PR TECHNIQUE WEBCASTING: Make eye-catching Webcasts - Webcasts areincreasing in popularity, but live transmission presents a whole new setof challenges. Robin Londner uncovers how to maximize your streamingmedia message

Leave it to Victoria's Secret to start a trend. When the retailer

advertised a live Webcast of its New York lingerie party during the 1999

Super Bowl, 1.5 million Internet users pointed and clicked. Sure, the

high-profile stunt was rife with problems, including mass server

overloads, but it set the stage for the Webcasting of everything from

corporate events to rock concerts.



Corporate earnings Webcasts are used to pass along information and to

satisfy Regulation FD requirements. But Webcasts are also used for

entertainment, distance learning, meetings, marketing and employee

training.



There are a variety of companies out there that perform Webcasting

services, but how can you tell them apart? First, make sure you review

past work, check references and set up a face-to-face interview. Get

estimates for similar services from multiple companies and visit each

company's Web site. If a company's own site is riddled with glitches,

chances are it will produce similarly problematic Webcasts.



"A good streaming media provider will inform you of the pitfalls you

should expect going into a project," says Bobby Carter, co-founder and

partner of International Stream.



Before you sign a contract, determine whether your target audience is

Web-enabled, and if so, the speed of its Internet connection. Richard

Strauss, president of Strauss Radio Strategies, the parent company of

Webcasting service Globalstreamcast.com, advises using common sense,

intuition and surveys.



"Say you're doing a Webcast for a nonprofit group with a set

membership," Strauss says. "Do a survey in their newsletter asking, 'Are

you online?' and 'How do you connect to the Internet?'"



Doug Simon, president and CEO of DS Simon Productions, says after

considering the technology available to its target audience, he

convinced the National Venture Capitalist Association to do a live

audiocast of its annual meeting instead of using video.



Indeed, the best Webcasts are created for specific audiences that would

not be better served by television. For example, college students are

typically computer savvy, have access to high bandwidth and might not

watch broadcast TV.



"Webcasting may not be the right option for events broadcast on TV or

relatively small audiences," says Dan Leonard, co-founder of

Biznews24.



"There's a strong rationale for Webcasting for any audience with a

common interest, need or business reason to receive information."



Once you've decided whether Webcasting is right for your audience, make

sure your content is appropriate for streaming media. For example,

fast-moving elements - such as those in products with small, moving

parts - aren't prime candidates for Webcast transmission because slower

connection speeds can cause poor video quality and compromise your

message. Consider offering audio and video Webcasts of varying quality

to accommodate different connection speeds.



Remember that phone conversations do not copy particularly well, so be

sure to film or tape all Webcast participants using the same production

tools, including lights, cameras and microphones. PowerPoint slides

usually translate well, provided the type size is no more than 18 points

and there is a maximum of seven lines per slide.



If possible, include material that is not available through other

mediums.



For example, a Webcast about a new album might include backstage clips

or an unreleased interview. In addition, interactive elements, including

polls and chat boxes, are unique to the medium and provide an avenue for

audience feedback.



And just because you're using a cutting-edge form of communication

doesn't mean your message can be less than stellar. "The Internet is an

information and entertainment tool, so if the person broadcasting is not

interesting, your audience will not stay tuned," says Susan Hwang, new

media director for On The Scene Productions.



"The video Webcast should not merely show your CEO or spokesperson

talking behind a desk," says Laurence Moskowitz, chairman, president and

CEO of Medialink Worldwide. "People want to see the product you're

launching or the new facility you've developed."



Ross Sonnabend, a partner at venture management firm Ramp Rate, says the

biggest problem in Webcasting is gaining return on investment (ROI).



"With few exceptions, companies have a problem creating money around

content," says Sonnabend, who sees a trend toward pay-per-view

Webcasts.



You can track Webcast profitability in a few ways. Most Webcasting

companies have their own methods of gathering audience demographics. The

most common is the pop-up survey. Other firms earn their ROI by

archiving Webcasts on company sites or intranets.



Of course, Webcasts have no value if people don't know they exist. "If

you don't promote the Webcast, there's no point in even doing it," says

Kyle Carmone, manager of business development for TVN Communications

Group. "Promote it to journalists, to Web sites, to the ultimate

users.



Finally, Carmone says, don't be afraid to partner up. "Take into account

any and all cross-merchandising opportunities," he says. "If you're

doing a barbecue Webcast, get a link on the sites of meat companies,

seasoning companies or grill companies, and get free promotion for your

event."



USEFUL SUPPLIERS



Biznews24



Dan Leonard, 703-465-9200



CCBN



Greg Radner, 617-801-7900



DS Simon Productions



Doug Simon, 212-736-2727



Digital Planet



Steven Chester, 310-733-5300



Globalstreamcast.com



Richard Strauss, 202-638-0200



International Stream



Bobby Carter, 678-580-4136



Medialink Worldwide



Susan Macaluso, 212-812-7034



MindBlazer



Peggi Smith, 704-554-9555



On The Scene Productions



Susan Hwang, 323-930-5816



Orbis Broadcast Group



Randy Seffren, 312-942-1199



PR Newswire



1-888-776-0942



TVN Communications Group



Kyle Carmone, 212-889-2323



West Glen Communications



Mark Dembo, 212-921-2800



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