When Andrew Brown and I first started meeting in a Bagel House location to record our conversations about business and entrepreneurship, podcasting was in its infancy. Apple had enabled this new form of media on iTunes not long before, and enthusiastic amateurs were filling up listeners’ playlists with hours of material.
Podcasting has grown by leaps and bounds in the years since. The share of the North American population listening has risen from 9% to 17% over the last seven years says Brown, my former co-host and co-author on Business Truths: 96 Ways to Build Loyalty, Grow Profits, and Succeed at Everything in Between.
While company blogs may be more common, plenty of businesses have recognized the value of recording their own podcasts for customers, suppliers, prospects and the general public. For example, some law firms make them for the consumption of their peers and competitors, to display their expertise in case their listeners ever have a client to refer. That’s a unique niche, but every company can benefit from getting their message out in audio form.
At the top of this page you’ll find the 400th episode of BusinessCast, likely the longest-running entrepreneurship-focused podcast in the English-speaking world. Over the course of all that talking and taping, we—Brown, editor Peter Linseman and I—have learned quite a lot about what makes a successful podcast.
1. You need to give to get (an audience)
Building out and monetizing an audience remains a challenge for podcasters, admits Brown. Most businesses aren’t looking to cash in on the media they produce directly, and that’s actually an advantage—you can focus on making great content instead of money.
BusinessCast follows the thought-leadership approach. As with any kind of knowledge sharing, it can be tempting to hold back the good stuff—after all, that’s what your customers pay you for. But remember: The more information you give your customers via your podcast, the smarter and more successful they’ll be. You’ll have better—and bigger—clients who will be easier to serve.
2. The format may change, but the focus shouldn’t
When Brown and I started, we would choose a topic of the week and discuss it in depth, just the two of us. Then we started interviewing guests, initially in person at a home studio or coffee shop, and eventually over the phone. Those thought leaders, entrepreneurs, academics, business leaders and influencers brought their own insights and ideas, and that helped increase the value of listening.
While the voices may have changed, the focus hasn’t—the BusinessCast mission is still to give listeners the information and advice they need to make their business better. Bringing in outside experts via interviews was just another way to do that.
3. You need a distinct sound
Along with the shift to telephone interviews came the need for proper editing. “[Make] it sound concise, clear and compelling,” counsels Brown.
Putting people in front of a microphone changes the way they talk warns Linseman, the owner of independent record label and artist management firm Music Mentor Production. “You’d be surprised at the difference between a person’s regular conversation [and when they’re speaking with the] pressure of being perfect in their content, of selling what they’re selling … and speaking eloquently about their story,” he says.
After we’ve eliminated all the tangents and pauses, the 20–25 minute detailed interviews we do get edited down to about three-fifths that length. The result is a sound akin to AM radio, and that’s by design. “The research on podcasts suggests that a lot of people are consuming them as they would AM radio—on drives to-and-from work, or at the gym,” says Brown. “[It’s] in those personal times [when] businesses strive to get some airtime with an audience.”
Pick your own sound, and find a way to make it stick. With so many podcasters out there, lacking quality audio is the easiest way to lose listeners.
For more BusinessCast podcasts, click here.