How to Start a Podcast (and Keep It Going)
Two successful podcasters share their formula for dishing out consistently viral content.
Is your brand ready to get on board the podcasting train? Great! There is no time like the present to get started, especially in the post-pandemic (and increasingly digital) world.
But as with most other new initiatives in the business realm, podcasting is easier said than done. A quick Google search would yield many checklists on how to get started, types of software to use, equipment recommendations galore, distribution tips/tricks, and general podcasting trends. We all know there is more to it than that - there has to be some kind of secret sauce out there that would increase the likelihood of podcasting success earlier on.
To learn more about that secret sauce, I had a quick chat with Reilly Anspaugh and Geoffrey James, the hosts of the popular weekly podcast Review Revue, by podcast network Headgum. Headgum was founded by Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld of CollegeHumor fame, and as stated in their site, Review Revue is known for “blending conversation and improv comedy based on absurd reviews on the Internet.”
Although Anspaugh and James didn’t start Review Revue from scratch (thanks to the backing of the Headgum network), the responsibilities surrounding creative control, content, and marketing efforts were all on them. If their content, which started as a weekly comedy sketch on YouTube, didn’t achieve a notable level of success earlier on as a podcast, it wouldn’t have continued. The pressure was on them from the get-go. Through it all, they thrived, and learned many lessons along the way.
Here are some of the highlights from our conversation on how entrepreneurs and their teams should work smart instead of hard, when breaking into the world of podcasting.
Focus more on content, less on marketing
If you build it, they will come. When creating content, it is important to focus on the aspects that grab and retain attention. Don’t get excessive with jargon, or topics that might lead to the content becoming overly self-promotional. First and foremost, your audience must be entertained. Even if they are tuning in to learn heavy material from your podcast, they must find it entertaining enough to stick around, and eventually share. Organic, and unique, shares have the most impact. The one key detail to focus on (that ensures the content will be good) is passion.
According to Anspaugh, passion in one’s content is what drives natural growth. She claims that when one creates something that they truly care for, they have an intrinsic motivation to see it through. This drive translates into productive brainstorming, streamlined workflow, and consistency.
In order to approach the angle correctly, the first priority would be to identify a target audience. While it may be tempting to have a broad angle in an effort to appeal to the masses, isolating a niche simplifies marketing efforts and generates greater fanfare. The message of the content would be the next priority. Whether it is through a podcast, video, or any other form of digital media, the creator needs to focus on what their audience will take away from it. When content creators consider their niche, what they are looking for, and what they hope to get out of the content they consume, they are able to deliver that much more value, and inherently market the content more naturally.
“Universality through specificity is key,” says Anspaugh. “Trying to please everyone creates hollow content.”
Take on growth from all angles
After establishing an audience, it is important to map out how to reach them across multiple touch points. With the rapid digitalization of the world, advertisement has become more accessible than ever, and cross promotions can be your best friend, especially when budgets are tight. Cross promotions can take on many forms - from collaborating with other podcasters for features, to agreeing to give each other shoutouts, to sharing each other's published content across social networks, to linking to the web sites of each other, to creating blog posts with embedded podcast episodes of partners. The possibilities are endless.
Partnerships are a win-win for growing companies, as working together compounds the effect of everyone's efforts. Finding the right partner involves comparing mission statements, and sharing an audience. When collaborating with other brands, it is imperative to establish a plan that incorporates an understanding in terms of content, style, frequency, marketing/promotional efforts, and time frames.
Anspaugh and James urge entrepreneurs to create content across multiple platforms, because companies remain relevant (and that much more approachable) through a strong social media presence. It is also important to branch out and find opportunities to host, or be interviewed by others. Seeking new opportunities to be published helps promote brand image while also establishing a voice, and touches on the ever-crucial element of thought leadership.
While video consumption remains prominent thanks to popular video-centric social networks, it is important to consider the increasing popularity of audio mediums, as podcast audiences have grown rapidly over the course of the pandemic. “It’s easy to ask someone to listen to a podcast,” says James. “They do not require the same commitment as a book, or movie.” After all, audiences these days love to multitask. They can easily listen to podcasts in the background while commuting, running errands, or most any other activity.
Tackle time-management wisely
Time is money, and proper time management goes hand-in-hand with productivity and steering clear of burnout. It isn’t ideal to bring a project to a full stop in order to start another one, when both can be done in parallel. When projecting a timeline, it is advised to consider as many variables as possible. These variables include learning curves, technology troubleshooting, A/B testing, research, and potential bottlenecks that can pop up in the earliest stages. Then there is also the element of personal time which must also be accounted for. In the case of Anspaugh and James, they perfected their schedules to enable staying committed to growing their podcast, while also allowing them to grow professionally outside of it, for their own personal branding purposes.
Practice makes perfect. That is one of the main, yet obvious points entrepreneurs and their marketing/promotions teams must keep in mind as they delve into the world of podcasting. The first episodes would likely be a little rocky as the hosts find their groove. It is only through consistent efforts that comfort, mastery, and visibility will be achieved.
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