Find Out How Podcasting Can Help Your Business
Notes on Podcasting
Hi, I’m Emily Prokop, I am a podcast editor and producer. I help people set up their podcasts, as well as help them produce them to get a professional sound — not just with the tech, but also with the message. I've been in the podcasting space for three years with three different podcasts. One lasted a year and it was my first and I made a lot of mistakes with it, but that's what helps us learn, right? My second one that I'm still doing is a history podcast called The Story Behind and I recently wrote a book based on it that will be out in October. And the third is a weight-loss podcast I'm doing with a friend called Hate to Weight where we're chronicalling our weightloss journeys.
So I'm basically surrounded by podcasting all the time, for my work as well as for fun.
I'm going to go through a few basics and, if there's time dig a little bit into the nitty gritty of a few things about podcasting. Everything I talk about and the basic outline for this is available at epodcastproductions.com/badass.
Why Start a Podcast?
More than 57 million Americans listen to podcasts, which is the same number of people who use Twitter, by the way.
If you are a blogger already, you may know how saturated the the blogging space is, but one statistic I wanted to point out was that there is one podcast for every 2,000 blogs, so it’s another way for you to post your content to the masses and in a little less crowded space.
Now, if you’re already a blogger, you know how important it is to put your own voice into your writing to help readers connect with you. If you think about reading words on a page, you might still not be able to connect with the voice on the other side of that keyboard, but with a podcast, you’re adding your voice to what you’re saying. It takes it a step even further with video when people can see AND hear you.
In a podcast, people are looking for content that will help them. In fact, that should be in your elevator pitch for your podcast — how the show will help someone.
Even though it’s for your business, no one would want to tune in to a 30-minute infomercial, right?
In anything you do for your business, you're looking for Return on Investment, but with podcasting, you're bringing potential clients into your world, you're getting into their ears and if your message resonates with them, they won't look at you or your podcast as trying to sell them on anything.
It’s all part of funnel. For a few people, it might instantly convert listeners to clients, but for the most part, it’s a way of getting your voice and your brand out there.
If you listen to podcasts, you probably know already that listening is a very passive thing. Most people are driving to work, walking the dog, going to the gym, doing chores around the house, etc., when listening, which has a good side and a bad side.
The bad side is you may have a call to action, like go to your website or join your email list, but they might not be able to do this when they're listening.
The good side is, if you've ever binge-listened to a podcast you just found, you may know this already. But those repeated calls to action are so important just for this reason. When you're recording, you might feel like you're saying the same thing every episode. Believe it or not, that's actually a good thing in podcasting, since it'll stick in their heads. But you also want to make it engaging.
Example: Pod Save America. They have ads that have nothing to do with their show. It's a political news show, but they have commercial breaks for services like the Cash App or Blue Apron. And they found a way to make those ad reads entertaining. In fact, they are so entertaining, that when they toured live, the audience ASKED for the ad reads to be done! They WANTED the ads! But we'll get into more about sponsorship a little later.
So, starting a podcast is relatively easy and I’ll talk about the tools in a few minutes, but before you do anything or spend any money on equipment or software, the first thing to do is think about what you want to talk about and what kind of show you want to have.
There are three main formats: Interview, Solo show or Co-hosted show, and then you can do a mix of just two or just three.
An interview show would be bringing in others in your field or area of interest to talk to that you think your audience would get value from, kind of like this summit.
A solo show would just be you talking about different topics in your area of expertise.
A co-hosted show would be maybe you and a business partner or even you and someone else in your niche bringing different perspectives to topics. And you would both be bringing your unique perspectives to the subject. And this doesn't have to be just two people, you could have three. However, I will say for the listeners' sake and your own editing headaches, probably no more than four, especially if your voices are similar.
There isn’t one format that’s better than another, however, I personally like podcasts that mix it up where there are interview shows so I can learn from different guests, while promoting the guests, but the solo shows would be more for promoting your own content and brand.
