A year ago, when our marketing team presented its content-rich strategy for the agency, I thought about my new favorite way to ingest information: podcasts. I enjoy listening to them on my monthly road trips to D.C. and on my daily Garden State Parkway commutes, and I assumed our target audiences might also consume “stories” in similar ways, at similar times. After all, podcasting is officially part of consumers’ media diets – and I wanted Stern Strategy Group to be on the menu. So I dove head first into learning how to start a podcast.
As we gear up for season two of Minds Worth Meeting – the thought-leadership focused, Q&A style podcast we began producing last summer – I’d like to reflect on our learning process and offer what I hope will be a helpful view into the highs and lows of our year-long podcasting journey.
Learn How to Start a Podcast with These 5 Tips
1. Build a dream team. Assemble a “pod squad,” if you will; people with varied strengths and expertise, yet all ambitious and passionate about learning and honing new skills. After recruiting from the IT, marketing and PR departments, I had my crew. IT gurus set up the hardware and software; marketing designed the show’s format and messaging, and PR developed a social media strategy, nailed the name of the show, and found the perfect place for the podcast to live on our company’s two websites.Assemble a 'pod squad'; people with varied strengths who are passionate about honing new skills.Click To Tweet
2. Get techy with it. When it comes to technology, I am no Alan Turing. I’m not even Steve Urkel. So our tech setup had to be lean but effective. We started with two laptops – one to record my audio and the other to capture our remote guests’ voices – a Yeti microphone, pop-filter and headphones. For software, we chose Audacity to record and edit. We used Skype to connect with guests who were in various locations throughout the country. And with the Music Maker JAM app on my phone, I produced a tune that serves as the intro and outro sounds of each show (Bonus tip: To gain co-worker buy-in, produce a number of tunes, then have a listening party where they can vote on their favorite song. It not only gets them excited about the new project, but they’re more likely to share the final result because they had some input in it.) Together, the hardware and software (which was 100% free) cost less than $300.
3. Channel your inner Charlie Rose. The cornerstone of Minds Worth Meeting is the actual interview. Every day, we work with some of the most talented, interesting, accomplished thinkers and doers across nearly all industries. It was only natural that we tap into our own clients as featured guests. We identified our first set of guests, sent formal invitations and worked with each of them to prep logistics and subject matter details before the interview day. Prior to the sessions, I researched trending and relevant topics for discussions, and tested the technology (and had our IT experts on standby). We’re a strategic communications and speakers agency, not a radio station with soundproof studios, so to minimize background noise, I turned the smallest room in the office into my “booth” and slapped “Shhhhhh! Podcast recording in session!” signs around the office.
With two laptops to control, the first session was nerve-wracking. Is my mouth close enough to the mic? Did the recorder pick up my audio? Why can I hear the construction outside the guest’s window?! Despite my fears and constant questioning, the first session went off without a hitch! We laughed, I asked interesting questions, they offered equally interesting insights, and we all had a great time. Over the next two months, I had four more sessions just like that. Success!
4. Polish the sound. Our goal was to have all episodes edited and ready for release before we launched. A noble, but lofty goal. To achieve this, I dug into my high school media tech video editing skills, as editing in Audacity is very similar. If you don’t have a soundproof recording studio, the tricky part to editing the recordings is removing background noise. My recordings had every possible sound in them aside from the voices in conversation: email notifications (ding!), Slack notification (ding!), cell phone vibration (bzzzzzzzz!), and of course, the good ol’ paper shuffle. At first, a single episode took about four hours to edit, but with repetition, editing time decreased to about two hours. A word to the wise: Everyone on your team should know how to use the editing software. This is not a one woman/man show, and that could be the difference between launching in one month or three.
5. Get ready to launch. When we began planning for the show, the original launch date was January 2017, which gave us five months to prepare. ACTUAL air date: April 2017. With the processes and technology being new to us, we knew there would be a learning curve. But this was more like a learning mountain. On top of that, this podcast was a project, an experiment, and we all had to keep our “real responsibilities” moving. But we crossed the mountain, enjoyed each step of the process, and learned new skills for how to start a podcast.
Now that we have a season under our belts, there are many things we plan to do differently next time. Like what?
In season two of Minds Worth Meeting, expect the following:
- Better audio quality! We’ve figured out how to simplify our tech setup and have gone from two laptops to one. I also switched from a PC to a MAC so I can utilize different recording technology. I highly recommend investing in Ian Robinson’s Udemy podcasting course. Changed. My. Life.
- More guests! Last season we turned five interviews into 11 episodes. This season we’re aiming for a dozen interviews.
- Co-hosts! We want listeners to know more of our staff to better understand what we do, why we do it, and why we’re obsessed with thinkers and thought leaders.
Ready to jump into the world of content creation? Podcasting is one way to start, but there are so many other options. For more insights on developing, producing and delivering effective content, download our guide.