Podcast Central

23 Jan

Prior to joining OpenView, I knew very little about podcasting.  I certainly had no knowledge of how to create and distribute a podcast, let alone how to establish a podcasting program.  When I was tapped with starting a podcasting initiative I was excited to start something new, but also a little hesitant.  Coming from an agency background, I was not accustomed to doing anything technical myself.  I would never have produced and released content on my own, so this shift was a bit daunting.  Ultimately, I found that this change in structure was is incredibly empowering and I learned that I am capable of a whole lot more that I thought.

I wanted to document my podcast process to help others in a similar situation to myself.  I find that reading others’ blogs on the topic really helped me to dive in and get started.

Why Podcast?

When a company begins to formulate and implement a content marketing strategy, one of the first things it needs to understand is that not every content channel works for every company’s audience.

Some customer segments respond to video or blog posts, while others are more inclined to devour case studies and relevant industry articles. The key is to understand which content you should produce and commit to doing it exceptionally well.

A lot of companies have jumped on board the content train by producing white papers, eBooks, and case studies. But, if it serves your audience, don’t neglect more complex technology like podcasting because you think it might be too difficult. I think podcasting is a fantastic way to engage your customers, and while it may seem too complex for your company, the step-by-step guide below might make you think otherwise.

First, you need to decide if it’s an appropriate channel for your audience. Are your targets tech savvy? Do they actively seek educational information through alternate channels? If you answered yes to those questions, ignore any preconceived notions you may have about the technical difficulties of podcasting and keep reading.

What information is your target customer seeking?

Your content marketing materials should answer your consumers or target customers’ pain points. In other words, your podcasts shouldn’t focus solely on how great your company and its products are, but rather on providing ideas and information that addresses your audience’s concerns. A great podcast helps those customers make good decisions.

So how do you determine the pain points of your audience? Make an effort to find them on blogs or forums and evaluate the discussions topics. By doing that, you can develop an editorial calendar around addressing those pain points, working with guest podcasters and industry experts to make your rotation more robust. You might be surprised by how willing most people are to help.

What equipment do you need?

You don’t need to be technical whiz and own the most expensive equipment to make podcasting work within your content marketing strategy. But you do need to invest in some basic equipment that will help you do the job well. Here’s a list of equipment that we’re currently using to record, edit, and distribute our podcasts:

  • Yeti Microphone: A versatile multi-pattern USB microphone, the Yeti is ridiculously simple to setup and use. Best of all, it’s very affordable.
  • Heil PR 40 Microphone: We also use the Heil PR40 microphone. It’s a more sophisticated setup, but it does an amazing job of isolating only the voice recording and eliminating background noise. Again, it’s easy to use, especially when paired with the product below.
  • M-Audio Fast Track Ultra: It looks far scarier than it is. It’s easy to use and allows you to input audio from a number of sources at once and adjust those input levels.
  • Garage Band: Apple’s audio recording software, Garage Band looks intimidating at first, but like most Apple products, it is very intuitive and easy to learn. This program allows you to easily edit your podcasts, insert intro music, edit audio levels, and customize effects. This program comes preinstalled on Macs and I don’t see any real benefit to using a more advanced tool like Final Cut for your podcasts.
  • iTunes: Most people are familiar with iTunes already, so that’s a good start. Exporting podcasts to iTunes is great for a number of reasons: you instantly have an mp3 file, you develop a library of completed podcasts right in iTunes, and you can publish your podcasts through the iTunes store, which is a good option after you’ve nailed down a good process.

Getting Started

Once you have the equipment, it’s time to get started. There are a few things you need to take care of before you press record and broadcast your thoughts to the masses. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Set Up Your Space

Sounds easy enough, right? It’s not terribly difficult, but you do need to consider several factors in deciding where to record the podcasts.

First, you need a quiet place with good acoustics. You don’t want echoes, noisy heating and cooling systems, or a space with a lot of traffic. We opted for a lesser used area in our conference room, setting up two microphones facing each other, along with backup Yeti microphones in case we needed to record additional tracks. Make sure the space is conducive to both recording and conversation. Creating a comfortable environment will make for better podcasts.

