100 Podcast Tips for Starting, Sustaining, & Growing a Show
Table of Contents
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We launched The Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation Podcast in January 2019. Now, just a little over a year and a half later, we’ve hit the 100 episode milestone!
This podcast has become much of the ‘base’ from which we launched Grow Ensemble, our media and marketing company in the space of social impact and sustainable business.
Growth has been steady, with 2020 listenership up 290% over 2019, now spanning 116 countries around the world and counting!
I’ve learned a ton, made good friends (and & clients), and can’t imagine stopping the podcast now that we’ve started. 100 episodes in, I’ve learned a lot on podcasting, read a lot on podcasting, and now want to share more on our process in hopes to help you.
Approach this post like a guidebook—take it chapter by chapter. This is a monster! So, it’ll be best to tackle these 7,500+ words and 100 podcasting tips in pieces.
Hopefully, this can be a resource to help get you started. And while it’s not exactly a step-by-step guide, it’s (almost) all of the best I can share from my experience thus far.
Happy Podcasting! 🎤
- Tips for Starting & Launching a Podcast
- Tips for Sustaining a Podcast
- Tips for Recording Podcasts
- Tips for Booking & Interviewing Guests
- Tools & Tricks for a Successful Podcast
- Tips for Editing & Publishing a Podcast
- Tips for Promoting & Growing a Podcast
Getting Started & Launching a Podcast
Start a Podcast
Start a podcast? That’s your tip? Yes! That’s a “tip!” Starting the Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation Podcast has been one of most valuable practices and assets for Grow Ensemble. If you can afford to launch and sustain one of your own (see more on: budget), I think it’s worthwhile!
Here are a few ‘step-by-step’ guides that helped me:
How to Start a Podcast in 2019: 8 Steps from Idea to Launch
How to Start a Podcast: The 1,000,000 Download Formula
Set Goals & Objectives for Your Show
Before you get started, seriously consider what you are attempting to accomplish with your new podcast—business development, brand awareness, or maybe you hope to use it to develop relationships. Identifying your purpose will help manage your own expectations and serve as a check to see if a podcast will in fact be a fulfilling experience for you.
While a podcast can certainly drive financial return for your business, if that’s your only goal, you may be better suited doing something else. There are more efficient mechanisms to achieve that goal both in terms of time and finances. Podcasting is an involved activity. I am a firm believer that if you aren’t enjoying the process itself, and instead are looking only for results, it will be difficult to create a successful show that satisfies the itch that motivated you to start..
Listen to Other Shows!
To progressively make a better show, you need to be a student of podcasting. I know this is an area of growth for our show, but even still, I always appreciate the insight I gain when I’m paying attention to what I like about the shows that I subscribe to, as well as the shows that consistently rank among the most popular.
Review Others’ Experiences on Podcasting
Since starting the podcast, I’ve become an ‘addict’ for others’ reflections on their own experiences running and growing a show. Here are a few other posts on podcasting I found helpful from Sumo, and Smart Passive Income.
Take Notes on What Makes a Show Engaging
Do this when you are getting started with your show and as you continue on. Be considerate of your listeners and become a student of what makes podcasts enjoyable to listen to, informative, and addictive.
Listen to shows in your industry, listen closely to shows you subscribe to, and listen to podcasts ranked among the most popular. Take diligent notes on what seems to make them ‘good.’
Consider Your Podcast an Experiment
Remember: If you start a podcast, it doesn’t mean you have to do it forever. This was advice I took from Tim Ferriss when he started his podcast some years ago, he committed to do a finite number of initial episodes as an ‘experiment’ to determine if he liked it or not. More and more I think that is a great approach to getting started.
Start a podcast with the idea that you can stop! If it’s not going to be the content medium for you, there are plenty of others.
Batch Episodes for a Launch
When we launched the podcast, I knew we’d consistently publish one episode per week. However, for the launch specifically, I wanted to create some buzz around the show.
So, when launching, we put out 3 episodes in the first week (with 2 on day 1), 2 in the second, and then finally got to 1 per week. This was a good way to get some momentum of initial downloads and, luckily, guests were generous in sharing their episodes, which was also helpful with that momentum.
Record First Episodes with Friends (to get comfortable)
Please don’t record with guests you don’t know well for your first couple of episodes. First, test out the equipment solo or with a close friend or partner (thanks, Annie!).
Then, when you schedule recordings, find good friends to record your first podcast or two with to get the hang of things. I first recorded two episodes, one with my brother, and another with a long-time friend.
