Thursday, April 26, 2007

Podcasting at a Glance

Podcasting...well I'm one of those former DJ's from years gone by finding a way to actually use my early experience to produce audiocast for the U.S. Forest Service. No matter what you want to call the our case it's a customized audio file that we produce to provide information to the public. No it's not all about music as teenagers would like to believe.
Here's a link to the Black Hills National Forest Podcast Web site.

In developing a Podcast, I first think about a topic that needs further discussion besides a text only News Release. The Forest tries our best to produce multimedia Press Releases. If you have the time and employees to produce content, then throw a little video, audio and a few high quality pictures in the mix to create a multimedia News Release.

Before I get ahead of myself, let's talk more about the production side of a Podcast. Now that you have chosen a topic, coordinate with subject matter experts to join around a small table to chat. The Black Hills National Forest calls our audio & videocast content ForestNet.

I have a standard introduction that identifies the show, the topic and our guest. Once that's over, we move into the questions. Hey...don't worry about messing up. Remember it's not a live show...start over at the point you tripped up. At the end, Close out the show with thanking your guest for joining you and remind folks who your guest was and the topic of the show. The Host says goodbye and then export the audio file to audio editing software.

I use Sound Forge audio editing software. It was $69.00 at Best Buy. Apple Quick Time Pro is approved by the U.S. Forest Service for downloading and is only $29.00. I have ordered the software and look forward to using it to produce future Podcast.

Once your in the editing mode, clip out all the mistakes you may have encountered. Take :10 sec of music and place it in the front and fade into your intro. At the end, fade out with music and your closing. Save your audio file to a server and export it as an Mp3 file and upload to a Blog.
Yep a Blog. I have created a Blog similar to Social Media. Take a look how I use it to deliver my content to the public. At the site, you see a brief description or News Release, video and audio files as well. Posting your content to a Blog can help push your content out to the world. In my case, all the content is in the Public Domain and I'm just sharing the content the Forest produces. Google picks up the topic and it becomes searchable. Unfortunately, my Government website isn't very attractive to Google.
The Forest outsources our streaming content with an outside vendor called Streamhoster. The Forest Service gave us permission to link to the external site. I'm sure it want be long the FS will be able to stream content from its own servers. The bandwidth that audio and video files take up when delivering can be a pain if the system isn't designed for that type of service. Streamhoster allows us to keep up with the number of hits on our content and actually provides you with an URL once your file is uploaded. You don't have to chat with anyone. It's that fast!

Once the Blog is established and your file is on a server, visit Feedburner to develope an RSS Feed for your Blog. Once it's working well, iTunes will soon be scanning your Blog with the help of Feedburner to alert the world you have new mulitmedia content on your site. Wow...that was fun explaining.
You can also see U.S. Forest Service content from the Black Hills of South Dakota in iTunes under keyword: black hills.
Better go for now. In closing, I have a great passion for this type of work and would be more than happy to share my work with anyone wanting to explore this emerging technology.
Everyday is research and development...isn't this fun.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Short Notes from 4/10-12 Social Media Summit

Attended Social Media Summit held by American Learning Institute a couple of weeks ago with 50-70 others from all walks of industry and agencies. Great primer on philosophy of social media as well as some great tips and ideas passed along from presenters from social media industries.

Here are some short takes and lessons learned from the summit:

Think big; start small; scale up

The dialogue about our organization is out there happening- we can choose to be a part of it or we can stick our head in the sand.

If the USFS doesn’t participate it will not stay relevant in today’s or tomorrow’s discussions.

Candor is expected & respected

Blogs should contain insight not found in other locations- don’t just regurgitate info.

Don’t wait for crisis to start participating- build credibility (earn your way in).

It’s all about people to people communications- blogs build relationships

Don’t be dissuaded by the current content of blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other social media. Look through that to what the tools can accomplish if used in a business sense.

Leadership must become comfortable with multi-directional cross influencing. Past information flow was usually top down or bottom up- today’s information is crossing all lines as well as flowing up and down. Makes most traditional leaders uncomfortable- apparent loss of control of messaging. Orgs must cede levels of control in order to credibly participate in the conversation.

In persuading leadership:

Focus on benefits, not technology or risks- most won’t understand technology and
will be risk averse.
Don’t position this as something completely new- fear of the radical change.
We’ve moved through e-mail, Blackberries, etc.- this is just the next step.

Use betas and move quickly- deploy beta and let it loose on the users. They’ll let
you know whether or not it’s any good & what needs changing.

Don’t get hung up on measurement- these tools are inexpensive and easy to
change; if it takes off, the users will make the business case.

Create blog policy before beginning internal or external blogging

Sun Microsystems policy: (1) Be interesting
(2) Don’t be stupid
(3) We will not back you in a lawsuit
Politeness rules: No sex, religion, politics or profanity
Leadership writes their own blogs- no ghost writing! If they don’t have the time or
capability- don’t blog!!

Blog on a regular schedule & be up front, casual & conversational.

Gain a champion within the FS- Kimbell ??

Monitor your own blogs, not just the blogs talking about you. Thank bloggers when they get info right about your organization.

Use blogs to drive readers to value-rich content.

Gotchas: Legal
Corporate culture
Review processes (legal, PAO, line officers)
Recognizing where this technology doesn’t fit

Control the employee bloggers, not the posts!!

Find great bloggers that have: (1) personality
(2) motivation
(3) skills
and I’ll add: TIME

Builds Word of Mouth: (1) Give people and interesting topic
(2) Use Social Media tools

No matter what you think the FS is, it is what our users see/get/experience.

Blogs/social media are a permanent record.

If you want to view some of the presentations from the summit:

My Fire Space

Some in the fire organization are using a public internet site called My Fire Community to exchange information and share personal experiences. How can we make it easier for our folks to get where they need and want to go?