We have to say it again: we miss Marshall McLuhan. His insights into how media, culture, and society all shape each other were intrinsic for navigating the dawn of 24/7 TV broadcasting in the mid-20th century. Marshall McLuhan would have had a field day with the Internet as it stands today.
We have no replacement, so we all have to be our own Marshall McLuhans and try to sort out the impact of digital media on our modern lives. Modern media leveled the playing field for everyone and cut the barrier to entry into the global conversation down to zero. We can plug into channels anywhere in the world and hear voices from the farthest reaches of Earth, at such convenience that the effort is trivial.
Do you know what was happening 100 years ago in the media? “Talkies,” by which we mean, sound in motion picture film. Blending audio into video to make a blended multimedia experience was new technology in the early 1920s, something which the industry took time to adopt. The first British “talkie” was the 1929 film Blackmail, where the technology was still new enough that they had to re-shoot part of the movie with sound, which had just become available to the studio. The director had to isolate the camera in a soundproof booth because it made too much noise.
That director’s name, by the way, was Alfred Hitchcock.
So, we’ve had a century to come from that to this. We have no “Alfred Hitchcock of podcasts” yet, at least not on a universally recognized level. We’re still grappling with what all these new media means to the development of human culture. In the same way that YouTube has made us all potential TV stars and blogs have made us all potential journalists and authors, podcasting has made us all potential radio talk show hosts.
Podcasting is Still a Frontier Medium
Podcasts came out at about the same time as blogs, in the early 2000s. Like blogs, podcasts were first popularized via RSS (really simple syndication) technology, on the crest of the first social media wave. Despite this, podcasts have taken a far longer time than blogs to catch on with the general population. This is likely because of several factors, namely that it takes a bit more technical know-how to both produce and access podcasts, and because they make for a greater time commitment than skimming a one-minute blog post.
Of course, podcasts were named after the Apple iPod, itself recent technology at the time, which just so happened to be the right-size device to deliver the emerging podcast medium to a whole generation of listeners. The iPod became the essential accessory for commuters, bikers, joggers, and anybody consuming media on the go. Later, mobile phones broadened the podcast audience to just about everyone.
The appeal of podcasts is that they don’t require as much engagement as reading a book or watching a documentary. You can easily play an episode or two while multitasking over cooking dinner or trimming the hedges. Podcasts have a tempo somewhere between an informal morning talk radio format and an overheard conversation between a couple of charismatic coworkers in the next cubicle. If you need an introduction to podcasts, TV Tropes, one of the Internet’s biggest rabbit holes, has an inviting selection of notable podcasts organized by genre.
You may be asking, “What’s the difference between a podcast and a YouTube channel?” The answer is: not that much! Podcasts are mainly focused on audio; some add video imagery as an afterthought, most are happy to display a static banner of the podcast over the video part. You can see podcasts as a “video optional” YouTube channel, more likely to play on Spotify than YouTube.
Four in ten Americans report tuning into a podcast, so it’s a medium that’s here to stay. But at the same time, podcasts are a more select media channel, with plenty of room to stake a claim. There are currently 850K active podcasts, which sounds like a lot, but isn’t when you compare it to 31 million YouTube channels or (deep breath…) over 600 million blogs in the world.
The vast number of blogs speak to their marketing potential, as a content strategy to attract new customers through search. Podcasts are now set up to grow for the same purpose because Google has begun indexing podcasts to make them as searchable as any text. That is a feat made possible by speech recognition technology, though the roll-out has been slow so far.
What Can Podcasting Do For Your Law Firm?
Podcasting works like any other piece of content on the Internet. Like blogging and social media, podcasts get your word out on the street, building your brand awareness, and reaching new prospective clients. Content marketing increases your credibility and builds trust with your audience. Produce enough content and you become a thought leader in your industry. Like all digital marketing tactics, podcasts are relatively cheap to produce and distribute.