Step 2: Set Up Your Equipment

Be sure to read the instructions carefully and test your equipment as you go. Most content marketers aren’t necessarily audio recording experts, so setting up microphones and mixers can be a head scratcher. While setting up the equipment, open Garage Band or whatever program you’re using and make sure the microphones and mixers are translating audio properly to your machine.

Step 3: Test it Out

Once everything is hooked up, play around with the equipment to become familiar with it. That’s the best way to learn. Recording multiple inputs can be confusing, but Garage Band (or the recording software of your choosing) should be able to help walk you through it.

One thing to be sure of if you’re using Garage Band is to go in to Preferences and change the Audio Input to the device you’re using. If you don’t do that, the program will automatically choose the computer’s built-in mic. After doing that, you must assign a microphone to each of your recording tracks. In Garage Band, that’s done by selecting Input Source in the lower right corner while the track is highlighted.

Don’t feel discouraged if it doesn’t work on your first try. You’ll figure it out with some trial and error. For specific problems, I recommend the website CreativeCow.com. It provides a wealth of information and has answered nearly every one of my questions.

Time to Edit and Publish

After following the step-by-step setup process, you’ll be ready to edit and publish your first podcast. Here’s some good news: editing is probably the easiest part. With the following tips, I’m going to assume that you’re using Garage Band. If you’re not, the colors or specific features I’m referring to may be a little bit different, but shouldn’t vary too much.

Here are some easy steps for editing and publishing clean, crisp podcasts:

  • Splitting a track: If you’d like to delete a specific section of your audio, click on that section so that it’s highlighted dark purple. Next, click and drag the playhead to the position you’d like to split. Divide the region into two pieces and click Command-T. Once you split the region, you can then select the section you’d like to remove and simply hit delete. Continue that process until your podcast is exactly how you want it, editing out errors and dead space.
  • Include an introduction: If you’re creating a podcasting series, be sure to include an introduction that will remain the same across all podcasts. You can hear the one I created for OpenView on the OpenView Labs website.
  • Marking the end: When you are ready to end your podcast, you’ll need to move the EoS (End of Song) marker to the end of your track. The marker is a small purple arrow. Simply drag it to the desired ending point. If you don’t adjust the EoS marker, your track will likely be a lot longer than you intended and include a lot of dead air at the end.
  • Export it to iTunes: When you’re ready to share your podcast, the easiest way to do it is to export the track to iTunes. This is done very easily through GarageBand. On the top bar, click “Share” and “Send Song to iTunes.”

Its Feeding Time

Now that you’re ready to post your podcast and start driving website traffic, it’s vital to take one extra step to ensure that your audience can easily consume the podcast: Submit your podcasts to iTunes as you go.

Even if you don’t have the volume of content you’d like to officially establish your podcast feed, it’s critical to allow for some lag time. According to Ray from The Podcasters Studio, it’s very important to submit your podcasts to iTunes early because it can take some time for them to be approved.

So, let’s not waste any more time. Here is the step-by-step breakdown of how to create an iTunes feed for your podcast:

  • Make sure your file is iTunes friendly by saving it in one of the following formats: .m4a, .mp3, .mov, .mp4, .m4v, and .pdf.
  • Go to the iTunes store, click on Podcast, and click on “Submit a Podcast.”
  • Supply your RSS information and the iTunes store will do the rest. It will auto-populate what it can and you can fill in the gaps in the next step.
  • Create a summary of your podcast. If you already have a summary in your RSS feed it will likely be pulled in by iTunes. If you don’t, now is the time to create one.
  • Submit the podcast and wait for approval. Now, it’s out of your hands.

That’s not so hard, right? Sure, there are a number of steps you need to take to make sure that you’re creating quality, compelling podcasts. But podcasting’s rewards will be well worth the effort you put it in to it. They can be a fantastic way to drive traffic to your website and brand you as a true thought leader in the industry.

If you have questions as you go, I suggest continuing to follow The Podcasters Studio for advice.  Feel free to contact me with any questions, too. Remember to submit your podcast to iTunes early and enjoy the newest arm of your online marketing strategy.

This is a variation of a post that originally appeared on the OpenView Labs website: http://labs.openviewpartners.com/a-complete-guide-to-podcasting/

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