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April 10, 2006

Webcasting – an E-Publishing Option for Non-Profits

Guest Blogger - Jim O'Hare
SmarComm, President

Jimohare20kcropped_3So, all your metrics indicate you’ve done a good job of building your online community. You’ve nurtured a substantial and clean email list that grows and improves with each issue. Your team is strongly linked to your organization’s constituents, its mission and most importantly, its sustainable future.

Still, you’re always willing to consider different communications technologies, especially ones that provide both a sense of excitement and immediate feedback. Maybe it’s time to consider a live web broadcast, a webcast, to augment your core communications strategies.

Webcasts appeared as early as 1997, but uneven bandwidth and poor application services added up to a media tool that was not ready for prime time until 2001. Since then, the explosive adoption of broadband and an increase in understanding of how to produce effective multimedia for the web led to an embracing of streaming media and other forms of webcasting by both producers and consumers.

Typically, webcasts have been employed in the technical and business-to-business marketplaces. Today, though, they are also earning rapid adoption from organizations that directly target members, communities or consumers. These include any organization that benefits when it can “meet” live to directly address those interested in news or updates:

  • associations
  • colleges, universities, school districts, private schools and other educational institutions
  • libraries
  • foundations and philanthropic organizations
  • economic development groups
  • other types of non- and not-for-profit organizations.

The benefits of webcasting are too compelling for organizations to ignore. With a webcast, it’s possible to invite and deliver a live production totally online. The result is that expenses are greatly reduced as compared to a live meeting. This means that an audience hears you speak, sees complementary graphics (typically PowerPoint-type slides) and perhaps video, plus is able to respond live to polling questions – and sees the results immediately, if you choose to share. Also, audience members typically ask questions live via online chat to the presenting team. Depending on the time frame and questions, answers can be shared live “on the air” or afterward via a document you compile and send out via email.

Five tips to consider when exploring webcasting:

  1. Start small
    Invite a segment of your larger audience, perhaps 1000 to 2500 invitees who have a common interest, central to your webcast. In this way, you can hone your production skills and internal processes first, and then scale to an appropriate size.
  2. Center your first webcast on a timely announcement or event
    Don’t commit your organization to a regular webcast schedule until you learn if the media is right for you and your audience.
  3. Consider a “Webcast about Webcasting”
    Schedule a webcast to an internal audience to acclimate them to the tool, get input and ideas for the broader group, and to allow the webcast production team to produce a “real” but controlled event
  4. Start simple
    For your first webcast, don’t even consider live video feeds of presenters; you’re message probably won’t require it, your audience won’t expect it, and you’re organization is likely not ready the very first time.
  5. Focus on your audience and your message
    Webcasting technology is not the story – your message and your audience should be your primary concern. Instead of attempting to build your own web broadcasting tool, partner with a service provider that can ensure your webcast will be simple and successful

Webcasting is not intended to be the cornerstone of any organization’s communication platform. When best implemented, a webcast complements your primary goal: directly communicating and engaging your community with in-person visits and other forms of direct, personal contact that strongly builds loyalty, engagement and support.

Still, webcasting is increasingly becoming an important element in the communications plans of many universities and other non- and not-for profit organizations. This is especially true for those organizations with audiences and presenters located around the world, but strongly connected via their hearts  . . . and via an internet enabled computer.

In next issue:

  1. How much does a webcast typically cost (and can it really be free or even return revenue?)
  2. Tips for sustaining an effective webcast production schedule
  3. How large of an audience can I expect?
  4. What do I do before a webcast . . . and what’s important to do afterward?
  5. Answers to your questions, and an invitation to a webcast:
    Webcasts for Schools and Other Nonprofits

Posted by Don Philabaum on April 10, 2006 at 08:58 AM | Permalink

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Comments

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