Corey Grahamby Corey Graham
Creative Director, Churchill Strategies

Podcasting continues to be one of the most popular and effective ways to deliver content and/or entertainment to your audience. In the past ten years, the number of people aware of podcasting has more than doubled, and in the past two years alone, the number of regularly-maintained podcasts has risen dramatically (source).

So, there’s no arguing that you should consider podcasting. Just Google “how to start a podcast,” and you’ll be buried in more information than you can likely handle. A nice overview and beginner guide is offered by Lifehacker.

I’ve been part of the podcasting community for nearly a decade, and have learned a few lessons about starting and maintaining a podcast. More accurately, I’ve become an expert in what not to do. Here are my top five mistakes to avoid when you venture into the world of podcasting.

1. You’re Not Using Decent Equipment

Your podcast could offer brilliant information in a way that entertains and enlightens, but it can all go to waste if your audio quality is bad. I’ve turned off countless podcasts at the outset because there was too much noise, or it sounded like the speaker was talking through a tin can, or sound glitches were prominent.

Invest a little bit of money into a decent microphone, a set of headphones, and a computer with audio editing software. Put it all in a quiet room, and you should be set.

2. Your Topic is Too Broad

What you talk about should be as narrow as possible. Think about it in terms of marketing, as if you were selling a product. You want to define your ideal customer as specifically as you can — down to what they eat, wear, and watch on TV. Then you tailor your message specifically for that narrowly-defined person.

Podcasting is much the same. You won’t find, interest, or engage an audience — and certainly won’t necessarily make them come back for more time and time again — if you try to be all things to all people. There are thousands upon thousands of podcasts available, and the more narrowly you can define your topic, the more you will stand out and the easier it will be for listeners to find you.

The flip side of this is that you’ll want to make sure that your topic isn’t so narrow that you can’t sustain a regular podcast about it. While a podcast that deals with “news” will likely be lost in the sea of other “news” podcasts, it’s not likely that “agricultural news from Armstrong County, Pennsylvania,” will provide you with fresh, interesting content on a regular basis.

3. Your Podcast isn’t Frequent and Regular

You need to make sure your podcast is frequent enough that listeners won’t forget you exist. And you also need to let them know what kind of a schedule your podcast is on — and then stick to that schedule.

I’m not saying you need to put out a new podcast every day, every week, or even every couple weeks — as long as you are clear to your audience about how often a new podcast will come out, and when they can expect it. You could produce a podcast that comes out the first Monday of every month, or every other Saturday. They key is to be regular and on time.

I wouldn’t wait much longer than a month between new episodes. Even if you’re regular and on time with a new episode every six or eight weeks, it will be difficult to build a solid audience with so little frequency.

4. You Don’t Take Advantage of Free/Low-Cost Services

With a little digging around, you’ll find a ton of free services that will help expose your podcast to potential listeners. You just can’t expect to publish a podcast on your website and then rely on Google searches to bring listeners to you.

Make sure your podcast appears in iTunes — that’s the first thing you should do. There are many other podcast directories that you’ll want to get into, such as Stitcher.

Remember that your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn networks are great places to spread the word about new episodes. Encourage people to listen and share. Create a dedicated Facebook page and Twitter account for the podcast, and begin networking with similar podcasters and listeners.

YouTube is also a great way to get your podcast out there. It doesn’t take that much extra work to make a video from your podcast, using your audio and a still frame of your podcast logo/topic, and publish it to YouTube. This opens it up to a very wide bank of potential listeners.

Also consider transcribing your podcast and publishing it to your website/blog. Doing this increases the chances of web searches finding you, and is especially helpful in getting your content to those with hearing impairments. I wouldn’t suggest trying to transcribe the audio yourself — check out software that can do it for you before hiring an expensive professional. I recommend Nuance Dragon.

5. You Don’t Welcome Discussion

Encourage your listeners to offer their opinions and feedback about your topic. Make an email address readily available, and address listeners’ feedback during your podcast. You can also make it easier for them to participate by opening a voicemail line or putting a contact form on your website. Whatever you do, make it as simple and clear as possible for people to talk to you.

The more your listeners can actively participate in your podcast, the more devoted your audience will become.

Podcasting can be a valuable (and fun) way to get new content out there and to help establish yourself as an expert in your field. Following these simple tips will get you well on your way.