A Podcast Toolkit - Planning A Project In A Pandemic pt. 1
Part of our new 3 part series "Planning A Project In A Pandemic", this blog post can serve as your guide to starting your first podcast.
*Note that I am sharing from personal experience, so this blog post will be more along the lines of how I made the Yellowwood Youth Podcast and advice from my experience.*
Why a podcast?
You do not have to have an organization, a project, funds, or any kind of framework to get a podcast off the ground. None at all! You can create whatever kind of content you want to for no cost at all. $0. Besides the part about being completely free as long as you have a computer, there are ways to earn money without paying to make the product. It takes a good amount of listens, but it's possible. Think of it as a starting point for fundraising while creating content!
2. The Market
More people are listening to them than ever before! This is your chance to break into a new audience that may not be on the main social medias, and a format that suits most people's everyday lives. They can listen while doing other activities, and in this fast paced, multi-tasking world, most everyone can appreciate that.
Trying to plan projects during Covid-19 can be tough, but a podcast does not require any in-person contact whatsoever. You click record in your home, they answer your questions in theirs. In the modern world, this is a feasible project for anyone with a computer, and may provide a source of connectivity that we have all been lacking these past months.
Most of us do not have the time in our day to learn how to film with a decent camera (or have the funds to purchase it), let alone learning how to edit and produce a high quality video that would hold as much dense information as a podcast can. In comparison to other projects that take months to plan, fund, and produce a product, the entire cycle of 1 Yellowwood Youth podcast episode averages at around 5-7 hours. That includes research, brainstorming the questions, the actual recording, first and second rounds of editing, and uploading.
I have school, and internship, a job, and all the very important family and alone time that we all need to have, so fitting in yet another project into my day seemed daunting. For me, the podcast is a project that can be in the works in the background and it is very fluid in terms of deadlines and the time I spend working on it. If you are producing it all yourself, you designate the time allotted to editing or research.
For our podcasts, the only restrictive aspect is the time that is sectioned out for the actual interview. The other parts of the process are able to be slotted into my schedule. There isn't an upload deadline, I don't let the interviewees know when I expect to have it up, I just tell them when it is done, and that's that! For example, over the summer, I recorded and released 3 episodes, and during fall I have recorded 6 more but only released 2. It's all up to your schedule.
There is also a lot of moving parts, so it is never a stagnant project. It doesn't have a deadline like a publishing date, a petition, or an in-person event. You can be emailing the next 5 people you want to have on your podcast and be recording one that week and be editing one from two months ago. Or, you can do one at a time all the way through. You get the gratification and product of completed episodes, but the project as a whole expands as large as you take it.
Alright, you know you want to make a podcast, but how?
Part 1: Planning
What preparation goes on behind the scenes? What kind of outreach do you have to do? Who do you choose to invite? All answered below.
Step 1: Asking The Right People
Our podcast started with someone reaching out to us, which might not happen to you. But, in the case that someone offers to collaborate, it is almost always a good idea to say yes or write down their name for a later date.
Use what names you have easy access to. Start small. Interview your AP Environmental Science Teacher, or ask them if they have contacts you could have to ask a wider group. (If your topic is not centered around the environment, pick a teacher that is closer to your topic and ask them). If you attend events, write down the names of the hosts, the speakers, or the names of organizations that sponsor, host, or table at the events. These names may turn into leads later on. Attending these opportunities means that you have a lead in to a conversation with them, a middle ground, something in common. You can start your message to them with "Hello, My name is (your name). I (met you/was introduced to your work) at (event).".
For example, I met Jim Poyser (from Earth Charter Indiana) & Teresa Dunn (from the IU Integrated Program in the Environment) at the Youth Environmental Leadership Summit, and both of them will be featured in future podcast episodes. If you have read the "7 Tips for Activism" blog post, you'll know that being a finalist in Project Green Challenge 2019 meant that I had access to contacts for the speakers and mentors such as Debbie Raphael, the Director of San Francisco's Department of the Environment, and Beth Rattner, the Executive Director of the Biomimicry Institute. Use your connections.
If you are just starting out and don't have those bigger connections, like stated earlier, start small. If someone's email is public, just send that email! You never know who will say yes. If you want to build a local following first, ask local restaurants and shops that focus on fair trade, plant-based foods, or low waste output. (Obviously that doesn't go for non-environmental podcasts). Or, make a list of local organizations that match your mission and ask to interview someone who is familiar with their work. During Covid-19, the owner or director may not be able to take the time to talk with you, but finding a contact is still possible and very achievable.
Below is a link to a basic email template to invite potential guests to be on your podcast. Be sure to fill it out with more personalized information and connection to the person. Copy and paste it into your browser to view.
Step 2: Asking The Right Questions
In our "7 Tips for Activism" blog post, I talked about making your learning process into content. You can use a podcast to educate yourself while you educate others. Think of your podcast as your chance to ask the questions you want to hear the answers to.
For example, here are some questions I asked the students in West Lafayette in Episode 2 on how they started their strikes and project planning details:
- What was involved in getting the projects running?
- How much do you rely on social media to get your message out there and be heard?
- How have you been reaching out to others in our generation?
These were questions I thought would be helpful to know the answers to in creating my own educational content that I wanted to reach my own generation. Use your questions to gain knowledge you want to know as well as general information that people first coming to the topic should know.