One way of combining these two together would be doing half and half within an episode, which some people do. They have an introduction that’s solo, talking about the topic covered in the interview, but giving your own spin on it, then they go into the interview, and then they have an outro segment wrapping everything up.
Now, while having guests on your show may bring their audience to your show, you also want to make sure you’re getting enough of yourself into the show so people get to know, like and trust you, even though you’re using the podcast as a platform for someone else.
Once you decide on your format, I would say the second thing you should do is get out a piece of paper and brainstorm episode ideas.
So, there’s a statistic out there that 50 percent of podcasts don’t last through seven episodes. This statistic has actually been said to have gone down to three episodes in recent months.
Now, some of this is because of unrealistic time expectations or giving up too early, but a lot of the time, people have an idea, they’re really excited, they record episode one, episode two, episode three, but then start to lose steam. Or realize they might have gone too broad and just the overwhelm of ideas make it hard to focus on just one idea at a time.
What I tell people is before they even press record, make a list of at least 15-20 topics or guests they can reach out to to have one their show right away.
You may not even get to all these topics or get all these guests on, but if you’re able to make this list quickly and easily, you probably have a sustainable podcast on your hands.
When I made my initial list — I do a history podcast — I actually still have original ideas on that list I’ve never gotten to, but they’re there for when I may hit a slump or a busy week and realize, “Oh, it’s time to record my podcast, what am I going to talk about?
Equipment & Tech
The first thing you’ll need is a microphone. First rule, your computer microphone won’t really cut it. So there are three I recommend right off the bat if you’ve don’t already have one. (For more information on microphones, click here.)
The reasons I love these microphones is that they have both XLR and USB connectivity, which means if you decide to upgrade to a mixer, you can use them or if you’re using a portable recorder at some point, it’s easy to plug them in with the XLR cable, but if you’re looking for a quick setup, they can plug right into your computer using the USB cable.
They’re all under $100, usually about $50-$70
I recommend the ATR2100 the most because it comes with a Lifetime Warranty. I’ve had mine for three years with no problem at all.
They’re Dynamic, which, not to get to technical, is better for recording in places that aren’t sound treated. (Dynamic: Picks up what's right in front of it; Condenser: PIcks up everything around it, i.e. more room noise and reverb/echo)
You might see a lot of recommendations for a Blue Yeti or a Blue Snowball mic, these can be good. But, they are USB only, and they are condenser mics, which means they are more sensitive to room noise and other outside sounds you might not want in your recordings.
If you already have these microphones or planning on buying one, read the instruction manual to make sure you’re using the correct settings for a solo voice.
But if you plan on having two people in the same room, even though there is a setting for it on the Blue Yeti, you’re going to get much better sound and have an easier time editing and cutting out cross talk if every person has their own microphone.
Once you decide on a microphone, you’ll want a recording and editing software.
The easiest one I’ve found for people to be able to pick up quickly is also free and is called Audacity. There’s a record button, a play button, some effects on it like noise reduction, and tons of tutorial videos on YouTube.
If you and a cohost are recording, you can each use Audacity to record your tracks while on Skype and then put them together after.
If you're in the same room, you'll either want to get a mixer or portable recorder like the Zoom H5 or H6 to be able to use two microphones or a software-based mixer like Voicemeeter Banana. You would think you could just plug both microphones into your computer, but your recording software is most likely only going to recognize one.
If you’re going to be doing interviews, there are a few different ways to do that, which I don’t go into too much detail about, but here’s a general overview
There’s recording a double-ender, where each participant records their own side, and you can take the files and sync them up for the final episode.
There are different call recorders, so if you’re using Skype, there’s a list on the Skype website of what they recommend and they’re in the beginning stages of rolling out Skype for Content Creators, as well, for recording the audio. I will say, for Mac (I wrote iOS on the slide I used, but it's for MacOS—oops!) users, ECamm Call Recorder is a great option, and for PC users, Amolto is free and super easy to use.
