In a recent blog, we discussed how your business can benefit from starting a podcast. And while starting a podcast isn’t as difficult as you might think, it’s a good idea to have a strategy before you begin. With that in mind, here are six questions you should answer before you start a podcast.
1. What do I hope to achieve from a podcast?
Before you even choose a topic for your podcast, think about what you hope to achieve with it. Ask yourself the “why” questions: Why would a listener tune into this podcast? Why should my business invest time and money into making this podcast?
There are plenty of reasons you might want to start podcasting: to answer your customers’ frequently asked questions, establish your brand as a thought leader, drive traffic to your website, entertain your audience, or monetize through ads. Make sure you pick a topic that strategically aligns with your business goals. For instance, if your goal is to increase sales revenue for your small business, creating a podcast that offers dad jokes and conversational banter on current events might not be the best use of company time and resources. Define your business goals for creating a podcast and create a strategy to achieve them. Once you have a clear objective in mind and you’re able to answer the “why” questions, you’re ready to move on to the next question.
2. Who is my target audience?
Before you start your podcast, know who your listeners are and who you’re trying to reach. By knowing who your target persona is, you’ll have a better understanding of the content they’ll want to listen to and engage with.
For example, let’s say you own a small winery that specializes in creating white wines and champagne that retails for $9 a bottle. You might assume that your target audience is a younger crowd that consumes alcohol and isn’t willing to spend a lot of money on it. However, for a podcast, this audience category is too broad. In order to really connect with your target audience, narrow it down to a smaller niche. Rather than just broadly targeting young people or millennials as your audience, your target demographic might actually be female shoppers between the ages of 21 to 25. If you look at data that tracks the frequency and timing of your customers’ purchases, you might be able to conclude that your persona celebrates the little things, like the coming of the weekend or a night out on the town.
Through a few simple observations, you can paint a detailed picture of who you’re trying to reach. Once you’ve specified your target audience, you can focus on a topic that will get their attention--and even better, get them listening to your podcast on a regular basis.
3. What will my podcast be about?
As you brainstorm a topic for your podcast, keep in mind that it should be interesting to both you and your viewers and have longevity, or staying power. Here are “3 Ps” that you can factor into your decision-making process.
Pick a subject that you’re passionate about. Great podcast content will come naturally if your podcast focuses on something that truly interests you. If you aren’t passionate about the content you’re discussing, your listeners certainly won’t be. Your topic should be interesting enough for you to speak about it in different ways and over time, as you build multiple episodes for your podcast. Just make sure your topic is also relevant to your target audience and fits your business goals. Referring to the previous wine example, as a winemaker you might feel passionate about discussing different types of grapes and processes related to distilling and decanting. But while it’s easy to ramble on about this subject, it might not captivate your target audience--in this case, a 23-year-old listener who purchases a bottle of prosecco from her nearest convenience store. What topic would interest your target persona and also be fun and interesting for you to discuss in your podcast?
After considering your target persona and business goals, you might end up choosing a topic that’s different than what you originally planned. Rather than focusing on the wine product itself, it might be more effective to discuss the experiences and events that your wine often accompanies--like the weekend, for example. Your episodes can help your target audience think of fun ways to incorporate your wines into their weekend mix: “5 must-haves to throw into your picnic basket” or “How to make a low-cal berry lemonade spritzer”. Be strategic, but have fun with it!
Your podcast “performance” is key to your success. This includes things like your tone and vocal inflection, your personality, your emotions, etc. How will you resonate with your audience? It’s impossible to stand out from the crowd just by speaking about a topic. You’ll need to provide a unique approach with your own personal flair to differentiate your podcast channel from the rest.
Try listening to yourself speak before you get started. You might discover that an upbeat inflection in your voice is much more entertaining than the drab and laid-back voice you thought was “chill”. Be yourself, but be your most entertaining self.
As you think about potential discussion topics for your podcast, it never hurts to ask your friends, family and acquaintances for their opinions. Give them a sample of your talking points and gauge their reactions. Nobody will give you better feedback than your listeners, and when you’re first testing out subject ideas, those listeners are your peers. You might also want to consider adding a co-host or two! It’s much easier to keep the conversation flowing and interesting with the help of a colleague.
