Podcasting Best Practices: Tips for a Great Show
Many brands and businesses are turning to podcasts as a marketing channel. Plenty of branded podcasts are raising the bar by consistently releasing quality content. However, there are many more companies that aren't quite hitting the mark.
Which is why we have created a list of podcast best practices—we want you to be able to enter this growing market and offer top-notch podcast episodes for your audience. Before we dive in, let's look at why your company should consider starting a podcast in the first place.
Brands looking to podcasts as a marketing channel should always have a solid set of podcasting goals. Without clear goals for your podcast and its content, your show will lack direction and purpose for your listener.
A big part of identifying your objectives is getting clear on your SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely) goals. During your initial podcast brainstorming session, ask yourself what you'd like to achieve with your podcast? What is the end goal?
Here are several common branded podcast goals:
Build brand awareness
Attract high-profile clients
Increase your network
Build an active community
Below we break down each letter of the SMART acronym so you can set realistic and achievable goals for yourself.
For a goal to be effective, you have to get specific. A specific goal answers questions like what steps need to be taken to achieve it? What needs to be accomplished? Who's managing or responsible for it? By when do I want to achieve this goal?
Ruminating on these types of questions can help you get into the weeds of what you're aiming for.
No one podcast is going to hit all of the above goals in one swoop. Rather than casting too wide a net, be specific and strategic about what you want to accomplish.
Quantifying your goals can sound tricky, but doing so makes it easier to track progress. So, how will you measure success? For podcasters, the knee jerk reaction is to only monitor downloads. But, there are many other measurements to consider and podcast analytics you should be tracking, too.
Again, it all depends on your goal. Are you aiming to generate more leads or attract talent? Build a strong email list or create customer connections through episode engagement? To get the best measurable data possible, you have to make sure the metrics you're tracking make sense.
SMART goals can be directed towards improving your existing workflow rather than increasing it. Think about how you would want to measure that workflow. Is it better audio quality? Increasing your episode frequency? Perhaps improving your mic technique?
No matter your goal, you want to tie it to measurable metrics. Any podcaster will tell you that podcast growth usually happens over a long period. So, having specific KPI touchstones and using that data to drive decisions is key to expanding and perfecting your podcast over time.
Examples of measurable goals:
Build brand affinity >> Track and measure podcast downloads and external engagement
Recruit new employees >> Track and measure candidate pipeline
Gain high-profile clients >> Track and measure new client acquisition
Thought leadership >> Track and measure external mentions of the podcast
Lead/demand generation >> Track and measure marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs)
Sales >> Track and measure deals created and closed
Reality check time! Now that you have defined and refined your goals and metrics, you need to establish the time and resources required to make the podcast.
Finding a host or hosting a show can take a lot of time and resources. Is there someone on your existing team who can do it, or will you need to look elsewhere and outsource? Then you have to consider things like scripting, pre-interview prep, equipment setup, recording, editing, reviewing and re-editing, written content, social copy—the list goes on, and on.
"I want to be the #1 podcast in the world!" While not entirely unlikely, you have to ask yourself if it's possible to achieve that goal with your niche content? The answer is probably no, so take your ambitions down a notch. Instead, why not aim to reach the top ten in the marketing category in the U.S.? With the right marketing strategy, that's certainly achievable (trust us, we've helped make that happen).
Refine your reasoning. Now is the time to go back and look at everything you've laid out so far to ensure it's relevant to both your audience and your goals. Aligning your audience and your podcast's concept is key to reaching a niche that's relevant to your brand.
Ask yourself what goals make sense in combination with what you're doing? Do your goals, your content, your audience, and even your personality, fit each other? Does your podcast align with your broader marketing goals? And what about other marketing campaigns and channels? Will the topic you've chosen still be relevant next quarter?
Remember, every podcaster wants to succeed, so take this initial stage to evaluate how relevant your podcast's overall metrics are when stacked up against your larger company goals.
Create a deadline for your goals and break it down into actionable steps. After stress-testing your podcast, give yourself a timeline and establish any time constraints. Having a specific (and realistic) deadline is essential for most projects.
Map out your podcast calendar. Then, start thinking about when your podcast will launch, how many episodes you need to produce, and how many episodes you'd like to have ready to go before you launch. You also need to take into account any other marketing collateral that will run parallel to your podcast, such as cover art and branding, blog posts, videos, social media, and so on.
For branded shows, do you need your stakeholders' approval? Do you have a dedicated designer that can work to your timeline? How long will it take for all these pieces to come together? What about constructing a paid-ads campaign? How long do you want it to run?
