Search for “start a podcast” or “how to start a podcast” and a million articles will come up, most of which are about the tech behind starting a podcast. Tech is important, but not nearly as much as the five elements below.
NOTE: If you need mic or other podcasting equipment recommendations, here is a list of podcasting resources.
5 Essential Podcasting Elements
The Right Podcast Topic
In my book, Big Podcast, I talk about the concept of “Dance with the one that brung ya,” meaning that you already have access to specialized knowledge and even a community of potential listeners before you do your first podcast episode. This isn’t to say that you shouldn't branch out from where you are now and jump into something you have little or no experience with, but do keep mind that podcast listeners want a couple of things from podcast hosts:
- Specialized knowledge
- An understanding of who they are as people, including how they communicate and what their specific needs are
When picking the topic of your podcast, don’t overlook what you already have in front of you as it might be your best option for creating episodes that matter and connect with listeners.
With that said, you need to be passionate about what you do and the podcast that you make. Don’t simply start a podcast on a certain topic because everything has been laid out in front of you. If you’re willing to do the work of learning about a new topic and becoming part of a new community, by all means jump in with both feet and channel that energy into your new direction (and a new podcast).
The Right Podcast Host
Similarly to picking the right podcast topic, you have existing personality traits that will work for some podcasts, but not for others.
Before starting a new podcast, ask yourself, “Am I the right host for this podcast?” Beyond that, figure out whether you’ll need to change something about your existing personality to make it a better match for the podcast you want to do. For example, toning down “big energy” that won’t connect with an audience, or maybe bringing up low energy, if that will better connect with an audience.
This isn’t to say you should fake anything as far as your podcast hosting. People who listen to podcasts want something authentic and your “podcast personality” should always be an extension of who you are when you’re not hosting your podcast. Still, people listen to podcasts with hosts who are bigger, bolder, and (sometimes) lounder than the average person. As a podcast host, you’re an entertainer, even if your podcast isn’t strictly for entertainment, so be entertaining.
Can you be the person people want to listen to? If your answer is no, can you become this person, even if it’s just in the podcast studio?
The Right Podcasting Motivation
Why do you want to podcast?
Podcasting, like anything you need to do on a continuous basis, can be difficult. There are times when it’s exciting to do a new podcast episode and other times when it’s the last thing you want to do.
As far as keeping motivation for podcasting, it helps to have a great topic you’re excited about that’s also a match for your personality. But even then, it’s work to plan an episode, find a great guest if you’re doing an interview podcast, research the topic/guest, schedule a time to get in the studio, record an episode, edit an episode, write up episode notes, do post-production work, and get the finished episode online.
To keep yourself motivated when it comes to producing your podcast, it can be helpful to get clear on the following questions:
- Why do you want to do your podcast? What is its purpose?
- Why should you be the person to do this podcast instead of somebody else?
- What outcomes will your podcast help listeners achieve?
- What will you get by doing this podcast?
- Would you still do this podcast if only a limited number of people listen?
The Right Podcast Audience
You need listeners. Without people listening to your podcast, aside from what you’ll learn by going through the process of producing it, it might as well not exist.
That’s the harsh reality of podcasting.
On a positive note, one of the best things about podcasting is its ability to reach a highly-targeted audience in an effective way. Unlike traditional broadcast media, podcasters can still “make the numbers work” with a very small audience, giving us the ability to get very specific in our messages and who we reach with them.
But you need to reach somebody... Who will it be?
If you follow my “Dance with the one that brung ya” philosophy, you likely already have the audience you need to create a successful podcast, because you’re connected to that audience and likely one of them, so you know how to communicate with them and know what they want. But if you’re looking to step out with a podcast on a new topic and direction, how will you reach the people who care about it? And will they care when they hear your podcast?
You will attract an audience and be successful with your podcast if you can do one (or all) of these things:
- Help people solve a specific problem.
- Help people transition from one place to another.
- Make people feel part of something, for example, a community or movement.
The Right Podcast Monetization
Podcasting isn’t expensive, but it’s not free. How will you pay for the equipment you need to record your podcast or the media hosting you need to distribute it?
Maybe you’re going to self-fund and pay for everything out of your pocket. That’s a fine option.
But if you’re hoping to bring in advertisers to pay your podcasting expenses (and then some), you’re going to have to deliver for them. You’re going to have to put together a listening audience who will act on your advice, endorsements, and recommendations.
And if you want listeners to donate money to your podcast, you’re going to have to put together an audience of people who trust you and would miss you if you disappeared.
Final Thoughts For New Podcasters
None of the things mentioned above is impossible for you to create, but they don’t just happen on their own. It’s possible you’ll get lucky and randomly find something that works, but I’ve worked with hundreds of podcasters over the years (thousands if you consider that “work” to be via this site, my books, or my podcasts) and I’ve never seen it happen like that. At best, without a plan, you have a lot of trial-and-error ahead of you as you work through the process of creating something people want to listen to.
But with a plan, you can shortcut what you need to do in order to make your podcast successful and get real results for both you and your listeners.