21 Steps You Need to Start A Successful Podcast

by Feb 22, 2021

Intro

If you’re reading this, you have either requested information on how to run a podcast on your own, or our SEO trap has caught you in its web. Either way, welcome!

To state the obvious from the start: we produce podcasts here at Heard. So why are we providing this information? For two reasons, primarily:

  • Many people don’t fit our ideal target customer but should still have a podcast
  • We entertain a large volume of questions on how to do this – this is our attempt to provide value without individually answering questions (read: laziness)

After reading, you should have a thorough understanding of why you should (or shouldn’t) start a podcast, how to create something that is both effective and interesting, and what the practical steps to starting and continuing a podcast are. We’ve broken the process into four major sections:

  1. Select Your Concept
  2. Start Your Show (Practical Steps)
  3. Setup Production
  4. Promote Your Show

If you read the post in its entirety and still have questions on how to run a podcast yourself, we’ve included an email address at the bottom to field your inquiries. We just ask that you read until the end prior to doing so. Let’s begin.

Select Your Concept

Recent results for Heard customers:

  • A podcast being leveraged into developing an entire profitable media company
  • A small internal podcast earning more ad dollars than they spend in production
  • A new podcast being acquired by a major media network
  • Raising a venture fund via the connections formed on a podcast
  • Closing a major B2B customer as a result of a podcast interview

All of the above are outcomes that have occurred for our customers over the past 4 years of production.

This is in addition to the general rising trends in podcast creation and consumption. These trends have only skyrocketed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve now seen over 1.5 million podcasts publish an episode to serve the 104 million monthly listeners.

The allure of developing a podcast is clear. Yet close to 70% of podcasts don’t make it past their 10th episode. Executing a successful podcast takes effort and consistency, beginning with a clear set of objectives and a strategy to achieve those objectives.

Identify Audience and Show Goals

Your podcasting effort must begin with the objectives you hope to achieve, the audience you want to serve, and the strategy that will most likely achieve those outcomes with that audience. The answers to these questions make up your big “why”.

We obviously can’t answer these questions for you, but here are a few considerations to factor in as you define your why:

“Who are you trying to serve, specifically?”

Perhaps you are an author or athlete and your audience is composed of devoted fans. Or, your audience may consist of a potential customer base for your software company. They could even be a captive audience from some other shared experience (e.g. students of a class or existing employees).

Identifying and clearly communicating who the target audience is will drive much of the decision making to come. Once you understand who your audience is, we can move on to identifying their goals.

What is the end goal for your audience?

Depending on the situation, there could be two sides to this question. Let’s start with your audience’s end goal. What are they trying to accomplish? What is the specific problem that the audience is solving by listening to or interacting with your podcast?

I’ll give you an example.

We have a trucking client who has developed and produces a podcast for their 800 drivers. This group is the entire target audience for the show. For this show, the drivers are trying to figure out how to maximize their earning potential, deliver their loads safely and efficiently, and to remain connected to the parent company while they’re traveling across the country making deliveries.

Our client has done a superb job of ensuring every component of their show ladders back to helping the audience (truckers, in this case) accomplish the set of goals they have through the show.

The client has done such an impeccable job of doing so that their show has reached a much larger audience of general truck drivers. Their narrow focus has directly led to them earning two byproducts:

  • They now have a recruiting channel flush with talent (a huge problem in the trucking industry)
  • They are actually being paid by national sponsors to advertise to the audience of drivers they have built in less than one year

The company is now making more money to publish their show than they pay in production costs. They are paid to promote their brand and grow their business, all because they had a clear set of audience objectives.

Now let’s flip to the other side of the coin. What do you hope to accomplish by connecting with your audience through the pod?

Is there a product you’re selling? Is this a passion project? Do you want to grow and monetize your audience? Is this a long-form content capture device for other brand-building activities (very smart), or some other objective entirely?

Understanding what both your audience and you want to achieve will allow you to create a North Star for the show that ensures everything you make is in line with the overall vision and will keep you hyper-focused on the long-term ramifications of pursuing these goals.

