Welcome to season 2 of the business podcast blueprint show! I hope the summer has been treating you well. I mentioned at the close of the last season that we were thinking about how we wanted this show to continue, and the main driver of this next one is going to be structure – that elusive quality we impose on ourselves and our work to prevent chaos. So we’re going more in depth, and solo episodes are going to sound a lot like lessons – where I’ll be sharing some of our best information, digging deep into the theory of podcasting as a company, addressing the different things that, as a company podcaster, you have to make decisions about. To that end, we’re also going to be trying a couple of segments at the end of all our episodes – even the guest ones (and I am so excited about the guests we’ve got lined up for you this week!) where we’ll answer direct questions and provide specific action steps.
I’m a big believer in starting as you mean to go on, so today we’re going to be going over the different kinds of show formats you have at your disposal, when they’re most useful, and how to create them.
There are a couple of important considerations for a company podcaster to keep in mind when selecting a format: The time it takes to capture the raw audio, the investment that needs to be made in post production and most important of all – the ultimate business goal of the podcast, and how well the format helps you meet it. Today, I’m going to talk about Interviews, Solo episodes, Co-hosted conversations, Panel Discussions, Demonstrative Shows, Documentary style, clip shows and lives. There are other formats of course, like narrative, fiction, news and more – but these are the ones most likely to find a place in podcasts that exist AS businesses, or are passion projects. We’re always balancing the desire to create with the needs of a business, and while quality is always critical – efficiency matters too!
Listen to the Episode
When most people think “podcast” they think: interview.
There are different kinds of interview, and this is where a lot of company podcasters make a mistake. High level, there are ‘interviews’ that are really conversations between equals, and there are interviews that are about sharing another person’s expertise with your audience. They each have their place.
If you are looking to use your podcast to establish thought leadership, you must be seeking out conversations between equals, where you and your guest are contributing equally to the informational output of the episode. If you are just asking questions and going, “mmhmm, I agree, and what do you think of…” you are not establishing thought leadership. And that can be totally fine! But not if your goal for podcasting is developing and enhancing your reputation as a thought leader.
In a conversational style interview, you want to make sure that you and your guest are talking to each other, digging into ideas as they come up, and each contributing your own experience and expertise to the topic at hand. You are not just going to run down a list of prepared questions, and you’re not going to spend the whole conversation getting your guest to talk about what they’re great at – that’s an informational interview.
Conversational interviews are a little tricky – it takes practice to have equal conversations with strangers! But they are brilliant for enhancing your own thought leadership because when you’re talking to another expert it conveys that you have access to experts and are on the same professional level that they are. Of course this means you need to really curate who you are talking to! This is not the style of show where you’d be coaching a client, for example! I’ll be getting into those in Demonstrative podcasts later in the episode)
Having conversations with fellow professionals also gives you the chance to build and nurture relationships with them, and explore aspects of your own subject matter in new an interesting ways.
A fantastic conversational style podcast is 2 Pages with MBS. Every week Michael Bungay Stanier has a guest read two pages of a book, and they have a discussion about it – this is a fantastic show – complete with production and sound design by our own Audra Casino.
An informational style interview is different from a conversational one in that the focus is really on the guest, and not so much on the host. The host is shining, rather than sharing the spotlight, for the purposes of bringing valuable information to an audience. This style of podcast is also highly valuable from a relationship building standpoint.
These interviews work the best when you know that your audience could benefit from information that you don’t necessarily possess yourself or within your company, and when your key goal for podcasting is expanding your own professional network of experts who serve similar audiences.
Innovation in Compliance is a fantastic example of an informational style podcast. Every week, the host connects with an expert about their area of focus – and the audience can’t get enough of it!.
Solo episodes are a popular podcast format for thought leadership and audience engagement podcasts – as well as being a massive boon to the content-motivated among us. 😉
In a solo podcast or episode (lots of shows like to mix up interviews and solo content to get benefits from multiple blueprint styles *ahem*)
Solo shows can either be scripted or off the cuff. Scripted means you plan in advance more or less exactly what you’re going to say and in what order, either with a detailed outline or a full script.
