What is a podcast? learn how to start a podcast the right way

podcast is an audio program to which you subscribe and can listen whenever you like. Podcasting is becoming increasingly popular for both entertainment and business, but with so many platforms and formats, it can seem like a daunting and overwhelming endeavor for small business owners. It might also feel like a waste of time—can podcasting really benefit your business in tangible ways?

Yes! Podcasting for businesses offers a number of benefits. While many small businesses struggle to find effective platforms that they can use to communicate with their audience on a regular basis, podcasting can help build business relationships with their current followers, grow their audience, and establish themselves as thought leaders in their industry. 

Brands who advertise their products and services on podcasts see an average of a 14% increase in purchase intent. Since 32% of Americans listen to podcasts at least once every month, your potential reach is enormous. 

Podcasting is an outstanding way to set your business apart from the rest while growing your audience and proving that you are an expert in your industry. 

In this beginner’s podcasting tutorial, you’ll understand what exactly is a podcast, and we’ll walk you through the whole step-by-step process on how to start your own podcast the right way.

Step 1. What is a podcast? definition and types

podcast is an audio file that’s made up of a series of episodes that can be of any length, format, frequency and that can literally cover any type of topic.

The Lexico dictionary definition of a podcast is:
“A digital audio file made available on the internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically”. (ref: lexico.com)

Users are able to subscribe to your podcast, and they’ll automatically be notified when you release a new episode. Some platforms allow subscribers to opt-in so that new episodes are downloaded automatically upon their release. 

There are podcasts from individuals, companies, influencers, comedians, TV and radio networks, and many more. Business podcasts typically focus on discussions related to the industry at hand. There are plenty of marketing podcasts, for example, that talk about lead generation and that interview leading experts. Wedding planners might start a podcast about planning on a budget, wedding etiquette, or tips to plan the biggest bash of the year. In many cases, businesses are able to share their knowledge with their target audience while attracting potential customers at the same time. 

Podcasts can actually be either audio or video, though audio podcasts are typically more popular. This is for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • They’re often more convenient for users. Users are able to listen to audio podcasts on the go, while they’re doing dishes, at the gym, and while driving. They couldn’t necessarily do this well with a video podcast.
  • They’re easier and more affordable to make. You can record an incredible podcast relatively quickly (and without even doing your hair or putting on nice clothes) from the comfort of your own home. Because it’s audio-only, there’s typically less equipment involved and it’s faster and cheaper to produce and edit.
  • They take up less space on users’ devices. Video naturally takes up significantly more memory than an equivalent audio file. This may sound like a small detail, but it’s significant; users are going to be more likely to download content that won’t eat up their battery life or their storage space.

“51% of the US population (approx. 165 million people) have listened to a podcast”

Types of podcasts

There are multiple different types of podcasts to consider, and each one works well for different purposes. It’s important to consider which you’ll use before you ever start creating your content, or even mapping it out.

Here are some of the most popular podcasts formats:

#1. The interview podcast

The host talks directly to an individual, who shares their unique experience. A great example can be seen here on Mixergy, where the host interviews Erin Hooley, who created a 6 million dollar hairbow business.

#2. The solo podcast 

This can include shared thoughts from the host, including tips and tricks. It may work with a Q&A format, where they answer questions submitted by readers in advance. Ask Science Mike uses this format regularly.

#3. The conversational podcast

Individuals who can share their success stories or discuss current industry trends and news together are a great choice for podcasts. The conversation between two people can be more dynamic, which is fun for audiences to listen to. Plenty of business podcasts take this approach, which you can see an example of here from HBR IdeaCast.

#4. The multi-host podcast

You may have multiple guests here who are all weighing in on something. This can be dynamic and exciting, but it also can be overwhelming. Anyone who has been on a conference call is familiar with the “oh no, sorry, you go!” phenomenon that can happen here, but this can be carefully managed and edited out later. An example would be NPR’s 1A.

#5. The non-fictional storytelling podcast

This isn’t quite as common for business podcasts, but it can work. (Think about our public relations hypothetical example that we discussed earlier on.) This focuses on truthful reporting, which you can then discuss. Non-fiction podcasting requires journalistic integrity and transparency, but for businesses who want to focus on storytelling, it could work. You can see an example of this here from 99% Invisible.

Step 2. Podcast hosting tips to start you off on the right way

Just as there are certain appeals that motivate people to subscribe or listen, there are certain elements that all great podcasts share. If you want to find success with business podcasting, you’re going to want to consistently meet a few key criteria. Here are some podcast hosting tips to start you off on the right way:

#1. A well-defined core topic. You want to choose a core topic carefully because you need to stay true to it. A gardening podcast that was created to teach people how to grow fruits and vegetables may lose some followers if they start talking about the pros and cons of different kinds of rose bushes. You want to be able to choose a topic niche enough that it’s appealing to your audience and that it stands out, but broad enough that you can continually create great content. 