Zoom.us is another great option, especially for those who are familiar with it already. There's also a setting to record on separate tracks, which makes editing a lot easier on you later on.
Once your recording is in place and you’ve edited in things like intro and outro music if you want, you can then turn that files into an MP3, which is something you’re able to do in your editing software using something called a LAME encoder, which is also free — Audacity will most likely give you a prompt to download it when you try to export your file if you don't already have it.
And then you’re going to upload that to your media host.
The media host is what builds your RSS feed, which is where your podcast lives and where podcast apps and players grab episodes from whenever you update it. If you're familiar with blogs and blog readers, the blog is where the post lives. But someone who is subscribed to that Blog on, say, Feedly could view that post from their Feedly App, but it's still pulling that post from your blog, even though the person isn't going directly there. That's how a media host works.
The hosts I recommend are Libsyn, Podbean, and Blubrry. (Simplecast and Pinecast are also starting to come into the space, as well, although they haven't been around long enough for me to fully endorse them.)
The reason I recommend LIbsyn, Podbean, and Blubrry are because they are the most reliable, they’ve been in the business the longest, and their stats are the most accurate.
By the way, if you’re working with Wordpress for your website, Libsyn and Blubrry both have plug-ins that will turn your episodes and show notes into blog posts automatically.
There are some other hosting companies out there, many of which might be free, like Anchor, which is becoming more and more popular.
The free thing, though, hasn’t worked out well for hosting companies since podcast files can get pretty large and in my three years of podcasting, I’ve seen probably a half-dozen of them fail within a year or two because of the free model.
I also don’t recommend Soundcloud because they aren’t really optimized for podcasting and there is a lot you can do with a dedicated podcast host that you can’t do on Soundcloud.
Now, Anchor is becoming more popular, and if you’re still unsure if you want to podcast, it can be a great place to start.
I, personally, don't recommend them, mostly because they're free, which means they're storing a lot of data and it's not clear how they are going to be able to sustain that with a free plan.
They used to add their own branding to your show art, but they've since given users the option to delete that logo. However, they do put their branding in your author tag, meaning when someone clicks on your show in a podcast app, they'll see who the host is, but it will automatically also add "An Anchor Podcast" to that, which you don't have with other hosting companies.
They also offer the option to submit your show for you to different podcast apps like Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Google Play Music, Overcast, and Spotify.
DO NOT DO THIS. You should be the one to submit your own show to these platforms.
The problem with this is they are submitting it under their name, which means in your RSS feed, when people go looking for your website, it will direct them to the Anchor website instead of yours.
If a podcast app wants to feature you, they're going to look at your RSS feed for an email to contact you, but if Anchor has submitted it for you, you will never get that email.
If you go with Anchor, make sure you check the option to submit your own feed to podcast apps.
One more thing about audio: be aware of where you're recording.
Rooms with a lot of echo give pretty bad sound: kitchen, bathrooms, etc.
Look for a room with a lot of stuff, especially soft stuff. Beds, couches, rugs, even clothes. You might hear stories of podcasters recording in their closets because it offers great sounds. If you're using a condenser mic, like a Blue Yeti or Snowball, that's more likely the case. But if you get a dynamic microphone, you can get a good, clean recording right in your living room pretty well.
And remember, people listen to podcasts while they're doing other things, like driving. Your sound doesn't have to be perfect, but it shouldn't be distracting.
Other things you’ll need
Make sure any wording is big enough to be seen even when it’s super tiny on a cell phone.
Make sure you know the specs most podcast players want for it
RGB color space
.JPG, .JPEG., or .PNG file
You want a title with someone searching in mind
If you sell coffee, you might think Coffeepreneur is a good title. If someone looked at it, they’d know what it’s about.
However, someone searching wouldn’t know this made up word, Coffeepreneur.
They may search Coffee, Business, Marketing
Make sure you have keywords in your podcast title, author tag and your episode titles, since that’s what the majority of podcast apps search for when someone uses their search function.
