It all started over a cup of coffee, as ingenious things often do. The idea of having our very own podcast came from our resourceful digital communication guru, Luis Salerno.
Podcasts are so hot right now. As you scour the wealth of the internet across the million and one articles, opinions and how to-s, a recurring theme emerges that a podcast can be one of the most cost-effective communication channels for your business.
As one article puts it, “it’s the least investment for maximum impact”. Really, how difficult can it be? Buy a microphone, prepare a little, say what you have to say, upload the thing on an audio platform and bam it’s out there… for millions to listen. Right?
As the idea slowly took root, it became increasingly apparent to us that, as much as we would like it be easy, podcasting is no piece of cake, especially if you want to make a success of it.
In this article, we’ll take you through our journey so far and share with you what we’ve learned so that you, our fellow podcast enthusiasts, can step into the digital-audio adventure confident and aware of the possible pitfalls.
Casting a light on podcasting
As we often do in our episodes, let’s start at the very beginning. The term “podcasting” was accidentally stumbled upon by Guardian journalist, Ben Hammersley, as he rattled off possible names for the up and coming phenomenon of on-demand internet radio, back in 2004.
Used as a portmanteau of “iPod” (or any portable or personal digital media player) and “broadcast” by Hammersley, the word “podcast” made its official entry into the Oxford English dictionary in 2005 and is defined as:
A digital audio file of speech, music, broadcast material, etc. made available on the internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player; a series of such files, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.
The main takeaway from this definition is that a podcast is downloadable and is on-demand. There is a third convenient feature: availability. You can listen to a podcast whenever you want. This is where podcasts differ from traditional radio programmes.
Radio shows or channels often don’t have the luxury of broadcasting tailored content to a specific group of people. By definition, a radio broadcast goes out to a dispersed or to a “broader” audience, something that advertisers look for when placing their ads.
A podcast, however, is much less dependent on advertising revenues. It can thus deal in niche topics and “narrowcast” its specialised content to a targeted audience, people who are really interested in those particular topics.
Because of this specialisation, you can talk more intimately and thoroughly to your customers, fans or advocates. That makes it particularly appealing to businesses.
This gives podcasts an edge over radio shows, not so much in terms of reach (although podcast audiences are now reaching mainstream levels, see figure 1), but in terms of its use as an audience-focused marketing tool.
Going upmarket with your content strategy
Imagine you have a knitting business and want to reach out to your customers, personally and individually. Social media is of course an option but there, your message needs to filter through the rampant noise to reach your target audience, the very specific group of people that enjoy, practise and are really into knitting.
Doing a podcast on knitting can help you reach this “engaged” audience, because more often than not, it’s them who’ll fish you out of the podcast ponds ). What’s more, once subscribed, they’ll receive all new episodes directly on their smartphones or any other device they use.
Besides reaching your target audience, podcasts are also a fantastic opportunity to build trust. A podcast is intimate and personal. When you pick up a mic and talk to your listeners unfiltered (almost), you get into their comfort zone. It helps them to really get to know you, “personally”. And this has legs when it comes to strengthening your brand image.
What better way to strengthen your image and reach out to a large – a very large – audience, than to be present on a medium that’s experiencing considerable growth and is forecast to reach new heights in the coming years.
If you still need some convincing that a podcast can add value to your content marketing strategy, look at it this way: podcasts are different, they are unique, they help you stand out from the rest. They give you that edge that your competitors are probably lacking. And they can be inexpensive to produce.
Between the cup and the lip
This brings us to the very important part – and we mean the roll-up-up-your-sleeves and get-your-hands-dirty part – of producing a podcast.
Now, we know that creating podcast episodes can be inexpensive and “easy”. All you need to produce one is a microphone, a recorder and an audio editing software.
You can even use your smartphone for that matter. But, and that’s a big but (no pun intended), the quality of the audio that’ll come out of it won’t be top notch. For your podcast to be something that people would want to listen to, you want it to have a certain sound quality (unless the effect you’re actually looking for is something more lo-fi).
To have that certain quality, invest in a proper microphone and a recorder, not something wildly expensive but at least something mid-range. Once you have your recording apparatus ready, think about installing an audio-editing software on your computer and give yourself a quick but thorough training on how to use it. Usually, the software websites have tutorials that are helpful.
Now, let’s say, you’ve got the mic and the recorder, and you’ve produced your very first episode and even managed to edit it, now what?
- Host and distribute
A podcast, like most other forms of content, is meant to be heard. But this actual putting-your-voice-out-there phase can be tricky. To make it to its audience, the recorded audio file is first uploaded onto a “host” site.
Think of this media host as a middleman between the podcast and its listeners. It’s a cyber space where all your episodes, media files, show descriptions and artwork related to your podcast is stored.
The host also provides RSS feeds (web feed technology that allows online content providers to publish new content on their website in a standardised form) which you can then submit to various podcast directories or platforms where your episodes will be listed such as iTunes, Stitcher and, Spotify etc.
If you’re starting out, we’d strongly recommend going through a podcast host. They are not free but can make your podcasting life much smoother.
Once up on the directories, your listeners will receive automatic notifications each time you publish a new episode. We suggest you submit more than one episode (at least three) to start off and maintain consistency (once a week / twice a month etc.), so your listeners get to choose what they want to hear and download (and, hopefully, subscribe).
To measure your success
Now that your voice is out there, how to make sure and know that people are listening? For the latter, your podcast host can come in handy.
The advantage of uploading an audio file onto a host is that it doesn’t just distribute files to multiple directories, it also offers some key metrics to track your listenership like unique number of downloads per episode or number of subscribers.
Besides these, another way to measure audience engagement is social sharing.The number of shares, tweets, retweets, likes or comments are always a good indicator of the effectiveness of your content.
Speaking of which, it’s a no brainer that producing powerful and engaging content is probably the best way to make sure that people are listening to your podcast.
Tips on creating podcast content, they’re a dime a dozen on the internet. So, instead of burdening you with even more advice, we’ll share with you three a couple of techniques that have (mostly sometimes) worked for us:
- Putting yourself in your listeners’ shoes
When we ask our guests questions we try to see ourselves from our listeners’ perspective – not just by the power of our imagination (that would be too easy) but by doing research on them.
What is your target audience talking about? What kind of questions are they asking? What do they want to know about when it comes to a certain topic?
It seems a given, but many of us content creators often jump the getting-to-know-your-audience part whereas it is one of the, if not the most important components of producing impactful content.
As they quite correctly say, two heads are definitely better than one. When looking for content ideas, we often ask our colleagues, friends and even our audience (using social media or word of mouth) to pitch in.
This is also a way of getting to know your audience better. Once we pull our ideas together, we sort them out according to relevance.
In an over-crowded content market, it’s very important to maintain your authenticity to get noticed. Authenticity doesn’t mean taking up original topics or having interesting guests.
While these are important aspects to think about, being authentic is showing your audience who you really are, being (almost) unfiltered.
That is how you gain trust. And staying authentic is how you maintain trust.
It’s important to remember here that there’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for success. We are still learning, making mistakes, relearning and trying to get better.
One thing that we have noticed though is that the episodes that resonate with our audience the most are the ones where we are relaxed and have the most fun. Take the hint!
What we think?
A well-made and thought of podcast can be a huge differentiator to get your brand where you want it to be, provided you avoid inconsistency, maintain your authenticity and find your unique voice. This applies to everything from podcasting about babies to discussing new applications for artificial intelligence.