Define a Show Style

Now that you understand what your objectives are, we need to identify the strategy most likely to help you achieve those objectives. Conceptually, your show idea will vary as a result of this decision.

Here are a few of the most effective concepts we’ve utilized for different objectives:

  • Selling Products or Services: Interview-based show with subject matter experts and target prospects (example: The Future of Supply Chain)
  • Educational Platform: Long-form discussions around a particular topic or supplementary content to a previous discussion (example: Faith and Liberty Rediscovered)
  • Entertainment/Culture: A mixture of interview and solo episodes to discuss relevant current events (example: Trending Thoughts Podcast)
    Internal Company Culture: Podcast focused on providing existing employees with company updates and recruiting new talent (The Oakley Trucking Podcast)

Ultimately, there has to be some connection between your purpose, the audience, and the concept you choose. For our customers, we use a modified version of the Hero’s Journey to help identify these threads. To simplify, you need to be able to clearly articulate your audience, their objective, and your role in helping them achieve that objective.

Here’s a simple formula to help you do so:

Value Prop.:
The ____ show is intended to serve the X audience in accomplishing Y by providing Z episodes.

Example: The Software Developer Recruiting Show is intended to serve Technology Executives as they seek to recruit new talent by providing them with best practices from other industry veterans.

Everything else you do with, around, or through the show must ladder back to this value proposition of truth.

Start Your Show (Practical Steps)

Develop Creative Assets

With your strategy set, there are a handful of assets you’ll need to create. These should all connect to the concept you’ve established and directly communicate the value proposition.

Let’s start with a name.

Show Title

The show title should emphasize the unique value proposition to the audience in a concise manner. There are a few directions you can take when naming the show.

  1. Creative – Using a play on words or easter egg that your audience naturally resonates with. E.g.: Reply All, Revisionist History
  2. Descriptive – Using straightforward language to explain the concept to audiences. E.g.: Stuff You Should Know, The NBA Show
  3. Branded – Using your actual name directly in the title. E.g. The Joe Rogan Experience, Fireside Chat with Dennis Prager

Regardless of which title type fits your style, the key here is to name the show something that resonates with the audience, not necessarily with your own personal tastes or interest. For many B2B-based shows, using a descriptive show that includes the audience in the title is recommended. Below is an example:

Target Audience industry + Target Audience’s Specific Role
Ex.: The Trucking CEO Show

Logo

Your logo will also serve as your album art that is submitted to the platforms for distribution. A few considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Logo must be 3,000 x 3,000 pixels in a .png format
  2. Select a single point of emphasis: this could be an image (e.g. headshot) or a text phrase
  3. Utilize your brand colors as the thumbnail background as opposed to white. Most shows use a white background. You want a “thumb-stopping” image

Other Assets

In addition to the title and logo, you’ll need a myriad of creative assets. If you’re not using a team to develop your show, some of these may be difficult to create. Below is a list of assets + associated tools to get you started.

    1. Show Description Copy: 4,000 character max limit. Platforms cut off the full description at different points. Show Description Guide
    2. Intro/Outro Music: Select a song that can be spliced into a roughly 30-second intro and outro segments. You’ll also need 10-second sound bumpers for segment changes or ad reads. For music options check out Soundstripe.
    3. Landing Page: Depending on your hosting solution, you may be able to utilize the podcast page provided. Creating a branded landing is preferred. Ours are built via Elementor on WordPress.

Hosting Environment

Podcast hosting has become a very lucrative business, leading to a myriad of options. Here are two:

  1. Easiest: Anchor – Anchor (owned by Spotify) is the easiest hosting and production platform for hobbyist or beginner podcasters. It’s an extremely limited platform, but incredibly simple to set up and can be done from your phone.
  2. Best: Simplecast – Everyone has their favorite for a good reason. Here’s ours. If analytics matter to you at all, consider Simplecast. The analytics in podcasting are notoriously bad as it is, but Simplecast aptly makes their analytics dashboard as clean and simple as we’ve seen.

