Craft and Refine Your Message and Personal Brand
This is part of Libsyn’s blog post series, “How To Start a Podcast — Step By Step for Every Kind of Podcast.” Check out the introduction to the series, including levels of podcasts, planning your show, how to set up your studio, and equipment for recording a podcast.
Script Your Podcast at Least a Little
Before you begin recording, have a script or show notes prepared regardless of your experience level. The show notes can take the form of a full word-for-word script, simple bullet points, a list of general topics you intend to discuss, or a hybrid of all three depending on your comfort level with ad-libbing.
How do you know what kind of show notes work best for you?
Scripting your podcast is the best practice. The show notes will help you stay on topic and create the desired flow for your podcast, as well as give you immediate feedback on what works or didn’t work for you. I’ve heard from hundreds of podcasters say the most challenging part is pressing “record” and talking.
I produce and co-host a show called She Podcasts. My episode level show notes are a high-level outline with key discussion points under each story we cover, including quotes from articles or other sources. They make me feel confident in what I’m saying and provide a foundation when we get to actual discussion during the show.
I use my show notes as a reference. Sometimes I use them all, sometimes I skip most of them. The show notes help my brain to stay on task and recall the information I have.
My co-host, Jessica Kupferman, doesn’t go at it the same way. Even though she appreciates the outline and the resources, Jessica shines at the adlib and improvisation. She can have an entertaining conversation about almost any topic, whether she knows about it or not. Jessica is a genius at being in the moment and always has insightful things to say with the bonus of being totally hilarious.
We’ve been publishing weekly episodes since 2014, and it took us about a year to figure out our strengths, weaknesses, and how to work together in a way that felt good. We’ve also iterated on how we get our show notes together for each episode, which is an ongoing process.
Everyone learns and processes information differently. Scripted show notes might help or they might not. You won’t know what works best for you until you have tried different methods out.
Prepare an Intro & Outro
Don’t forget to plan out your intro and outro!
The intro is an excellent place to introduce yourself, your show, and the purpose of your episode.
Your intro doesn’t need to be very long, here’s a sample:
This is episode 0 of The Awesome Show Podcast with me, your host Awesome Sauce! In this episode, we’ll be covering how to live your awesomeness in three easy steps.
The outro, also under a minute, can include a summary of your topics, the key takeaways from the show, what to expect in the next episode, how to send you audio feedback, or a call-to-action for the listeners. It helps to establish a brand for your podcast while enticing your audience to return for additional episodes.
Be conscious when scripting your outro. Keep it clear, concise, and use it to encourage your listeners to take action with you.
Two calls-to-action at the end of your show is perfect.
Have one of the calls-to-action motivate listener engagement. Here are two examples:
Email me at email@example.com!
Call me at 555-555-5555 and let me know which of the three awesomeness tips resonated the most with you!
Have the other one be a general reminder of how to connect with you on social or promote products and services that you’re offering (Patreon, a digital course, a swag shop, a membership, partnership, and more). The outro call-to-action is where you do it!
Add Some Musical Flair
Music and sound effects can be another way to express your personality and set the tone for your show. Two important things to keep in mind with music and sound effects are:
1. Avoid having them compete with or overtake the conversation.
2. Music copyright can get a little sticky. Unless you are using your original music or correctly implementing copyright and royalty regulations when using other people’s music creation, you might be risking your podcast with legal trouble.
There aren’t too many places to get copyright-free music to use for your podcast. One place to start is Podsafe music. Another one that offers music covered by Creative Commons and is Podsafe is ccMixter. When browsing these catalogs, make sure you’ve read the licensing and comply with the type of attribution required from that license.
If you have the budget to invest in music for your show, you can go two ways:
- Sign up for a service that provides Creative Commons Music and makes sure you’re covered, like Epidemic Sound.
- Hire a pro to create your intro/outro music like MicMe (They created the music for our podcast The Feed!)
Get Comfortable In Your Recording Space
Finally, make yourself as comfortable as possible before actually recording your episode. Have your show notes, water, lip balm, and other essential materials on hand before recording the show.
Make sure your equipment is working properly (check out our post on recording equipment for more info), and consider doing a test run before your official recording!
A test run will inform you of possible issues that you might have with your audio, so you can either make changes to the recording space you are in or do some adjustments with your mic technique. You don’t have to record your entire show; a few minutes would be fine.
