The Path to Freedom, More Creativity, and … Really Good Audio Quality

The Path to Freedom, More Creativity, and ... Really Good Audio Quality

We kicked off the holiday week on Monday with your July creativity and productivity prompts.

Each month this year, we’re suggesting practical ideas to improve your content and help you get more done. In July, we’re challenging you to select two content types that are new to you and schedule an extra hour each day to work on something meaningful.

(If one of your new content types is audio, be sure to check out Wednesday’s post this week as well.)

Tuesday was U.S. Independence Day, and I shared my latest thoughts on three steps toward greater economic and time independence: growing your audience, creating a revenue stream, and committing to growth and learning.

Each of those three is a big topic, which is why it’s our privilege to help you with them throughout the year.

On Wednesday, Toby Lyles, who was instrumental to the development of our Rainmaker FM podcast network, gave some of his best tips on how to get that smooth pro sound from your audio — without killing your budget.

Toby has given me some fantastic tips for improving my own recordings over the years, and I’m so glad we convinced him to write a post for us!

That’s it for this week — have a great weekend, and we’ll see you Monday. :)

— Sonia Simone

Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital

Catch up on this week’s content


2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The July Prompts2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The July Prompts

by Sonia Simone


How to Carve Out Your Own Slice of IndependenceHow to Carve Out Your Own Slice of Independence

by Sonia Simone


your sound should be a welcome mat that invites the listener in for what feels like a face-to-face conversation10 Easy Tips for Professional Audio Quality

by Toby Lyles


How to Attract Your Ideal Customer with Perfectly Positioned ContentHow to Attract Your Ideal Customer with Perfectly Positioned Content

by Jerod Morris


How to Create Stability and Success as an ArtistHow to Create Stability and Success as an Artist

by Sonia Simone


How Award-Winning Short Story Writer Abigail Ulman Writes: Part OneHow Award-Winning Short Story Writer Abigail Ulman Writes: Part One

by Kelton Reid


The post The Path to Freedom, More Creativity, and … Really Good Audio Quality appeared first on Copyblogger.


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More content, less traffic: Part II

Trying to determine whether it’s worth your time to invest in ever more website content? Columnist Conrad Saam lays out a framework to help you decide.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.


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People-based marketing requires good people

Columnist Jose Cebrian believes that to get the most out of marketing technology, you need to hire the right people who can help you use it to its fullest.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.


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Inconvenience to Opportunity: How to Tackle the Customer Engagement Gap

We’re living in a new reality.

For decades, companies dictated their interaction with consumers. Brands chose how they would communicate and when to deliver messages.

However, the consumer climate has dramatically changed. Technology has enabled and empowered customers to control the types of conversations they have with companies.

The rising issue is that most companies haven’t adjusted to these new changes. They’re stuck doing things the old way. As a result, their outdated systems lead to unengaged consumers and declining sales.

That’s why it’s so important for teams to create a bridge that closes the customer engagement gap. It’s an opportunity, not an inconvenience, for your business.

Let’s examine how your company can discover hidden inefficiencies and develop solutions to connect with your audience.

Defining Your Customer Engagement Gap

It isn’t wise to use best practices to solve your customer engagement gap. Every eCommerce business operates differently.

On top of that, most companies approach this problem in the wrong manner. They identify whether they have an engagement gap from a limited mindset. Rachel Happe, co-founder and principal at The Community Roundtable, explains the concept:

“We know that customer engagement matters. Yet much of our thinking about engagement remains simplistic. Most current definitions of engagement are bimodal – someone is either engaged or they’re not. But this is a limited view that hampers our ability to manage engagement in meaningful ways.”

So, what should you do instead?

Sit down with your team and define customer engagement for your organization. Some businesses want to boost customer satisfaction, while others desire to increase the average revenue per customer.

Then, you want to analyze the data that affects your goal. For example, tracking your Net Promoter Score can gauge customer satisfaction.

It’s critical that your team reimagine their roles when creating solutions to this problem. The engagement gap doesn’t revolve around the company. Yet, it should focus on the customer, the market, and the brand promise.

IBM reimagine roles engagementImage Source

Move past the old way of closing the customer engagement gap. Your business can achieve more with data and a new holistic approach.

Building Cross-Functional Teams

At some companies, the engagement gap is a singular issue tasked to one team. It’s usually the marketing or customer success department’s responsibility.

Without any push back, that one team maps out a plan with all the bells and whistles—objectives, strategies, tasks, and outcomes. It’s only after the execution of the plan that they realize the need for input from their sales, product, and customer support teams.

Working in silos is common for some eCommerce businesses. Managers miss how every team plays a role in customer engagement. Christy Pettey, contributor at Smarter with Gartner, offers her perspective:

“Although silos are a natural outcome of the way modern business is organized, the poor customer experience that they create can turn customers into ex-customers. Some customers become frustrated and abandon their customer journey altogether, taking their business elsewhere.”

