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Insider tips: what makes a great podcast?

Charlotte Martyn , 3 March 2020

Podcasts are booming, with as many ‘must listen’ moments under discussion around water coolers as there are ‘must watch’ debates about TV shows. But what’s behind this success, and how can a podcast be a valuable addition to your organisation’s communications? Immediate Media’s award-winning podcast producer Ben Youatt shares his insights and advice…

Why have podcasts become so successful?

I think it’s partly because people have more on-the-go lifestyles. Although podcasts are listened to by people of all ages, they’re particularly popular with audiences between 25 and 35 – a commuting audience, people who regularly go to the gym or have a long drive into work. They’re a way for this audience to make more use of their time. If you’ve got a 40-minute tube ride every morning, it’s a way to try to optimise that time and enjoy it.

Why might an organisation or brand want their own podcast?

Depending on your goals, a podcast can work in many ways. For example, podcasts are a great way of engaging with your core audience. Generally speaking, hyper-invested “superfans” of your brand or organisation will enjoy having an in-depth look at your work presented to them in the form of a podcast.

Then there’s a learning audience – podcasts are an ideal way to help people absorb new information, whether that’s football or finance, languages or law. And podcasts bring a lot of personality to your brand too – listeners can make strong emotional connections with voices and presenters, from the very serious to the very silly.

There are other benefits, too. You can incentivise people to become members of your organisation via a podcast, and there are monetisable aspects to it where people receive sponsorship and advertising to make podcasts. And of course podcasts are relatively cost-effective compared to other media. Video equipment, for instance, is expensive and editing time is expensive, whereas with podcasts there’s a faster turnaround and lower overheads.

The BBC Good Food podcast – ‘funny antics’ with chef Tom Kerridge and friends

What makes a great podcast?

I don’t think there’s any one particular answer; the real question should be what does your specific audience want and how do you service that via a podcast? A history audience isn’t going to be the same as an audience looking for comedy or a sports news round-up. Luckily, if you’re coming at podcasts from the point of view of an organisation or a brand and you already have an established position in your sector you’ll know what your audience likes and who they are.

For example, at Immediate we know our history audience are interested in a ‘deep-dive’ historical experience, so we focus our History Extra podcast around a one-on-one interview with a leading historian, in which a single subject is explored and unpacked. It’s like having your own private university lecture.

For our BBC Good Food podcast with Tom Kerridge, we wanted this to be a more informal podcast that talked about food in a fun way. For this we had a three-person round-table discussion, and in each episode there are props and joke questions, quickfire rounds, and general funny antics. The main focus is still on food and recipes, but by including three people in this environment we have angled the podcast as a fun, family-friendly show.

The BBC Countryfile podcast takes a separate approach again. The subject matter is the British countryside, so the podcast is recorded by the editor, Fergus Collins, whilst out on a walk. We call it a “plodcast”. It allows listeners to vicariously explore different locations and learn more about nature and the countryside as they undertake the adventure with us.

Some of Immediate’s podcasts – click the image to explore.

What should people consider when launching a podcast?

The first thing to think about is the time that goes into making it. Normally you’d want one lead or a team going out and conducting interviews, for example. Or you’d want a recording schedule, so if people are doing a round-table discussion in a particular studio you want to set a tight schedule, make sure you’ve got contributors booked in early and take care of travel arrangements.

There’s a logistical element to running podcasts, it’s not just buying some microphones – but then you do need to buy some microphones, so there is an equipment overhead. You also need someone to edit the recording, upload it, do stats and analytic reports to show which audience groups are engaging with your content, and how could you do better. So there’s a bit of expense, and some time, planning and organisation – the same as any project.

What’s the easiest way to get started with podcasting?

If you don’t have the staff, resources or expertise to jump into it straight away, production companies such as Immediate Media can help. We have in-house studios, as well as portable recording kits and technicians. We can go out, record interviews with contributors, come back, edit them together, put in theme songs and polish them up to broadcast standard, and then release them via various channels such as iTunes and Spotify. We take care of the full process, from initially putting a date in the diary to interviewing someone at a location, to getting the podcast released.

What’s your top tip for anyone thinking of launching a podcast?

Have a very simple idea of what you’d like it to be. I think a lot of people overcomplicate how they want their podcast to be – they’re going to do one a day, and it’s going to be an hour long, and they’re going to do that for five years. Or maybe they over-reach in terms of thinking ‘we’re going to have ten people in a round-table discussion’. I think some of the best podcasts out there are some of the most straightforward and simple.

If you’re interested in launching or developing your own podcast, do get in touch – we’d be delighted to discuss ideas.

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