There is lot of interest in starting a podcast which has been evident by the questions I see on Quora, daily emails and posts made in my community. People want to express themselves and take a shot at being a content creator through audio and share their thoughts. With the barrier-to-entry being very low by purchasing a microphone and downloading Audacity it’s not wonder there is an endless stream of shows to pick from. The internet has not only been the greatest achievement in human history, but it has also erased borders and boundaries that have been established over time. People around the world can connect in a fraction of a second and this makes the potential of creating an audience even more exciting.
Let’s take this one question, “should you build an audience first or get the interviews first?”, and explore each side and come up with a healthy balance in making all of it work. The question is simple, yet a big decision because it’s difficult to build an audience without having content, but it’s really hard to get prime interviews without being someone with reach. It clearly is a “cart before the horse”, or “chicken or the egg” type question.
You can find a way to achieve one or the other or both depending on time, money, and effort. Let’s not forget that it takes work to build a plan and the ability to find a niche and exploit it in the best way possible. I want to try to capture this in a few ways so you have options. I need to break them up into chunks so I can tackle each piece correctly as well.
Starting a Brand
Your idea and everything that will be built on top of that idea is the brand. Having your brand mapped out first is probably the most important piece. Starting a podcast is no different than starting a YouTube channel or a coffee shop. You need to think of this from a top-down approach and build this before you can build an audience or an interview schedule. I have covered this previously so I will try to make this section shorter.
Let’s just put a small list out to give you the ideas of what you should have in order to have a reasonable brand.
- Name that is unique. Please do a Google search, then go to GoDaddy and see if yourname.com is available. You have to have the .com.
- Choose to either host a website, or build a place to put your content. This could be Blogger, WordPress.com, Tumblr, or Medium to name a few.
- Decide who is going to host your media. Don’t host your media where your website is. I would strongly advise you to use Amazon S3, Libsyn, and soon the AM Podcast Network will offer this.
- Artwork is important. Get a logo, the a podcast cover (3000 x 3000px), and any other images you might need. Branding is also having the same look across your site, print materials, and social media for a start.
- Start building your social media presence where you feel comfortable. Once that’s done start writing, talking, liking, following and just be active.
- Make a decision on what’s important. Is it the audience or the interviews? I would argue that if you build a brand you are already starting to build an audience.
I learned how important buying a domain name is. Never, ever buy it from a host or service either. You strictly buy it directly from a trusted ICANN registrar. If you buy from a hosting company or someone not on the list, the third-party that registers it will own it. I lost 25 domain names like this in 2007 and it devastated me. I thought all my domains were in my name and it turned out that they were and they crushed me. I started all over and in a year I was even or slightly ahead. A year is 1-2% of a lifetime. Buy it from who you want, but I use GoDaddy for mine and I have no affiliate links for you.
Note: I will emphasize here that you don’t need a website, domain, or hosting. You can simply create a Facebook page and Twitter account and start following and talking to people. Most people who want to podcast, only want to podcast. I am coming from a different world that goes the other way. If you solely want to podcast than ignore the previous advice and just use free social to reach people.
Build an Audience
Building the audience will be done by creating your website, blogging or by just being social. Social media gives you a lot of opportunity to meet people and get seen as long as you are not spamming your stuff. Remember that building your brand is important and you have to be interesting for people to check you out further. Shoving links into a conversation is never okay and it will hurt your cause instead of helping it. You are making friends, building relationship, and getting seen. If you are good enough and contribute to the world in a positive fashion you will begin to be seen, and hopefully shared. You can watch your Google Analytics to see if your good deeds for the day translated into people coming to your site. Being a human and having normal conversation is how social should be done. If you automate, push links, never contribute or engage people, then it’s highly likely that people will ignore you.
If you are a friendly person, provide quality information either by responses on social media or blog posts you create, then it will begin to draw a crowd. The more important part though is that it takes time. You don’t walk out with 5,000 Twitter followers after 30 days. You have to be constantly on it, daily. Search for the hashtags that relate to your topic. Use the hashtags on Twitter, Instagram, and other sites that use them. Search for terms on Facebook and like them. Have a presence where your fans are likely to be.
