FIR Speakers and Speeches: Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz on Building Community with Podcasting

raganamsterdam_smNeville Hobson and Shel Holtz co-presented a session on the second day of Ragan Communications’ Public Relations and Social Media Summit at ING House in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on April 12, 2012. The session covered how a podcast can transform independent listeners into an engaged community.

The presentation included audio clips of familiar FIR voices including correspondents Dan York and Michael Netzley, as well as other PR podcasters, and explored how the communities these podcasts build can be attained by businesses.

You can listen while following along with the PowerPoint deck below:

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(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)

16 business podcasts worth listening to


As a podcaster, I listen to quite a few other communication-related business podcasts. Finding good ones (always a rather subjective term) isn’t easy, though.

I’ve previously lamented the lack of really compelling business audio other than radio that I can listen to in the car or at my desk or when walking around the supermarket. In the UK, there’s plenty of choice for comedy, music and mainstream-produced business content but not so much the personal, informal and friendly niche content from people like, well, Shel and me.

As I hear similar thinking from quite a few people I know, I’m here to offer you a solution to the dilemma, one that stares me in the face every time I write the show notes for the For Immediate Release podcasts that Shel and I present – our recommended listening chart of other podcasts, that appears in the sidebar on our podcast blog.

In this post, I’ve made a list of compelling listening that I’m sure you’ll enjoy if you haven’t discovered them yet. Follow the link to each website to listen, where you’ll also find links to subscribe via RSS and iTunes.

In alphabetical order, here we go…

iabccafe2goIABC Cafe2Go. The official podcast from the International Association of Business Communicators, it features Conversations with CEOs, CW Radio and updates on IABC‘s programmes and initiatives as well as discussion of current issues and trends in communication. Cafe2Go also features frequent interviews with business leaders that are produced mainly by Shel or me as part of our volunteerism activities (we’re both long-time active IABC members). Cafe2Go is worth a listen whether you’re an IABC member or not.

insideprInside PR. A weekly social media and public relations podcast hosted by a trio of communicators in the US and Canada: Gini Dietrich, Joseph Thornley and Martin Waxman. Each week, the three industry veterans take a look at the state of the PR industry, explore topical and provocative issues, discuss listener comments, and even interview an interesting guest or two.

jaffejuiceJaffe Juice. How to describe this iconoclastic podcast from Joseph Jaffe? Let the blog’s words tell the story: “Welcome to the reincarnated and reinvigorated Jaffe Juice. What was once a weekly op-ed column is now an unshackled, uncensored and uninhibited dialogue on the subjects of new marketing, advertising and creativity.”

providentpartnersMarketing Edge from Provident Partners. One of the longest-running marketing and public relations podcasts. Host Albert Maruggi in the US “weaves his 25 years of marketing and PR experience across business, technology and national public affairs in interviews with newsmakers, authors and business leaders.”

marketingovercoffeeMarketing Over Coffee. Hosts John Wall and Christopher Penn record the show every business Wednesday at 5:30am Eastern Time at a coffee shop in Natick, Massachusetts, just outside Boston. Each show is about 20 minutes long and is filled with the kinds of marketing tips and tricks that you can only get out of casual conversation outside the office.

mediabullseyeMedia Bullseye Radio. Led by our friends Chip Griffin and Jen Zingsheim at CustomScoop in Concord, New Hampshire, Media Bullseye Radio explores the changing communications landscape for marketing, media, and public relations professionals.

socialprosSocial Pros Podcast. The newest kid on the podcasting block from social media and content strategist Jay Baer in the US. Now on its 6th weekly episode, Social Pros “shines the spotlight on social media practitioners, people doing the real work for real companies.”

ontherecordonlineOn the Record Online. Presented by our friend and digital marketing consultant, entrepreneur and author Eric Schwartzman in Los Angeles since April 2005 (just three months after Shel and I kicked off with FIR), OTRO offers a compelling perspective and insights on how technology is changing the way organizations communicate, and the way people consume media and information.

prandotherdeadlysinsPR and Other Deadly Sins. From Canadians Mark Blevis, a digital public affairs strategist, and communicator (and FIR Book Reviews editor) Bob LeDrew, “both seasoned communicators (which does NOT mean they’ve been rolled in celery salt), PR and Other Deadly Sins will be the record of sometimes thoughtful, sometimes irreverent, but hopefully always worthwhile bull sessions about PR, social media, communications, and the sweet spot where they all intersect.”

