There are a lot of podcast education courses out there. Heck, we even have one. Most promise actionable steps to take an idea and transform it into a successful podcast, providing guidance and tutorials to get you there. But when you want to learn the best tips and tricks, you have to go to the best. So that’s why we set out to talk to Rachel Corbett.
Rachel got involved with podcasting 20 years ago, right at the beginning of industry’s infancy. She was the Head of Podcasts at the Mamamia network and helped grow some of their flagship shows to over 1 million unique listeners per month and 90 million downloads! Many podcast awards laters, she how is the host and owner of Podschool.
On this week’s episode, Craig and Rachel talk more about her expertise and how she uses her audio background to teach aspiring podcasters how to get started. We jump into the common misconceptions and errors new podcasters make then how you can avoid them. And how to use traditional radio and media strategies to create a more polished podcast and find success.
Listen to the full episode now to hear more from Rachel and read her best takeaways below!
How Can People Get Over Imposter Syndrome?
“I don’t know if I’m qualified to do this.” You’ve heard this sentence before, perhaps inside your own head. Imposter Syndrome is the phenomenon of successful people attributing their accomplishments to luck rather than ability and fear others will unmask them as a fraud. Lots of podcasters, teachers, CEOs, mothers, just about everyone, have likely felt the nervousness of Imposter Syndrome when setting out on a new project. So how can you silence the voice inside your head?
With media content, lots of creators are thrown into the deep end. Learning by doing, testing, and succeeding, and failing are how the best podcast hosts have found their way. For Rachel, her Imposter Syndrome popped up when she transitioned into teaching her Podschool course. She knew how to sit behind a microphone and record a great show, but she still felt like she didn’t know enough to teach someone else how to do it.
The game changer was seeing her students succeed as a result of her advice in real time. Suddenly it was clear that Rachel wasn’t an imposter, her background in radio and media gave her the unique ability to teach others how to create great content. This feedback loop, creating something, making changes, and seeing results improve, is the best antidote to curbing any feelings of Imposter Syndrome.
What can podcasters learn from radio hosts?
The smallest thing you can change that has the biggest impact is how a podcaster thinks about their audience. Typically hosts like to think about creating content for a huge listener based, trying to satisfy all of their needs at once. But tweaking the mindset to think about podcasting to just one person can make a world of difference.
Let us explain.
One thing Rachel notices is podcasters use collective terms like “to all of my listeners” or “hey, ladies and gentlemen”. But in radio, the best practice is to speak to one person with phrases like “when you call it, we’ll answer.” The idea is when a host speaks to someone individually, the listener feels like the show is just for them even you have a million listeners. Podcasts are already a very individualistic medium–people have their earbuds in, are performing menial tasks alone, or in the middle of a solo workout.
Using collective terms and phrases can hurt the connection with the host when a listener feels like a nameless person inside a large group. So focus on the word “you”.
Another thing podcasting can learn from radio is to keep segments “tight and bright”. The double-edged sword of radio is the strict 2-3 minutes between songs for promotions and segments. Not great for fitting in a lot of content but the perfect time limit to keep each segment concise while still having a beginning, middle, and end.
While podcasts don’t have time restrictions, Rachel argues there is still a place for them. Just because a show can go for 5 hours, doesn’t mean it should.
Bringing in radio’s discipline in timing and clarity to podcasting can help hosts rethink how to talk about their topic. The goal is to leave an audience wanting more. You don’t want them to reach the point of exhaustion without ever hearing the climax or punchline.
How can podcasters improve their podcast interviews?
Our customers are consistently curious about how to improve their interview skills. Scratching the surface and uncovering the high-level plot is easy. But peeling back the onion to discover “the why” is where the real magic happens.
To get there, Rachel encourages podcasters to try a pre-interview. Hosts sit down with their guests and ask broader questions about the topics you’d like to get into within the recorded interview. Instead of asking the exact questions you want to use within the episode, use the pre-interview to cut out some of the fluff that typically comes before a guest shares their juiciest insights.
The pre-interview can help you figure out where the most interesting tangents lie and which rabbit holes you want to go down during the actual interview. And if the guest starts to tell an episode-worthy moment during your preliminary chat, don’t worry. Ask them to stop so you can hear and react to their story live during the recorded session.
Then when you’re inside the scheduled interview, focus on listening. Rachel finds not enough podcasters are present during the conversation. They’re thinking about what to say next and worrying about getting through all of their questions. She advises going into an interview with a minimal amount of notes. Keep them simple, in a bulleted list and use them as a security blanket in case the conversation hits a dead zone. Don’t let a guest’s interesting tangents fall by the wayside, instead react to their answers to uncover more hidden gems.
Learn more about How To Prepare For Your next Podcast Guest.
How do you encourage to dig in more to their unexpected, interesting responses?
You’ve focused on listening to your podcast guest and they’ve said something that you can’t wait to jump on further. There’s a rabbit hole to explore but how do you coax a guest to go into more detail?
Depending on when the guest shared the information, Rachel suggests two paths forward.
If it’s during the pre-interview, follow her advice above. Interrupt the guest just as they’re starting to tell the story. It shouldn’t feel awkward or rude because this conversation isn’t being recorded and should feel a bit more relaxed.
But when it happens during the recorded interview, she’ll let the guest first finish their point. You don’t want to be the interviewer who constantly interrupts their guests. But, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Gauge the moment because there are times when an interruption makes sense and flows with the conversation.
To help in coaxing a guest along, Rachel interviews people via video rather than just a voice call. Video provides body language cues that voice alone can’t. You can go as far as creating a visual signal to your guest if they mention a fact that you want to revisit. They’ll have a chance to finish their thought while knowing you’re going to ask them to elaborate on a point they just made.
How do you validate a new idea for a podcast?
If you have an audience at your disposal already, from a Facebook group, email list, or listeners to a previous podcast, ask them for their thoughts. While at Mamamia, Rachel’s team would send out surveys to current listeners to mine them for ideas. They would put new podcast ideas in front of them and ask if how the topic resonated and if the show was something they needed.
Use their responses and enthusiasm to shape the podcast’s format, segments, and overall topic to better suit real people’s content preferences.
What’s a realistic timeline a podcaster could expect to earn money or see dramatic increases in listeners?
The answer may not be ht one you want to hear, but it’s rooted in reality. Most podcasters don’t immediately earn any income or build huge audiences within the first year of producing a podcast.
Rachel recounts emails she has received from students asking why they haven’t earned any money after two months of podcasting. And her answer is always, “keep going.”
Since most podcasters aren’t asking for congratulations after reaching 50 downloads, new hosts feel unsuccessful when their show doesn’t achieve numbers in the triple digits. Rest assured, you’re not the only podcaster struggling to get over the 100 listen mark. You’re in the majority.
But when you chip away at it, the possibility of building a lucrative brand exists. It won’t happen overnight and there’s no silver bullet. Hard work and persistence is the only way to realize dramatic success.
A good tip to keep going: think of your listeners as actual people in a room. If you gave a talk and 50 people showed up, you’d be pretty happy with the turn out. Never forget about the people who are listening on your quest to find more audience members.