A Newbie’s Guide to Launching a Podcast

This post was written by Seth Price, vice president of sales and marketing at Placester. Follow him, @sethstuff.

Podcasting is exploding. From the meteoric success of Serial and StartUp, to the addition of podcasts in the already robust marketing playbooks of machines like HubSpot, Pat Flynn, Marcus Sheridan and John Lee Dumas (a podcast rockstar who now has three shows in his budding network), podcasts are picking up steam.

Podcasting as a medium is not new, however — it's been on a slow, steady rise for years. What we’re experiencing today is a tipping point, where the cost of creation and the ease of consumption has made podcasting a no-brainer for reaching niche audiences.

This resurgence is what initially got me excited. I had been an avid listener of audiobooks and podcasts since my Walkman days, and even entertained the idea of launching a weekly show. But, it was always just a passing thought — until roughly six months ago.

At the time, I was reviewing Placester’s previous year’s analytics and doing a competitive analysis of content in our niche, real estate marketing. We were making headway and building a fantastic audience, but it appeared we needed to do something new. Podcasting seemed like the perfect way to differentiate, and I didn't want to wait until podcasting had become the new blogging.

I decided to create a new podcast called The Craft of Marketing. I wanted to share with you my process for planning and creating the podcast, getting it funded on Kickstarter and building an audience of early listeners.  

Ready to dive in? Let's get started.

Step 1: Set Your Goals

What do you want to accomplish? Is this a marketing effort? Do you need to convert leads? Are you trying to build your brand, or do you just want to express your passion?

For me, it was always about my passion for marketing, so I knew right away I would set out to create the marketing podcast of my dreams. I wanted an excuse to speak with successful marketers at the top of their game, and share those conversations to provide value to marketers in my little corner of the world. What's working today; how are they hiring; what do they see coming down the pike; tactics and strategies that help them succeed — you get the idea.

Think about the audience you are trying to reach and the influencers you want to create relationships with, and then pair that with your passion.

When you’re setting your goals, also think about your time commitment. Is this a project you’re intending to revisit once every few months, or are you ready for a weekly publishing schedule? Frequency and consistency is key to success in many parts of content marketing, but especially in podcasting.

Step 2: Get Your Gear In Order

Equipment makes all the difference in how you will ultimately sound to a listener. Part of setting yourself up for podcast success is making sure the sound is as good as it can be. You can go cheap and just use your iPhone, but it will sound like, well, an iPhone. Anyone can record their voice — your goal should be to sound professional.

I decided to go all in and get the best microphone I could afford: a Heil PR-40. It's the mic used by successful podcasters like Pat Flynn in his Smart Passive Income podcast. Make sure you also buy a microphone stand to avoid the ambient sound created by the mic shaking and pick up a pop filter to reduce the explosive sounds created when you speak.

If you want to start with something less intense but that will do the job, go for the Audio-Technica ATR2020-USB mic. It has pretty good sound quality at one-third the price of the Heil. Or, you can go on the low end and get the Logitech ClearChat USB Headset.

Once you’ve chosen a high-quality mic, you’ll want to do it justice by picking a good place to record. While I'm no sound engineer, I know well enough there are certain environments better suited for recording than others. Choose a room that blocks out street noise and absorbs ambient sound — rooms with carpeting and heavy drapes are usually a good bet. You can also use blankets to hang over any rattling windows. Sound bounces off hard objects like glass, brick and wood floors, creating unwanted echoes.

Once you start paying attention to sound, you will be amazed how much ambient noise there is in your space. The hum of an A/C or the whine of a refrigerator can really mess up an otherwise good recording. Alex Blumberg, the host of StartUp, taught me that, when all else fails, go in a closet and record yourself covered with a thick blanket. I have tried it, and, while it gets a little hot under the blanket, it works like a charm.

This pup has the right idea. | Image via Flickr User  jafsegal

This pup has the right idea. | Image via Flickr User jafsegal

Finally, test your setup to make sure everything is in order and don't be afraid to ask for help. I used Craigslist to find a sound engineer who made sure all my equipment was set up properly. Believe me: It's worth it.

We did some test recordings and listened to the result, fine-tuning and tweaking along the way. Now all of the settings are marked on the mixing board and it helps me focus on being a good podcaster, not the sound guy.

Once you’ve recorded your actual episode, think about outsourcing post-production. My schedule is beyond busy with family and a full-time job, so having someone else do post-production is crucial to me actually getting the show to a finished state. I use another sound guy I found on Craigslist who charges $100 per episode. This could be done cheaper, but he makes me sound excellent, which I think is worth the difference.

Step 3: Decide on a Format and Storyboard

I knew I wanted to do an audio-only interview podcast, because I wanted to put my guests at ease and make it as simple as possible for them to participate. I have nothing against video — it just requires more pre- and post-production.

Since this is going to require a significant amount of time on a regular basis, you want to make sure you are realistic in your expectations of what you can produce consistently.

Once you decide on a format, it's time to create a storyboard. This can be a rough script of the questions you intend to ask and how the conversation flow might go.

I've learned from public speaking that preparation is crucial, and this seems to apply to podcasting, as well. Before I recorded my first interview, I practiced reading my questions out loud to make sure the script came off my tongue naturally. This took some practice, but I think it paid off. My goal was to have thoughtful questions, but also be relaxed enough that I could listen to what my guest was saying and respond without missing a beat.

And when it comes to interviewees, don’t be afraid to shoot for the stars. Half the fun of doing an interview podcast is getting the chance to talk with really great guests. I started by making a list of all of the marketers I admired and what I wanted to learn from them. Some of them might seem unlikely to say yes, but you never know — and you’ll never find out if you don’t ask.

Step 4: Prepare to Launch!

Those are the basic steps to setting up a new podcast. Get your equipment, know your storyline, and make sure you’re aligned on your goals and priorities for the project. Once that’s all determined and you’re ready for your podcast to go live, you have a lot of options for funding, promotion and distribution.

I had great results using Kickstarter for my podcast. The campaign was fully funded in a week, and I added 800 folks to our mailing list in the process. I found this guide to hacking Kickstarter particularly helpful, and I recommend taking the time to make a really great video to promote your campaign.

In terms of promotion and distribution, while there are quite a few podcast networks worth paying attention to, iTunes is still the largest audio search engine with the most podcast-enabled devices. Think of it like a search engine and optimize your content like you would for any other search engine.  

I’d love to hear your podcast stories in the comments. And be sure to check out The Craft of Marketing, now available on iTunes!