them
  • We need to educate our peers: There’s a lot of fear about new web technologies, especially around transparency. For new tactics to have any credibility, transparency and openness are critical. Failure to have this will mean failure of the tactic
  • We shouldn’t rely on snap-shots: People cited studies that show a minority of the public trusts online rather than traditional sources. However, the studies are just a snap-shot – don’t show the underlying trend, which is that more and more people are looking to online sources. We need to think about what people will want in a couple of years, not what they wanted six months ago, to avoid vainly chasing the end of the rainbow
  • We need to experiment: Wal-Mart set up a Facebook group. Did it go perfectly? No. They got a lot of negative feedback, but they tried. We need to try new tactics if we want to succeed
  • People want choice: In our fragmented media environment, people want to access information through their choice of medium. To ignore new channels is to miss opportunities
  • “Web 2.0″ isn’t a panacea: It won’t work for every announcement. However, it does add a significant number of new tools to our toolkits, which we should acknowledge and use appropriately
  • Podcasts, blogs, social networks etc. are just tactics: Some people seem to think that when we talk about social media, we’re talking about using it to the exclusion of other tactics. That’s just not the case. Podcasting, blogging, Twitter and all of these wonderful tools aren’t strategies; they’re tactics.

Overall, the panel discussion was fascinating. It was great to hear the different perspectives of the panelists on how (and whether) we should make the best of the opportunities that web 2.0 gives us.

Thanks to the panelists and to everyone else who worked on making it happen!

Simple Principles For Great Podcasting

I’m a podcast addict. Right now I have more unlistened-to podcasts than my poor MP3 player can physically store – over 200 at last count – despite getting through 15-20 every week. So, despite not podcasting myself (I think I talk enough already), I feel like I have some justification in identifying what makes a good ‘cast and what keeps people listening.

The casts I listen to range greatly in quality, subject and tone, but there are some clear similarities between the ones that I tune into the most.

Joseph Jaffe
talked recently in Across The Sound about overwhelming negativity in the blogosphere. With that in mind, I’m focusing on the positive things that podcasters can do to keep their listeners rather than the things people do wrong:

  1. Exude energy. Be positive. Mitch Joel’s enthusiasm is infectious – you can’t help but enjoy his ‘casts. Be excited about what you’re doing and it will show
  2. Focus on content. “Content is king. It’s what people tune in for. Personality comes into it and celebrity has an impact, but without the content you’re nothing
  3. Value your audience. You’re dedicating your time to the podcast, but also remember that they’re investing their time in you. Also remember: if you promote a company (yours or a sponsor’s) on your podcast then your behaviour reflects on them, be it positively or negatively
  4. If you’re going to solicit comments, engage in real two-way conversation. Not all shows do include comments, which is fine (Manager Tools is a great example), but those that do should have a genuine dialogue.One of the reasons I enjoy Inside PR is that David and Terry are willing to be wrong (as shown on their latest show). They’re happy to include and genuinely discuss comments from people that disagree with them, and they don’t have to ‘win’ the discussion.

I don’t think these ideas are rocket science, but many podcasts suffer from not doing one or more of these things.

Across The Sound iPhone Sponsorship – A Useful But Extreme Experiment

Joseph Jaffe has created some waves recently with his offer of sponsorship of his podcast in exchange for an iPhone.

This novel approach to monetizing a podcast is pretty controversial. Basically, on episode #83 of Across The Sound, Jaffe offered sponsorship of an episode of the podcast to the first user that sent him an iPhone. He followed that up two episodes later, offering one month of sponsorship in return for a Sony Vaio or MacBook laptop.

I have three thoughts on this.

  1. Kudos to Jaffe for coming up with another way to monetize his podcast. He’s been doing this for a while and he deserves the returns he’s generating from it. I also appreciate the novel approach – why not get a phone? Would there be the same controversy if it was money instead of the iPhone (Jaffe said the much same thing on ATS #84)? For Immediate Release (which I also enjoy) has sponsored segments, but there’s much less controversy . Why aren’t people upset with that? I have no problem with either concept.
  2. Equal kudos to Tim Coyne for pursuing this opportunity (Tim provided the first of the two iPhones that Jaffe received). Yes he’s promoting himself, but I applaud his creativity and dedication to developing his career. Some people are happy to sit back and take the hand that life deals them. He’s putting himself out there, and I fully support him in that. In fact, after finishing this post, I’m off to his site to offer up the little value I can.
  3. I do have one problem with this initiative. Episode #86 of Across the Sound, the first cast sponsored through this approach, was largely co-presented with Tim Coyne. The content wasn’t at all related to the usual content – the stuff that people subscribe to listen to. Most of the episode centred around Coyne’s efforts to get an audition for a TV show role. If Jo Jaffe does receive a laptop (in fact, he did), does that mean a whole month of his show will be filled with content unrelated to the usual value he offers? If it does, he may lose a whole lot of subscribers.

I have no problem with Jaffe getting some monetary benefit through his podcast. The same goes for all of the other PR/marketing-related podcasts I listen to (thanks to all you guys and others).

My concern is that Jaffe has taken the sponsorship idea too far. People don’t download podcasts to listen to ads; they tune in despite the ads, to listen to the valuable content. Without that, they’ll stop downloading. Without listeners, potential sponsors will lose interest. There needs to be a middle ground.

This approach seems like an experiment to me. As with all new things, mistakes will be made (as I pointed out in my last post). While I applaud the it, I hope that Jo will swing back slightly from the extreme sponsorship he has used here and toward an approach that will allow sponsorship of his podcast without permitting its takeover.

Media Pitches – Tips From The Other Side

Media pitches are a big part of any significant announcements, but have you ever wondered if we’re doing them well? If we’re drawing journalists into our stories, or driving them away? If we could pitch more effectively?

If you have, check out this Inside PR podcast where the hosts, David Jones and Terry Fallis, interview two producers from Breakfast Television and get some tips on pitching stories for TV (if you don’t have an MP3 player, don’t worry, you can play the show through the website).

Here are a few tips I gleaned from the interview:

  1. Be honest. If it’s not a good story, don’t pretend it is. The producers will remember, and while you may get coverage this time, they’re less likely to cover your future story when it really matters
  2. If you can add some spice to smaller announcements, you’re more likely to be successful. Think visuals, experts (especially controversial ones) or the people-angle
  3. Build a relationship with your media contacts. It won’t help you get coverage on a weak story, but your effectiveness will rise considerably if you know how they like to be reached (phone? Email?) and when (for Breakfast Television, between 9am-1pm)
  4. Bottom line up front. Your email subject should be, “World’s biggest pizza maker comes to town,” not, “Great story for Breakfast Television.” Producers don’t have time to dig down to find the news
  5. Be flexible with your ideas. The producers may suggest a different approach, or push back and ask for something else. If you want to get on the show, you may need to compromise on your original pitch
  6. Don’t get too comfortable. You may have dealt with a producer before, but that doesn’t mean you know it all. Give them all the information and let them choose
  7. Remember: this is a two-way street. You want coverage of your announcement; they want interesting TV. If you do your job well, everyone wins and you’re more likely to be well received next time you pitch a story.