How To - Podcast Guides

How to Brainstorm Podcast Topics

Coming up with ideas for new episodes can be a challenge. Here are our top tips to help make your brainstorming sessions easier.


Graphic of black and white idea notebook

Podcasts are a highly effective marketing channel that can help brands reach audiences, no matter how niche they are. Apple Podcasts is the top player in the podcast app market, and adding content to that platform and potentially being featured is ideal for increasing brand visibility. 

In a 2018 article from Forbes, "Many brands are experimenting with creating their own podcasts," explains Seth Greene, author of Market Domination for Podcasting. "They control the entire process from start to finish," he continues. "A bonus of having your own show is that you then own the media and can advertise to your own following as much as you want at no extra cost."

And it's just as true today.

As the podcast landscape has evolved, we have seen how much this audio format can hyper-target audiences. But, any marketer knows that good content is what often sells a brand. Not only that, but good content builds trust and authority, which will always benefit the business in the long run.

Podcasts generate value for listeners because they provide informative and educational content. But, for most brands starting a podcast, consistently coming up with fresh topics that tap into the "inform" or "educate" camp can be tricky. 

Engaging in topic brainstorming sessions can encourage lots of creative thinking. And when it comes to topic ideation, it's one of the best methods available.

Here's how to come up with topics that will ensure your branded podcast is unique, engaging, entertaining, and relevant to your target audience.

The Brainstorming Challenges

The challenges surrounding brainstorming can be many. The most common ones you might face are that they take time to set up, you need a suitable space to hold them, sessions are unorganized, and even if participants are enthusiastic about the topic, energy levels can drop after a while.

As corporate brainstorming expert Hal Gregersen once said, brainstorming should be designed to "foster a stronger culture of collective problem solving and truth seeking."

But if the collective is only hearing the voice of one, that's when you run into problems.

Graphic of Chess pawn pieces, with one standing apart from the group

Nobody wants to run a session that either unfairly favors extroverts or pushes the conversation towards "groupthink," a phenomenon that causes team members to agree with whatever point is being made without additional input. 

Unless a brainstorming session is well monitored or prepared ahead of time, you may find that early ideas tend to disproportionately influence your session's trajectory.

Then there are the higher-ups. After a brainstorming session, more often than not, decision makers will pick the less creative podcast ideas over the highly creative ones. 

So, how do we avoid these common challenges?

Make Team Brainstorming Meetings Count

Never underestimate the power of a good team brainstorming session. Brainstorming is a great way to flesh out ideas from your "ideas bank" in a non-judgmental environment. 

But, like with other poorly run office meetings, a poorly run brainstorming session can waste a team's time and sap their energy. Sometimes, collaboration can tap into that pack mentality, where an individual shares their ideas and everyone else conforms to that particular line of thinking. 

This can be limiting, especially if you are trying to get a diverse range of solutions or ideas. So, some guidelines need to be followed—especially if you want to use your time wisely and effectively.

Graphic of multiple clock faces overlaid on one another

Keep Brainstorming Sessions on a Schedule

The ideal length of a brainstorming session will vary depending on your overall goal. Having shorter meetings helps keep the group focused and less likely to get fatigued. But, if they are too short, you may not have very many takeaways. 

Aim for an hour-long session. To make that session productive, have an agenda and ensure everyone arrives prepared. Make sure ahead of time that all participants understand what's going to be laid on the table for that session.

  • Define the problem. For brainstorming, the problem is often what new or different subject matter your show should focus on. But another approach could be to focus on the issues that will differentiate you from the competition. 

  • Lay out the context and definitions. Do your participants need additional information or context before the session?

  • Choose a facilitator. Time is of the essence, so you want to prevent the session from going off-piste or derailing. The facilitator should keep the session on track, be unbiased, ensure everyone participates, and shut down anyone trying to dominate the discussion.

Timing is essential for a good meeting. Late afternoon is when most people are at the crux of their sluggishness and mentally fatigued. Or worse, watching the clock until they can go home. Aim instead to get your session in midmorning.

Keep Criticism to a Minimum

Brainstorming isn't about critiquing ideas at the moment. Instead, it's about getting the ideas out into the open and then taking the time to evaluate them later on. 

In a 2019 article, Robert Glazer, a Forbes content contributor, stated, "To generate a better creative process for your team, include time for reflection." And it's true. Wasting time arguing about a point can slow down the creative flow in a room. So, maintain momentum and leave feedback until the end. 

Yes, feedback, not criticism! 

At the end of the meeting, have team members provide objective assessments of the ideas on the table. This normalizes feedback and makes constructive criticism seem like an opportunity to improve the work, rather than a personal attack.

Everyone should be encouraged to offer feedback and explore ideas—it is a collaborative affair. 

Pick Your Team

Collaboration with other experts in different fields can yield some exceptional results. Here at Lower Street we have a similar model to Pixar, with an "inspiration can, and does, come from anywhere" attitude. And for us, the best inspiration can, and often does, come from anywhere—no matter your position.

At Pixar, they stand by the fact that their decision-making is much better when their team members pull from the company's collective knowledge and expertise. It fosters discussions from different points of view and gives the sessions more ideas.

Group of colleagues brainstorming

Who you have at these sessions can be significant, so try not to be insular with who you invite to contribute. Just having a group of similarly skilled employees is like putting blinders on a horse; you're only going in one direction. So, keep it diverse, and include members from all seniority levels and sectors. 

Encourage everyone: employees, managers, and senior staff members, to become invested in solving the problem and finding robust solutions.

Now that we've covered the meeting guidelines, let's see what else you can do to get the creative juices flowing and make the most of each session.

