Starting a podcast can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it can also be overwhelming. Especially if you're unsure where to begin.
From choosing a topic to selecting the right equipment, there are many factors to consider when planning a podcast. The good news is you can make the process easier with preparation and research from reliable sources. In this article, we'll explore the key elements of how to plan a podcast.
So get ready, as we’ll cover everything from defining your target audience and selecting a niche, to choosing the right equipment and best marketing strategies. So let's get started.
Here are 10 essential steps to planning and launching your podcast.
The beginning of the creative process starts with a topic. When choosing a topic for your podcast, there are several things you should consider, which includes a lot of time spent researching your idea and seeing whether you can create something unique. Here are the key questions you should ask yourself when picking a podcast topic:
To identify your niche, you should first consider your interests, skills, and experiences. What topics do you enjoy talking or learning about? Or, what topics do you have a lot of knowledge or experience in?
It's not necessary to be an expert in your chosen topic. However, what is crucial is having a genuine passion for it. For example, suppose you're interested in launching a podcast about the business journeys of female entrepreneurs. As the host, you don’t have to be a female entrepreneur yourself. But you do need to have a deep interest in this topic.
Podcasting can be time-consuming and demanding, and choosing a topic you're truly passionate about is a good idea. If you don't have a love for your topic, it's likely you'll become bored and lose motivation, which will be reflected in the quality of your podcast.
Once you have an idea, the second step is researching what’s already out there. Identify your category, and niche it down.
Apple Podcasts and other directories use categories and subcategories to arrange podcasts by topic, making it easier for listeners to find new shows relevant to their interests. There are 19 overall categories, and 15 of these are broken down into subcategories. Many directories even allow new podcasters to choose more than one category to define their shows.
This is a great starting point for any podcaster. Pick the relevant category for your topic, then narrow it down. For example, if “Education” is the primary category, "Language Learning" is the sub-category (shown below), and the niche would be “learning how to speak fluent English.”
Now you’ve identified all this, it’s time to do some sleuthing. Go into the relevant categories and look at what types of podcasts are available related to that specific topic. Now ask yourself, how are you (or will you be) different?
If we keep using the language learning example, you’ll probably notice there are hundreds, if not thousands, of podcasts about learning fluent English. So how are you going to stand out? Will you interview interesting guests? Teach a specific English dialect? Focus on corporate English?
Regardless of your topic, hundreds of podcasts probably talk about something similar. The trick is to find any gaps in the market for you and your podcast to fill.
This step is particularly important if you plan on making money with your podcast. If it’s just a hobby, you have more freedom to wing it. But if you want to potentially transform it into a business, nailing your unique selling proposition is key here. One thing to be mindful of is niching down too much. A clear focus is critical, but so is a large enough potential audience to sustain your podcast. If you niche down too much, you might not have enough people interested in your topic to support your show.
Quick Tip: Relying on general interest in a show usually only works if you have an established following, or you’re a celebrity. For example, Armchair Expert, a podcast about the “messiness of being human,” would probably be too broad of a topic if a non-celebrity hosted it. But with Dax Sheppard as host and a slew of celebrity guests, the concept works.
Once you clearly understand your niche and topic, the next step is identifying your target audience. So, the group of people that will make up the core of your loyal and engaged listenership. You want to identify your avid podcast listener, so who is he or she?
Your target audience can’t be everyone. Although you probably want to reach as many listeners as possible, trying to appeal to everyone can backfire. It can lead to vague and un-engaging podcast content that doesn’t resonate with anyone. It’s important to be specific and intentional about who your target audience is, and how you can best serve them through your podcast.
Quick Tip: Just because you have a specific target audience in mind doesn't mean others outside that group won’t listen to your content. Understanding your ideal listener and mapping out their characteristics provides a roadmap that can guide you in podcast branding, marketing, monetization, and more.
Demographics refers to tangible characteristics such as age, gender, location, education, and income. Psychographics refers to intangible characteristics such as values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyle.
Collecting all this data might be tricky, especially if you haven't launched your show yet. As a result, especially in the beginning, it’s mostly based on guessing and speculation. You can also gather data by conducting surveys and looking at your competition and their audience.
Once you launch your podcast, you can do things to engage with your existing audience, or use tools like social media insights or Google Analytics to gain a deeper understanding of your audience and their behaviour.
Pain points refer to your target audience's problems, challenges, or frustrations. By understanding your listener's pain points, you can create content that addresses their specific needs and provides solutions or insights.
Let’s go back to the example of the podcast that teaches English as a second language. Let’s say you’ve decided to narrow it down by focusing on teaching business English. Not only that, but you’re focusing on advanced English, specifically for anyone looking to complete an advanced International English language qualification.
Here, the pain point is easy to identify. Your ideal listener's main frustration is probably that there aren’t enough podcasts focusing on this topic. They want to:
a) Learn advanced English, but also
b) Understand how to pass these types of qualifications
As a result, maybe this podcast will have two different formats. One format would be focused on teaching advanced English, and the other would be an interview show to prepare people for these exams. This is a fictitious example, but you get the gist.
