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How to Create The Best Podcast Episode - In 10 Easy Steps

Jan 29, 2020

The Challange We Face As Podcasters

One of the biggest challenges and most frequently asked questions when talking with podcasters of all types is, how to create an effective episode, hits all the touchpoints, and avoids the common pitfalls that most podcasters make.

Knowing how to craft an episode is as important as promoting that episode to your internal or external audience.
In this massive blog post, I have identified the 10 essential steps to creating the best podcast episode, dare I say ever!

Let's review the process of how to approach podcasting more effectively. I work with several podcasts from the guest-driven podcast, to solo shows, internally focused for my corporate and enterprise clients and every variation of a podcast you can imagine.

Research Your Guest

One of the first and I think one of the most important aspects of episode planning is research. Especially when you have a guest based podcast or if you're interviewing an internal stakeholder.

My corporate and enterprise podcasters pay close attention, just because the guest is from within your organization, don't take it for granted that you know everything about what they do. Use your knowledge as a starting point. Gathering a few personal details, some interesting things about their jobs if you don't want to go too personal. Education, special training and certifications can be a great lead-in for the interview.

Guest stories can add anecdotal flare and keep things interesting while remaining professional. Corporate podcasters can focus on things the guest is really proud of what they want to highlight.  Focus your research on creating a full picture of the guest, their purpose and serving your audience.

Recently I was speaking with a speaker coordinator about a podcast she was invited to appear on. They asked her to complete a form full of questions including having her come up with five questions for the host to ask her about herself! That's just lazy! You don't invite people to a podcast and ask them to work so they can be on your show. Now I'm not saying don't get basic information but asking a guest for more than is in their bio is outrageous. I really hope that hits home for some of you and that it prevents new podcasters from making this avoidable mistake.

 Craft Attention-Getting Headlines

Of course, I'm not suggesting that you post clickbait or listenbait headlines for your podcast that are misleading. I do however want you to focus on interesting and statements that can stop the scrolling long enough for them to take interest in your message. 

Go negative to grab attention! Counterintuitive, I know but calling out a pain point as your episode title can be one of the most effective ways to appeal to listeners that have audio options. Would you rather listen to a podcast with a title like, Sales Success 101 or Never Lose A Client Again?  

You're delivering the same message but getting to why they should listen, it's so they don't lose another client. So spend time thinking about and crafting headlines you can attach to your guest.

Create A Captivating Introduction

Most podcasters will tell the guest to introduce themselves or give a brief introduction, which is usually reading the person's bio. Something I learned when I first started podcasting was to do a great intro for your guests. Think about it, you have to opportunity to be a ring announcer and brag about their accomplishments. 

The added benefit is it also warms up your guest for a good conversation. I've had a good intro save an interview where the guest was slow to warm up in the pre-interview but a great intro actually woke them up to deliver. Intros can show that you've, in fact, researched their background.

Insert an Audio Call to Action

I'm sure we agree that calls to action in marketing are vital to the success of any ad. A Podcast is an ad of a different nature. Right after you introduce the show and right before you introduce your guest is a good time to go into your call to action. Something as simple as "If you would like to continue to hear interviews like (Mention last week's guest etc" please subscribe on... your platform of choice.

Optimize for On-Page SEO

Yes, SEO matters in the podcasting world. Keywords that highlight the points of the podcast is vital for creating an audience that grows. The "Show Notes" which can include transcripts for the podcast are a way to have the entire interview text crawled by the search engines that may aid in getting your podcast discovered organically.

Most podcasts are hosted on sites that benefit from "Show Notes" that double as a blog post or deeper dive explanations on the subject matter discussed in the podcast. These notes can be an informal sales page of sorts providing valuable information to your listenership and for learners that also love to read you're including one of the learning modalities. 

Create Talking Points to Stay On Topic 

When you're doing an interview, I strongly recommend before the interview, you outline the topic you're going to be talking about, at least in talking points. I like to use bullet points, and I'll use an Asterix to highlight things that I want to make sure to talk to the guest about.

The reason I do this is so that I can stay on topic with the story arc that I've developed for that particular episode. If I have a guest, or whether it's a solo show, I make sure to have these talking points in front of me, so that I can stay on track.

I tend to ramble on, so the notes are there to make sure that I touch each point at the right time. I may have three or four bullet points at the beginning of the interview, and it will say the origin story. Afterward, I  have a few more bullet points titled build up. Then after that, I'll have a story arc and continue on finally with my wrap up bullet points. Using talking points to stay on the topic can be one of the best was to stay on topic and deliver an amazing interview.

Understand Your Audience

Of course, it's important to understand who your audience is and the people that you want to serve. I understand that from the audience that I've built. I have a lot of coaches, and professionals, but my audience is pretty wide-ranging for both podcasts. The Social Strategy Podcast audience is primarily social media managers, chief marketing officers, and marketers.

