By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Podcast.
I have been producing The UnNoticed Podcast since June 2020 from my garden studio. Earlier this year, I’ve hit the 10,000-download mark according to my hosting platform, Buzzsprout. Drawing from my experience, I share the lessons that I’ve learned about how podcasting can be a key part of a solopreneur’s marketing strategy.
I first introduced the podcast in February last year under a project named Silver Fox Entrepreneurs. The project targeted middle-aged men looking to start a business. For this, I’ve interviewed some other “silver foxes” — I went out to different locations and did the editing via GarageBand. However, comparing the amount of time that I was spending creating content with the amount of content that I was really putting out, there hadn’t been much of a return on investment (ROI).
Image from Unsplash
I took a break but I started again in May last year during the lockdown because I really enjoy podcasting as a medium. I myself love to listen to podcasts. And I love the creative opportunities that this avenue gives. So I got back in the studio and started creating episodes about the SPEAK|PR methodology. This methodology was something I was able to develop over the past 25 years of helping other business owners get noticed. It stands for storify, personalise, engage, amplify, and know. I aimed to use this medium to share this technique with a broader audience — especially those who prefer listening over reading content.
I got into the routine of producing one 20-minute podcast every day for six days a week. And because of this, I was able to bank content. From that time until early this year, I have done some 4,100 minutes’ worth of content. That means I’ve been able to record, produce, and publish 68.5 hours’ or 2.84 days’ worth of content. If I take into account the production time, this equates to 10 full days of sitting on a chair with the mic and learning how to do podcasting in the process. Though I still have a long way to go before I hit the proverbial 10,000 hours (which is the amount of time you have to spend doing something before you become a real expert on it), I could still share some of my learnings when it comes to podcasting.
Easy-to-Use Web Hosting Service
One of the lessons I’ve learned is to choose a hosting service that is easy to use. The UnNoticed Podcast, for instance, is being hosted on Buzzsprout, which is a platform dedicated to podcasts. They themselves run a weekly podcast which I listen to. I consider them a hub for learning and development.
Screengrab from Buzzsprout
I currently use the platform’s Magic Mastering tool, which costs around $9 per month. This offers smart adaptive leveling, which helped me address the issue of getting the mic levels right. This is one of the problems I’ve encountered when I was starting, and it took me ages to get a leveled audio in GarageBand. With this Buzzsprout package, I’m also able to filter out noises like hisses and hums, achieve perfect loudness, and compensate for my lack of capability when it comes to audio.
I also invested in a Røde NT microphone, which I bought for £145. It’s a workhorse, picking up the deep, resonant qualities of its user’s voice and making a great difference compared to when you use cheaper microphones. It can also accommodate a headset jack so you can hear what you’re speaking into the microphone through your headset in real-time (In my case I use a Beats headphone gifted to me by my wife). This will help you avoid distortion and get a real sense of the sound you’re producing. You’ll also avoid the feedback loop, because similar to what professionals who work in a studio do, the mic is picking up both what you’re speaking and what the system is playing back to you. After about two months, I also bought a swing arm.
No matter what I did to my previous setup (wherein I use iPod/air pods and MacBook’s built-in microphones) I just wasn’t getting the audio quality right. While my kit isn’t that much, it has helped me, on a basic level, get the technical aspect correct.
After creating content focusing on the SPREAK|PR methodology, I started reaching out to people to have interviews. However, contrary to the Silver Fox days wherein I and my guests would follow a list of questions (many interviewees meander before getting back to the original questions), I changed the format to fit within a 20-minute duration. Twenty minutes is a convenient duration — for instance, it takes me that amount of time to get my kids to school. People can also have their coffee during this period.
Image from Unsplash
By containing the interviews within just 20 minutes, the editing became easier. This period can also already cover the basic who, what, why, where, when, and how questions.
One of the lessons that I’ve learned is that when you’re doing a podcast, it’s better to make the output’s length fixed. Set a target time. This also helps guests limit the length in which they answer your questions. This setup offers efficiency for both me and my interviewee — we can get a lot more things done. Personally speaking, when I listen to lengthier podcasts, I have the tendency to drift off.
