Earning trust on the internet has never been more important than it is today. Without trust, you cannot get followers, subscribers and customers.
And yet pervasive skepticism coupled with short attention spans rule the online world. Where you once could write a 3000 word article and win people’s attention, these days it can take a more personal touch to connect with strangers and turn them into fans.
And podcasting allows you to do exactly that.
With podcasting, you speak directly to your prospect. Your personality can shine through in your voice in a way that is impossible with the written word.
You don’t need to be some fancy speaker, either. You just need to be yourself, to relax, to have a good time and to give plenty of value to your listeners.
Podcasting is easier than creating great looking videos. And your listeners can consume your podcasts while they are doing other things like driving, walking or doing chores.
But Do I Really Need a Podcast?
You already have a website, a blog and a social media presence. You might even have a YouTube channel chock full of your own videos, too. Do you really need a podcast, too?
A podcast is a great alternative to video because people can listen to it on the go or while they’re doing something else.
Podcasts can increase your traffic. For example, when you interview someone on your podcast, they’re likely to tell their readers and followers about the podcast, thereby sending you traffic.
Having a podcast can work wonders for building a better relationship with your audience. When they can hear you, they get to know you and like you. They feel more engaged with you and the topic and think of you as being an expert they can trust.
Podcasts can be easier to create than written material or videos. To write an hour’s worth of content can take several hours, whereas recording an hour-long podcast takes an hour plus whatever time you spend getting a guest or outlining your topic.
In short, podcasts help to build your audience, your brand, authority and trust, all without the same effort and ability that writing requires.
What’s Your ‘Why’?
Before you start a podcast, we need to get a couple of things clear, and the first one is figuring out why you even want a podcast.
Is it to get more customers and sales?
Is it to establish yourself as an authority in your niche?
Is it to build relationships with other authorities in your niche?
Is it just for fun, like a hobby you’re passionate about?
While you may have several reasons for podcasting, it’s important to know what they are, because when you know why you’re podcasting, it will be much easier to stay motivated to keep your podcast going.
Who is Your Listener?
Who is the ideal person listening to your podcast? Until you know who you’re targeting and why you’re doing the show, you’ll have a difficult time growing an audience.
Creating a listener avatar is a good way to decide on exactly who you are targeting.
For example, if you’re a dietician, perhaps your avatar is a 42 year old woman with two children and a career who spends 50 hours a week working and commuting while still taking care of the kids and the home. She’s 25 pounds overweight, tired, doesn’t get enough sleep and worries that her health is deteriorating.
If your topic is investments, your avatar might be a 35 year old professional who makes six figures but isn’t putting anything away for retirement yet because she spends her money as soon as she makes it. She realizes she needs to do something now, but she doesn’t know where to start or who to listen to.
Once you have your avatar, you’ll be able to keep your podcast focused and on track, creating engaging content perfectly suited to your audience.
Can You List Your First 15 Episodes?
One of your major goals when doing a podcast has to be providing value to the listeners. Are you entertaining them? Informing them? Both? Or something else?
Your listeners need a reason to listen. They won’t tune in to hear someone ramble about their day or their childhood unless it’s entertaining in some way, or highly informative.
But they will tune in to hear how they can achieve a goal of theirs or solve a problem.
And you need to have enough subject matter to talk about as well. If you can spill all of your secrets on how to lose weight in one or two episodes, then you don’t have a podcast. But if you can bring on guests to talk about other aspects of health, then perhaps you do.
Write down your first 15 potential podcast topics.
Have you got them? Now write down your next 50.
You might want to use the internet to brainstorm. These topics can change later, but the point is to see if you’ll have enough material to sustain a podcast beyond the first few episodes.
Now look at your list.
Are these the sort of topics you can see yourself discussing over the coming weeks and months without getting bored or burning yourself out? If not, you might consider getting a new niche and perhaps even a new audience.
Naming Your Podcast
You’ve got three main choices when choosing your podcast name.
You can choose a clever or catchy name such as 99% Invisible, Fresh Air or The Moth. Names like these don’t tell you what the show is about, but you can always add a tagline to help clarify the topic.
Your second option is using a descriptive name such as Football Weekly or Money Matters. This lets people know up front if they might be interested in your show, and it can make it easier to reach your target audience.
