A podcast is a great platform for individuals and businesses eager to enhance their brand exposure. Whether delving into the latest trends or dissecting specialised fields, the podcasting realm offers a vast and receptive audience eager to listen and learn – provided the approach is spot-on.
Regrettably, many aspiring hosts stumble, tripped up by similar missteps. Here are a few mistakes to avoid:.
Getting the cheapest equipment
If you’re new to podcasts, it makes sense that you will want to keep costs down at the start. Many people make the mistake of buying the cheapest equipment in order to test the medium before committing to a large investment.
But cheap equipment impacts quality and poor-quality podcasts aren’t competitive. Ultimately, your podcast probably won’t do well, and you will have wasted your modest investment along with time and other resources.
By investing in the best equipment that you can afford (good-quality microphones, high-quality video equipment, and a nice branded backdrop), you make your podcast memorable for all the right reasons. As a result, you are more likely to grow an audience and get a return on your investment. Alternatively, you can hire a professional studio to minimise upfront costs while getting access to the best-in-class podcasting equipment.
Thinking DIY is always cheaper
Another way people try to cut costs is to try to do everything themselves. While this is possible, there are a lot of production elements to get right, from planning, project management, and research to entertaining hosting to technical skills involving cameras, audio, lighting, editing, distribution, collaboration, guests, marketing, SEO, and so on.
Learning everything yourself takes a lot of time and there’s still a good chance you’ll miss something, meaning the audience is left wanting and you don’t make the most of your hard work.
Money saved by doing everything yourself could end up costing a lot more in the long run and leaving you with lacklustre content. Investing in hiring the right people or a professional studio will mean consistent and high-quality content that captures and keeps your audience coming back for more.
Not understanding your audience
Creating a good podcast is primarily about preparation. Before considering content, hosts, or any technical requirements, you need to understand your audience. Who are you creating content for? What do they want to know? How will they find you?
You need to develop a full understanding of your audience demographics and interests, what niche they fall into, what shows they already listen to, and why they are interested in listening to podcasts. Once you have developed that understanding, you can begin to think about what you will add to that conversation.
One way of finding out is by running a pilot (or two) past a test audience to gain feedback. This way, you can trial different hosts, topics and formats in front of a small dedicated audience. They will often be more forgiving yet happier to provide feedback. Once you have experimented with your formula to get it right, you can dive into full episodes
Audience building is a long-term strategy. Successful and popular podcasts have over a thousand episodes, but many podcasts run just six or seven episodes because people don’t see the audience growing quickly enough and give up. The difference between short-lived and long-lasting is often consistency.
You need to be consistent about when you release your content: choose a day, choose a time, and stick to it. You need a consistent format and quality, and a regular host. If your podcast includes video, the look and feel need to be consistent; consider the background you use for the video aspect, the microphone, angles, and so on.
The audience also needs to know the content you explore, what they will get from listening to your podcast, and that the conversation will develop over time. Consistency is about reassuring the audience that your podcast is worth their time and commitment, so they keep coming back for more.
Low-quality content and production
Quality is important and can be split into two aspects: quality of content and quality of production.
Quality content is engaging, educational, interesting, possibly humorous, and, above all, entertaining. People can overlook low production values, but only if your content is captivating. This can save production costs (especially when you are getting started) but it does mean you need to spend more time preparing and perfecting content.
Quality production is important when tapping into an audience with a low attention span. Given two equal options, people will go for the one with the higher production values. It’s simply more engaging and easier to listen to. If your competitors are producing high-quality podcasts, you will need to do so too. Do some analysis of your competitors to find out what level of production you need to invest in to win over your audience.
Consistently high-quality content and production will lead more people to consistently choose your podcast, growing your audience with each episode.
Expecting listeners to magically appear
Consistently creating captivating content only goes so far. People need to find your podcast if they are going to listen to it and recommend it to others. And getting found takes work.
One way of boosting your chances of being found is to launch your first five or so episodes in one go. This demonstrates to the Spotify and Apple Music algorithms that you are a serious producer and could get you the coveted “featured podcasts” spot on their homepage.
Next, ensure that your podcasts are searchable. This means SEO work. Research your keywords, keep on top of trends and search interests, and make your content topical where possible. Then make the content itself easy to find on search engines by writing episode synopses, generating a transcript, and adding markup and timestamps to your podcast and video.
Once you have done all of the basics, consider running some short ads to get your podcast in front of as many eyes and ears as possible.
Not controlling guests
Guests are a great way of growing your audience and creating some engaging content. However, without preparation and control from the host, guests can quickly turn help into a hindrance.
In normal conversation, people often talk over each other. But when it comes to a podcast, overtalk is confusing and messy. Many people also talk faster when under the stress of a recorded show, or they might get flustered, tripping over their words, repeating themselves, or failing to make a clear point.
A pre-show meeting can really help iron out these issues. Agree on the questions in advance with your guests so they can prepare and feel comfortable. To avoid overtalk, it is a good idea to have a prepared hand signal to indicate a question or comment from the host. After that, it’s up to the host to control the pace and flow of the conversation.
Failing to prepare for the worst
Regardless of how much you prepare, the worst can still happen. Guests can cancel, your recording studio may not be available, and your host might be sick. There are many things that can go wrong.
Many podcasts have died off because they weren’t able to recover quickly from an unexpected ‘disaster’. Either the challenge felt insurmountable, or they took too long and lost too many listeners.
Whatever planning and preparation you do, always create a backup plan. You could have a prerecorded episode or two to help fill the gaps or a backup host or guest who can cover. You also need a host who is good under pressure and can work on the fly should a guest cancel or you need to change topics at the last minute.
Good preparation means planning for the best and worst-case scenarios so you can create good-quality content regardless of what happens.
Missing out on different formats
Many people go into podcasting assuming that they can simply sit in the studio, record a half-hour of audio and release it onto Spotify. But this approach misses out on so much potential.
An increasing number of podcasts are now shooting video alongside their audio content. Not only does this make the content more engaging but it also gives you more content to publish on other platforms, like YouTube.
Then there is the content length. Not everyone will engage with a full podcast episode; some people prefer short segments or clips. Shorter-format audio-visual content also works better on social media and can even work as advertisements.
Again, it takes planning and preparation. You need cameras in the studio with a range of angles to keep the content feeling dynamic and to make it easier to edit. It’s also useful to note time stamps for particularly interesting or entertaining moments that can be clipped down later.
Expecting immediate results
Even when you’ve published some nicely edited episodes that your audience will love, recorded on high-quality equipment, and done all the SEO you can, your audience may still be small. But don’t give up. Even if you do everything right, your audience won’t magically appear.
Too many podcasts do everything right and still fail because they expect immediate results. When podcast episodes don’t go viral after five episodes, many assume it’s not working and lose interest. Give it time. Consistency is the key. Keep making consistently entertaining, high-quality, well-edited content that your audience is interested in, and they will show up eventually.
Michael Olatunji is co-founder of Outset Studio, a full-service podcast and video production studio in London. Outset specialises in podcasts and vlogcasts, live streams, and live shopping. The team works collaboratively with the client to create high-quality content that attracts an audience and increases engagement. Recording can be done at their studios in London or on location. Whether a client simply wants studio space or would prefer someone to manage the full production, Outset’s experienced teams have it covered.