October 21, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
A content planner is a group of organizational tools and processes that help you reach your marketing strategy goals. Some marketers think that planning and research only matter for written content, but the pros know better. All content you develop in any format benefits from careful planning and attention. Content planners let your team account for all the research, creation, publication, and distribution necessary to get your content made and shared with your audience. Today, we’re looking at how to develop a podcast content planner to create a valuable audio series and episodes your audience wants to listen to:
You can use a content planner to develop each individual podcast episode or your entire series. Or you can use content planners for both. We’d recommend the second option. Using content planners for each episode helps make sure the individual piece of content has focus and provides the right information that your audience wants to hear or learn within the target air time.
Using a content planner for individual episodes is like outlining your written content. It drills down what your audience wants to see on a one-to-one basis each time they encounter a new podcast episode. It’s great if all your episodes have laser focus and great flow. But if all the episodes don’t fit together, overall, your audience may feel like your podcast doesn’t have a clear theme. When used as a marketing tool, a podcast needs a solid theme to encourage people to come back and listen every time you release a new episode.
Think about your favorite television show or web series. These forms of content carry common themes throughout a season, and sometimes throughout an entire series. This continuity brings people back week after week to learn the next piece of the puzzle. When you use a content planner to develop your podcast series, you can do the same. While you may not develop characters or drama-filled plots like on TV, a well-thought-out series plan connects industry ideas and themes together in a logical format for the audience.
Planning your podcast helps your team make sure you’re delivering valuable, useful content for your audience every time. Having a solid plan helps you increase reach and engagement and boost your subscriber rate. Other ways a podcast content planner helps your brand reach its content marketing goals include:
Consider these tips and factors when creating your podcast planner to make sure you’re covering all the important parts of episode and series creation:
No matter what type of content marketing you do, there’s always a reason and a goal behind every piece. What do you expect to get out of your podcast? How is this content going to help you reach bigger overall brand goals? You may have different goals for the podcast series and each episode. For example, your series goals may be broader. You may try to achieve brand awareness or reach a new segment of your target audience.
For each episode or season, you may have more concrete goals tied to key performance indicators (KPIs) you can track throughout production and publication. For example, by the end of your first season, you may have a specific subscriber number you want to hit. Or you may have a threshold of total listens per episode. The goals you pick for your podcast may differ by industry, audience, and content. Just make sure they align with your overall content marketing strategy and provide value to your team and your audience.
There’s more than one way to host a podcast. That’s one of the factors that makes this such a unique content format for brands. Before you get into the depth of planning individual episodes, consider the structure and overall format. Knowing all the options for hosting a podcast allows you to decide what’s best for your team, audience, and content. Consider formats like:
Just because you choose one hosting format from the beginning of your podcast doesn’t mean you can never deviate from that style. For example, if you run a solo podcast that doesn’t mean you can never have a guest or take an interview-style approach for an episode. Choosing a hosting format early is simply to help you understand the overall structure of the content and what resources you need to bring it to life.
Who are you trying to reach with your podcast? Audio content isn’t for everyone, but then again, no format is. If you’re developing a podcast, you likely have a large enough subsegment of your audience that enjoys auditory content to make creation worth your while. Study this subsegment to learn more about the demographics, pain points, and interests. Then choose topics and shape themes for each season and episode around this audience’s information.
You may even consider creating listener personas, like an offshoot of your customer personas, to better understand who’s going to tune into your podcast each week.
Related: FAQ: What Is Audience Segmentation?
If you want people to listen to or follow your podcast, give it a name. Naming anything, be it a business, a child, or a podcast, feels like a daunting task. You want to get it just right. The name should be memorable, but still, tells the audience what your podcast is all about. You also don’t want to pick the name of a podcast that already exists and cause confusion. Picking your podcast genre first may help make the naming process easier. Some of the main podcast genres include:
If you don’t think your podcast fits into one of those categories, don’t panic. There are plenty more out there. Browsing the options on your hosting platform, which we’ll discuss next, could help you find the right one. After you pick your genre, browse through other podcasts in that niche and note names you like. Consider ways you could alter or adapt them to better fit your business or podcast goals.
Don’t fret if it takes you a long time to choose your podcast name. You’re going to use it for as long as you create content in this format. You want to get it right. If you’re still struggling with naming ideas, consider using a podcast name generator to spark more creative ideas.
Podcast hosting platforms are the channels you use to publish and share your episodes. As with other content, there are options for self-hosting and third-party hosting. The choice depends on what type of audience and reach your brand has. Think about where your audience spends its time online and where people are most likely to access podcasts.
Self-publishing and hosting your podcast is a good option for brands with a lot of name recognition and a decent following on other content channels. You may use tools like Buzzsprout or Captivate to create your podcasts and then embed the links to each episode on your website or other content channels. If you need help spreading the word about your podcast or want a boost from algorithm recommendations, a third-party hosting service is a better option.