prweekuspodcastsPR Week Podcasts. From PR Week magazine in the US, The PR Week podcasts are presented by US Editor-in-Chief Steve Barrett and guests, discussing topical PR and related issues and news. (Unfortunately, access to the the website show notes is behind a subscriber login paywall, but you can get the shows themselves on free subscription via iTunes.)

sixpixelspodcastSix Pixels of Separation – The Podcast. With one of the most well-known and -regarded business podcasts, Mitch Joel – the “Rock Star of Digital Marketing” and “one of North America’s leading digital visionaries,” according to Marketing Magazine in the US – offers discussion, commentary, opinion and genuine insight at the intersection of digital marketing and personal branding.

stevelubetkinSteve Lubetkin’s Podcasts. A wide-ranging menu of content, much directly related to communication, are the podcast staples for clients of Steve Lubetkin‘s consulting firm, a producer of audio, video, and multimedia content for broadcast over the internet as podcasts, vidcasts, video and audio news features, screencasts and other formats. Unmissable content: you’ll find something of value here.

trafcomnewsTrafcom News Podcast. A big favourite of mine from Canadian communicator Donna Papacosta (who also adds her voice to FIR each week). Donna describes Trafcom News as “interviews and discussions about topics that are important to people in the business of communicating. It might be writing, speaking, marketing, social media or something interesting in the news.”

prsaVoices of Public Relations. Podcasts every few months from the Public Relations Society of America that offer insight into topical issues including PRSA webinar audio, conference specials and more. “Join the public relations conversation,” says the PRSA, “and get expert insight from across the industry.”

In addition, there are two others that you might want to check although no new episodes of their podcasts have been published this year so far:

  • Online PR Podcast. Pete Codella and Mark Polson “delve into the world of digital public relations, marketing and advertising, with a special focus on website development and search placement. Call it social media, new media, digital media or just plain old media, it’s all the rage.” (Latest episode on the website is from October 2011.)
  • Quiet News Day. A weekly podcast that “offers insight into PR, journalism, and social media.” Produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, by Scott Douglas and Shaun Milne, the pair discuss the changing nature of communications in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK, as well as relevant news on social media from around the world. (Latest episode on the website is from November 2011.)

I hope you enjoy your listening experience with all of these as I have over the years.

Any others focused, broadly, on the intersection of business / communication / technology that you’d recommend?

Obviously maths isn’t our strong point

episode1firShel Holtz and I mark a milestone today as January 3 is the anniversary of the first episode of The Hobson & Holtz Report podcast which we started together on this date in 2005.

As we said in the latest episode of the show, which we recorded yesterday, today we begin our seventh year of podcasting. We tweeted that metric, Facebooked it and Google Plused it. Got nice messages back from fans. Great stuff, we love you all. :)

Except the anniversary number is wrong.

After we published the show yesterday, our friend and US East Coast correspondent Dan York gently highlighted our total lack of mathematical sense in an email with a formula simple enough that we can easily see the error of our ways:

Jan 3, 2006 – end of 1st/ start of 2nd
Jan 3, 2007 – end of 2nd/start of 3rd
Jan 3, 2008 – end of 3rd/start of 4th
Jan 3, 2009 – end of 4th/start of 5th
Jan 3, 2010 – end of 5th/start of 6th
Jan 3, 2011 – end of 6th/start of 7th
Jan 3, 2012 – end of 7th/start of 8th

So, today we start our eighth year of podcasting, not the seventh.

Thanks, Dan ;) I completely echo and fully resonate with Shel’s reply to Dan:

My math skills should make it obvious why I went into communication.

And to conclude this post on a more serious note, thanks to everyone who forms part of the FIR community – our sponsors, correspondents and listeners.

If you’ve not listened to our podcast before, give us a try with episode 632 we recorded yesterday. You can check out the full range of podcasts in the FIR series over on the FIR website – the main show as well as the occasional interviews, reviews and more.

Thanks to you all for your tremendous support during these past seven years. On with the eighth!

FIR Book Club starts in January 2012

firbookreviews194x225Welcome to the FIR Book Club.

You already think of FIR as the podcast where you find out what’s making news and why in the worlds of public relations, social media, and communication. Now, the FIR book club – announced on the most recent episode of FIR – is a way to connect with the leading writers in these fields and share your ideas.

Each month, we’ll announce the book for the next month’s book club. Then, on a date to be announced, the author will join FIR Book Reviews editor Bob LeDrew on Blog Talk Radio to talk about the book.

Then comes your chance to join in. You can call in to Blog Talk Radio to add your voice to the discussion, or use the chat room to participate with a keyboard.