UPDATE (9/12/18): Apple Podcasts has been cracking down on excessive keywords in titles and subtitles. When choosing your podcast name, DO NOT rely on a subtitle with keywords in it. Keep your podcast title simple, easy-to-understand, and search podcast apps to make sure it’s not taken.
Same rules applies for episode titles
Think of episode titles as you would for a blog post
What will people be putting into their search engines?
What will give people a general idea what the episode is about?
Right now, Apple Podcasts/iTunes advocates against using episode numbers in your titles, but if you are referring back to previous episodes a lot, some listeners prefer the numbers be listed.
Make sure it’s not taking up a lot of space in the beginning of episode titles. (i.e. Season 1, Episode 42 would take up most of the space in a preview screen of the episode titles. But 42. How Facebook Ads can Help Your Coffee Business would be much better.)
Since this is another thing used in search results, you can have your name.
UPDATE (9/12/18): Make sure you only have your name or business name in the Author tag. The same update as above applies to this tip. Apple has been cracking down on use of keywords in Author tags, as well.
Finding Your Voice
Unless you’re used to your voice by now or going live, the first time you hear a recording of yourself back when you’re editing, you’re probably going to say, “Is that my voice?”
When we hear ourselves as we’re talking, we’re hearing it not only coming out of our mouths, but through the vibrations in our vocal chords, so there’s a bit of a filter.
My way of dealing with it is once you’re comfortable with your editing software, I actually speed up my audio a bit so I have more of a chipmunk voice so it’s not as jarring to hear my own voice.
But just to get a better, clearer voice, and to cut down on mouth noises, get plenty of water, before you record and while you’re recording.
Warm water with lemon can help you warm up your voice, as well.
Do some vocal exercises, as well.
Move your voice up and down while trilling your lips - like a horse.
Move your mouth like a cow to stretch it out.
Do some tongue twisters.
Practice enunciating using theater warm-ups to help with a clearer voice:
One of my favorites: Eleven benevolent elephants met Lily and Lucy in Philadelphia and went to see Camelot in unique New York with guns and drums and drums and guns which they kept in a bodega bodega bodega. They walked for miles and miles and miles until they saw Manny and Nancy, who walked hand in hand as they sang "Many a moon, many a moon, many a moon." They came across brilliant Italian William from Topeka, who kept murmuring, "Mommala Poppala Mommala Poppala." They asked him to join them. Will you William will you William will you William? Can't you won't you don't you William? Did you would you could you William? But William simply said Lilli Lolli Lilli Lolli. Then round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran, to be among Culligan and calla lilies, to let his tone hum down as easily as a sigh.
Think of who you’re speaking to, have your ideal client in mind or your ideal listener.
Think of your listeners as a friend you can talk to easily.
Be aware if you’re starting to feel stiff or out of breath.
You can always pause and take a breath and edit it out later.
If you’re by yourself, I find it easier to record while standing up or by using hand gestures so loosen up.
If you've gotten feedback from your guests or have a Facebook group, bring up some pictures of members to imagine talking to them.
I always like a show that acknowledges the listeners, either by greeting them and thanking them for listening or at the end with the call to action, again thanking them for taking the time to make your show a part of their day.
Make it seem like you are talking to just one person directly. Always think in terms of “you” or "us" and not “the listeners.” They have your voice in their ears, it’s a very intimate relationship when you think of it.
It also helps if you come up with a name for your listeners that you can use maybe once or twice an episode. Make them feel like they're part of a club, like they're special. So, going back to the Coffeepreneur Podcast, maybe they can be "Coffee Beanies" — this can also be something that's decided by your listeners. Involve them in the process as much as possible.
The more you do it, the more comfortable it will be.
Always ask for feedback and ask people what they like hearing and what has helped them.
So, in podcast apps, especially Apple Podcasts, there are podcast reviews. These don’t mean anything when it comes to ranking, by the way. Ranking is based on the number of subscriptions in a certain time frame.
