Top 5 Tips for Starting and Sustaining a Successful Podcast
All the tips shared are from the mind of Ashley, Founder and Co Host of Schoolin Life, a weekly podcast about life, love & (occasionally) libations. Learn more about Ashley, Schoolin Life, and why cloth dinner napkins are truly a wave by listening to the podcast on your favorite podcast platform or visiting schoolinlifepod.com.
Podcasting is an art form that continues to grow. And with Apple's estimate of more than one billion podcast subscribers, there is still room in the market for new comers. However, if you’re unsure of how to break into the medium, all the convos about preferred mics, bit rate, subscriptions, and reviews, can leave you feeling more than overwhelmed. My name is Ashley and I’m the founder and co-host of the award-winning podcast, Schoolin Life, a weekly podcast about life, love & (occasionally) libations. I’ve been podcasting for nearly two years and have amassed more than 25,000 downloads, hosted six live shows and events, gained several corporate sponsorships and every day, I learn something new about the podcasting world. Podcasts provide the perfect mix of on-demand, personal, useful content as well as a platform for everyone from financial gurus to comedians, and true crime detectives to political commentators. The good news is that there is room for you too. And I’m happy to share my top five tips for starting a successful podcast.
Have something to say.
The best podcast hosts have a position or an opinion that they want to share. They aren’t wishy washy or unsure; they are clear and their audience comes back every week for more of that individual opinion. The most engaging podcasters are also storytellers and even if their topic of the week is the same pop culture story that EVERYONE else is talking about, it is the way that they tell the story that makes an audience stick. Once I casually made a quip that I HATE when people use paper towels as napkins. (Paper towels are for spills: napkins are for the dinner table.) This random statement is one of the things that for whatever reason has stuck with our audience and that they often recall—to agree, disagree, or comment on. Somehow I have become a thought leader on napkins because I shared an opinion and it stuck. Before launching your podcast, make sure that you have an informed opinion. Have something to say and be prepared to defend it, even if it’s about the power and importance of dinner napkins.
Be a student of the art form.
The best authors read, the best artists listen to music, and the best podcasters listen to other podcasts. You must be a student of the genre to be good at it, and I’d recommend you consider podcasts that are nothing like yours. If you’re launching an advice podcast, listen to political commentators; if you are starting a comedy podcast, listen to some true crime. Inspiration can come from anywhere in the field and knowing how others set their shows up, can give you fodder for an idea that might work with your audience.
Audio quality matters.
Regardless of what you have to say, if listeners can’t hear your voice, they aren’t going to continue listening. You don’t have to spend $5K on audio equipment, but at least record in a space that is free of ambient noise. The bare bones audio equipment would be a pair of headphones with a mic, a computer that can capture your audio, and some editing software (We use Audacity. It’s free, intuitive, and exports easily into the major platforms.) Remember that the running dishwasher, the barking dog, and the ceiling fan will be background noise that will turn off your listeners. Podcasting is an intimate experience for your audience and anything impeding their ability to listen is a distraction. Avoid distractions.
Be where you say you’re going to be.
I’m sure you’re bored with hearing the merits of being consistent. We’ve all heard the story of the tortoise and the hare, and I get it; it’s old news. But if you say you offer a weekly advice podcast that comes out on Tuesdays, be a weekly advice podcast that comes out on Tuesdays. Don’t be a, ‘Hey guys, we had technically difficulties this week so we’re going to re-record and catch you this Friday; Follow our Insta Stories to see what we’re up to next week’ podcast. One of the greatest compliments we get from our listeners is that they look forward to Tuesdays, because they expect to get a new episode of Schoolin Life. They dedicate time and celebrate the entire day because they know that eventually they will hear those bells ring to begin our episodes. How dope is that?! Be that dope. Be consistent.
Grow with your audience.
Change is inevitable and that's a good thing. You’ll change, your audience will change, and hopefully in 2020, the leadership of this country will change (prayers and votes up). Podcasting is not a stay-in-your-lane genre. It’s OK to venture out a bit and talk both food and lifestyle, travel and family, or advice and current events. If your audience really buys into a certain segment, give them more of that. If there is something going on in the world that is relevant to your audience, speak on that. Avoid completely switching it up on your audience and shifting from providing free legal advice to turning into a comedy podcast, but aspects of law can sometimes be funny, so crack that joke or invite a comedian on to talk about the intersections between comedy and the law. Also as your audience grows, they may want something different from you and you should consider giving it to them. When your audience starts having kids, buying houses, getting married, or any of the markers of adulting, they may want content that relates to the new stage in their life. Give it to them, as long as you align it with the goals and values of your brand. A good podcast, like a good story, evolves; yours should too.
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