But in addition to the benefits of the usual content marketing channels, podcasting also gives your law firm a voice. The podcast format is a cozy little talk show with just your firm partners or you and a guest, or even a solo host covering topics of the day. It goes great with a morning cup of joe or as entertainment for the commute into work. A podcast helps to make your firm personable and accessible to your audience.
It bears pointing out: the legal profession has an accessibility problem. Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the law. They’d rather avoid the subject because the law carries negative feelings when you find yourself on the wrong side of it. Nobody likes to be dragged into court. Even if you’re the plaintiff, having to attend a trial proceeding is an inconvenience at best. As a result of this stigma, the average citizen is shockingly under-informed about the law.
A podcast can be a friendly introduction to this “scary” subject. There are huge voids to fill in raising awareness of legal issues, even in the business-to-business sphere. This represents a great opportunity for legal podcasts.
If you want to launch a podcast, you can follow these simple steps:
- Identify your marketing goals and how podcasting will support them
- Develop a content marketing strategy, identifying your audience and the legal topics you’ll discuss
- Designate a podcast production team
- Work out a recording and publication schedule
- Secure means for the recording, editing, and uploading of content
- Produce your podcast show with personality, making it engaging and inviting
Lawyers do possess some public speaking skills, after all, at least within a courtroom context. You should also have a body of experience to draw from in consulting with clients, so you understand the “FAQs” that clients always ask. Putting this together with a friendly “fireside chat” format is a great way to educate the public and extend your brand’s reach.
One more unique benefit for law firms breaking into the podcast market: perhaps you’ve noticed, as a whole, that the legal industry doesn’t seem to contain many tech-savvy folks. There, we said it. You firms that still have a FAX machine buzzing in the corner know who you are. Podcasting gives you a leg up over your less technologically progressive competitors.
Podcasting: The Other Blogging
Podcasts are good for a lot more than just dumping onto a Spotify account. You can also transcribe them into textual content. We’ll have a “technical stuff” section below to tell you how. Since Google is going to be indexing podcasts, you can insert keywords just like you would any other SEO content. When you post a podcast episode, you can also optimize it with a summary, hitting those keywords again to make sure you rank for them.
Also like other content media, you can use it as part of your online promotional package. Podcast episodes give you something to hoot about on Twitter and Instagram. Be the hippest law firm on your block and share a snippet of your podcast on TikTok. Finally, “guest podcasting” is also a thing, so once you get into this medium’s subculture, you’re open to swap guest seats around with non-competing elements in your industry. This just means more exposure for you—and potential backlinks that help with SEO.
So, what should you do for content in a legal podcast? The above chart gives you some idea of the podcast market. Note that “legal” doesn’t even appear as a genre, unless it’s wrapped into the “business” category. Still, you can spot three things that saturate the podcast market: comedy, politics, and social issues. Maybe you want to stand out from the crowd by avoiding those three topic spaces, except for casting them in a legal context.
By all means, be warm and personable. Have some personality. The legal field could certainly stand to loosen up, but at large, the podcast world has enough clowns. Don’t let us discourage you if you can make the law funny though.
Another thing to decide is what format to go with. All of the above are available to you, and you can probably guess several legal topics that fit into each format:
- A monologue about the top mistakes accident victims make in personal injury cases.
- An interview with a human rights lawyer about things employees should know about workplace rights.
- A narrative of a landmark court case that set a new precedent in legal history.
- A multi-host show for legal news of the month.
- A round table discussion about what needs to change in the patent system.
- A documentary of a famous, news-grabbing court case.
As we mentioned before, there’s a huge knowledge gap in the public’s mind when it comes to legal issues. Think about the kinds of things that you find yourself explaining to clients over and over again. Those are the kinds of topics you can drive into the public mind on your podcast. Maybe next time a client has the same question, you can tell them “I made a podcast episode that answers that!”
Lawyerist has a list of recommended legal podcasts you can use for inspiration. They humbly put their own podcast at the top of the list, of course.
