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    Marketing: Cutting-edge Marketing: The Legal Podcast

    Using podcasts to market your law firm is smart, easy, and inexpensive.

    Robert B. Teuber

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 8, August 2008

    Marketing

    Cutting-edge Marketing: The Legal Podcast

    Using podcasts to market your law firm is smart, easy to do, inexpensive, and oh so today.

    by Robert B. Teuber

    Sidebar:

    It is no secret that businesses are turning to new technologies to market their services or products. One cutting-edge technology is the use of audio or video presentations, commonly called "podcasts,"1 that can be easily accessed online via a computer. Podcasts provide a perfect vehicle for businesses (including law firms) to communicate with prospective clients and to market a particular skill set.

    Podcasts already are being used in a variety of industries. Accounting firms, hospitals, tourism boards, and others have turned to podcasts to communicate the same underlying marketing message: Contact us when you need the services we provide.2

    Attorneys, however, have been slow to embrace this new marketing medium. This reluctance is likely a result of questions concerning the time, cost, and energy involved in creating a podcast program. Fortunately, creating podcast programs can take very little of each.

    What is a Podcast?

    In its simplest sense, a podcast is a digital recording of a presentation that is posted on the Internet. A podcast can be either an audio or a video recording. Once the podcast is online, it can be viewed or listened to directly on the Web site via computer or it can be downloaded and saved on a computer, compact disc, or personal audio player (such as an iPod) for later viewing and listening.

    Podcasts can be used to convey information in much the same way that attorneys do when they speak at a seminar. The difference is that the podcast is an online presentation that will be available to a much larger audience.

    How to Create a Podcast Program

    Before launching a podcast program, an attorney must consider the program content, mechanics, and maintenance. The technical issues can be left in the hands of the firm's Web site manager, but the attorney should be involved in how the podcast Web page looks and what message it sends. The Web page should include a podcast directory that lists and describes each recording.

    Content. The topics covered by the podcasts should be tailored for specific audiences. No matter the particular practice area, recurring questions will provide perfect content for a podcast. In fact, the attorney already may have prepared speeches or articles on such topics. These can be easily recorded into a podcast. Additional content can be based on legislative and case law developments and practice area updates.

    Mechanics. To create an audio podcast, a presentation can be recorded directly onto a computer using a digital microphone. The presentation should be re-recorded and edited until it is acceptable to the presenter. The attorney then creates a title and a description. Finally, the firm's Web site manager or information technology (IT) department or a tech savvy attorney converts the recording to an MP3 audio file format that can be published to the firm's Web site.

    Robert Teuber

    Robert Teuber, Marquette 2000, is a tax and corporate attorney with Weiss Berzowski Brady LLP, Milwaukee and Delafield.

    Creation of a video podcast is likely to be more time consuming and costly. A law firm might decide to hire an outside film production company if it wants the video to look more professional. The attorney or firm should avoid using a low-resolution webcam because the poor-quality picture may negatively reflect on the practice. Video technology is evolving, and some small, hand-held video devices produce a good result.

    The podcasts should be made available to prospective clients through an RSS feed. RSS, commonly considered an acronym for "Really Simple Syndication,"3 provides a mechanism to syndicate a firm's audio and video podcasts across the Internet. All prospective clients need do is click on the RSS feed icon, and any newly created podcasts will be delivered directly to their Web browsers. This is an effortless way to reach an already interested audience with new content. The RSS feed also will allow a firm to post its podcasts on Apple's iTunes and on numerous podcast directories found online.

    Maintenance. Once the program is launched, maintaining the content is important. New podcast content should be added periodically so that the attorney or firm can obtain maximum value from the initial cost and time investment. Therefore, every time an attorney presents at a seminar, he or she should record the presentation as a podcast. This will ensure that new podcasts are added to the Web site regularly. If an attorney writes an article, the attorney should consider recording a short podcast on the topic.

    There also are reasons why firms should occasionally purge the podcast program of certain content. Most importantly, a firm should remove content that is no longer current. Perhaps a court's decision has modified the understanding of the law, new legislation has nullified a court ruling, or an amnesty program has lapsed. In these situations, the podcast discussing the topic should be removed or updated. A firm also might remove podcasts if the presenting attorney has left the firm. Another reason to remove (or at least archive) material is simply the age of the recording. The Internet frequently is viewed as a source of current information. A user who hears or sees significantly dated material on a podcast may be left with the impression that the firm's entire Web site contains outdated information.

