A Primer On Podcasting, Part II
The first thing to understand when planning to create a podcast is that success is measured by results, not by the size of your audience. Most niche-oriented podcasts will never garner a listening audience equal to the mass appeal of a celebrity-hosted podcast. That said, you can certainly gain the attention of your intended audience and that is what matters most.
Attracting and keeping the attention of your audience is dependent on five key components. This article looks at how to maximize each one.
1. Great Content
A good show begins with great content. I define content as subject matter and format. Subject matter is what your show will be about. For example, will it share dos and don’ts for a branding campaign, or product ideas for a specific market? Is the format going to be a 10-minute teaching show or a 30-minute entertainment-style show with a guest? How often will you offer the podcast? Weekly, biweekly or some other frequency?
You must have a very good idea of what you wish to accomplish with your show in order to develop the subject matter and format. Three format examples for podcasts are the Q&A interview (involving the host and a subject matter expert), teaching (step-by-step, how-to guides) and commentary (sharing opinion).
Your show’s subject matter will need to fit into a specific category to follow how podcast hosting and networks list podcasts. To determine how to categorize a show, check out the podcasts on sites such as iTunes, Stitcher and Podomatic and scroll down the category list.
While on those sites, listen to various shows for ideas on suitable formats that best communicate your topic to your select audience. Choosing a suitable format will be your first step to building a brand around your show and promoting it.
2. Interesting Host
Are you going to host this show on your own or will it be a team effort? Single-hosted shows are quite popular within radio, TV, YouTube and podcasting. If you choose this approach, you must do your homework and be comfortable with sharing into an empty space with no feedback. Keep in mind, like a good speaker, the best hosts follow an outline and use notes to keep them on track.
A good host must also be personable, genuine and likeable no matter what the content of the show. If people hate the way you sound or are bored with your delivery, they will stop the podcast before you’ve had a chance to share anything. Hosts must also be professional and speak without um’s and ah’s to fill empty space. Take a cue from the pros and emulate what they do.
It takes practice, so give yourself some leeway as you grow into your position as a podcast host. Think of conversation not performance. For example, when you share information with another person, you don’t stop, pause and try to figure out what you are going to say. You just say it with no um’s and ah’s or dead air—it’s just a flow of words. No matter what format or subject matter you choose, the most popular shows are hosted by individuals people love to listen to.
3. Quality Studio
This is the most complicated of all the components and the space here can’t do it justice, but I can briefly introduce you to the elements of a quality studio. My book, The Podcasters Cookbook, goes into greater detail on this subject.
There are three components to building a quality studio: 1) a quiet room 2) the right equipment and 3) the right recording software or virtual studio.
Where do you plan to record your podcast? Will it be in your home, your office or in a professional studio? No matter where you go to record, make sure the surrounding environment is professional. By that, I mean it should sound like a radio show sounds—without sounding like it was recorded in an echo chamber or a metal hut.
Making your studio room as quiet as possible is the goal here. Do a web search and look up ways to accomplish this. The point is this: if you detect an echo, fix it.
Choosing the right equipment begins with purchasing a quality voice microphone (not the one built into your computer nor a handheld one used for singing). The microphone will be plugged into either a mixer board or directly into your computer.
Depending on your knowledge of sound engineering, I strongly suggest you work with a virtual studio/podcast hosting company such as Spreaker (Spreaker.com). It offers a free trial service which allows you to learn how to record and even provides a way to take phone calls as part of your show. The platform was developed for live shows but can also be used for pre-recorded shows as well.
Using a service like Spreaker will be a lot quicker and less expensive than building a professional studio. Keep in mind that while Spreaker has its limitations, overall it’s an excellent way for first-time podcasters to get their feet wet.
4. Effective Marketing
Marketing a podcast involves two key steps: syndication of your show onto the various podcast networks such as iTunes, and traditional marketing that lets the world know you have a podcast.
Since podcasts are available online, it only makes sense to begin with an online marketing strategy. This includes promoting the show through e-mail to everyone on your list, Facebook, YouTube channel (you can upload all shows to your channel), Twitter feed, blog and website. Every time you upload a new show it’s an excuse to promote the show through your marketing channels.
Don’t forget to use non-digital marketing. Always mention your podcast in your published ads, TV and radio spots, at your trade show booth, events, networking groups and on your business card. A perfect example is the retailer Trader Joe’s, a sponsor of public radio, which plugs its podcasts whenever the name is mentioned.
The point of marketing your podcast is, like your business, to let people know it exists, and it’s your job to promote it. Being on iTunes is helpful but to get the biggest push you will need to leverage all your traditional and non-traditional marketing efforts.
One more thing: depending on the podcast hosting company you choose, you may be able to embed a branded podcast player on your website that is updated every time you upload a new show. You can house all the sound files on your website as archived shows, so they can be accessed by visitors.
5. Syndication And Distribution
The power of podcasting comes from the number of podcast networks that carry your show. The list of networks is growing but some of the major players are iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn Radio, IHeart Radio, Stitcher, Podomatic, Sound Cloud, Podbean and Spotify. Pandora may be entering this space soon as well.
Each of these podcast networks carries tens of thousands of shows all listed under various categories including business, sports, politics, hobbies and religion, to name a few. Under each main category is a subcategory. Make sure your show falls into a main and subcategory.
Keep in mind that these networks offer apps which can be downloaded onto mobile devices for listening. These apps allow listeners to subscribe to your podcast, so when your show is uploaded to the podcast portal listeners will be notified and your podcast can be automatically downloaded to their device. Now that’s pretty powerful stuff.
The key to getting your show onto these networks is to work with a podcast hosting company (I use Podomatic) that works with you to make sure your podcast is feed-compatible and will be acceptable to these networks. You will be responsible for submitting your own show and in most cases, it will be accepted. The more networks that host your podcast, the more people it will reach.
Creating a successful podcast requires incorporating it into your marketing strategy and allocating sufficient time, resources, money and manpower to carry it out. It takes a lot of work to produce a quality podcast and it takes just as much work to market it. The reality of podcasting is that for every successful podcaster, seven don’t make it. Yet, when done right, a branded podcast can be a powerful tool to reach and serve your current and future customers.
Steve Johann is an award-winning podcaster, speaker, author of The Podcasters Cookbook and consultant who helps companies, organizations and individuals launch branded podcasts. He also produces and co-hosts the Horsepower Chrome and Rust Automotive podcasts. www.stevejohann.com