Blogs helped democratize the creation of written content.
YouTube and social media helped democratize video.
Now the explosion of podcasts has democratized radio.
It used to be that podcasting was off-limits for anyone but the most tech-savvy. Today, it’s different: Pretty much anyone with a computer can host a digital radio show.
The road to success in this niche medium is also very different from what it was a few years ago.
In our fast-paced environment, a well-written blog post or article might capture a reader’s attention for only a few minutes. A well-delivered podcast, however, can keep its audience steadily engaged for an hour or more.
Many large organizations have begun experimenting with podcasts. Companies such as GE, Prudential and Netflix have launched podcasts within the past year.
Megan Calcote, podcast producer for @EducatingGeeks and @BizJournalism, recently hosted a beginner’s tutorial, in which she shared a high-level look at how to get started. Here are some takeaways from that session:
The time to jump in is now.
You may be asking yourself: “Should I do this?” “Do I have the content?” “What’s really in it for me?” or even the wretched “Who do I think I am?”
The medium might seem saturated, but it’s a great time to jump in, Calcote says.
There’s a burgeoning audience ready to listen and hungry for content—especially when they’re on the go. “Many love to listen on their commute,” Calcote says.
If you have something to say and you’re not hearing it yourself, give it a shot. For instance, life insurance provider Prudential found an avenue for content in its 40/40 Vision podcast, a four-episode series about life after 40, hosted by writer/actress Faith Salie.
If you are looking for it, it’s likely that someone else is, too.
Beware the wild authenticity.
I’ve heard podcasters refer to their world as the Wild West of radio. There are no rules, and everyone is figuring it out as they go.
This presents a challenge for those seeking structure in getting started. On the flip side, it provides a great deal of opportunity to make your own way.
For example, the idea for Calcote’s Educating[Geeks] podcast was born after she learned that a friend had never seen “Star Wars.” Rather than stop at enlightening one person, the group behind the podcast decided to educate people about geek culture at a broader level.
It’s a concept that’s easy to replicate in the PR realm. Brands, campaigns and products are all created and driven by individuals. A podcast is the perfect medium to highlight the personalities of all those involved in grander marketing concepts.
You may feel inclined to replicate the best of the best, but—as with blogging—being yourself can have big impact.
Bloggers pull readers into their lives through personal anecdotes, using text and imagery. The human voice, though, is far more intimate than the written word. Emotion, tone, sarcasm, excitement and humor can be conveyed more easily.
Authenticity is truly the key, and perhaps why a “no rules” environment serves the podcast medium well.
Consider these best practices for a smooth launch:
- Solidify your idea. First, you want to hone an idea and determine your target audience. A quick Google search can show you whether podcasts on your focal topic are already out there. “Don’t give up because someone else had a similar idea,” Calcote says. “Find a different take; maybe you can do it better.”
- Plan your content. Just as you would create an editorial calendar for other content, it’s important to plan your show from start to finish. After your idea is set, Calcote says to plan each episode and line up all your guests before you start recording.
- Keep to a schedule. “Podcast listeners are appointment listeners,” Calcote says. Much like the pre-internet TV audience, they are creatures of habit. Whether it’s daily, weekly, bi-monthly or monthly, set a schedule and inform your audience. Consider it similar to your press release or blog post cadence: Consistency demonstrates reliability.
- Commit to a specified amount of time. For writers, converting your wordsmithing skills to podcasting can mean convenience for you and your audience. Audio delivers information faster than the written word can. If you are adding podcasting to an already busy schedule, consider recording shorter or less-frequent episodes.
- Equip yourself. A high-quality podcast requires high-quality equipment. You could record directly through your phone or computer, but superior audio is more likely to keep listeners coming back. If you are the only one speaking on the podcast, a cardiod or unidirectional microphone will do. If you plan on having multiple speakers, you’ll need a bi-directional or omnidirectional microphone. Calcote suggests starting out with a USB microphone. When you’re ready to upgrade, buy an XLR microphone and interface to process the audio into your computer.
- Find the right software. You’ll need software for recording and editing. Free services like GarageBandand Audacity enable you to both record and edit. Once it’s done, you can upload it to hosting sites such as Soundcloud, Libsyn and PodOMatic; you can then distribute your podcast through iTunes, Stitcher or Google Play.
- Market your podcast. This is hugely important. “No one will listen if they don’t know it’s out there,” Calcote says. Social media is your greatest friend in this regard. Use Facebook and Twitter to post old and new episodes and to get the word out. These platforms help you engage with listeners and get their feedback. Consider other sites too, Calcote says, depending on your brand’s niche. If your podcast is lifestyle-focused, Instagram can be a great avenue for promotion. LinkedIn is the ideal platform for business-based podcasts.
Author Anna Jasinski is manager of audience relations at PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter at @annamjasinski or on Snapchat. You can also catch her sharing the latest news in journalism and blogging on @BeyondBylines. A version of this article originally appeared on Beyond PR.