By now, you should have the goal of your podcast, identified your audience, an overview of your competitors, and a list of key themes and topics provided to you by your target audience. The next step is to start outlining your show.
Your show outline is the concept of your show and your hook - why people should listen. This includes the topics and themes you’ll discuss, how you’ll deliver the content, and your unique angle and voice.
You’ll likely have a long list of topics you want to cover across your niche, but go on the assumption that you won’t be able to cover everything. So what’s the most important content your audience wants to hear, and how can you hook them in?
This is where your competitive research will be useful, as you know what everyone else is doing. Your hook could be to do with the way the content is delivered.
Suppose you operate in a traditionally serious industry; perhaps you could bring some comedy into your podcast? Or maybe your competitor’s episodes are really long, so you’ll make yours less than 10 minutes so they can be listened to during work breaks?
The hook of your show is what’s going to differentiate it from other podcasts in your niche.
Next, you want to start thinking about your format. Your format will determine the flow and structure of your podcast episodes. There are a few key elements you need to consider when finding your format:
The decision of having a solo host or multiple co-hosts can come down to your own preference, as there are advantages to both styles of hosting. For solo hosts, it can be easier to plan recordings as you are not restricted by the schedule of your co-hosts, meaning you can work around your schedule more easily.
Moreover, a solo host can make the show revolve around them and their voice, meaning they can be the main attraction.
That also means that being a solo host may be more nerve-wracking to first-time hosts as they are solely responsible for instigating the conversation and maintaining the audience’s attention.
On the other hand, while co-hosting can be more difficult to schedule, having multiple hosts can be a great way to keep the conversation flowing, add different perspectives and knowledge, and provide a more dynamic conversation for listeners.
Whether you are a solo host or have co-hosts, you want to ensure that you come across as a credible source. If you go solo or with a partner, ensure you are well-prepared for each episode, so your passion and expertise shine through.
If one of your goals is to establish yourself as an industry expert, being the solo host of your podcast is a great way to do that as you can develop a connection and sense of loyalty by being the authority talking directly to your audience.
An interview podcast is typically highly structured, in which the host acts as the guide for the listener, presenting a question-and-answer format, typically with guests such as industry professionals, those who are knowledgeable on the topic and those whose story best demonstrates the topic.
This structure can be very beneficial as you can ensure that you cover everything that you want. You can also send the questions to the guests ahead of time so they can prepare.
However, when using an interview structure, you'll want to avoid the trap of question, answer, question, answer, which can get repetitive. Use every question as the launchpad of a new discussion; listen to your guest's answer and build on it. Only move on to the next question when the time is right.
A discussion-style structure for your podcast is ideal for anyone looking to explore a particular topic with their expert opinion or experience. With this structure, the host or co-hosts can explore their own experience and knowledge, rather than relying solely on that of the guest, as is typical for interviews. Discussion-based podcasts are also less structured and more conversational than interviews.
With a round table podcast, you will typically have several guests discussing a single topic. The host may present an occasional prompt for an area of discussion, but the direction that the podcast goes in is dictated by the conversation between the guests.
This can provide fascinating insight for your listeners as a round table discussion allows the possibility of new areas of conversation to arise that you had perhaps not thought of or planned for.
A narrative structure may sound confined to fiction, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! With a narrative podcast, it is typically the host or hosts that present different threads of information, backed by case studies, statistics and further research, to build a picture of a wider point or narrative.
This structure can be incredibly engaging, however, arguably takes the most work to prepare and assemble.
The structure of your podcast will heavily depend on the topic, the information you wish to present, and what you believe your audience would most engage with. Consider whether interviews, discussions, round table or narrative structures best serve the content you want to deliver.
Segments are the different parts of your podcast. You could break up your podcast into smaller segments to add structure and variety to your episodes.
You can have segments which appear in every episode, like questions from the listeners, or you could have re-occurring segments that happen every couple of episodes.
If you have an idea for a new segment, try it out! It is important not to fall into the trap of being too rigid with your podcast; it is better to deviate from the formula as and when required, rather than restricting your episodes to fit into a particular kind of structure.
When looking at the duration you want for your podcast, it is important to consider your audience, the topic and your competition. The optimal length can vary from podcast to podcast. You want to be able to cover content in sufficient detail without feeling rushed, but similarly, if you try to make your podcast episodes too long, you risk losing your audience’s interest.
A shorter podcast can facilitate very specific and tightly packed-discussions.
A shorter episode may also suit your audience’s schedules better, so a podcast aimed at business owners may have more success with episodes that run for 10-15 minutes to allow the listener to get caught up on your content during lunch breaks.
In contrast, longer episodes can allow you to cover everything you wanted in a single episode, whether through multiple segments or interviews with one or more guests.
However, with longer run times, it can be easy to attempt to do too much to fill out the time, which can be counterproductive. It is better to cover less breadth but more deeply, rather than casting a wider net and only being able to scratch the surface.
Within podcasting, most podcasts opt for a weekly or fortnightly release schedule. While a monthly release schedule is appropriate in some circumstances, in our experience, it can be difficult to build momentum and gain an audience. As such, aiming for a weekly or fortnightly release schedule is advisable, as consistency and frequency are vital when building your audience.
It can be helpful to work at least two to three episodes ahead of the release schedule to allow some leeway encase there are any issues or delays when scheduling the next recording.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how you should structure your podcast or how frequently you should post. Experiment and see what works best for you.
Speaking of experimenting, show outlines shouldn't be set in stone. One problem with podcasts is that they stick too rigidly to their show outline, which can result in stale content. So don’t be afraid to explore and experiment with your show!