If all of this sounds difficult to do, it’s not. Getting the foundation complete will make this step easier. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t take much effort because it certainly does. The ability to turn a casual conversation with a potential listen into a loyal listener is an art. If you make them feel like they count and they are part of your brand they will continuously check in, listen, and share with people. That doesn’t happen over night. You generally build these through social media.
The last piece that goes into building an audience is the content. This is the most difficult piece because you have to have images, blog posts, events, video, audio and a constant stream of sharing and connecting into the conversations about the content. This is how people find you and figure out if you have something to offer. You can’t simply go to Google Images and pillage someone else’s content. Original content is what makes a huge difference. Personally I have a designer that helps me create all my images so they are original and make the presentation look respectable. I don’t need any trouble on copyright and I want people to see I am not the same as everyone else. Content is the key.
Now let’s change the thought to you finishing the brand and want to worry about the audience piece later so you can focus on the audio and scheduling people to interview. Goodbye audience! See you soon.
Spread Your Wings and Interview
Before we jump straight in I want to recognize that by skipping the audience piece there is little reason for someone to figure out who you are and why they should grant you an interview. I am only pointing this out because it will be a hurdle.
You have to find out who you want to interview and the best part is that most of the popular people will be on Twitter. This is a great start by following people who you think would be interested in your podcast and follow them to see if they will follow you back. Build some kind of rapport with not just potential listeners, but also potential guests on the show. Once you think you have identified the person for your interview you can send them a DM and ask. It does not need to be formal or gimmicky either. Simply introduce yourself and your intentions then ask if they would be willing to be interviewed for your show. They will look and see if you are important, how many followers you have, and take any and all information into account before replying. They want to know what is in it for them.
This is true 99% of the time and if you skipped the brand building and/or the audience gathering and went straight to this then I would give you probably a 5% of success. Celebrities and people that get asked to do interviews have leverage and they use it. You may be stuck in interviewing people that have little star value until you have managed to build as you go. Interviews are a commodity and there is a shining example of this by looking at John Lee Dumas or Joe Rogan. He has a huge audience that will tune in and it’s worth anyone’s time to sit down and be interviewed or just chat with.
Don’t get discouraged by the last paragraph. Remember you can go back at anytime and build your brand or your audience and then try again. These are the hurdles in finding the content that people want to connect with. It’s also important to acknowledge that interviewing is difficult. If you are comfortable and well practiced then an interview can be simple. On the other side of that coin is the interview that gives you cringe when you know the interviewer is star struck or asking question that shouldn’t be asked. You can find plenty of failed interviews on YouTube so review the game plan and be ready to interview with questions others would want to ask the guest too.
We should say this again, it’s possible to get big interviews without an audience, but what is in it for them? If those interviewers are going to give you their brand which legitimizes yours then what do they get in return? An empty arena and no PR? That will probably severely limit your ability to interview someone appealing. Celebrities are their own brands and they are looking to continuously increase the value of that asset. Their brand is their livelihood. You have to remember that to get some you have to give some.
Note: If you pay them, that’s completely different. Money certainly changes this conversation.
TL;dr Build your brand, build your audience, and when you have something to talk about look for people to interview.
If you used these three areas to build your brand and have people listening to you, congratulations. Success is hard but when it’s achieved it feels great. You can always pause, digest your numbers, and figure out where to make improvements and broaden your reach. I think interviews are something you do after you brand yourself or your product. You need a game plan to make yourself worth someone else’s time. Produce an audience prior to looking for people to fill the interview slots.
I have personally always built my brand, built my audience, then rinse and repeat. I never stop looking for ways to improve and I always listen when someone has a good point to make. Something I didn’t take into consideration until a year ago is that I build all of my assets and then add a podcast to it. I found it mind blowing when I realized how many go straight to podcasting and then build their platform. It’s a dangerous bet that is hedged, but it’s one I don’t personally bet on. If you are only going to podcast and create no other content around it, at least by the podcastname.com. Otherwise it will be an embarrassment later to find out someone already picked it up.
As always, if you think I missed something or want to chime in on this, please leave a comment below. There is a lot that goes into failure and success, but more importantly I want to make sure this conversation is a value to someone starting out. To anyone starting a podcast. I wish you mountains of success and make it your biggest achievement.