Things We Learned Making a Podcast

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Podcasts as a format have been growing in popularity and show no signs of slowing down. There are currently over 750,000 podcasts (growing daily) and the number of weekly podcast listeners has almost doubled in the last five years.

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We recently made a podcast with one of our clients as part of an integrated campaign to support a book launch – Racism at Work: the Danger of Indifference – aimed at HR professionals, learning and development teams, business leaders, anyone who works with people at the centre of their role (but the largest addressable qualified audience are just professionals in general).It was great fun.Tips and tricks learned along the way - before, during and after the actual making of the podcasts themselves. 

PLANNING

Lead with insight

Before deciding on a podcast, we wanted to see how the target audience were already engaging with the topic (or not), how big the conversation was, and who was leading it. What would they be confident in sharing on social, and how could the way they privately Google – and how does that reveal the knowledge and any confidence gaps? This helped us plan how we’d execute the campaign, which channels to use and which topics to cover. Some of our onsite content answered the questions people were Googling the most, and our social strategy discussed topics we knew people were more likely to join in on. The podcast plan was to take the core themes that we identified through insights and find people with specialist or expert experience of the concepts, to complement the onsite content. 

It’s an overlooked but valuable format for a B2B audience

Taking an audience-first approach, we understood thatmany of our target users were on a mission for self-improvement, learning and increasingly professional development…but they were also very time poor.B2B podcasts seem to be booming because a lot of professionals feel this way.They line up the podcasts and suddenly even their commutes can be productive. With a front row seat to an interview with your favourite industry leader, experts in their fields and inspirational entrepreneurs – it’s an access all areas.27% of people listen to podcasts when in the car and listening on a computer sits at 31% - so there’s a clear appetite for people wanting podcasts with their work hat on. It’s a new side to mentoring and getting to learn from people you’d never had access to even 10 years ago. They’re a much faster (and cheaper) route to knowledge and industry news than things like conferences, webinars and networking events.

Niches can thrive

As with the internet in general, from Reddit threads to blogs, niche interests and topics have space to thrive, and like-minded people gravitate towards them. The same is true for podcasts: true crime, health, spirituality and digital marketing blogs alike are all building their own loyal base of followers who subscribe and can’t wait for the next episode to drop. Just as micro-influencers on social have sky-rocketing engagement, so too do podcasts. Listeners are very engaged, with 80% listening to all or most of an episode. That is a huge opportunity to connect with an audience: no wonder more brands and business leaders want to get involved. Touch points with a brand like a social media post, an article or even a video couldn’t demand that kind of attention.

It’s a great format for storytelling

It’s been called an intimate format; you feel close to the hosts and their guests. As a listener it feels like you’ve been granted unique access to people; their experiences, their anecdotes and feelings you’d never have space to delve into, in formats like text-based articles. The book covered the topic of Racism at Work from a theoretical, psychological and professional stand point, which perfectly set the stage for us to find people who we could talk personally to. To us, it felt like these stories really brought the subject matter and the themes of the book to life: it made them more tangible and real – and they were important voices to be heard.

Create structure with room for spontaneity

Make a plan. We mapped out the discussion guides for each episode in advance. This helped us make sure that all topics were broad enough for lots of room for the conversation to roam, yet distinct enough to be its own episode. It also kept the format consistent. We shared the discussion guides with the speakers in advance, so they could gather their thoughts and think about what they wanted to say. They were never meant to be scripts to be strictly adhered to, but a safety net for the host if the flow ever felt strained during recording.   Sounds obvious, but it’s best to get the planning and discussion guides signed off by the client beforehand, it makes the sign off process easier if you establish any no-go topics or questions from the outset.

RECORDING AND EDITING

Passion trumps production value

Unlike a corporate video or a voiceover, natural conversation has erring and false starts. That’s all part of what people expect from the genre. It’s more real, more authentic. As long as passion, ideas and experience is at the core, production values can come second. People can be pretty tolerant if the content is worth it. We really hope that’s true for the episode where our speaker dialled in with a building site in the background. 

There’s a lower barrier to entry than you might think

There are ways to do it very professionally with excellent sound quality, great equipment and recording studio, but a good enough recording can be made with cheaper (and more portable) equipment. Distribution to platforms like iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher is easy through a singular hosting platform: we chose Libsyn.