Recording tips based on the three levels
If you need a refresher on the levels, check out our previous blog post that talks about the podcast and podcaster levels.
If you’re new to podcasting (and public speaking in general) and are starting your Level 1 podcast, it’s a good idea to create detailed show notes for each main point or topic of discussion in the episode.
Although you are not reading your show notes word for word when recording, you’ll have all the information when you need it.
Regardless of your level, the first time speaking into a microphone can be challenging, especially if you’ve never listened to yourself speak in the mic before. Having a show notes can provide a security blanket as you develop your show and become more confident as a host.
If you choose to rely heavily on your show notes, it’s essential to focus on the delivery — you want to sound natural, not stiff or overly rehearsed. Rehearsing can help you sound more natural since practice gives confidence and allows you to find the best phrasings and emphasis.
PODCASTING TRUTH: No matter how much you rehearse, there is no better way to become good at what you do than actually doing it. The act of podcasting will be your biggest teacher.
While music and sound effects can add a bit of flair and personality to offset any unintentional stiffness, not all podcasts need music or sound effects to inform or entertain their audience successfully.
In fact, including a lot of sound or music can sometimes distract listeners from the main message. For first time users, focus on the content of the podcast before getting into additional elements.
Want to make the best show with little or no money?
Planning your show notes and doing a test run will be your best solution. In doing so, you will preemptively address editing and content issues that might require you to spend extra hours to resolve it, buying an audio plug-in that helps to clean up the audio or hire an audio engineer.
The most important thing to keep in mind as a Level 1 podcaster is that you will have to invest more time in preparation, testing, and research.
However, if you are primarily doing your show for self-expression and you feel strongly about creative freedom and just doing your thing, then just do it! The most fantastic thing about podcasting is that you can do it any way you want.
That’s why setting your expectations is so important. They will help you decide what works best for you as you take the journey.
Level 2 is all about your goals and expectations for having a podcast. Your podcast might be supporting an existing business as a lead generation channel, a strong marketing initiative to your existing business, or the podcast itself is a proper business.
The stakes are higher, but you are willing and able to put in the time, attention, and budget into the podcast.
PLAN YOUR FIRST FIVE EPISODES TOGETHER
There is a reason why you are creating your show. Your audience needs to know what that is, so they know what to do after listening to each of your episodes. I’m not talking about the content here, I’m talking about strategy and messaging.
There will always be a first-time listener; repetition solidifies connections, and helps your audience take action.
For each of your five episodes, try to answer these questions:
Does your listener know what you do, what your business is, or why?
Does your listener know what to do next? Hire you, sign up, opt-in, etc.
Does your listener know what’s coming up next for the show?
Does your listener know what to expect before the show?
When you answer these four questions as you plan your episodes, you will start to develop the skill of content threading. Your new and existing audience will benefit from knowing who you are, what you want, how to get more of you, and what they need to do to get more.
It doesn’t matter if you are building a TV/movie review podcast franchise or a podcast that serves the accounting community through interviews to sell your accounting software. When you consciously and deliberately weave the answers to those questions in your episode creation, it will start to create a solid ongoing foundation toward achieving your podcast goals.
Why plan the first five episodes together?
1. Content for five episodes is just right to work on together, not too much or too little.
2. It gives you a chance to pivot and/or refine content with each episode.
3. It offers insight on whether or not content creation will be easy or more of a challenge.
4. It forces you to be clear about what you want from your podcast and how to make sure you have it.
TAKE IT UP A NOTCH IN PODCAST PRODUCTION
Our previous blog post, Plan Your Podcast, covered why you’re creating a podcast, who your audience is, what format your podcast will follow, how long your podcast will be, and how often it will be released.
Now is the time to take it up a notch into the podcast production logistics, specifically how much time and budget you need to allocate.
Ongoing of the moment content
Of the moment shows rely on the latest news, information, or releases of the industry you cover. Planning the show and topics is dictated by things happening in your industry right now. It requires all hands on deck, the ability to make last-minute changes, and a willingness to work under tight deadlines.
Shows like this require being tapped into the latest releases, a keen sense of curation, and an analytical mind. The work might seem never-ending, but the dopamine hits that you’ll get when someone comments and what they create with the new information you provided often serve as the fuel to keep going.