    Cost Concerns

    Creating an audio podcast is simple and inexpensive. The upfront cost is about $100, for a microphone. The computer software used for creating and editing the podcasts can be found free on the Internet. A program called Audacity, for example, can be downloaded online and should meet all of an attorney's audio podcasting needs. A video podcast might be more expensive, depending on the extent of the production, but a video nonetheless can be made at a reasonable price.

    Additional costs will depend largely on how a firm decides to put the recorded content online. If a firm handles its Web site maintenance in-house, the existing IT staff can create the podcast directory and upload the content. For smaller firms, and for firms that outsource their Web site maintenance, the cost of creating the directory and adding the podcasts should be discussed with the Web site design company the firm uses. Once the initial outlay for creating the podcast Web page has been made, future expenses likely will be only for hosting the added content on the company's servers, for uploading new content, and possibly for running reports that help the firm evaluate its content by identifying which podcasts visitors are downloading and how often.

    Legal Issues

    Certain legal issues must be considered in developing a podcast program. A firm should be aware of applicable copyright and trademark laws, just as the firm is when it adds content in any other format to its Web site. The attorney or firm should cite sources as appropriate and, particularly when creating video podcasts, should be certain not to use images, logos, or other protected content without proper approval. Additionally, the attorney or firm should avoid adding material to podcasts that could subject the attorney or firm to defamation claims.4

    Use a disclaimer to set the parameters of a podcast's use. The podcast directory page should include a written disclaimer explaining that the presentations are for informational purposes only, do not constitute legal advice, and do not establish an attorney/client relationship. The disclaimer also should explain that the law may change over time and may apply differently to varying facts and circumstances. Moreover, because a podcast can be syndicated across the Internet, consider including a spoken disclaimer as part of the podcast. This is the only way to ensure that the disclaimer always accompanies the podcast.

    As in all situations, attorneys should consider the applicability of the rules of professional conduct. In regard to podcasts, SCR sections 20:7.1-7.5 imply that a podcast discussing legal issues in the same fashion as a written article is not subject to the rules governing lawyer advertising. Moreover, even if podcasts are considered to be advertisements, they would likely withstand scrutiny under SCR 20:7.2. However, these conclusions could change depending on how a podcast is recorded. If the podcast is nothing more than a commercial as may be seen on television or heard over the radio (rather than a discussion of a legal issue), then the podcast could constitute advertising. However, provided that such a podcast is not misleading and otherwise complies with the ethics rules, it should pass muster under SCR 20:7.2.

    Benefits of Podcasting

    Law firms cannot simply rely on a brochure-style Web site to channel business to a firm. Attorneys now must determine how to add content to their Web sites to distinguish themselves as a cut above the competition. Adding podcasts to a firm's Web site can make the Web site into a multimedia marketing tool that leads to new clients.

    Because podcasts might be considered cutting edge by a customer base that is increasingly Internet-savvy, developing a podcast program can convey an image of expertise on the topics discussed. Some potential clients might think that if the speaker has a podcast on a topic, he or she must be knowledgeable in the area.

    The addition of podcasts to a Web site is an inexpensive extension of the marketing tactics with which most attorneys are already familiar. Newsletters, articles, and speeches are commonplace in the legal community. Each of these marketing tools can be converted easily into an online presentation that reaches a much broader audience. Attorneys should stop thinking of the Internet simply as a research tool; instead, they should see it as a vehicle that allows direct communication with clients, prospective clients, and referral sources. Podcast programs are ideally suited for the Internet. Given the minimal cost and time commitment involved in producing podcasts, there is little justification for not creating them.

    Endnotes

    1The term is a portmanteau of the words "iPod" and "broadcast," the Apple iPod being the brand of portable media player for which the first podcasting scripts were developed. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podcast.

    2The use of podcasts is not limited to any one industry. Currently they are being used by hospitals, accounting firms, some law firms, and many others. Specific examples of organizations using podcasts include: Aurora Healthcare (healthcare) <www.aurorahealthcare.org/yourhealth/podcast/index.asp >; Deloitte & Touche (accounting) <www.deloitte.com>; Weiss Berzowski Brady LLP (law) <www.wbb-law.com/podcast>; Eagle River, Wisconsin (tourism) <www.eagleriver.org/video.asp>; 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (government) <www.ca7.uscourts.gov>; Internal Revenue Service (government) <www.IRS.gov>.

    3http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/rss_(file_format) .

    4These and other issues are discussed in the Podcasting Legal Guide (http://wiki.creativecommons.org/podcasting_legal_guide ) © 2006 Colette Bogele of Bogele & Associates, Mia Garlick of Creative Commons and the Berkman Center Clinical Program in Cyberlaw. This guide was produced as part of the nonresidential fellowship program of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.




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