Not only can you get answers you are seeking, but you have a much higher chance of having the opportunity to ask them if you are offering a service to the interviewee. Your podcast is publicity for them! Shoot high, you never know who will say yes! They want to answer people's questions, but they can't reach everyone, so if someone else can do the grunt work of editing and producing their content, that opens more time in their schedule to do their work.
That being said, while you are providing them a service, you need to be prepared. Do your research on the organization or person before emailing them. Do more research when coming up with your questions. You need to know that person well enough to ask follow up questions and respond with detailed statements. As time goes on, you'll get better at making your podcast conversational, but a huge start in that coming easier is being knowledgable on the subject you are talking about. You don't need to be an expert, but you do need a basic understanding of the topic and that person's work in particular.
Below is a link to the planning format I use for preparing for an episode. Be sure to fill the intro and outro with details that highlight the unique qualities of that episode. Copy and paste it into your browser to view.
If the person says yes, great! Send them a follow up email asking what times work for them and offer to send them the questions before hand. I always ask if they would like to answer on the spot or prepare in advance. The higher up you get, the more likely they will want to take a look at the questions first or run them by a supervisor to see if they are able to answer them. I also ask if there are any questions they would like me to ask them. You are there to spread their vision and work, so include them in that process to make sure you are accurately displaying those things in a way they are comfortable.
Part 2: Production
What apps do you use? How do you edit? How do you get it on streaming services? All answered below.
Step 1: Choose Your Recording Platform
Having the conversation over the web can be tricky sometimes, but it allows you to reach out to more people who aren't where you are. There are all sorts of websites that offer recording services. Personally, we just use Zoom. When creating the meeting, click the box next to "Automatically record meeting on the local computer.", and when you start the meeting, the recording will start. When the meeting is ended, the application will automatically save the audio and video recordings to your computer in Downloads.
Here are a few of other free platforms for recording your podcast:
Audacity - most used, cross devices recording so better quality.
Step 2: Choose Your Equipment
There are all kinds of equipment you can buy and use, from microphone stands to sound reduction boards to hand up around you, but you can produce a quality podcast without paying for any of them.
If you are looking to produce this podcast for free, all you need is a computer! If you have heard our podcast and think the audio quality is good enough, then just use Zoom. Any of the above recording platforms can be downloaded for free for computers, so if you own one, this is a $0 addition.
I would recommend anyone who will be recorded to be wearing a headset with a microphone or ear buds that have a microphone. Be cognizant of your movement and tell your guest to be sure to speak clearly near their microphone. If the headset hits other objects like clothes or your desk, you will be able to hear it in the recording.
Step 3: Choose Your Editing Platform
This is a step we are still picking our favorites with. Our distribution platform, Anchor, now has an editor as well, so that is an "all in one stop" app or website.
We started out using OcenAudio , an application free to download where you can zoom in on your audio and edit segments at a time. So far, we have done very basic editing, taking a section of audio and deleting or altering its volume, so there might be a lot more this app is capable of that I am not aware of! Episode 1-10 (tentatively) were edited using OcenAudio, using a simple select and delete function to cut out odd pauses or move audio from one section to another where it fits best.
We are looking at using Audacity for recording and editing in the future. From what we have heard, that application has a wide array of options for editing for free as well, without having to move the audio file from one application to another.
Another known audio editor you can use is WavePad.
When recording, be cognizant of spots where audio might cut out, and ask them to repeat their sentence. Your guests might get very comfortable sharing themselves with you, but if personal information is shared, make sure you ask them when they are done answering the question if they would like you to keep that audio in the final product. It is your job to make them comfortable, and if they ask you to not include a segment for whatever reason, you are obligated to.
Step 4: Choose Your Distribution Platform
We use Anchor, which is a free distribution app to multiple streaming services. We mentioned earlier that they recently added an in-web editor as well, but you can spice up your podcast with intro music, sound effects, and more without the editor.
Currently, our podcast is available for free to listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Breaker, PocketCasts, RadioPublic, and the Anchor App. Anchor shows you analytics of where your podcast is listened to most and who is doing the listening. They include age ranges, gender, and location provided by the partnering applications.
You can also earn money using Anchor. If you've heard our podcast, you know that we have 1 30 second add in each episode that explains what Anchor is. If you make this add personally, you can earn a very small amount of money for each listen on each episode. It averages to about $1 every 100 listens, so it may take a while to earn any real money off of listens. If you don't want to have adds in your content, you don't have to put them in.
All you do is drop your audio file into the webpage, add any music or sound effects you would like, and Anchor sends it out to all streaming services they have access to, so you don't have to.
Step 5: Market and Share
Social media is your biggest tool here. Share on your social accounts and use hashtags to get more eyes on your posts. Share snippets of the podcast on platforms to intrigue potential listeners. Send the guest an email with a link to the episode and attach a specialized thank you note. (You can create cute graphics for free in Canva). Let them know that they can share it on their platforms or within their organization. This will widen your audience base and boost your listens.
Have your family and friends listen to it and give you feedback. It might be hard to hear, but learning what other people think may help you refine how you edit or what questions you ask.
For more detailed and professional tips on how to start a podcast, visit Podcast.co .
Hopefully this post has helped you in your quest to start a podcast. If there are other questions you would like me to answer, shoot us an email at YellowwoodYouthIN@gmail.com
- Josie Sparks; Founder of Yellowwood Youth-