How to plan your podcast

This is part one of a series of posts about how to make a podcast. For the rest of the series, just follow the links below.

In case you haven’t heard, I have a podcast called How2Wrestling which I run with my boyfriend Kefin Mahon. I specify boyfriend because the premise of the show is kind of built on that. Kefin introduces me, his girlfriend, into the world of pro-wrestling to see if it’s possible to get a new fan interested in the sport that infamously doesn’t cater to new fans. Luckily for us, How2Wrestling has been a huge success. Within one day of launching our very first episode on iTunes we made it to number one on the US iTunes Sports charts, beating all other wrestling podcasts at the time. It was an odd feeling when we released our third episode on Stone Cold Steve Austin and our episode about him beat his actual podcast. We also made it onto the top 10 charts overall in the UK, which is when the podcast’s success really started sinking in – to my father’s shock and pride we were beating The Archers.

Dads really appreciate success when they can measure it against their favourite radio shows.

Like a lot of content, podcasting is a form of media creation that seems like the easiest thing in the world, when you’re not doing it yourself. I don’t know if there’s anyone who’s ever listened to a podcast in the history of man and hasn’t thought “I could do that”. And all those people? They’re probably right. It’s true, most people could make a podcast! All you really need is a microphone, access to a computer and something to talk about. It’s super easy. Where it gets more difficult, is making a podcast successful. That’s where people get caught out.

On the surface, a successful podcast is two things: funny and informative. Everyone thinks they’re funny when they’re hanging out with friends after a few pints, so podcasting must be no big deal! Sure, if your listeners are also your friends. Unfortunately, if you want to establish a sizeable audience, you must be prepared to scrap the in-jokes or risk alienating listeners. As someone who makes a podcast with their boyfriend, I know how hard that is. References to real life events that wouldn’t make sense to our listeners get left on the cutting room floor.

So let’s say you want to start a podcast. You have your banter and your microphone, but you’re aiming higher than just your friends listening. You’re prepared to put in the effort and make it great. How much work is exactly involved in that? You may be surprised.

Planning

This is the most exciting and also the most frustrating part of making a podcast – the planning. A plan is ESSENTIAL for making a good podcast, no excuses. You have a lot of questions you need to ask yourself at this stage. If you can’t answer them, you need to rethink your idea.
What’s your podcast about?
Is anybody else doing it?
If so, are they doing it well?
Who’s your audience?
How long will each episode be?
How frequently will you release content?
Is your podcast time sensitive?
How many episodes can you make before you run out of ideas?
What is it called?

These are the absolute basics you need to have answers to before moving on to the next step. This process should take you two weeks, minimum. For How2Wrestling it took several months, and that’s considering Kefin’s previously two successful podcasts (The Attitude Era Podcast and Cinema Swirl), his podcast consultancy and my own three years experience as a digital media strategist. Even with all that, we didn’t underestimate the importance of having a plan.

Planning II

So you thought planning was over? Fraid not, buddy. Now you’ve established what your podcast is about, you need to get everything ready for you to release your first episode. That means creating an email address, accounts on social media, designing your logo, getting your theme music, setting up your hosting (we use Soundcloud) and deciding on episode artwork. This is the boring/stressful bit, because you’ll be incredibly excited at the prospect of launching your amazing new idea, but you can’t until all of this is done. Until this stage is finished you shouldn’t even mention the idea online.

This stage varies hugely in length. For How2Wrestling it took well over a month, because we commissioned our theme music (we hired Sam Chaplin who also made the Cinema Swirl theme) and decided on using full-colour custom illustrations for each episode (for this we hired Dan Swanton, who does a truly incredible job knocking out such intricate artwork on incredibly short deadlines). We could have sped up the process hugely by using royalty free music and standard episode artwork, but we wanted the podcast to have an artistic flair that would make it stand out amongst other wrestling podcasts. Coincidentally, both Sam Chaplin and Dan Swanton are available for hire, and their contact details are at the end of this post. I cannot recommend their talents enough.

So, you’ve got your social media accounts (you can decide which to use; Twitter and Facebook are essential, but if you’re not sure of your workload, it might be worth introducing other platforms such as YouTube/Vine/Instagram/Pinterest/Tumblr later on. There’s no shame in starting small and testing the waters), your logo and your hosting. It’s time to record an episode.

Next: Part two: How to record and edit your podcast.

 

Part three: How to plan your podcast.

Part four: How to launch your podcast.


Dan Swanton: @derdferts
Sam Chaplin: @samchaplin