A gardening podcast about fruits and vegetables is easy to maintain. One specifically about the merits of gardening green beans would be a lot more difficult to continually create new content for. 

#2. Interesting content. The content that you’re creating needs to be interesting enough that your audience wants to tune in, even if they’re learning something. Ask yourself what they need, and what value you can offer.

#3. Keeping the audience at the center. All great podcasts keep their audience in mind at all points during the creation process. They’re thinking about what their audience’s needs, pain points, and interests are while generating topic ideas, choosing a format, and inviting guests to their show. If you lose focus on what your audience wants, it’s much harder to create strong content that will yield results.  

#4. A consistent, regular-release schedule. People will stop tuning in (or never subscribe in the first place) if they see two podcasts from 2018, one from 2019, and none from 2020. Even if you have some of the best content ever, if it’s not consistent, people naturally don’t trust it. It looks like you’ve started something you couldn’t finish, and customers will wonder what else you can’t follow through on. 

#5. A high-quality audio experience. Have you ever tried to watch a video online that was a little fuzzy, or that kept getting paused because of a streaming issue? It might have been enough to get you to click away. The same thing is true for audio, too. 

To prevent this, use the best audio editing software to ensure a consistently great experience for your listeners.

If you’re looking for some tools to get started, free tools like Garage Band and Audacity are okay, but the premium paid tools like Adobe Audition will be superior across the board. 

#6. A Strong, established structure. Even though this isn’t a conventional narrative, we all naturally like structure. Having a beginning, middle, and end to your podcast is important to help listeners feel grounded. 

You may start every podcast, for example, with a recap of what’s happened in your industry in the last week before moving on to introducing the guest, having some small talk, and then diving in. Again, consistency is an advantage here. 

#7. Authenticity. People want to trust and like the person that they’re listening to. If they don’t, they’ll tune out just as quickly. 

Make sure that you’re as authentic and transparent as possible; you can do this while still being professional. Sometimes, a few personal anecdotes are all you need to help with this.

The best days and timeslots for podcasts
Best publishing day: Wednesday
Best publishing timeslot: 2 AM Wednesday, 2 AM Tuesday, and 11 PM Tuesday
Best download day: Thursday
Best download timeslot: 5 AM Tuesday, 5 AM Friday and 5 AM Thursday
Ref: What time should you post your podcast?

Step 3. The essential podcast equipment needed

Before starting a podcast, you will want to invest in the right recording equipment to ensure that you’re getting high-quality audio results. You want clear audio that’s been carefully recorded and edited. 

Here is the main equipment that you’ll need: 

  • A microphone. Your microphone will be one of the most important parts of equipment that you purchase because it determines the quality of audio you can record. You can find a solid list of recommendations at varying price points. Even if you have a headset that comes with a microphone, it’s best to purchase one separately; they work better and are superior.
  • Headphones. When you’re listening to guests and when you’re editing back, you want to be able to hear everything. A strong set of quality, noise-canceling headphones like Bose can work well.
  • A pop filter. Pop filters allow you to speak directly into the microphone without experiencing the popping sound of “b’s” and “p’s,” which are naturally amplified in microphones. Pop filters are cheap, costing around $20, and very much worth it.
  • Recording and editing software. You can’t just talk into a microphone; you’ll need to be able to record yourself and any guests or co-hosts calling in. Adobe Audition is a great choice, allowing you to both record and edit audio with top-of-the-line editing features.
  • An ID3 Editor. If your recording software doesn’t enable you to tag your products using ID3 tags, you’ll want to get an ID3 editor. ID3 tags allow you to store information like the episode’s title, track number, cohost, and album art with the episode itself.
  • A podcast hosting account. In many cases, it’s a good call to host your podcasts on other accounts. This can give you more visibility, and it prevents your podcast files from devouring all the bandwidth on your own site. Soundcloud is a popular option, but you can find a full list of great options. 
The Best equipment for podcasts
Best USB microphones for podcasting
Rode NTB USB Microphone
Blue Yeti USB microphone
Audio-Technica AT2020USBi condenser USB microphone
Razer Seiren Elite USB streaming microphone
Best XLR microphones for podcasting
Shure SM7B cardioid dynamic microphone
Rode Procaster broadcast dynamic vocal microphone
Audio-Technica AT2035 cardioid condenser microphone
Samson Technologies Q2U USB/XLR dynamic microphone
Best podcast headphones
Audio-Technica ATH-M50X professional studio monitor headphone
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth headphone
Sony MDR7506 professional large-diaphragm headphone
Best podcast pop filters
Dragonpad USA microphone Pop Filter
Nady MPF-6
Musician’s Gear Double Pop Filter 6
Best free audio recording and editing softwares
Audacity – Free, open-source, cross-platform audio software
GarageBand for Mac

Step 4. Ask yourself why are you doing a podcast

You want to start a podcast for your business!