(Offer: We have an enterprise account with Simplecast that is cheaper than retail. If you’d like us to add you to our deal with Simplecast, email Heard@Heardpods.com for more info.

Podcast Equipment

Equipment is one of the least important facets of podcasting, especially as you’re just beginning. If equipment is cost prohibitive, just move on. The quality of your content will outshine the production quality (especially in a post-COVID world where everyone is recording from their closets).

That being said, here are some simple pieces of equipment we use with some of the top-ranked, world-class podcast customers we work with:

    • Microphone: Audio-Technica ATR 2100
    • Pop Filter
    • Airpods/Bluetooth Headphones
    • Overhead Broadcast Boom
    • Zoom Pro or Riverside.fm
    • Podtrak P4 Recorder (recommended for in-person use)
    • For a full list of recommended equipment, head over to our podcast equipment page.

Setup Production

Kickoff

To kick off, you’ll need to submit an initial episode to the platforms for approval. We advise using this opportunity to record a trailer episode, or “Episode 0”, that will also introduce your audience to your show.

Episode 0 Script

Here is a sample script you can use for episode 0 between your intro and outro music. 

[intro music]
-(with energy)-

Intro:
Welcome to this intro episode of [insert podcast name]. My name is [first name, last name], and I’ll be your host!

First of all, I want to explain who we are and why we’re starting this podcast. [insert why you started podcast from strategy above]

Description:
So, what can you expect on each episode of our show?

[insert show description written above]

We’re so excited to get started. If you have ideas for future episodes, know someone that would be a perfect guest, or just want to stay apprised of our show - please make sure to connect with me via email at [your email address].

Details :
Episode 1 is dropping soon, so be sure to head over to [podcast url] & subscribe to the show…
We’ll see you soon!
[music fade]

Submitting Your Show to Platforms

Once you’ve established your hosting environment and recorded Episode 0, you’re ready to submit your show to the individual podcast platforms that require approvals. Here are instructions to submit on the major platforms.

Please note: some hosting platforms (like Simplecast) may offer submission capabilities within the platform itself.

Apple Podcasts (using Libsyn)
    1. Open iTunes desktop app
    2. Sign in (you must have an Apple ID)
    3. Go to the “iTunes Store” tab, then click “Submit a Podcast” (or click this link)
    4. In the top left corner of the screen, under “iTunes Connect,” click the “+” icon
    5. Go back to your Libsyn and click “Destinations,” then “Edit or View Existing”
    6. Under “Quick Links”, copy the link under “Libsyn Classic Feed”
    7. Go back to your iTunes tab and paste the URL into the URL file
    8. Click Validate
    9. Confirm that the information under Feed Preview, General Information, and Podcast Episodes is correct
    10. Click Submit
Stitcher

Click this link, then scroll to the bottom of the page

    1. Provider Name: Name of your company, not the show host
    2. Email: Your email
    3. Password: For consistency, you can use the same password as you did for Libsyn
    4. Use the RSS URL from Libsyn
    5. Choose “Destinations” on the top menu bar, then select “Edit or View Existing”
    6. Copy the RSS URL link
    7. Use the information in your iTunes copy to fill out the name of the show and description
Google Podcasts
  1. Log in to the podcast’s (or any) Gmail account
  2. Click this link
  3. Click “Publish”
  4. Click the “Add a Podcast” button
  5. Accept the terms of service
  6. Use the RSS link from Libsyn
  7. Use the information from your iTunes copy

Content Creation

For 99% of podcasters, podcasting itself is just the start. During your podcast, you will inevitably create a library of incredibly rich content that can be re-leveraged across multiple channels to help spread your message, drive awareness, and even grow your podcast audience.

To do so, we encourage our customers to think of their podcast as an initial “pillar” from which the rest of their content strategy can flow. Each episode will discuss a number of topics that can then be turned into a myriad of content pieces to be shared in different environments.

