Podcasts offer an innovative way to reach out to clients and colleagues.
Podcasts, or digital media files, are a convenient, cost-effective way for commercial real estate professionals to reach existing clients, attract new business, and demonstrate the value of their companies’ intellectual property. Businesses also can use podcasts to communicate with and train employees. While this technology is not yet an industry standard, podcasts have the potential to change the way commercial real estate companies manage both internal and external communications.
Who’s Using Podcasts?
A handful of commercial real estate groups currently are using podcasts as general business and marketing tools, particularly to share local market information. For example, Starboard TCN Worldwide produces a weekly podcast highlighting commercial real estate investment opportunities in the San Francisco Bay area (www.starboardnet.com/podcast/index.html).
The International Real Estate Trade Organization, a professional membership organization for international real estate professionals, produces a “Global Real Estate News” podcast that features expert interviews and news about market trends and business strategies the Global Real Estate Network recommends (www.ireto.org/globalrealestatenews/index.htm).
Other companies using podcasts as marketing tools include KC Capital, an Austin, Texas–based commercial real estate financing source. On the company Web site (www.kccapital.com) Todd Kuhlmann, CCIM, president of KC Capital, presents a message about KC Capital’s history and services in an audio/video podcast.
With the business development opportunities that podcasts present, it’s fortunate that creating them is reasonably simple. For a basic audio podcast, users only need a headset, a computer, and a Microsoft Windows recording application.
Several other recording applications are available, ranging from high-end programs with numerous sound-editing features to basic free or shareware programs. Audacity, a popular free audio editor, allows users to cut, paste, and copy parts of recordings and compress, amplify, and equalize sound. The program also allows podcasters to download sound-effect plug-ins such as vacuum tube audio, which gives speakers an old-fashioned, friendlier sound, and pinpoint sound removal, which allows users to isolate background sounds and remove them from the recording.
Similarly, there are several recording and editing programs available for videocasts, which are a useful option for virtual tours. While some programs offer simple sound editing, others allow users to create newsroom-style videocasts using green-screen technology. Still, audio podcasts are easier to produce and distribute to listeners.
While nearly anyone can create a podcast, several factors distinguish high-quality professional files from basic files. For example, low-quality sound can make listeners — potential clients — impatient. Professional sounding podcasts are created using specialized sound-processing programs that allow pinpoint editing of digital sound files, insertion of music or remote reports, and mixing of sound effects and ambient sound from location reports.
Applying normalization and compression sound editing to a podcast also gives more-professional results. Normalization moves all recordings to their highest volume and compression adjusts the disparity between voices so that listeners still can hear emphasis and peaks in intonation, but everything is at the same volume. Podcasters can learn more about basic sound recording at www.record-producer.com, www.podcastingnews.com, and blog.holtz.com.
Getting the Word Out
Once commercial real estate professionals have created podcasts, they need to deliver them to the intended audience. “One of the challenges right now is marketing a podcast,” says Shel Holtz, a Concord, Calif.–based public relations expert and co-host of podcast “For Immediate Release,” which has about 500 regular public relations industry listeners. To gain exposure, Holtz recommends that podcasters “get listed in all of the podcast directories.”
A variety of online podcast directories are available. A few of the popular ones include www.podcast.net, which categorizes programs by topic. Another site, www.weblogs.com, automatically lists all new podcasts when they are broadcast. The site www.podcastalley.com features helpful forums for podcasters to exchange tips and software links for creating and downloading podcasts.
Aside from listing with directories, it’s essential for commercial real estate companies to place podcasts on their Web sites to gain maximum exposure. To take the process a step further, commercial real estate pros can use Really Simple Syndication technology to distribute their podcasts to subscribers. Podcasts can be listed on RSS feeds free and simply require traditional marketing methods to let colleagues and clients know that they exist.
RSS technology alerts subscribers that new Web content has been added to a site by creating a separate page of code that updates whenever the related Web page is altered. RSS subscribers use special Web sites called aggregators, or software feed reader programs, to monitor their favorite Weblogs. When a new item is posted to a blog monitored by a subscriber, the RSS technology alerts them to the news. It’s similar to receiving e-mail messages in an inbox.
RSS technology has distinct advantages, particularly the ability to monitor subscribers’ online actions related to a podcast. “One of the things this does for small businesses is to give them a low-barrier entry into some of the media that has been available only to companies with bigger budgets,” Holtz says.
While music clips and other sound bites can add to a podcast’s quality, even the most sophisticated broadcasters sometimes are baffled by the thicket of permissions that must be obtained to use recordings from well-known artists and put off by the high cost of doing so.
An alternative is podcast-friendly music, or recordings produced by independent musicians and recording labels that are willing to allow Internet broadcasters to promote their work. One such site is www.garageband.com, which features all genres of music from largely unknown musicians.