I think I need professional HELP (with my podcast)

Blake's Banter Pre-Production

There is an assumption that it’s easy to make a podcast. No problem! Just buy a computer, buy a mic, and start talking, right? But pretty quickly most organizations learn that just speaking into a mic doesn’t necessarily make for a good podcast, or one that will attract listeners…and even speaking to your mic is not all as easy as it sounds.

That said, you might need help with your podcast if you’ve ever thought:

  • I’m running out of things to talk about.
  • We have trouble releasing consistent shows.
  • Our show doesn’t really sound that good.

I will take these one at a time.

I am out of ideas!! HELP.

Sometimes the way you talk about an idea can be paramount. Here are some ideas to keep your show fresh:

  • Try taking an old show and putting a new spin on it. If you’ve previously had a guest with one opinion on a topic, have another guest with a totally different opinion.
  • Get crazy and have your competition on the show!
  • Follow up with a guest to see how they are doing since they were last on your show.
  • New segments can also be fun! Something like “Featured Member of the Week” or a specialist segment relevant to your industry: “Ted’s Tangerine Talk” or “The Advocacy Minute.”
  • You are very close to your association and you have your own way of approaching things. Bring in an outside mind who can approach your topics from a different angle. New ways of conveying information can keep your listeners interested even if you have several shows discussing similar things.

If you’re still feeling stuck or out of good ideas, it’s a professional producer’s job to be creative and give listeners a reason to listen. Consider hiring one.

We have trouble consistently releasing shows.

I see this with association podcasts all the time. Human beings are creatures of habit and a consistent show is essential to building a loyal fan base. There is a reason the Eleven O’Clock News starts at 11:00 pm every night. People expect it to be there and they make a habit of tuning in. They learn the hosts’ names and get to know their personalities. But making a show consistently can be challenging. One of the things we advise is to try to record shows in batches once a month for weekly shows. Attempt to get your releases ahead of schedule by a few weeks. You will have time to recover if a guest flakes out. You’re never scrambling at the last minute trying to get tomorrow’s show out. Remember those college all-nighters? If you’re like me, you don’t want to go back in time either. Like I said before, a good producer is a bit like having a trainer at the gym. Somebody constantly asking “what’s going on with the show?” will help keep you on track.

My show doesn’t sound very good.

This can be caused by a number of things, but here are the top three:

  1. Not having a good mic. “But Blake, what is a good mic?” I did an entire video on the ways to pick out a mic. You’ll feel smart after watching it, I promise.
  2. Not being on top of the mic. Have you ever seen a video of Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern or anybody else on the radio in action? They all have one thing in common. They are all right on top of the mic. Do not be afraid to turn the mic gain down and get right on top of it. It may seem like you are too close to it or it may sound distorted (crackly). Your audio tech should be able to fix that. If you don’t have a tech, call the place where you purchased your audio system and ask them how to turn the gain down on the mic.
  3. But we have a great mic, why doesn’t it sound good? If you have a good mic and you’re right up close, this usually means you didn’t put the studio magic in it. After you get the recording you need to mix it. Balancing it with the music and getting the multitrack audio to sound good is a bit of an art. If you don’t know what multitracking means you may want to consider learning how to do it (just google multitrack recording and ten trillion tips will come up). If you are multitrack editing here is a quick video with some pointers.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for making a show sound great. A lot of it comes right down to experience. But in my 20+ years of experience, here are a few things I’ve seen association podcasters doing wrong.

They mix only on headphones. Yes, you’re mixing at your desk or in an office environment, so you’re just trying to be mindful of your neighbors. Many associations may not have a dedicated studio where they can edit, so they don’t get to hear how the mix sounds on speakers. This could be a reason your podcast doesn’t sound as good as the others. Here is some info on why mixing on speakers is important.

Would you publish a website without checking how it looks on both a computer and a smartphone? So listen to your mix on both headphones and speakers if at all possible. Then compare it to your favorite sounding podcast. Keep noodling with the mix until it sounds close. Listen to your mix in the car, your listeners will be. In the car or on their smartphone earbuds will be the two most common listening situations. So why not find out exactly what it is going to sound like.