The following is a graphic from an essay by Bleacher Report founder Dave Nemetz, which illustrates the idea well:

The “Anchor” or “Pillar” content can be pieced into multiple second-layer pieces, which are then distributed throughout the various existing social channels available to the show.

This can look different for every show. Here are some of the pieces we typically create for our podcast customers:

  • 1 blog post
  • 1 transcript created per episode
  • 10-20 pieces of social media content created, including
  • 1 episode trailer (video)
  • 5-7 social images (quotes)
  • 3-5 lunchbox 2-3 minute video clips
  • 3-5 social video (quotes)
  • Branded Youtube video versions of episodes
  • Livestream of episodes in branded containers
  • Linked show notes & synopsis

Using your podcast as the seed for your overall content strategy will ensure that you have a singular message, efficient creation, and consistent production over time as you follow your content calendar.

Promote Your Show

Finally, you’ve launched your show and are regularly recording. Now it’s time to find some guests to join the show and ensure your audience is listening.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any easy hacks to growing a podcast audience (despite whatever it is that some podcast guru claims to be selling in their $149 course). Instead, you need to view the promotion of your podcast just like your normal advertising and content efforts.

The long-tail of your creation and production will benefit your show over time. Here are a few considerations as you launch:

Launch Day

Launch Day is important and can be an early tipping point for your podcast, depending on the nature of your show. Some shows tied to large PR budgets are able to earn “New and Noteworthy” status in players, which obviously drives audience numbers.

For the other 98% of podcasts, launch day is simply the first in many days of consistent promotion required to grow a show. There are a few low-hanging tactics to remember as you launch:

  • Publish through social channels or owned organic channels
  • Call in your favors – ask warm connections to share and promote
  • Ensure you’re ready to capture interest – have email capture ready for opt-in

Content Calendar

Building out a regular content calendar for your show is vital, both to build an audience and produce content consistently. Ensure your calendar includes:

  • Topic for conversation
  • Guest to be interviewed/included
  • Date and time for recording
  • Status of episode (Scheduled, In Process, Recorded, Edited)
  • Link once live

The volume and quality of your individual episodes are arguably not as important as the consistency of producing and publishing your episodes. In addition to consistent production, podcasters should consider the following strategies for further promotion:

    1. Paid Media – leveraging your content and assets as both ads for your show and to drive awareness for your overall brand (note: visit our partner Thomas Sneed for assistance here).
    2. PR Tours – consider doing a PR tour in relation to your launch. Appear as a guest on other podcasts or various media channels to drive awareness of your voice/show to your target audience (note: visit our partners Lemonpie for assistance here).
    3. Guest Outreach – target appropriate potential guests who can add value via content on your podcast as well as drive awareness through their participation and promotion on the podcast (note: utilize Mailshake or another email automation tool to help facilitate guest outreach).

Conclusion

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You’ve done the work that most won’t and now have the knowledge required to at least get your podcast to the starting line.

You now have an understanding of why you should (or shouldn’t) start a podcast, how to create something that is both effective and interesting, and what the practical steps to starting and continuing a podcast are.

It’s a lot.

If you have questions or need further clarification on a part of this process, you’ve earned the right to ask away. We’re genuinely interested in your show’s success and want to contribute to the growth of quality podcasts however we’re able. Please send any inquiries to:

Heard@Heardpods.com

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, unsure of your abilities, or know you need a team to support you – you’ve come to the right place.

We’re a professional podcast production company that lives and breathes the craft we practice. We’ve spent a great deal of time figuring out the intricacies of podcasting (as you can see above), and are successfully producing shows in 12 of the United States, the UK, Spain, Italy, and Mexico.

If that sounds helpful, we’d love to discuss your project and look forward to hearing from you. Please fill out the form below to start a conversation.

Otherwise, happy podcasting! Once your show has launched, send it our way. We’re always happy to promote our audience’s work and provide support however we’re able.

#BeHeard

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest podcasting news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!