There will be some awkwardness and maybe some technical snafus, so you want to make sure and get those out with people who won’t mind and are with you on your mission to learn. When you start recording with guests you are less familiar with, you’ll want to be ‘game-ready’ to set a good impression and show that you are mindful and respectful of their time.
Ask Friends & Family for Reviews
Most people think that reviews affect your ranking or ‘New & Noteworthy’ position in Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes) and Spotify. Everyone says this, but I’ve never seen this proven to be completely true.
However, getting reviews definitely helps with establishing the social proof for your show early on. If people are browsing for shows, seeing that others have reviewed it can certainly help tip someone over the edge to testing your show out.
Go Simple & Inexpensive with Gear
If you aren’t certain you’ll stick with podcasting forever, keep your gear simple and functional. Of course, don’t buy anything that is so low quality it’ll force you to invest in unnecessary replacements, but you don’t need to go top of the line for audio equipment.
Better yet, if you can borrow equipment from friends (which I was lucky enough to), do it!
It took me over a year to upgrade microphones, and now I use the Yeti Blue USB Microphone.
Build Your Checklists Early
From the get-go, I was building checklists for our podcast process as I went. When I was executing on much more of the process this was helpful because I didn’t miss any important steps, and when I started enlisting other people into active production roles, it made it much easier to hand off.
Take Criticism with a Grain of Salt
More likely than not, you’ll receive positive and negative feedback with the launch of your show. Be considerate of who gives that feedback to you. Are they your target audience? Do they listen to podcasts? Do you care what they say? Always remember, it’s harder to be the one making a podcast than criticizing those who are. 🙂
Don’t Rush into Naming Your Show
I ended up changing the title of our show to The Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation Podcast roughly 30-40 episodes in. Honestly, I wish that I named it this from the very beginning. I like the name of our business, Grow Ensemble, quite a bit. However, no one knew that name.
The name change has been useful because it’s closely related to keywords we want to rank for. Plus, if you search “Social Entrepreneurship Podcast” in Google, we’ll come up in a few different ways on that first page!
Create a Dedicated Landing Page for the Show
We have GrowEnsemble.com/podcast as a dedicated landing page for our podcast on our WordPress site. Here we aggregate our feed of most recent shows, link out to all the different places to listen or watch the show, as well as add in some of our strongest reviews.
This is a great way to easily share the show (not just specific episodes) with others.
This page has seen a reasonable amount of traffic since the launch of our show, and continues to every month.
Sustaining a Podcast
The #1 reason that podcasts seem to ‘fade’ or be inconsistent (in production and results) is that there aren’t proper systems setup to ensure the continual booking of guests or development of shows, recording of those shows, and publishing.
When you or your team are having to recreate the wheel for every episode, you are expending a lot of unnecessary time and energy that can often be a drag on momentum and motivation.
Use & Request Info from Guests Through Calendly
When guests or their team select a time slot that seems good for them, we simultaneously request key information that helps our process. That includes a brief bio, a photo, any important URLs we should promote, and a phone number just in case we need to get in touch with them.
This is essential so we don’t have to run in circles looking for information if someone is late for a recording, or scramble for a good headshot the day before we are publishing for promotional materials or show notes.
Connect Your PM Software
We use Asana for Project Management of our Podcast Editorial Calendar. Whenever a guest books a recording slot, we’ve connected Calendly to Asana so that a new task card is automatically created with all the guest’s intake information, and a deadline is set for the scheduled date for recording so I can be notified to prepare beforehand.
Zapier should have a connection from Calendly to almost any Project Management Software.
Have a Consistent Recording Space
This hasn’t always been possible for Annie and I depending on our home residence, or if we are traveling. But, if it’s possible, take advantage of having your podcast equipment near setup and at the ready! It makes podcast prep easier.
Set a Publishing Schedule
Having a consistent publishing schedule is both good for you and your team, as well as your audience. People want consistency! I don’t know about you with shows you really like, but I get in the habit of checking whether or not a new episode is published on their typical schedule. Similarly, we want to do this for our team, so we can reverse engineer how long each different stage of the production and publication stage should take.
Build a Team
To get to 100 episodes and beyond, you need a good team around you. We have audio editors, show notes writers, content support and designers to publish episodes, our Director of Partnerships to help book guests, social media support, and video editors. In total, we have 5 individual people involved in our podcast process (including myself), with a rotating staff of audio editors.
I cannot thank this team enough! Thanks, Rebecca, Kate, Sameer, Jess, Reuben, and Annie!
Automate Guest Follow-Up
Before we onboarded our wonderful Director of Partnerships & Communications to help with guest bookings, I was doing it solo! I would batch outreach to new guests for a once-a-month sprint. I’d send out maybe 5-10 personalized emails in a single day. However, most people don’t respond to a first email (if you’ve never contacted them before).