During the interviews, I also follow the 80-20 rule. I want to get to the point quickly and have my guests explain who they are and what problems they solve for other businesses (which mostly involve communications and technology). Then, I introduce my guest to my audience and connect them with one another. In my business, which is public relations, I spend my time connecting people, getting them to understand enough information about each other, and letting them carry the conversation themselves once they see it’s relevant for them, then I step out. This same model is very well applicable to the podcast.
For the post-production of my content, I used to use GarageBand. However, the system consumed over 1.5 gigabytes on my hard drive because of the massive audio files. The editing was also challenging. I switched to a software called Hindenburg, which can directly publish my episodes to Buzzsprout and other platforms. More recently, I discovered Descript, which also offers real-time auto-transcription services. While the Hindenburg was elegant (I availed it for $50 as Buzzsprout had a $50-discount), Descript enabled me to get the transcript immediately. And that saved me a huge amount of time.
I also use Repurpose.io to create an audiogram (a video version of my audio), which costs over $20 a month. The output will then automatically go to my YouTube account. I can also use this as promotional content that I can upload on Pinterest. This is a cost-effective way of maximizing my content. It’s beneficial because the ability to quickly publish shareable content is essential when making a podcast.
For instance, if I want to write a 1,000-word article, it would take me about an hour to do so as I write for a living. When I speak to the mic and have the article written as I go along, it helped me produce more content straight away — the podcast episode itself and the article. This process (including the editing of the article) usually takes around 1.5 hours. The article I’m making then goes to my newsletter once a week, to my Medium, and to LinkedIn. While the articles on LinkedIn don’t get much traction, it really helps me build my discoverability and position myself as an authority.
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When using the SPEAK|PR methodology to get people noticed, I always talk about a content-centric approach the gear towards an avatar or persona. And the content needs to be valuable, engaging, and simple to understand. To amplify your content, you have to send it to the right people at the right time, through the right platform.
Knowing Your Audience
When doing a podcast, you have to be aware of who and where your audiences are.
For The UnNoticed Podcast, Buzzsprout shows that 29% of my listeners are in North America, 36% in Europe, 27% in Asia, 3% in Australia and New Zealand, and 2% in Africa. And it has really delighted me to know that my broadcast emanating from a garden studio is reaching the world. It remarkably shows just what technology can do. And I’m heartened by the fact that I’m able to share this message of how technology can liberate businesses and get noticed by people all over the world.
As for the download figures, records show that 48% of my downloads are made via Apple Podcasts. Furthermore, 58% are being downloaded on Apple devices and 71% are being listened to on mobile. With this, I have proven that it’s valuable to have content that’s short and sweet, and without too much banter.
On the Expenses
Taking into account the kit and software I’ve mentioned earlier, my podcast costs me less than $300 a year. I also upgraded my storage to accommodate more files.
To help promote my content, I use tools such as ProspectIn (a French company that automates my LinkedIn activities), TryLately (an artificial intelligence-powered content generation platform based in the US), and Earth.ai (an analysis software from Japan). I also do my own promotion of the podcast. I think that the $300-worth of expenses is a good value as I’m able to share my knowledge and introduce these other platforms as well.
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Once I get more downloads, I will be able to start monetising and gain some money back. For now, I’ve added a fund-raising feature to my podcast via PayPal.
A Few More Words
The key learning that I’ve acquired while doing a podcast for nearly a year now is to be consistent. You also have to include transcripts on your episodes because it will help boost the searchability of your show. You shouldn’t rely on native discovery and wait for people to find you — if they’d be able to read about your content, it will be more enticing for them to go to you. However, keep in mind that there’s still definitely an audience for all kinds of content.
I also reach out to people around the world who have their own podcasts and be a guest on their shows. This helps me promote and grow my own podcast through sharing it in their communities and, of course, and in mine.
If you have concerns about how to get noticed, you can reach me at email@example.com. You can also tune in to The UnNoticed Podcast and perhaps you yourself can jump on the mic as part of your marketing strategy.
This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast The UnNoticed, you can listen here.