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June 6, 2007
Using Podcasting to Create an Image

In the first 3.5 months of 2007, Mignon Fogarty was featured on the front page of CNN.com and written about in BusinessWeek and USA Today (twice). She even made an appearance on Oprah as her grammar expert. In early 2007 at a Python conference in Texas, Ron Stephens was treated like royalty, he was given a framed copy of a book cover by a leading author in the Python world, he was interviewed by the press and given many a pat on the back and "thank you"s by other attendees.

Why did Mignon and Ron get all this attention? Both became podcasters. In late July 2006, Mignon launched a podcast called Grammar Girl, and in just 6 short months, she was looked at as an expert in grammar. Ron launched a podcast called Python411 and quickly became a connector in the Python world.

Podcasting is essentially the creation of an Internet radio or TV show. Historically, being the host of a radio or TV show created an air of authority in whatever topic you were talking about. Dr. Ruth, Dr. Phil and Bob Vila all are looked at as experts in what they talk about and are actively pursued to make appearances at conferences and other media events. Podcasting is starting to have the same effect for a number of the hosts that are already out there. One of the reasons for the attention some of these podcasters have seen can be attributed to the small number of people actually podcasting. It is estimated that there are less than 60,000 active podcasts versus over 70 million for the number of blogs being tracked by Technorati. So yes, there is still time for you to get in the game and make a difference.

Before we go any further, we need to say that podcasting is not for everyone. To succeed with a podcast, you need to have a subject you are passionate about and you really do need to know what you are talking about (as is the case with Mignon and Ron). A wise person once said, “It is better to sit quietly and have them think you are an idiot than to open one's mouth and remove all doubts.”

But let's assume you do know what you are talking about, and you do have a subject you are passionate about. So, what does it take to become a podcaster? Well actually, the answer is very little, at least in the way of money and equipment (see www.podcast411.com/free to learn how to podcast for free). You could have a podcast with decent sound quality for little more than a $20 investment in a USB mic. The biggest commitment you will need to make is one of your time. Podcasting takes a fair amount of time to prepare for, record, edit and upload.

It is very important to remember that when doing a podcast, you need to make the show worth the time of the listeners. Unlike with traditional radio and TV, people are not just going to stumble upon your show—they have to make a conscious decision to hit the play button for your latest episode. To build a loyal audience, it largely comes down to one: supplying great content and two: a commitment on your part to release a show on a consistent schedule. Simply going out and telling people how great you are will not get you any listeners. It is much better to share your knowledge with the listeners and give them something that makes their decision to hit play seem like a good one.

The rewards, if you produce your podcast right, are such that you can clearly distinguish yourself from your fellow workers or competitors. Think about it: would you rather introduce yourself at the next conference as simply John Doe from company XYZ or as Jane Doe from company XYZ and host of the “Really Important Sounding” show? All things equal, which person do you think gets the attention of your boss’ boss or your next client? With a podcast that is well executed, you can create a perception of expertise and set yourself apart from your peers.

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Rob Walch is the Director of New Media for INK Inc. PR in Kansas City, Missouri. Prior to joining INK, Rob was President and Founder of podCast411, Inc. Additionally, Rob is Co-Author of the book Tricks of the Podcasting Masters (Que Publishing 2006), which was an editors pick as a Top 10 Reference book for 2006 by Amazon.com. rwalch@inkincpr.com

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