NEWS BACKGROUNDER/PROFILE: Cherry Hill Podcasting Firm Celebrates Five Years Producing Award-Winning Audio and Video Content

NEWS BACKGROUNDER/PROFILE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

News Media May Contact:

Steven L. Lubetkin, Managing Partner
Professional Podcasts/Lubetkin & Co. Communications
+1 (856) 751-5491 or steve@professionalpodcasts.com

 

Note to Business Editors, Columnists: We provide the following news backgrounder/profile for your use. We’re happy to do interviews about our podcasting experience. Please let us know if you are interested in profiling us. Thanks!

CHERRY HILL, NJJanuary 3, 2010When public relations veteran Steve Lubetkin launched Lubetkin Communications LLC in December 2004, his plan was to continue to provide high-level public relations advice to corporations.

This made some sense. After all, he had just completed a 30-year career as a corporate communications executive at such Fortune 500 companies as Bank of America; the McGraw-Hill Companies’ Standard & Poor’s financial subsidiary; Unisys Corporation; and Consolidated Rail Corporation, advising their leaders about communications strategies.

But the company’s focus changed radically when Steve realized that the Internet was transforming itself into a giant transmitter for audio and video content, fueled by the rise of amateur-produced radio shows called “podcasts.”

And now it seems that Lubetkin’s five year journey to convince clients of the value of podcasting has clearly paid off.

In its first five years, the firm has established itself as one of the most successful and authoritative firms producing audio and video content for clients to distribute using the Internet instead of a broadcasting transmitter and antenna. “Podcasts” of audio and video content are popular among users of Apple’s popular iPod music player device, which gives the programs their name.

Since 2005, Lubetkin Communications — and its Professional Podcasts subsidiary — have produced audio podcasts heard more than 313,000 times, and video podcasts, or “vidcasts,” viewed by nearly 159,000 people, on a wide range of topics including cancer treatment advances, business insurance risks, household pests, banking, commercial real estate, and other financial services topics.

The “Lost” Penn Central Movie – An Early Example of Social Media

The firm received acclaim from the railroad historical community in December 2008 for its worldwide Internet distribution of a rediscovered 1974 film thought to have been destroyed by the Penn Central bankruptcy trustee. The film, “Penn Central 1974” was produced to persuade the US government to provide bailout loans to the bankrupt railroad, and was shown privately to members of Congress at the time.

“It’s an interesting business artifact, probably the only corporate film ever produced to depict how bad the company’s conditions were at the time,” Steve said. “It’s also probably one of the earliest uses of the technology of its day – 16mm sound motion pictures — as a social media tool to persuade a small constituency to take specific actions. When you compare this film to the broad social media initiatives undertaken by automakers in 2008 and 2009 to explain why they needed federal bailout money, you can see how much more sophisticated these tools have become, and how important it is for companies to understand how to use them.”

Awards and Honors Recognize Professional Podcasts Capabilities

Professional Podcasts shared a 2009 JASPER Award from the Jersey Shore Public Relations & Advertising Association with another Cherry Hill video firm, Take This Journey LLC, for a video they produced for Samost Jewish Family and Children’s Services. Professional Podcasts previously won a 2008 JASPER for its audio podcasts for a trade association.

In 2008, Steve was elected a Senior Fellow of the Society for New Communications Research (www.sncr.org), a global nonprofit think tank dedicated to the advanced study of new communications tools, technologies and emerging modes of communication, and their effect on traditional media, professional communications, business, culture and society. He is also a member of the Society’s advisory board.

Today, Professional Podcasts produces high-quality audio and video podcasts for the National Association of Realtors, Amboy Bank; the American Cancer Society, the American Institute of CPCU/Insurance Institute of America; the CCIM Institute; Sun National Bank; the Rutgers University School of Business Administration’s popular Quarterly Business Outlook Seminar, NAPL, a graphic communications trade association, NJBankers, a trade association representing major banks in New Jersey, Leadership NJ; the Public Relations Society of America. The firm also produces its own podcasts focusing on public relations, computer technology, bond ratings, and interviews with book authors.

