Ciaran Rogers knows a thing or two about podcasting. As one half of the duo behind The Digital Marketing Podcast, he’s created a global iTunes top ten business podcast that’s been running for 185 episodes (and counting!). We spoke to Ciaran to find out about some of the learnings he’s picked up along the way, from interviewing technique to understanding how the medium is consumed.
1. Podcasting is a great way to build relationships
‘This is one of the things I clocked very early on. At that time I was also trying to get a water sports and yachting podcast off the ground. I was at the Southampton Boat Show, literally pouncing on stallholders, trying to get interviews with people to get some content. What I discovered through doing that all morning, was that here’s a marketing and networking technique that enables me in 15-20 minutes to get to know somebody really well and earn their trust. I can speak to almost anyone I want because there’s a good excuse to, and in return I get good exposure and content.’
2. Interviews are very time-consuming
‘When we’re creating normal episodes without special guests, Daniel [Rowles, co-host] and I tend to sit down and spend just about an-hour-and-a-half or so brainstorming and shooting the breeze. We’ll talk about all sorts of things, and very suddenly in the space of ten minutes will fine-tune everything we’ve been discussing into five or six bullet points. Using this approach, we can create four or five shows in the space of four hours. The recording bit is very quick, because we’ve worked it all out. When you do an interview, on the other hand, so much time goes into just agreeing a subject and a time you can meet up and talk. And because people are busy, all that planning quite often goes out of the window.’
3. Love your subject
‘One of the key things we’ve learnt is that you need to be really passionate about the subject you’re talking about. Personally, I know I excel much more at things I enjoy, and so a lot of the podcast content is actually me exploring the stuff that I love. My hidden agenda with some of the content is that I’ll cover it because I want to know more about it.’
4. Choose your co-host wisely
‘The idea behind The Digital Marketing Podcast, from my perspective, is that it’s two friends meeting up for a coffee, or even having a chat down the pub. It’s a fun, social thing. We do get really excited and passionate about stuff, and very often we’ll have a disagreement. Those episodes are always so much more fun to do, because there’s a little bit of conflict and tension. It’s much harder to carry the audience along with an interviewee, because you’re dealing with someone you’ve never met before. Until you get to speak to them, you never know how it’s going to go!’
5. Interviewees need space to speak
‘When I know a subject inside out, what I tend to do is play the amateur, because I need to take on the role of someone who wants to learn more about the subject. I’m sure the audience realise I’m doing this, because I’ve been doing marketing for years, but it helps to take the interviewee on that journey. The other thing you learn is that you’re not there to show off and show what you know. If you’re interviewing somebody, give them space to speak, space to breathe.’
6. A well-prepped guest is a good guest
‘One of the things we do is we mind-map the episode structure and interview questions with guests, before the interview. Using an information-sharing tool called Coggle.it, we’ll basically have a quick catch-up chat – I always like to have spoken to them before we do any recording – and give them an idea of what it’s all about and how it works. To set their mind at rest, I’ll say, “My job’s to make you sound great. I’m not a journalist, I’ve not got a hidden agenda, I’m not looking to catch you out, so relax, because this is going to be a fun thing.” You make sure they realise this is not live, that they’re going to get to listen to anything before we consider putting it out.
Having the Coggle where you’ve loosely agreed the direction of the episode helps you stay on track. It means I’m never directing where they’re going. It helps people relax, they know where they’re going, and they’ve got time to prepare. The amount of preparation that goes in from the other side is enormous if you give people the right tools to do it – and for me, Coggle is the right tool.’
7. Podcasting is a relationship-building tool like no other
‘Our podcast is hugely important to our business. I think a lot of doors have been opened as a result. For our clients, a lot of them share the content with their employees to help them stay up to date. When I first met Daniel, I’d been listening to his advice for two years, via his previous podcast. This is a lead generation/foot-in-the-door/relationship building tool like nothing else. If you’re producing good content and people are listening regularly, they’ll have built up a level of respect and trust.’
8. Podcasts fill audience time no other medium can fill
‘We find our audience engages with us in otherwise dead time. We don’t all have time to focus on our professional development; we might squeeze in reading a few essential, short-form, summarised blogs through social media; but there’s not a lot of time to sit down at work and read stuff. Listening to the podcast is something you can do while you’re walking the dog, driving to work, even in the gym. We constantly get feedback saying these are the ways people are consuming it. They’re learning on-the-go, and as with radio, you can be doing other stuff while you’re listening to it.’
9. The secret to success? Just show up
‘When we started out, all we had was a snowball USB mic on my laptop, and GarageBand. We did it for about 8/9 months before we had any real audience to speak of. We put out a podcast every month religiously, and that was the secret. Just showing up. Last June we made the decision to go weekly.’
10. Check out Libsyn for podcast hosting
‘Using Libsyn ensures we have very good stats to analyse. One of the mistakes a lot of beginner podcasters make is setting the podcast up on their webpages and getting the browser to autoload, or worse, autoplay it. That makes a mess of your stats. You’ll think your show is huge, but people aren’t necessarily listening. Libsyn’s player doesn’t do that, and for that reason I think their stats are a cut above what’s generally out there. They are fantastically supportive, too, and were one of the first to make it easy get your podcast onto Spotify.
I highly recommend their own podcast, The Feed, which features lots of great content to learn from.’
Since launching in 2010, The Digital Marketing Podcast has chalked up over 1.4 million downloads, with a current download rate of around 35-40,000 per month. The graph above, showing podcast downloads per day, would suggest that rate is only going to keep on accelerating.