The Space Between Podcast is made up of coaches and people interested in personal development and people looking to build a business. The thing that you want to do is make sure that you do really understand what your audience wants to hear. Developing a listener profile for your audience is also an effective way to envision who you want to build your audience for.

That listener could be Jill in St. Paul, Minnesota, who's 35, and usually spends 25 minutes on her commute to work every day. Jill likes true-crime podcasts as a guilty pleasure but loves to be motivated in the morning so she likes podcasts with positive stories she can get in before getting to work. So you want to make sure that during that 25 minutes that she's getting the value that you want to provide.

Once you've built that audience reach out to them on social media, provide surveys, and create assessments to get to know your audience.

Proofread Your Post and Fix Formatting

Spelling mistakes are acceptable in a text message, but not in your podcast notes. Podcasts vary from simple show notes with only the basics while others have very extensive show notes. In the event you're not familiar with the term show notes, it's the same as a blog post. 

Some podcasts even have transcripts of the entire interview. I've not really done transcripts for my podcast, although that is something new that I'm considering for my podcast.  It's also important to make sure that if you link to your guest websites, social media or project that you verify the links work.

Because you're linking to their online properties, that's a backlink basically for the guest. In turn, some guests will actually create a special page or special post on their website, portfolio or bio sites that link to your interview from them. I've had several interviews where guests have links on their websites back to our interview because of its media exposure and good for their brand.

As a podcaster, you've got their bio so proofread it and make sure that it's formatted so that it shows up correctly on mobile. Google is indexing more for mobile so make sure that if you're using a WordPress site that your WordPress site does have the plugins to make the site more mobile-friendly.

Episode Quality Matters, Not The Length

The funny thing about episode length is that it’s vital, but then again it’s not.  I will get questions every time I talk to podcasters about how long do you think an episode should be?

Well, the thing is, is that an episode should be as long as it needs to be. The reason that I say that is you can't judge the quality of a podcast based on the length of time the podcast is recorded. You have podcasts that are all over the place, Some that are five minutes, Some that are three hours like the Joe Rogan podcast or the Joe Rogan Experience.

I use that all the time as an example because it's one of the longest podcast that I know of, that people actually listened to and listen to the entire thing. I've no reason to talk to a guest for three hours but for Joe Rogan that works. However, you have to find what works for you and your audience.  Once, I actually did have a friend and author who wrote a book called Happy Work and we ended up talking for 90 minutes! That was a lot longer than I would normally record and I should have split the episode into at least two conversations because we covered two different subjects, but I just left it as one long interview.

My point is that it's the quality of the episode that matters, If you know 15 minutes in that you're pretty much done you should ask a couple of questions to lead to the wrap-up, and then wrap up the interview.

It's better to have an interview that’s short and to the point than to try to stretch an interview out for 30 minutes just to meet a length standard. It doesn't matter that much. The quality matters more than the length of the episode. People want to hear good stories and great advice, so focus on quality over the length and you will win.

Speak Passionately About Your Topic

I can't say enough about having and conveying a passion for your subject. All too often I hear new podcasters and even speakers talk to their audience like they're reading the phone book. It's one thing to stay organized and have questions or better, talking points. However, reading the question is a non-conversational way as if it's the first time you've ever asked a question can quickly turn an audience off, make you seem like an amateur to your guest and prevent you from really getting your message out to the world. Now as I step off the soapbox, I'm going to provide some tips on how come across naturally when podcasting so you sound like a seasoned media professional even if you're just starting out.

It's all about how you listen. Remember that communication is more about listening than it is about speaking. During your conversations and interviews make an effort to listen intently to the person you’re sharing a conversation with to understand what she’s saying. Don’t listen just so you can respond. I've listened to so many podcasts and early in my podcasting career, I've done this as well. I would listen, then ask a question that had nothing to do with what the person just shared.  It's a missed opportunity and can be very offputting to your guest and leaves the audience wondering why you didn't dig deeper.  

The other issue that will also affect how you speak about a topic is a lack of knowledge about the topic. If you have a guest on that's written a book, make sure in your research that you read the book, or at least go through the book from cover to cover and make notes about some of the interesting things in the book so you have a base of knowledge to start with.

Keep this in mind, Only perfect practice makes perfect.

So, practice recording your podcast in front of a mirror, or better yet, a camera. Take note of any moments of bad posture or hand gestures and fix accordingly. Pay attention to what your body language is saying and organize your interview in the way you want to deliver it.

The tone of voice can be everything when it's just you a guest or two and a microphone. Sit up, smile and enjoy the process. Trust me you won't be disappointed.

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