Guest Post by Samantha Villegas, APR
August marks the two year anniversary of the launch of The Serial Moms podcast, a 40-ish-minute monthly ‘cast I cohost with News Generation CEO, Susan Apgood. In addition to being a podcast co-host, I am also an avid podcast listener. From both perspectives, I have some observations to share about what I think makes a podcast particularly good and what doesn’t.
Originality. They say in writing, write what you know. Podcasting is no different. But what if the topic you know is one that many others do, too? How can you make yours stand out while still remaining widely appealing?
Susan and I talk about the challenges and triumphs of motherhood, working in PR and working while women. These are not original topics, but the way we tackle them is. We’re not a “how to” ‘cast nor are we trying to teach anyone anything (although, who knows, you might pick something up that’s helpful. You’re welcome).
It’s not an interview format with pre-planned Q & A. It’s a conversation between two (and occasionally three) friends. Our brand of podcast is an honest conversation between friends covering fairly universal topics. We’re often told our listeners feel like they’re having coffee or drinks with us. So while your topic might not be special, your delivery can and should be.
Authenticity. I know, it’s the buzzword of the decade. But, for a reason. As is the case with actual conversations you have with others, the truer you are, the better, more interesting, your ‘cast will be to others. For us, authenticity means we say exactly how we feel.
The ‘cast is recorded and we listen prior to posting, but in two years, we have only edited once or twice for tiny bits of dead air or to bleep a name out. Many podcasts I’ve listened to ring sour because they sound overproduced. Hosts adopt a different voice, or read from a script, or guests appear to be following Key Message Points.
My advice is, have an idea what you want to say, but forego the script and go where the conversation takes you.
Active Listening. We’re always taught not to interrupt and to let others finish a thought before we speak. And that’s true for casual, face to face conversation.
But, silence is not great for podcasting, at least not for the conversational style. Listeners can’t see smiles, eyebrows, blinks, winks and nods, so those HAVE to be conveyed vocally – just as you would when talking on the phone with a friend.
You have to utter your agreement, shock, awe or disagreement audibly, so the listener can follow along with the back and forth. In the acting world, they call it, reacting. It’s just as important.
Other secrets I’ve learned for a successful podcast:
- Take yourself too seriously. Really. We’re not all Ira Glass, nor will we ever be. You will make mistakes. Own them.
- Overanalyze what you’re going to say. Speak your gut. That’s usually the most real and entertaining.
- Second guess yourself. Plus, there’s always the editing phase as a fail-safe.
- Speak your honest mind. If you can’t say what you really want to, say THAT and explain why, but don’t skirt it and settle for a lame stand-in response just because you fear the consequences of saying what you really feel.
- Be choosy about naming names, selecting anecdotes to share. It’s hard to know when to be generic and when to be specific. Susan and I are still honing this skill, but it gets easier.
- Have fun. When you have fun, the audience has fun.
About the Author
Samantha Villegas is an accredited strategic communications consultant serving nonprofit clients in the DC area and beyond. You can reach her at email@example.com. The Serial Moms Podcast is available on iTunes and Soundcloud. You can contact either host at firstname.lastname@example.org.