Your third option is using your own name. Unless you are already famous, if you choose to use your name, then you’ll want to add a descriptive tagline.
How Long Will Your Podcasts Be?
There’s no right answer for this, other than to make your podcast long enough to convey the information and short enough to never be boring.
Some podcasts are consistently 20 minutes long while others are an hour. If you can fit all of your information into 20 minutes, there’s no need to stretch it longer.
But if you’ve got so much great info that it takes an hour, don’t chop it down to 20 minutes just because that’s what some other podcaster does.
You might survey your audience after a few months to see what they think of the length of your podcasts. And it’s good to be somewhat consistent in length, so that you listeners have an idea of what to expect.
How Often Will You Podcast?
People tend to plan according to days of the week. Thus, is you’re able to put out one podcast each Tuesday, for example, then listeners will know when to expect your next episode.
The best schedule is the most frequent one that you can stick to and that you have enough content to fill.
Another option is to podcast in bursts based on themes. You choose a theme for a series of podcasts – driving website traffic, for example – and then you create these podcasts within a few days and air one a week.
This is a great way to get plenty of podcasts done quickly before moving on to something else. You might create a dozen podcasts in January on one topic, release one per week, and not make any new podcasts until late March to get ready for an April to June release.
You can also do seasonal podcasting based on the time of year. Perhaps you start in September, take a break over the holidays, pick it up again in January, and finish in May, much like an American school year.
Naming Episode Titles
Spend as much time naming your episodes as you would naming a blogpost or a book. A great title will always get you more listeners. Make it clear what people will learn on your episode, and remember that iTunes allows searching by episode name, so be sure to use your main keyword in the title.
And never, ever get lazy and simply name your episodes, “Episode 1, Episode 2 etc.” No one is going to listen to a podcast to figure out what it’s about.
Choosing Your Podcast Format
You can choose one format to use every time or mix it up and do any or even all of these formats – it’s up to you.
Going solo – this is the monologue show, and it’s you and only you. You don’t need to rely on anyone else when you go solo and it builds your authority and credibility in your subject.
The downside is it that’s it’s just you, without any help or input from someone else. Can you talk non-stop for 10 minutes or more every time you do a show? If so, you might try this method out. To dispel the feeling that you’re talking to yourself, imagine your listener is sitting across from you when you record.
Co-hosted – team up with a colleague to chat about hot topics and give great info. The benefits of having a co-host are many. You can discuss, debate, build on each other’s thoughts and create a great listening experience. This can work especially well if you hold different viewpoints or strengths but still respect each other’s opinions.
Co-hosting means you’ve got to agree on topics, find times to record when you are both available, be respectful of each other, and decide in advance who owns the podcasts and how you will split any income from the podcasts.
The Interview Show – this is an awesome format because you get to interview people in your industry about what they’re doing, what they think and what new ideas they have, as well as discussing their thoughts on the latest developments and hearing their stories.
This is also a great way to build your audience because when followers of your guests listen to the show, they may subscribe.
The challenges are that you need to find and book guests to your shows, as well as getting good at conducting interviews. Interviewing is not as easy as you might think, and it does take some skill to do your research, ask the right questions, listen carefully to the answers and compose follow up questions on the spot.
Roundtables – you’re the host with several guests and one topic. It’s probably best to get several one-on-one interviews under your belt before attempting this format.
The positive is you get opinions and information from several sources at once on one topic. The negative is that it can be difficult to differentiate who is speaking on a podcast when there are several people.
Plus, you have to find a time when everyone is available for the podcast, which can be difficult.
Creating Your Cover Art
Your cover art is the first impression most people will have of your podcast. Think of any podcast app you’ve perused – what did you notice first? Most likely it was the cover art, followed closely by the podcast title.
The cover art is usually also the image someone sees when you share your show on social media.
