Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why People don't listen to Podcasts

Hang on, don't I have a successful weekly podcast that's been running for three years? Well, yes and no. "Podcast" is a term that was coined a few years ago to describe audio content placed on the web which could be downloaded onto an mp3 player. Since the Apple iPod was, and probably still is, the dominant brand in the mp3 player market, the audio files became known as "podcasts", because that is what they are called on iTunes.

For some time, I called the audio version of my email newsletter "The Media Coach Podcast". Then I spoke to some friends at a conference in New York. They showed me some research which indicated that the vast majority of Internet users had no idea what a podcast was, or that they could listen to it without downloading it to an iPod. I changed the name of my podcast to "The Media Coach Radio Show", and instantly found that the number or downloads tripled.

By the way, if you don;t know how to create an Internet Radio show, I wrote a guide to help you.

Creating a podcast is easy, and worthwhile, but what you call it is important too.

Monday, March 23, 2009

How to Promise and Deliver

You must promise something to your audience at the start of your speech, and you must deliver it before the end. That's because speeches are not like conversations. When we have a chat with someone, they get the chance to talk every few minutes. Our audiences, however, have the dubious pleasure of having to listen to us for up to forty minutes at a stretch. In order to make it worth their while, we have to give them something valuable.

We may give them new information, a new insight, or the motivation to change their behaviour. We may give them a combination of things. What is important is that when the applause dies down, they feel as though their time has been well spent. Some speakers prefer not to signal their intentions at the start of a speech. That's fine, as long as your message gets through loud and clear. I prefer to tell my audience what to expect, partly to ensure that they enter a state of eager anticipation.

If you promise to show people "three techniques to improve their business", then don't provide two, or even four (because then they will be confused). If you can bear to do it (and you should, if you are a professional), then contact the organiser afterwards to ask "what did people learn from my speech?" If the answer surprises you, then change your first line. If the answer is "nothing", change your whole speech. And if the answer is what you told them they would learn, ask them how you can help them implement it.

Whose copyright is it, anyway?

I'm prompted to write about copyright theft in the Internet following a series of sites publishing my book "The Pocket Media Coach" in digital format, for free download.

The response on Twitter to my experience has been interesting. Some people have been, like me, rather annoyed,and urged me to seek redress. Others have suggested that I focus on the positive aspects, such as wider name recognition and brand awareness. However, it is the third group that has puzzled me.

More than a few people have sent me messages suggesting that all content on the Internet should be free. One even suggested that it was an inevitable, and probably justifiable, outcome for "ripping people off with your digital products in the first place". I see.

So let's consider the position. Firstly, the book was published in traditional form. No digital version was published or marketed. The unknown copyright thieves have either re-typed it or scanned it in. Secondly, it is a piece of original work created by me, and it seems only fair that I should be able to decide whether to give it away or not.

But what about music copyright? Am I hypocritical for digitising my CD and record collection to put on my iPod? I think not. To begin with, I paid for the vinyl or CD in the first place. What's more, the digital version is only for my own use. I'm being consistent, in my view.

What's to be done? Probably nothing. Consider this an extended whinge. I just had to tell someone. I'd be interested in your view though.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Are we human, or are we chancers?

I don't know about you, but I like to have a relationship with a real person, not a machine.

On lots of social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, I see more and more automated messages, whether as replies, or even worse, as automatic Tweets about what's happening on the Internet.

Frankly, I find the whole thing somewhat rude.

So I block the senders, a habit I'm having to indulge in several times a day on Twitter, where some users send up to 30 news-related tweets at exactly the same time, presumably with no knowledge that they are doing it.

You'd think that people who used social media regularly would know better than to take a chance on losing followers Fewer, more personal messages, would be much more effective. Sending hundreds of soulless messages is not raising your profile, it's just silly.

So are you human, or are you a chancer?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Seven ways to ruin a press release

Press releases are vital tools in the PR armoury. Here are seven ways that you could end up firing blanks;

1. Have no obvious angle or hook. Journalists need to have an angle for every story. If your press release doesn't have one in the first few words, it will end up in the bin.

2. Deliver an old story. There must be an element of "news". If the story has been covered before, or happened a long time ago, there won't be any journalistic interest

3. Have a confusing headline. Does your headline pass the "poster test"? Trying to be too clever, with puns or double meanings, can backfire.

4. Cram in too much information. If the story is not obvious, the release is not doing its job.

5. Don't bother with quotes. In order to give real interest to a story, quotes are vital.

6. Avoid any controversy. Don't be boring - would you read a boring article?

7. Give only email contact details. Better make sure you take your computer to bed if you do this.