Starting a Podcast? Here Are Steps to Consider.

When it comes to podcasts, “don’t skimp on your own home on your site or content hub,” Chris Blose, VP of content for Imagination, told us last year in a session on what it takes to start a podcast. “Build a mobile-optimized podcast page with show notes, speaker bios and links, and relevant resources for listeners.”

(A separate tip I received is to set up a specific URL for your podcast to maximize the brand and make it easy for people to find. Spidell does this for their California Minute podcast with the url

Access Intelligence’s AdExchanger hosts two podcasts: AdExchanger Talks and The Big Story. On their site there’s an introduction—”Listen in as AdExchanger, the leading voice in ad tech, explores the evolution of data-driven digital media and marketing in a series of podcast interviews…”—followed by titles and brief summaries of all 161 episodes. (The Big Story “only” has 75.) The word “episode” denotes that it’s part of a bigger storyline and you need to come back.

Here are more of Blose’s recommendations for starting a podcast:

Make it mobile friendly. Almost 70% of people who listen to podcasts do so on their mobile phones. Almost half listen at home and about a fourth listen in their car.

Know your purpose. Blose quoted from Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation: “Podcasting is not for direct response or lead gen. It’s about social proof and showing competence in the market.”

Define your goals. “Do you have data on what audience you are trying to reach? Are you trying to demonstrate thought leadership in your field or industry? That will determine the type of guests you have. How specific will each episode be?

Find your format.

  • The free-for-all is almost all discussion with little narrative and editing.
  • The serial is narrative-drive and ongoing.
  • The high concept has an overarching theme and basic structure.
  • The hybrid mixes those forms. (NPR’s It’s Been a Minute With Sam Sanders does that.)

Consider who your host will be. I’ve heard shows with all combinations of hosts, and they do set the tone for the content to come. Maybe you have someone or two on staff who would be good. I would probably avoid the Oscars’ decision today to go host-less for a second consecutive year.

Pre-plan multiple episodes for launch. It will help you get past any pilot jitters. I also read a social media conversation about the TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and each person talked about binging. It’s what we do now. So be ready.

Decide on the right type of guests. “The answer depends on the topic,” said Blose. “Source a podcast very much like you’d source a magazine or digital feature story. Who can speak eloquently, and who represents the issue best?”

Use a pre-interview. It can be a short call with sources before the actual recording. It’s beneficial both for reporting and for putting sources at ease. Also, it will give you a chance to test the sound if you’re doing the real interview by phone or skype.

Choose your music wisely. “Music matters,” said Blose. “Think about your audience. You can’t please everyone, but aim for something that matches the tone of the discussion.”

Leave time for editing. Never underestimate the power of editing.

Plan enough time in advance to ensure you can be placed in iTunes, GooglePlay, etc. And find out first if your organization already has accounts with them. Blose said it’s a little bit like the wild west out there now with where you can be. Even Spotify and Stitcher are possibilities.

Mention relevant old episodes in current episodes wherever possible. “To make this more likely, the host should have an updated cliff’s notes of past episodes, who was in them, what # podcast it was, and what ‘short’ URL they can send listeners to when referencing an old episode on the fly.”

Send to your existing email list, both as a preview and in ongoing form with each episode. You can even use your podcast to help build your list.

Send an email to all guests of the show once it’s live encouraging them to:

  • Share it on social (short-term traffic and listens);
  • Link to the episode URL from their blog if they have one;
  • Share on appropriate social channels multiple times since only a small percentage of audience sees any single post.

Track your performance (e.g. downloads) everywhere your podcast lives: iTunes, GooglePlay, your website, etc. How long are people listening? Are they dropping off? Studies say that 23 minutes is the point when people start to lose interest.

Ask. “Chances are good you’re performing reader research for other properties—add the podcast to the mix,” said Blose.

Include these four key elements:

  • Powerful storytelling—a phrase we hear often today;
  • A hook to re-engage—does anything today truly end? Episodic storytelling creates loyalty and engagement.
  • Industry expertise—”Your insider knowledge is critical to success,” Blose said.
  • Strong calls to action—”We need to inspire the audience to take action.

Life Annuity Specialist’s One-Click Trial Success

The original trial sign-up page for Money-Media’s Life Annuity Specialist looked a bit intimidating. It had several boxes to fill out, a password to create, enter and re-enter, and many asterisks which usually isn’t good. Then there was a testimonial, a confirmation box, “privacy and cookie policies,” and finally the Sign Up button at the bottom. Whew!

“The marketing team noticed the structure of the trial sign-up page meant that while Life Annuity Specialist’s content was generating a lot of interest and clicks, the sign-up completion rate was low,” wrote Chelsea Bona, marketing associate at Life Annuity Specialist, in her entry that won a 2019 first-place SIPAward for Best Success Story. “The hypothesis was if prospects could get to the content quicker by filling out fewer fields, and saw a more modern-looking page they’d be more likely to trust, Life Annuity Specialist would see more trial sign-ups.”

And so a new trial sign-up page was created—a small white box over the larger homepage. The box contained 5 lines:

  • The Life Annuity Specialist logo
  • “Welcome to Life Annuity Specialist”
  • “Enjoy a free, full-access trial of all articles for 30 days”
  • [box] “confirm I have read agree to the terms and conditions”
  • A [Start Reading] button

“The team saw an immediate change, with an unprecedented 584 trial sign-ups that closed three sales from the one-click trial marketing campaign,” wrote Bona. “This marketing technique fundamentally changed how all Life Annuity Specialist campaigns have been run since. More importantly, it launched the product to more than double the number of subscribers it had at the start of the year, making the product an undeniable success.”

