How to podcast (on the cheap and dirty)

I love podcasting – it’s simple, it’s cost-effective, and it’s easy to get podcasts out on the web and aggregate them to thousands of people. But there’s this (incorrect) belief that podcasting is expensive (you have to use a studio), that you have to have a sound engineer to edit the files (anyone can do it), and that podcasting is still niche.

Efforts are being made to break down these evil podcasting myths; the inaugural Middle East Podcast Forum, which was held last month, being one example of industry-wide efforts to educate non-Podcasters. I want to add to this, in my own way, and break down some taboos. And if you are a serious podcaster, please don’t hate me.

Step One – Recording the Podcast

This is the easiest part (no really, it is). All you need is a good phone, such as an iPhone or a Google Android, and an app such as Voice Memos. So, rather than me explain it in words, I’ll show you how to do this. Just remember to choose a quiet location.

You can buy mics to plug into your phone, to improve the sound quality. There’s lots out there for the 3.5mm jack, but there are also options for the iPhone lightning connector.

Step Two – Editing the Audio File

Right, you’ve done the recording. So, what’s next? You’ll need to ensure that your file is in the right format. If I’ve used Voice Memos, the file will need to be changed from a m4a format to mp3, which I prefer. Use a site such as Zamzar to convert your file.

Next up is editing the clip itself. There’s a host of programs you can use. My preferred, which is also free, is Realplayer Trimmer. There’s others you can use. Another program, which is also free, is Audacity. My job is simple – I chop off the audio I don’t want at the beginning and the end, and then save the file.

What I do then is add intro and exit music. This makes the podcast sound much more professional, and it gives your podcast series a consistent sound.

You then need to choose your intro and exit music for the podcast. Use or another music library to choose music that fits the overarching podcast area of interest. You’ll need 15 second clips, and some sites such as already have the music chopped up for you. Do remember that this music will be used on every one of your podcasts, so be comfortable with the music, as you should not change it.

So, you’ve got your intro and exit music. How do you add it into your podcast? Here’s a video showing you how you top and tail your audio file in Audacity.

Step Three – Hosting and Marketing Your Podcast

So, now you have your final audio file. What do you do next? You need to 1) host and 2) submit your podcast to streaming services such as iTunes. I’m not going to go into detail here. Instead, for hosting check out a site such as Soundcloud, which has a handy podcasting guide on how to set up your hosting with them.

For submitting your podcast to streaming services such as iTunes for Podcasts, have a look at this very handy guide.

And that’s it! Now go and Podcast!

Periscope, Meerkat and why communicators should be live-streaming events

Are you going to make the most of live-streaming services such as Meerkat (left) or Periscope to better communicate your story?

Are you going to make the most of live-streaming services such as Meerkat (left) or Periscope to better communicate your story?

We all love video delivered via the internet, and now there’s several more reasons to love video on the internet. The online community has been raving about the launch of live streaming video apps such as the Twitter-owned Periscope and Meerkat. I’m also excited, but for a different reason. Both Periscope and Meerkat open up a whole world of possibilities for public relations and communication professionals. These live streaming services, both of which were launched this year, will push us further down the line, towards visual communication and away from the old mantra of press releases and traditional media.

Apps such as Periscope and Meerkat enable any and everyone with an iPhone or Android-based smartphone to live stream, at no additional cost and with high-quality streaming. As a communicator, we can now capture and share our stories worldwide or to a select group through Twitter or directly via the apps as the story happens. Live streaming applications are already being used by journalists and commentators in the UAE. Dr James Piecowye of Dubai Eye (@jamesEd_me) and Khaled AlAmeri of The National (@KhaledAlAmeri) are both using Periscope – James to actually stream his radio show live every night as well as events such as Creative Mornings Dubai, Khaled to live stream his views on current affairs. With Periscope, users can comment during the live-stream which in turn fuels the conversation and promotes engagement.

On the PR News website Mark Renfree sums up eloquently why live streaming apps such as Periscope and Meerkat should matter to PR pros.

1) Capture and share the moment as it happens. Live streaming is here and people are using it. Politicians are giving speeches, celebrities are providing fans with virtual backstage access and people are watching their friends make sandwiches using live streaming apps. During a catastrophic fire in New York’s East Village on Thursday, journalists and citizens used live streaming apps to document and share the tragedy as it developed.

2) PR pros can provide a whole new type of content. Streaming apps offer communicators a whole new way to engage their audiences—whether they’re consumers, employees or the general public. Everything from shareholder meetings to PR stunts can now be broadcast and, specifically with Periscope, saved and posted on other channels.

3) Live streaming can give communicators increased control over messages. Streaming apps allow communicators to broadcast content themselves, a task that was usually left to journalists and the news media. Periscope and Meerkat eliminate the middle man between communicators and their audiences.

