“I want to do a podcast. What do we need?” Vicky told me a couple of weeks after I joined ACEVO. I was excited about the possibility of creating a podcast from scratch, so I made a list of things (software, gadgets, hosting platform) while Vicky put together a list of civil society CEOs for us to approach, and as a team we decided the format (a chat) and what it would be about (leadership).
Not long after our first podcast meeting, we already had a few recordings scheduled, including one in Leeds (which ended up being the first episode, with Alison Lowe) and one in Glasgow, with Duncan Dunlop.
10 episodes later, we are wrapping up year one of Leadership Worth Sharing (And I’m happy to say there will be year two!). It has been a great experience for me, as a producer and editor: not only to sharpen my technical podcasting skills but also to have this unique opportunity of being in a room with inspiring social sector leaders, just listening to their insights and witnessing conversations that, most of the times, revealed a great sense of humour (including Vicky’s!) and a commitment to their causes and the sector.
As quite a few people – from CEOs to comms and content peers – reached out throughout the year curious to know more about what it takes to make a podcast, I wanted to share the key things I learnt.
Prepare a briefing and talk to the guests before the recording
This makes everyone’s lives so much easier! Together with Vicky, I write a short briefing with information about the guest and the organisation they work for. I check if they have done any recent interviews, I take a look at the charity’s most recent annual report and go through their social media. Then, we come up with the questions, which Vicky sends to them in advance. However, the questions are not set in stone: as the conversation progresses, and the guest feels more at ease or tells us something that we didn’t know, Vicky sometimes takes another direction or digs deeper into a specific subject.
You don’t need a lot of equipment
It is possible to do a podcast with just a computer: you can record and edit the audio using free software (we use Audacity). We decided to spend some money on a good microphone (Samson Meteor), as we don’t record in a studio and needed to improve the audio quality. We also subscribed to Soundcloud to host the podcast (which then generates an RSS feed which can be used to add the podcast to Apple Podcasts and Spotify). Lastly, we subscribed to a transcription website (Trint) so we have a text version of all the episodes so that people with hearing impairments can access the content.
Don’t worry about the time
Leadership Worth Sharing episodes are in average of 30 minutes long. We record at least an hour, so don’t worry if you think the conversation is taking longer than you thought it would. I’ve noticed our guests were usually tense for the first five to 10 minutes (I think almost all of them said: “This is my first podcast, I’m nervous!”), and they tend to relax, crack a joke or two and share their best advice towards the end. Credit to Vicky, of course, for making them feel relaxed – but once they realised it was just an informal conversation and Vicky wasn’t there to challenge them but to learn from them, the atmosphere changed.
But do prepare for the amount of work!
Recording the podcast might be the most important bit (for obvious reasons) but it is by far the easiest. There is a lot of post-production work. I estimate I worked a full week for each episode (briefing, recording, editing, transcribing, promoting on social, liaising with guests, keeping track of plays), so take that in consideration when planning the frequency of episodes and how many you need to record in advance.
Promote, promote, promote
There are over 700,000 podcasts out there (and 29 million episodes). So, however popular your first episode was (launch episodes usually get a lot of buzz but shouldn’t be used as a benchmark for the following ones), save time in the social media calendar to keep promoting it. Make it easy for people to find your podcast (give it a home, like this one), and don’t let older episodes die. Each time you release a new episode, you will probably get a spike in plays/downloads. But remember that lots of people don’t listen to podcasts in any particular order (unless you are telling a story in chapters).
Keeping your guests in the loop is essential, as they will help to promote the podcast. Let them know with a few days in advance when the episode is going live, and tag them on social media.
I highly encourage anyone that is thinking about podcasting to go and do it. There’s still plenty of space for good content and I truly believe many more people are yet to start listening to podcasts.