Nine Lessons from Four Years (and 200 Episodes) of Podcasting

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It was a little over four years ago that Jim Obermeyer finally convinced me to start a podcast.  We call it radio, because technically it’s a live show every Thursday as part of a bank of content broadcast as an Internet radio package.  We get far more people listening via the podcast subscription and RSS feed than listening live, but it’s still fun to call it Sales Pipeline Radio.

At the time most of my content was written (I’m a print journalist from back in the day) and had thought about diversifying my content format.  And since I was in my high school’s radio broadcast club (true story…) I thought a podcast might be worth a shot.

In short, it’s one of the best content decisions I could have made and continues to be a foundational element of our content and business development strategy for Heinz Marketing.  And every indication in new content trends into 2020 indicates that podcasts are only strengthening in influence overall.



With our 200th episode upon us (we record/publish once a week except for holidays), I wanted to share some of my personal lessons and best practices.

Know your “why”

Like any marketing initiative, it’s critical that you have objectives establish up front.  Totally fine if you want to adjust those over time, but this isn’t going to work if you aren’t working towards something.  It probably won’t last either if it’s just a vanity project.

Knowing your objectives can help you determine other features such as format, frequency, guest strategy and more.

Create a process

Perhaps the single best thing we did early on was document and continually optimize a consistent process for executing each weekly podcast.  From inviting guests to coordinating their call-ins, from providing pre and post-episode social and content teasers to repurposing the content through other channels afterward, we’ve brought the whole process down to a science.

My total time investment each week (including the 28 minutes we record live) is less than an hour.

Put it on the calendar and Stick. With. It.

In a way we were forced to do this because of the live format, but I can also honestly say there’s no way we’d have this volume of shows, this subscriber moment and impact if it was easy to “take a week off” more frequently when things get busy.  Our weekly time slots are literally like booked air time.  If we don’t use them, we still pay for it.

So establishing and keeping the habit of every Thursday at 11:30 (11:27 to be precise) forced us to create the habit that’s made us successful.

Curate guests carefully

With the growth of our listenership has come daily pitches to be guests on the show.  It would be really easy to just book a bunch of interesting people who come inbound from their PR firms, for example.  And I bet we could make the content compelling.



That’s not what we do.  One of the keys to our success with the podcast is curating specifically who is featured.  Regularly for example we’ll invite the CMO of a company on our Named Account list to join as a guest.  Sometimes we’ll ask her directly, sometimes we’ll go through her PR firm.  It’s a great way to get some “face time” with her, have her get to know us a little bit, and provide some PR for her company and cause as well.

We’ll also occasionally feature great authors and thought leaders with unique insights as well as their own audiences to help amplify the awareness and reach of our show as they promote their appearance in parallel.

Repurpose

Every episode is 27-28 minutes of great content that becomes not just a live show and on-demand podcast but also a weekly Monday morning blog post as well as key sales & marketing content, quotes and highlights we can use throughout our content, social and speaking calendar.

I’m sure we’re not doing nearly as much as we could to leverage and repurpose this rich source of content from dozens of smart people each year, but the point is to not let it be just a podcast.

Episode titles and descriptions matter

They matter as a teaser to get people to download (or join live) and they matter when people start searching for that topic online.  I know many podcast hosts who very scientifically create titles and descriptions based on deep SEO research, for example.

I’m not usually that precise, but do think about the topics we’ll likely cover and try to write titles that make it sound fun, interesting and valuable to listen.

Consider a sidekick

That’s right, go find your Ed McMahon or Andy Richter.  I’ve been incredibly lucky to have Paul Roberts as our studio producer who introduces the show every week.  It’s been a ton of fun to have a little small talk with him at the start of each episode.  Sometimes he’ll even chime in with a guest question of his own.

Whether you have a true co-host or something who can be your sidekick “muse”, consider adding some variety of voices to increase voice diversity, audience interest and humor factor.



Give it time

Just like a blog or other format, it’ll take time to build an audience and regular following.  It was at least two years before our numbers started to jump, and in 2019 our listenership was greater than the first three years combined.  Be patient, disciplined and consistent.  It’ll come.

Have fun with it!

Remember that they can hear you smile, even through the radio, computer speakers or AirPods.  If you’re having fun, they’ll enjoy the journey and experience as well.  There is literally no topic that can’t be presented and discussed with a little humility, humor and lightness.

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