What goes into podcast production? Since we released the first episode on November 18, 2016 this once little show that I recorded in my CAR to escape my barking dogs has grown to almost 20 million downloads, 262 episodes, and thousands of YOU listening in each week to hear stories of inspiring women and free training in social media, marketing, and all things business.
First off, let me say THANK YOU to you for listening and helping to grow this thing. Secondly, I have to tell you that there is so much that goes down behind the scenes to get to this, a finished episode streaming directly to you. I think of producing a podcast like building a pyramid. The very tip top is the final product — the episode that we send out into the world and share with you. But before the capstone is put into place, there are many steps and pieces to build, and I am laying it all out for you in this episode. Press play and get ready to take notes!
Selecting Show Topics
The foundation of this podcast pyramid is the pre-production planning, including topic and guest selection and coordinating the content calendar… By the way, feel free to sketch out this pyramid diagram if you’re taking notes.
Deciding what my guests and I will talk about on the show is actually a big picture decision that’s considered against all the other areas of my business where I share content… But let’s talk first about picking topics and reviewing potential guests.
I already revealed a little of how we narrow down which topics to dig into on the show… We ask! Surveying the audience is one of the best ways to dig into what listeners actually want to hear and where they’re struggling in business or life in general.
Now, the show isn’t totally fueled on audience suggestions (even though some of our biggest, most-downloaded episodes are ideas that YOU inspired). My team and I look at which shows have seen a huge response, for example anything Instagram or Pinterest related, and brainstorm new ways to dig into these endless topics. I might also pick topics based on what’s going on in other areas of my business as well. If I have a launch coming up, I might tailor the podcast content to compliment the launch.
Remember, you don’t need to create a 2 hour dissertation that encompasses all facets of the topic at once. Break it down. It’ll be easier for you to create content on a narrower subject, it’s more digestible for the audience anyway, and you’ll give your show more topics to dig into down the road.
The Interview Application Process
We receive hundreds upon hundreds of pitches and nominations for potential guests to feature on the show, and I can say with total honestly that we read and fully consider each and every one. Many of the applications come in through the form on the Goal Digger website and some are emailed directly to Kylie, and both receive the same attention no matter the source.
There are a few factors that determine which guests we invite on the show. What it comes down to is topic, representation, audience, and overall fit in the content calendar.
Like selecting topics for the solo show, we look at what topics the guest can speak about in their interview. A huge majority of the potential guests are qualified experts in their field and have amazing stories and insight to share, so we have to narrow it down from there.
Something that I want to be candid about and a discussion I’ve had on the show before is the importance of representation. When I first started the show and had guests on, I received some targeted feedback that my guests lacked diversity in more ways than one, and the show needed more representation. That feedback is something I took very seriously… and it’s front of mind as we think about potential guests for the show.
While this podcast is a free resource for you, and an incredible community of listeners like you have formed around it, it’s also a business and that business mindset comes in when we’re building our list of guests. The audience that guest might bring to the show is a consideration, but it’s not a determining factor.
We heard you: You want to hear more from guests at the beginning or middle of their entrepreneurial journey, not always the million dollar earners with hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers. Regardless of the size of a guests following, we look into what kind of following they have and if they are building a community with similar values as The Goal Digger audience.
Topic, representation, and following are all helpful indicators of overall fit for the show. The last piece we look at is how the guest will fit into the content calendar — Does their topic align with an upcoming solo show? Are we touching on this topic on the blog? Ultimately, if it all makes sense, we will invite the guest on be on the show.
The Content Calendar
When we have guests and topics selected, this is where we put everything into a master content calendar. The content of the podcast drives a lot of other content that we create in other areas of the business, so seeing everything as a big picture with all episodes, blog posts, freebies, and advertisers in one place helps us be more strategic with content planning. We can schedule the episodes to support the launch of a new course or point to free resources on the website that will help grow the email list.
It’s not always a perfectly sequential process. Sometimes we’re narrowing down show topics and we have an open date that corresponds to a launch, so we might choose a topic that aligns with that launch versus another topic that’s GREAT but isn’t as necessary timing wise. Rest assured, all of the cream of the crop episodes float to the top and are eventually recorded and released, we just flex our strategy muscles a little bit and make sure our content is aligned with our overall goals to move the needle forward in the business.
Writing the Episodes
The next level in the podcast pyramid is the writing phase. This is easily the most labor intensive phase of producing the show. With a list of solo show episodes, we divvy up the topics between myself, Kylie, and another team member, Caitlyn, depending on who feels comfortable tackling the topics. I should mention that while I have the support of my team to write a lot of the solo shows, everything passes through my eye and gets my edits before it reaches you.
A more complex subject like working on your mindset or growing your influence is a mix of personal experience supported by other sources, because I want you to have the most complete advice and information possible. These solo shows are scripted out with room for elaboration on my part when I sit down behind the mic, and the script later becomes show notes (like these). By writing the script out, we’ve already saved some work down the road and won’t need to transcribe the episode for use on the blog.
Planning interview episodes is a bit different. We can’t and wouldn’t want to script out each word in an interview — It wouldn’t be an interview! Instead, Kylie works with the guest to narrow down their best topics, and then we decide which angle to take on these topics. Kylie drafts an introduction that I can use to setup the guest and provides them a list of potential questions we may ask during the interview to keep everything on track.
