At Salesforce.com’s Social Success MicUp in January, Bernie Mitchell, inbound marketing specialist at Engaging People, predicted podcasts would make a comeback as a marketing tool in 2013.
His reasons? Velocity’s Martha Rzeppa summed them up thus: podcasts are easy to produce, they help you build a personal relationship with your audience, and they reduce the spam factor as people make a conscious choice to listen to them.
With over 30 podcast episodes behind me as the producer of the Radix Copycast and (in my spare time) Nerds Assemble, I’d tend to agree. Some podcasts do try to spam, but they don’t last very long as people soon see through them. But those that deliver genuine, interesting and entertaining content can quickly build up large and loyal audiences, like the Marketing Smarts podcast from MarketingProfs.
Podcasting is easier than ever
And it’s true what Bernie said about podcasting being easier than ever before. Podcasts aren’t just easier to create, they’re also easier for your audience to listen to. Whether it’s through iTunes, your website or an app, there are plenty of ways for people to listen to podcasts with little to no effort, whenever they want: while doing the housework, on the office commute, or walking the dog.
Ten tips for novice podcasters
But if you’re a podcasting novice, where do you start? From my experience, these are the top 10 points you should keep in mind, with nuggets of our own experience from doing the Radix Copycast.
1. Figure out where you will host your audio files online
You need to decide whether to host your audio files on your company’s servers, use a podcasting service or host them via a cloud storage solution. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option, but whichever one you choose, you want to ensure you generate your own RSS feed (see point 8 for more details).
How we do it: As we didn’t want to put extra strain on our web hosting, we decided to post our audio to Audioboo. Audioboo has several subscription options, including its free account giving you three minutes per recording and its Plus account (£60 per year) giving you thirty minutes per recording. Our RSS feed is done through FeedBurner (there are other RSS generators available), as we don’t have the in-house skills for composing our own RSS.
2. What format will your podcast take?
Are you going to discuss general topics or news-driven ones? Will you have a regular studio team, or open the podcast out to guest contributors? Maybe you’re attending lots of events and aim to interview people on the ground. Or you could do all these things (and more). Really you just need to ensure you’re covering topics your intended audience will want to hear about, and then decide on the best format for getting them across in an engaging fashion.
How we do it: Our podcast is currently done with a regular studio team and guest contributors talking about interesting topics relating to copywriting in B2B marketing, but we also plan to cover relevant events in future.
3. Decide on frequency
Is your podcast going to be weekly, bi-monthly or monthly? This depends on how much time you’ll have between each episode in order to plan, record, edit and promote it. It also depends on how many ideas you have for episodes (beware of using all your ideas up at the beginning, then scraping the barrel to find something to talk about each week) or whether you can get enough guests involved. Create a calendar, schedule the planning and promotion elements as well as the recording sessions, and identify and invite your guests well in advance.
How we do it: Our episodes are monthly, and we have a weekly meeting to decide topics and plan the upcoming episode. So we know at the beginning of each month what we’ll be recording about and who with. Episodes are recorded, edited and uploaded within the same week.
4. Pick a length for your episodes
How long will each episode be? Again, this depends on the amount of material you feel you can create. Before you choose, check whether there are any limits with your hosting platform – some have restrictions on the amount of data you can upload each month and/or bandwidth, or how long each file can be.
How we do it: Our Audioboo Plus account puts a 30-minute limit on the length of the audio files that we upload, which is why each of our episodes is less than half an hour. (This is actually an ideal length, though, as it keeps us focused and stops us from rambling while we record.)
5. Scripts vs. outlines
It might be tempting to script entire episodes, but please don’t. The effect is usually a podcast that sounds unnatural and therefore unpleasant to listen to. An exception could be intros and outros – it’s fine to script these as they’re usually short and you’re conveying very specific information.
Instead, create a broad outline for each episode. The outline will let the contributors know what they should be talking about and when, how long they should talk for, and whether there are any specific points you want them to cover.
How we do it: After trying to improvise introductions and outros, we now script these for each episode – especially when we have guests who need to be introduced. The rest is broadly outlined.
6. Your recording and editing kit
If you already own a recording device (like a handheld audio recorder) that gets good-sounding audio, you don’t need to worry about recording episodes using a computer. But if you’ve only got a Windows PC or a Mac then there are a few things you will need:
- A condenser microphone that plugs into USB (we use a Snowball mic, by Blue, which works with both Windows and Mac OS)
- A set of headphones (so that you can check the quality of audio as you record and use them while editing)
- Audio recording software like Audacity, which is available for both Windows and Mac (Garageband is also available on Mac and iOS – so you could even record and edit using an iPad)
- A quiet space to record in
If you’re using Audacity or Garageband, then you’ve already got all the editing software that you need, as they they’re designed for both recording and editing.
How we do it: The Copycast is recorded and edited on the same laptop, using Audacity. The software is relatively simple to use if you already have some basic audio editing experience.
7. Theme music
You can use music to give your podcast a unique identity, to create interludes between different segments in an episode and to signal the end of a show. It can also give your episodes a more professional feel. Whatever music you end up using, make sure you have the right to use and edit it as required – the last thing you want is for your professional podcast to be tarnished by a public copyright bust-up.
How we do it: Our theme music was commissioned from Industrial and Marine. (Contact him if you’d like him to do yours!) We did consider buying the right to use a royalty-free track, but felt we’d like to have something unique.
8. Editing and saving your podcast
Once you have your podcast audio and theme tune there are a few things to remember when editing and saving the final file:
- Make sure you save your editing project regularly during editing
- Look out for long pauses and “ums” – try to cut these out
- When you save the version of the file that you’re going to upload to the internet, save it as an MP3 file as it is a common file type that will play on almost any entertainment device
You’ll also want to pay attention to the final file’s “metadata” – this is stuff like the track name, track number, album, year, contributing artists and artist. Metadata affects display information when the podcast is played, just like a song. Be consistent with how you name files: include your podcast name, the episode number and its date of release.
How we do it: I’ve found that when it comes to editing out “ums”, you begin to recognise what they look like in the editing programme. That cuts down on editing time because you don’t have to listen to all of the audio.
9. Getting that baby out there
Upload your file and link to it directly in a blog post on your company blog. The blog post should have a specific category or tag that only podcast episodes will use, so in the future you can use a tag or category to create the basis of an RSS feed which is what you submit to syndication services like iTunes (iTunes doesn’t actually host your podcast files).
Now you just need to promote that blog post for the episode and keep an eye on how people react to it.
How we do it: Our podcast is targeted at the B2B marketing community, so we promote it to our professional contacts via our individual LinkedIn profiles and our Radix company page, as well as on our Twitter feeds, Pinterest, and we post it to relevant communities on Google and Reddit.
10. Test and tweak
You’ll want to track how your episode does – keep an eye out for feedback and check who engages with it. And if the people you want to engage with it aren’t, look around at the kind of thing they’re sharing and discussing online, and try something different in the next episode.
How we do it: We keep track of listens on Audioboo, subscriptions on iTunes and shares on LinkedIn, Twitter and elsewhere. It’s still early days for us, but so far feedback has been positive, and we’re learning all the time – look out for more of ourpodcasting tips in future.