4. How will I design my podcast?
Once you’ve got your topic, persona, and goal set in stone, it’s time to dial in on your podcast style and design. How long will your podcast be? Will you be featuring guest speakers? How often will you publish new episodes--weekly, monthly, quarterly? While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all format for podcasting, you might notice some topics are better suited for either shorter or longer podcasts, and the same goes for publishing frequencies. Once you have an idea of how long your podcast will be, stick with it over time. Just like creating a YouTube gaming channel, your followers will come to expect consistency from you. It’s also never a bad idea to look at other podcasts related to your topic to see what works for them. Some of the first things you might notice are the thumbnails and the short intro that often precedes the actual podcast episode.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” And while this is definitely an admirable axiom to follow, let’s be real here. When it comes to podcasts, your viewers will definitely judge your “book” by its cover (or thumbnail). So put some thought into designing custom images for each episode of your podcast. Podcast thumbnails should be a JPEG image sized 1400 x 1400 pixels at minimum, but should still be legible at 300 x 300 pixels. Whether you choose to create your thumbnails in-house or outsource them to an agency, give them some careful consideration.
Finally, when it comes to customizing the style of your podcast, create an intro and outro for your episode to work as a template. Your intro can be a short music bit or a compilation of sound bites--the choice is yours. Again, you can outsource these, but creating something yourself is more cost-effective and not as difficult as you might think. WeVideo has an expansive library of fully-licensed songs, tunes and sound effects to choose from, giving you the ability to cut and edit as you please. Having an intro and outro, along with a podcast thumbnail, will make your podcast template nearly complete. The last thing you might also consider is putting place holders for ads if you choose to include them in your episodes.
5. How will I produce my podcast?
Once you have your podcast goals, target audience, content and style all in line, you’re ready to start producing. Here’s a list of equipment you’ll need before you hit the billboards with your awesome audio show.
A good mic goes a long way when it comes to podcasting. You could be the most entertaining speaker to ever walk the earth, but if your voice keeps cutting in and out, then your listeners are going to cut out as well. Fortunately, you don’t have to break the bank to get your hands on a solid piece of equipment.
The Blue Yeti is the podcast industry favorite when it comes to mics, costing around $100, depending on where you buy it. The Blue Yeti is a USB mic, so it connects directly into your computer for editing. The alternative is to use an analog mic. Analog mics record in higher quality, but you’ll need to acquire additional hardware, like an XLR recorder or audio interface to transfer the audio to your computer. While you’re at it, consider picking up a pop filter as well. They cost about $10. Pop filters are used to prevent the “pop” noise caused by fast moving air rushing across the microphone.
Any PC or Mac computer should suffice for recording and editing your podcast, but keep in mind it needs to connect to your mic. Check your computer to make sure it has a USB or auxiliary port.
There’s plenty of different editing software options out there for you to choose from, including WeVideo. WeVideo makes recording your podcast easy and efficient. Simply plug in your mic, go to WeVideo’s voiceover feature, and start recording. It also doubles as video editing software, so you can repurpose your content or augment your podcast with some video previews. Cool, right? Finally, WeVideo has a massive library of fully-licensed images, video and audio tracks to help you with intros, outros, episode thumbnails and social media content. Hiring an agency might cost you a fortune, but these affordable plans won’t break the bank.
6. Where will my podcast be featured?
Once you have your first podcast episode recorded, you need to decide where to publish it. Do you want your podcast to be on iTunes? Will it be embedded on your website? These are questions to consider and often align with your original goals.
There are a ton of podcast hosting sites, including Soundcloud, Podbean, Podmatic, Amazon S3, Fireside, Libsyn, Spreaker, Buzzsprout, and more. People choose different hosting sites for different reasons, though it usually depends on the type of podcast. Some of these sites are free, and many offer additional features for a price. Generally, free options place some limitations on podcasts, including publishing frequency, how long your content is available, and the size of your podcast file.
After your podcast is hosted, it can be featured on sites like Spotify or iTunes. From there, it’s just a matter of promoting your podcast on your website and social media channels as you grow your audience. Hopefully, you end up with a killer podcast that helps you achieve all of the business goals you set in the beginning.