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How to start a podcast

by team Holly & Co

 

Curled up with a cuppa on a Sunday evening, or keeping you company in the car, the sound of a podcast is a familiar comfort for our ears — but how many of us have considered becoming a podcaster? Taking your place behind the microphone is a powerful way of reaching potential customers and forging a relationship with them that runs deeper than a ‘follow’ or a ‘double tap’. As the average listener tunes into seven or eight podcasts a week, communicating your brand story over the airwaves to an audience hungry for a new way of enjoying content other than through a screen, is an invaluable marketing resource that you should be tapping into¹. If the last time you held a microphone was belting out Beyonce at a late night karaoke session, let us explain why the new era has audio scribbled all over it. After chatting to audio extraordinaire Hannah Russell, co-founder of podcast production and promotion company Mags Creative, we have all the insider information to guide you through generating inspired ideas, the technical nitty-gritty, launching your podcast into the stratosphere and ensuring you’re heard by all the right people.

Why are podcasts the future?

In the past, Instagram glitches have made us all question how stable our businesses are without the crutch of social media. How would your consumers engage with you if Mark Zuckerburg’s empire crumbled tomorrow? Podcasts are an excellent way of helping to future-proof your business, as they give your brand a whole new marketing channel to connect with your audience. “But is there the appetite for podcasts?” you ask. “Are people as hungry to hear my spoken words as they are to read my Instagram caption?”

The statistics say it’s a resolute ‘yes’. By 2020, 15 million of us were listening to podcasts of all kinds, and this number is predicted to reach 20 million listeners by 2024 (for context, that is a third of the adult population)². In fact, the studies show that screen fatigue is pushing us to seek out audio. If we look to the success of apps like Calm, the science is there to show that listening to podcasts not only decreases stress and increases productivity but a deeper level of connection is fostered between the speaker and the listener. It’s not just the smoky tones of Matthew McConaughey that our ears are tuned in to. 81% of people who hear a brand on a podcast follow up with an action related to that brand³. That is an extraordinary engagement rate, especially when compared to the median benchmark for Instagram engagement which currently sits at 1.22% per post⁴. The impact of having the story behind your new ring designs explored on a podcast could have a far greater impact on your business than your grid post alone. If we can harness the power podcasts give us to be transported into our community’s ears and then minds, we have a massive opportunity to create lifelong supporters of our brand.

Where do I begin?

So you’re convinced that you should make space for a podcast in your marketing plan, but what is it that you’re actually going to be talking about? Once you’ve wrestled with the grisly voice in your head that is trying to tell you that you have nothing to say (you can direct him in the same direction as the repressed memories of that karaoke night), you will realise you are a gold mine of fascinating content! The best place to start is your passions. What could you sit and chat with a friend about for hours and still feel like you didn’t have a moment to draw breath? You have to approach the subject with energy and sparkle, and that is so much easier to muster if you’re talking about something from the heart. 

If you’re still hitting a brick wall there are whole podcast libraries that you can trawl for inspiration (ahem, Conversations of Inspiration!). Don’t be afraid to research other content forms like TV and radio shows to try to pinpoint what it is that keeps you engaged. There is a caveat to this, however. The thing that will make your podcast stand out is ‘you’: your creativity and your ideas, so be brave, be bold, and be original.

Deciding on your format is as vital as your content: the boat won’t float without the ocean. Does your idea suit the documentary style? Do you want your podcast to function more like a fly on the wall, giving listeners ‘behind the scenes’ insights? If you are sticking with a tried and tested format, what questions can you ask which tease the very best out of your guests? Holly is the queen of crafting a brilliant question, so you can turn to Conversations of Inspiration if you’re looking for some, well…inspiration!

If we can harness the power podcasts give us to be transported into our community’s ears and then minds, we have a massive opportunity to create lifelong supporters of our brand.

Once the format has been decided on, it’s time to check the clock. In recent years shorter podcasts have really lit the blue touch paper. Thirty to forty minutes is the average listening time, so be aware if your podcast is starting to run like a Martin Scorsese feature film. The best way to stop yourself from becoming a runaway train is to prepare a script in advance. “Make it really clear,” Hannah advises, “On why you’re here and why you’re the right person to tell the story.” On a blank page, sketch out the trajectory of your conversation, from the opening lines of the introduction to your closing statement. What does that journey look like?

I’m ready to speak! What do I need to make it happen?

If you’ve ever seen the inside of a recording studio, thinking about the kind of equipment you need to make your podcast a reality might make you break out in a sweat. It’s time to forget the grainy image in your head of something that looks halfway between a baseball helmet and an electricity pylon. Get this, you don’t even need a microphone! If you are on a shoestring budget, you can still create the podcast of your dreams. Platforms such as Squadcast, Riverside or Zencaster allow you and your guests to record remotely. If your podcast guest decides to record whilst they’re camping up Ben Nevis, do not be afraid! As well as being saved in the Cloud (data storage on the internet), each participant has their side of the recording saved directly to their laptop so you will have top-notch audio quality without panicking about delays or disconnections. 

You have to approach the subject with energy and sparkle, and that is so much easier to muster if you’re talking about something from the heart.

Once you have that precious file all polished, shiny and new, it’s time to introduce it to the world. The first step is to host your podcast on a hosting platform such as Simplecast or SoundCloud. These hosting platforms function like podcast postmen, sending your podcast out to listening platforms where users can discover you. The moment you launch is one of your biggest opportunities to get on the radar of larger hosting platforms like Spotify and Apple who seek out their podcasts editorially. The algorithms which compile the charts prioritise shows which move from a small to a large base quickly, so with your growth plan in hand, there is ample opportunity to be scouted by the bigger guns in the industry if you so desire.

How can I make my podcast a success?

Success can mean different things to different people. If your goal is to make your podcast a direct revenue source then success may be securing a sponsor. If you are using your podcast to reach potential customers, then understanding and targeting a smaller demographic will yield better results than simply trying to aim at a high listener count.

When you’re promoting your podcast keep in mind that other podcasters are your best friends. Why not become a guest on someone else’s podcast? You can start to build relationships with other podcasters through communities such as The Cohost. Cross promotional shoutouts are another excellent way to reach your future audience. You can always repay the favour down the line.

The first step is to host your podcast on a hosting platform such as Simplecast or SoundCloud. These hosting platforms function like podcast postmen, sending your podcast out to listening platforms where users can discover you.

Regardless of your intentions, bearing these three things in mind will give your podcast the best possible chance of triumph:

Content: Of course, we’d all love it if Michelle Obama would lend us an hour of her time to talk about, well, anything, but don’t get too hung up on securing big names. A unique story or an innovative angle will speak volumes.

Consistency: The best way to snaffle a listener’s podcast slot is through having a consistent schedule. If your audience knows that on Monday at 7am your podcast will be live come rain or come shine, this will become ingrained in their listening habits and they’ll be less likely to jump to the competition. 

Longevity: ‘A podcast is for life, not just for Christmas!’ Hard work and persistence will generate results, and committing to a long term, disciplined plan will help ensure you are crowned the podcast queen.

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