Peeling Back the Curtain of Podcasting

Podcasts can play a key role in your mix of communications platforms.

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Kayla Dwyer shares tips on effective podcasting. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

I recently heard Kayla Dwyer provide a primer on the world of podcasting. She is the host and producer of the Allentown Morning Call’s weekly news podcast, Valley View.

Dwyer’s podcast dissects the area’s top stories from the reporters’ lenses, peeling back the newsroom curtain. Podcasting was an ideal way to do this since it “allows you to share your thought processes,” she said. “Podcasting can reach the limits of intimacy without breaching authenticity.”

A benefit of podcasting is that it allows you to multitask and be mobile. “You dedicate a fraction of your brain to a voice on your phone,” she said. Listening to a podcast is easier than watching a video, which requires you to focus on the video, the audio and the mannerisms. “It’s a lot to digest,” she said.

Podcasts also are popular with millennials, and Dwyer said that benefits her newspaper. “It’s an investment,” she said. “If you get them listening to your podcast, maybe they will read the news, too.”

If you decide to develop a podcast, Dwyer said it is important to establish goals for the podcast early. Other things to consider include the tone of the podcast, the length, the format and how much production will be required. Valley View airs weekly and is less than 30 minutes long.

Dwyer spends two full days creating her weekly podcast. When she is not working on it, she also is a general assignment reporter and online editor.

“I spend the most time editing the first 30 seconds. That’s where people decide if they want to invest 20 minutes in you,” Dwyer said.

The biggest lesson she’s learned with the podcast is how to be a marketer. “I need to be constantly looking for avenues to share my podcast,” she said. She suggested asking every member of your organization to subscribe to the podcast since the more subscribers a podcast has, the higher it will appear in searches.

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Valuing a Content Calendar

A recent conversation I had revolved around how to grow a subscriber base for a non-fiction literary publication. I asked my friend if he was blogging about the publication’s content or its authors. Was he posting to Facebook or Twitter?

He said he was not because he was concerned about having enough content. I encouraged him to look at the publication for content and repurpose it. The key, though, was to create a content calendar.

How to create a content calendar

How does one do that and what should it include? You could do it the traditional way and post all the months to a wall and then put pushpins on the days to identify when content needs to be shared. Pushpin colors would differentiate the platforms. The same process works online, although there are no pushpins. All you need to do is search for a template that will suit your needs.

For this blog, I list in a Word document all the dates I plan to post for an entire year. I then note if there are events or conferences I plan to attend that could generate content. I also note any significant celebrations or anniversaries such as World Reading Day.

Driving traffic

Driving traffic to the posts is important. I’ve linked all of my social media accounts to the blog, which ensures promotion across platforms. I also have a separate content calendar for Twitter. For each blog post I write 3-5 tweets with a link to the post and sprinkle those throughout the month in which the post appeared. I note on my Twitter content calendar what the day’s tweet will be. I’m also tweeting organically on any given day. Maintaining a content calendar specific to my posts ensures that I will tweet regularly.

My friend said, “That’s a lot of work. I don’t know if I can do this every day.”

Time blocks

The good news is that you don’t have to do it every day. I work on my blog in time blocks, meaning I devote three to four hours to the blog on a specific day. During that time, I identify potential topics, research topics, write draft copy, and finalize draft posts. I then schedule the ones that are ready. Next I review my posts and write the appropriate tweets. I do this two or three times a month, and I’m good for a month or two.

The blog posts and tweets are added to the respective calendars. I can identify any holes where content is missing. If I have managed to schedule further out, I know I have given myself some breathing room. When that happens, I find I develop more ideas because I’m feeling less pressured – and less stressed.

Ultimately, that’s the beauty of a content calendar.

Improving Your Productivity

I suspect I’m like many of you in that I always have a to-do list. Okay, sometimes I have multiple lists. And sometimes, I don’t know where they disappear to.

I listened to a webinar with Ron Friedman, who suggested such an obvious idea, I couldn’t believe I wasn’t already doing it. His suggestion? Make your to-do list more visible. He said too many of us write a to-do list early in the day and then we don’t look at it again.

20181009_104956A better approach, he said, “is to keep your to-do list on a brightly colored pad, so that your eyes are regularly drawn to it throughout the day.”

