The podcasting world is immense. Spotify alone has more than 5 million podcast titles on its platform—and there are dozens of platforms. With so much competition, just planning a podcast can be difficult.
It’s crucial to start with some direction. What’s your why? As in, why do you want to create a podcast? Are you trying to solve a problem, or do you just want to complement your business model? When you know why, you can determine the topics you want to cover and what specific audience might be interested.
To stand out in the wide world of podcasting, you must set up your podcast successfully. Prioritize planning now, and you’ll have a clear vision for the path forward. This guide will walk you through the decisions you should make before you ever fire up your mic and hit “record.”
Finding Your Topic
First things first: you need something to talk about. This should tie in with your why—do you want to educate? Entertain?
When it comes down to it, finding your topic is a delicate dance between what you want to discuss and what your audience wants to hear.
Choose Podcast Topics You’re Passionate About
Trust us, your audience can tell if you’re not interested in the topic you’re covering. Of course your podcast topics should resonate with your listeners, but it’s more important to choose topics you’re passionate about. Otherwise, you risk a boring or disorganized episode.
Here are some tips to help narrow down your topics:
- With your brand or business in mind, think about what interests you. What drew you to this industry?
- Use your enthusiasm and passion to your advantage—this is unique to you and will help you to stand out and plan fresh, relevant content.
- Note what you have expertise in or experience with. Look for things you know and love that tie into your business model.
You might end up with a long list of topics—don’t let that overwhelm you. Instead, consider this a starting point and prioritize from there. In this first phase of podcast planning, the goal is to organize your ideas to ensure they’re cohesive.
Who’s Your Audience?
One of the most important parts of podcast planning is knowing who your audience is. Taking time in the beginning to identify and get to know your audience will make things easier down the road—they’ll be your lodestar.
Think about it this way: What problem are you trying to solve, or what do you want to share with people? Then, think about who might want or need this information. Start with broad categories like college students, entrepreneurs, or new parents and jot down some general topics that might appeal to them.
Next, research your target listeners. See what shows they listen to and determine how your show overlaps or adds something different. Dig deep into their interests, preferences, and challenges, then narrow down your podcast topics accordingly. The more you know about your audience, the more likely you are to meet their needs.
What Does Your Audience Want?
In general, people listen to podcasts for two reasons: to learn something new or to be entertained. When you look at your audience, why might they listen to your podcast? Knowing this can help you further pinpoint what your audience wants so you can plan engaging content.
If this podcast is for your business, consider your current clients. Talk to your customer service team or salespeople. What questions do they regularly get? Each FAQ could be an episode topic.
If this is a personal podcast, do some research on your target audience. What other podcasts are they drawn to? In addition, consider what content they’re searching for. For instance, if college students are your target audience, check out the comments and questions on some college Facebook pages. What are the common themes?
Telling Your Stories
Everyone loves a good story. So, use a storytelling framework to structure each episode. This will keep listeners engaged and add healthy variety to your overall podcast plan.
Each episode could be its own, self-contained story, or you might tell one long story over multiple episodes. It all depends on your format and overarching topic, so be sure to consider this in your podcast planning. You want to take your listeners on a journey, so plot out a clear beginning, middle, and end. Also, include compelling narratives that illustrate the message you want to share.
Determining and structuring your content can be tricky. Let’s explore ways to make it easier.
What’s Your Angle?
Among the millions of podcasts, there’s likely already one about your general topic. So, how will yours stand out? It comes down to your unique angle—the approach you’ll take or the gap you’ll fill.
Research the existing podcasts in your topic or industry to see where they fall short, then brainstorm different approaches. Note these when you’re in podcast planning mode. Begin with what you know and think about how you might reframe that idea. If you don’t have new information to share, could you at least cover the topic in a different way?
As you’re finding new angles, don’t do it alone. Collaborate with timely and relevant guests or influencers that focus on a specific audience or explore a niche perspective. This strategy will ensure your podcast plan has a cohesive variety of content creation options. Remember, your listeners are looking for your unique take—not another podcast repeating what they’ve already heard.
One word of caution: don’t be different for the sake of being different. Your unique angle should offer a genuine and authentic perspective that thoughtfully addresses your chosen topic.
On Evergreen vs Timely Content—Why You Need Both
To be truly engaging, your podcast topics should reflect a mix of both evergreen and timely content. Evergreen content is relevant to your audience at any time, regardless of season, trends, or other conditions. A robust library of evergreen content is essential to developing a listener base—it sets the foundation for your podcast and drives your audience to come back for more.
