What’s the secret to making a great podcast? It’s one of the most popular questions that we get asked. So we thought we’d reveal all about how you can turn your podcast from ‘meh’ to ‘great’!
We all want our podcasts to be a success right? (and how you define what podcast ‘success’ is to you is probably a future blog post!). So naturally, we want to know how to make a great podcast to ensure that success – you get me? What is the magical formula to increase your chances that your listener comes back for the next episode and the one after that and the one after…you get the picture.
We also asked our podcaster community over at MIC’s Podcast Club their secret to making a great podcast. It then quickly became very clear there wasn’t just one big secret – but FOUR. This quadruple whammy of secrets is all centered around your listener, who is the most important person involved with your podcast.
And between you and me… they’re not secret at all, just straight-forward common sense – but shhh don’t tell anyone or everyone will be making great podcasts…
1. Quality Audio
Put simply, if your audio sounds shit and you wang on, people will switch off and not come back.
Think about it, how do you react when something horrible sounding gets in your ears? You try and get as far away as possible from it!
There are simple things that you can put in place to help you to record good audio – and you don’t have to make it expensive. Stuff like making sure you’re in a room with soft furnishings and your mic placement is bang on. Look, you could buy the most dreamiest, beautifully crafted mic, some real top-of-the-range stuff, but if you use it wrong it will sound rubbish. Guaranteed.
Also, if you are recording with guests, especially if they’re online, make sure you brief them so that they can get the best audio too. So ask them to be in a room with soft furnishings, that they wear headphones etc.
Having said that, over the last year people have become more used to audio that sounds ‘zoom’ recorded. But don’t make that the whole of your content.
I often say that if the start and finish of your podcast is of good quality, your listener will be more forgiving if the middle bit is not as sharp. If this is the case own it – explain to your listener that the next bit was recorded online, your guest was caught in a blizzard, it was bin day…whatever – give your listener a heads up. You don’t have to make a big deal of it, but it shows you’re aware of it, you’re addressing it and you want your listener to know too. They’ll be pleased you did. Especially if there’s a marked difference in audio quality.
An example of quality audio from MIC Media
We’ve addressed this very simply in the episodes we recorded online for our podcast ‘Supporting Women in Social Enterprise Podcast’ that we make for Flourish Together CIC. We’ve asked the ladies who voice the intro’s to simply say the content was recorded online. So for example,
‘Coming up, we caught up online with Jo Wells about financing your social enterprise’.
Just a simple, but effective addition, that keeps your listener informed and guide their listening experience.
2. Engaging and Relevant Content
Could you tell me who your listener is?
Or, if you’ve not started podcasting yet, who is your ideal listener?
What do they like, what job do they have, how do they get to work? Ok, so it might not be as granular as that…but you’ll find many great podcasts know their listeners (if they’ve been going enough to learn who their listener is) or they know who they want to reach. (we talk more about the audience in this post ‘3 things you need to know before starting a podcast’
News flash though, sorry but your podcast isn’t for everyone – Meredith Hill sums it up in one of my favourite quotes, “if you speak to everybody, you speak to no one.”
When you know the answer to these questions, you can create content, book guests, pick topics to discuss, basically craft your podcast around your listener. You can then design your marketing and messaging to your listener – and attract more of your listener. This is how you create engaging, relevant content.
Content’s not often high on the list of priorities for some though. You’ll find that lots of podcasters are stuck in a growth mentality; “we must have lots of listeners, we need thousands… we need to attract, grow, grow..” Well, what about flipping this and serving the ones you have better, and making the growth of listeners less important? Think about this for a second, how can engage and serve your existing community of listeners with your content so they keep coming back?
Our podcast for Children’s University is a great example of this
Liam Nolan, the charity’s Communications Manager says having a podcast for them, is all about reaching the right people,
Podcasting is using the unique format to get your message to the right people. If the right people a small handful of people who may open doors for you or help start partnerships, be able to put you in the right direction, vouch for you, introduce you funders…you only need it to be heard by 10 people, as long as those 10 people are the right people. It’s not all about the number of listeners. That’s the joy, that’s the magic of podcasting for charities.
3. Audience journey
We’ve already mentioned the listener is the most important person involved in your podcast, so have you thought about their path through your podcast episode? Including how they find you, when they start listening, right to the very end, even when they switch off; how do you want them to feel or what action do you want them to take? We like to call this, ‘easy-in, easy-out’.
When we asked podcaster Neil Bruce what he thought made a great podcast – it was all about the #feels, he loves podcasts that make him laugh out loud, has a narrative that’s so engaging “you sit in your car on your driveway or walk the long way home,”, or inspires him, “whether that’s a comment, advice or tip that makes me want to go and do something straight away.”
Podcast editor Alex Bennett loves those ‘lightbulb’ moments, he says “a great podcast I think, is when new or complicated ideas are talked about in a way that makes them super approachable and understandable.”
In this case, we’re allowing for the fact that our listener might not be an expert and so we craft scripts and the content delivery around this.
Rupert Cornford heads up Story Publishing and for him as a podcast listener, he loves the little additions that can boost the content, he adds “like the use of music, to change the pace and mood is very cool”.
This is another way you can enhance the content of your podcast how the content. Are there other elements, as well as voice, that can help your listener understand, imagine or be guided through your storytelling / narrative?
On top of this, think about the edit of your content. Don’t make your episodes longer or shorter than it needs to be! Again, this is about you knowing your listener and what will makes them yawn or be begging for more!
We’re creatures of habit, aren’t we? Sporadic release schedules aren’t ideal for building a community of listeners. For example, releasing your episodes on different days, or with no pattern as to when they’re released. Much of the wild nature of posting episodes, comes down to the simple fact that life has got in the way. Lots of us set out with all intent and purposes to do a weekly podcast. After six or seven episodes the fatigue sets in, there’s no way you can keep this up – argh!
I know all about this – I’m a podfader! My first podcast hasn’t released an episode since 2019 – as I just don’t have the time to make it. Massive sad face.
Ways to avoid podfading
Be realistic about your time when you start a podcast. If you can only do something fortnightly, do that. You can always increase later. You could also release your podcast by series, so you don’t have the pressure to release something weekly forever and ever amen.
Oh, and if you’re doing it with people, make sure they can defo, defo, defo commit the time. There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t read a post on a podcast facebook group, about someone looking for a co-presenter because their buddy has thrown their podcasting towel in.
Consistency shouldn’t stop at the production of your podcast neither, you also need to continue this across your content and marketing too.
For our Strong Manchester Women podcast – we released a weekly episode for 14 weeks. To get one step ahead of ourselves we made sure we’d recorded about 80% of the interviews before we went live. We’d also made 5 episodes in advance. All this prep was so we didn’t find ourselves chasing our tails every week. I don’t think I could have coped with the stress!
We also had a promo checklist, so for each episode we wrote and published a blog post, produced a transcript, an audiogram and social media activity around these. We planned this activity in advance so a) we knew what we were in for b) we could allocate the time in advance!
Consistency is slick and professional. You don’t see Coronation Street having a week off because they didn’t get the episodes edited in time. Jo Wiley doesn’t just turn up to Radio 2 HQ when she likes and flicks the ‘on-air’ button on.
So what impression do you want to give your listener and your community?
One final, extra secret to making a great podcast is to ask yourself –
Why do you keep returning to your favourite podcast?
Written by Vic Elizabeth Turnbull, MIC Media founder & CEO
Looking for support to produce your podcast? Contact MIC here, let’s have a chat about your podcast ideas.