That’s why you need to follow up!
If you are manually tracking that follow-up, that outreach becomes burdensome quickly. Instead, use a tool like Mailshake, that will automate follow-up for you if your prospective guests don’t reply after a week or so.
Track Your Costs
Keep tabs on what it costs to produce a single episode. This will be a good litmus test for you from time to time as you measure the “worth” of your show. As well, if there are activities in your process that don’t seem to drive any worthwhile result (good guest experience, more downloads, etc.) then ditch it and save yourself the money.
Keep your process lean and focused on what’s enhancing the show overall.
Learn About Your Audience
This is critical for a number of reasons. (1) Many guests or PR teams will start to ask you about your target audience, download numbers, and subject matter areas. Come prepared with a response. (2) The better you know who your audience is, who is listening, etc., the better you’ll be able to connect with them via the show content. (3) It can make your show feel more real! Put some humans behind those download numbers, and recording and publishing your show will feel more ‘real.’
While I encourage all listeners to connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter, I also have this autoresponder set up in ConvertKit for whenever we add a new email list subscriber.
Hosting Guests & Recording a Podcast Interview
Be Aspirational in Your Guest Outreach
If there’s someone with a lot of ‘name id’ in your industry, still don’t be afraid to reach out to them! More often than not, people are very excited and willing to share their story and be featured. As long as your outreach isn’t annoying and it’s genuine, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Look to Conference Speakers for Guests
If we are looking for guest ideas, we’ll sometimes look at Speakers for upcoming conferences or events in our space. These are great sources of people in our industry doing work we’ve yet to come across. Thanks, event organizers!
Don’t Say ‘Yes’ to Every Guest Pitch
We get pitched for guests to be on our show constantly! Most of the pitches are less than eye-catching and are easy to ignore. They don’t address us personally (or get our name wrong) and show clear signs of a ‘volume-based approach.’ Some pitches are better and more genuine, but still not a great fit. Be considerate to determine who your ideal guest is for what you want your show to be, and who your audience is. The people you say yes to may not hit the mark 100% of the time, but you get the hang of spotting compatibility as you go.
Create a Guest Guide
Your guests will always have questions about the recording process—what kind of questions do you ask, what’s the show about, who is the target audience, what happens after recording, what equipment should they use, etc., etc. You can save yourself time, and as well, be proactive with communication and creating a solid guest experience by creating a guest guide.
When a guest or their team books, the confirmation email has the guide linked within it. So does the calendar invite that comes with it.
Here’s a link to our podcast guest guide for reference.
Research Your Guests
Before every single interview episode, I consistently spend a few hours (or more) making myself familiar with my guest, their work, and where they’ve been featured previously. The time I apply varies from guest to guest (mostly based on how well-featured they have been and how well I already know them), but this time is incredibly important.
Your familiarity with your guests, their work, and their public thoughts obviously makes for a better conversation, but I also think it helps to build strong rapport as it shows you value them being on your show.
Setup ‘Recording Reminders’ for Guests
Everyone gets busy (duh). With that in mind, make sure whatever booking tool you are using (us: Calendly), make sure there are reminders 72 hours and 24 hours before a recording. I think that this sometimes prompts guests to cancel/reschedule if they’ve overbooked. Better early, before you are sitting around waiting for them to join the call.
Schedule in ‘Buffer Time’ for Your Recordings
Make sure that guests book a time slot that provides enough ‘buffer time’ outside recording the interview itself. Sometimes people are a few minutes late and, regardless, you’ll want to spend some time chit-chatting before and after. You also want to account for the times when conversations run longer than planned! Plan for that. 🙂 You don’t want you or your guest having to run off earlier than is ideal.
Follow Your Guests on Social Media
This is great for research, as well as keeping in touch with guests after the show. I can’t help but become fans of all the folks I chat with, so it’s always great to keep up with their work afterward, and I like to let them know I’m doing so with likes, shares, and comments. 🙂
If Your Guest Wrote a Book, Read It
My two favorite forms of guest research (1) listening to podcasts they’ve been on and (2) reading their book if they’ve written one. These are really great ways to get a better understanding of who they are and how they think before hopping on for a chat.
Plan to Make Friends with Your Guests
The best part of recording our podcast has been the relationships that I’ve made as a product. With 77 of our 100 episodes being guest interviews (as opposed to solo episodes), I feel like I’ve made 77 friends across the world!