POWER TIP: Of the moment shows often require citations of published articles and possible use of existing audio or studies. Check out this all-inclusive online legal guide for podcasters to learn more about using content produced by others in your podcast.
For those that feel the best planning ahead and sticking to a content planning calendar, evergreen content is the way to go. Evergreen content is the type of content that holds value regardless of when your audience listens. There are times when your evergreen content might need a minor update, but for the most part, it will hold its own for years once released.
Content like this can be planned, as well as being batch-created and produced.
Batching in podcasting means that you can do the work in large chunks.
Here is how I do batching weekly:
Week 1: schedule interviews or write your scripts
Week 2: record your interviews or your scripts
Week 3: write and record all your intros + outros (if your show needs them)
Week 4: edit audio and post-production for all of the recorded shows
Week 5: write all show notes, create episode artwork, and social media marketing
Week 6: schedule all shows to be released weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly
Rinse and repeat.
You can also break down batching by day. Here is an example of a batching schedule:
Mondays & Tuesdays are content days, Wednesday & Thursday editing and post-production, and Fridays are publishing days.
This type of schedule can work great for those doing more than podcasting, which is most of us! With batching, you can easily outsource any of the parts to professionals with expertise in one aspect or all parts of podcast production. You can also hire audio engineers and podcasting VAs to help with your social media marketing and show notes, or even a company specializing in every aspect of publishing a podcast, so you can focus on creating and recording the content.
Time and Money
You might start to see that it takes quite a bit of time to get the pieces of podcast production together. If you or your small team is in charge of your show’s ongoing production, now is the time to be super honest about how long everything actually takes.
I mentioned this in the Plan Your Podcast post and I will say it again.
The rule of thumb is to estimate how long you think it will take to create an episode and triple that time — that’s how long creating an episode really takes. Trust me on this.
An average estimate of how long it should take to edit the audio for your show – 3 min for every 1 recorded minute.
30 minutes of recorded audio = 90 minutes of editing.
When you first start out, you can only guess how long things will take, but as you do more podcasting, you will have a clearer understanding of how much time you need for every episode.
You do not have to do all of the things. More and more podcasters outsource the most time-consuming tasks, the tasks that they have little knowledge of, or the tasks they hate doing.
The podcasting industry is currently rife with post production companies, podcasting services, and individual professionals who can be hired to get things done for your show.
If you would like to outsource, start to budget:
How much are you willing to spend per episode?
How much time will outsourcing save you?
One of the best places to start looking at rates and searching for professionals is podcast-centric Facebook groups. But, like with anything else, it is up to you to vet who you hire.
You have the budget and you want the best of the best! Here are suggested best practices for you to get ready.
Hire a podcasting strategist – they can help to give you a high-level point-of-view on how to structure your production process and your production team. You probably need a couple of sessions with a strategist to get clarity around what kind of team will work best and get advice on companies and consultants that align with your goals.
Consider hiring an in-house podcast producer – they will be in charge of ensuring all podcast production processes and tasks stay on track, including helping you figure out the tech and maybe even facilitating interview recordings (if your show is an interview show.)
Invest in hiring podcast marketing specialists – there are marketing companies out there that specialize and know podcasting. There is nothing like having a marketing team that knows how to market a podcast! You can also have one of your current team members take a podcast marketing course, so that they can learn and bring the knowledge back.
The most important piece of advice at level 3 is that you must have a quarterly review of your show. Every three months, you should outline and evaluate how your show is doing and whether or not it’s getting closer to your goals, which might include:
- What are the most manageable parts of production? What are the most challenging parts?
- Are you having fun? Is it satisfying?
- Measure performance and growth: number of downloads, audience feedback, social media platform growth, etc.
- Have people been taking action with you? (Opt-ins, conversions, lead generation, etc.)
- What opportunities have come up because of your podcast?
Look at your answers as a team, adjust, iterate, and do it again three months later.
Podcasting is not a noun. It’s a verb.
Podcasting is not static. It’s changeable and malleable.
It’s up to you to engage in the process and have it work for you.
Next Up: Record Your First Podcast Episode
In the next blog post in this series, we’ll discuss the actual recording. Sign up to get an email when the next post is published.
You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line #AskLibsyn 😊.
While you’re at it, check out our free podcasting quick-start webinars, The Feed: The Official Libsyn Podcast, our award-nominated podcast about podcasting, and our amazing podcasting knowledge base designed especially for people like you.