While you can set annual goals, quarterly or bi-annual checks will ensure that you're tracking according to the plan.
Know Your Audience's Interests
Growing your audience is often based on the content you're creating and how well it resonates with your listeners. Understanding which topics interest your listeners will help to bring in quality listeners.
To get an insight of what your audience wants, you need to think about your "ideal listener." That one person you would love to have engaging with your show. For example, a marketer who needs constant updates on global marketing trends.
To map out this ideal listener there are a few things to consider:
Demographics: Age, education, income, gender, relationship status, etc.
Psychographics: Opinions, values, interests, behaviors, attitudes, and lifestyle
Behaviors: What's their listening behavior? Are they brand loyal? How much time do they spend listening to a similar podcast to yours? Where do they tune into podcasts (at the gym, doing the washing up, on their commute, etc.)?
When designing your ideal listener, be specific. Map out everything about them. Their age, occupation, family situation, job, income, hobbies, etc. You want to create content that is tailored to them, so the more specific you can be, the better.
Respect Your Listeners' Time
Your podcast's content needs to be crafted with your listener in mind. Whether your podcast is short and sweet, or an epic tale, you need to ensure that the content is well-paced. Don't overstay your welcome, and strive to understand how long it takes to get your message across.
A significant podcast best practice is to consider how long your episodes are. While the average podcast episode length is around 42 minutes, the time spent listening to podcasts is only 22 minutes (and that's for those listeners who commit beyond the first five minutes).
Be organized. Be considerate of your audience's time. Don't ramble and don't be afraid to leave chunks of redundant content on the cutting room floor during the editing stage.
Have a Consistent Publishing Schedule
Publishing episodes on a regular schedule helps to generate listener loyalty. When listeners know when an episode is set to release, they will often go out of their way to tune in.
As you put together your content strategy, think carefully about when you want to publish that content. Most businesses implement a content schedule, which ensures that content is consistent and reliable. This schedule needs to be adhered to, especially if you want to maximize engagement.
A late episode here or there won't affect listenership, but a random episode release pattern will quickly cause you to lose any listener loyalty you may have gained.
Assess how much time it takes your team to make an episode from beginning to end. From writing a script, guest research and prep to rehearsing, recording, editing, show notes, marketing content, and artwork. Use that timeframe to determine how often episodes can be released. Podcasts can also be broken up into series to help keep production on schedule.
If you have planned everything carefully and still run out of time, warn your audience and apologize for the delay.
Rehearse, Prep and Coach Your Guests
By reaching out to your guest before recording the episode, you can ensure everyone understands what to expect throughout the interview. This will ensure there are no surprises and set your guest up for success.
Check the Equipment
If your guest has never done a podcast interview before, they will most likely be nervous and even feel intimidated by all the tech needed for recording. Guide your guest through simple microphone techniques and help them through their tech setup.
We suggest doing a brief run-through to test the audio. If you're conducting an interview remotely, make sure your connections are strong enough for the duration of your recording.
Have an Informal Chat
Don't just dive straight into the interview. The key to getting the best information from an interviewee is to make them feel comfortable and relaxed enough to be open from the start. Ask them some simple questions, "How's your day going?" "How was your weekend?"
Professional broadcasters do this all the time, and guests appreciate it. Before you hit record, talk about the interview, the format, the overall length, and anything else that might be helpful to them.
Hone Your Mic Technique
Using your microphone correctly can improve the sound quality of your audio. We recommend a few steps to make your audio sound more professional. Firstly, if you haven't already, invest in a stand or boom arm. Doing so will allow you to maintain an appropriate distance—about 3-5 inches to a foot away—from the head of the microphone. We all know that different microphones behave differently, so you'll have to spend some time experimenting to find that sweet spot.
Invest in a pop filter to reduce the likelihood of your microphone picking up any plosive sounds. Plosives are produced by small bursts of air when a speaker uses one of a variety of consonant sounds (such as the first 'p' in the English word "podcast" or "puppy"). Other plosive consonants include the 't', 'k', 'd', 'b', and 'g' sounds.
Pop filters are thin pieces of circular mesh positioned in front of the microphone. These filters act as a barrier between the speaker and the microphone and help disperse the air so it doesn't interfere with the microphone's internal diaphragm.
Take a look at our comprehensive guide on proper microphone techniques and placement to see how you can further hone your mic technique.
Transcribe Your Podcast Episodes
Your podcast should be accessible to everyone. While we know podcasts are an audio medium, there is definitely still room for written content. To increase the listener experience, transcribe all your podcast episodes.