The customer engagement gap can expand across the entire customer journey. It can be the convoluted copy on your website, the misguided messaging from a sales rep, or even long wait times for support tickets.

By building cross-functional teams, your organization can tackle the challenge from multiple vantage points. Every department brings its expertise, and it helps eliminate the misalignment of future goals.

Personalizing the Customer Experience

With new eCommerce businesses popping up every day, the competition to attract and retain customers is fierce. Personalization is driving companies to rethink the customer experience.

Lack of customer engagement can stem from a business’s inability or unwillingness to adapt to their target audience’s needs. It’s visible when brands offer one solution that’s supposed to fix various issues. But customers don’t see the benefit.

You’ll also notice brands only personalizing the experience at one part of the customer journey. They personalize to acquire the customer, but fail to take similar actions to retain.

acquisition retain customer engagement funnel

The best personalization techniques use data to uncover the likes and dislikes of your customers. With accurate information, you can transform a generic experience into a customized shopping adventure.

For instance, subscription-based men’s clothing service Bombfell leverages data from a customer’s style survey and budget to curate clothing packages. Retailer OfficeMax uses its email subscriber’s location to send targeted campaigns to customers in a specific zip code.

Personalization shouldn’t be a one-off task for your team. Rather, it’s a chance to show customers that you understand their desires.

Collaborating with Your Customers

It’s hard to solve a problem without the necessary stakeholders present. So, it makes sense to add customer collaboration to your strategy.

There are several ways to get feedback from customers. Implied and expressed are two forms of customer collaboration.

Implied collaboration involves customer behavior and how their interactions with your brand affect their shopping experiences. These actions may include the number of times they visit your website, when they open your emails, or their product choices.

From these behaviors, your team can assess what content resonates with customers or which products offer the most benefit to your audience. Implied collaboration doesn’t require the customer to tell you anything; you’re simply making educated conclusions from their actions.

On the other hand, expressed collaboration is directly asking for customers’ opinions. You may request for the customer to fill out a survey or have the customer reply to an email.

It’s also possible to bring your consumers together in a Facebook group to casually address brand engagement. Here’s insight from Danyl Bosomworth, managing director of First 10 Digital:

“One of the most powerful ways to remain valuable is to enable the consumer to connect and share with other like-minded consumers, this allows the like-minded to flock together and simultaneously deliver ongoing insight for the brand hosting the platform.”

To truly turn the engagement gap into an opportunity, you must involve the customer. Find ways to incorporate their feedback into your plans.

Planning Ahead for Future Engagement

The engagement gap isn’t going anywhere. With ongoing advancements in technology and changes in consumer taste, your company must constantly strive for new ways to engage.

And as consumer preferences overlap, you may learn that one of the best strategies is to build external partnerships. Connecting with partners places your product in front of different audiences and strengthens your brand perception in the market.

Brand partnerships range from co-marketing opportunities to revenue-sharing models. The key is to find the right partnership that benefits all parties. Plus, you want the partnership to directly impact your customer engagement goals.

In 2015, CoverGirl teamed up with the Star Wars franchise to create a limited edition makeup line. Because Star Wars is often marketed to men, the partnership encouraged more women to watch the movie. CoverGirl also earned more brand visibility by associating itself with a notable film series.

star wars mascara

Prepare your team for future hurdles in customer engagement. Sometimes, the strategy will involve uniting with other companies.

Filling the Gap with Engagement

There’s been a shift in communication power—from the companies to the consumers. Your target audience can decide when, how, and even if they want to engage with your brand.

Start by defining the problem within your company and build cross-functional teams to develop a cohesive strategy. Personalize the shopping experience with collaboration from the consumer and continue to think about the future of customer interaction.

This is your opportunity. Tackle the customer engagement gap.

About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.


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10 Easy Tips for Professional Audio Quality

"Your sound should be a 'welcome mat' that invites the listener in for what feels like a face-to-face conversation." – Toby Lyles

I started working with podcasts because I was an avid podcast listener.

I would be listening to a conversation, hanging on every word, and then it would happen: the guest would bump his mic at the exact moment when he said the one thing I wanted to hear, and I’d miss out.

Our content should connect and engage, not frustrate and push away.

Since I run a podcast production company, I’ve learned that most people think any sound problem can be repaired with the simple twist of a knob. If only that were so.

Do you know how to avoid the most common podcast production pitfalls that distract your listeners?

Read on to discover how your podcast can stand out from the majority of the audio content available on the web.

Quality audio defined

Audio quality can be as subjective as Picasso’s art in a museum. One person says it’s brilliant … the next walks away scratching their head.

Let’s start with what quality audio is not.

