I’m bored of podcasts. Anyone else? Every business seems to have a podcast right now; and lockdowns around the globe prompted countless individuals to create millions more hours of pointless drivel. Why even bother?
Okay, okay, okay! I cannot lie— I ABSOLUTELY LOVE PODCASTS!
But—to some degree—is there an element of truth in thinking there are no interesting angles on any given subject left unexplored? Apple alone (far from the only place to get podcasts) carries more than 550,000 shows—north of 43 million individual episodes—and that number, like all internet statistics, climbs by the minute.
Most likely you will have recently taken one of those new podcasts for a spin. Perhaps you listened to one episode, maybe one and half? Weeks went by, and you eventually got the message ‘iTunes has stopped updating this podcast because you have not listened to any episodes recently.’ You unsubscribed. I do the same, many podcasts do not even survive the full duration of Episode 1. So, it is understandable that you might wonder if you have missed the boat for launching a podcast. Do listeners have the appetite for any new shows?
Yes. Categorically, 100%, yes! Sure, the podcasting boat sailed a long time ago, but many of the passengers are creating total garbage— and inevitably fall overboard when life gets in the way. There is ALWAYS an audience for CONSISTENT QUALITY!
How to Start a Successful Small Business Podcast:
Short answer: Signing up to a podcast platform, recording, syndicating, and promoting are just routine procedures and housekeeping. You need to get those things right but—even done well—they are not going to magically create a podcast anyone would listen to. Get your strategy nailed down before anything else! Reach a point of absolute clarity about why you want to launch a podcast, and who really needs it in their lives.
#1. Produce entertainment or useful—actionable—information, not advertising!
Podcasting for business listeners is an especially competitive category; the category has been bloated by the low-to-no investment required to throw a handful of episodes into a free publicity channel. Creating a corporate podcast with hopes it will become a promotional vehicle for your business is short-sighted.
Listeners are discerning, they can smell a superficial PR exercise from a mile away. Too many entrepreneur podcasts launch for no deeper reason than to increase the exposure of their host. There is nothing inherently wrong about that. But, honestly, do any of us really want to listen to another narcissistic wannapreneur documenting their hustle and their gratitude journaling? Even if there are self-promotional benefits for the host, they should be a happy side-effect, not a driving purpose. Be genuine.
If you regularly create episodes that listeners are eager to hear, good karma for your brand or personal reputation will flow naturally from the value you are providing.
#2. Prepare every episode
Almost all every small business podcast I have deleted shared two common faults: they were freewheeling and unfocused. Two or three people had gathered in a studio, confident their collective expertise and humour would effortlessly align into a great podcast— but the result was often muddy, aimless, and lengthy. Episodes should be researched, planned, and produced.
You will no doubt have seen a celebrity on a chat show respond to a question (without a moment’s hesitation) with a word-perfect, truly hilarious, anecdote that just happens to be about their new movie. Wow! Are they simply gifted in the art of spontaneous sparkling conversation? Unlikely. The host and guest almost certainly discussed the setup question that would seamlessly segue into the story at just the right moment.
Prepare your questions, brief your guests, do your background research. Choose to wing it, and you will likely end up recording hours of rambling small talk.
#3. Choose your guests carefully
If your format relies on interviewing guests, you should be very selective of them. Do not be afraid to pass on people who would not be a good fit for your listeners; a friend expressing an interest in being on your show is not a good-enough reason to have them involved. Neither is someone who insists on a plug for their new business, app, or book as a prerequisite for an interview. If they are not going to be a good fit for your audience, pass on the opportunity. But, when you do get a well-connected guest on your podcast, ask them whether any of their connections might also be interested in coming onto the show.
#4. Commit to the work involved
Planning and producing something that is worth listening to is seriously hard work, and it is going to occupy a lot of time in your calendar. Linda Holmes of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour said in an interview with The Guardian, “People have a really inaccurate understanding of how much work they [podcasts] are, both from a content point and especially from a production standpoint. People don’t understand that people who produce high-quality chat shows spend a lot of time editing and cutting them. Don’t be in the position of thinking that for the low, low price of a couple of hours of work a week you can make something that is going to make something that sounds like it came out of BuzzFeed.” Be sure that your podcast is sustainable, can you really stick it out for the long-term… or even ramp up production if your show takes off.
#5. Deliver on time
Work to a schedule. If you promise a weekly show, deliver a weekly show. Delivering on schedule reassures listeners that you are committed, that you have a plan, that it is worth subscribing. Superficial vanity podcasts seem to be all-or-nothing; the host will use some downtime to upload an episode every day for a couple of weeks, then go AWOL for months while they work on other projects. Upload sporadically, or go quiet for too long, and subscribers will assume you have quit. A disciplined production and uploading schedule will also be noticed by ‘the algorithms’, i.e., an account with regular fresh content, good ratings, and comments from subscribers will have more positive ranking indicators that a stale account.
#6. Consider outsourcing production
Full disclosure, JMS Group is a recording studio near Norwich that regularly records business podcasts, so I am somewhat biased toward capturing the very best audio possible! That said…
You can record a podcast on your phone with reasonable—but less than ideal—results. As a minimum though, I would start out purchasing a high-quality condenser microphone, headphones, and a professional audio interface for a couple of hundred quid on Amazon (check out Focusrite’s excellent Scarlett range). The results will be dramatically more professional than using the inbuilt microphone on any device. Plus, you can use the same kit to seriously dial-up your audio quality on Zoom calls.
So— with inexpensive equipment available for next-day delivery, it might feel like wild extravagance to consider booking a professional recording studio. Yet, many business podcasters (especially those recording with multiple guests or connecting with guests remotely) choose to hire a studio— strategically delegating parts of the process that do not require their personal attention. Preparing a quiet room for a recording, arranging two or three microphones, making sure the audio is capturing correctly, then spending hours editing the episode, transcribing the text, and getting it all uploaded is— well, a faff that someone else can spend time doing.
Artists creating albums are often booked into top-flight studios to work with big-name producers and engineers. Most artists are entirely capable of operating a studio themselves (they likely have decent studios at home) but booking somewhere else gets them ‘in the zone’ and frees them to do the stuff they are best at, while someone else takes care of the technical stuff. A pro studio also brings more pairs of ears—and more years of experience—to an album than if it had remained a solo endeavour. An experienced producer can be transformative.
The same will be true for your podcast; you could do it all yourself—you might even really enjoy doing it yourself—but if producing and engineering are not in your wheelhouse, there are plenty of ready-to-roll podcast recording studios that can make you sound like a professional right from Episode 1.
Tom Vaughan-Mountford is an expert in audio and video marketing for SMEs. He has more than twenty years’ experience in production and post-production for broadcasters, major advertising agencies, and name-brands. He is a regular writer on the media industry, a columnist at Brand Chief Magazine, and an author. Tom is a senior creative at JMS Group, a long-established commercial production company and sound recording studio near Norwich.