However, ratings and reviews do help with social proof and getting feedback.
Get some feedback on your first few episodes, see what people like, what might not work as well, and tweak along the way.
A lot of people want to record a bunch of episodes all at once and release them, but I would say do no more than three to start off with so there are enough episodes for people to do a little binge on and give feedback on.
And you don’t always have to take the feedback. It’s your show.
What some people do is repurpose content, so they might read old blog posts or do a Facebook live and strip the audio for a podcast, and use the video on YouTube.
If you do that, though, be aware of your live audience versus your listening-later audience. So if you’re interacting with the chat, keep that in mind.
Instead of saying, “Oh, good question, Bob …” you could say, “Bob in the chatroom asks …” and proceed to answer the question.
You can even turn that into a call to action like, “If you are listening later and would like to join the Facebook group, you can ask your questions the next time I’m live.”
And have fun. If you’re not having fun, if it becomes just another thing, if you realize you don’t have time or the energy, don’t feel like you have to continue.
While I advocate for setting a schedule and sticking to it because people will make your podcast part of their routine, rather than put out a less-than-spectacular episode because you have to, your audience will be more grateful for an episode full of great content when you do release them.
Making Money With Your Podcast
This is the number one question I get from people, actually. "How do I make money with my podcast?"
First of all, I know your podcast is going to be great. I know I'm going to enjoy it and you're going to find your voice and style. BUT, please do not go into podcasting thinking you're going to be picked up by satellite radio or just given tons of cash because people love you. Sorry to burst your bubble.
There are three 523main ways to make money with your podcast:
Sponsorships and affiliates
Be your own sponsor
Some podcasts can get enough listeners to be able to take on sponsors, who pay a flat-rate based on a thousand listeners. This is an average of $25, about, per thousand downloads per episode after 30 days. Now, this sounds great, right? $25 for just talking into a mic! That's $100 per month. However, these sponsors are probably ones you've already heard of on other podcasts, which means your audience has also heard of them. And unless there's a significant way your audience can let that sponsor know they heard about them on your podcast, the sponsor might not see that Return on Investment.
Affiliates are kind of the same, except you are given a special code for your audience to use and you get a portion of that sale. So if you listen to podcasts, you probably have heard an Audible ad or a Casper mattress ad. Say you hear that while driving and you think later, "Oh! I wanted to sign up! I'll go do that now!" You might not remember the special promo code or you might just sign up without it or you might Google which podcast has a code for it, meaning the host of the show they heard it on might not get that commission.
Like with sponsors, if you go this route, know that it's still tough to see an actual ROI from the advertiser's perspective.
There's also listener support through services like Patreon or PayPal where they act kind of like a tip jar. Patreon is a monthly payment service, where you can offer special rewards based on tiers of support, like T-shirts or bonus episodes.
The last one, and the one I would recommend for anyone using a podcast as part of their business is to skip the sponsors and affiliates altogether* and think of yourself as your own sponsor. This sounds a little weird at first, but if you're using this podcast to bring people to your website or have them sign up for your email list, this is part of your funnel and that should be your No. 1 call to action.
Again, going back to podcasts being passive listening, your listeners may have just listened to your show and, if they know, like and trust you, they might turn off the podcast when they get home, they might have to put away groceries, fix dinner, clean up, put the kids to bed, then hours after they've listened to your show, they may think, "Oh! I wanted to visit that link that host was talking about! Um, I think she mentioned her website at the end, but all I remember was the Blue Apron ad!"
Even if your sponsor is in your niche, like your business is doing cooking webinars and maybe Blue Apron sounds like it would fit your niche. Would you rather get that $15 affiliate sale from Blue Apron? Or would you rather have that listener go to your website and pay $67 for a cooking course? That's the sort of stuff you want to keep in mind.
Some tips for using yourself as your own sponsor:
Keep your call to action simple: "Go to my website."