Excellent! 

Why?

It’s important to answer that question, “why am I starting a podcast?” Most businesses don’t typically decide to start one “just because.” They might want improved search visibility, the chance to demonstrate their expertise, or a new way to network within their industry. 

Before you actually start creating a podcast for your business, it’s important to consider why you’re starting it. What’s the purpose? What exactly do you want to achieve? 

The answers should shape the podcast you create.

Here are a few of the reasons some businesses choose to start a podcast:

  • Improve business visibility. Investing time into keyword research for your podcast episode titles and descriptions can mean more customers are able to find you.
  • Drive sales. You can drive sales of your own product or services (or affiliate products or services) by mentioning them when relevant and building trust with your audience.
  • Monetize. Generate income by attracting sponsors who are willing to pay you to run ads on your content.
  • Build relationships. It’s easy to build a relationship with your target audience as they see you as a thought leader in the industry, encouraging higher retention rates. 

Consider your goals and what you want to accomplish. Rank them in order of priority, and then move to the following step.

Step 5. Define who is your podcast for

Who is your podcast for? You shouldn’t do anything without first considering your target audience and the niche that you really want to reach.

Imagine that you were starting a tech-focused podcast. There’s a huge range for who your audience could be, even if you’re looking at “tech consumers.” You could have one audience made up of mostly 20-40-year-old men who like gadgets; they don’t really care how it works, just what it does. Another audience could even be software developers and engineers who love technology and like to understand exactly how it works. 

Someone who likes to use a high-end computer, after all, maybe a different audience member than the person who actually builds a computer.

When defining your target audience, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How can my business, product, or service help them? How would they use it, and what pain points does it solve?
  • What information does my audience need to make buying decisions or to excel in my industry?
  • What is their demographic information? Who are they, and what motivates them? 
  • How much time do they have available? Podcasts targeting young parents may need to create shorter episodes for their chaotically busy audience, while one targeting single people with dating tips would likely not have this same constraint. 
  • What interests your audience? You may find an interesting potential for niche ideas, like “Things Game of Thrones Can Teach Us About Business Management Techniques.” 

Step 6. Give people a reason to listen

You want your podcast to benefit your business. That much is a given. But that means you also need to catch people’s interest and get them a reason to listen, to do so you must provide value. Point.

Ultimately, there are three main elements that get people to tune into podcasts week after week:

#1. Entertainment. People love to be entertained. It’s why those murder-mystery “whodunit” podcasts became so popular: our attention is piqued, and then we can’t wait to get ahold of the next episode. While many businesses may be focused on more technical topics, it can still be entertaining when you’ve got a charismatic host or guests.

#2. Education. This element in particular is where many business podcasts thrive. Many people tune in to podcasts because they want to learn something, and this is your chance to prove yourself as the industry titan that you know you are. 

#3. Inspiration. We all love feeling good, and inspirational, motivational content can give you the same feeling as a rush of endorphins. Everything feels possible. 

Keep in mind that your business podcast doesn’t need to choose only one element off the list and stick with it. Instead, it’s best to combine all three when possible.

Plenty of B2B marketing podcasts have charismatic hosts that joke around with their guests, clearly having a good time on the show even while discussing cutting-edge strategies, technology, and more to educate their listeners. Plenty of business podcasts also share inspirational stories, whether it’s an outstanding case study or a personal account from a guest who built their own business from scratch. 

Consider how these different appeals work well together, and how you can leverage them in your ideal podcast.

Step 7. Choose a podcast name

At this point, your podcast is starting to get fleshed out. You know who you’re targeting, what it’s about, and what results you want to optimize for.

At this point, you can choose a name for your upcoming program! 

Here are a few things to consider:

  • You want the name to be interesting and attention-grabbing. This can help you drive initial clicks and listens. A name like “Business wars” is simple but clever, and it makes you want to at least see the summary of what the podcast is all about.
  • It can be clever, but it should also be relevant. You want users to know what they’ll be listening to when they see it. A podcast name like “How I Built This” for example, tells you everything you need to know.
  • It should be short and sweet. You want it to be easy to read and fast to read. “Mixergy.” “The $100 MBA Show.” “HBR IdeaCast.” These are all simple, and won’t require a scrolling deck on a car radio or your cell phone to show users the full title of the podcast.

