In our last post, we talked about developing your intro and outro. I hope you’ve done your homework and have that ready to go. It’s going to inform what we do with the trailer for your podcast.
Creating Your Trailer
So, why do we need a trailer for the podcast now? I mean, we don’t have a full-fledged show, so what is there to preview? When I think of a trailer, I think of a preview for content that has already been created… not content that has yet to be created.
Why you need a trailer now (and not after a few episodes are recorded)
The reason is two-fold. First of all, it satisfies a key requirement for getting your podcast live: you must have audio published on your podcast host (aka live on your RSS Feed) in order to register a podcast with any podcast directory. This is true for Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you listen to podcasts. They must detect the MP3 there before you can register the audio.
This process takes time. Spotify is the fastest and is almost instant, so there are no worries there, but Apple and Google can take up to 3-5 days to verify and put your podcast on their platform. I learned early on in my podcast production career that it was a terrible, terrible idea to try and promote a show as “released” on the day you registered the show with a particular podcast directory.
There’s no way you can promote a show as “live on Apple” without a link, right? So I quickly pivoted to a new model to ensure we don’t have that awkward, “We’re live on our podcast host and nowhere else for a week!” feeling that just sucks all the momentum out of a launch.
Prior to Apple and other hosts allowing you to have a trailer, I would have my clients do a show where they talked about why they’re doing the podcast they’re doing. Something simple and short that we could release without having to promote a particular guest or cover a topic in detail.
When trailers became important, we pivoted to those because they are even simpler and faster to produce. Plus, once you have a trailer up, it’ll be pinned to the top of your podcast page on any major podcast directory, so it’s one of the first things that new listeners will hear when they check out your show.
Trailers are important because they represent what you want for your show in the beginning. They attract people to your content and give them a place to preview the show you’re looking to create.
Putting Your Trailer Together
So what goes into a trailer? Remember that intro you wrote and the music you picked? That’s our starting point. From there, I want you to expound upon your one-sentence description of the show. Then we’ll wrap with the outro you wrote. If you’re looking for an example, check out our trailer.
All said, the target length for a trailer is one minute. In terms of writing, that should be no more than 150 words. That’s all you need. You are welcome to make it longer, but thinking beyond your first few episodes, remember this will be a preview for your show as a whole.
Your Trailer Is Your Sales Pitch
That leads me to the second reason you need a trailer. It’s essentially a sales pitch for why you should care and subscribe to the show. People are going to sample this to get a sense for what your show is and then choose whether to listen or not. So make sure your message is concise and compelling.
As you continue to produce your show, please don’t forget that you did a trailer, either. This is something you should absolutely revisit. Your recording and editing skills will definitely improve, and your messaging may get altered as you go forward. I’d suggest refreshing your trailer at least once a year just to keep it current. Remember that people will see this pinned to the top of your podcast’s page on every major directory, so keep it sounding good and matching the content you’re distributing.
Consistency Is Key
And speaking of the content you’re distributing, it’s time I let you in on the secret to Internet success.
There’s an open secret to success on the Internet, and it has nothing to do with going viral. It has everything to do with being consistent.
Consistency is one of the most important elements of your podcast. It’s almost subconscious in its influence, but it makes a difference in how you are perceived. Take my comment from the last post about Dan Carlin. There might have been some salt in those words. I wish he’d deliver more consistent content. I understand why he can’t, and I definitely agree that quality trumps shipping when you’re discussing historical events.
But most of us aren’t Dan Carlin. And even Dan has circumvented this problem by creating his own secondary podcast where he is more regular. It’s called Hardcore History: Addendum.
As the saying goes, “Consistency breeds results.” And consistency is one of the best ways to develop authenticity. Sticking by your words, and showing up (even when it’s not fun) will show people you care about the work you create and that the ideals you espouse are more than just words. Seth Godin wrote a great blog post along these lines called “Defining authenticity,” which I recommend you read.
Sometimes, just showing up and doing the work can be tough. If you read the newsletter for this podcast, you’ll know last week’s post came out a little late. I started early, but I put off recording until the night before. At about 3:00 am I decided it was better to catch a few hours of sleep so that I didn’t come away with a technical and typo-riddled mess of a product. The show came out a tad later than I would have liked, but I got it out the day I have committed to releasing it. Just like I committed to doing when I started this project.