Services like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify all let you post and share your podcasts for free. By entering some identifying information and choosing the right genres, these services can suggest your podcast in feeds or updates for users who listen to similar content. Though you may start sharing your content on just one hosting service, you’re not limited to a single platform. You can share your content in a number of ways, on a variety of channels, to increase reach and listenership wherever people access their audio content.
Podcast planners help you select and stick to a relative length for every episode. When experiencing episodic content, most viewers or listeners want to know how much time they have to dedicate to a specific episode. They also want consistency. They don’t want to listen to a 15-minute podcast one week and a three-hour episode the next. Predictability is key to get your audience to come back with each new release. Every episode doesn’t have to be the same length down to the second. But you should keep episodes within five to seven minutes of each other.
If you find that one episode is significantly longer than another, split it into two parts. If your episode isn’t long enough, combine two and flesh them out. You may also wonder, what is the right length for any type of podcast? There are three broad categories for length, which include:
Another time and length consideration for planning is season length. Similar to television shows, podcasts can air in seasons with a designated number of episodes. If you plan to cover specific themes in each season, plan how many episodes to include in each one. Like with episode length, keep your season length to a predictable number of episodes. This allows your audience to know when to expect the end of each season and a posting break.
Choosing a theme for your podcast episodes and seasons is more in-depth than choosing a topic. Topics are umbrella ideas that apply across your industry. For example, content marketing is one of these broad topics. Within that umbrella, there are tons of niche ideas a brand could cover for its podcast. Those niche ideas are the themes.
Think of themes like keywords when you’re doing SEO. The theme keyword of one content marketing podcast episode may be “how to get started with content marketing.” The next may be “content marketing for financial brands.” With each theme, you’re trying to answer specific questions, teach certain lessons, or provide specialized insight to the audience.
Creating a content plan helps make sure you keep the theme focused throughout the entire length of an episode without deviating. You can also pick overarching themes for each podcast season. Then, turn each episode into one step or one facet of that theme to keep people engaged and coming back for the next installment.
For non-solo-style podcasts, secure your interviews, subject matter experts, or panelists early in the planning process. Setting up your guest lists for the entire season gives you plenty of time to contact and coordinate schedules with everyone you want to feature. Not only is this considerate of your guests’ time, but it also helps your team throughout the planning process. Knowing who’s available and when makes it easier for your team to schedule recordings and episodes and hit deadlines consistently. When choosing your guests, focus on factors like:
In writing and communication, the rule of three suggests that using elements in a trio, such as events or characters, is more satisfying to the audience than other numbers. You’ve seen it in action with stories like the Three Little Pigs. But you’ve likely also seen this strategy in playwriting. Many creators split their works into three acts. This is the version of the rule of three you can steal for your podcast structure.
Splitting your podcast into three acts allows you to cover specific content for an allotted period to provide more predictability and continuity to your episodes. Remember, the audience craves that format they can count on when they settle down to listen to your podcast. For example, you can split each episode into three parts in the following way:
Using the rule of three also helps you control the pacing of your episodes.
Though you may structure your episodes with the rule of threes, you can still plan and develop how you want to handle each act. The introduction in act one, in particular, should have a solid structure because you’ll use a very similar intro for every episode. Consider including the following components in your intro:
Having a structured introduction lets you make sure you’re covering all the important information upfront to set your audience up for a quality listening experience.
All content you create should provide value to your audience. But sometimes, especially when you’re branching out into new formats, it’s tricky to decide what the value of each piece is. In podcasting, asking questions early in the content that you plan to answer throughout the episode is a great way to provide this kind of value. Asking and answering questions helps establish your podcast team and brand as thought leaders in the industry. It also helps preview the episode content and stay respectful of your audience’s time.
And speaking of audiences, you may have listeners from all skill levels, or even perhaps different industries. For example, content marketing podcasts could pull in a wide range of listeners, from content writers to marketing managers. When you ask questions early in the podcast and introduce how you plan to answer them throughout the episode, you’re giving a preview of what’s to come. If you ask a question like “how can you write a script for a financial brand podcast?” the topic may not resonate with all your listeners, even if the topic fits within the theme and scope of your content.
So rather than wasting people’s time with 30 minutes of content they don’t find valuable, this method lets your audience pick which episodes are right for them. This strategy can also help you retain more listeners in the long run if you’re respectful of their needs and time.
Podcasts are a content channel that’s ripe for cross-promotion. Whether you name-drop your next webinar or reference other content on your blog or social media channels, you can cross-promote your content to your listeners in a variety of ways. Cross-promotion should fit naturally into your podcast conversations. It should come on the heels of mentioning a specific topic or action within a natural discussion.
Cross-promotion isn’t like glaringly obvious product placement in moves and television shows. You’re not trying to force the audience to go out and subscribe to your newsletter or YouTube channel. You’re just making them aware of where they can find more information on the same topics. You can also promote your podcasts in other content, like blog posts or articles. The more you promote your content on a variety of channels, the bigger audience you can attract to all your pieces.
