In recent years, podcasting has grown from its humble hobbyist origins to become big, global business. It’s estimated that there are currently more than 1 million active podcasts, featuring 30 million podcast episodes available in over 100 languages. Stats tell us that more than one in five Americans currently listen to podcasts weekly, and the numbers are only going in one direction: up.
Today, even best-selling print-medium authors like Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, and Oprah Winfrey have turned to podcasting as a way to reach out to and engage with their fans.
So what’s the deal with podcasts? Why is what’s essentially a “new version of talk radio” taking off? The answer is simple: Wouldn’t you listen to the radio more if radio gave you on-demand access to the topics you’re interested in with discussions ranging from broad to hyper-specific, put together by knowledgeable and entertaining people? In a nutshell, that’s the solution podcasts bring to the table.
For content providers, too, the appeal of podcasting is understandable. Podcasting is a low-cost, low risk, and easy way to reach people all around the world on a regular basis.
As someone with two successful podcasts in weekly production, I often field questions on how to add a podcast to your marketing efforts. Although I just said that podcasts are low-cost and low risk, nevertheless they do require an investment of your time and energy to think through your approach and give yourself the best chance at success.
- Podcasting is an effective way to connect with clients, prospects, and the world at large.
- The cost of starting your own podcast can be as little as nothing other than your time.
- If you want to make it sound professional or outsource the work, it can still be highly cost effective.
In order to get started you will have to figure out:
- What to talk about
- A plan for your format (Formal or informal? Dialogue or monologue? Panels or special guests? Repurposed or original content?)
- Your technology
- How you will get the audio cleaned up
- Intros and outros
- Podcast cover art
- Hosting and distribution
And, once you’ve started, how to conclude whether it’s a worthwhile effort.
Getting Started: Deciding What To Talk About
In figuring out what you’re going to talk about to fill your podcast, the first three questions you have to ask yourself are:
- What is your podcast going to be about?
- Why would people listen?
- How is it going to be different than the (likely, many) other podcasts in that space?
With over 1 million active podcasts, it’s a safe bet that every topic has been covered. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t offer a unique value proposition that would get people to listen. If you have an idea for what you would like to do, check out the competition. Can you bring a different viewpoint, value proposition, or approach to the space? If not, think longer and harder about how you can.
If you’re going to measure your success in podcasting, make sure you pick the right yardstick. While Joe Rogan manages to get over 200 million downloads per month, you need to set your sights far lower: Unless you come to the table with name-brand recognition, odds are your early success will be measured in dozens, then hundreds of downloads; then, over time, possibly thousands, and MAYBE tens of thousands of downloads.
The broader your subject matter, the bigger your potential audience – and the larger your competition. The more niche, the smaller your audience, but the less competition you will face. But whatever you choose to talk about, pick a name and description for your podcast that makes it easy for people to understand what they’re getting into.
Even before you decide on your topic and focus, it’s important to ask yourself what your goal is for your podcast: Who are you trying to reach, why are you trying to reach them, and how many listeners would you need to have, over what timeframe, in order to feel this is a worthwhile endeavor?
Making It Real: Map Out Your Plan
Most podcasts follow a predefined structure. Typically, they start with an introduction to the show, then introduce any guests, followed by the topic-specific content – which might be a series of predetermined questions, a free-flowing conversation, or, if you’re alone, a scripted explanation of a particular topic. To end, you’ll need to figure out how to wrap it up: standard questions for your guests, reminders to subscribe, where to reach you, and so on.
Once you know what you want to do, run a test of your chosen approach. This doesn’t need to be complicated: Just sit down with anyone as a guest, pull out your smartphone, and use the voice recorder to record a “test” podcast. You might be surprised how hard it can sometimes be to fill 20 minutes of air! If need be, practice a few times until you’re comfortable.
Dealing With Compliance: Yes, You Need Permission
You’re a financial advisor, so this should come as no surprise: you’re going to need compliance approval. Run your plan by compliance to get their blessing, and to confirm if you’ll need to sign-off for each episode. (After all, you don’t want a hobby to land you in hot water with regulators.)
Nuts And Bolts: Handing The Technical Requirements
The next step is to make sure that your podcast actually sounds good. After all, as this is an audio format, the last thing you want is to ruin a great conversation with a terrible recording.
What you need to buy depends on if you plan on recording alone, interviewing guests remotely, or interviewing guests in person.
If you’re going to be alone, all you need is a computer and a microphone. Both Macs and PCs come with their own voice recording applications that can see to your recording needs. As for a microphone, while basic headsets that come with smartphones work, they often don’t sound great for anything beyond phone calls – look to improve your recording by picking up something better. The gold standard in podcasting is the Blue Yeti, which can be picked up almost anywhere for between $100-150. Simply plug it into your USB and you are ready to go! You are also definitely going to want to order a pop filter; a foam mic cover that helps prevent fast-moving air from causing popping sounds in the recording.
If you plan on interviewing guests remotely, you’ll still need a USB Microphone, but your actual recording can be conducted via Zoom. Even the free version lets you record for up to 40 minutes, while paid versions have no limits and also provide cloud storage.
If you are planning on in-person recordings (which usually give you the best audio quality), then you’ll need to spend some money to make your finished product sound good. One option is to use the Blue Yeti paired with a computer, but a better option is to purchase your own multi-mic setup. For the microphones, I suggest something like the Audio-Technical 20 Series Mic which retail for around $100-125 each. You will also need a recorder. The recorder of choice for most podcasters I know is the Zoom H6 Recorder, which should run about $350.
