Written by Chelsei Henderson
A high-quality podcast production requires more moving parts than most realize. We call it a production for a reason. You can’t plug a mic into your computer a couple of times a week, publish it on iTunes and expect to become the next Serial.
Establishing an active audience and building influence means investing in a strong production. Your planning starts long before the little light turns bright red.
It’s not just about the interview. Before you ever hit record, many things happen behind-the-scenes, including:
- Researching which types of guests will work well
- Understanding the best format for your show
- Scheduling and communicating with interviewees
- Creating a comfortable and relaxed environment
In today’s post, I’ll discuss each of these steps and explain why they’re so vitally important to the success of your podcast.
Step 1: Research Potential Guests
Unless you’re doing a solo read or monologue, your podcast needs guests. At Red Cup, we look at both expertise and influence when building guest lists. Both are important.
Guests bring along their knowledge and audience. Each series (a strategy of 10-13 episodes) will have a mix of undiscovered, highly knowledgeable guests and smart, savvy influencers with a large audience. While it’s often easier to book the undiscovered talent, you should also aim to interview several influencers.
Why Look for Influencers?
When possible, we research and book industry influencers for our clients’ podcasts. It’s a powerful opportunity for the brand, and it gives you the chance to siphon part of their audience to you. However, the ultimate benefit comes from the connection you’ll make.
“The true power of interviews is in relationship-building. They help you to get to know influencers, introduce you to a larger audience, and open the door to more support and cooperation in the future.”
– Leanne Regalla, Smart Blogger
When you interview an influencer, engage them in lively conversation and provide a channel to share their message, you activate the law of reciprocity. This establishes a relationship, which not only helps you during the episode but can also pay dividends for your brand in the long-term.
Tools for Guest Research
Let’s say you’re launching an education technology podcast. Your guest research could start with a simple Google search. From there, you can source authors, speakers and YouTube stars from the results who have created content around the topic. This is a great place to start.
But we like to use tools to go even deeper. Our favorite research tool is Meltwater. It’s a database that takes billions of real-time social media, editorial and blog content to extract insights on particular keyword input.
Another strong resource is HARO (Help a Reporter Out). List a query there and request podcast guests. You’ll inevitably receive responses from authors, experts, and their publicists. Finally, SheSource ensures we maintain gender equality in our guest lists by highlighting female experts on a wide range of topics.
Step 2: Understand What Works
After running podcast production on a variety of topics, we know how to spot the best format. Some brands work best as solo reads, while others flourish in the opportunity to interview a wide range of experts.
There are several types of podcast formats, and it’s important to figure out the best one for you.
The Monologues: It’s just you and a microphone. While it seems like the easier route, you must be incredibly engaging and charismatic to make this format successful.
The Interviewer: One of the most popular formats. You launch the podcast, book guests and interview them on their expertise. A great way to add value and tap into new audiences.
The Co-Hosts: This is where you have two hosts riffing off each other and discussing a wide variety of issues. Sometimes co-hosts also add additional guests to the conversation.
The Roundtable: Finding people with complementary specialties makes for a great roundtable podcast. It offers listeners a variety of perspectives, which can lead to increased value.
In addition to the dialogue format, some podcasts require additional planning to set the scene. These shows need more strategy to use sound effects and music to engage the audience.
This entire step is all about nailing down creative direction and deciding what works best.
Step 3: Schedule and Communicate
Miscommunications can damage your reputation and relationships. It’s important to have a strategy in place for scheduling and communicating with guests before the interview. Doing so will mitigate issues before they arise and cultivate a better experience for everyone.
Scheduling Your Guests
Just because you release a new podcast every week doesn’t mean you have to record one weekly. When you plan a series of episodes, you can have recording days and knock out several shows at once. It just takes a bit of foresight.
“We almost always record two shows back-to-back. It took me a while to figure this out, but it’s easier to schedule one, larger chunk of time than a few, smaller chunks. Plus, when you’re ‘in the flow’ the shows are just better. I very much recommend setting aside 2-3 hours every couple of weeks, and knocking out as many podcasts as you can.”
– Jay Baer, Convince and Convert
Find a schedule that works for you and fit your guests into it. Use a calendar tool to coordinate and make booking guests as efficient as possible. We like Calendly.
Share Interview Questions
Bobby Unser once said, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” Once we’ve landed great guests for our clients, the next move is to set the stage of preparation. We like to always share our questions in advance with guests. That way they always know what to expect and can feel prepared for the interview.
Using a tool like Quip helps us in this process. You want something simple for sharing documents and giving everyone the power to make changes and suggestions.
Step 4: Create a Comfortable Environment
You must make comfort a top priority when planning a recording. The best podcasts know how to get their guests calm, talkative and enjoying the conversation.
Doing things like asking the right questions and actively listening are ways to increase comfort during the podcast. However, there are also some preparations you can make beforehand to evoke a sense of relaxation and openness.
Go With a Pre-Recorded Podcast
Podcasts are wonderful for professionals because they provide a way to intimately connect with your audience. Conversely, when guests feel the pressure of a “live” format, they’re more on edge and scripted. This is the opposite of what you want.
To avoid a stuffy show, choose to go with a pre-recorded podcast. Your guest will feel more comfortable and give a more authentic interview.
Go Into It With the Right Mindset
When you have a guest on your podcast, a simple mindset shift is the easiest way to make things feel relaxed and flexible. What’s the right mindset? Think of it as a conversation, not an interview.
Much like with a “live” podcast, approaching this like a press interview will leave your guest feeling the need to script and filter their responses. However, if you can lead them in a conversation, they’re more likely to relax.
“A great interview will give the audience insight they never expected and will even entertain them thanks to a strong rapport between interviewer and interviewee. The more relaxed an interview subject feels, the more likely he or she is to open up and be candid.”
– Jerod Morris, VP of Marketing at Rainmaker Platform
Good things happen when you keep your guest comfortable. Find fun, interesting ways to make your show more inviting. If you’re recording in-person, for example, make the set feel cozier instead of calculated. Even the smallest accommodations can yield a great return.