Off the cuff is when you have a key topic, or a brief outline and you just go to town on it. Only testing it out and practicing will determine what is best for you. What you need to watch out for is that reading often sounds like reading an that is unendurably boring to listen to, and off the cuff can be so scattered that it’s hard to follow. You’ll also be at risk of pressing publish and realizing you’ve left out important details. Ask me how I know. 😉
Try out a few different methods to see what strikes the best balance for you!
Another issue that people sometimes run into with solo episodes is that when it’s just you and the mic, building the momentum and excitement can be a little challenging. There is a dynamism to having a conversation with another person that keeps the energy going, and for some hosts – that’s a necessity, not a nice to have. It really comes down to your own skills, style, and preferences. Let’s talk about two of the most popular types.
A monologue style show can be viewed like an audio essay or blog post. You have your topic, the different points about it that you want to cover – hopefully a few stories and opinions to keep things interesting, and you go! These are great when you want to talk about things that are going on in your industry, share the results of research or experiments (these are also demonstrative podcasts, in many cases!), provide actionable information, theory and strategy to your listeners, and generally teach. The key idea is information transfer from the host to the listener, in an efficient, portable way.
Check out Spin Sucks by Gini Dietrich for a fantastic solo-style show. I love that these are short, highly topical episodes that address a key idea, and share specific, actionable advice.
Q and A
Another very popular style of solo show is the Q and A format, where the hot answers questions that were either submitted by listeners (and sometimes audio clips of people asking them are included! But not always), or culled from inboxes and social media. These are great for a lot of reasons too.
First and foremost, if one person drums up the courage to actually ASK – you can be reasonably certain a lot of people are wondering, and providing a direct answer is a real service to your community. Secondly, it’s so, so, so repurposable. Massive Q and A lists, multi-media resources for the sales team to distribute, content to put on social – I could go on.
It should also be said that for a lot of experts- answering questions is fun… but can get tedious when it’s the 400th time, so having a definitive answer to a common question to share can save a lot of time.
These shows can also be quite quick to put together. Pick a theme, find a few questions you’ve been asked, read and answer them, and send to production!
For a great example of a Q and A style podcast, check out The Dear Melissa episodes on the Product Thinking podcast. The host, Melissa Perri alternates interviews with Q and A episodes where she answers a handful of questions on a theme.
A co-hosted conversational podcast is exactly what it says on the tin – two hosts talking to each other, and sharing information with the audience. These kinds of shows are often – but not always, really about education – taking subject matter and conveying it to the listener in an organized and enjoyable format.
These shows can be a lot of fun, especially for Audience Engagement podcasts, where you have a crowd of engaged audience hungry for more content from your organization. You can fill that need for them, and provide a huge amount of content without the considerable trouble and expense of a guest management process.
Sometimes you will have guests join the co-hosts on a show like this, but from a production standpoint, that can get a little chaotic, not to mention be a little rough on a guest! Two interviewers and one interviewee isn’t the most comfortable situation for most people.
A co-host conversational podcast that I really enjoy – although I don’t think it’s really a *company* podcast – is This Podcast Will Kill You with Erin Walsh and Erin Allmann Updyke – in each episode they take a disease, and discuss it’s history, and impact, with a few fun segments thrown in – it’s a really enjoyable show, with two people sharing their expertise to an audience that is interested in the subject matter. If you have an audience that is invested in learning a lot about the area your business operates in, this might be a format to seriously consider!
Now, lets talk about demonstrative podcasts – these are shows that are primarily used to show that you can walk what you talk. Think case studies, live coaching, analysis of events, reviews and commentary in your industry. These are generally for thought leadership or audience engagement style shows, and they can be a little more difficult to arrange than a straight interview or solo episode, but they can be enormously valuable for both your audience and your business.
