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April 6, 2010

How to Program a Podcast

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Yesterday I siphoned off a little wisdom from podcast superstar Adam Carolla and shared some lessons from a podcast pioneer. After I published the post, Paula suggested that I might have some of my own pearls to share based on my experience of planning and programming a podcast for Bruce Clay, Inc. each week. I suppose I’ve learned a thing or two in the last two years of podcasting…

Note: These points speak only to the content development side of the podcast, and not to the technical requirements. Luckily I’ve got our friends at WebmasterRadio.FM to worry about getting the podcast on iTunes and archiving a downloadable version to their site. They’re also the ones that stitch together the different segment recordings and add in the ads that help power the network. Thanks, WMR!

Get Your Rhythm: Find a Format that Works

There were a few requirements of the show laid out for me at the beginning. The theme of the show was digital marketing intersections and synergy. It was a half-hour show. It would contain two commercial breaks. Bruce was the host. He wanted to have expert guests. With the basics laid out, it was my task to fit the pieces together.

I realized that with Bruce’s busy schedule it’d be tough to have him involved in all three portions of the show, so I involved him in the first whenever possible. For the second, I figured I could pull off an interview with guests. The final piece of the show returned to the round-table discussion with a rotating cast of guest hosts from BCI. The bookends of the show are casual conversations among professional peers with varied experiences and perspectives. The center of the show, and the longest of the three parts, dives into a topic with a subject matter expert, with the hopes of uncovering some actionable insights. So far, it’s a format that seems to work for us.

Don’t be Shy: Tap that Network

iguy ipod man
CC BY-ND 2.0

So how do you find guests for a podcast? Shyness is your number one enemy, that’s for sure. I’ve found the best success when I pounce on opportunities to invite guests on the show as they arise.

If there’s a hot discussion happening on Twitter and one vocal person stands out for knowing their stuff and acting as a great resource, invite them to talk about it on the show. If you’re at an event and someone’s knowledge or experience or product makes a strong impression, invite them to talk about it on the show. Or be really courageous and invite your topic-of-interest’s big names to come on the show. What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll say no? Some of my favorite interviews have happened because of a lucky break to twist the ear of a big shot.

Magnify Your Marketing: Hot Topics with a Guest or Audience Get Extra Attention

When it comes to getting the podcast visibility, it helps that I’m working in an industry of savvy marketers all looking to get their messages out to the world. In a way, guests will promote the podcast they’re on because it’s media attention for their cause. A podcast of any topic can use this strategy, too, by either inviting guests with large followings on the show, or by making it easy for fans of the show to share episodes with their networks.

If a guest has a pet project they’ve agreed to talk about on the show, you may also want to expand the discussion to less marketing-related topics as well. Think of it like an interview on Entertainment Tonight. Sure, the celebrity comes on the show to plug their new movie, but they expect to be asked questions about their new baby or relationship rumors, as well. If you have a reputation for fair mindedness and transparency, then guests won’t fear a personal blindside attack, and you’ll get lots of juicy info in return.

Stick to It: Commit to Deadlines

Without some reliability in your programming schedule, it’s harder to grow a devoted audience. By making your show available on a regular schedule, your audience can make the show part of their routine. Of course it can be tricky to get a show together at a regular interval, and there’s a certain amount of creativity drain that can build up over time.

But I’d give the same advice you often hear for getting past writer’s block: work through it. Even if you think no one’s listening, keep to the schedule. The library of content will be there when one of your shows does get noticed, and your show will be seen as a devoted subject matter expert with a commitment to giving to the community.

The More the Merrier: Spark Engagement

The best shows aren’t necessarily the ones with the big-name guests or the most downloads — they’re the ones that people get excited talking about. Wednesdays at noon Pacific is my favorite part of the week because that’s when I meet up with some of my favorite people in the WebmasterRadio.FM chat room to listen to this week’s SEM Synergy. I know I’ll always see a handful of familiar faces, and the group keeps growing the longer the show goes on.

Traditional podcasts that are available for download don’t typically have a chat platform for discussion during a show. However, through a blog or a forum, you can provide a means of furthering the conversation and starting a following, with the benefits of a community. It’s important not to overlook this community aspect, because after all, it’s the listeners that give the podcast a purpose and meaning at the end of the day.

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2 responses to “How to Program a Podcast”

  1. Will writes:

    Thanks Virginia,

    I’ve bookmarked this for if I ever get round to starting up my podcast! Hopefully your advice will be as helpful as it looks.

  2. Virginia Nussey writes:

    I hope it’s helpful – and I hope you get to your podcast soon!!



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