By Ronn Levine
Cue the up-tempo music. “Welcome to ASME TechCast, bringing you the innovators, the innovations and the issues that push the envelope of engineering. I’m Jeff O’Heir.”
Then we hear John Kennedy’s iconic, New England-tinged voice. “We choose to go to the moon and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they were hard.” Then we hear more famous space voices—“one small step…”; “the eagle has landed…,” and then some not-so-famous ones. Because this stirring podcast—titled Engineering the Apollo 11 Lunar Module—spotlights the engineers who made the1969 moon landing happen.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers won a 2020 Gold EXCEL Award for this podcast. I still recall hearing Chitra Sethi, executive editor, media, for ASME, co-presenting a podcast session at the 2019 AM&P Annual Conference. After attending an excellent session at the 2018 AM&P conference on podcasts by Blake Althen of Human Factor, Sethi helped to create ASME TechCast, which at the time I heard her was just 12 episodes in.
And now they’re a Gold EXCEL Award winner.
"We had to ask ourselves, 'What is our mission? Why do we want to do this?'" Sethi said last year. "Is music important? [Yes.] Do you need a logo? [Yes.] And what format do you want? Solo, segmented, interview?”
They chose segmented. "Music can help your podcast connect," said Sethi. "And what's in a name? Everything. It took us weeks to pick a name. We had Geek Speak and Mechanically Speaking. Once we picked ASME TechCast we had our designer create a logo for it. We launched with a pilot episode on diversity in the industry" featuring an Interview with a woman engineer.
Talk about being ahead of your time. They realized after recording a few episodes that a long podcast was not in their cards—or 8-hour workday. "We did like a 45-minute interview that we had to cut down to 12 minutes," she said. "We did not have the time for that going forward so decided to try to keep the recordings short." Now the podcasts average about 10-12 minutes with this winning one just a quote or two over 10 minutes.
While in-person events may not happen for a while, podcasts are getting even bigger audiences. So if you don’t have one yet, this may be a good time to start one.
Here are some of Sethi's DO's and DON'TS:
Conduct a pre-interview with your subject. Help them shape their story. Question: Can they tell it themselves or do they need an interviewer to draw it out of them?"
Choose your where-to-record wisely and always listen before you record. Wear headphones of what the actual recording will sound like.
Include a call-to-action on every episode for something you want listeners to do.
Promote episodes on social media.
Track your metrics—how many listens, how long are they staying, where are they dropping off?
If you are speaking, find your personal mic distance.
Have a strong introduction. Just like everything else that's digital today, people want to be engaged quickly—especially now.
Practice your part.
Don't touch the microphone once it's set up.
Don't go on without setting a script agenda.
Avoid the yesses, nos and uh-huhs. This isn't like regular conversation, Sethi said, though it does need to sound off the cuff.
Don't read from the script.
Avoid long recordings. You will spend too much time editing it down.
Here are more tips from others:
Fit your schedule to your audience. You don’t have to pump out a podcast every week. Think what your true podcast value is, what the audience is, and whether a time-limited series is a better fit.
Over-explain how to listen. There's still a gap in podcast awareness and listening, particularly among older audiences—who listen least, but like Facebook, will most likely be jumping more on board. Podcast creators still need to explain to potential listeners how to find, subscribe to and download their show.
Celebrate your launch. Put ads throughout the month on your website, in your newsletters and magazine. Go crazy on social media and, ahem, talk it up on Zoom.
Look inward for talent. Ask your staff, in all areas, who might be interested in hosting. You never know. They probably know the subject, which is a big bonus.
Capitalize on your legacy brand but... There's a temptation to launch a new brand around podcasts, rather than using your legacy brand. Not smart. But, Althen recommends giving your podcast its own url.
Get some advice on selling ads or sponsorships. The AM&P Discussion Forum might be the best place for that.
Ronn Levine is editorial director of SIIA.