I took it a step further, and found a tiny clipboard with a pad of paper. Each sheet had 5 lines. The best part is it’s magnetic so I could hang it on a metal wall beside my desk. It’s highly visible and when I look away from my monitor, it’s the first thing I see.

I end my day checking my clipboard to see that I have accomplished what I needed to. If I haven’t, I know how I am starting my next day. It’s been a game changer.

He also suggested using a screen-saver that reminds you of your most important goals. He suggested the free Chrome extension Momentum.

His other suggestion was to make your alarm your executive assistant. “One reason high-profile executives are so effective is that they have someone reminding them when to stop doing one thing and start doing another,” Friedman said.

I find this approach particularly helpful at home. I set the timer on my microwave and that’s how long I have to clean or declutter. For me, it becomes a race against the clock, and I get a lot accomplished. When the timer goes off, I allow myself to relax and do something I want to do. On any given weekend, I might do this three to five times. I get much accomplished – including writing blog posts!

How do you improve your productivity?

Humor As a Mindset

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Dessert makes Drew Tarvin smile. He encourages smiling every hour. (Photo by Cynthia Price.)

I take my work seriously, but I also laugh often and have fun most days. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t be more serious. But then I heard Drew Tarvin speak.

He said we will likely work 90,000 hours in our lifetimes and why not enjoy the time?

Tarvin is the world’s first humor engineer and an award-winning speaker, trainer, author, and coach. Through his company, Humor That Works, he teaches individuals and organizations how to use humor to be more effective, more productive, and more awesome.

He is the best-selling author of Humor That Works: 501 Ways to Beat Stress, Increase Productivity, and Have Fun at Work and the recently released The United States of Laughter: One Comedian’s Journey Through All 50 States. Through his journey, he discovered that, despite what we may see on the news or read on the internet, there is one thing that unites all Americans: laughter. His TEDx talk has been viewed more than 100,000 times.

At a recent talk, he had his audience in stitches, especially as he shared stories of texting with his grandmother. In one, she replied to him with WTF, which alarmed Tarvin. He asked her if she knew what the initials stood for. Of course, she did, she said, “Wow, that’s fun!”

I’ve not met Tarvin’s grandmother but I already know I would love her.

He believes that we desperately need humor and noted that 10 to 15 minutes of laughter equals five minutes of exercise. He also emphasized that we are each responsible for our own happiness.

“Humor is a choice,” he said, while encouraging us to develop humor as a mindset. He challenged us to smile at least once an hour. And he asked us to consider the micro choices we can make each day.

“We are defined by our actions,” he said.

I’m choosing humor. How about you?

Back to School Is the Perfect Time to Organize One’s Office

The other day I received a $10 Staples reward and a $5 Staples coupon. For me, this is better than being a kid in a candy store.

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Photo by Cynthia Price

I couldn’t get to Staples fast enough. I was giddy with anticipation. Should I buy more Staedtler colored pens? What about some fun file folders? Did I need a new desk organizer? Yes to all!

The irony is that I likely have enough pens and notebooks to last me until well, forever. It doesn’t stop me from wanting new ones. I have found ways to control the urge to buy, although it’s always a challenge this time of year with back-to-school sales.

The beauty of this time of year is that it’s the perfect time to organize one’s work space or office. Here are a few suggestions to do so –

Corral your pens and pencils. I have one container, and if they don’t all fit, I need to get rid of some. Obviously, toss the ones that don’t write. For those that work fine but you know you will never use consider donating to a senior center or after-school program.

Clean your desktop – both your desk and your computer. Remove everything from the surface of your work space and wipe it down. Don’t forget to clean the keyboard, too. It’s an amazing feeling to then begin working with a clean desk. I also make the time to clean off my computer desktop. I’m always amazed how files accumulate. For me, it’s often laziness. It’s easy to save a file to my desktop rather than thinking about where I should logically file it for archival purposes. Knowing I frequently save to my desktop, I force myself at least once a quarter to organize my files. Once I do, I find my productivity increases.

Shred your files. When is the last time you pulled a piece of paper from a file? If it’s been months, maybe it’s time to purge some of your files. I’m working toward having zero files. If someone gives me a paper document that I will need, I ask for it electronically or I scan it and save it on my computer. At least once a quarter I work to eliminate one or two file folders. It helps that I had to move my office twice in the past year. That really led to decluttering.