From Uvita, Costa Rica to Boise, ID to Sweden and so many different places in between, I genuinely feel like I have people to take to lunch or grab a drink with whenever our paths cross.
But, I suppose, the friendly and welcoming community is just one of the many wonderful aspects of the purpose-driven business space! Either way, don’t overlook the wonderful opportunity a podcast provides for kicking off some really valuable and enriching relationships.
Follow-Up with Guests
Find good reasons to keep in touch with guests. Whether it’s about their episode, a personal update in their life, or something exciting happening with their company, make sure your podcast recording was the first encounter of many!
Let Guests Know When Their Show Is Launching
This is something people really care about, and, rightfully so! As excited as you might be to release your content, the guest (might) be 5-10x as excited to see their episode released and to share it with their network, family, and friends.
Think about any time you’ve been featured or interviewed anywhere! Isn’t it fun? Think about how your guest might feel, and keep them well in the loop.
Ask for Guest Referrals
When you finish an interview that you really loved, ask the guest for any potential recommendations for future guests. In most cases (of course, not all), people love to be connectors. And, good guests typically refer good guests!
This is a great way to deepen your relationship with existing guests and provide them an opportunity to offer an interesting experience to friends and close colleagues in their network. Plus, you’ll (now) have a friend in common with your next guest, which is great for comfortability.
Bring Guests on Twice!
We haven’t published a second episode with a guest yet, but we are getting close to doing so. Don’t be afraid to bring a guest on a second time for a different style of episode, to talk about something completely different, or to get an update on any projects they were getting started.
A second episode with a guest might be better than the first, especially if you’ve had the opportunity to continue nurturing the relationship since the first time you met/recorded.
More so than other mediums, if you want your podcast to gain traction, you have to be consistent. Seasonal or serialized podcasts work if you already have an established audience, but if you’re hoping to focus on starting or growing, consistency allows listeners to reliably work you into their normal routine.
I already mentioned that I recommend batching for your initial podcast rollout, but once you get going, this can be useful as well. I say this because, sometimes it can feel like you are on a ‘hamster wheel’ endlessly creating and recording shows whether you have you/your team recording every single week, or at random times.
Batching means you’re scheduling blocks of time (maybe even a full part of the day) to record multiple episodes, so you’re ahead. Then you can take some time off to focus elsewhere until the next batch is up.
Don’t Batch Recordings
So…uh…there’s definitely a sweet spot. When I first got on the practice of ‘batching recordings’ I may have overcorrected. At times, I would record 4 guest interviews in a day! I was too wiped out on those days to do anything else, and I found that I wasn’t able to bring myself fully to every episode.
I’ve since limited my schedule to have a max of 3 recordings per day with an adequate buffer between each. We’ll schedule 2 consecutive recording days (Tues/Wed or Wed/Thurs) every 3 weeks or so. With each 2-day batch, we’ll consistently get 3-6 recordings done, and that’s been a good balance for us.
Don’t Record on Mondays (or Fridays)
I don’t know about you, but I really prefer to preserve my Monday and Friday schedules to remain ‘open.’ On Mondays, I like to give myself time to recalibrate from the weekend and start the week on a good foot.
As well, I’m always doing prep the day before an episode, and you don’t want to put that pressure on yourself on a Sunday. I like to save Friday’s for writing and researching my Better World Weekly Newsletter, completing a weekly review, and reviewing the company scorecard. I have also anecdotally found that guests are more likely to reschedule on Mondays and Fridays. I think many of us think the same.
Check Your Wifi
If it’s within your control, check your wifi speeds with SpeedTest.net (preferably well ahead of recording time so you can do something about it before a show if need be). If your Zoom call is cutting out, that can distract you from connecting with your guest, and ultimately, it will affect listeners’ experience!
Don’t Store Audio Files Locally!
Use the cloud! For all our podcast recordings, we use a shared drive in Dropbox. I’m sure there are other suitable places to store your files, but the most important thing is to not store them on your local drive.
One time I spilled tea all over my laptop at a coffee shop and fried my hard drive. It was sad. I had to dish out an unexpected $1500 for a new MacBook that day, but I didn’t lose anything important because all my files were stored in Dropbox or other cloud-enabled services.
Don’t risk losing anything important…store it away in Dropbox.
Don’t Delete Any Show Files!
Speaking of…I think it’s worthwhile to keep every show file you’ve ever created (again, the case for a cloud storage service like Dropbox). You’ll never know when you may want to loop quotes from guests into future episodes or create a ‘best of’ show like we talk about below.
Eliminate All Distractions
Do the critical ‘pre-show’ check. Close out Slack, exit all browser tabs, silence your phone, and remove anything else in the room that might create any distraction for you/your guests.