Coaches can also find a lot of value in this style of show, if they have clients willing to be coached on the air, it can be a fabulous way to demonstrate the methodology the coach uses, and the kinds of breakthroughs their clients can see. Again, this helps the listener, by giving them an example to relate to and proof that the service or coaching works, and gives the business a chance to demonstrate the value of the services.
Not every demonstrative podcast needs a direct case study, of course – the goal with these types of podcast is to show in a very real way that the company knows what it’s talking about, so providing reviews of products, services, books and other content creators can accomplish eh same goal, and likewise researching, analyzing an communicating news and developments in the industry can have the same impact.
Stephanie Ferger (who we’re going to have the pleasure of speaking with later this season!) Creates a fantastic Demonstrative style show called the Empowered Author Podcast using the Capsule Podcast methodolody. Each “capsule” or season is a deep dive into a specific topic demonstrating her expertise, directly based on what her audience needs and is interested in.
So those are the main, high level options for weekly or bi-weekly release schedules – once you get into the swing of things, they’re fairly quick to knock out, and you can build a solid workflow that meshes seamlessly with the rest of your week. There are a whole bunch of other show formats, of course, that take a little more arrangement on the front end, or more of an investment in post-production, and so aren’t typically great for businesses to do every week, but that can be amazing for a special series, event, or milestones like 100th episodes or book and product launches. Let’s look at these, too.
A documentary style podcast is one that tells a story with a beginning, middle and end, either within a single episode, or from the beginning of a season or series to the end. Very often these will be more highly produced, with more sound elements than a standard interview or solo-show, and as such, they can be a little more challenging and expensive to produce, but the results can be astounding – and generally evergreen!
Sometimes, a single host will provide all of the narrative and information, or there will be a combination of a host providing the framing and context, supplemented by other speakers with personal anecdotes, specialized information or additional context. There is going to be a lot more planning on the front end for this type of show, which is why you will see it more frequently as a special or a standalone than something that is created every week.
Some business use cases for a documentary style show could be the origin story or your organization, or a brilliant snapshot of your current company culture or an event – you an also use this style to develop fascinating case studies for your clients – something they might appreciate sharing with their own team and audience.
Putin’s Oil Heist is a fabulous documentary series created by Loren Steffy and Bruce Misamore
Clip shows are a lot of work, you probably won’t want to do it every week, but for major events and milestones – and after you’ve got enough of a podcasting archive to support it, they can be a lot of fun, and a real bump in production!
A clip show is an episode composed of selections from other episodes, for example, the top 10 lessons from 100 episodes, or the 10 best insights from a year of podcasting. Individual clips from previous episodes will be selected, on a particular theme, then re-edited into a new episode with the host “framing” the clips being presented, providing the context for them, why the clips are important, and what connects them. This means the production process can get a little ungainly, but it can be well, well worth it
We often create clip shows for milestone episodes – they’re a lovely celebration of the work that has come before.
Another benefit of a clip show is being able to amp up promotion! Every guest who is featured in the show can be contacted to say something along the lines of: hey! Your insight about XYZ was so good we included it in this super special clip show! Here’s a link!” As always, not everyone will share, but it’s a very nice email to be able to send from a relationship building standpoint!
Check out the Free Time Podcast with Jenny Blake’s Top 10 Lessons from 100 Episodes.
A panel discussion show is one where you gather multiple experts on a topic, and moderate a conversation between them. You’re seen these at conferences, I’m sure! A moderator, the host in this case, will post questions and then get insights from each of the guests. These can be fascinating podcast episodes, if a lot of work. They’re enough work that I would not recommend them as a weekly, or even a monthly part of your schedule – just getting that many people on a call at the same time can be a bit of a headache, but they can be a fantastic capstone to a season, a bonus to promote a major launch or release, a bonus episode or a quarterly event that features largely in your promotions. As with any panel, make sure that you’re giving each guest a hance to speak and be heard!
Connected is a great example of a panel discussion podcast.
Lives comes with a bit of an asterisk as far as podcasting is concerned. There is a dynamic sort of engagement on a live event that makes lives exciting and engaging for the people attending, but that doesn’t always translate perfectly to an asynchronous audio format. That said, sometimes they are appropriate, and can a great way to add a little variety and get double duty out of something you’re already creating.