They mix on poor speakers. Your computer speakers won’t cut it. You need to hear everything. You also want the sound to be as flat (boring) as possible. Both stereo speakers and computer speakers color the sound boosting certain frequencies to make it sound better. This is great for listening to a final product. But not for mixing and here’s why. Your mix will be heard on all kinds of speakers and headphones which will not have the same coloration as yours. Think of a TV store showing the same program on many different screens at the same time. They don’t all look the same. Some have more intense blues, others might have a brighter picture with less contrast. The same is true with consumer speakers. For mixing, you want neutral sounding monitor speakers so your mix will sound its best on any system your listeners are using. Some name brands for quality studio monitors are Genelec, Adam, and KRK (KRKs are fun because they have yellow woofers). In post-production work, Genelecs are the standard for the most part. They call these speakers truth tellers because you may not like what you hear when you first listen to your mix, but you want to be able to hear those flaws so you can fix them. If you can make your mix sound good on those it will usually sound great on anything.

Note: If you really have no access to a speaker mixing environment, at the very least, listen on a few different pairs of headphones.

The bottom line is, be patient with yourself. Mixing has a learning curve and like anything worth doing, it takes time and effort to get good at it.

Ghosts? on your podcast?

Blake's Banter Pre-Production

“What are we going to talk about on our podcast? Who should we have on?” These are common questions I get, especially in the pre-production phase of a show. What should we talk about on our podcast?  One way I answer these questions is to draw upon Charles Dickens and ask clients to think of the three ghosts that visited Scrooge on Christmas Eve.

The ghost of association podcast past

This is where the old saying “those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it” is crucial. Hearing tales of what worked (or perhaps more importantly, what didn’t work) for successful people and organizations in the past is always of interest. How an industry has come to be where it is now can shed light onto where it may be going in the future. And industry veterans are ALWAYS full of great tales of “the good ole days,” and they can often be great storytellers.

The ghost of association podcast present

What is happening right now is what affects members. There is nothing more crucial than delivering your audience up to date and accurate industry news in an easy to consume audio show. Answer questions like:

  • What are some statistics about your industry right now?
  • What do those statistics mean right now?
  • Who just did what successfully just now?
  • How did they do it?
  • What legislation is happening right now?
  • What does that legislation mean to our industry?

The ghost of association podcast future  

I don’t think there is anybody in any field anywhere that would not like to have at least a glimpse into the future. This is where their industry is heading and being able to help make a road map is one of the most useful things you can do for your members. You can talk about:

  • upcoming events
  • predictions on trends
  • coming technologies
  • potential disruptions

The best part is unlike Scrooge, associations have a newsletter that usually contains all sorts of topics to chat about on the podcast. But if your organization doesn’t have a newsletter or even if it does, this is a great opportunity for you to do a little crowdsourcing. Now you have a great excuse to contact your members and ask them about their concerns, what and who they would like to learn about, and who would they like to learn it from. On top of that, it gives you a reason to contact those industry experts and let them know that your members would love to hear from them. And no small side benefit is that it gives you a chance to get to know your members and the experts better yourself.

So don’t be a Scrooge and make some podcasts.

Soon all associations will have podcasts

Blake's Banter Why Podcast

From breaking down data and continuing education to just plain fun, associations need to be podcasting to reach the next generation. Consider that the younger generations communicate differently. How are you going to reach them without one of the most popular communication tools out there? (I’m talking about a podcast). And it still has room for growth. Check out this entertaining video to learn more.

Podcasts, the truly intimate newsletter (that you don’t have to read)

Blake's Banter Why Podcast

Communications people in associations are always trying to find new ways to engage members: throwing events, publishing newsletters, creating magazines, making flashy, creative videos and so much more. “Communications” simply means having a conversation with our members — attempting to show that we hear them and understand their issues and that we are working hard to enhance our–or more importantly–their industry. We create all this content and hold these events not just because we want to show we are working for them, but also because we want to understand the issues that are important to them. What’s important? What are the trends? What does the research say? –and on and on. We have analytics, CRM systems, surveys and much more. All these modern tools are wonderful for data but what it all comes down to is a conversation between members and the association. The data is great but let’s not forget the human factor. Why do I bring this up? Because it’s all about conversations. But more importantly, the quality of conversation determines its impact.