4) This opens up a new chapter for the hot-mic problem. Nearly everyone, everywhere is now carrying a live streaming video camera. For individuals and brands in the spotlight, these apps are adding to an environment in which there is already little reprieve from the ever-watchful eye of the public.

How to avoid the speed cameras in Saudi with Twitter

If you're looking for a way to beat the Saudi speed traps look no further than Twitter!

If you’re looking for a way to beat the Saudi speed traps look no further than Twitter!

Saudis are ingenious. And they don’t like to be told what to do. When you combine the two the results are imaginative to say the least. I’m late to the game on this one but I was intrigued when a family member showed me the latest attempt to beat Saher, the country’s traffic cameras which have been fining speeding Saudi drivers ever since they were installed back in 2010.

The friend opened up his phone, went to his Twitter feed and clicked through on to one Twitter account, named @SaherKR. This feed can be used by followers to alert their fellow Formula One drivers of any mobile or fixed Saher cameras, checkpoints, or any other inconveniences on the road between Riyadh and Qasim. One example is below.

There’s dozens of these accounts today in Saudi. My favourite is @Saher_khj which is followed by 10,000 Twitterers and gives all the details needed to avoid speed traps including the exact area of the camera, the speed limit and the time of day the user has passed by the camera.

I am left asking myself however how these people have the time to write a 140 character message while most likely doing 150 kilometers an hour in their Toyota Camrys or Hyundai Accords. Maybe that’s why their driving is so erratic as they’re shuffling their fingers across their iPhones whilst attempting to steer the car?

This isn’t the first time that the Saudis have used technology to overcome pesky government interference. The first widely reported solution was a mobile phone application called Trapster which alerted drivers via their iPhones of speed cameras in the vicinity. The application proved so popular that mobile phone shops were charging customers over $100 dollars to install on the iPhone. The application itself was free (if you don’t believe me, it’s printed in the media so it must be true).

And the fun part of this detective work? The family member who showed me all of these Tweets works as a senior manager in the Saudi Interior Ministry and is responsible for road safety. Boys, they know who you are and where you are! Ticketing by Twitter? Sounds good to me!

Bahrain’s order to reinstate unemployed employees, students and #BHSacked

The recent events in Bahrain have been covered from a to z locally, regionally and globally. Much of the conflict between the government, its supporters and opponents has gone online. Bahrain has seen a surge in the use of social media this year both pro-government and pro-protestors.

As the conflict in Bahrain has ebbed and flowed much of the debate has gone online. One group of Bahrainis who have been particularly vocal have been those who lost their jobs and university places due to their actions and views which they expressed publicly.

This group, led in part by the medics sacked from Salmaniya Hospital and other medical institutions, have been pushing for their reinstatement. The campaign, much of which has been directed online via Twitter and Facebook, has been given added impetus by the findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report which investigated human rights abuses committed following the events of 2011 in Bahrain.

In its report, on pages 406 and 407, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry called for the reinstating of those who were fired from their posts. To quote verbatim from point 1664.

More generally, the report confirmed that, following on from HM King Hamad’s Eid speech, it was decided that there would be no further dismissals when the remaining 1,423 cases were reviewed. The maximum penalty upon review would be a 10-day suspension from work and salary. In other words, 1,423 dismissals by the public bodies have been overturned by the CSB and these people have already gone back to work on normal pay.

Despite the official statements there still seem to be many on the island who have not returned to work. Protests have been ongoing before the release of the BICI report at the end of November. Activities by those demanding their reinstatement has been stepped up over the past week. These protests have been extensively covered online via social media. Using the hashtag #BHSacked protesters have extensively uploaded pictures and videos of their protests.

One of the sacked doctors today protesting outside Bahrain's Ministry of Labor

They’ve also sent their messages to prominent journalists on twitter such as @nickkristof. Check out the link for a video shot from an iPhone today at the protests outside Bahrain’s Ministry of Labor.

What’s most interesting from a corporate communications point of view is how many of those who support this group have set up their own twitter accounts in the name of companies who have laid people off, including Alba and Gulf Air. Here’s a link to one tweet from a profile called antiBatelco (I’d love to embed but Twitter still hasn’t rolled out the option yet). They’ve used company logos for their account profile pictures. None of the companies affected seems to have taken to social media to defend their actions.

So what does the government of Bahrain do? What can it do? Not much legally, seeing as the human rights commission appointed by the King himself has stated that those who were fired be reinstated to their jobs. There’s little hope that people will fade away after a period of time either. As those protesting are both unemployed and educated there’s little hope that they’ll either stop protesting or taking their cause online.

The difference today is how social media and the use of images and video can keep a campaign running and running. Both sides in Bahrain have been quick to take up the use of online tools to argue their cases. However, digital media changed who now has the most share-of-voice and influence. Social media has exacerbated that shift. A group of motivated and IT-savvy activists with a couple of iPhones and Blackberries with internet connections can now challenge their governments. Where do we go from here? For those protesting back in Bahrain, it’s to get back to work.