Quick Tip: Remember that nothing is set in stone. Your target audience may evolve as your podcast grows. Don't be afraid to change and adjust your focus to better serve your audience and their needs.
Once you understand your target audience and the topics you'll cover, the next step is organising your podcast’s structure. This includes identifying your podcast name, description, keywords, and format. We’ve broken this down into 5 key steps.
So, how do you choose the right podcast name for your show? There are several things to consider.
First, it needs to be short and sweet. This name will be everywhere, including on your podcast cover art. Making it short also means it will be legible, regardless of the size of your artwork. The other two primary considerations include conveying the tone of your podcast, and considering searchability.
If you’re leaning towards a name that’s creative, vague, or uses a play on words, consider this: the podcast title is usually the first introduction many listeners have to a show. If the name is vague and provides little to no context on the podcast's topic, most people won’t take the extra step to learn more - they’ll scroll past. These types of names are great if you already have an established audience, a large marketing budget, or you’re a celebrity.
The best name is always descriptive and lays it all out on the table. A descriptive podcast name can help it stand out and be easily recognisable to your target audience. It also has a higher chance of appearing in search results, making it easier for your ideal listener to find your show.
For example, if you search for “small business” in Apple Podcasts, the first shows that pop up have names like Business Made Simple, Small Business Gurus, Promote Yourself to CEO, and How I Built My Small Business. Can you see a recurring theme here? Looking at what's already out there is a great way to find inspiration.
If you’re still stuck on finding the perfect name, several name generators can help jump-start your creativity. We’ve included some examples below:
Quick Tip: Show titles should be no longer than 255 characters. But aim for less. Pacific Content crunched the data of 600,000+ podcasts and found that half of all podcast titles are between 14 and 29 characters.
Your description should provide a clear and concise overview of what listeners can expect from your podcast. This is where keywords are essential, as inserting them in your description can help increase your visibility in search results and directories.
Think like a listener. What are some of the words or phrases they would use to search for a solution to their pain point? A great example of this is the description of the Goal Digger Podcast. Although a little long, the description includes a mix of keywords, phrases, and questions.
Along with keywords, make sure your description is concise, clear, and attention-grabbing. Your first sentence is the first thing people see, so it needs to pique their interest enough for them to click it. Once they do that, the rest of the description must highlight your USP. What sets your podcast apart from others in your niche? Highlighting this in your description will help attract listeners specifically interested in your show.
Your podcast episode structure will depend on your goals, target audience, and the type of content you'll be producing. Some common formats include interview style, solo-host, roundtable discussion, and narrative storytelling.
A clear and consistent podcast format is essential for building a brand identity, attracting a loyal audience, and improving discoverability. A well-defined format enhances credibility, facilitates content creation, and drives engagement with listeners.
While limiting yourself to a single podcast format is unnecessary, consistency is key. Consider incorporating a blend of formats, such as alternating between solo-hosted episodes and interviews. However, avoid frequent format changes as it can confuse your audience and impact the growth of your show.
How long will your specific episode be? Will you opt for shorter episodes or longer episodes? Or, maybe do a mix of both?
The average podcast episode length is 36 minutes and 34 seconds.
The key is to understand your audience's preferences and the type of content you're delivering. By selecting the appropriate length of your episodes, you can optimise engagement and ensure your podcast caters to the diverse needs and interests of your listeners. Read more in the below article:
If you’re serious about podcasting, a consistent release schedule is critical. Fans like to know when new episodes will be available. Choose a schedule you can stick to, whether weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly. If you can't commit to regular releases, consider doing seasons instead.
In the end, organising your podcast structure gives you a clear roadmap for creating your show and reaching your target audience. This will help you build a strong brand and increase your visibility in the crowded world of podcasting.
To create quality content, invest in the right equipment. This includes a microphone, headphones, recording software, and other accessories. The equipment you choose will depend on your budget, and the content you'll produce. Consider factors such as sound quality, ease of use, and compatibility with your recording software.
A good podcast must sound professional, but if you’re just starting out, focus on getting the basics. Hold off on making any significant investments until you start earning money or decide this is something you want to pursue. Podfade is a real thing, and it would be a shame to invest a lot of money in something you lose interest in after a couple of months.
And as always, remember that even the most advanced equipment can't make up for lacklustre content. The quality of your information and message should always be the priority over audio quality. Your audience will value engaging and informative content over technical sound perfection.
So, what is podfade? It’s a term used when a podcaster loses motivation, becomes less consistent in their production schedule, or fails to provide engaging content that keeps listeners interested. Usually, this results in the sudden stop of episodes being published without warning.
Getting bored, running out of ideas, burning out, or feeling like you don’t have time all lead to podfade. And the best way to counter this is by strategic content planning. A thorough plan includes brainstorming ideas for episodes, creating a list of topics, and researching guests. Also, make sure to map out the individual elements of your episodes, like the intro, questions, and wrap-up.
