The 10 "Musts" of Creating an Engaging Podcast

It is profoundly easy to record and distribute a podcast these days – in fact, a coming article will focus exactly on how easy it is and what, exactly, those steps are.  

But occasionally, when something is easy, it leads to laziness or not “going the extra mile” to ensure a great experience for your listener.

All of the “Musts” outlined below may not be applicable to your particular situation, but we bet at least 80% of them apply to all casts, regardless of setting, style or topic.

1) Invest in a Decent AUDIO (It’s NOT expeNsive)

This can’t be said enough – even the greatest content in the world will become “unlistenable” with poor audio quality. A decent mic is only one element of good audio, but it is really where the “rubber meets the road”.

Two points that need to be made about this:

  • You don’t need to spend any more than about $30 to upgrade the recording quality above your AirPods or (God forbid) the built-in mic on your computer. My first mic was the Snowball Cardioid Condenser Mic (about $40 on Amazon) - probably the most popular (and portable) beginning podcast mic. It sounds great… can take a beating and frankly… looks cool as hell!

  • The “perfect mic” depends on your situation. I record my casts at my desk, thus, a desktop mic is best. But if you’re out in the field interviewing people or doing a “walk and talk” a lavalier (clips to your chest) mic will be better. Again... you don’t need to spend a ton. I bought a few inexpensive lavalier mics and most were garbage. But I finally found one that worked GREAT! When I do “location” audio or video… GetJets Professional Lavalier Mic (about $28 on Amazon) was awesome. It captures all ranges of my voice without picking up much background noise.

2) Edit – Even if it’s just a little

I would HIGHLY recommend not having a cold opening (an opening where you just launch into the cast) – I’d recommend having some kind of consistent opening that tells listeners what they’re listening to. Royalty-Free music can be a great addition to the beginning and end of your cast.

But... whether you go that far or not... do not EVER, EVER, EVER start your cast with the “rustling and crackling” of a microphone.

At the minimum, you should cut out the beginning and end of your casts where you actually start and stop recording.

3) Find a the Right Site to Host your Cast

People get confused with this concept sometimes. I host my cast at Buzzsprout and love it (more on that in a minute) – but I’ve been told, “No... want my Podcast on iTunes”.

Yes... everyone wants their cast on iTunes and other popular platforms. Most of these platforms are just distribution methods and don’t actually host their own casts - including iTunes. You can distribute your cast to places like iTunes from any descent Podcast creator

You need to look into the monthly cost, time limits they may impose, but most importantly they need to allow you to:

  • Enter ALL of the meta-data you need for your cast – Podcast Name, Episode Name, Cast Description, Episode Descriptions, Keywords, Cast Cover Image, Episode Cover Images, etc. This will help you be “found” by those looking for casts with your subject matter, and will help visitors understand what your cast is about. 

  • It needs to generate an RSS feed. This is the KEY to delivering your content to the distribution channels such as iTunes (or, more accurately, iOS’ Podcast App), Google Play Music, Spotify, etc. These services will simply pull all the data it needs from that RSS feed.

  • Good Analytics – There are other ways to get comprehensive analytics for a cast but often times a platform will give you at least a basic understanding of where your listeners are, how long they listened, the device/app/website they listened on. Remember, looking at your stats on iTunes will only tell you about your listeners on that platform (and nowhere else).

4) Don’t “Wing it”

If you simply flip on the mic, press record and start babbling, you’re going meander and never get where you’re going. It’s really easy – I speak from experience.

Have a good understanding of where you’re going to start... the “vocal journey” you want to take your listeners on, and where you want to end up at the end.

Not being prepared will lead to lots of confusion and “uhm’s” and pauses.

But, that said...

5) Don’t fully script it

Use Bullet Points – Almost as bad as an aimless podcast is one where it’s pretty clear the speaker is reading from a script. Writing everything out kills the excitement, authenticity and spontaneity of a cast.

Not to mention you will adopt a terrible monotone without even realizing it.

Write out your bullet points and potentially sub-bullet points and know what you’re going to say when you get there, but don’t write so much that you suck the life out of the cast.

6) Take the Advice of your 9th Grade English Teacher

And by that I mean: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you just told them”.

When you start the cast, tell the listeners what they’re going to hear (without spoiling it), then get into the “meat” of the cast, then wrap it up by summarizing what they just heard and the lessons they should take away from it.

7) Don’t Forget to Promote Yourself

This is sort of a trap. Any cast (especially one related to a business) that spends all its time talking about how great they are and the services they offer, will get old really fast.  

But don’t forget to start and end every cast by telling listeners where they can find your website, social media and ways to directly contact you (phone/email).

8) Source Your Material

If you’re using statistics or referencing information you found somewhere else, let the user know where. Why?

  • That’s just ethically the best thing to do – you didn’t do the research, they did, so you should credit them. But even beyond that...

  • It helps to validate what you’re saying. If you tell your listeners that “8 in 10 internet users...” engage in whatever activity. That’s fine. But if you say, “According to SalesForce, 8 out of 10 internet users...” your statistic is immediately respected and believed.

9) Have Fun with It!

10) This should go without saying but give the user something they’re not expecting. Of course you want to deliver the information you promise, but do it in a way that gives them a glimpse into your personality.

On CXM (iTunes, Spotify & Google Play) I talk a lot about brand methodology and the psychology of people and the “buying public”. It’s interesting stuff... I love it. But I also love lots of other things, and I bring them into the cast to add some life into it.

I did a whole episode on Brand Vulnerability and illustrated most of the conversation by talking about Eminem and Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones. Why?

It was more fun for me to talk about, and I’m sure it was more fun to listen to than academic text-book speak.

10) Be Willing to Make Modifications

By the time you get your 5th episode in the books, you’re going to learn (hopefully) what is working and what is not. Be willing to adapt your model to cater to the listening audience. I’m not saying you should change the core of who you are, but listen to the comments and criticism and be willing to roll with change.

Wrap Up:

Don’t be deceived by how easy it is to create, launch and distribute a podcast. Take your time and do it right. You only get one chance to make a first impression. BUT – that said... you will learn over time what works for you and your audience.  

The things you can control – the quality of your sound and delivery – you should. Take that aspect extremely seriously. But the message you’re conveying? Pretend you’re enjoying a coffee or a beer with a good friend and talk the way you would in that situation.

For some lessons in what to do and what NOT to do, on a podcast, feel free to check out our cast, CXM – Customer Experience Media (iTunes, Spotify, Google) and let us know what you think.