Creating a successful podcast involves much more than sitting in front of a microphone and hitting the “record” button.
Companies that make recording gear would have you spend a lot of money on microphones and mixers. “Success” gurus would talk you into buying over-complicated email apps, and sending pyramids of information to potential listeners. Some people claim that interviewing people with a big social media following is the key that unlocks all doors.
Don’t get distracted.
Ultimately, all you need to plan a successful podcast is a notebook, something to write with, and time to give yourself some undivided attention. What makes a podcast succeed or fail has nothing to do with numbers or gear, but your intention, how you connect with others, and build community.
If your podcast is a party, know who you are inviting.
This thought process can be as specific as imagining an avatar, or as general as a demographic group. This helps you in a couple of ways.
Mainly, imagining the listener helps you feel comfortable recording your voice. It can help with your speaking cadence, language choices, and social references. It also helps you package and promote your show. For example, if your podcast is for knitters, you might want to ask your local yarn store if they’re willing to cross-promote with you. If your podcast is about classic cars, you might want to talk it up at an auto show.
Many podcast hosting services (such as Libsyn) can show you geographic data of downloads, so you know where your listeners are. After you’ve put out a few episodes, you can ask listeners to take a survey (using something like Surveymonkey), and get specific data about their interests.
Ask yourself, “What’s the matter with my podcast?” Literally, what’s the concern?
Think back about the earlier examples of a knitting podcast or a classic car podcast. What is it about these topics that fascinate you, and where do you see a weakness in it?
For example, are there knitting methods, patterns, or types of yarn that are superior to others? Are there classic cars which are more attractive than contemporary vehicles? Make your podcast not just something to listen to, but a tool to provoke action.
Where there’s a deficit in a topic you love, there’s a solution you wish could happen. What would you want your podcast to bring to life?
If you wish that yarn could be vegan, cruelty-free, all-natural, available in a wide variety of colors, and soft as kitten fur, explore this topic. Reach out to independent yarn crafters. Interview dyers and spinners. Research how different fibers and dyes are made.
If you wish that all cars could be as cool as a particular make or model from your childhood, research the company, find someone who worked there, find someone who owns one or a similar model, and ask them to take you for a ride.
Don’t forget to ask your listeners the questions that you have. Make it easy for them to contact you, via email or social media, if they have leads on good information that can help you find an answer.
Take a moment to think about who you are, what your relationship to this topic is, and why it’s so important to you.
Did you grow up in a family of knitters, or did you come to the craft in adulthood? Have you spent time rebuilding classic cars, or are you attracted to the lifestyle of auto shows?
Put the pieces together of who you are, and what this topic is. Clarify in a sentence what it means to you. For example:
“I am an amateur knitter, and I want to podcast about knitting because I wish I could understand this one advanced lace shawl pattern.”
Then you can concentrate on lace stitches, pattern making, lace weight yarn, different needle materials, and other parts of the larger topic. With these episodes, you can move forward to a goal.
“I am a professional auto mechanic, and I want to podcast about classic cars, because newer models of cars are less interesting than cars made before a particular year.”
Then you can talk about engines, design, fuel efficiency, different factories, safety features, paint colors, economics and history of car manufacturing. You can use this data to promote a specific thesis about cars, not just “they ain’t what they used to be.”
These examples are overly simplistic. Your cultural background, personal history, and so on will all affect your perspective. These will all help you dig into the details of your topic and extract a nugget of emotional investment and information that you can use to engage others.
Once you’ve defined your audience, their problem, a way of solving it, and what your personal angle is, you then have a tool to build community and make a change.
By putting that work into planning, the job of promotion is so much easier. When you’ve thought enough about the avatar then the artwork, the description and the content will attract them all by itself. All you need to do is throw a little fuel on the fire. Add your show to Podchaser’s database and create a creator profile for yourself. If you’re interested in seeing what comes next, from equipment and recording, to publishing and promotion, then you’ll find a full guide on how to start a podcast here. Every step is 10 times easier once the planning is in place – so begin here, and have fun!
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