Lives can either be digitally live, repurposed from a virtual event you streamed or recorded with a group via zoom, or live from an event on location. Sometimes podcasts will go on tour, and broadcast live in front of an audience – these can be a lot of fun!
The Sporkful is a show I enjoy that occassionaly does live episodes.
Remember Your Podcasting Goals
Within all of the above there is plenty of room to move around to experiment. While its important to be consistent from week to week so that your audience knows what to expect, and so that you can develop systems and procedures
Does picking a format and sticking to it feel a tad… restrictive? That is a possibility, while many appreciate the efficiencies that standardization can bring, others crave novelty, and since you’re the boss of your podcast (unless its your boss who is the boss of your podcast) you can shake it up a little, while maintaining consistency. Bonus episodes, a special series, season openings and closers – these are all opportunities for you to flex a little and test things out to see if a different format is easier to create or provides a greater impact.
And of course, knowing your goal, and which of the blueprints is going to help you achieve the most meaningful and impactful business objectives is the best way to begin (or the best next step to take if you’ve already started!) You can listen to one of the Business Podcast Blueprint’s very first episodes Why Even Podcast? for an overview of the blueprints and how to use them, and if you want to go even deeper, you can take our free email training series called Optimize, Automate and Grow, where we’re looking at absolutely everything you need to make your show a pull it’s weight in your business.
Should I put my podcast on Youtube?
The answer, according to the data in the State of Business Podcasting report is a resounding Yes. The vast majority of podcasts in the top 100 business shows exist in one form or another on Youtube.
You can record your episodes in video as well as audio if you like, but how good that is going to look depends on the investment you want to make in video, and the number of different humans you need to wrangle into good lighting and stage makeup for each episode.
That means solo episodes are going to be the easiest to record in high quality video – although that is still considerably more challenging than an audio-only show.
For interviews, some shows to play zoom/talking head style interviews, but I’m of very mixed feelings about whether or not that is a good choice. If you and your guest are all-in, I don’t see why not, but with the variance of webcams, backgrounds ad lighting that people might have, you can be risking less-than-stellar final results. Now, I’ve been wrong about video before, so it might become an overwhelming standard that talking head conversations get ported exactly as they are onto YouTube and people will love them and everyone will be happy – but if you’re feeling a little hesitant about that, there are options.
Audiogram style videos, with a still image, animated wav sign and the audio can be a good option – vastly preferable to just a still image with the audio overlayed on top, and very easy to create using a tool like Headliner or Descript.
Finally, as a compromise between live action and audiogram style, using B-roll footage to add visual interest to the audio, can make interesting content. You’ll invest a little more in finding appropriate image, and may want to add a few custom-made slides per episode to maintain clarity, but it’s not as much of an investment as live action.
All of this to say, unless you absolutely can’t, you should make sure to be uploading your podcast episodes in one format or another to YouTube. If you upload audio-gram style episodes now, you can always change the format later, and you’ll be doing so with an existing library, which is helpful!
People listen to podcasts through Youtube. Make sure they can find yours in they’re included to do so!
Key Action from the Episode:
Audit your show format. Is the format you’re currently using serving the business function you need it to?
Ask yourself: Why are we podcasting? Is it to establish thought leadership, connect with an audience you already have, or build relationships, or for content generation?
Remember – the highest level goal.
- If you need thought leadership, you need a conversational interview, a solo show, demonstrative content or a co-hosted conversation.
- If you need to connect with an audience, you need informational interviews, solos, demonstrative episodes, or cohosted conversations. (and may want to consider some audience engagement elements!)
- For relationship building you need informational or conversational interviews.
- For content you can follow your heart to the ends of the earth and create exactly what you feel like and is the most fun for you because content is going to happen.
Thoughts? Questions? Looking to start a new show, or optimize one that already exists? Send us a message, and we’ll be in touch with you soon!