Added to my ‘pre-show’ checklist—removing Milou’s collar.
Take Noise Cancelling Seriously
Audio quality is key. Quality audio can be the difference between someone sticking through your show or dropping off mid-episode. No matter how engaging your content might be, poor audio quality can be annoying and push listeners away. I researched quite a bit early on as to what would create high-quality audio for the show.
Be Present During Recording
Does this even be on the list? Yes. Do everything you can to be fully present while in conversation with guests. Interviews that the host or guest are just trying to ‘get through’ make for boring episodes and missed opportunities for creative, responsive questions.
Set Expectations in Pre-Recording
This is a routine I like to go through with guests when we first hop on the call. I want to make sure any questions about the show, the recording process, publication, etc. are answered. I’ll give my quick brief about how long we’ll record, what to expect with questions and the intro, and how long it will take roughly from recording to publication. I don’t want guests to feel unprepared, maybe excessively nervous, or in the dark about when their show will go live.
Ask ‘Rapid Fire’ Questions
It’s nice to have some consistent quick-hit questions you ask guests. A common one hosts ask (that I do too), is if the guest has any books to recommend. I love this for a few reasons. I love knowing what leaders in my space are reading and, we get to set ourselves up to create some great complimentary content (i.e. “The Most Recommended Books by 100 Social Entrepreneurs).
If there’s anything that you’ll repeat with almost every show, record a few different re-usable versions (masters) of your intro, midroll, and/or outros. This will save you time so you don’t have to re-record these things every time. To keep variety, record a few different variations and rotate them out each show.
Record Intros Immediately After Recording
Sometimes you’ll feel spent after a good interview. However, refuse the urge to ‘record your intro tomorrow.’ Any time that I’ve done this and put off recording an episode intro for another day, it takes me 2-3x as long because I need to re-remember what happened! It’s best to ride the connection of the interview right into the intro recording.
Keep Intros Brief
Along those lines, don’t overthink your intro! Keep it simple and concise to the overarching themes of the show, a brief intro and bio of your guest, and any pre-show CTAs you like to use to turn listeners into email list subscribers.
Record In-Person Interviews if You Can!
Ahhh, my in-person interviews have been really great experiences (duh). When the world allows for it once more, I’ll be seeing how many more of those I can fit in. It makes the recording a more ‘holistic experience,’ whether that means touring a guest’s office, grabbing coffee or a drink after, or just enjoying the value of chatting face-to-face.
Tools & Tricks for a Successful Podcast
Take Audio Quality Seriously
Ever listen to a podcast with poor audio quality? Did you finish listening to it? Or, did you hang on and suffer through it? Yup, that’s a bad experience to create for your listeners (and can have guests reflect poorly on the experience).
Yes, we’ve mentioned this once before…(see #46), but it’s well worth mentioning again.
Use a ‘Pop Filter’
A pop filter is a pretty essential recording tool to eliminate pops with “P’s” or loud “shhhes” when recording. Luckily, you can get them for pretty cheap!
Upgrade Your Webcam
The webcam on your laptop is most likely of pretty low quality. Don’t kill yourself over this, but definitely upgrade the camera you are using to record yourself on interviews. For the majority of my interviews, I’ve used the C930e Logitech Webcam, and it’s been pretty reliable.
I’ve been wanting to upgrade to the Logitech Brio, but with the COVID-19 pandemic and the work-from-home population booming, it’s been out of stock. Figuring out how to use my iPhone 11 Plus has been on my to-do list for some time.
Use a Discreet On Screen Timer While Recording
I use my time tracking app, Timeular, to track how long we’ve been recording. I like to track the time for the interview to keep episode lengths semi-consistent. I’m happy to allow conversations to follow a natural flow, I just also like to be mindful of time, especially if a guest has a hard stop.
Stand Up for Your Show!
Thankfully, this has only happened in extremely rare instances, but for one of my recordings, it sounded like the guest was clicking around on their mouse the whole episode. It threw me off and left me feeling really frustrated with the experience as a host. In retrospect, I wish I spoke up! At a minimum, we would’ve uncovered what was behind that clicking noise. It may have not been a mouse at all!
Take 10 Breaths & Move Before Logging in to the Call
It doesn’t matter the interview, it doesn’t matter the day. It doesn’t matter that we’ve done 100 episodes already! I always get a burst of anxiety when my interviews are about to hit. I want it to go well, I want the guest to enjoy themselves, I want it to be something people enjoy listening to. To help get me locked in, I’ll go through some deep breathing, squats, and push-ups. That helps turn a bit of the anxiety into focused energy.
