5 steps to creating an awesome and engaging podcast

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Podcasts seem like they would be easy to create. You just hit record and start talking, right? But engaging podcasts, ones that people enjoy listening to, require forethought and planning.

After a year immersed in podcasting, I’ve created five essential steps to create a podcast that engages and delights your listeners and conveys your story in a compelling way.

  1. Start with a strategy
    As always, think first. Before you hit record, take some time to think through what you want to accomplish with this podcast. What brand attributes are you trying to convey? Who are you trying to reach, and what do they care about? What key goals are you trying to achieve? How can those goals be translated into messages that all of your content ladders up to? And what will make this podcast special and unique—for example, do you need specific ambient sounds or music, images, a certain tone?
  2. Define the topics
    Once your strategy is defined, brainstorm as many topics as you can, making sure they are true to the brand and the messaging pillars you just created. Then refine them, checking that they are authentic, unique, and valuable. Remember, good storytelling is all about the details. The more specific you can get, the more interesting your podcast will be.
  3. Outline the episode
    You are now ready to get into the details. Start by deciding on your ideal length (I typically suggest between 12–20 minutes, which is just under the average commute time in the U.S.). Next, define the key segments of your podcast. At a basic level, you’ll have an introduction, topic set up, topic deep dive, and close. But you may also have updates, questions from the audience, challenges, or guest speakers. Once you have your segments identified, detail out the key messages. If there’s any specific message that needs to be voiced, for example, a tagline or introduction, write that down. If your podcast consists of questions and answers, write down key points. Personally, I prefer not to script out the entire podcast, however if you are working with someone who wants or needs a script, consider it (just encourage them to put it in their own voice). Finally, make sure that your hosts have the outline in advance, and help them prepare by setting up walk-throughs or sending information (articles, stats, etc.) on the topic they will be discussing.
  4. Record and edit, and edit some more
    OK, it’s go time! Make sure everyone is prepared and that you have the best quality recording tools on hand. If you don’t have access to a professional studio, at least invest in a good mic and some basic software. Also, be sure to have access to a quiet room (no ticking clocks, phones turned off, etc.). If you aren’t proficient in recording software, bring someone in to help as this can be extremely time consuming to learn. As you are recording, keep the pace going. If you are working with one host, make sure there are pivots in the presentation to create interest. If you are working with more than one person, for example, a host and a guest, make sure that no one person talks for too long. Once the recording is complete, edit for flow first and then listen to the podcast numerous times for details. Is it on brand? Did you accomplish what you intended to? Is it clear and concise? I typically listen to a podcast 5 to ten times before I give it an ok.
  5. Publish and promote
    Not to state the obvious, but your podcast has to live somewhere. Decide where that “where” is, thinking through whether or not you want the world to have access to your podcast (i.e. on iTunes), or whether it’s really just meant for a specific and private set of people. One of the podcasts I worked on this year was for an internal team at a large organization. It may be released into the wild at some point, but in the near term, iTunes would have offered too much exposure. And don’t forget to promote via all of the usual channels, from email to social media. Even if people can subscribe, you still need to remind them, because let’s face it, we’re busy and we forget things.

Do you have podcast tips to share? Please post in the comments. And join our discussion in the Big Thinkers Society, our free Facebook group for current and aspiring digital strategists!

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I am the EVP, Strategy at Wunderman Thompson Seattle. I also teach, mentor, and coach women in digital strategy.

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Laura Porto Stockwell

Laura Porto Stockwell

I am the EVP, Strategy at Wunderman Thompson Seattle. I also teach, mentor, and coach women in digital strategy.

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