This should be in your mind from the get-go. Think about how you're going to be releasing the show to your audiences. This will inform how quickly you have to work and what the specifics of the format will be.
Many successful podcasts are released very frequently. Weekly is a great way to do things.
However, it also comes with added time pressure. sometimes you might want to spend more time crafting a narrative that is more expansive and in-depth. In this case, it might be a case of producing a limited series. For example, create eight episodes and release them weekly. Then you might want to think about a series directly after. That way you are in your listeners' ears for four months straight.
However you choose to release, commit. Don't vary the schedule and don't try a trial of two or three episodes. It's likely you won't get enough information and feedback from those episodes anyway.
Primarily, we work in long-form audio, producing podcasts that are engaging and informative. In order to make this sort of work, it’s incredibly important that we create a firm base for whatever we are going to create. You can’t build a house on dodgy foundations. Well, you can, but we prefer not to.
First, we think about what is always front and centre for us – story. We find it necessary that, initially, we distance ourselves from any ideas of what we might envision the final product to look like. We tip out the contents of the toy box and see what we have to play with.
For any given episode of a podcast, we first use prep calls to dive into the topic we will be exploring. We talk to our hosts, guest and experts to find what our hook is – the element of an episode we will build intrigue with. It's not enough to discuss a topic, you have to dissect it.
From there, it’s a question of building a structure that we will follow. This takes the form of a document outlining the episode. We call this our show notes. We start with a broad overview of the story direction. Then, we move on to the nuts and bolts.
Our show notes tend to be split up into sections - as with any good story. Each section defines the key themes and assigns priority questions or discussion points that guide things along.
Overall, we like to begin with a problem, find a way in which that could be solved, and then challenge the solution. Then, we often think of the future.
For optimum effect, you should try and play with all possibilities. For instance, never be afraid to play devil’s advocate. You should always create work that challenges, especially if it is a discussion. If you find a point that everyone agrees on, think of how you might disrupt the equilibrium. Audiences don’t want lectures, they want an exploration of ideas. They want to learn.
Strong guests will make a good podcast great. Maybe they are brilliant speakers. Maybe they are experienced in front of a microphone. Maybe they are very well-respected in their field. Maybe they have a terrific rapport with your host. All this is to say, getting the right guests is an important part of the process.
It's also another difficult hurdle. You have to find the right guests and you have to book them, balancing schedules and release dates to make things work.
Here is some advice for booking:
Assembling your list of potential guests, think of tackling the task in a three-tier process. First, think of friends and co-workers. Then, think of your wider network. After that, look to reach out to high-value people you might not have an affiliation with.
You have to sell the project to a potential guest. They have to be excited by appearing on your show. So follow this basic structure when getting in touch with someone:
- Tell them who you are and who you're working for or with.
- Give an overview of the project. i.e. what is the format, tone, and intended audience?
- Tell them the episode topic you would like their voice on.
- Suggest an initial call to introduce the production team and host. Make sure you lead with dates or at least narrow down a week. Don't be vague.