Transcription is the process of translating audio into easy-to-read text. Not only are transcripts great for listeners, they're good for creators too. Investing in transcripts is one of the most invaluable resources a podcaster can have—especially from a content standpoint. Transcripts are a treasure trove for content, especially when it comes to repurposing. Lift text for pull quotes, blog topics, social media snippets, etc.
Inclusive: Podcasts rely on their listeners hearing audio to participate. According to the World Health Organization, over 500,000,000 people suffer from hearing loss, and podcast audio can be a significant obstacle for many. Transcribing your podcast episodes can only expand your audience further, while simultaneously upgrading your reputation as an inclusive podcast that's accessible to all.
SEO: When optimizing your podcast for search engines, transcribing your podcasts will also help SEO. Google can crawl the text, which in turn boosts your searchability.
People often prefer reading: It's not just deaf or hard of hearing audience members that benefit from transcripts, but also those who find reading more convenient than listening.
Social media friendly: Transcripts make your podcast easier to share on all social media platforms, especially when pulling quotes, highlights, or interview segments.
Transcribing audio to text is easy nowadays, with lots of online transcription tools to choose from. Otter, Rev, and one of our favorites, Descript, all offer affordable plans that will help convert your audio to text.
Refresh Your Podcast
Refreshing your podcast can be an important step in helping to redefine your podcast. Applying the SMART goals approach to podcast's content will help you take stock of what you have and see if it is meeting your ideal goals. If it isn't, then it's worth taking the time to switch things up and give your podcast a refresh.
Evaluate your format: Can you add new segments? What about answering listener questions, breaking away from your usual topics or even moving your segments around?
Repurpose older content: Your older episodes are often filled with useful content that can be repurposed and republished. If you have a high-performing episode, why not repost it for new listeners? Another idea is to create an end-of-season roundup episode or revisit past discussions.
Change up your recording space: Improve your audio and visual aesthetic by switching up your recording space. Buy new furniture, pictures, plants, etc. if you are creating a video podcast. Add additional soundproofing or recording equipment to help improve the audio.
Encourage Audience Feedback and Reviews
It used to be that most, if not all of our pop culture was dictated by audience feedback. TV shows got canceled due to poor viewership, albums were discarded after slumping record sales—and now the same is happening in the digital world.
Platforms like Apple Podcasts are controlled by algorithms that operate similarly to the rating systems of years gone by. You know, the ones that used to determine what made it into the mainstream.
Ratings and reviews tell Apple Podcasts, "Hey, look over there—this podcast is getting noticed!" This helps boost your podcast in the charts, which in turn gets more eyes (and ears) on it.
But, ratings and reviews aren't just about chart rankings. Sometimes, to keep creating great content, you need to get outside of your bubble. Tools like Speakpipe or even a Google Voice number give listeners the capacity to actively contribute to a show.
Don’t Be Shy About Asking for Reviews
Reviews are vital for the evolution of a podcast. Those golden five star reviews coax more listeners into the fold, while reviews in general encourage listeners to give a visceral opinion on what they're just heard. Whether good or bad, reviews shine a helpful spotlight on what is and isn't working for your audience.
Ask for feedback. What do they love? What would they prefer to hear less of? Can you make improvements with your sound quality? What topics should you be tackling? Include a call-to-action at the end of each episode as well as in your show show notes where you ask your listeners to provide feedback.
It's not enough to ask for it. Take all feedback on board! Your listeners will often give feedback with good intentions—regardless of how positive or negative it is, they want you to succeed.
Hire People (There’s No Shame in Getting Help)
Creating the best podcast content possible doesn't come easily for everyone. Sometimes you need to ask for some help. Hiring a professional team can steer you away from the usual rookie mistakes many first-time podcasters make.
In addition, if you already have an established podcast, a strong production team can audit your show and advise you on where improvements can be made to increase your chances of achieving success.
Hiring a podcast launch service is a great way to get someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. Jobs they can tackle on your behalf include brainstorming topics, doing in-depth research, identifying potential guests, editing, overall production, scripting, promotion, sponsorships, and even general logistics.
Closing Thoughts on Podcasting Best Practices
Audio content can be an essential tool in your marketing toolbox. Now that you know our tips and best practices, you can start to maximize the potential of your show. Keep evaluating the content you are creating, how your podcast sounds, what your listeners are saying, and the areas you need to improve.
Remember, podcasting is a journey, not a destination. The medium is always evolving, so it follows that your podcast will be a constant work in progress. Keep at it and you're sure to see real results from your efforts.
Thinking of starting a podcast? Lower Street provides numerous podcast production services to help breathe new life into a podcast. Contact us today to see how we can help you build something great.