There are two parts to the podcast planning process: 1) Your overarching strategy: how you position your show, map out your show structure, and differentiate from similar podcasts. 2) Your episode planning: how you plan in advance to produce outstanding shows on a regular basis (and maintain your sanity).
This article focuses on the latter.
Bloggers Have Systems
Highly successful bloggers follow systems. They do keyword research, analyze competitors, build content strategies, and map those strategies to a content calendar.
They don’t do things willy-nilly.
The best bloggers work well in advance, so they’re not scrambling on a Tuesday night to publish a blog post for Wednesday morning. They project far ahead in terms of the topics they want to write about, the angles they want to approach those topics from, and what opinions they want to share.
I’ve interviewed 7-figure bloggers, this is fact.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner is one of these pro bloggers I interviewed. She runs Making Sense of Cents. She does not wing it. She generally stays well ahead of the curve with her content planning and production, but she also binge-writes (I think I just made that word up) to stay multiple weeks ahead of schedule.
She has a list of blog topics she’s going to write. She maps them to a calendar. She knocks them out one by one. She loves the freedom and power this gives her for staying on top of things.
She does this so she never feels the pressure to create on a tight deadline. It gives her flexibility, control, peace of mind, and most importantly: it helps her produce her best work.
You'll never want to manage your podcast any other way
Broadcasters Have Systems
Professional broadcasters follow a system as well. They follow rigid planning cycles, take part in show planning meetings, and carefully compile research in order to deliver compelling shows, whether on television or radio.
Read this article about how much time and thought the writers for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon prepare to produce a one-hour show. Dozens of jokes are written. Every detail is planned out (even if it doesn’t always work out the way it’s planned).
The point is, Jimmy Fallon doesn’t just show up to interview people, crack a few spontaneous jokes, and stumble through the skits. They’re all written, planned, choreographed, and rehearsed.
There are even emerging tools like Radio.co that provide online radio station owners a single platform to run every single aspect of their radio programming. Huh. What a coincidence.
Podcasters Need Systems
Podcasters shouldn’t be any different. At least, podcasters who want to stand out, and podcasters who want to survive the tidal wave of professionals getting into the podcast industry.
So here are 5 steps you can take to begin planning your podcast like a pro, enjoying the stress-free life that comes with that, and focusing your time on producing stellar content with your show.
1. Map all the topics you want listeners to hear from you over time
This is a great step not only to help you stay excited and energized about your show and the topics you cover, but it will help you stay ahead of similar podcasts in your ‘subdivision’ (my word for niche).
Create an episode in HelloCast for every topic you want to focus on over the next 6 months. Some people struggle getting beyond 15-20. Others get motivated by this exercise and create a list of 50-100 topics.
2. Brainstorm every possible guest that would likely deliver a great experience on your show
This is a super exercise even if you don’t run an interview show.
By thinking about all of the people who could be guests on your podcast, you’re obviously creating a list of people you should be researching — their viewpoints, perspectives, opinions, decisions, tools, resources, books, talks they’ve given, everything.
This is exactly what I do in HelloCast for my podcast. You can even see it in some of my screenshots. These are guests I want on someday. Add a guest, including their basic social links and website, tag them, and move on to the next potential guest.
And if you do run an interview show, it’s the first step in creating an outreach plan to land dozens of guests for the coming weeks and months.
3. Imagine every opinion on your core topic that might challenge your listeners
What do your listeners already know, trust, or believe about your main topic? While you may agree with them 98% of the time — I mean, after all, you are running a podcast on this topic — is there any contrarian opinion you could take up that would open their eyes a bit?
The world needs more voices willing to challenge our thinking on things. Not just annoying, loud and obnoxious voices. We have plenty of those. Credible, reasonable, well-articulated voices and opinions.
Yes, you can do this in HelloCast. For every episode, there’s a Research tab where you can add information that helps you begin planning that episode.
Imagine every firm opinion your listeners have, and give them something new to chew on.
4. Embrace the craziest what-if questions that the most creative thinkers in your field
Sometimes the craziest what-ifs are a great way to settle on more reasonable future possibilities.
Let’s say you run a sports podcast talking about the NFL. Imagine an episode where you embrace the craziest what-ifs with your favorite team’s draft possibilities. Your listeners will get fired up, I promise.
Again, you can do this within HelloCast, using that Research section.
Planning Like a Pro: A Recipe for Podcast Success
Listen to a show like Dave Jackson’s School of Podcasting.
Or Adam Curry’s No Agenda Show.
I could list about 50 more shows where it is clear the podcaster(s) plotted their episodes out carefully.
You’ve gotta do this. It’s not just a matter of survival from the standpoint of producing a great show that stands out in your niche/subdivision. It’s also a matter of keeping you excited, motivated, and ahead of schedule.
As an indie podcaster, you’re not going to be able to compete with professionals who are celebrities in their fields, with massive followings already, before they become podcasters. And you’re not going to compete with the marketing budgets of Luminary, Spotify, or any of these other major podcast studios that are bursting onto the scene.
But you can compete on show quality. You can deliver a great listening experience. That starts with preparing like a pro.