That active listening thing

Learns in authentic media: audio

2016-04-07 18.50.26

Audio looks complicated, but it’s not*

The podcast¹ 43words produces has listeners across all seven global continents, and is a solid test-case illustrating why you might evaluate audio as an integral part of your brand communications plans.

Coming up on a year gathering every fortnight around a table with innovators, creatives and social enterprisers from Christchurch New Zealand, what have we learned in that time?

Control: Own the message

There’s a one-sided media fight ongoing all over the world presently, between established/incumbent media entities; think newspapers, TV stations, the music and film industries, and the one-way creative destruction being wrought by ‘the digital’.

While having huge respect for the legacies those incumbents imagine they can rest on, the inevitability of their attention decline is writ large across media creation and consumption pattern shifts.

Across all media formats the collision of frictionless digital networks with an explosion in decentralised content production means a bewildering pace of exponential (more and more rapid) change.

So, may I humbly suggest that instead of trusting your message to external self-interests, you simply own your message, means of production and means of delivery? Or, at the very least be aware of the power-shift, and make plans for the transition.

Humans: Telling the people story

Consumers are generally nosey folk, wanting to know more about people of interest in relevant spheres of influence. What makes those people tick, what got them to where they are now, why they do what they do? So, ask them and capture the answers.

Dig: Revealing hidden treasure

If there’s an idealised rule about work, for the worker toiling away at the digital coalface, it should be engaging, fulfilling and challenging. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was fun too?

Leave the audio roasting to the attack dogs on the political news shows and create an environment where your guests feel able to share freely in an environment of trust. Whether you land on a format that includes beer-tasting (like our peripatetic format evolution) or not, it’s good to have planned digressions for some of the conversation.

Unique snowflakes: Knowing when to shut up

While you are undoubtedly your own specialist subject, across from you sits your guest(s) who is/are their own veritable mine of distinct information! Humans who don’t like talking about themselves are lying!

Take that as a start point, have some general questions, ask about them and throw in a couple of curve-balls by all means, but let them speak. Silence is your secret weapon, to be wielded with care and precision in conversation.

Can you hear me? Audio quality basics

One of my first jobs was working in a camera shop in London, where image hopefuls were seduced by the collision between technology and the apparent promise of amazing output with ‘the next consumer imaging breakthrough’. Rest easy you’ve likely already got the gear (hint; it’s in your pocket) you need to get started.

There’s some great, inexpensive options that deliver obscene value for quality, but you can build as you progress.

  • Input capture: You can capture broadcast still and moving images (and audio) from recent flagship smartphones² straight out of the box. Try find somewhere quiet, and free of visual and noise distraction, but don’t shy away from occasionally breaking rules – memorable audio capture at a really noisy industry party while dressed as Adam Ant is some of my favourite.
  • Output: Edit³ before publishing: What are the good bits, where are the interesting links and what, while pleasant enough, could be discarded? Make those tough calls and ensure your audience has enough of the fundamentals with a few anecdotes, all packed into a concise summary of what actually happened.

Habit forming

Print publishers (RIP) learnt a long time ago the power of routine.  Create a monthly magazine, annual special, or fortnightly comic and you’ll create habits in your audience that become embedded over time. Consistency builds loyalty (builds empires in the long run)..

It’s neat to let go and see where something can roll, or what it can become. The time-constrained race for perfection blights much of modern marketing practice. What we are building is an authentic story from the mouths of renowned practitioners, edited and distributed on the inter tubes every fortnight:


43words works with future-focused businesses to reveal meaningful and engaging brand stories.

43words at Linkedin:

¹ Why devote time, energy, money and effort to something that’s not a $viable ‘product’? Simply because it’s fun, a massive learning process, and hugely beneficial on both personal and professional levels.

² Not (completely) about the hardware. Whether you’d want to depends on other factors, yet the tools are merely a promise of technological capability. Very few items of capture tech are fully utilised, or find users hitting hardware limitations before knowledge and skill barriers. So, start with what you’ve got to hand. With an iPhone and a couple easily available accessories, like this adaptor and this mic, you’ve got a one track recording studio in your pocket. Android options marginally more convoluted, yet cheaper. If you don’t know what you need, you probably don’t need it. Yet…

³ We actually edit the heck out of each recording; for a couple reasons.

  • Audience interest: get to the point, there’s only 168 every week so give them your best 60 minutes or less.
  • Think like a consumer (even though you’re a creator). Put yourself in their shoes, literally walk the dog or go to the gym. How long did that take? Make it easy to position your media into your audience’s daily lives.

*Audio is just another tool for capture. It can be as simple, complex or complicated as you desire. I’d say it’s straightforward, once you’ve got the hang of some fundamentals – for another time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s