Podcasting can be a very effective way to connect with your audience. If you are new to podcasting, you may be looking for advice on how to hit the ground running. Even if you have been podcasting for a while, you may wonder if things are getting tired, or you may be looking for a way to energize your content to keep things fresh.
First, let’s get some standard assumptions out of the way. Podcasts are relatively easy to produce and can make a strong impact on your audience. But like any content marketing effort, podcasts take some careful planning to get the best results. You’ll have the best chance of success with podcasting if :
- You create and share podcasts because they work for your business not because they are cool or because your competitors are doing them.
- The podcasts you create are part of a concerted effort to provide your audience with content in a variety of forms because you understand that we all learn in different ways.
- Podcasts are part of your regular editorial calendar.
- You have the proper equipment for good production quality.
- You have a plan for publicizing your podcasts; you are prepared to broadcast them on your website and/or via RSS feeds; you are mentioning them in your print materials, etc.
Before jumping into suggestions for energizing your content, let’s take a short detour. Close your eyes and imagine you are listening to your favorite podcast. (Hint: It probably isn’t business related.)
Now open your eyes and think about what interests you about this podcast. If you aren’t sure, use these questions to determine its strengths:
- Is it the host? Is his or her voice distinctive, likeable, charismatic, etc.?
- Is it the tone? Serious or funny? Relaxed or formal? Scripted or improvisational? Academic or aimed at nonspecialists?
- Is it the subject matter? Or this show’s take on the topic? Do they take a straightforward approach, or turn the issue on its head somehow?
- Is it the format? Interview or talking head? A conversation between two or more people? Interaction with listeners via call-in, mail, or social media?
- Is it the guests? Are they big names? Executives? Regular folks? Up and comers? A mix?
- Is it the running time? Is the show short and sweet? Long and detailed? Does it vary depending on the topic of each individual episode?
- Is it how it makes you feel? Do you feel challenged and engaged? Do you like that it is easy on the ears and that you do not have to think very much while you listen?
These questions illustrate some of the options for creating and structuring podcasts. And they should plant one overarching question in your mind: What will work best for my audience?
The basic rules for making a relevant and useful podcast are the same as they are for creating relevant and useful content of any type:
- Know your audience and what works for them.
- Know the goals of your podcasts and of each individual episode.
- Know how the podcasts fit into your larger content picture.
The basic rules for energizing your podcasts revolve around being willing to take a stand and produce content that is creative and inspiring.
- Find the connection. Podcasts have an advantage over written materials because the human voice is a natural way to share information and create a bond with listeners. Use that to your advantage. Find a dynamic speaker or someone with the kind of voice you could listen to all day. Think back to your days of choosing college classes: Would you rather take a class with a boring professor on a subject you loved or a class with a dynamic and engaging professor on a subject you did not know much about?
- Ask your customers. Find out what floats their boats. Use social media, create surveys or just throw out a few informal questions whenever you are speaking with them: Do you listen to our podcasts? Why or why not? What do you like most about them? What do you want to hear?
- It is all in the name. Like a good headline or subject line, a catchy name for your podcast will increase its visibility and usability. MyCompanyName Podcast probably will not draw in listeners. Also, remember that podcast content is not searchable (unless it is accompanied by a written transcript). So to aid in searches, use a catchy or informative name for the podcast and descriptive titles for each episode. A short summary may also be helpful.
- Give it time. Of course, we all want to be an overnight success. But you know the story. You have to work very hard and often for a long time before becoming an overnight success. As you are putting in the hard work, remember that one thing that brings listeners back and encourages them to share is consistent podcasts over time. Once a week, once a month, or whatever works for you. Listeners will know where to find you and when if you keep to a regular schedule. Even if you choose to create a limited series of just a few podcasts on a particular topic, make it available at regular intervals.
- Stay focused. Don’t be afraid of your niche markets. If you have more than one, create more than one podcast just like you create multiple versions of printed or online content. When you create the content for the niche, imagine you are speaking to just one person. Picture a real person — a customer or prospect — and speak directly to him or her on a topic that you know he or she would like to hear. That helps keep the focus on relevant and useful information.
- Say it again. Even for auditory learners, it can be difficult to process complex information via audio alone, so find ways to repeat key learning points. Some useful ways to reiterate significant information are to simply rephrase it, have a guest or another host restate it in his or her own way or repeat the thought from a different perspective.
- Be daring. When all is said and done, try not to fall into the trap that so many of us so easily fall into: Thinking that serious business topics have to be discussed seriously with a serious voice and serious business words, or there is no way what we say will be taken seriously.
What is your favorite podcast? What do you do to spice up your podcasts? I’d love to hear some of your ideas.