You get to decide what you want to convey and what the best method is for sharing that message with the world.
Stop for a second, put your iPhone down, and close your eyes.
Push all of the 21st century tech out of your mind – all of it – and try to imagine the long-vanished world of 1985. This was a time when social media meant meeting your friends at McDonald’s after the high school football game so that everyone could good-naturedly yell back and forth between tables. Phones were clunky and large and firmly attached to the kitchen wall, pictures were taken with cameras that were loaded with film (that needed to be developed), and the whole concept of AI was strictly the stuff of science fiction.
The possibility of getting your message – any message – out to the world was a slim one at best. The options for communicating to people other than those looking at you from across the dinner table amounted to a mere handful: “letters to the editor” in the local paper, random scenarios in which a radio station might happen to be broadcasting remotely, and maybe a slot on community-access cable TV. As a result, many found themselves without a platform on which to share their story, and, for those wanting to tell the world about their small business or non-profit, the situation was next to impossible. Barring the occasional lucky break of being in the right place at the right time, there was essentially no opportunity to convey a consistent, personal message to your desired audience.
Fast forward to the 2020’s and now, the opportunities for self-broadcasting seem almost boundless. In the vast and complex universe of social media platforms, there’s more than ample opportunity for positioning your voice in the ears of those you most want to reach. Not only does the incredible array of options provide you with choices that would’ve been impossible in that long-lost world of 1985, but the associated cost is either free or practically negligible. One of the primary hurdles to overcome in days gone by was the high price tag for any kind of media outlet exposure, but the modern-day content creator can get started with minimal investment and even work toward eventual monetization.
Another benefit that would’ve been laughably dismissed as impossible a few decades ago is the whole concept of controlling your own message – as a content creator, you get to decide what you want to convey and what the best method is for sharing that message with the world. The combination of low cost and creative autonomy make for an irresistible pull, and the result of this easy access to widespread communication is that many rush into that realm without weighing their options and determining the most practical approach. But, with a little research and intentional planning, even someone with no previous experience can establish a solid platform for conveying the message of the organization they represent.
One of the first important decisions involves determining which outlet to focus on. Although a “cross-pollination” strategy in which you overlap your message on a variety of platforms can be beneficial in the long term, the most important focus when you’re first starting out is on selecting the best place to launch. This is where the positives and negatives of each need to be carefully weighed. Writing a blog is completely free, but gaining traction outside of your immediate circle of influence can be challenging. YouTube is also free, but there are millions of creators uploading countless hours of fresh content each day.
It might seem counterintuitive to pursue a paid rather than a free option, but one such choice – a podcast – can actually be a valid outlet. The idea of paying a monthly or yearly fee to host a podcast might seem a bit intimidating, but there are unique benefits to podcasting that easily justify that expense. YouTube episodes and blogs are legitimate ways to share your message, but the reality is that audio-only podcasts offer content consumers an opportunity to partake in your message when and where they’d like, without the need to be reading or watching something. And the fact that podcasts can be downloaded also opens up the possibility of the listener literally taking the content along for the ride, as many people with a long daily commute fill that time by listening to some type of audio – why not your podcast?
Once you’ve made the decision to create your own podcast, you then need to establish some practical parameters regarding the format you’ll follow. If the purpose of your podcast is to help communicate the mission and vision of your organization, start by clearly defining what that means and how you’ll go about distilling your message into an easily-accessible format. Next, you need to ask yourself a few critical questions. Who exactly is your target audience? Will the episodes consist of you discoursing on a subject in a solo capacity, or will you have guests and/or a co-host? Will each episode focus on a specific topic, or will you take a “grab bag” approach in which you cover a wide variety of subjects in each installment?
Another crucial step before you begin the production of your podcast involves giving careful consideration to the subject matter you want to present. If you haven’t already amassed a large knowledge base of material to serve as the core of your content, be sure to factor in the necessity of doing additional research each time you’re working on an episode. This is also the time to deal with some basic logistical issues in terms of equipment and production. If you don’t have any background experience in working with audio, be aware that there’s a gigantic learning curve facing you, depending on how involved you want to get. The value of your content should always hold precedence over technical concerns, but you’ll quickly lose listeners if they have to suffer with sub-par audio. It’s not necessary to become a studio expert, but you should commit to learning at least the essential basics of DIY audio production.
As with any other sphere of creativity, the recording aspect can be dealt with through multiple options at a variety of price points. You could theoretically record your entire podcast on your smartphone, but you’ll achieve better results if you have the ability to do some rudimentary editing. Computer-based recording will help you to achieve professional results with a very modest cash outlay. You can obtain a high-quality microphone for less than $100, and it’s quite possible to do all of your recording and editing in a freeware known as Audacity. This is a widely-used software with a massive user community, and the basics can be mastered in short order.
So, once you’ve devised interesting and engaging content, recorded your first episode, and edited it into a concise presentation, now what? The missing piece of the puzzle involves setting up your podcast through a hosting website. There are a variety of options, with Buzzsprout and Podbean being two of the more popular. Be sure to investigate all of the options in detail – although different hosting sites might appear to offer very similar features, there will usually be certain aspects of the terms and conditions that will end up helping you to determine which one is the most attractive option. Many podcast hosting sites offer trial memberships, so this can be a good alternative for getting your feet wet without committing to a monthly or annual membership agreement.
Once your podcast is officially live on a hosting site, the key to getting your message out will be provided to you in the form of a URL known as an RSS (“Really Simple Syndication”) feed. This will direct your episodes out to any podcast directories you’ve submitted to, such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify, and automatically send updates whenever you publish new episodes. This is an exciting moment, because once your RSS is in place, you are literally in broadcast mode, and any new content you upload will be available immediately wherever your podcast is offered. Most hosting websites provide easy integration into all your social media platforms, so each new episode can generate an automatic posting to your accounts in YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
As with any aspect of promotion, the rest is up to you. The sphere of podcasting is nowhere nearly as competitive as YouTube, but you’ll still likely start out as a small fish in a large pond. The key to establishing your own identity is to give careful thought as to how you can make yourself stand out. You may be discussing subject matter that a hundred others are, but you still have a story to tell that’s unique to your small business or non-profit. Being able to send your individual message out to the world is a great opportunity to explain everything that defines your organization – your “origin story”, the people that you serve, and the parameters in which you operate.
Podcasting may seem a bit overwhelming, whether from the standpoint of putting your voice and personality out into the world or from overcoming technological challenges. And the fact that there’s associated expense, whereas there’s none in venues such as a blog or a YouTube channel, might deter some from ever taking that first step. But consider the fact that most people are more apt to take something seriously if they’ve invested something financial in it. And pushing through what might initially appear to be a gigantic tech learning curve doesn’t have to be insurmountable. Plus, once you’ve got an episode “in the can”, you’ll feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment in having learned (and begun to master) the disciplines of audio production.
If you’ve been putting off stepping into the world of podcasting, there’s no better time than the present. People in 1985 may have missed out by not having access to the incredible wealth of tools we have today, but the even greater tragedy is not availing yourself of the opportunities this technology presents. Whatever you do in your organization, you have a story worth telling – and podcasting makes sharing that message more practical and far-reaching than ever.
If you'd like developing a podcast, the team at ValorExcel can help! To book a Power Hour to discuss your business development needs, visit https://www.valorexcel.com/book-online or call us at 240-329-9387 today! Then, make sure you check our recent videos on YouTube by clicking HERE. Each episode is designed to inspire, empower, and transform you and/or your organization.