Host Your Podcast with Libsyn
Now, I’m not 100% attached to Libsyn, but I did have us briefly switch from Libsyn to Anchor.fm and opted to return.
At the time, Anchor.fm was free (not sure if it still is). But, the most important thing was that I could schedule out episodes in advance with Libsyn and, at the time, I couldn’t with Anchor.fm.
I’ve been completely satisfied with Libsyn, no problems to ever report. I think the only thing I’d be interested in is more advanced analytics.
Take ‘Notes’ on Your Show
So, we’ve mentioned our show notes of course, but we also have our Episode Companions. These are really detailed, comprehensive notes that our team takes after every single guest episode.
This is an exceptional way for me/our team, to quickly review a show and remind ourselves of important takeaways and key concepts.
In addition to being valuable for listeners, this makes assembling ‘compilations’ much easier. Of course, this is an extra expense in the process, so…don’t worry about it if your budget is tight. But, as a bonus, you can use that to encourage people to subscribe.
We don’t transcribe shows anymore, but it’s been useful in the past to review shows, grab important quotes, and publish our biggest compilation episode, “50 Social Entrepreneurs Changing the World Through Business.” We used Temi in the past, but they recently raised their rates. Other good options; Trint, Otter.ai, or Speechpad.
Use Interviews as Research
Of course, I’m always learning a ton from our guest conversations. However, sometimes the subject matter can seem all over the place as our publication schedule is often determined by who scheduled a slot when. This is something that’s a bit ‘aspirational’ for us, but I’ve always wanted to provide more focus and direction to the subject matter experts we bring on the show, to overlap with what sorts of topics we are writing about for our blog, or programs we are creating.
Have Friends Critique Your Podcast
Feedback on your show is (almost) always valuable. Friends have encouraged me to add breaks with music, add/remove sign points, and shorten my intros among other improvements. Encourage friends (who have an opinion on podcasting that will have some weight) to critically review your show.
Who to ask? Friends who might be in your target listenership, who listen to podcasts themselves, and/or have some experience in storytelling.
Don’t Edit Your Own Podcast
Even if you are the rare person who has had some background in audio engineering, I would recommend that you don’t edit your episodes. The most important reason? It will greatly increase the likelihood of your show not passing the test of time!
The role of the host is big enough! Take yourself out of everything but that. However, editing your first show or two might be a valuable exercise so that you can clearly make recommendations and prescriptions to the future editor(s) you work with.
I edited my first two episodes. I didn’t publish them. But, it was a good exercise just to see how much I’d value someone with the expertise to take this off my hands and to be able to have more intelligent and productive back and forth with editors.
Break Episodes Up with Music (Or Sound Effects)
A friend of mine worked with me for a brief moment on improving the quality of our show. With experience in editing and producing podcasts himself, he made the quick suggestion to break up episodes with musical transitions. It’s a small change that’s made a big difference in breaking up sometimes longer sections of solo episodes.
(Consider) Using Signposts
For a while, we added signposts to our episodes. I do think these added value to the show, but this sometimes required a good deal of time to our whole production and editing process. Signposts can help to break up episodes, encourage listeners to hang on, and prep/plan different sections of a recording.
Create Show Notes
Our show notes pages have been valuable for us, but not in the way most people think (see more below). A valuable, detailed set of show notes is an important reference point for your episode. This makes for having an easy link to share (you + guests). A reason to compel guests to share (if it’s something they’re proud to be featured on).
Get on Video
I do really wish we were doing this from Day One. Even if you aren’t ready to “publish” your video, start recording it as soon as you have the equipment. We’ve only recently launched our YouTube channel with full video interviews.
Get on Video (Pt. 2)
Having video allows you and your guests to better pick up on conversational queues. Being able to see each other will improve the human-to-human connection and as a product of that, improve the conversation.
Publishing a Podcast
Publish Twice Weekly
You don’t have to publish twice a week. Publishing once a week or twice a month consistently will do. But! Twice a week seems like something of a sweet spot for consistent growth of your show. Currently, we do one episode per week with a guest and one episode where I’m solo covering a topic that we’re covering on our blog. Sure, consistency is the most important thing, here. But, if you and your systems are equipped to take production to two shows a week, do it.
Optimize Your Episode Titles
This is a relatively new improvement we’ve made. Always something on the ‘to-do’ list that we finally got around to. It’s important to take your titles seriously, as that can oftentimes be the difference between someone scrolling your feed to dive into an episode or not knowing about you.