For most of the company’s clients, the podcasts produced with Professional Podcasts were the first they had ever created. Sun National Bank of Vineland, NJ, became the first commercial bank in New Jersey to use podcasting technology in 2005. The Eastern Division of the American Cancer Society engaged Professional Podcasts in 2005 to produce a 12-part series on breast cancer that continues drawing listeners at www.cancer.org/listen.

Producing their own podcast programs, clients are not constrained by what mainstream broadcasters know as the “tyranny of the clock,” the need to fit programs into a specific time duration. “If a podcast turns out to be 17 minutes and 32 seconds, that’s the length,” said Steve. Audiences can download podcast programs and listen to them at their own convenience.

Video Podcasts and “Be the Media” News Wrapper Reports Increasingly Important

In 2006, Professional Podcasts expanded into video, producing a series of six video podcasts from the Philadelphia Committee of the Urban Land Institute’s annual Outlook Conference. Since that time the firm has produced video podcasts for the New Jersey Bank Marketing Committee, the Cherry Hill law firm Flaster/Greenberg, Jewish Family Services of Delaware, and many others. In 2009, the firm produced a video documentary for Foundations Community Partnership, a Doylestown, PA-based grantmaking organization, that was shown at the organization’s annual awards luncheon, and which can be viewed from the Foundations website.

Professional Podcasts has also produced website welcome videos for the New Jersey Technology Council (http://njtc.org/community/about/about.asp) and for Holly Kimmel Brooks, a nationally known psychic advisor (http://centerpointehk.com/video.html).

One of the firm’s newest and most popular services is its “video news wrapper” service, where Professional Podcasts helps clients “BE the media” by covering a client news event in the same way a broadcast local news crew would cover the activity.

Professional Podcasts interviews event participants, shoots video of the event taking place, and then Lub
etkin ac
ts as the reporter in “stand-up” sequences at the event. The finished “wrapper” (so-called because it “wraps” the interviews in a self-contained story package) is distributed over the Internet using the client’s website, the Apple iTunes Music Store, and other technologies to make the story accessible worldwide.

Since introducing the news wrappers in 2008, Lubetkin has produced video news wrappers for Walmart Stores; ACE Group, a global insurer/reinsurer; Leadership New Jersey; and Sustainable New Jersey. The firm has also produced radio news wrappers for clients that have been aired on terrestrial broadcast radio stations and disseminated through citizen journalism websites.

News Wrapper Reports from Conferences and Special Events: Here are examples of video news wrappers we produced based on events we were covering.

1. ACE Group Video News Wrapper #1 – LEED Certification for Philadelphia Headquarters
2. Walmart Store #5414, Lanoka Harbor, NJ, Grand Opening, 10/7/2009
3. Wal-Mart Vineland NJ Store #3339 Sponsors Back to School Shopping Spree for NJ Boys & Girls Club Members
4. Family Continues Search and Rescue Effort for NJ Man, Joe Dunsavage
5. SPANISH VERSION: Family Continues Search and Rescue Effort for NJ Man, Joe Dunsavage
6. Walmart East Windsor NJ Store Hosts Boys & Girls Club Shopping Spree
7. Temple Emanuel, Cherry Hill, NJ, Participation in "Live Hatikvah 2009" event
8. Walmart Vineland NJ Grand Opening, 1/20-21/2009
9. Walmart gives Atlantic City Boys and Girls Club Members Holiday Shopping Spree
10. Walmart Grand Opening, Deptford, NJ
11. Walmart Grand Opening, Edison, NJ

“Producing what we call rich media content — like audio and video — has a significant positive effect on search ranking for clients,” Steve said. “Consumers and businesses seeking solutions to problems are using search engines aggressively, and higher ranking in search results increases the likelihood that they will find and consider your products or services. It’s organic search optimization, it doesn’t use tricks that can backfire and penalize your search ranking. That’s the hidden power of podcasting.”

In addition to broadcast content distributed over the Internet, Professional Podcasts now also produces documentary videos, digital photography for corporate clients and mainstream news media, and other multimedia content, such as e-learning modules and video slideshows.

How Professional Podcasts Got Started

At the time he launched his consultancy, Steve recognized that the public relations game was being radically transformed by the rise of the Internet.