By contrast, timely content can only be covered at a specific moment. For instance, it might center on a trend in your industry, or you could develop holiday-specific themes and stories.
This delicate balance takes time to curate. Broadly sketch out the topics you want to cover and allow adequate time for research and scheduling. Intentional podcast planning that focuses on a balance of evergreen and timely content can increase the likelihood that your podcast will be successful and your listeners will stay engaged.
General Tips for Compelling Storytelling
There are several storytelling techniques and strategies that can help you create captivating content for your listeners:
- Know your audience and topic. The story should align with your brand message and be appropriate for your listeners.
- Know the goal of your story. How does it punctuate your overall topic or episode?
- Consider when to tell the story. Should you begin the episode with a story, or would it be better placed in the middle to break up some technical content?
- Keep it concise. Unless your entire episode is in a story format, keep your story short and to the point.
- Get personal. Share a true experience with something you’re passionate about that relates to the topic.
- Include a call to action (CTA). Your story should inspire listeners to act, so give them clear next steps to take.
- Show, don’t tell. Numbers are very descriptive. How much money did a customer save? How much time did a new hack shave off your routine?
Keeping It Fresh
A podcast is a long-running series—how will you keep yours new and exciting? As mentioned earlier, a mix of evergreen and timely content will help you keep things fresh. And as you plan each episode, ensure you’re bringing something new to the conversation.
Even if the podcast topic has been covered many times before, think about your specific experience, knowledge, and insights in this area. Remember: no one has covered this topic from your unique perspective. If you’re not sure how to add something new here, find a guest speaker and build a great conversation together. Look for someone who’s genuine, interesting, and can support your podcast’s mission.
Finally, turn to your listeners. Encourage them to submit questions or topic ideas for future shows. This offers a way to keep them engaged and ensures you’re delivering what they want to hear.
Quality Over Quantity
There’s no episode quota you’re required to meet. So, in your podcast planning, make sure you prioritize developing a quality experience above all else. Otherwise, you’re more likely to just throw any content out there, regardless of whether it aligns with your podcast’s message.
For instance, don’t produce a Halloween-themed podcast just because it’s October; make sure your topic contributes something that’s both genuine and authentic. Similarly, don’t rush out 12 episodes for the 12 Days of Christmas—you’ll end up sacrificing quality for content your audience may not even want.
Instead, put the topics you’ll cover on a content calendar, so you can better plan when to cover each topic. Build variety into your schedule—a good mix of evergreen and timely content with enough time to research topics.
Choosing quality over quantity also leaves you time to actively engage your audience as well. Share your podcast across social media channels and encourage listeners to post questions or comments. You can also repurpose your podcast into a blog post, social media posts, and even short- or long-form videos.
Collaborations and Guest Interviews
If you’re not great at telling stories—or if you don’t want to hear yourself talk for 30–45 minutes—don’t force it. Instead, leverage guests that have credibility and great stories to tell. These can be interviews that share guests’ success, personal growth, lessons learned, or just plain funny happenings.
Collaborating with other experts has many benefits. For instance, it will add some life and interest to your podcast, break up the monotony of your workflow, boost your credibility, and keep your listeners engaged. However, it also requires intentional podcast planning. The world of podcasting has lots of room for creativity, but there are some general best practices that will ensure your podcast is successful and that your guest is a well-received speaker.
- Prepare both yourself and your guest ahead of time.
- Plan out the content itself. Develop and share interview questions and discuss the general flow.
- Work out logistics in advance, such as how the guest will join your recording software.
- Have a general plan of events and etiquette so guests can feel comfortable and clear on expectations.
Include a genuine and healthy amount of cross channel media sharing in your podcast plan. When your guest shares the episode with their audience, you’ll likely pick up a few new listeners.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint—Keep Checking and Adjusting Your Strategy
Your podcast planning doesn’t end when your show starts. You should constantly and consistently track its performance and growth to ensure you’re gaining listeners. Consider your plan a living document—it should evolve over the course of your show as you learn audience preferences and hone your craft.
Remember to be patient and include time for reflection. This will help you adjust your strategy with your overall podcast plan in mind. Building in time for analytics is a great start.
