How to get podcasting right

Podcast

Maybe I’m simply being fussy.

But this rise in audio content has left the Internet (and our ears) saturated with mundane, everyday conversations. Podcasters aren’t typically trained in the art of conversational speaking. I’ve heard too many shows where the speakers end up talking over each other. They deviate completely from the chosen topic and end up selling themselves, rather than their learning experience.

So the question is, are audiences really learning from podcasts?

Or is it giving a voice to people who haven’t yet crafted the art of an effective audio experience? At least with a blog post or white paper, audiences can take what they need in a matter of seconds, and then refer back whenever they choose.

Or maybe I’m ‘just another Millennial’ talking and can’t pay attention for longer than 8-seconds.

Whilst each podcast claims to be focused on helping people succeed with their businesses and personal lives, the rise of podcasts emphasise the growing amount of life and productivity coaches working today. We’ve been told time and time again to create useful, shareable content which benefits our audiences.

This has led to complete content overload. Just take a look at the iTunes Podcast Directory.

There’s a stronger push now for quality over quantity, but with this push, we’ve ended up giving a voice to people who haven’t crafted their (tone of voice) yet.

You can’t deny the traffic podcasts receive. Social Pros podcast gets 60’000 downloads a month! Audiences have the option to download the entire shows from websites, stream directly from sites, or use a torrent programme to download shows – giving people the ability to curate and choose their content.

But are your listeners really getting what they want from your podcast?

Marketers are still trying to figure out how to deliver a consistent and useful experience, one that allows their audiences to learn as well as positioning their company as thought-leaders. Unfortunately, though, this has become synonymous with influencer name dropping and pushing sponsored products.

We’re still in the early stages of developing audio-visual-text-based communications. Marketers have to learn how to integrate all three, in order to effectively target and improve their deliverable experiences.

But first, let’s look at a brief history of podcasts.

Now the title of ‘Podcast Grandfather’ has been given to Adam Curry, who began his show, the Daily Source Code, back in August 2004 – recorded in his car whilst driving through the Netherlands!

But it was actually Christopher Lydon who began his podcast in July 2003, Radio Open Source, which is still available today. The earliest forms of podcasts tended to use Apple Script in order to pull audio enclosures of an RSS feed, synch it via iTunes and then to an iPod. Something known as a Podcatcher, one of the first being the iPodder.

And that’s how podcasts began. See, I told you it was brief.

Since a boom in 2004, the rise of podcast shows has grown at an unbelievable rate. And with this, is a clear quality-standard which needs to be introduced, and met by podcasters. So now let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pro’s

  1. Your brand is able to focus on any given niche and create a conversation around this
  2. They’re free and portable, making them readily available for most audiences
  3. You have the option to reach out to a new community of listeners
  4. Podcasts allow audiences to multi-task – perfect in today’s hectic world
  5. It mixes up the content types you’re offering to your audiences
  6. Audiences can listen in their own time and at their own pace
  7. It increases your brand’s authority
  8. You can engage with audiences at times that usually weren’t available i.e. commutes, before bedtime, as they’re waking up
  9. Podcasts expand the number of networking opportunities available – an influencer is more likely to take part in a 20-minute phone conversation rather than a guest blog
  10. Audiences are exclusively listening to your show!

Con’s

  1. Conversations are broken up by heavy selling from sponsors and related products
  2. As they’re audio-based, it’s a lot harder for Google to crawl and find your podcast for search results
  3. Audiences aren’t able to skim through the content to see if it’s relevant to them
  4. Anyone has the ability to create a podcast – even from their back bedroom… or car
  5. Podcasts need to be delivered following a consistent schedule
  6. They are available for free and so don’t make the creators any, or much money
  7. It’s hard to track the ROI without directly linking to a hard-sell and marketing messages
  8. Lack of quality conversations and speaking training
  9. Poor equipment can lead to poor quality podcasts
  10. Doesn’t create a two-way conversation with your audience – extra attention needs to be paid in order to engage your audiences

There are many arguments for both sides and it entirely depends on your preference.

Personally I prefer to have my content laid out in-front of me, allowing me to delve in whenever I get the chance to, making my own notes, at my own pace. But this I know is a simply a personal preference. What works for me won’t nessarcarily work for everyone else.

