If you’re a creative professional looking to expand your reach and position yourself as a thought leader, now is the time to start a podcast. Audio is the next big thing for interactive media on the web and it’s never been easier to start and share your thoughts with the world. I have launched several podcasts during my career, all of which were successful, and I’m constantly asked how I did it. In this article I’ll talk about that and why you should start podcasting today!
What is a Podcast?
I’m glad you asked! A podcast, in its simplest form, is a form of audio entertainment. Podcasts can take on many forms, like interviews, one-man/woman shows, roundtable discussions, and even episodic series. People consume podcasts in several ways, but mostly via their mobile devices. A user subscribes to your feed, downloads the latest episode using an app like iTunes, Soundcloud, or Stitcher, and then they listen to your show at their leisure. That’s the beauty of podcasting; it’s a passive form of media that can be started and stopped whenever the user wants and instantly resumed when they have time. People listen to podcasts during their morning commutes, while they work out, and when they’re relaxing at night before bed. The opportunities to reach people are endless, so it’s a great way to maximize your exposure and grow your audience.
Why Should I Start a Podcast?
Everybody has a story, and humans are curious creatures that love to hear them. Period. Without a doubt you have something you’re passionate about or experiences that people will find interesting, and sharing those with the world will do a lot to grow your personal brand. Whether you talk about how you attract clients or your passion for collecting rare Beanie Babies (look that one up, kids), someone out there will find it interesting and thus you’ll become part of their regular rotation, which is never a bad thing.
What do I need to Start a Podcast?
Every podcast starts with one thing… an idea. Focus a majority of your time planning exactly what your podcast is going to be about, how you’re going to deliver it, and what your end goal will be. Figure out what it is you’re passionate about and what you can (for the most part) talk about endlessly without burning yourself out. That’s a tough call if you’re new to the game. A lot of people start off with an idea they think will be amazing, but burn out after 5 episodes because they get bored or run out of things to say. Ideation is the key to unlocking the power of your podcasting voice. Sit down and make a list of things you think you can talk about.
After you’ve written down 5-10 ideas, try narrowing them down to 2 or 3. Then take that list and share it with friends or family. Before you show it to them, ask them what they think you should talk about. The people who know you best oftentimes have a better pulse on your personality than you do, so a blind test is usually a good barometer of what might work. If they give you an answer that matches one of the ideas you jotted down, you’ve probably got a winner. If not, share your ideas with them and discuss why they think it might work (or not).
Once the idea is settled, it’s time to start thinking about format. Will you do this podcast by yourself? Will you need a co-host? Will you need regular guests? How long will each show be? How often will you produce an episode? All of these are considerations that have to be made prior to recording your first episode. I suggest doing a few trial runs in multiple formats, sharing those with peers, and getting feedback on which ones work best. Some people can carry an entire show by themselves while others need that counterpart to help keep the conversation going. Think about a morning radio DJ vs The Tonight Show. A DJ generally works alone, has the ability to carry segments and deliver material, all while keeping your attention and telling a story. Most late night shows, however, involve some sort of sidekick (Ed McMahon, Higgins, Andy Richter). Finding the right cohort isn’t easy either. You may have to audition several people before finding the right fit. Don’t stick with someone just because they’re a friend. This is your show and you want it to be the best it can be.
The frequency of your show will ultimately depend on how much time you are willing and able to devote to it. Most people deliver a show once per week. Given the time it takes to plan, record, and edit a show, this is probably more than enough for you. If you’re really ambitious I suppose you could go for 2-3 times per week, or even a daily show, but take into consideration that you’ll be the sun, moon, and stars of this production, and that’ll eat up a lot of time. If you feel like once per week is too much (which it might be) try bi-weekly or monthly. Just make sure you pick a schedule and stick to it. Audiences expect consistency, just like they do for episodic tv shows, so don’t break them of the habit.
What About Equipment?
A lot of people think you need really expensive equipment to start a podcast. Well, that’s just not true. You can actually create a podcast using nothing but your smartphone if you want. Yes, you can invest some serious cash into your show, and that might be a good idea down the road, but when you’re first starting out you should aim to spend as little as possible while still maintaining a decent level of quality. Here are a few things to get you started:
The quality of audio is very important when producing a podcast. Therefore investing in a decent mic is a good idea. When you first start out you may be tempted to drop some big money in this department, but it’s really not necessary. Check out these budget-friendly options that will give you awesome sound quality.
When you’re recording a podcast it’s very important to be able to hear yourself. This ensures that you won’t talk too loud or too soft and that you can detect any distortion or imperfections in your mic setup. You can use something as simple as the earbuds that came with your mobile phone or invest in some higher quality headphones like these:
Recording your podcast will require some type of software. There are many options for this and they all vary in price and complexity. It’s best to research your options in detail and decide which platform you’ll be most comfortable with. Here are a few options I recommend:
- Garageband – FREE (Mac/iOS Only)
- Audacity – FREE (Mac/Win)
- Adobe Audition CC – $20.99/Month (Mac/Win)
- Logic Pro X – $199 (Mac Only)
- Anchor – FREE (iOS/Android)
NOTE: All software has a learning curve. Take the time to learn the platform you choose. Research industry experts and watch tutorials to get better. Go slow, and over time you’ll get better and better. Before you know it you’ll be zooming through your edits without blinking an eye.
What About a Website?
It’s insanely easy to build a website for your podcast. There are several point-and-click platforms out there like Simplecast, Fireside, Libsyn, Anchor, and even Soundcloud. All of these offer the ability to host a landing page for your site, syndicate your file(s) to podcast directories, and just about anything else you’d want to do. If you need a little bit more control, try out WordPress (what I use) or Squarespace. There are literally thousands of WordPress themes out there that can be used for podcasting, some of which are free, so it’s worth checking out if you’re more tech-savvy.
What About Distribution?
Ok, you’ve done all of the above… Now what? Getting your podcast in front of as many people as possible is the final step in the process. No matter which website platform you choose, all of them provide you with an RSS feed that will allow you to syndicate your content to any podcast directory on the web. The biggest ones are iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.
Submitting your show is just the beginning. Once you’ve published it, it’s time to sell it. Sell the hell out of it! Inundate your social channels with links to every episode you produce. Join LinkedIn and Facebook groups for podcasters and other people in your field. Find relevant conversations online that might be related to an episode you’ve done and link to it there. Never. Stop. Selling. The greatest thing about podcasts is that people don’t look at it as a sales tactic. That’s because, for the most part, podcasts are valuable, and people will always come back for more of that.
Audio is set to explode. In fact, in many ways, it already has. Just look at shows like Serial and the Joe Rogan Experience, both of which are in their own stratosphere. Podcasting is one of the most democratic forms of media on the internet today. Literally anyone can do it. If you’re not at least considering a podcast to promote yourself or your business, you should be. Hopefully this article has given you some insight on the how and the why. Now it’s up to you to execute and make it happen.