Analyze Your Content
Part of successful podcast planning is knowing what needs to stay the same and what needs to change. Just because you’ve used the same podcast topics for a year with good results doesn’t mean you can do that for the next five years. As time goes on, you’ll need to take a closer look at your content. Is it still serving its purpose or are listeners demanding a different direction?
If your audience is engaging with your show and growing, then you can probably keep doing what you’re doing. But if you’re not seeing as much interest and your audience is static or shrinking, it’s probably time to adjust your strategy. Either way, don’t guess—look at the data from your podcast platform to make an informed decision. Combining your curiosity, research, and analytics can help you make the necessary adjustments to your podcast while staying true to your message and brand.
Before you change anything, make a plan. You’ll want to consider two things:
1. Setting Clear Objectives
Think about what you might want to change, then consider whether that change is even possible. Next, evaluate how important it is that you make a change and put some criteria around it. Finally, give yourself a measurable time frame to complete this and determine how you’ll measure success against your podcast plan.
You can also set individual objectives like recruiting new talent for the podcast, improving sales, or spreading brand awareness. Regardless of the objective you choose, ensure your analysis objectives support your podcast plan.
2. Gauging Your Podcast’s Growth
Podcast analytics provide you with critical details about your audience’s engagement and podcast reach. By reviewing these metrics, you can make a more informed decision about what to change and what to keep the same. This will enable you to produce more relevant and timely content that’s engaging and naturally draws a loyal audience.
Listen to Feedback
Listener feedback is an underrated gem. Your podcast may have great content, but if it’s curated in a vacuum, you’re missing opportunities to engage your audience. Getting feedback from your listeners can help you get to know your audience and better understand the topics they enjoy and find most engaging or helpful. This audience input will give you a foundation for refining your content and building a loyal listener base.
You can get the most consistent feedback by being accessible. Make sure listeners know how to contact your podcast directly with feedback or encourage them to leave a review on the platform. Whenever possible, communicate directly with your audience through the channels they use most. This could be your social media page, the comment sections, or even the podcast email.
Although most feedback will be constructive and helpful, some may not be. So, use discretion when responding to listener feedback. Try to understand where these listeners are coming from, but don’t take negative feedback to heart.
If you find there’s something to address, do it in a way that’s true to you, your brand, and your business model. With these criteria in mind, you’re more likely to make positive changes that are sustainable—rather than falling into a people-pleasing trap.
Here are three easy ways to gather audience feedback:
Survey your audience to uncover their preferences. This can provide you with valuable constructive criticism. Send the survey via email and post it on your social media channels. You only need to ask a few simple questions, such as:
- What is one thing you like about the show?
- What are two podcast topics you want to see on the show?
- Choose one way the show could improve.
Feedback in the form of reviews, especially positive and constructive reviews, adds credibility to your podcast. Podcasts with a large number of reviews are more favored by platform algorithms. They also serve as social proof of your impact and relevance.
Encourage listeners to leave honest reviews about each episode and the podcast overall. Remind them that you want their ideas and suggestions so you can make the show even better.
Be sure to respond to every review. Positive ones can get a quick “Thank you for listening!” while negative ones should get something more thoughtful: “Thank you for the feedback. Your opinion is important to me! I’ll definitely keep it in mind as I plan future episodes.”
Call to Action
A quick way to request feedback is to add a call to action to your episode. It’s commonly done at the end of an episode, although you can also add it in earlier if it flows well. Just be clear on what you want them to do:
- “Like and share this podcast with your friends.”
- “Leave us a quick review so we can make the show better.”
- “Email me your ideas and suggestions for future episodes.”
- “Subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode.”
Perfect Your Podcast Planning With WriteForMe
Professionals make it look easy, but there’s a significant amount of planning that goes into your favorite podcast. It all starts with choosing topics that are engaging and intriguing to your audience. Put yourself in your listeners’ shoes and think about what they’d like to learn or be inspired by. Experiment with different formats to see what you and your audience gravitate toward. Remember, you want to enjoy your podcast as much as your listeners.
Once you find a winning formula for telling your stories, lean on your audience data to keep things fresh. Adjust your strategy as needed to keep your audience growing, and embrace listener feedback.
Ready to get started? WriteForMe can help! We’d love to work with you to you develop a solid podcast planning strategy that will make it easy to choose topics that resonate with your listeners. Contact us today to start creating compelling content that stands out! You can also get ideas on how to share your unique angle on your podcast topic with our free playbook.