You can tell audio needs to be improved when you hear:

  • Hum
  • Buzz
  • Hiss
  • Room reflections (echoes from the recording room)
  • Microphone handling, bumping sounds
  • Other foreign sounds: animals, lawnmowers, keyboard clicks, etc.
  • “Plosives” (the explosive sound consonants make when spoken into a microphone)
  • Extreme audio processing (audio effects that create an unnatural sound)

On the other hand, quality audio can be defined in one word: natural.

Quality audio sounds as if you’re talking around a kitchen table or with a client in your office. Your sound should be a “welcome mat” that invites the listener in for what feels like a face-to-face conversation.

How do you accomplish that? Here are 10 tips that will help you produce the “welcome mat” experience.

1. Value your listeners

Podcasts and blogs are similar.

In the same way that good website design helps attract and keep blog readers, quality audio attracts and keeps listeners around.

Quality audio isn’t about making you sound good, it’s about engaging your audience.

2. Invest in the right microphone

You knew this one was coming.

Microphones are the most important element of quality audio, but podcasters don’t need fancy, expensive ones.

If you record a monologue or interview-style podcast in an office or room in a home, a dynamic microphone is what you need. Other microphones work, but they can require more resources to coax out good sound.

Want some recommendations? My favorites are:

  • Audio-Technica 2100: a great USB microphone at an amazing price
  • RE20: the most popular microphone for radio for decades

The microphones listed above will produce quality sound, but remember that choosing a microphone is mostly about personality and taste. You need to ask yourself if the microphone is right for you, your voice, and your brand.

One way to answer the “which is best for me” question is to book a session at a professional recording studio and try out a variety of microphones. Take those recordings and get some feedback.

Between the engineer at the studio and your friends and family, you should be able to find a clear winner. Also, keep your target audience in mind. Does the microphone help communicate who you are? Does it match the tone your audience needs to hear?

Here are a couple guidelines about microphones to avoid:

  • The headset microphone that came with your smartphone. While those are great for appearing live on Facebook, they’re not ideal for podcasting.
  • A condenser microphone. They’re made for the acoustics in big, fancy, recording studios. Unless you’re planning to build a recording booth in your garage, leave these microphones in the store.

3. Use a microphone stand

Some podcasters like to record with the microphone in their hands. Unless holding the mic is absolutely necessary, avoid that technique.

Another common microphone-stand mistake is connecting it to a surface your hands or feet easily touch. If it’s a desk-mount stand, try connecting it to a nearby piece of furniture that’s not touching the desk. Or, if it’s a floor-mount stand, make sure the feet rest on carpet or padding.

Otherwise, the small movements you make during recording can transfer up the stand and into the microphone, which produces distracting sounds.

4. Find a great place to record

This item alone is a quick win for good sound.

Before you record, double-check that your room doesn’t reflect your voice back into the microphone. Carpet, furniture, wall decorations, and non-parallel walls all help calm the reflections. Trying a smaller room, or even a closet, is often easier than acoustically treating your current recording space.

You should also keep outside noises to a minimum. Common offenders are:

  • Fans
  • Refrigerators
  • Furnaces
  • Cars
  • Phones and other electronics
  • Open windows

5. Speak near the microphone

Nearly everyone shies away from the microphone. Don’t.

Even a slight distance from a mic makes you sound like you’re in a cave.

You’ll want to nearly kiss it. Make it your friend, and it will make you friends as you build your audience.

6. Set up a pop filter

The downside of speaking near the microphone is that it causes “plosives.”

“Plosives” are simply the air from consonant sounds disrupting the sensitive components of the microphone.

The pop filter, a screen that goes around or in front of a microphone, is a tried-and-true solution. Expensive or cheap, they’re all about the same.

7. Select an audio interface

Although many recommend using a mixing board, I’ve found that the never-ending knobs create more headaches than freedom.

The simplest solution is to plug your microphone into an audio interface, which converts your analogue microphone sound into digital, so your computer can understand it.

As a side note, even if you’re using the Audio-Technica 2100, it’s still a good idea to utilize an audio interface instead of the USB connection. It produces a much more detailed and clear sound.

My current audio interface favorites are:

8. Record separate tracks

Take advantage of multiple tracks to make sure every voice has its own separate recording.

With a two-person interview, it’s easy to pan the host to the left track and the guest to the right track. If your guest joins you via video chat, capturing a separate track of their local recording is helpful.

In the past, this was only possible if the guest was well-versed in audio or recording in a radio station. Thankfully, technology has advanced.

One of my favorite tools is Zencastr. It records via a web browser and uploads the best audio possible to your dropbox account.

9. Back up your recordings

Some people prefer to avoid a computer and record into a small recording device. I often do this myself, after having one too many recording sessions ruined by computer glitches.