Order the necessary supplies. Nothing is more frustrating than discovering you have run out of sticky notes or staples. I check my supplies and order what I need for the next six months. That way you don’t run out and you don’t waste time each month placing an order.

After a Conference: Do Your Homework

I’m just back from a national communications conference. I’ve networked, learned and recharged. But I still have some things I need to do to make the most of my conference experience.

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Photo by Cynthia Price

Stay Social Keep the conversation going on social media. Continue using the conference hashtag to share how you are applying what you learned at conference to your job. Identify those individuals who were active on social media and from whom you will continue to learn and follow them.

Update LinkedIn Either at the conference or soon after I return to the office, I follow up with those whom I would like to stay connected. I found LinkedIn to be the best spot for this. When I reach out, I include a personal message, noting that we met at the conference. Throughout the year, I can then reach out to my expanded network.

Send thank-you notes If it’s a small conference, you may want to thank the organizers for a successful conference. Or perhaps hotel staff were particularly helpful. Take a moment to write a note acknowledging their assistance and thanking them for going above and beyond. If you were new to the conference and someone showed you the ropes, send that person a thank you. If your boss sent you to the conference, be sure to thank her for the opportunity.

Purchase recommended readings Speakers recommend books, websites and TedTalks. Make a list of the ones that resonate with you and then schedule time to review the sites and listen to the talks. You can check the books out from your library or order them from your local bookstore. And then make the time to read the books. One way to ensure this is to pack your lunch for a week or two and find a quiet place where you can eat your lunch while reading your book.

Capture take-aways I take a lot of notes at conference, and after my first conference, I never did anything with the notes. Now I do. I always identify one key take-away from each session I attend. I collect all of those in one place so I can periodically refer to them. I also identify action items and add them to my calendar to ensure they get done. I also take my notes on a laptop or on my phone. This way they are stored digitally and are easier to access. If I happen to handwrite notes, I scan them when I return to the office and file them digitally.

Reflect Did you identify any skills you need to develop? Is there a new tool that you need to learn how to use? Think about what you heard and learned at conference and what you may need to do to ensure you are keeping current with your skills and experience.

Share What you learn at the conference will likely be of use to your team. When you return, share key learnings with others. You can write a brief report, create a PowerPoint, hold a brown bag lunch session or create an infographic. At a minimum share a list of useful takeaways and relevant links.

Morning Routines Contribute to Success

Whether you are eating Mark Twain’s metaphorical frog, going for a run or journaling, morning routines are critical to success. LifeHack notes 10 steps to do each morning. SUCCESS magazine lists the habits of entrepreneurs. Fast Company shares the habits of several successful individuals.

20180825_091913For a conference I am organizing, I wanted to learn more about the individuals and not just the straightforward bio details. In response to the question, “What is the first thing you do when you wake up?” the answers were inspirational and often recognizable.

Pets play a big role in the morning. Meredith Cumming, who visited newsrooms around the country, says she has to push a cat off her head. Finishing School for Modern Women Entrepreneur Jill Miller says, “I love on my rescue miniature poodle, Jack.”

And then there are our pesky electronic devices. Morning Call reporter Kayla Dwyer admits, “Ugh, I’m a brainwashed fool, but I check my news alerts on my iPhone.” Adrian Grieve, an executive director with the Red Cross in Pennsylvania, does the same thing.

Some combine pets and technology. Kearney Hub reporter and photographer Lori Potter greets her calico kitty Tas and checks the National Weather Forecast for the day on her phone.

Some are reflective. Shonali Burke, a public relations and social media expert, wakes up  says, “Thank you.”

A few go straight for the coffee, including Roger Hudak, a retired journalism teacher and now head of the Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) South Side Task Force.

Meanwhile, Chronicle-Tribune editor David Penticuff reads “Real Clear Politics” online while eating Rice Krispies with a banana.

Hitting the snooze button is a popular response, including by Humor Engineer Andrew Tarvin, who admits to hitting the snooze button two to 300 times!

A few are ambitious. Chris Whitney, director of the Career Center at The University of Scranton, says she makes her bed, while Maryanne Reed, dean of the West Virginia University Reed College of Media, tackles The New York Times crossword puzzle.

What do you do when you first wake up?