If at all possible, podcast artwork should:
- Stand out
- Visually communicate the podcast subject
- Be designed in a variety of sizes to look good everywhere
- Limit word use to fit on small images
- Avoid overused images like microphones and headsets
Here is an excellent overview from Buzzsprout on designing your podcast artwork:
If you have money to spend, then 99designs is perhaps the best place to get your artwork done. Multiple designers will offer their designs based upon your concept. You then pick the ones you like and have them refined even further. Cost: $199-$1,399 https://99designs.com/
A cheaper alternative is Podcast Designs. You tell them what you want and they’ll do the mock-up for you, complete with changes. Cost: $85-$185 https://podcastdesigns.com/portfolio/
If you’re really on a budget, head over to Fiverr. Search through the portfolios to find the right designer, and expect to pay more than just $5 to get it done right. https://www.fiverr.com/
One last note: You might hold off on investing money on your cover art until you have at least a couple of shows completed, because it’s entirely possible your podcast will turn out to be something other than what you first imagined.
Recording Your Podcast
It’s important not to get hung up on equipment and software in the beginning. Think of your first few podcasts as practice, see what works for you and then upgrade from there.
Hopefully you already have a computer. Add a USB microphone with great sound quality for about $50, and you’ve got all the equipment you need to get started.
Software options abound. Ideally your software should both record and edit. Audacity is a favorite choice that provides quality, free-of-charge audio editing capabilities.
Or you might use Alitu: The Podcast Maker, which is a web app that automates audio cleanup, adds music and acts as your publishing host.
Other options include Ecamm for recording Skype, Zoom for video conferencing, and Squadcast which records each person on the podcast live on their own computer.
It’s Your First Podcast – What Should You Say?
Here are two tricks for always having something to say:
Practice in the shower. And while getting dressed. And while driving, while walking and while pacing around your house. The point is to start talking about your topic as though you were recording and just get used to the feel of podcasting.
If you’ll be conducting an interview, practice on your spouse or friend. Practice even with an imaginary guest. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be when it comes time to record. Remember when you’re doing the interview to really listen to the guest. Some of your best questions will be things you would never think to ask if you weren’t listening closely to what they’re saying.
Second, get really good at research and outlining.
If you’re doing a solo podcast, research the latest news on your topic and make notes. Then using what you just learned along with the knowledge you already have, make an outline for yourself.
Notice I said “outline” and not “script.” Writing out what you will say word for word will take too much time and it will result in an unsatisfactory product. It’s best to work from a well-crafted outline and speak from your head and heart.
If you’re doing an interview, research both your topic and your guest and write down plenty of questions. Choose your best questions, place them approximately in the order you plan to ask them, and send the list to your guest.
This will give them time to prepare their answers and do any research they need to perform well on your show.
How Do You Get Guests?
This is the biggest question of nearly all new podcasters doing interviews.
And like many things, it does involve a Catch-22. When you are brand new to podcasting, it can be a little difficult to get guests because you don’t have a track record and you might not have an audience. But this is when you really NEED guests, so you’ll have to get them one way or the other.
Once you are well established with a good reputation and large audience, it will be easy to convince people to be your guests but you probably won’t need to, because they will come to you and ask to be on your show.
Here’s where to find your very first guests for your first podcasts:
Your contact list. Who do you know that would make a good guest for your podcast? It might be a colleague, a friend with the right expertise, or even the colleague of a mutual friend. It’s always easiest to start with the people already within your social circle and work out from there.
Friends of friends. You’re going to use your inner circle not only to find your first guests, but to also get introductions to potential guests within their circles as well.
If every time you ask someone to be your guest, you also ask them who else they would recommend, you may never run out of guests.
Put out the call. Send out an email to your list asking for experts. Put the same call out on social media.
And at the end of every podcast, ask your listeners if they have some specialized knowledge that is a good fit for your podcast and give them an email address to write to if they do.
But what if these things don’t work? What if you don’t know anyone with the right expertise for your podcast? Then your first step might be to record a couple of solo podcasts yourself, just to get started. Then when you approach potential interview guests, you can refer them to the podcasts you’ve already done.
Here are a few tips for where to find guests when you don’t know them yet:
Don’t try to book Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos on Day 1.
When choosing who to ask to be on your show, start small. Look for people in your niche who are new and looking to make their own mark. They will be much more likely to take a chance and say yes to you than someone who is already famous or well-established.
Plus, just like you, they probably need the experience.
Attend industry events.
If you attend industry events, you’ll find these can be a goldmine for finding new podcast guests. Socialize and network, collecting cards and finding out what each person has on their plate.