I know of an author whose power went out while he was recording an audiobook. He lost four hours of recorded audio!

You can avoid that exact situation by recording into an external recorder. Or better yet, record into a computer for convenience and add an external recorder as a backup, just in case.

One of the fastest ways is to simply use an XLR splitter, which will split the signal into both the audio interface and the external recorder. If you have multiple sources, running an output from the interface into the recorder is a great way to use it as a secondary backup.

A couple external recorder favorites of mine are:

10. Edit and produce your content

While creating a good recording is the bulk of what’s involved in producing a podcast, quality editing and production wraps up the package.

If you have audio experience, go for it, but if you’re hesitant, grab someone who’s spent some time in the field. Even if you don’t hire a producer who specifically works with podcasts, their wisdom can help ensure you avoid expensive mistakes and end up with a quality product.

For those producing podcasts on their own, check out Auphonic. Auphonic has turned years of professional audio experience into an inexpensive piece of online software. Their specialty is leveling audio and removing background hiss and noise, an audio producer’s two most important jobs.

Bonus tip: loosen up

Before you record, have some fun: watch a cat video, laugh a little, do some vocal warm-ups.

Think about the person you’re aiming to help and the problem you can’t wait to solve for them.

Better recordings strengthen your message

Remember, audio equipment exists to enhance your message.

Who you are and what you have to say is invaluable … the gear is just a method of transporting the gold.

Special offer for Copyblogger readers only: Contact Toby on Twitter or at TwentyFourSound for a one-time, free podcast review. He’ll help you find the exact steps needed to match your audio to your voice.

The post 10 Easy Tips for Professional Audio Quality appeared first on Copyblogger.


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How to Carve Out Your Own Slice of Independence

american flag art by hugh macleod

Today is Independence Day in the U.S. I’ve written before about the theme of independence and how it plays out in our lives today.

Independence is more important to Americans than ever. Thirty-five percent of the U.S. workforce are now working as freelancers. And while the current uncertainty around our health insurance system might make it seem “safer” to take a more traditional job, rapid economic change also creates a lot of turbulence in traditional employment.

Running a “side hustle” — a micro business with controlled costs and limited risks — offers amazing benefits for your peace of mind, your financial health, and your creative soul.

In other words, it can help make you healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Abruptly quitting your job so you can jump into running a business, on the other hand, is often a short road to health-killing stress, money crunches, and panicked decisions.

So — if you have the luxury of spending some of your time, in Jeff Goins’s phrase, “building a bridge in the direction of your dream,” this is an awesome time to do that.

I wrote my first Independence Day post for Copyblogger in 2009 around three critical steps to take toward independence. Those same three steps are just as relevant today. Here’s how I’m thinking about them in 2017.

1. Expand your audience

I strongly believe that for any business owner, the audience is the source of all the good things.

  • Revenue
  • Product ideas
  • Reputation
  • Creative energy
  • Meaningful work

It starts with a solid understanding of your own values, and clarity about precisely who you want to attract.

Once you have a concrete idea of who you want to serve with your business, focus relentlessly on that person’s wants and needs.

We have lots of tips for you on how to “get more traffic,” but you always need to approach it with that attitude of service and respect.

2. Create a revenue stream

Once you know your audience incredibly well, you can start figuring out how to help them get what they want. That’s where sound product ideas come from.

Most people start with the idea of a product or service they’d like to offer. That’s a recipe for a business without customers.

It’s wise to start small — what’s sometimes called the minimum viable product. This isn’t, as some interpret it, a half-assed offering that you haven’t put much time or care into.

Your first product or service should be your best guess, rooted in a deep understanding of your audience, of a small way to create a meaningful change for that audience.

  • If it’s not grounded in your audience’s desires, they won’t buy it.
  • If it’s not small, you’ll get overwhelmed before you can launch it.
  • And if it doesn’t create a meaningful change for them, you’ll never get any momentum.

3. Never stop learning

The United States was born during the Enlightenment, a time of disruptive change. The Industrial Revolution only accelerated that change — for good and for ill.

Things seemed to smooth out for a while there in the 20th century (other than those nasty world wars), but the age of the computer showed us what disruptive change really looked like. And there’s no sign of things slowing down anytime soon.

To navigate all of this change gracefully, each of us, of every age, needs to become a lifelong student.

Beyond facts and figures, we need to nurture our ability to create and evolve.

We are all makers. We are all artists.

It’s our nature as makers and artists that will bring us to the best possible future.

As I wrote back in 2009:

Knowledge is your greatest asset. It can’t be stolen or confiscated. It sets your intellect free. And when your mind is free, the rest of it is just a bunch of beautiful fireworks.

How about you?

Do you have anything cooking that will help you become more free? Let us know about it in the comments …

The post How to Carve Out Your Own Slice of Independence appeared first on Copyblogger.


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