Marketers and podcasters need to find the middle ground. Alongside the call for quality content, there needs to be a push now for quality podcasts. I certainly can’t provide you with a perfect example, but I can list out all the pointers podcasters need to keep in mind, in order to deliver a sound experience.

Integrate your communication platforms

If you’ve ever been to a panel talk or conference, there’s always a room full of professionals and journalists (or attempting journalists), scribbling away any quote they can jot down – essentially missing the essence of the talk. Even as I’m writing this now, I’ve been stopping and starting the podcast I’ve been listening to, not really taking any information in!

Podcasters need to take a stronger note from content marketing. Make your content easier to view, to share and download. Include a text-based transcript which follows along with your audio, just like lynda.com does. Even Convince & Convert compliment their podcast with a full-text transcript.

This gives your audience visual identifiers, allowing them to form connections with your topic, and create better engagement with your offerings.

Although we get visual messages much more clearly than text-based information, in order to refer back, you have to retain your brain to follow down the same journey you took just to get there. Mix up your text-audio-visual identifiers so that your audience can refer back to your podcast whenever they need.

Train people in the art of conversation

I’m sure we’ve all heard enough podcasts to know that most, struggle to follow even the most basic of structures. If talking to an influencer, a lot of people make the mistake of talking over others, speeding up the conversation so it’s too fast to listen to and deviating from their chosen subject.

Yes, it is meant to be conversational. But it’s also meant to be deliverable.

One fantastic example of tackling poor conversations is Adobe’s Marketing Podcasts. Now I’ll note, they’re not the best in terms of content, but what they do to engage their readers audibly, is outstanding. Adobe has hired Malcolm McDowell and Rufus Beck to add some ‘gravitas’ to their content.

The pair are so well trained at engaging their audiences with simply the sound of their voice, they make reading white papers sound like a symphony orchestra.

Of course hiring professional actors isn’t the most viable of options. But training yourself in a similar way might actually help you.

Try taking stand up comedy classes, hire a public speaking voice coach, or even get one of your colleagues to critique you. (I wouldn’t suggest using a friend because they won’t be able to judge you unbiased).

Invest in quality equipment

I’m not saying if you’re a young start-up with a voice, that you should invest half of your budget into buying quality equipment. But it does help.

Now I won’t name the examples of poor sounding podcasts, but there’s a clear difference between using shoddy, run-of-the-mill equipment, and quality recording devices. Make sure you take the time to invest, even if this is over a period of time, in a good microphone, editing software and marketing materials.

Search for reviews online, go in-store and ask for advice. Take the time to consider what’s within your price range and available to you. Don’t worry if you can’t afford state-of-the-art equipment, as long as what your using delivers quality.

Market. And market well

This is the danger with podcasts. You record them, upload to the Internet and iTunes and then forget entirely about them. Your audiences need to be constantly reminded what you have out there, and then deliver it to them in a consistent and timely manner.

Don’t forget, podcasts don’t help to engage your audiences. They only create a conversation between you and your chosen influencer. Instead, you need to focus on creating a ‘multiway conversation’ – one between yourself, your influencer or brand, and your audiences.

This is where it becomes important to take a multi-channel approach to marketing your podcast. Utilise all platforms which are relevant and available for you. Don’t just deliver an audio episode. Include a text-based transcript and create visual imagery to pair with the points you’re making.

Don’t forget, blogging is still the number one platform. Why? Because people search for answers, providing blogs with long-tail SEO traffic. Something that’s not possible for podcasts without any text to reference the content.

Try including a contents list, top quotes and key takeaways to support your audio content.

Plan well in advance

You’re going to need to take a lot of time to plan your podcast. Don’t forget, it’s not just a matter of switching your microphone on and then talking. There’s script writing; structure planning; talent and influencer sourcing; research; sound editing; mixing; website design and marketing involved.

Make sure you plan well ahead and give yourself enough time to perfect your podcast. Don’t set the date for your first episode and then rush to get it ready in that time. Instead, create a backlog of content and make sure each has a clear, but definable voice.

One that clearly links with your podcast topic.

Main takeaway: Podcasts need to be integrated better with other platforms to deliver their audiences a sound learning experience.

And just so you can make your own mind up, a selection from Buffer and iTunes.

Written by Georgina Dunn

About Business Matters

Business Matters staff