Cleaning Up The Audio
Once you’ve made the recording, it will require editing to cut out ums, ahs, any errors, and other content you want to remove, as well as to control for volume. Sounds like a lot? It’s actually not that hard to learn. All you need is an audio editor like Audacity and a quick search of “how to use audacity” on YouTube. Another alternative is Descript which is a newer system that allows you to edit podcasts by editing a transcript of the recording! They have even created this guide on making sure that your recording sounds great every time.
If you would rather outsource this work, you have a few choices. You can find podcast editors on Fiverr or Upwork. Alternatively, simply googling “podcast outsource editor” will lead you to companies like the one I use, Podcast Press, which offers comprehensive editing and production services at a reasonable price.
Putting Your Stamp On It: Branding
The content you record needs to be wrapped up in your brand. In the podcast realm, that means adding intro and outro music to each episode. In order to make sure you don’t violate any copyright laws, be sure to pay for a recording with a service like Envato. Once you have it, you can add an introduction to your podcast to the intro, and a reminder for people to subscribe to the outro. Once you’ve got these recorded, you can use the same ones each time.
Even though podcasts are an audio format, there are also a few visual aspects.
The first visual is your podcast cover art. This art shows up in all podcast directories and players, and will help people discover, identify, and remember your podcast. Feel free to design your own, or outsource to a pro on Fiverr or Upwork. Also, many podcast outsourcers provide this as part of a launch package and so do a few hosts (more below).
Next, for each episode, you should have either a description of the episode or better yet, “show notes.” Show notes are a brief description of the episode, with links to the content discussed in the podcast, and timestamps indicating where various topics start. Your show notes can be posted as content that comes with the download of your podcast file.
Lastly – and this is a pro tip! – if you’re going to post your podcast on your website (which you should, and I will get to this shortly) you should also provide a full transcript of the recording. The reason is simple: Google doesn’t search audio, but it does search text. As a result, posting the full transcript will not only make your podcast more discoverable, but also provide you with text that you can use in other marketing. Many podcast outsourcing services provide transcription services, or you can use a service like Rev.com.
Becoming Findable: Hosting & Distribution
Now that you have a podcast, you have to distribute it to the world. In order to do that, the first thing you’ll need is a podcast host – a service that will let you upload your recordings to their site, and allow others to download or stream your content.
There are many podcast hosting services out there. Personally, I use Acast, but the biggest player in this space is Libsyn, and the fastest-growing – and the only free option I’ve found – is Anchor. Anchor, in particular, is worth mentioning as they also provide you with music and production tools. So which service should you choose? It depends on what you are looking for in terms of features, price, and, most importantly, the second thing you need: distribution.
Once your podcast is uploaded to a host, you need to distribute it through various podcast players and services. The biggest players in this space are Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, YouTube, and Google Podcast, but there are literally dozens more out there. It’s important to note that not all hosts have access to all distribution channels, so choose one that at least covers all the majors.
To register with a distributor, you’ll need to submit a custom URL and links to your podcast. (Your podcast host will provide your URL, links, guides, and instructions on how you can do this – so follow their step-by-step instructions.)
A few items to note regarding distribution:
- The first is to put your podcast just about everywhere. Most if not all of these distribution channels are free to you so take advantage and make sure people can find you.
- The second is that many smaller podcast distributors/players will link to Apple’s podcast list, so if you link to there, you will show up in several others.
- Lastly, consider posting your podcast to YouTube. YouTube is, of course, a medium for video, so you may be asking, why use it for your podcast? Here’s why: for many people, YouTube is their primary source for video, music, and yes, podcasts. Several podcast hosts will let you post to YouTube, and will produce a single image of your podcast cover as the video along with your audio content.
Creating A Home For Your Podcast: Websites
Once your podcast is official, it needs it’s own home on the internet. If you already have a website, you can post your episodes there – just copy and paste a few lines of code and you‘ll have an embedded audio player on your site, so people can just click to listen.
Alternatively, several hosts, including Acast, will make this even easier. They’ll provide a simplified website that can function as the public face of your podcast. Just purchase a custom URL, point it to the site, and you’re done.
If you, instead, want to build something more extensive (like what I’ve done on JasonPereira.ca), you build your own site without any coding at all: If you can drag and drop, and type into a computer, you can create a site in a few hours using Squarespace or Wix, and it will cost you less than $20/month.
Finding Your Audience: Marketing & Results
You’ve put in all this work to get your podcast off the ground, now it’s time to help people find it.
Your first step is to email friends, family, and clients and ask them to listen, leave reviews, and share with their friends and via social media.
Do you have a regular client newsletter? Include a link and a summary to the podcast every time you release an episode.
Speaking of social media, lean heavily on yours: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and whatever else you are on. Be sure to tag guests and relevant topics, and ask your guests to do the same to push their interview out to their social media channels and audiences.
Many podcast players and services offer the ability to leave reviews. These reviews are important for two reasons. First, they allow people who find your listing to learn about your podcast from other listeners. Secondly, for many of these services, reviews and ratings impact directory listings. This means that the more positive reviews and ratings you have, the earlier your podcast will come up in a search on relevant keywords.
After The Launch: Measuring Success
Once it’s out there, you can track the number of downloads of your podcast and download growth over time with analytics tools provided by your podcast host. As I said earlier, don’t be deterred by a slow start. If you are consistent, put out regular content, and provide for a compelling listen, given time you will likely see a linear growth trend.
So how many people need to listen to make this entire exercise worthwhile? That’s entirely up for you to decide. Your podcast can prove to be anything from a hobby, a client communication tool, something that establishes you as an expert in the field, or – if you can get listenership into the hundreds of thousands – a profitable venture on its own.
Written by: Jason Pereira
Looking to leverage the power of podcasts? Podcast Connect makes it easy for you to create and share your own high quality podcasts to your network, grow your credibility, build relationships and set yourself apart from everyone else.