“I knew the traditional practice of public relations was going to be challenged by the blogging phenomenon, by the emergence of what we now call ‘social media’ – the rise of networking websites like FaceBook, microblogging tools like Twitter,” said Steve. “At the same time, I saw that podcasters were starting to circumvent mainstream broadcast media completely, by producing and distributing audio and video programming over the Internet at a fraction of the cost and effort required to place stories on broadcast radio and TV. Even more significantly, the space available on traditional radio and TV news programs for the content companies produce has declined dramatically.”

A veteran of five years as a radio newscaster and broadcast production engineer who also worked as a newspaper reporter before moving into public relations, Steve realized that corporations and other organizations like trade associations could take advantage of podcasting to deliver their own news coverage of their activities, by producing recorded conversations about their expertise to target audiences directly and efficiently — and without passing it through the filter of mainstream broadcasters.

“I had started listening to podcasts when I first became aware of the technology,” Steve recalled. “There were a lot of people with great subject matter expertise, but they didn’t understand recording techniques, editing tools, and how to prepare a story for broadcast. Frankly, they were making the same kinds of amateur mistakes that I made myself when I was a college radio broadcaster. I knew that corporate clients would use the technology if programs were prepared and edited as if they were being produced for use by traditional broadcasters. That’s how Professional Podcasts was born.”

Used Portable Computer at 1977 Grateful Dead Concert

Steve has had a long history of leveraging emerging communications technologies to provide a competitive advantage to companies where he worked.

In 1977, he and another reporter were ferried by helicopter to a Grateful Dead concert in Englishtown, NJ, where they used a “luggable” data terminal to transmit news stories and reviews of the concert to the Asbury Park (NJ) Press for inclusion in the next day’s newspaper – probably the first-known use of a portable computer to cover a rock concert.

In 1988, before most people knew what email was, he added an email address to his business card after getting the idea from a technology magazine editor at a software developers’ conference in Santa Cruz, CA.

“There really were almost no Internet email addresses at the time. I ended up using my CompuServe email address,” he explained, referring to an early online community absorbed into AOL years ago.

At Standard & Poor’s in the 1990s, he pioneered the rating agency’s use of telephone conference calls structured like radio talk shows, providing live interaction between analysts and investors, a program that earned him a 1995 Corporate Achievement Award for Customer Service from Standard & Poor’s parent, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. He produced and personally hosted some 150 telephone conference calls annually on rating methodology and credit quality trends. In 1998, he introduced Internet-based web-streaming of the conference calls via the Standard & Poor’s web site, making Standard & Poor’s the first bond rating agency to employ web-streaming. More than 20,000 people participated in the conference call programs during Steve’s tenure.

In 1994, Steve earned an MBA degree from the pioneering online campus of the University of Phoenix, one of the first accredited institutions offering a completely online graduate degree program. Steve’s MBA thesis, Bond Ratings in Cyberspace: A Study of the Feasibility of Computer-Supported Rating Committees at Standard & Poor’s Ratings Group, was a ground-breaking survey of bond analysts’ attitudes toward the use of advanced collaborative online technology.

Speaking and Writing about Technology

Since 1996, he has been writing CompuSchmooze™, a monthly newspaper column on Jewish aspects of computer use, in the Jewish Community Voice, published by the Jewish Federation of South Jersey. In 2005, he added podcasts to the column at www.compuschmooze.com. In 2008, he began producing video podcasts to supplement the column and articles written for t
he Voice’s color ma
gazine, Attitudes.

Steve is also a sought-after speaker on podcasting and other social media topics. In addition to conducting workshops for the US State Department, Steve has appeared at events for the National Chicken Council; the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies; the PR Council of Greater Atlantic City; the South Jersey Pharmaceutical and Medical Technology Industry Alliance; the New Jersey Communications Advertising and Marketing Association; the Schering-Plough Executive Lecture Series at Fairleigh Dickinson University; and many others.

One of the high points of his speaking career was in September 2006, when he was keynote speaker at the 13th National Congress of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines held in Manila. During that visit as a guest of the US Embassy, he also made several other speaking appearances at the University of the Philippines, DeLaSalle University, and appeared on Philippines television.

More information about Professional Podcasts, including examples of the firm’s services, are available at http://www.professionalpodcasts.com/. Video podcasts are available at http://professionalpodcasts.blip.tv/.

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