- Elon Musk, Investor & Entrepreneur
Podcasting: everyone is doing it; not everyone is doing it well. So here are a few things to know before you join an already crowded pack. Otherwise, it’ll never be more than just you and a couple of friends in a basement
HAVE AN IDEA
Tough love time: “start a podcast” is not an idea. It’s a medium for an idea. Your podcast needs a clear vision. It needs to be about something specific that sets it apart from the other podcasts. So for example:
Bad: a podcast about movies.
Better: a podcast about terrible movies
Good: a podcast about terrible movies that are actually good.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but the more specific your starting idea is, the easier time you’ll have coming up with episode topics for it. If your starting concept is too general you’ll flounder for ideas, and struggle to stand out, no matter how brilliant the actual substance of your podcast is.
The beauty of podcasting is that there’s virtually no barrier to entry. Technically, your phone and computer in conjunction with just about any pair of headphones are capable of producing an intelligible audio recording that can serve as a podcast episode. Many podcasts, including the most successful, started this way so it’s safe to say that your podcast isn’t going to live or die by this alone.
Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t worry about audio quality at all. Poor audio can be a turnoff and in the early days of your podcast, it’s best to avoid alienating listeners when you can afford not to.
On the other hand, it’s a bit early to make a serious investment in professional quality gear and space. Your best bet is going to be to drop some spare change on a wired headset (for now think call-center, not recording studio). That way even if you’re still short of studio-quality audio, it’s not going to be a deal-breaker for your listeners.
You may also want to look into recording software, to help with levels, cut that three-minute coughing fit, or mute someone who won’t stop eating chips during the best jokes. Just like with physical gear, there’s a whole range of options available.
Your best bet starting out is going to be a free program or app (Audacity is what I use), but if this becomes a full-time project, or you find yourself in need of certain premium features there are plenty of high-quality options there.
No matter how chaotic and off the cuff your favorite podcast sounds, I promise you they have notes. That segue was planned, probably rehearsed. At least one of the hosts read that article, watched that video, or researched that guy before they hit record, and you should too.
You might think that being too prepared will hurt the casual, conversational tone that makes podcasts great, but having an outline and places to go will make everything sound smoother and natural than trying to fumble through.
Exactly what’s in your notes might vary depending on your overall concept, but should include:
- An outline of the episode. What’s the main topic, where do you want to end, and what do you want the takeaway to be.
- Outside references. If you have an article, a video, a piece of trivia, or some historical context that you’re going to discuss or use to support your point, make sure you note (as best as possible) when and how you want to bring it up.
- Segues. Possibly the most important thing to have planned. Know when and how you’re going to move on from a topic.
- Guests. It might be a while before you have to worry about this one, but have questions prepared, and plan how to introduce them in a way that makes it clear why you’re having them on, and why your listeners should care about this new person.
- The other hosts. Usually, they’ll chime in with stories, opinions, and facts, but if there’s something you want (or need) them to say, make sure they know to say it, or make a note to prompt them for it.
Remember though: this is an outline, not a script. You’re making sure you don’t miss anything and have somewhere to go next, not planning every word.
LAUNCHING & PROMOTING
When it comes to getting your podcast out to the public, more is always better. Put it on as many platforms as you can manage (iTunes should be your first priority). Promote it often, and on as many social media platforms as possible.
Make it easy for people to promote and share your podcast, and content related to it, with episode art, eye-catching episode titles, and quotes from the episode.
If possible, get guest spots on other podcasts. Reach out to anyone who covers the same, or even similar interests. This is how most of them got started, so many of them are happy to help!
Be polite and patient, of course, and suggest ways that your brands might work together.
If you’re a movie podcast, and they’re a comedy podcast suggest a movie that you can riff on together. If you do tech and they do news, offer to help them cover the launch of a new app or product. Offer a partnership, don’t beg for a handout.
Whether this is as a hobby, an excuse to spend time with friends, or you’re trying to eventually make this your full-time job, it’s important to make something you’re proud of, and that other people will enjoy. Getting positive feedback from fans, no matter how big you are, is a great feeling, and, in many ways, its own reward.
So be prepared without over-committing, remember why you wanted to do this in the first place, and have fun!
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Thought leaders & celebrities share their tactics for success on the Lisnic podcast by Lisa Teh & Nick Bell