There is no magic formula to creating anything successful but there are things that you can do to increase your odds. Podcasting is no different. From years of experience creating and listening to podcasts, here are five traits we have found are common in all successful shows.
1 SHOW UP
Look at the chart in any podcast category and you will see the top shows have all been around a long time. All of these shows have had a commitment from day one and it’s that sheer commitment which has brought success. There are three reasons why;
Firstly, almost 80% of podcasts ‘give up’ after seven or eight episodes. They either grow bored or don’t know what they’re doing or just feel it’s not working quickly enough. This is actually good for you. Simply by showing up on a consistent basis, you will be in the top 20% of all podcasts. Wouldn’t life be great if getting rid of 80% of your competition was this easy!
Secondly, as you put out more and more podcasts, you will absolutely get better at doing it. Yes, it’s hard at first, but as you learn and get in the flow, you will find creating great podcasts gets easier and easier. To be a master at anything, just need to do it 10,000 times. The more podcasts you create, the more you master and that professionalism will attract more audience.
Finally, all those podcasts you create are building you a bank of content. When new listeners find you, they don’t just listen to the latest show. They’re hungry for more and gobble up older shows too. This increases your overall download rate, which in turn pushes you up the podcast charts, where more people find you and on and on goes a never-ending circle of success.
2 BE USEFUL AND RELEVANT
Successful podcasts cut through in their market. If someone’s going to give you an hour of their time, unsurprisingly they want to know what they’re going to get. Winning podcasts answer a question or give good information. After every episode, the listener walks away knowing more.
The Irish Times Inside Business podcast speaks with experts and insiders on current business topics. David McWilliams and Eamon Dunphy are hugely successful in helping listeners figure out the world around them.
In our world of brand podcasts, the best ones talk about the problem their product solves through client or supplier interviews. This worked exceptionally well with our Chadwicks podcast. With Bridgestone, we talked about all things cars and of course included tyres.
We have found that the more niche the product or podcast, the more successful it is. With Camfil, we were able to speak in-depth about how simple changes to air filters can increase your product quality and keep staff healthier.
The best shows are orientated around people’s interests or the life stage that they’re at. They answer a problem or fill a specific gap in listeners’ lives. They are consistent with their content, delivering on the promise of the idea.
Whatever it is that you do, if your podcast shares quality information about your product and industry, which listeners find useful, you are onto a winner.
3 PASSIONATE PRESENTERS MEAN PASSIONATE LISTENERS
When you scroll through your podcast app, you’ll notice the most successful shows have a presenter who is passionate about their topic.
Nicola Tallant is passionate about crime. Conor Byrne is passionate about marketing. Fin Dwyer is passionate about Irish history. None of these people are trained broadcasters with a pedigree career behind them. Their secret is that they love what they do and if listeners know you truly love something, it gives them permission to love it too.
Yes, you can use a ‘big name’ celebrity presenter, but after the initial headlines, they are rarely able to keep the show rolling because they lack the passion or industry knowledge. The same can be said of an experienced radio presenter. They bring polish but the lack of knowledge means they lose a little ‘edge’.
When clients ask us about who should present their podcast, we always say a person with passion and knowledge of the topic/ industry is best. Often we find hosts within the marketing or sales department of a brand or, not uncommonly, the CEO. Our job is to make sure they are well-prepped and that the audio surrounding them does the heavy lifting. All they have to do is show up and have great conversations. And it works, every time.
4 PUTTING IT TOGETHER
This is not just about sound quality, it’s also about the planning and execution of your show.
To start, great shows get to their content fast. In the first 90 seconds you need to sell the concept of the show for new listeners, and tell them what they are about to get. If it’s guest-based, you need to sell who’s on and why. If it’s not about guests, you need to hook what the listener is going to learn. If you include the phrase “well, co-host, hasn’t it been a busy week” and then you ramble on for 20 minutes, you’re not doing it right.
It’s also super important to keep that tight pace throughout the show. No one wants a boring lull in the middle of a show. Great shows have hosts who keep the conversation fresh, by splitting the show into sections or using music/effects to keep the ears attentive. A lot of this is helped with how the show is prepared and afterwards edited. No one knows what is or isn’t edited out of a show, but you can tell when there’s stuff that’s left in that’s boring or repetitive.
Poor sound quality also gets in the way of people enjoying your show. During the pandemic, I remember hearing a very popular BBC show where the host was recording in an echoey kitchen and the guests were on a squelchy Zoom connection. It was painful to listen to. While that might have been acceptable during the pandemic, it is not today. Poor sound is a turn-off and people will turn it off.
This does not mean you have to record in a cramped air-tight studio somewhere. With the right preparation, and some thought put into what microphones you use, plus which system you use to record, you can absolutely achieve clean recordings. With editing tools in post-production, you can sweeten that sound even more and make everyone sound like they are in the same room.
Production is about getting all the elements to work together to keep the attention of the listeners’ ear. It’s not just about sound, it’s about how you open the show, present the content and how you move it along.
All successful podcasts have a great producer or production team behind them, or they have learned these skills in their 10,000 hours to become a master!
5 SHOWING UP IS 80% OF SUCCESS
This famous quote from Woody Allen is so applicable to podcasting. You just need to show up every week, every fortnight or whatever your publishing schedule is. Just show up, on time, every time, with well-put-together relevant content.
When you commit to doing this, you build reliability, which in turn builds trust. When listeners trust you, there is only one company they will call when they are ready to purchase.