It’s talk radio like you don’t hear anywhere else – frank, engaging, intelligent, and on the topics that matter to you as a communicator.

  • Our first FIR Book Club book will be The Social Media Strategist by Voce’s Social Media VP, Christopher Barger. The book is scheduled for release on January 13; we’ll announce the date of the interactive session around that time. The FIR Book Club has its own page on the podcast website where you can find details of books and sessions.

(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)

Take the FIR Listener Survey 2011 and help shape the show of the future

Ever since Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson started the For Immediate Release podcast series in 2005 with The Hobson and Holtz Report in January of that year, finding out what our listener community thinks and wants has been important to us.

During the past six years, we’ve done two formal listener surveys, once in 2006 and one in 2009. Both provided us with invaluable information about our listeners’ thoughts, their likes and dislikes, and their suggestions. Those surveys also gave us some insights into changing needs as time went by – our needs as presenters as well as those of our listeners.

Today, we’re launching the 2011 listener survey in which we seek similar insights.


A few things have changed in three years. The main show is now once a week rather than twice. We have three sponsors today, not two – Ragan Communications and CustomScoop are joined by Pollstream. Tools like Friendfeed and Twitter play an increasingly-significant role in connecting the listener community.

And some things don’t change: we’re still fortunate to have a team of correspondents, established and valuable elements of The Hobson and Holtz Report podcast.

So we want to know how FIR and, specifically, The Hobson and Holtz Report, are in tune with our community. Is it a podcast that contains the content we think that people want? What about specific content elements in each show? What do you like best? Least? Where do you listen? How do you get hold of the MP3 files? Do you have suggestions or recommendations for us? And more.

So if you’re a listener, we’d like to ask you to invest 20 minutes of your time and take the FIR Listener Survey 2011. It’s open now and closes at midnight GMT on Tuesday September 20, 2011. We’ll announce the results after the close.

You can start the survey right here:


Thanks for your help and for your support.

(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)

Make podcasting take off for you

podcastThere’s an intriguing article on the BBC Click website that says the term “podcasting” has largely disappeared from view as attention has increasingly turned to social media, and asks: why has such a popular technology received such a small amount of attention?

It’s a good article, describing how podcasting started and looking at the medium primarily from the perspective of how it competes with mainstream radio. The article is clear in one point it emphasises – podcasting doesn’t seem to offer much that’s different to what you get on the radio:

[…] The common perception is that a podcast is just a download of something that has already been made available elsewhere. Rather than changing the traditional media landscape, many believe that it is just replicating it.

“Half of podcasting is about just another medium to deliver the same content,” says radio futurologist James Cridland.

“The other half is the real democratisation of creating new interesting audio content.

“Is it something different to normal radio? Not really. I look at quite a lot of the podcasts and the fact they are on a downloadable medium that you can listen to whenever you like doesn’t necessarily change a lot of the content.”

As a podcaster myself who started in the early days (2004/2005), I think that’s a good point, one that certainly applies in the UK but not so much in the USA where podcasting began and immediately offered attractive alternatives to “homogenized” radio.

While such comparisons with mainstream media like radio are credible, that’s not the complete picture especially when you look at how the barriers to entry are so low that anyone can create and publish a podcast, not just the mainstream media. You don’t need expensive studios nor voice talent; indeed, you can get started with podcasting for much less than £100; even next to nothing if you take advantage of the instant broadcasting services now available.

So my question would be – why hasn’t podcasting really taken off in the UK outside the mainstream, so to speak? It’s a question I asked in April 2008, focused on the business aspects, which attracted some compelling discussion. Three years on, little has really changed from what I can see.

Consider three distinct areas that comprise the origins of podcasting:

  1. Technological innovations that made podcasting possible.
  2. Cultural demands that made listening to podcasts desirable.
  3. The desire of individuals to create and share audio and video content.

The first one clearly has been a powerful driver thanks mostly to two individuals (Dave Winer who invented the RSS enclosure that enabled the subscription aspect of podcasting and auto-delivery of the MP3 audio files; and Adam Curry who popularized the medium and created the first podcatcher that lets you listen to those audio files and automatically manages your subscriptions) and one company (Apple when they launched iTunes with podcasting support) in 2004.

What of the other two areas, though – cultural demands and individual desire? Those two links look like the missing ones especially when you consider that podcasting has become even easier than it already was with the advent of “tap-talk-publish” tools and services such as Audioboo and iPadio. With instant broadcasting tools like these, no longer do you even need to have a computer with a microphone and recording software. Instead, with just an iPhone or Android smartphone – and, in the case of iPadio, even an ordinary landline phone – you can record your words and publish that audio content online instantly, shareable with the world.