Give your audience an incentive: "Join my email list and you'll be sent a free checklist/mini-course/video tutorial/etc."
Make your URLs easy to remember: "website.com/podcast" not "website.com/4892067-gh9v0wekjh04bw%20"
Repetition is key. It might feel weird to mention the same offering in every episode, but just remember new people will be discovering your show every week. A lot of people may not hear it, some people skip ads on podcasts, they probably won't remember the URL or even know to click the link in the show notes of the podcast app they're listening on.
Make sure your branding of your podcast is consistent with your website. If your podcast is the Coffeepreneur Podcast, maybe grab the URL coffeepreneur.com and redirect it to your Atlantic Coffee Company website. Or, if possible, get your brand in the title of your show. There's a podcast I found and I loved it, and I binge listened to it for a few weeks. The name has nothing to do with their business and every time I had a minute to sit down after their show, I didn't even know what to search for.
Think of people who ask questions in Facebook groups, instead of asking Google. They need the easiest way to get to you.
Growing Your Audience
Your other call to action should be to subscribe and share your podcast. That'll help the audience grow and those subscriptions are important so people will get your podcast as soon as it's released.
The best way to grow your audience is by word of mouth. How do you get that? First and foremost, make good content people want to talk about.
Your podcast should do any of the following:
Inspire (Sorry, couldn't think of another "e" for this one)
You may be wondering about the length of a podcast. There was a weird stat people used to throw around that the average commute is 27 minutes so people were trying to make their podcasts fit that time slot. However, if your content is 15 minutes, and you're basically killing time for the other 12 minutes, your audience won't stay. If your content is 45 minutes and you're trying to edit it down to 27 minutes and you're cutting out important information, your listeners aren't going to like that either.
The great thing about podcasts is that there are really no rules. It's not like radio where you have to fill four hours or fill dead air. Your audience will appreciate that you don't waste your time, and that goes for editing, as well. Some podcasters record, then put it out as is. One show I listen to does that and the content is really good and important, but I do get annoyed when they're shuffling papers, looking things up on the computer, leaving in their technical problems, etc. Don't be like that. Respect your listeners' time.
While you're planning your podcast, make sure you're getting people excited. Announce it in your Facebook group, your newsletter, on your social media. Create a teaser episode and publish that. You also need at least one episode to be able to submit your show to podcast apps anyway, so get that teaser episode out and then build excitement for your official launch day.
You could use something like Thunderclap to generate buzz about it, as well.
Be sure to submit your podcast to as many of the major podcast players as possible. The big ones are:
TuneIn (which can be played using the Amazon Echo)
Google Podcasts (which can be played using Google Home)
Many other popular apps pull from the Apple Podcasts API, meaning if you're on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), you're automatically on a bunch of other apps like Overcast and Pocketcasts.
Submitting your podcast to these are usually as simple as creating an account and copying and pasting your RSS feed URL. You usually hear back within a few days with most of them. Some, like Google Podcasts, look for a specific code either in your website or your RSS feed. If you host with Libsyn, Podbean or Blubrry, they can also help you get into Spotify, which has become the No. 2 app for podcast listening.
Basically, make sure your podcast is anywhere your audience might be. Send out the link to the podcast on your website, of course, but also make sure you give people options for where to subscribe (and even explain how to subscribe).
So that's a basic rundown for you about podcasting and going into some detail. As I mentioned, all of this information and the outline for this is available on my website, epodcastproductions.com/badass.
I also have a downloadable checklist on the website, as well as tons of resources for you to check out.
And if you want some one-on-one help starting your podcast, I offer strategy sessions so we can brainstorm your show, or if you already are up and running and maybe want to look at some of the ways you can really optimize your podcast to get more listeners, I do a full audit of your show and let you know what you're doing right and offer suggestions for some improvements.
Unfortunately, I'm not taking anymore editing or show notes clients at the moment, but I'd be glad to refer you to other editors. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.