Does anybody know who wrote the article in the monthly newsletter? You may have a favorite columnist or writer that always has good analysis and insights into future trends. It may be that “Member of the Month” bit towards the end where readers learn about what exceptional members are doing. Or it could be something else you always turn to immediately because you like the style of writing. The readers know where to find what they like and it becomes a habit for them to check it out each month. These are good conversations.

Now let’s step it up a notch. A podcast, when done effectively, comes out at least once a week. That’s four times more often than the average monthly newsletter. Every week, you get to know the hosts a bit more. The sound of their voice, what they thought of the convention last week, what their views are on the upcoming legislation, what that new survey means in plain terms for you, and so on. But more importantly, you know through listening that the host is a mother of two and her co-host is a grandfather. She was the vice president of sales for an industry leader and her co-host still works in the industry. You not only receive expert analysis from industry guests, but you hear the tone of their voices, their personal stories, learn why and how they got into this line of work, what motivates them, you get to laugh with them, hear both their current stories and their stories from back in the day and so much more. This creates intimacy and memorable moments. Listeners are engaged and develop a desire for more. And a podcast can deliver more. Because podcasts, when done correctly, are essentially evergreen (always timely and not outdated), and because of the way they are published, they create an easily accessible series. Listeners who are grabbed by one episode can now binge listen. And the podcast you created 8 months ago or 2 years ago is still fresh to a new listener. On top of this, your hosts are continually developing their interviewing skills and the content will become more and more intimate. 

On the Through the Noise show, we had a communications director open up and tell about what the organization went through when one of his co-workers was killed in another country. How he knew the person and her family. How he remembered when she was hired and how much she liked the job. What it was like when he got the news and thinking about how to do a “press release” trying to sum her life up in a few hundred words.

This kind of content can be told very well in many formats, print, video etc. But audio paints the picture in a uniquely personal way. Hearing the tone of his voice and the way he talked about his colleague painted a vivid picture of the scenario.

There is a desire from many advertisers and marketers to attempt to create habits and trust within a brand. The trust in a brand whether it be a toothpaste, automobile, service, or association has to have a certain visceral connection. To do this you must be honest with your listener. Howard Stern, whether you love him or hate him has always boasted his show is always honest. And I think few would disagree with that. With that, he has been very successful, to say the least. He taps into the raw emotions of a broad general public.

Associations and non-profits have this same opportunity through audio. Every organization has a niche audience that wants to hear what’s really going on in their industry’s universe. Stories of success, failures, industry analysis, what does it mean, what does my future hold? All these are compelling to them and done correctly the audio podcast format creates the most vivid, compelling, and honest pictures of all media. And it’s that intimacy that makes the content memorable and keeps listeners coming back for more.

Why association podcasting is on the rise

Blake's Banter Why Podcast

Podcasting for associations is more popular than ever, and it’s obvious why. Your members are constantly exposed to so much content on the internet, now organizations have to do more than ever to keep their membership up to date with the current news, continuing education, and information going on around their sector. In the last year, we here at Human Factor have seen the number of association podcasts grow very significantly.

There are a few reasons why:

  1. It speaks right to their issues. Where else is a member going to get the exact information she’s looking for? Your association has the information that is completely and totally relevant to what is happening in your industry.
  1. They are easily listenable, most people still have a commute (at least a few days a week). During this time, people can get the latest up to date information in a time and place where their eyes need to be elsewhere but their ears can absorb information. In the car, walking down the street, or at the gym are all places people these days are listening to their podcasts.
  1. It’s affordable. Producing a quarterly, monthly or weekly video series done right would be very expensive and even more time-consuming to do well. You need lighting, sound, editing, not to mention the fact that your video subjects can be a more than a little nervous when a camera turns on. Also, videos have to compete with all the other clickbait videos on youtube. But if done correctly podcasts can be made efficiently and quickly with very relevant information for the listener.
  1. It humanizes your association. A podcast is a place where your podcast hosts and guests can let their hair down and talk about the issues. You can break down complex data. Talk about an article in your newsletter. But most importantly your members can get to hear about some of the hard-working people at the association. It puts a human factor to your group and moves your organization away from that place where their dues go.

A podcast is the perfect vehicle for members to hear the conversations from industry folks, hear about new technologies, learn about upcoming legislation, and so much more. It’s a place where associations can really shine and do what they do best–build community.