For example, if they’re getting ready to launch a new product or website, you’ve just discovered their motivation for being your podcast guest.
Search for book launches.
Watch Amazon for upcoming books in your niche. Simply search for your topic, and then change the search from “relevance” to “publication date.” These authors want book publicity and are often available for podcast interviews.
Raid your competition – twice.
Search for podcasts in your niche and make a list of the podcasters and their guests that you would like to book on your show. This is an awesome method to use, since you already know these are people open to being on a podcast and you can hear what they sound like before you ever approach them. And don’t forget to ask some of the podcasters about being a guest on their show as well.
Find the bloggers in your niche.
Look not only for the people who run the blogs, but also their guest bloggers, too, to find podcast guests.
Use podcasting guest services.
These are matchmaking services where podcasters can connect with potential guests. Simply search for “podcast guest service” to find a whole list of them.
Help a Reporter Out is a website that connects experts with reporters. In this case, you are the reporter looking for experts. This is an awesome site chock full of experts on just about any topic you can possibly think of, and it can be a source of podcasts guests who are well versed on how to give a great interview.
More Tips for Getting Great Guests:
Set the Stage: When you decide to approach someone, read their blog and leave valuable comments as well as connecting with them on social media. This way when you approach them, they’ll be familiar with your name and the request won’t sound like it comes from a total stranger.
Be Real: Be honest about your audience size. A potential guest wants to hear you have a massive audience, but if you don’t, be honest. Let them know if you do have an audience elsewhere that you can send to your podcast, such as through an email list and social media.
Offer the Link: Mention that you’ll link to their website, landing page, sales page or wherever they choose. This will help them with search engine optimization and possibly help to build their list and make sales.
Discuss Promotion: Tell them how you will promote the podcast on which they appear, now and in the future. Will you use social media? Will you run any paid ads? Will you promote the podcast to your lists?
Send Reminders: Your podcast guests are busy. Send a reminder one week before your scheduled interview (if applicable) and again 24 hours prior. If you have a list of questions, send those three days before you do the show.
Be Thankful: Thank them for considering your podcast, thank them when they agree to be a guest, thank them when you send the questions and reminders, thank them before the interview starts, thank them when you finish the interview, thank them when you send the link… you get the idea.
What do you say when contacting a potential podcast guest?
When you approach someone to ask if they will be your podcast guest, give them the following information:
- Mention a blogpost, podcast, book or video they created that you read or watched. Let them know what you thought of it (all positive) and what you especially liked. They need to know that you’re inviting them on your show because you like their stuff and see the value they bring, not because they are one of 300 random people you’re spamming.
- Tell them about your podcast – the name of the podcast, the purpose of the podcast and who your audience is.
- If you’ve interviewed experts in the past, mention them. Name dropping can be highly effective here. If you have relevant credentials, mention those too, in moderation.
- Mention any graphics you will create to be shared on social media, and the link they will receive.
- Tell them how long the interview lasts (20 to 30 minutes is good) and that it’s audio only. If you’ve already done some shows, give them the URL so they can check it out. If not, give them the URL to a page that describes your podcast and talks about yourself as well.
Once You Post the Show
When the show is posted online, send your guest the link to the show so they can check it out. Do NOT ask them to promote it for you – it’s just bad form to ask. They were already nice enough to do the show, and whether or not they share it with their list or social media is up to them (most of them will share it, often multiple times.)
If they share the podcast link, THANK them for that, too.
Send them a gift. Yes, I mean send them an actual gift. I don’t know what that is because it will depend on the guest. But in the course of your research and conversations you will learn something about what they like. It could be a new book on their favorite topic, for example, which will cost you about $20 and Amazon will ship it for you.
The gift is important because it makes you stand apart from nearly every other podcaster out there and will leave them with a very positive feeling about you.
That combined with how well you treated them and how great the interview went will assure you can get them back as a guest again when the time is right.
And they might even send someone else your way to be your guest, too. You never know who they know.
Podcasting is such a large and important topic that we’re going to continue this next time when we cover…
Making Calls to Action within Your Podcast
Music, Introduction and Editing Your Podcast
Where to List Your Podcast
And most importantly…
Monetizing and Profiting from Your Podcast