When in doubt, come up with at least five names. Choose your top three, and get feedback from friends, family, and peers that you trust. The objective opinion can be valuable, and they may even have suggestions for improvement or new ideas. 

Step 8. Choose your podcast topic

We discussed this briefly a few sections above, but once you understand your audience, you’ll want to choose a specific core topic that will define your podcast.

You want this to ideally be unique enough that you stand out, but broad enough that you’ll appeal to enough people. It should be both interesting and valuable at the same time. 

Let’s say that you own a public relations firm, and you want to use a podcast to attract new clients who are currently looking for representation through search and to establish yourself as an expert.

You might have a few ideas right off the bat:

  • A podcast that accepts guest consultations. This is more heavy advertising on your part. You can allow guests to join with complex or simple PR questions, which you can then answer. Share strategy tips and more. The downside, of course, maybe that you give away too much information about your strategies that you may not want publicly known.
  • A standard podcast sharing PR best practices and tips. This might be an extension of the blog that you already have. It’s valuable, even if not fully groundbreaking as an idea, and it gives people strong information they could benefit from.
  • A podcast that looks at PR disasters. There are plenty of PR nightmares ranging from small to enormous, so this would give you at least a solid season’s worth of content that would be entertaining. You could share your perspective for what was done wrong, and what should have been done instead.

After looking at a few different topics, you want to line them up against the buyer personas you created in the step above and consider what would work best.

Which topic is most sustainable, what would drive the most results, and which would allow you to best connect with your target audience?

In this case, the PR disasters might be the winning idea because it’s different, it’s sustainable, and it’s potentially highly engaging.

Step 9. Choose a call-to-action that drives results 

In each podcast episode, you’ll want to feature a call-to-action (CTA) that’s designed to drive specific results.

Common examples of CTAs may include:

  • Subscribe so you never miss an episode
  • Share the podcast if you love it! 
  • Sign up for our email list for more information
  • Check out our site to learn more 
  • Send feedback and let us know what you think
  • Buy our product / the sponsored product here
Tip: Your CTA can change from episode to episode, but it should always be in line with your overall goals for your podcast. It doesn’t make sense to focus on engagement like “send feedback” if you’d really rather try to encourage users to purchase instead. Choose the right time and place (and episode!) for each CTA for best results. 

Step 10. Decide who will be hosting the podcast 

The host of a podcast can legitimately make or break its success. 

Your host must be charismatic, approachable, friendly, knowledgeable, and likable. They should be able to develop a strong rapport with guests if you’re choosing to incorporate guests into the show’s format and to be quick on their feet with strong interviewing skills. 

This may be you, but it may not be. 

You’ll also want to make sure that you have the time available to dedicate to hosting the podcast repeatedly. Since it’s your voice, this isn’t something you can hire a ghostwriter to tackle for you if you get too busy.

If you do decide to be the main podcaster, it’s a great opportunity to promote yourself along with the company while creating that thought leadership in a concrete way. You’re getting to build relationships with customers yourself.

If you’re too busy or you don’t know that you’d be most successful, you can consider other members of your team. You can always appear as an occasional co-host or as a guest.

Step 11. Choose a co-host

Once you’ve chosen a host, you’ll want to decide whether or not you want a co-host, too.

Some podcasts always have two co-hosts. In some cases, the co-host is the same, but in others, the co-host may change regularly. 

Evergreen Profits, for example, has the same two co-hosts every week, and it’s the two owners of their company. The Social Media Examiner podcast, however, historically had revolving co-hosts. 

Step 12. Hire a podcast editor 

You may want to edit your podcast yourself. That’s great! In many cases, though, it’s a great idea to hire a professional podcast editor to ensure that the final product is in perfect condition.

A great podcast editor will be experienced and should be able to show you samples of past shows that they’ve worked on. They’ll be professional and detail-oriented, and they should absolutely be able to adhere to strict deadlines. 

To find a great podcast editor, you’ll want to ask the following questions before hiring someone:

  • What is your experience like, and how long have you been editing podcasts?
  • Can I see samples of your work? 
  • What is your process for editing audio?
  • How do you charge? Is it a flat-fee, hourly, or per-project?
  • How often do you raise your rates?
  • How much availability do you have?
  • When will you send me an invoice? 
  • What turnaround times can you offer?  

It will be important to find an editor who can offer high quality at a price you can afford. You’ll also want to look for someone who can turn around content relatively quickly; the last thing you need is to have a timely episode take three weeks to come back your way.

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