After conducting over 100 interviews we’ve learned that guests often feel more comfortable with a list of 5-7 questions that may come up during the chat. Of course, I handle each interview like a conversation. There’s plenty of room to go “off-script” and some of the best moments have come from those unscripted questions.
The next phase of the pyramid is recording. The actual PODCASTING. Like most things in my business, I record in batches, too. Once our guests are selected, we use Calendly to send a link to a booking calendar. We select 2-3 days with 3-4 one hour sessions available each day for guests to book. We send an interview prep email to all guests including their confirmed interview time, instructions for using our Zencastr recording platform, the pre-discussed interview questions, and a request for a headshot, bio, and a day of contact should anything come up.
Interviewing is a skill I’m always honing, heck, I’ve been a BAD interviewer in the past and I’m always taking feedback because I never was taught how to do this. I’m always trying to learn and grow and get better so there’s that, but if there’s one pro tip I can give you on this subject: It’s to LISTEN.
Don’t be thinking of the next pre-written question on your list while they’re sharing their personal stories with you. An interview is a conversation with structure, but not a hard-line road map from point A to point B. Keep your questions in mind to guide the direction of the discussion, and use them if you encounter a stalling point in the conversation, but ultimately let the conversation develop organically.
Zencastr is a great option for recording your remote interviews because all the files are saved and uploaded to a Dropbox where they can be accessed for editing. It requires very little technical knowledge on the host and guest side, and while it’s not without a few quirks, it has ultimately served us well for Goal Digger.
Post-production is the phase when we take all the content and assets collected while planning and recording the episode and convert it into consumable content for you. There are five needs for each episode: Show notes, show descriptions, social media captions, titles, and graphics. Because of our writing and preparing process, most of this work is already done.
Show notes for solo shows are edited down copies of the show script. Kylie condenses the script into digestible show notes with the biggest takeaways to share on the blog. The show notes from guest episodes are a summary of the interview. The show descriptions and social media captions are reworked versions of the introductions already written for each show.
I title the episodes in a way that represents the content accurately, but also that uses searchable keywords. This title is used for the episode and the blog, so it’s important it lends itself to strong SEO. Once the titles are settled, Kylie sends the list of titles and the headshots plus some other graphics to our designer Olivia Herrick who creates the beautiful branded images we share across the website, Instagram, and Facebook.
Graphics also include those short soundbite videos we share on Instagram. Kylie creates these with a template from our designer on a service called Wavve. She picks strong soundbites that tease the content in 15 and 60 second clips. Graphics and videos are produced in batches so we’re only working on them once every 6 weeks versus individually each time a new episode is released.
Meanwhile, we outsource our editing to an amazing duo out of Canada, and they process the audio, tighten up the episodes, and insert the ads. Monetizing a podcast could be it’s own separate episode, but I’ll give you an overview of how we work with an agency on our show to get paid for the free training we deliver to you each week.
As the show grew into it’s own I knew we’d need to bring someone on to manage the monetization of it. If you are putting hours into something, if you are CREATING for others to consume and benefit from, you absolutely deserve to be paid for it. Our agency helps fill our ad schedule with brands that align with my brand, with the Goal Digger content, and with the audience listening to the episodes.
Our agency works with the clients to draft copy points, which I use along with my own personal experiences with the brands and its products, to script a pre-roll and a mid-roll ad. Kylie helps me create another document with all the ads we need for a 6 to 8 week span of shows. Again, we’re working in batches here to record these ads so they’re ready for our editor to insert, but because of the nature of advertising we sometimes have last minute additions or changes that require a non-batched recording session. Maybe someday I’ll give you a peek of my makeshift recording studio in Hawaii… It was a blanket over my head in the back of a hot minivan speaking directly into a voice recorder app on my phone. You gotta do what you gotta do!
The next step… We’re finally at the GO LIVE date for the episode.
You’re Going Live, Goal Digger!
We’ve carefully selected topics and guests, written thorough notes for the shows, recorded a batch of episodes, edited the audio and produced the graphics, drafted all the social media captions and descriptions and selected the perfect ads that align with the brand… Now it’s time to go LIVE, the very top of the podcast pyramid. Are you still sketching it out as you listen? Good.
About a week prior to the release, Kylie reaches out to our guest and provides them links and graphics to promote the show on their own social feeds. This step is so important. I am so grateful to have the platform that attracts inspiring and knowledgeable women to the show, and I also know that this platform is beneficial to our guest, so we make a small ask that they talk about the show with their audience so more ears are on the content.
We host the show with Libsyn and our editor uploads the file and schedules it to publish in the early morning on Mondays and Wednesdays. Kylie keeps an eye on the Facebook posts and interacts with comments there. She also manually posts the episode photo to Instagram along with the soundbite and other graphics. These social media steps are so important, because that’s what builds and supports the community around the show and why I have an audience to speak to in the first place.
The Big Picture
When I hired for the podcast manager position as a full time job, it’s because it truly IS a full time job. So much goes into preparing the episodes for you, leading to that final top-of-the-pyramid product that’s now playing in your car or on your headphones or wherever you tune in. 15 million downloads later and we’re still refining the process. We create new systems to make the show more efficient. We ask for your feedback more and more to make sure you’re getting EXACTLY what you need from the content. I connect with new potential guests and we dig into the hundreds of pitches each week to make sure our guests are diverse in their topics and backgrounds and bring sound advice to the show each week. As you prepare to launch or grow your own podcast, I hope this episode serves as a helpful overview of our processes to help you START where this show has ended up.