Speaker chemistry can make editing easier

When conversation flows naturally, it makes all the difference, especially when you’re editing. You can feel the chemistry between the speakers. Some of our speakers had never met in real life, so this element was an unknown. To accommodate this, we ensured there was always some time before the recording for a warm-up chatwhere the host and guestscould get to know each other. This exercised any nerves and tension and made the recording sound more natural. This in no way means that everyone has to hold the same views for there to be that flow.A heated debate is just as welcome and exciting to listen to – but to use it, seemed to put people at ease.

Introductions and signposts set the tone

Record the introductions immediately after recording the session itself. In a few sentences, can the host give an overview of what the listener can expect to hear in the coming episode? Whilst it’s fresh in their mind, they can give a really good sense of themes that were covered, how they felt about it and any personal highlights.And don’t forget to smile when recording your ‘set pieces’ like the intro and outro. It sounds warmer and livelier.Cheesy, but it’s true.

Edit with a checklist

Editing will take about three times as long as the length of the raw material you have. We had a lot of good material to cut down, so found this really hard. Everyone working with the same checklist made our edits consistent and shortened the length of time it took overall (although we could have beeneven more streamlined ourselves!). We used questions like:

  • Is it on topic?

  • Did all reference points make the cut? For example, if a point was discussed in the wrap up, make sure the original bit wasn’t edited out.

  • Any external materials referred to? Capture name and time stamp to link to in the episode notes

  • Any ideas for future content? Let’s bank them.

  • Any topic covered twice across different episodes? Delete.

  • Swear words or individual’s names to be removed.

There is (probably) no ‘optimum length’

We were asked what the optimum length of a podcast was. It was hard to answer – the average length of popular podcasts in 2018 was 53 minutes. To plan for a 53-minute podcast, however, felt silly and restrictive. We took the approach when editing, that ifit was valuable, it stayed in. This is why our episodes ended up varying in length from about 38 minutes all the way up to 1 hour 15 minutes.

PROMOTING

They’re good for SEO (AND they can drive site traffic)

You should definitely consider having your podcasts available on your website, in addition to the streaming and downloading platforms.Include one episode per page and include things like full details of the participants, links to references made in the episodes (even transcripts if you have the time) and further reading to make them information-rich destinations. They are a great ‘reason to link’ and puts your website at the centre of your campaign; somewhere you have control of the content and the journey. They can also drive significant traffic to your site - as we found - and once people are there, you can build more of a connection with them and show them what else you’re about.

They need a seeding plan, just like other content

Once you build them, it doesn’t necessarily mean people will stumble across them. Treat it as you would any other piece of content. Use all of your marketing channels to promote them – that includes your existing customers, followers and newsletter subscribers. Podcasts can be great ‘Mother Content’ from which you can build a whole suite of assets for other channels; snackable quotes for LinkedIn, videos and carousel ads for Instagram, behind the scenes information for your newsletter subscribers. It all points back to your site. We leveraged the client’s social network, including individuals from the company, a newsletter to current customers and a paid boost to boot. Starting from scratch will require more effort to build up momentum.

Creative is still required

As it’s an audio format, creative requirements may get overlooked. We still needed to brief in visuals: the icon for the series itself was really important, as the format is restrictive. It needs to stand out in a feed amongst lots of others vying for attention, and also still be clear and readable at a very small size… and we also needed that turning into snackable and shareable assets for social media and other marketing channels to promote the series. 

Measurement still matters

By creating this podcast, our goal was to get as many of the right people listening, so downloads and reviews were important. In addition to that, secondary objectives were to increasevisibility and engagement with the topic in general - and to position our client as a thought leader on the topic. To track those objectives, we needed to the performance of supporting content and landing pages on the clients website.And of the social posts promoting the content. We combined data from the Libsyn platform, social media native analytics and Google Analytics to build a holistic picture of performance. We’ve had 1,200 episode downloads (at the time of writing, two weeks after launch) and counting…

Have a listen to the podcast series Racism at Work for our client Pearn Kandola here.

BlogSarah Evans