Here are a few brainstorm topic ideas you might be able to use, depending on your niche:
- Why did the judge rule that? Take a legal news story from today, such as a Supreme Court ruling, and break it down for laymen.
- Equality in the eyes of the law: Talk about civil rights, equal rights, and anti-discrimination policies in the workplace.
- Medicine and the law: Discuss medical malpractice and what claimants always need to know.
- Right law / wrong application: Explain why the First Amendment doesn’t mean that Facebook has to honor every piece of fake news posted there. Explain why the Second Amendment doesn’t give you the right to brandish a weapon at passing pedestrians. Be a legal Mythbusters team.
- Technology and the law: New tech is coming out all the time; how does it impact the legal profession? How will laws have to adapt to this new technology? How does this medium impact copyright law?
- Should have got a lawyer: Just for fun, take a popular TV show and insert a lawyer’s eye view into the proceedings. Did Tyrion Lannister have a sound defense in court on Game of Thrones? Aren’t some of these tech companies on Black Mirror liable for damages? Say you’re an unmasked villain on Scooby-Doo; how long can you expect to be put away? Use the familiarity of popular culture as a teaching moment for legal lessons.
You can technically dictate a podcast episode into your phone. But you really, really do not want to do that. To get an enjoyable episode that’s just like all the snazzy professional shows you hear out there, you’ll need a few tools:
- Microphone: The one that comes with your phone, tablet, or laptop is poor quality, which is why you think you don’t like how your voice sounds. Good microphones start around ~$100. You won’t believe how good you actually sound!
- Pop filter: This is the little plate you see professional recorders have in front of the microphone. It smooths out the rough consonants in human speech.
- Headphones: You want to be able to hear what you’re saying without mike interference, and hear other hosts or guests as applicable.
- A studio: Not much is needed here, but one quiet room free of passing police sirens and rumbling air conditioners is the minimum necessary.
- Teleconferencing: If you’re having virtual guests and interviews. Skype is the industry standard here.
- Recording and editing software: There’s Adobe Audition, Apple GarageBand, and the free and open-source Audacity for starters. You may need to study up on some sound engineer basics. It gets technical, but at the most basic level you’ll most often just be cutting and splicing recorded snippets.
- A platform to host your episodes: We’ve mentioned YouTube and Spotify so far. There’s also SoundCloud and BuzzSprout. You can also just FTP files over to your law firm’s website, or post them on your WordPress blog using a plugin such as Blubrry
- Transcription: Can be outsourced at Rev.com, cloud-sourced at Podcast.co, or you-sourced at SpeechNotes or Google’s speech-to-text. If you’re using an automated resource, give the text a once-over to clear up mistakes.
- As for software platforms: Any modern laptop system should be capable of doing everything you need to do, but multimedia recording artists tend to be attached to the Apple / Mac platform.
Do you have to do all this yourself? Really? No, you don’t!
UpWork is the premier marketplace to find remote talent online. We would recommend a secondary labor source, but UpWork is pretty much the only one worth mentioning. You can outsource part or all of the process of producing a podcast. In particular, it’s a great place to find audio techies who will help with the editing.
It is also possible to work with a freelancer to develop scripts or outlines for episode topics. Other parts of podcasting you might consider outsourcing are graphic design for your podcast logo and other visual elements to promote it, and audio effects or music if you want your podcast to have a nice jingle + special effects for atmospheric elements. These last details are a matter of taste, depending on how much of a hammy show you want to make of it.
You’ll note back there that legal podcasts are a field almost devoid of competition. That’s a shame, because many lawyers we’ve met are some of the most stimulating people to talk to. A lawyer with years experience in courtrooms has enough war stories to make for hours of entertainment. There’s bound to be some untapped talent out there.
Podcasts are an excellent way to build your brand reputation, support your SEO strategy, demonstrate your legal savvy, and most importantly, connect with potential clients. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your first podcast, today.