This is not an article on ‘creating a podcast that wows millions to turn you into a rock star to grow your revenue and have people flocking to buy from you, not just this month but coming back to you again and again.’
This is what I have learnt from eight months of podcasting.
To many of us this is a completely new platform to test and understand. In order to build any form of success, this is about still being here next year and not deciding in three months time that it wasn’t for us.
Businesses are now jumping onto a relatively new channel to flood (although it’s foundations were built with the growth of the iPod in 2004) with various forms of quality from the sound equivalent of phoning a local radio station with a request for their mum, to polished and professional productions. The smooth and slick audio are the podcasts that you are happy to press ‘subscribe’.
The one thing we now have is abundance. It goes without saying that the audience for podcasts is here. iTunes stated that subscriptions surpassed 1 billion in 2013 and last year ‘Serial’ averaged more than 2.2 million listeners per episode.
Whilst podcasting is now in the Serial era of using audio as a method to allocate time towards, the opportunity for businesses to grow their audience is apparent. Which is one of the reasons why Ian Rhodes and myself are rolling up our sleeves and committing. We’re going in people!
Too Many Hats To Be Worn
Let’s just say it how it is, podcasting is becoming an increasingly powerful publishing medium. However, what is sometimes overawing is that there are so many hats that need to be worn to become better at marketing this decade.
Ian and I are into show number four and has already proved to be an immense learning experience. The moment Ian pressed the record button during February, turned an idea of collaborating with someone who I respect and have a solidarity with their mindset, to something that was completely out of our comfort zone. The idea of talking to someone who wasn’t in the room and couldn’t see us is a very strange feeling.
This is a project that I hope you’ll be part of and join us in our journey. If you are interested in taking complete ownership of the spaces that are yours, this podcast is for you.
It is early weeks, but this is what I have learnt so far, in no particular order.
1) It Is Our Role To Entertain
Before the first ‘show’ (I prefer using this word than ‘episode’) began, one thing that I had to do was listen to other UK podcasts that were focused on the wider topic of business discussion.
One thing that I noticed from listening to others was the lack of emotion and taking a very B2B, straight-laced role. Many are akin to pitching for a new piece of business. I used to adopt this role. I would end up being extremely polite where I was bordering on the mundane. There was more of a focus to come across as knowledgeable and clever as possible, rather than acknowledging that we are all people looking to connect with others who appreciate what we believe in.
This comes back to the many hats that marketers now have to wear. Many of us are not performers, but we have to find a way so that our audience are ready to come back to for another episode. To become more animated in how I present myself, there are times during the recordings when I stand. I also try to smile when I talk, rather than a serious, stern face. I guess all these little things are what gives a podcast character or if we are going Marketing Homebrew, a deeper flavour.
2) Stick To A Schedule
Ian and myself are currently putting aside Friday morning’s as ‘show time’ (now I like the word ‘show’ miles better than ‘episode’). This comes to being disciplined to assigning a time and shutting off the rest of the world for an hour or so.
Time and scheduling are two of the most important facets when it comes to allowing yourself to be creative and to deliver work that you can stand back and feel proud of.
3) Clarity With Content
The first weeks, we jumped into the conversation and didn’t necessarily make things clear about our discussion.
We are now introducing each week as though it’s a magazine. You hear the topic of discussion at the very top of the show (and also in the description notes each week). This is our equivalent of the front cover. If it was just a big logo on the front cover and the masterhead with the words ‘Marketing Homebrew’ you probably wouldn’t be compelled to open up and see what is inside.
Lets get this clear, for a podcast to build any connection with an audience, it’s about ‘you’ (the listener) not about ‘me’.
4) Earn The Right For Banter (I love this one)
This is not my words but Ian’s where we have to ‘earn the right for banter.’
I do not think that a podcast should become the equivalent of putting a cup to a wall and listen to the conversation on the other side. Are listeners really bothered about how my week has been or talking about a project that been a bit more challenging than anticipated? If you have got nothing worthwhile to say, don’t say it.
To create an interesting podcast, I believe that you have to deliver value first and banter second. As the weeks progress and the listenership grows, who is to say that the general ‘chit chat’ becomes more prominent, but to get there we have to earn it.
5) Recording The Show
Our show is recorded via Skype, what a brilliant tool to connect and converse.
We record via ecamm.com and try not to create an in-depth editing process where we come across as seasoned broadcasters. You are going to get the ‘umms’ and me relentlessly saying ‘kind of’ during the early shows. If this was a drinking game, you’d be feeling pretty wobbly before the 10th minute.
All we want to broadcast is our honesty and having that open conversation. It is one take and then we publish. I know we have to get ourselves in the right frame of mind, which is why before the show starts, emails and phones are switched off. The moment a sound is heard, then the momentum is ruined.
