Telling great stories with podcasts and videos

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Photo by Will Francis on Unsplash

More B2B publications are venturing into the worlds of videos and podcasts to tell stories, and it’s paying off.

That’s why ASBPE tapped John Heltman, editor-in-chief of American Banker Magazine, and Annie Pancak, senior video producer at Law360, for the May 11 webinar, “Beyond Print: Best Practices for Telling Great Stories with Podcasts and Videos,” to find out what makes a good podcast, how to prepare for a captivating video and much more.

The session covered a lot of ground, so there wasn’t time to cover all of the questions from the audience.

However, after the event closed, Heltman and Pancak tackled some of those questions.

Check out the below Q&A for some tips and tricks for creating great videos and podcasts.

How has remote work and COVID changed your multimedia reporting style, especially if you can’t travel to visit sources and sites in person? 

Annie Pancak (AP): We moved to more remote filming by having sources film themselves on iPhones for certain projects, but it’s truly not the same as when I have control of the camera. I pushed for as much in-person filming as was safe to do so. This meant doing interviews outside, constantly cleaning equipment and having to be very flexible in dealing with sources’ safety concerns as well as my own. 

John Heltman (JH): At first, I was pretty concerned about how COVID was going to affect the podcast. A lot of the texture of the audio came from physically going places and interacting with people, and there just hasn’t been much opportunity to do that in person. So, you just make do with what you have and even lean into it a bit. The first episode of season 2 [of Bankshot] last year came out March 26, and it was about the pandemic, which had just set in. I interviewed my 3-year-old son about why he wasn’t in school, and personally it’s one of my favorite episodes (but I’m biased).

Not doing as much on-site reporting also hasn’t been all bad – it’s easier to line up interviews because people are more available than pre-pandemic because everyone’s home and everyone’s on Zoom anyway. There’s a ton of things to talk about and everyone wants to talk about them.

For solicited video, like these selfie videos, what sort of guidance (technical, formatting, style) do you give participants so that videos meet quality requirements?

AP: For a quick selfie video, I ask for horizontal videos, but work with whatever I’m sent. When I have more time for planning an iPhone selfie video, I send a list of setup instructions before the interview. That includes:

  • sit in front of a light source and turn off noisy appliances;
  • turn off phone notifications/sounds;
  • clean camera lens; and
  • in settings for iPhone, select Camera -> record video -> 4K at 24 fps. 

How do you handle a multisource call or interview [for podcasting]? Is it a general best practice to avoid those for podcasts, or are there situations where having multiple people on the line can add value without confusion?

JH: I personally don’t love multisource interviews, but people keep lining them up anyway. The reason I don’t like them is because almost as a rule, only one of the subjects end up doing most of the talking, and because they’re usually from the same organization they’re most likely representing more or less the same viewpoint. That isn’t always true, but many, many times I’ll just end up using one of the people on the call because I didn’t need to introduce both of them for their perspective to be represented.

There are exceptions to this of course, and you just need to use and trust your judgment. Like if the people are interacting and bouncing off each other, there’s no reason to cut that out. I interviewed a couple a few years ago who both work in banking regulation – they were married and also worked together – and they kind of fed off each other in this way that made for a better story.   

Video is emerging as a powerful storytelling tool in B2B journalism. What do you say to reporters and editors who are apprehensive about getting into video?

AP: I actually think it’s fair to be a little apprehensive because video is not right for every story, and so I don’t think there is going to be – or should be – a grand pivot to video in B2B journalism. But if you cover an industry that is about or impacts actual people, there is no more powerful way to relay emotion and connection than video.

Plus, if you’re hoping to attract younger audiences, video is essential. 

If an organization has only a small budget for video equipment, what’s your advice on how to allocate money? For example, would you spend more on audio and less on lighting?

AP: Video equipment can get very expensive quickly, but it’s certainly possible to get good results with a small kit. I’d recommend investing in a camera, tripod and audio recorder to get started. Something like the Canon 6D or 70D is a relatively affordable DSLR, coupled with a Zoom recorder will get you professional quality picture and audio.

What kind of sponsorship opportunities do you offer to clients? How do you seamlessly weave sponsorships and maintain editorial integrity?

JH: Our sponsorships run through the sales department, so I don’t know a lot about the details, but last year we started what is known as pre-roll and mid-roll ads in the podcast. That just means that we run an ad before the episode begins and in the middle. For the mid-roll ad, we just lead up to it by saying “And we’ll find out more about that after this quick break.” And the ad rolls. Sometimes I read it, sometimes it’s read for us, but if I read it there’s music in the background so it’s easily distinguishable from the program. I’d say ours is a pretty typical approach for this kind of podcast.

As for maintaining editorial integrity, I don’t think it’s different from other advertising. And advertising has pretty clear rules: don’t give preferential treatment to sponsors or represent something as editorial when it’s advertising. Some podcasts have the hosts kind of ad-lib a pitch for the thing they’re selling, but that hasn’t come up for us.

What kind of mics are you using, both for remote and in-field? 

AP: For remote, I’m happy with iPhone recordings. In the field, I use a Sony condenser lav mic plugged into a Zoom H4n recorder as well as a Rode VideoMic Go attached to my camera. 

JH: I use a Zoom H4 hand-held recorder, and it has a stereo mic that I use in the field. I thought about getting a shotgun mic at one point for field recording, but COVID hit and it hasn’t really come up since then. For in-studio I have a no-name condenser mic that I bought off Amazon flash sale for I think $15, and that was in 2017, and it works great. Some of the other reporters use a Blue Yeti USB mic and record to their laptop and that works, too. We also have some pro lavalier mics (Arts-Technica AT899 condenser mics) for live interviews, but again, we haven’t been using those a lot lately. 

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