My Journey to Becoming a Podcast Pro – How to Host and Produce Your Own Podcast
As we enter the last quarter of 2020 and begin to reflect on the past 12 months, I think we’re all likely to say it’s been a year none of us had expected! But in addition to what will likely be the largest global pandemic of my lifetime, an unparalleled amount of economic uncertainty and change to the world of work, and change to my role personally, I achieved something I’m really proud of – I hosted and co-produced the first Elliott Scott HR podcast series. Before I kick start the planning for series two I’ve captured what worked well, where I made mistakes and what I learnt along the way. For any of you who may be considering producing a podcast episode or series of your own, here’s what stood out:
Find the right partners
I’m fortunate to have the support of Emily Abbott, who leads Marketing for Elliott Scott HR. Emily co-produced the podcast series and was invaluable in bouncing ideas, providing honest feedback and sourcing technical partners. Podcast editing was a bit too far out of our areas of expertise, so we outsourced it and now have a really valuable contact for this and future projects. Communicating timescales and expectations is key, particularly when you’re in a tight cycle of recording, editing and releasing. In regards to recording software, I use Squadcast and I’d recommend their platform. It’s easy to use, allows you to connect to your guests via video whilst the verbal conversation records and the quality of the recording is high, making our editors life easier. We use Buzzsprout to host our edited episodes. It’s a one-stop upload platform that pushes the podcasts to all the top directories (Apple, Google, Spotify etc) and provides listener stats for us to analyse.
Clarify your audience and objective
There are a lot of great podcasts out there now (and some pretty bad ones!) so clarifying your audience and what you’re hoping to achieve is important. I specifically wanted my podcast to be engaging and relevant to as many of our global HR community as possible, so I tried to keep the content varied but relevant across countries, industries, clients, candidates and career stage. My aim was to further promote and develop the Elliott Scott HR brand by sharing thought leadership and ideas via a different medium to our existing marketing to date.
Create a professional look and feel
I set myself the goal of a 10 episode first series, with each new episode being released every two weeks. For a series to be successful it needs to have momentum and for listeners to know when they can access the next episode. I also spent time designing a professional format. I was keen to have a catchy jingle (not too cheesy!) and from my research I liked podcasts that incorporated a different voice for their intro and outro, so I roped in Stuart Elliott, my CEO, to record one for me. Music is then used to break up the different sections of the podcast (intro/ guest introductions and quick fire questions/main discussion/outro) and the format is repeated for each new episode. I learnt that when you’re recording it’s critical to add 5 second silences between each section as “blank space” is important for the editor to cut and stitch the recording and music. Finally, and it might be obvious, but recording in a quiet environment is crucial. Background noises such as audible email/phone alerts, movement on your desk, slurping a drink or noisy neighbours can ruin a recording.
Test your equipment and the quality of the recording upfront
I initially invested in a portable microphone and app on my iPhone to record podcasts in person with guests I could easily meet. I was so frustrated to learn after recording several episodes that one of the microphones had an issue which made it impossible to level the volume of two of us speaking. This wasn’t immediately apparent when we did a quick test run, so I had to re-record with these guests. From then on I switched to using Squadcast for all recordings and always made sure both myself and my guest were using good quality headphones with a built in microphone.
Don’t plan and record an episode too far ahead of time
I actually recorded several episodes prior to Christmas 2019 with a view that if I had a bank of episodes ready to go, we could edit these and release them on a regular basis after launching in January. As I mentioned above, part of this plan was scuppered due to the hardware issue but I also found that as Covid-19 took over our lives, the relevance of episodes recorded only a month or two earlier suddenly became outdated. The pace of change in 2020 has undeniably been greater than a standard year, but it taught me that recording episodes in line with the series being released is a better plan when you’re aiming to discuss topical issues impacting a community in that moment.
Your first episode will take longer to launch
The first episode you launch will require extra time to be approved by some podcast hosting apps. Once this initial approval has been granted, you can post subsequent episodes immediately. But you’ll need to factor in the extra time for the first one.
Create a format which breaks the ice and creates the right environment for the conversation to flow
Before I embarked on recording my first episode I spoke to a couple of people who had hosted podcasts themselves. The biggest piece of advice that stood out to me was that the best podcasts are those that sound like a genuine conversation – imagine yourself sat around a table having a coffee and chatting naturally about something you’re both passionate about. I’ve kept this advice at the back of my mind throughout series one. A podcast doesn’t need to be scripted or perfect but should include a natural connection and flow. To get off on the right foot I designed a bank of “quick fire questions” that I use to get to know each guest at the beginning of their episode. These were varied, fun questions designed to elicit a one word or short sentence answer. They worked really well. I also asked each guest to send me a short, quirky bio so I could use this to introduce them. The idea being it gave listeners a flavour of who they are personally and professionally, rather than a traditional full career bio.
Schedule a short pre-meet with each guest prior to the podcast recording
My guests in series one included CEOs, Managing Directors and Global HR Leaders, some working for organisations they’ve personally founded and others for global multinationals. Amongst such a talented and entrepreneurial group of leaders I was surprised at how few had experience of appearing on a podcast, so a short call to share what works well and how best to prepare was highly valued. Prior to recording an episode, the guest and I would discuss and agree four to six questions that I would use to guide our conversation around the agreed topic, with a view that we’d naturally stray from this and I’d add in extra questions and my own thoughts and ideas based on how the conversation flowed. And I’d always stress that everything is editable! Each guest receives a first edit of their podcast and has a chance to listen, approve and request any changes. When recording if either of us says anything we’re not happy with or need a moment to clarify a point, my advice is to pause, take a breath, leave a few seconds of blank space and then pick up the conversation again.
Be creative with what’s next
Series one was a considerable time investment and I purposely wanted a gap between one and two. Once you’ve put the hard work into creating an episode and releasing it, there’s lots you can do to continue to promote it and possibly re-purpose it and I honestly don’t think I’ve capitalised enough on this yet! Asking my guests and colleagues to support the PR has been one tactic. Our CEO, Stuart, was also keen to create a mini podcast series of his own so we linked this to the “HR Insights - The Podcast” brand I’d established and he released three additional episodes over the summer, which increased listeners to my original episodes as well as his own.
Consider how people will consume podcasts in 2021
When we kicked off series one, Covid-19 hadn’t hit the world stage and individuals were working from offices and commuting each day. With this in mind I was aiming for each episode to be 30-35 minutes, enabling our HR community to listen on their commute, lunch break or at the airport lounge. As I think about series two, many of us globally are still working from home for a considerable chunk of our work week and global travel and commuting remains at an all-time low. I’m likely going to reduce the length of the next series to 20-25 minutes, but need to test this to ensure it allows topics to be discussed in enough depth to give our listeners something meaningful to take away and reflect on.
To date we’ve had over 4000 downloads of Series One, with listeners in Asia, Europe and The Americas. It’s a little bit daunting to think that many people have heard my voice and seen all of the PR, but I’m proud to have started a conversation with such a fantastic group of industry thought leaders, which has been so positively received by our global HR community.
As I start to plan for series two, the aim of the podcast will remain the same: topical discussions with and for our global HR community. The Elliott Scott HR community has over 84,000 followers on LinkedIn and includes HR professionals from all corners of the world, at all stages of their career. If you’d like to feature as a guest then I’d love to hear from you via LinkedIn or email at email@example.com.
You can subscribe to HR Insights – The Podcast from all major podcast apps including: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and TuneIn. The Podcast page on our blog features all episodes and related content too.