If launching a podcast is part of your startup’s mission, you’re on the right track. Here are 7 tips to help you succeed from the start:
Tip #1: Change the way you think of podcasting.
Don’t think of podcasting as an audio version of your website content. It’s fine to have conversations about content posted on your blog if the podcast expands the conversation. It’s a mistake to only reiterate what you’ve already published.
Even making this mistake once or twice could cost you hundreds of subscribers. Once someone experiences your podcast as a repeat of your blog, they’ll have no reason to come back.
If you’ve made this mistake in the past, delete those podcasts and create permanent 301 redirects for all former links to a page explaining the deletion and refer people to your latest episodes.
Don’t assume that older podcasts won’t be found. New subscribers often search through archives to start at the beginning so they don’t miss anything.
Listen to successful podcasts.
By listening to successful podcasts you’ll be inspired with ways to launch your own. You’ll see how each podcast provides a unique value for listeners, and how it relates to the creator’s business.
To recap, podcasting is not an audio duplication of existing content you’ve published. It’s an expanded conversation that sometimes touches on the subject matter of existing content, but always takes the reader deeper into the heart of whatever subject you’re exploring.
Tip #2: Understand the advantage of storytelling.
One look at box office sales supports storytelling as the best way to capture people’s attention. It’s incredible to see ticket sales for some new movies. Due to inflation, the dollar figures aren’t as important as the number of tickets sold.
This chart shows the number of ticket sales for the top 232 movies in the US. In 1939, Gone With The Wind sold 225.7 million tickets, with the 2011 release of Cars 2 trailing behind with 23.2 million. For anyone who’s seen Gone With The Wind, the discrepancy in ticket sales is obvious: good storytelling involves more than an interesting plot.
How storytelling relates to podcasting.
In 2014 and 2015, a company called Serial Productions created two consecutive seasons of a true crime narrative podcast titled Serial. The first season took eight weeks to generate 16 million downloads, and the second took only four weeks to generate the same. Their third production – S-Town – blew their former success out of the water.
In a little over a week, the true crime S-Town podcast was downloaded 16 million times and garnered more than 1.8 million subscribers as reported by the New York Times. That’s the fastest a podcast has acquired an audience that big. How did they do it?
First, S-Town owes much of its quick success to the popularity of its predecessors (two seasons of Serial). Serial’s existing reputation and large audience practically guaranteed future productions to be a hit. It didn’t happen overnight, though.
S-Town took three years to produce and wasn’t released until it was complete, satisfying people’s preference for consuming an entire series in one sitting.
Storytelling with a non-fiction podcast.
You can incorporate storytelling into a non-fiction podcast, but it takes a bit of skill. Instead of working with a fictional plot, you’ll be constructing factual narratives and this requires many of the same storytelling abilities used in fiction.
To develop storytelling skills, attend writers’ workshops and read books intended to help you identify and use the elements of nonfiction storytelling. One book not to miss is Write Choices by Sue Hertz.
In her preface, Hertz explains that her book “serves as a commonsense approach by celebrating the universal elements shared by all true stories told with a narrative arc. The mission for us all, from the memoirist to the magazine writer, is to weave accurate and creative narratives, with a journalist’s drive for content, a poet’s eye for imagery, and a fiction writer’s sense of drama. And in this digital age, to recognize the ways technology can enhance – not replace – our words.”
Podcasting is the perfect technology for capturing attention in our digital age of distraction. The better you tell your story, the larger audience you’ll attract.
Tip #3: In-demand guests are always worth pursuing.
Every podcaster wants to interview popular and in-demand guests. The truth is, no guest is unobtainable if your show allows them to share what they’re passionate about in front of a relevant audience. Plenty of celebrities have made guest appearances on regular podcasts they felt passionately about. Celebrities are human, too, and enjoy sharing when it benefits a cause near and dear to their heart.
When to catch high profile guests.
The best time to capture a high profile guest is when they’ve launched a new project and are looking for publicity. How can you tell when a new project is being launched? There’s a strategy for that. As Buzzsprout explains, there’s a little-known filter on Amazon that allows you to see books that are coming soon. By searching for upcoming books related to your podcast, you’ll have a list of people who will soon be looking for publicity. Reach out to them as soon as possible to request their guest appearance.
Tip #4: Always start with high-quality equipment.
Many new podcasters make the mistake of “winging it” with poor equipment just to get content out the door. They’ve been told to start with whatever they have and worry about professional equipment later. Unfortunately, following this advice works against you.
Creating a podcast isn’t a project you throw together in a minute. A podcast should be part of your overall marketing strategy, and should be planned and organized to some degree. Otherwise, you’ll be pumping out diluted content on a regular schedule without knowing where you’re going.
If creating your podcast content requires careful planning, why not plan your equipment, too?
As stated earlier, some visitors will start with your first podcast, no matter how many episodes you’ve published. If you started recording on your smartphone that was stuck to the windshield of your car, driving down the highway blasting AC/DC, that’s going to be the first impression you leave on your viewers.
Planning your equipment will help you create the best first impression possible. The good news is that you don’t need an extensive budget to get started. Although a high-quality microphone will be your Ace of Spades, even a $50 mic from Target will be better than the mic on your smartphone.
First, create a budget for equipment. Next, check out this thorough guide on podcasting equipment and familiarize yourself with all the components you’ll need. For example, at a minimum, you’ll need a microphone, headphones, and recording software.
Next, determine how much of your budget you want to spend for each piece of equipment. You may be satisfied with that $50 mic from Target, but want to spend a larger portion of your budget for high-quality software, knowing you can upgrade your mic later.
You should never have to apologize to your guests for poor audio or video, or noises in the background. Do whatever it takes to secure a quiet space for recording.
Tip #5: Invite your best guests back to your show.
When you’ve interviewed a phenomenal guest that brought you a large audience, invite them back! Each time you host a guest, you’ll wonder if your audience likes them. Inviting your best guests back will be a guaranteed hit with your subscribers.
Tip #6: Be interested, not interesting.
The purpose of having guests is to highlight their accomplishments and projects. Be genuinely interested in what they’re up to. Ask questions and allow them to share openly with your guests.
You have a lot of experience and wisdom to share with your audience, and it’s okay to dialogue with your guests, but tip the balance of attention toward your guests for the best results. Acknowledge them for what they share, no matter how familiar you are with their story. Ask questions you already know the answer to. Keep in mind that your audience won’t always be familiar with your guests like you are.
Ask your guests ahead of time for a list of questions you can ask to prompt them to share their best stories. You don’t need to script the dialogue ahead of time, but having a list of questions will help your show stay on track without any awkward pauses.
Tip #7: Be a guest on other podcasts.
Whoever said it’s rude to invite yourself over clearly wasn’t a podcaster. If you have a solid message to share with your target audience, other podcasters will be happy to host you on their show, but they need to know you exist.
Introduce yourself to other podcasters with an audience that relates to yours. It doesn’t need to be an exact match. Often, the best guests bring something new to the table. This is a good way to develop your network as well. If someone doesn’t want to host you on their show, don’t ditch the connection. Keep them in your sphere because they may provide your name as a referral to another podcaster looking for guests that fit your description.
Above all, have fun. Podcasting is a great avenue for expression so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Your audience will appreciate your authenticity.