Optimize Your Episode Descriptions
We’ve yet to analyze the results from these more intentionally built descriptions, but we recently cleaned and organized what our episode descriptions look like. We want to make them clear and scannable, and most importantly, make the CTAs and options to subscribe to our newsletter easy.
(Consider) Not Numbering Your Episodes
We haven’t done this yet, but are strongly considering heading this way. Why? The last thing we want listeners to do when encountering ‘older’ episodes of ours is to think it’s just outdated and not relevant.
If our episodes are truly of an evergreen style (which we believe they are) then we don’t want potential listeners to assume they are outdated. Thanks, Noah Kagan for this tip.
Rethink Show Notes
When getting started podcasting, I read and heard countless recommendations for making sure you had a strong set of show notes for SEO purposes. However, I’m now learning, this recommendation is coming from many podcasters who don’t know Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that well.
Only a tiny percentage of our show notes get any long-term traffic from Google. Don’t follow what other podcasters are doing with show notes (the majority of them anyways). Instead…see #76.
Build Blog Posts Instead of Show Notes
While maybe more work, what’s most likely to collect long-term traffic is a set of show notes that’s built around the topic of your episode with the guest, not the guest or the company themselves. Any of our episodes that we’ve done that correspond with some of our high-traffic blogs, continue to get the most monthly downloads in the long term.
Promoting & Growing a Podcast
Be Patient with Growth
Growing a podcast audience has been hard! My primary skill is in growing blogs through SEO, and so building up our listenership has been new terrain for me.
We’ve seen a consistent trajectory of growth, every quarter driving a bigger listenership than the last, but, this hasn’t come with ebbs and flows. It’s required some patience as figuring out what drives downloads has taken some time.
We’ll consistently see 5-10% growth each month over the last. As long as it’s heading up and to the right, right?
Don’t Stress the ‘New & Noteworthy’ Placement
Does anyone really know how that works these days? Obviously being organically discovered on any platform (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Etc.) is great, but in my experience that’s hard to count on.
We’ve had more traction on building up audiences and traffic outside those apps (our blog, email list, etc.). But…if someone does know how increasing discoverability works on those platforms, let me know. 🙂
(Probably) Don’t Pay for Ads
We’ve done little experimentation with much more than Facebook Ads, but even from those, we didn’t see great results in video views on the platform turning into more listeners or subscribers. As well, our podcast provides a ‘return’ on our investment in it in such indirect ways, it’s hard to determine exactly how many listeners actually lead to some certain amount of sales. This might be an issue with our funnel, or as well the wide breadth of topics we cover, but…I like it that way.
Forget Sponsors (Mostly)
The traditional podcast advertising model doesn’t pay out all too well for the host. Everything I’ve read has told me it’s on average $20 per 1,000 downloads per episode. With those numbers, we’d make on average $20-$30 bucks in 2019. Not good. Most shows don’t accumulate the mass volume of downloads to make the advertising model something that’s actually sustainable.
Where possible, think about where you can set up systems to put some of your podcast promotion on ‘autopilot.’ For instance, we use a tool called MeetEdgar to promote our podcasts on our social media accounts perpetually. While it’s not going to ‘blow our show up,’ it’s great to have passive promotion going that we don’t have to touch.
If you really need to find more direct (or even indirect ways) to monetize your show, consider sponsoring yourself. Good advice I’ve heard from Charley Vahler over at Vahler Media. Use the end of your intro and a midroll to test out promoting your products/services.
Turn Listeners into Email List Subscribers
This is maybe the #1 thing is making the ‘most’ out of the audience you build around your show. Think about how you can take your listeners and deepen your relationship with them. The best way to do that? Encourage them to become email list subscribers. For us, we have our “Episode Companions” among other bonuses, to incentivize listeners to take another step with us in our relationship. Think about what that next step could be and insert those CTAs throughout your episode recordings.
Asks Guests to Link to Your Show Notes
This is a solid SEO strategy and a relatively easy ‘quick-win’ way to build up your website’s authority in the eyes of Google. A few weeks after each episode launches we follow up with the guest or their team to see if they might be willing to add our feature to a News, Press, or About page. Nearly 100% of the time, we get an enthusiastic “Yes!”
This helps boost the overall authority of our site and the guest’s page, which ultimately drives more traffic to each! You help your SEO and get more ‘ears’ on the guest and their work. Win-win!
Make it Easy for Guests to Promote
Having guests promoting your show is a great way to build buzz for a new episode and potentially capture new subscribers. Do whatever you can to make it easy for your guests to promote the episode. We set up a calendar event to remind guests when the episode will go live. We have a Google Doc swipe file with some templates and copy for promotion, and of course, we have our direct link to the episode show notes for easy shareability. With all these things in mind, it’s also important that you see #86.