Brainstorm Ideas That Interest Your Audience

Connection is a huge part of podcasting. If the content you're putting out doesn't resonate with your listeners, you'll find it difficult to gain traction. 

So, when you're approaching a brainstorming session, whether in a group or as a solo affair, you must keep your audience's interests at the heart of the process. Dedicate some time to identifying and learning about your target audience. What information do they need? What problems do they want to solve? What are they doing when listening to your podcast? Are they walking, commuting to work, at the gym, or perhaps cleaning?

It's also a good idea to keep an eye on podcast trends. More often than not, you'll start to see common topics appear as you're brainstorming ideas focused on trends and on your ideal podcast listeners—so don't ignore them. 

Aim for Wild Ideas and Outlandish Goals

Brainstorming sessions shouldn't be restrictive. While we have touched on the fact that there should be some structure, the whole premise of a brainstorming session is to generate new and exciting ideas. So, encourage your team to do just that!

Think big. You can dive into the pros and cons later. 

As with most media formats—particularly podcasting—creativity is highly valued, especially by listeners. 

Start an Ideas Bank

An ideas bank is a centralized document or editable board containing all your ideas and topic notes. Many brands use internal ideas banks to encourage input from team members, which are designed to help generate, develop, communicate, and even vote on new ideas. 

Inspiration can occur at the most obscure times, so having a space where you can instantly put content ideas ensures you don't forget them. Your bank can be as detailed, complex, or simple as you need, just as long as you strive to keep everything in one place. 

Screen grab of Millanote brainstorming session. Learn how to brainstorm podcast topics with Millanote.

If you're working in a team, using a shareable program or app that offers a collaborative aspect is ideal. Airtable is great for those needing tables and spreadsheets for their idea banks.

AsanaMilanote, and Trello boards can allow you to add notes and follow ideas and tasks. 

Google Docs is easy to use and share, while Notion and ClickUp offer a wealth of collaborative options for note taking, task tracking, and sharing. 

Evaluate the Market

Marketing involves a lot of monitoring and evaluating what your competitors or the market as a whole is doing. Currently, most podcasts within popular categories have to compete for visibility. 

Checking out what other similar podcasts are doing will enable you to take your show one step further and find an angle that could be unique to your target audience. Seeking out and researching competitors is a well known way of sparking new ideas and making brands stand out.

Alternatively, if you find that there are no podcasts out there with a similar topic, you have to ask yourself why that is. Perhaps it's been created, but failed. Maybe it wasn't sustainable as a podcast. Although it's admittedly hard to determine the exact reason, it's worth considering why a podcast may not exist around your chosen topic or idea. 

Evaluating the market doesn't necessarily mean seeing if the content is similar between podcasts. Instead, take note of your opposition's format. Weighing up the style and way the content is presented in other podcasts can help inform how you might present your podcast content ideas

Different types of formats include:

  • Monologues or solocasts

  • Commentary/conversational/co-host

  • Interviews

  • Panel podcasts/multi-host

  • Narrative or storytelling (fiction or nonfiction)

  • Freestyle

  • Educational or factual 

  • Q&As

Naturally, over time your podcast will evolve. Even if you take one of the above formats, you should always be thinking about how you can expand it slightly and develop your format style to help differentiate your podcast.

Swipe Files of Topics and Content

As any content marketer will tell you, swipe files are invaluable for anyone trying to come up with fresh topic ideas. 

Swipe files are digital or physical files where you pile all the fantastic content marketing ideas and examples you've collected over the years. It is truly one of the most effective ways to reignite that creative part of your brain—it's all about using others' ideas as inspiration. 

Whether it's inspiring podcasts you love, articles that offer something unique, or images that spark something in your mind, save them in a folder. A dedicated Google Drive folder, an app on your phone, or just a simple folder on your desktop is an excellent way of storing the ideas you love. 

There are no rules for creating a swipe file. Just focus on whatever draws you in, then add it to your swipe file and revisit the contents whenever you need inspiration.

6-3-5 Brainwriting Method 

If you're aiming for many ideas in roughly 30 minutes, the 6-3-5 brainwriting method could suit your team. Dating back to the 1960s, the 6-3-5 method of brainwriting (aka brainstorming) technique is credited to the German marketer Bernd Rohrbach. Here's how it works.

For round one, you give 6 people 5 minutes to fill in 3 ideas on their specially designed worksheet. Once the time has ended, the sheets are passed to the left—no discussions are allowed at this point. Instead, the recipient reads the 3 ideas and uses them as inspiration to generate 3 more ideas. This continues until everyone has their original worksheet back. 

That way, in just 30 minutes you will be presented with 108 ideas, ready for review. 

Final Thoughts

Brainstorming podcast topics should always be done with your audience in mind. Once you understand who you are trying to create your episodes for, you can then broaden your search and start researching the market to see specific trends you can draw ideas from. 

Having a central place (spreadsheet, folder, notebook, etc.) where you can write and store ideas as they appear provides you with a backup resource for when you are light on topics to cover. 

Collaborative brainstorming sessions can yield amazing, and often unexpected results. Here at Lower Street, we regularly have brainstorming sessions. From our monthly brainstorm meetup, where we discuss internal processes and what we would love to see happen with the brand, to script read-throughs, tech troubleshooting and, of course, podcast and blog topic ideas.

There is a lot to be said for combining the brainpower of a team, regardless of their experience level or rank. So, happy brainstorming! 

Word On The Street

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    Claire Gould


    Claire Gould

    Hi I'm Claire, a Hobbit-like person who loves wandering the countryside with her dog and listening to heavy metal and podcasts of all genres!