There are still lots of people who don’t know what a podcast is – but every day, thousands discover them and get hooked. It’s estimated that, by now, over 75% of American professionals and at least 50% of their British counterparts listen to podcasts every week.
But hang on, what is a podcast? And why would you and your business want one?
Put simply, a podcast is like a radio programme but delivered over the internet, that you can choose and play on demand from your smartphone, smart speaker or web browser.
They can be one-offs, but most are series, with new episodes added every week or two. Unlike radio programmes, you don’t have to listen to them at a fixed time. Like series on catch-up TV, you can stream a whole series one after the other.
Importantly, you can go back and listen again anytime to a podcast that is of particular interest, and tell colleagues and friends about it so that they can listen too in their own time.
Plenty of podcasts are real radio programmes, republished by broadcasters like the BBC. There are many professional podcasts produced by newspapers and other media organisations. There are also thousands of individual freelancers who produce their own podcasts purely for entertainment, hoping to monetise them through including advertising.
That just goes to prove how accessible, effective and economical the medium can be.
Why podcast is a huge content marketing opportunity
Increasing numbers of people go looking for podcasts because they like the format – but they’re obviously drawn to content that interests them.
So there’s a real and ever-growing demand for podcasts with intelligent quality content, and that’s created a big opportunity for business professionals.
Telling listeners what you know through a podcast gets you the largely undivided attention of your audience for 15 to 30 minutes while they drive, walk or perhaps do some undemanding task where they can listen and work at the same time.
Becoming a podcaster brings you the opportunity to explain different aspects of your business, expound your own knowledge, and prove yourself to be a subject matter expert and a “thought leader”.
If your podcasts get good audience engagement, you then get regular, continuing exposure as you publish more episodes. But how and where can you publish them? How will the audience you seek – probably potential future customers? – find them?
That’s by using the established podcasting “platforms”
You publish each podcast almost exactly like you’d post a new blog on the internet – although the first thing to do is set your podcasts up as a series, even from Episode One.
The biggest and best-known platforms are, unsurprisingly, run by Google and Apple (Apple Podcasts is the former iTunes) and there are a number of other important ones such as Stitcher, Podbean and Acast.
Podcast lovers will start by searching on those platforms for new content that’s likely to interest them. Most podcasts are initially published on one platform that is your “host”, but then made available across many other platforms.
So you may upload and publish your podcast using, say, Podbean, but then users of Apple Podcasts will be able to access it too. You can also publish podcasts on your own website.
Podcast platforms are all basically smartphone apps – although they can also be accessed from a computer via a web browser
How does podcast work?
- Users install the app of their choice on their phone, and episodes from podcast series that they “subscribe” to are then automatically downloaded as soon as they are published.
- On all the platforms, you add a short article to introduce the content of each podcast to encourage people to download the episode and listen – and then to “subscribe” to the series.
- Subscriptions are free – basically they mean that subscribers will be alerted to new episodes, and have them downloaded automatically on their chosen app.
- The article can also include links to other material, perhaps a longer article or graphic on your website, and contact details so interested listeners can get in touch with you.
- One of the great things about podcasts is that your audience get an opportunity to comment, “like” and share them via the platforms that host them, and the social media posts that can be used to promote them.
So, it’s a great idea – but what do you say in a podcast?
It’s essential to be entertaining – but that doesn’t mean you have to make jokes (unless you want to and you’re good at that, of course).
You need to interest and engage your audience; perhaps teach them something new, or give them a different insight into something they’re already involved in. You could add your own or a guest’s insights into solving problems that they’ve experienced, or can anticipate perhaps having in the future, or simply provide food for thought.
In each new episode, you can explore a different aspect of your knowledge or business that you have expertise in. For example, if you’re an investment broker, you might talk about stocks and shares in one episode, commodities in another, emerging markets in a third, and so on.
The underlying idea is that you get listeners to recognise you as a trustworthy expert in your field, so when they’re interested in the kind of services you sell, their first thought is to contact you.
What successful podcasts should never be, however, are overt advertising. Think about it – most people won’t listen to a radio advert that’s over 15 seconds long, so imagine them staying tuned for 15 minutes.
Like radio programmes, podcasts can come in different formats:
- Solo monologues
- One-on-one conversations
- Multi-person panel conversations.
Popular podcast formats: Which one is right for you?
Start by listening to some professional radio programmes
The BBC Sounds app, that republishes programmes from Radio 4 and their other stations as well as purpose-made podcasts, is an ideal place to start. You’re looking to find a format that you like and that you think will be appropriate to your business.
The easiest type of podcast to start with is the solo monologue
Just you talking. I hear you say “I hate the sound of my own voice”. Join the club – that’s what most people say. But just talk to the microphone like you’d talk to colleagues and customers – after all, that’s the audience that you want listening to you. It’s much easier than you think, and it becomes even easier, and you’ll get more professional, with just a little practice.
Getting your podcast started is almost as easy as thinking of what to say, setting up a microphone on your computer, clicking on the “record” button and talking.
Well, perhaps not quite that easy…
Unless you’re suitably tech-savvy and are happy to spend lots of time being an amateur sound editor and PR person, you’ll need some professional help. Not even professional broadcasters can do a solo monologue for 15 minutes without coughing, tapping the table or being interrupted by some extraneous noise.
Then there’s getting the content out clearly – you’ve probably listened to the “Just a Minute” radio programme so you’ll know how it’s almost impossible to avoid hesitation or repetition.
Having a pro do the sound editing means you can relax – it’ll sound clearer, sharper and smarter knowing that someone else will clean up the soundtrack, chopping out the bad bits, merging different sections together, and adding an intro and outro and snatches of music to create a truly professional podcast episode.
Once you’ve tried doing a few solo podcasts, you’ll be ready to invite guests to talk with you
One on one conversations work really well. For solos, it’s usually better to prepare a script first, though you’ll need to practice reading it out a few times with a critical friend listening to make sure you get it to sound really natural.
Conversations with one or more guests can be natural. You just need to draft out some questions to ask. Once you’re more experienced, you’ll find it works better if, rather than ask pre-drafted questions, you simply agree first with your guest what topics he or she wants to talk about.
Then, as you have a conversation with them, you’ll find it easy to come up with natural questions that prompt those topics and responses. It doesn’t matter if you find that the conversation is going off on a tangent, as long as you can get it back to the subject in hand. Anything that you don’t want included can then simply be edited out by the sound engineer.
Perhaps this all sounds complicated and expensive, but it’s not
It’s actually a really low cost method of promoting yourself and your business, even with professional help. All-in-one digital agencies like VINX can help you every step of the way; drafting episodes, scripting content, helping you overcome any nerves and become a confident broadcaster, finding you guests, doing the sound editing, publishing episodes and – most importantly – promoting them to the right people to get you the audience that you want. Your future customers.