Don’t PUSH on Guests to Promote
We all want guests to promote their episode. It helps grow our show! However, don’t expect guests to promote. The best thing about welcoming guests on your show is all the great friends you can make as a product of it (see next tip). Don’t mess with that.
Focus on creating a valuable connection and good experience for your guests and the majority of them will promote.
Promote *Old* Episodes
Although my interviewing skills have improved, I still think our early episodes are valuable for listeners (thanks to the guests, not the hosts). And so, while still a large area of opportunity for us, we do like to find reasons to keep promoting and re-promote old episodes.
Find Places to Republish Episodes
This is based on the principle of ‘making the most’ out of the quality content you took the time to create. For us, it was a great early privilege to start republishing all our podcast episodes on the B Corporation community’s blog, B the Change that has over 17,000 subscribers. This requires minimal work from us, but always gives us an additional spike in listenership.
Create Evergreen Episodes
If you want to set yourself up for the greatest chance of gathering a compounding listener base over time, you want to create a good majority of your episodes in such a way that if someone listens to it a year or two years after its publication, it still holds up. If you are publishing strictly timely/news-based content, then you can expect their relevance to fade and their download count over time to do the same.
Get on Other Podcasts with Audience/Topical Overlap
With the onboarding of a kick-ass Director of Partnerships & Communications, we just kicked off this strategy for podcast growth. Thinking through it, where might be the best place to access more podcast listeners? On other relevant podcasts…duh! However, crafting these pitches should be done with care and authenticity (see more below).
Make YOUR Pitches Genuine
If you are attempting to get booked on other podcasts, take the time to make your outreach genuine! Would you actually be a good guest for their show? How do you know? Have you listened to any episodes? We constantly get outreach saying “LOVE YOUR PODCAST! Can I be on it?” There’s no signs of personal touch or that they’ve even listened to an episode. Thumbs down.
Create ‘Best of’ Shows
When we crossed year one in running our show, we thought we’d do something special. That’s when we created Parts 1 and 2 of the “50 Social Entrepreneurs Changing the World through Business.” This episode was a great success. Many of the 50 guests featured shared it, linked to it, and for a while, that double part ‘best of’ show helped set a single-month download record that took us five months to beat!
If you are recording podcasts on video (or, even if you aren’t), there are a million ways you can reuse that content you already created. Get creative with it! Audio, text, & video can be reutilized for so many different platforms. Speaking of…#94…
Publish Quote Graphics on Instagram (and other platforms)
We’ve recorded 100 episodes…(did I mention that?). How many hours of content (and good quotes) do you think that is? Quote graphics are a great way to snip up an episode and have an unlimited stream of content for your different social platforms.
Again, same thing here. Add some life to quotes and create audiograms to go on Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
Publish Short Promo Videos
These are a ‘semi-recent’ phenomenon for us, that my friend Sameer Bhuchar has absolutely crushed for us. With every new episode, we drip out a short promo a few days beforehand to build some buzz. This gets the guest some traction early, as well gets them involved in promotion early as these little videos show them we are serious about getting listeners for their show. 🙂
Get Setup with All Podcasting Platforms
Easy thing to do here, especially with a tool like Libsyn. Make sure your show is on every one of the podcast directories known to civilization because why not? Once we made the initial connection on Libsyn, every time we publish a show it distributes to every podcast you can think of (except on Soundcloud!).
Embed a Podcast Player on Site
Again, a no-brainer. Of course, you’ll want to embed your podcast player on the show notes page on your website. However, we also have started embedding players on blog posts with relevant topics. This is a great way to get more exposure to the podcast and keep people on site for longer.
Build a Community for Your Guests &/or Listeners
This is something that’s aspirational for us as well. As we’ve mentioned, we’ve cultivated so many exceptional relationships through the podcast. I’ve been wondering about some way to bring all these excellent people together…but not just a traditional Facebook Group or something like that.
We recently launched the Better World Business Growth Community, and we hope that will serve us there, but still think there’s some value to be made here in more explicitly connecting all these people we’ve engaged with through the show.
Use Your Podcast to Write a Book
Another aspiration. I haven’t done it, but I think I could (as could any other podcast host who has covered their space in depth)!
Consider your interviews as opportunities to set the stage for a book you may publish later on. As our interviews are with some of the most accomplished entrepreneurs in our industry, there’s no question that I could use those as research and case studies for a book on social entrepreneurship and innovation…maybe that’s where I get working next. 🙂
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