Yet audio podcasting still hasn’t found its tipping point. Could it also be lack of quality content as James Cridland argues?

[…] The hard part is finding the quality. There are some really good podcasts but there are a load of terrible ones as well

Very true – just trawl through the thousands of podcast episodes in the iTunes podcast library or a directory like Podcast Alley and you’ll likely agree. But isn’t beauty in the (ear) of the beholder?

Still, unless you’re looking for big audiences to compete with radio, does a tipping point really matter? Isn’t this more about niche publishing where it’s economically feasible to be able to create content for ten people as it is for 10,000? Isn’t it more about developing a community and getting close to people who genuinely want your content?

What could you use a podcast for in a business context? Here are some ideas of what’s easily possible:

  • Employee Engagement: A weekly 15-minute business update for employees delivered by the CEO or other leader; employees worldwide can subscribe to the podcast via the company intranet or listen directly from the CEO’s blog.
  • General news of interest to everyone: The HR department produces a monthly 30-minute podcast that is a round-up of news and information on issues of interest and relevance to every employee including, for example, news about changes in employee health benefits, updates on training courses, expansion at the factory in a particular city, and a summary of company-wide job openings and where to get more information; the podcast is made available for subscription from the HR site on the company intranet and is referenced/linked to in the multiple channels used for internal communication, traditional and digital.
  • Training and Education: A series of short 5-minute podcasts produced by the marketing department on key aspects about a new product that’s being launched, to help employees understand the features and benefits of that new product; the podcast series supports and complements other communication channels. Depending on communication objectives and specific content, the series could also be used in external communication and published to a service like Audioboo.
  • Skills-Sharing and Team Building: The sales director records an occasional 10-minute podcast for her geographically-dispersed sales team with tips and tricks on, say, how to close deals with certain types of customers; her podcast is available from the sales intranet as a complement to formal sales materials and as one of the means through which she builds a sense of community and engagement with her team.

I came up with this concise list in 2005 when I was talking up podcasting for business with evangelical zeal (take a look at this presentation I gave at PodcastCon UK in London in September 2005). With just a bit of update-tweaking, I think they’re still valid today.

Hearing the voice of a trusted leader, or a subject-matter expert, or the sales director adds a human and informal touch to what’s too often the starched formalness of organizational communication. This can be a powerful emotional influencer on internal and external audiences alike. And emotional influence is a key factor in people engagement.

And I’ll point to the example of For Immediate Release, the weekly business podcast my friend Shel Holtz and I started in January 2005 and which is still going strong.

While the content is great (as listeners tell us!), that wasn’t the primary driver of listenership from the start. And listenership isn’t really what’s made FIR notable in the communication profession.

FIR is about community. While the two presenters are the foundation, it’s a network of regular reporters (in the USA and South-East Asia) and comment contributors that has given the show a sense of genuine community, and on a global level. So today, the content of a typical FIR episode is made up of at least 33 percent listener contributions and reports, and listener suggestions and recommendations drive much of the direction of the show, focused around a private community on Friendfeed. The influential listener community is one of the reasons why the show has attracted sponsors (Ragan Communications, CustomScoop and Pollstream), as is the fact that we survey listeners to find out who they are, what they like and what they want from FIR in the future, and share that information publicly (the last survey was published in May 2009; a new one is in development).

Today, FIR has grown into a series comprising six distinct podcasts including interviews, book reviews and an irregular live panel discussion on topical business communication issues.

The barriers to entry for podcasting as a tactical and complementary tool in your communication toolbox have never been lower, and the benefits never more obvious.

So what’s stopping you?

  • A resource you might find useful: How To Do Everything With Podcasting, the book Shel and I produced and which was published by McGraw-Hill in the summer of 2007. The blurb says, “[…] walks you, step by step, through the process of creating, broadcasting, and promoting your own podcast. You’ll get tips for targeting your audience, refining your content, integrating various technologies, and profiting from your podcast. You’ll also discover how businesses can use podcasting as a fresh, inexpensive way to communicate with customers, investors, and employees.” There’s a Kindle edition so you can get it right now.

Update: In the comments, Dave Thackeray asked if there’s an audio version of this blog post. There is now, which I recorded at Audioboo via the website recorder not the smartphone app. Instant podcast!

If you don’t see the embedded player, listen at Audioboo.