Related: How To Repurpose Content Effectively
Because podcasts exist in episodic format, it’s important to wrap up each theme by the end of the episode to give the audience a sense of closure. Unlike movies or TV shows, you shouldn’t leave the audience on a podcast cliffhanger unless you have a really good reason. It’s more important to deliver on the promise you made in the introduction and provide answers to all the questions you asked at the outset of the episode. While suspense and lingering questions can be a good marketing technique in some respects, remember, your audience likes predictability. And closure adds to that.
At the end of the episode, the audience should feel like they learned something new or got answers to all their questions. Consider creating a closing template for your podcast like you did for the intro. Components include:
If you have to leave a theme open-ended, make sure you address the reasons within the closing template. This is where a teaser really works its magic and extends the promise you made in the current episode. But don’t keep the audience hanging too long. A will-they/won’t-they resolution strategy only works for so long before the audience gets frustrated. If people feel you’re never going to make good on your promise or wrap up the content, they may unsubscribe without a resolution.
Once you’ve hammered out the specifics of your overall series, season, or themes, it’s time to zero in on the individual episode content. You may know what you’re talking about, but how are you going to share that information? One way to get your ideas down is to write a script for each podcast episode. Doing this lets you know exactly what you’re going to say before you even start recording.
When you hear the word “script,” you may think you’re going to write out word-for-word everything you plan to say for the entire length of the episode. This is one function for a script and you can do it this way if you prefer. But writing and reading from a word-for-word script may not make your content dynamic or engaging enough for the audience. To test out how working from an episode script sounds, record part of the podcast and play it back for the team. How does it sound? If the content doesn’t sound natural, use a different approach.
If you want your content to sound more spontaneous or engaging, consider outlining your episode instead. In the outline, you can include key points to hit, and even a few verbatim pieces of dialogue to share with the audience. These types of notes tend to make your speech sound more relaxed and conversational, while still addressing all the information you want to share in your podcast.
Though your team may want to start a podcast, you may not have all the skills or expertise on staff to make it happen. That doesn’t mean you can’t use this type of content. It means you have to look into partnerships and collaborations. You can work with collaborators at any stage of the podcast creation process. From getting help with your planning and strategy to securing recording equipment, some teams help with it all.
First, evaluate what your internal marketing team or contracted freelancers can do. Then look for gaps throughout the creation process that you need to fill with collaborators or partnerships. Do your research and find the right fits for your budget and schedule to help get your podcast from ideation to distribution.
Not every podcast has a sponsor and not every podcast needs one. But if collaboration and sponsorships interest you, be sure to account for that in your podcast content planning documents. There are multiple ways to incorporate sponsorship into your podcast format. You may have an overall sponsor that covers your entire series. Or you may secure different sponsors on an individual episode basis.
This paid form of advertising promotes both businesses or brands involved in the deal. Through the sponsorship agreement, the sponsor typically pays your company a fee to promote its products or services within your content. You then share an ad or name-drop throughout the broadcast. The exact format and expectations differ in each sponsorship agreement. Choosing a sponsor is like choosing guests or panelists for the podcast. You want to pick a brand that’s relevant to your industry and appealing to your audience. But remember to avoid working with direct competitors.
One of the last features of your podcast content planner should be a content calendar. These documents help you track every step of podcast creation from brainstorming to distribution. Include due dates and personnel for each step so your entire team can see which phase of production the content is in and who’s responsible.
Content calendars are also important for publication. They help you keep your uploads and distribution consistent across channels. Sync your podcast content calendar with your overall content marketing calendar to look for cross-promotion opportunities and to make sure you don’t overwhelm your audience with too much new content in one day.
Related: The Importance of a Content Calendar
You don’t have to go into podcast content planning blind. There are plenty of free and paid templates available online to help you plan every phase of development. Choose from script, episode, and series templates that help you prepare for how you want to set up each facet of your content. Some helpful sources for podcast planning templates include:
The best part about most podcast planning templates is that they’re reusable. Simply save a new version on your device or drive and fill in the latest information. For more customizable options, you can create your own podcast planning template. Look at some of the premade options available online and choose elements and features that best fit your content ideas and goals. Then create a template document for your own team.
Content planners aren’t just for the events leading up to publication. You can also use them to track and measure your metrics. While your analytics programs do all the heavy lifting in pulling and sorting data, you can record important numbers within your content planner for reference.
Rather than having to comb through Google or hosting platform reports, you can return to your content plan document and see how each episode or season performed at a glance. Record if you met all the goals and objectives you set out at the beginning of the planning phase. Doing this helps you adjust strategies for your next episode or season.
Sometimes, the best way to learn how to plan your podcast episodes and series is to watch other marketers in podcasting do it successfully. If you’re looking for examples for how individual episodes should work together to create a themed series, check out The Content Marketing Podcast by CopyPress.
In each episode, join our Founder and CEO, Dave Snyder, and a host of special guests to discover what it takes to get ahead of changes in content marketing and get your content noticed. With each episode, you can also follow our structure and strategy for developing a podcast to influence content planning for your own episodes. Listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts to make sure you never miss an episode.
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