What I’ve Learned from a Year of Podcasting
When I started podcasting, I just wanted to extend my girlfriend conversations to include women who I might not normally be able to meet. What I didn’t expect was that it would be completely therapeutic for me.
In June of 2017, I approached two of my girlfriends about starting a podcast. I had been a long-time listener of some of the most popular #podsincolor (shoutout to Barry), but I felt like there was something missing from the podcast space. I wanted to listen to a show that reflected who I was: a smart, funny, sometimes-confidant 30-something, professional woman who was seeking to build community with other women. I wanted to see myself and my experiences, stories and relationships reflected in the podcast space, and because it didn’t exist, like my ancestors I said, “Fuck it, I’ll do it myself,” and thus, the Schoolin Life Podcast was born. My vision for Schoolin Life was to extend my standard "girlfriend" conversations to a wider audience. I realized that I had great, impactful and affirming conversations with my friends, that not all women had access to and I really wanted to share what I had with others. The women who I was having these conversations with were a mirror for me as I navigated family issues, situationships and supervisory situations at work. Podcasting has forced me to be more honest, introspective and thoughtful and it inadvertently serves as a sounding board that has really resonated with a growing audience. It has been one of the most rewarding and affirming experiences of my 30's and I'm grateful to use this platform. If you are considering podcasting, developing a brand, launching an entrepreneurial venture or leveling up in any part of your life, here are some of the essentials I’d recommend.
Find Allies, Accomplices, and Areas of Influence
An ally will most likely engage in activism by standing with you. Finding and following like-minded “creatives” has been invaluable in my success as a podcaster. We are able to commemorate, share feedback and encourage each other throughout our progress. We put each other on to new technologies and opportunities to expand our brands. Building genuine relationships in the podcasting world takes some work and tact but these relationships have paid dividends. An accomplice will focus more on dismantling the structures that impede your success. I jokingly call these folks “demystifyers.” They explain the things that no one will tell you, they have insider knowledge and they put you on to things that you might have otherwise missed. They are often in spaces that you are not,” so they can see the landscape from a different vantage point and offer advice from a lens you may not have. Know that many of the decisions about your brand may happen when you are not in the room. When someone nominates you for something, throws your hat in the ring, or speaks up on your behalf, that person is your accomplice. It’s imperative that you have these people who can do this for you inside and out of your circle. You (and thus your podcast or brand) are influential. Who you’re influencing and what you are influencing them to do should be a careful consideration as you approach your podcast. For Schoolin Life, our area of influence is primarily with women ages 25-40, who are working professionals and active social media users. Our goal, is to influence them to listen to Schoolin Life, and to view it as an essential weekly listen for hearing from and engaging with women like them. Because we know this, we are able to tailor our content to this ideal audience. We are readily able to take on new collaborations and confidently decline others because we know our audience and our area of influence.
Engage your audience, don’t wait for them to engage you
One of the biggest complaints I hear from other podcasters is that, “no one talks back,” and that their audience doesn’t engage with their social posts or content. This also seemed to be a problem for us until I realized that the responsibility to engage them was on us! Let’s be honest - we’re not Beyonce (yet) so we can’t just produce content and expect people to connect with it. We have to follow them back on social, comment on their posts, like their pictures, and respond to their random musings. Once we made it a priority to engage with their content, they made us a priority too and we experienced an increase in listener engagement as a result.
Be Shameless in Your Self-Promotion (sometimes)
I'm horrible at self-promotion. Calling attention to myself makes me feel uncomfortable and arrogant to be like, "Hey look-I'm doing this cool thing so check it out!" However, building a brand requires consistency, which we’ll discuss later, authentic self-promotion, and a compelling product and I've got all three! (See what I did there?) I had to get over myself and my fear of self-promotion and be shameless when I have new activities to talk about. This means, actually, bringing up my podcast in conversations with friends; this means sharing new episodes in my group chat; this means posting about it on social, and asking people to share my work. This does not mean spamming people or bringing up my podcast in every imaginable conversation with people who may not find it relevant. But, yes, when appropriate, I choose to be shameless and confident when I share my achievements with others. Shoutout to Maya!
Talk to Real Life People
On the surface, podcasting might be experienced only through speaking or listening. Most of the promotion and conversation about your podcast can happen solely online. But don’t fall into that trap. Engage the people you are surrounded by daily in building your brand. Take time to sit with a friend while she listens to an episode and then discuss the topic in person. Host a dinner party and encourage your guests to explore a subject to gather more emotions and perspectives. Bring up a SFW point with a coworker and see how she considers it. Basically, if I kept my friends separated, I would isolate a wide range of acquaintances who prove beneficial in broadening my context and serving as trusted sounding boards.
Schoolin Life has put out an episode every week for the past year. Every week. We recorded on weeks when I didn’t feel like it, weeks when I didn’t have time, and weeks when I wasn’t sure that anyone was listening. Every single week. Your brand and your audience deserve consistency and dedication. Give them the attention that they deserve and both will continue to grow.
I always strive to operate from a place of excellence. I recognize that sometimes what I produce doesn’t reach excellence but because that was my goal, I remain steadfast. The result is my constant journey of self-improvement. I am my greatest critic and because I have a relationship with my audience (shoutout to the first point), I know that they expect excellence and I aim to deliver. Existing in this place can be stressful and can lack contentment, but I encourage you to operate in excellence. Do your damnedest. And if you can’t, do something else entirely until you succeed.
Know what your confidence is going to waiver, and at times you’re going to be scared, demotivated and unsure but take all of the advice above and then, “Do It Scared.”
(You’ve noticed I didn’t say anything about mics, audio mastering, bit rates, hosting sites and the like, because you can learn all of that on YouTube. These are the real gems.)