The subject of free trials recently came up on the SIPA Discussion ForumRob Lawson of Credit Today LLC pointed to SurveyGizmo’s trial page. They invite you to “test drive any feedback collection plan risk free. No credit card required. To test-drive SurveyGizmo, select the feedback collection solution that’s best for you (Full Access, Professional, Collaborator).” (Each has a “Start Free Trial” button.)

Jay Campbell of The Company Dime wrote that their “one-time trial is about giving [their customers] a chance to see what we can do and maybe getting them on our free email list… Once they’re getting the emails, hopefully there will be another article down the line that they’ll want to pay to access.”

Another respondent wrote that instead of free trials, “offer free webinars that require people to register. Then you have their email address and can continue to cultivate them. A free two-week trial is a great reward for those who have watched the webinar.” (SIPA has a webinar coming up next Thursday titled, How to Develop Free Webinars and Other Virtual Events that Generate Qualified Leads—and Convert Them to Paying Customers. Register here.)

Here are more reasons for Life Annuity Specialist’s success:

It reaches an underserved audience. Life Annuity Specialist was officially launched in 2018 as a full publication from the Financial Times. It’s the first business intelligence service that’s written for executives at life insurance carriers and annuity providers—an underserved group—as opposed to insurance agents

It’s designed as a one-stop source for original reporting and efficient aggregation of industry news.

The editorial team was fortified, adding a managing editor and an associate editor. “By expanding the editorial team, Life Annuity Specialist had experts who could contribute more original stories from the product manufacturer’s perspective.”

They looked at what subscribers were reading and doubled down. The editorial team monitored what was being read most and shifted the content focus to what subscribers showed most interest in, helping to increase readership.

They added new elements. Content offerings expanded to include charts and graphics, Q&As with CEOs, and webcasts, which brought brand awareness to new audiences. The first webcast alone led to 95 new trialists and partnerships with prominent insurance organizations like LIMRA.

A sales director and marketing associate were brought in.


Delegating and Hitting ‘Pause’ Can Both Provide More Valuable Time

A year ago, Fast Company posted an article titled How to Redesign Your Days to Give You Back a Few Extra Hours Every Week. The author listed five categories where we can make changes:

Quit Something
Limit Something
Pause Something
Delegate Something
Add Something

Contemplating these five areas is a good way to start the new year. Let’s take a closer look.

For Quit Something, they wrote “Quit a recurring meeting. Quit a committee. Quit Facebook. Quit Candy Crush.” Facebook and Asana (which was founded by a Facebook co-founder) both have a company-wide policy of no meetings on Wednesdays. You can also quit a poor habit or policy. Diversifying your speakers might be a good place to start. Take some extra time to do research to find new speakers for your next webinar, podcast or event. With those new speakers might just come a new audience. I visited an art exhibit yesterday titled The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today. And you can just see how the diverse content attracts—and engages—a diverse audience.

For Limit Something, how about email? Almost 85% percent of the people surveyed by Adobe Insights check their email before they get to work, and nearly a quarter take a look before they even get out of bed in the morning. People text or check personal email while watching TV (60%), talking on the phone (35%), working out (16%), and yes—I see it more every day—driving (14%). “Why is email so ingrained in our lives?” Kristin Naragon of Adobe Campaign asks. “One reason may be that it’s so manageable—we can sort, file, filter, and generally get things done.”

For the Pause Something, they wrote: “[Go] on a walk in the middle of the day. [Give] yourself permission to run an errand during your lunch break. Stopping for a moment to assert your ability to do the non-urgent reduces the sense that everything has to happen at a frenetic pace, and that there’s no time to slow down.” Writes prominent author and speaker Daniel Pink from his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing: “Research shows us that social breaks are better than solo breaks—taking a break with somebody else is more restorative than doing it on your own.” A trip to the office kitchen—where there is always someone—stimulates my thought processes. Or, if you’re home, finding a community at the coffee shop.

Delegate Something might have the most potential of any category. I’m guilty of this myself. I run a couple local Meetup groups for the arts and volunteering here in the Washington, D.C. area. One is quite large and the other much smaller, so naturally I spend much of my free time on the larger one. A woman messaged me and said she noticed there isn’t much activity on the smaller one. Could she help?

My first reaction was, “Oh I have this plan for that group and I will implement it soon. So I will tell her that and say thanks.” And then I recalled that I was saying this six months ago and nothing has happened. I have continued to just pay attention to the bigger group and only think about what I want to do with the smaller one.

Someone was offering to help me, nothing was getting done, and I had to think about it? “As you plan your day, ask yourself: Is this something that I really need to do myself, or could someone else do this instead?” Fast Company wrote.

For Add Something, are you doing push alerts? “Push alerts show up in spaces where the interruption is hard to ignore: your phone’s locked screen while you’re trying to fall asleep, your smartwatch while you’re in a meeting, a popup while you’re answering an email,” writes Rachel Schallom, deputy editor for digital at Fortune Media, in NiemanLab’s excellent Our Predictions for Journalism 2020 series. “Long story short: If someone doesn’t want to receive a push alert, they’ll change their settings. An underrated metric in measuring an alert strategy’s success is simply the number of subscribers a push notification list has. Editors can also look at the lifecycle of an alert subscriber: How long do they stay subscribed? How often do they change their settings?”