The ‘build it they will come’ mentality, cannot work in 2015. We both have a role to play in promoting. Naturally, we have a responsibilty to share within our social channels, but a simple website has been created to give the shows a base, as well as the iTunes and Stitcher feeds.
Even creating this article is effectively promoting the show and my weekly ‘You Are The Media’ emails highlight to my audience the topic of discussion each week and a link to listen. My email signature now has a link at the bottom of every message. It is important to promote the show as a flow of information, rather than relentlessly shoving each week down the throats of everyone. To a lot of people, this isn’t for them, but for those who are on board, lets see if we can build a conversation.
My dream would be to pick up on topics that the audience want to listen to and to create an inclusive experience where we are all have a part to play in the longevity of the show.
7) Equipment and sound
I say that sound quality is the make or break from an average to a slick production. If you are listening to what is effectively tapping into a phone call or the equivalent to talking through a toilet roll tube, then chances are you are not coming back for more.
Investing in a good microphone (I use a Samson G Track microphone) is one of the key investments to make. I also have a pop filter so any noise doesn’t travel. It was also a wise decision to move the recordings from the office environment (and the threat of telephone calls and slamming doors), to a more furnished space of the spare room at home. This helps with the acoustics rather than a sparse office of tables and chairs.
8) It Is Ok To Start Off Rubbish
Every commitment has to have a start and if you are comfortable that the first few episodes may be average at best, that is perfectly fine. During the early stages I believe that good is good enough.
We sometimes aim our sights too high that we have to create productions on a par with the BBC to become accepted. It is more important to have something to say and a belief, rather than deciding that the signature tune merits the biggest investment of time.
Persistence builds confidence and the more you keep with it the more undaunted you become. You can see this from the first show as we move to week four. What started as the 17 year old given the final ten minutes of a football match when you’re side is 5-0 up, is now becoming the 18 year old who is making appearances for full games. What I am trying to say is that becoming comfortable within an environment, with the skills that you have (and constant learning) creates a better all round package.
9) Embrace A Blog First Mentality
A lot of the topics we cover started as blogs articles. Call it repurposing content or call it a way to validate ideas first, the origins of the blog is something that will be a strong starting point for our discussions.
This only re-emphasises the strength and relevance of businesses using a blog to share how they look at the world, what is broken and how they support a marketplace. Blogging enables clarity of thought, what it now presents is clarity of voice. We are sharing ideas and thought, if this strikes a chord with someone who may not necessarily be familiar with us; we have a track record for an audience to visit.
10) Be Constantly Hungry
If you have a passion for something, there are now channels to let you get better at developing your voice and nurturing a thought process. Once Ian and myself start to lose that appetite, is the day that Ian and myself will call it a day. At the moment it feels a long way off. It’s a bit like in The Goonies when they discovered One Eyed Willie’s treasure map. The adventure has only just begun.
11) Listening To Others
Whilst I understand that listening to the Ricky Gervais podcast doesn’t necessarily equate to a long running history of consuming business related podcasts, there are a number of shows that I consider as the benchmark.
If our work becomes on a par with the likes of New Rainmaker (with Copyblogger’s Brian Clark, This Old Marketing (with Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi) and Six Pixels of Separation (with Mitch Joel), then this project has accomplished what we set out to achieve.
Listening to these podcasts is the equivalent of free consulting. This is something we’d like to maintain, where we try and look at how the world of marketing is shaping and what businesses need to be aware of. It is a mentality of sharing and creating value for the listener.
I now realise that it is more than a case of setting aside time on a Friday morning and pressing the record button.
For a conversation to flow, there has to be groundwork. This does not mean rehearsals but to have an understanding around the topic we are discussing. Otherwise you end up running rings around yourself with a myopic viewpoint on a train of thought that you have, rather than contributing to a flow of conversation. I find that putting some time to think about the up and coming subject helps immensely.
13) Agree A Length And Stick To It
To produce a weekly podcast, Ian and myself agreed that we would like to keep the conversation around 30 to 35 minutes. Our audience started dropping, so we now produce two shows every Tuesday and Friday at a shorter (15 minutes).
July was our record month for listeners.
Bring It All To A Conclusion
To build an audience that enjoys listening to Marketing Homebrew, we have to be committed to making this project work. If we start missing weeks and become sporadic then we have lost our grip. It is our role to inform, guide and above all else entertain and challenge.
Whilst the torrent of competition for audience is now growing within the podcast space, I hope that you’ll come onboard with Ian and myself and see where this takes us.
It would be fantastic to hear your feedback and contribute topics that you’d like us to consider.
Every show is 15 minutes on one word. If there is a word that you would like us to delve into, just let me know.