Since the Radix podcast launched back in 2013 podcasts have increased in popularity, with Welcome to Night Vale and Serial gaining cult status. In the content marketing sphere: Convince and Convert’s president, Jay Baer, launched the Convince and Convert podcasts range in November 2014 (formerly MarketingPodcasts.com) and Content Marketing Institute’s founder, Joe Pulizzi, has pointed out that:
“Effective content marketers are seeing amazing results in both podcasts and printed books. Of course, these two are not at the top of marketers’ usage list (for B2B companies, 30 percent leverage books while just 22 percent leverage podcasts.) I smell an opportunity here to get in before the rush.”
Content marketers, (and in my experience, internal comms teams) are looking to podcasts as a new format they can use, so what should copywriters do if they’re asked to write a script for a podcast? Not only will you need to ensure that the information contained within the script is accurate and informative – it needs to help create a piece of audio that people will enjoy listening to.
To script or not to script
Before jumping into writing a script, you need to be sure that it’s the approach that best fits. For instance, Good Copy, Bad Copy is only partially scripted with the majority of its content based on bullets in an outline, which we then ad-lib from. Veteran podcaster Daniel Lewis lists three main approaches as to how a show’s content can be planned and believes that completely scripted episodes shouldn’t be longer than 10 minutes.
This guideline may be worth following, but if you’re asked to write scripts for longer episodes then it is possible to script for that. The Meaningful Money podcast by Pete Matthew is scripted by Pete and runs for up to 30 minutes an episode. I’ve previously asked him about how he puts together his episodes, and he told me that he spends a few hours carefully writing a script of what he is going to say, and finds that he uses approximately 3000 words per script for each 30 minute episode. This length also takes into account the speed at which he speaks and allows for necessary pauses.
Still interested in writing a script for a podcast? Then here are my…
Three tips for writing scripted podcast episodes
3. Calculate a word count that meets the desired running length before writing
You could use Pete’s estimate above, there’s also this handy script timer.
Alternatively, if you have access to who will be voicing the script for the podcast recording, write a sample script (it doesn’t have to be for the actual episode) that’s a set word count and get that person to time how long it takes for them to read that script out loud in the way that they would for the podcast. Once you have that time-to-word-count-ratio, you’ll be able to write a script for an approximate length of time.
2. Write with your speaker in mind
Someone will be reading your script and hopefully not squinting at it. You don’t want them constantly wondering how to pronounce complex words or guessing when to pause.
Even if you’re the one who may end-up recording the episode, when writing a podcast script, use a clear font, line spacing, and keep those paragraphs and sentences sensibly short. Spell out complex words if their pronunciation is not obvious. Write pauses in: the listeners need time to reflect and the person recording the episode will need to be reminded to breathe. On the page, do everything in your power to make the recording process as smooth as possible.
1. Read your script out loud to help you proof it
Don’t wait for feedback to find out that a sentence you’ve written sounds awful when read out loud.
Before sending the script off for review, give yourself a chance to read it out loud and find out if your script sounds good. This also has the added benefit of helping you find out if you’ve accidentally added in things like unintentional alliteration or rhymes, which listeners will find distracting.
If you’d like to read more advice on how to write for the spoken word, then check out Matt’s blog post on how to write B2B video voice overs.