There are several great resources that can help, including the Podcast Planner created by Add Saucedo, which also includes a free online course. The planner has a content composer, conversation triggers, to-do lists, an editorial calendar, a monthly podcast calendar, an interview composer, and more. And if you’re looking for a project management tool, look no further than Asana, Trello, or Google Drive.
Quick Tip: The easiest way to avoid podfade is to record at least 4 or more episodes before launching, and always have at least a month’s worth of episodes recorded at any given time. This will give you a solid foundation to work from, and reduce the pressure of constantly having to develop new content.
As you brainstorm, plan, and record episodes, you should start thinking about publishing a trailer and finalising your podcast intro and outro.
A trailer is a short audio clip that previews your show and persuades people to tune in and subscribe. By publishing a trailer, you can promote your own podcast before its official launch and generate interest in advance. It’s also a great way of ensuring your new show is available on all pod-catchers before the first episode drops. Some directories like Apple Podcasts or Spotify take time to accept new podcasts onto their platforms.
A good podcast trailer should be brief, and answer the following important points:
Aim for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and script your trailer before recording. Once recorded, add music to enhance the trailer's impact and make it ready for publishing.
The intro sets the tone for your show and gives new listeners an idea of what they can expect, while the outro wraps up the episode and provides information on how to connect with you. Here's some advice on creating a good intro and outro:
As a rule of thumb, don't let your intros exceed 5 minutes in length.
Check out this generic podcast outro template:
Thanks for listening! If you enjoyed this episode and you’d like to help support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave a rating and review. To catch all the latest from me, you can follow me on Instagram @YourUserName and on Twitter @YourUserName - Thanks again, and I’ll see you next time!
By creating a strong intro and outro, you'll be able to establish your brand, engage your audience, and create a memorable and professional podcast experience.
To turn your new ideas into a reality, you'll need recording software. The type of software you choose will depend on the format of your show.
A basic recording tool will suffice if you plan to record solo, or have in-person interviews. However, if you plan to conduct remote interviews with guests, you'll need software to record both sides of the conversation, including audio and video.
Which tool you choose depends on your needs and budget. If you’re recording remotely, choose a tool that records separate tracks. Here are some best practices on improving your sound quality during recordings:
Quick Tip: Do you need a podcast script? It depends. Instead of writing a word-for-word script, you can create talking points or a general outline that covers the main points in Google docs.
You can edit your episodes at no cost using Audacity or GarageBand (Mac users only). However, these tools are general-purpose, and not specifically designed for podcast editing. As a result, they can be frustrating to use, especially for beginners. Two specific paid platforms you can use instead include Alitu and Descript.
Here at Cue Podcasts, we offer all-in-one podcast production packages for brands and businesses wanting to share their stories, reach new audiences, and spark interesting conversations. To speak to a member of our team about your project, click here.
Quick tip: Always export episodes as MP3 files to avoid compatibility issues. For speech-drive podcasts, use 64 kbps (mono) for speech-driven podcasts featuring sound effects; opt for 128 or 192 kbps (stereo).
A hosting platform allows you to upload and store your podcast episodes, making them accessible to listeners through various directories like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.
Our sister company, Podcast.co, is an excellent choice and caters to podcasters of all levels. It offers an intuitive and easy-to-use interface, making it simple for users to upload, manage, and distribute their episodes in just one click. Explore the full list of features here.
An effective marketing plan will help you reach a wider audience, increase your listenership, and make your podcast stand out. Here are some key points to include in your marketing strategy:
By implementing these strategies before you publish your first episode, you can set the stage for a successful podcast launch and build a strong foundation for growth.
It’s finally time to hit the publish button on your first episode. But the hard work doesn’t stop there.
It’s essential to consistently analyse and monitor your podcast's data. Keep track of listener statistics, episode performance, evolution stats, marketing effectiveness, and listener feedback. Compare your show’s performance with industry benchmarks and competitor podcasts, and don't be afraid to experiment with different content types, formats, or marketing techniques.
By consistently monitoring and analysing your data, you can make informed decisions that will help your podcast grow and evolve. Embrace a data-driven approach, and never stop learning from your audience and the industry as a whole. This ongoing analysis will allow you to refine your podcast strategy and keep your content fresh and engaging for listeners.
The entire process of planning a podcast involves a lot of work and many different steps. Although it may seem overwhelming, many of the most popular shows out there have completed these exact steps.
As you plan and execute your podcast, always prioritise your listeners' needs and preferences. Stay open to feedback and adapt your podcast based on the insights you gather. With a solid plan in place and a focus on continuous improvement, your podcast has the potential to grow, engage listeners, and leave a lasting impact.
If you’re a bigger brand with a production budget to work with, you might decide to partner up with a production agency. An agency will handle everything from the initial concepting stage, right down to promotion and distribution. That’s exactly what we offer here at Cue Podcasts. You can check out our showreel below:
Join our carefully curated newsletter packed with insights, tips and resources to help shape and share your stories.