Podcasts are all the rage in content marketing these days, and for good reason. Podcasting is a great way to connect with your target audiences for several different reasons, and can be surprisingly simple and cost-effective to produce. Let’s talk about the tactical implementation and strategy behind creating a podcast:
Why Produce a Podcast?
One of the most compelling reasons to start a podcast is to diversify the types of content on your website. Not all of your prospects always have the time or desire to sit down and read a piece of thought leadership, and accordingly, it’s important to provide different mediums to engage and appeal to all of your leads. Many of your web visitors and blog subscribers already follow a routine that allows for immediate incorporation of a new podcast. Not to mention, podcast platforms offer another way that users can find out about who you are.
Many content teams initially feel overwhelmed by the commitment of producing a podcast —which is a valid consideration, as you don’t want to host one episode and then let the idea die. Often times, though, our clients find that there is an initial flurry of work in brainstorming and arranging the technical components, after which podcasting actually becomes a relatively easy content type to craft and publish on a regular basis. Partly this is because this new medium can be a refreshing project for your internal team; additionally, it is often easier for team members to sit down and discuss their work passionately than to sit down and write about their expertise. If you’ve been on the content promotion treadmill for a long time, you recognize how writing can become a slog.
Tools for Recording a Podcast
There is some gear that you will need to purchase. While you can certainly break the bank spending thousands of dollars on a multitude of hardware, that’s definitely not necessary. These days, there are some real low-cost options that will afford your recordings with professional sound. Before deciding on the equipment to buy, decide where you’ll be recording your episodes.
If you’ll be in an area with a lot of flat and hard surfaces, you will need to buy some simple acoustic panels. We use about a dozen 2×2 foam panels, similar to these, tacked on the walls and ceiling surrounding our recording station and it makes a huge difference in sound quality. The Shure SM58 is a high-quality microphone that sounds and works great, and of course you’ll need a basic windscreen, XLR cable and stand to complete that setup. Then you’ll want a converter to plug all of the mics into and record the audio. You should select that equipment based on the total number of hosts and guests you’ll expect to have on any given episode; we found four channels to be sufficient, and use this Tascam model, which is portable and simple to setup. This component is a place to hunt for a viable used version, too, to save a little.
Next you’ll need a software application. Since we’re a Mac office, we started out with GarageBand— a great free option. Ultimately we found that we were spending substantially more time editing each individual’s recording, and purchased Logic Pro. With Logic, we’re able to utilize additional filters and other features to more efficiently edit and post our recordings.
How to Post the Recording
While most regular listeners will engage on their preferred mobile podcast app, you will still want content detail pages on your webpage for each episode. The format of these pages can look similar to any webinar or any other audio or video posts you have. For example, if you host your podcast using Soundcloud, you can embed the media player at the top of page, below the article title, followed by a sentence or two of intro text. You’ll benefit from transcribing each episode because the indexable words of content will help to increase traffic via organic search. The transcript should be in the next content area of the webpage, below the media player and intro text. There are a variety of inexpensive tools to help with the transcription, but we personally use and recommend Rev.com
You’ll also need an RSS feed on your site, in order for your podcast to show up on someone’s phone. This can be added pretty simply and cheaply. Since iTunes manages this, you likely will need a podcast-specific feed with particular formatting requirements. A quick search will help you determine the requirements needed, then you can add your own on your website. We used to host the podcast just on our site, but now we use Libsyn, which is an affordable and highly functional option. Libsyn deals with all of the formatting structure as well as provides a lot of additional reporting that wouldn’t otherwise be easily available by using a different model.
Promoting the Podcast
As with all of your other thought leadership, you are going to need to spend time promoting the launch of your Podcast—as well as each episode—to make sure that it’s reaching your target audience and you are getting traffic. Since launching a podcast provides exciting new promotional content, you should announce your new endeavor on its own email blast. Inviting your current subscribers to follow your podcast will get you immediate traffic and excite your existing fanbase. Alternatively, you can incorporate a podcast subscription CTA to your website and send out a monthly podcast digest.
Promoting on social channels is particularly important since most social media users access these channels via mobile; social platforms are even more seamless for viewers to subscribe on their podcast apps and be notified of new episodes.
Measuring your Podcast Performance
One drawback of podcasts over other content types, is the lack of metrics and reporting available for insights on your subscriber base. You will have access to the number of downloads, but that’s not the same thing as number of listeners. Some prospects may download an episode multiple times, but never listen, while some others may listen to a single download multiple times. iTunes recently released additional reporting in beta, which should help set a new standard for understanding things like total hours listened, number of devices subscribed, and more. While we may not have access to the quantitative data we’d like, we have heard time and time again anecdotally from our clients and prospects how much value they derive from our podcasts. Since we launched our podcasts, many new clients expressed that this content alone brought them to contact us about our services. Resonating with prospects is more powerful than any numbers we could hope for; though keeping a pulse on the numbers definitely helps keep things moving in the right direction.
Finally, don’t set out to with the intent of having hour long episodes; 15 minutes at the outset is plenty! Once you have a few episodes under your belt, you might find more topics to expound upon. Then, episodes might lengthen to a half-hour, which is the sweet spot for many podcast producers. Just like with anything, podcasting takes practice! If your first episode doesn’t turn out exactly like you hoped, stick with it and let the format evolve naturally. Learning how to be yourself and have a conversation on air doesn’t always come naturally, so try recording a few episodes in a row at a time. We found that this can help our hosts or guests find their rhythm of being themselves, and is an efficient way to create a backlog of content.