And before you go, “are you podfading already?” No, I’m not. I’m just trying to find a rhythm that works for writing and producing this show. Note to self: “Hitting ‘Record’ at 11:30 pm the night before is not feasible.”
Introspective navel-gazing aside, consistency in podcasting isn’t just about getting your show out on time. It’s about having a format that your audience can become familiar with. And for that, let’s look at the body of your show.
For this piece of production, I know many, many folks that will say, “I’m just doing an interview show. I can just wing it.” Please don’t be that person. Sure, you can have some great conversations on the fly, and there are people talented enough to keep a show going this way, but if you’re listening to this, I’m guessing this is your first show. This may even be the first time you’ve had a recorded interview. I implore you: please come prepared. You’ll be glad you did.
The same thing applies for solo and narrative content. You want structure. When creating content becomes challenging, you’ll be glad you have it. Research appropriately. Create outlines, and then build out your show. It’s the same basic stuff you were taught in school when you made your first book report. It’s just way more advanced than a report on Where The Wild Things Are.
I consider the body to be a two-part problem to solve for your podcast. The first challenge is the segments within the show. If you’re doing an interview-styled podcast, the segments might be:
- Introduction to the Guest
When deciding how many segments you need, I recommend that you rely on the research you’ve done with other podcasts. What do you like? What do you not like? Did you get any audience feedback about things they don’t like within a show? Take all those factors into account along with the ever-important question, “do I have time to do all this?” And establish your show’s segments.
The second challenge you’ll have is the content for each segment. Going along with the segments we’ve established in our example, if your first section is a guest introduction, then you’ll need to decide how you want to introduce each guest on your show. Will you do your own research on their background, or will they be responsible for providing you with their bio? Perhaps a bit of both? Once you have this decided upon, you’ll have the framework for the guest introduction done. This is great because once you’ve done a few of them, you’ll have a cadence for how to produce future segments.
Going along with the segments we outlined above, the next piece is going to be your interview. This is the core of your show, and so you need to make sure you’re prepared for it. Much like the introduction to the guest, you’ll need to have an outline of what you want to discuss. Depending on your show, this outline may vary with each new episode, or it may stay the same. Regardless, I always recommend you do your homework and know something about your guest before they come on the show. This will inform your questions and help you be prepared for a good conversation.
In addition, I always recommend you develop a set of “stock questions” you can fall back to during an interview. I also recommend structuring them in a way that helps you tell the story you want to tell with each guest. If you don’t know where to begin, the Hero’s Journey is a great model for this.
If the Hero’s Journey doesn’t fit with your show or your style, then I recommend coming up with 20 questions you can ask any guest. The goal here is to ensure you keep the conversation going. You may rarely need these questions, but they’ll keep you going in the right direction should you need them.
Lastly, the wrap-up segment is where you need to think through how you want to end each show. This is handy in an interview-style show because you can have a nice signal to the guest that the conversation is ending. If you’re worried about talking too long, this is your brake lever.
This is also where you will put the famed “last question of the show,” which is typically one of the most important questions you can ask. Why is it so important? Because this will be one of the guaranteed things you’ll discuss in an episode. It’s consistency for the listener. It also ensures you somehow manage to tie all the content together and focus your show back on your core messaging. If there’s one question you want to make sure you get right in every show, it’s this one.
Alternatively, if you’re doing a solo or narrative show, this segment is where you can signify to the listener that the episode is almost over. It’s a consistent anchor for your content as well. It’s your chance to summarize the content and let the listener know what to expect in the next episode.
All of this will take some time to put together and decide upon, which means it’s time for your homework.
For your homework, If you find yourself getting stuck in this phase, I recommend picking a show you like and seeing how they break up their show. Listen to two or three episodes and take notes. Track their outline and see how they break up the show. This will hopefully inspire you to do the same or at least give you an idea of what you want for your show. If you’ve got your segments ready to go and the content decided upon, then great!
It’s at this point that you should be ready to record and launch your podcast… or almost ready anyway. If you’ve got the gear and are feeling confident, then by all means go ahead and start recording your intro, outro, and trailer. You can even jump into your first episode to get a feel for production.
And if you’re not ready yet, or just want to get through this series before diving in, that’s fine, too. Because in our next post we’re going to be covering some basic tips for recording a show, editing, and finally, launching your podcast.