Way more work goes into a podcast launch than you probably realize.
And while it might go faster for a podcast expert to launch compared to a newbie, it’s not any less work.
My team and I recently launched our new show, Outdoor Sounds. Think of it as a nature walk for your ears. Every week I share field recordings of hikes, rain storms, and other lovely nature audio.
I’m quite excited about it. 😆
But why did we decide to make a show about nature when our primary focus is B2B podcasts? And what does it take to produce a show like this?
In this article, I will give you a behind the scenes look at all of the planning and preparation that went into creating Outdoor Sounds.
Planning the Outdoor Sounds podcast.
Planning is just one of the four phases of any of our projects. The others are:
- Tracking progress
Depending on the type of show you’re creating and the bandwidth of your team, the timeframe from idea conception to actual launch can vary.
We typically shoot for 3 months, but Outdoor Sounds took a bit longer because we wanted to really take our time with the project.
Again, even though Planning is just one part of the process, their are a ton of moving parts:
- 🧠 Brainstorm ideas
- 🎯 Define goals and target audience
- 🎤 Research similar podcasts
- ✍️ Decide on show title, format, length, etc.
- 🎨 Design cover art and other branding
- 💰 Purchase right equipment and learn how to use it
- 📝 Write show copy (like description) and scripts for trailers
🌲 Plan recording sessions and location(s) (and stay aware of impromptu opportunities for the rest!)
- 🎧 Record a bunch of audio
- 🎙️ Record a bunch of intros and scripts
- 💻 Edit a bunch of audio
- 📽️ Make sure all trailers are finished (all are currently live)
- 🎶 Make sure at least 5 episodes are finished (I cheated here and we have 3)
- 🤔 Probably some other things I’m forgetting!
You might be thinking, whoa Jeff, that’s a lot of stuff to do. Can’t you just buy a mic, record some episodes on Riverside, and send to the cloud?
Here is the thing, starting a podcast is easy. Making one worth listening to is not. And if you don’t do the planning upfront, things are really going to get difficult when you get to the promotion phase and wonder why it’s not growing.
Even though there are many things to do, as I mentioned above, my team has processes in place for everything so we know exactly what to do and how to do it. Which makes launching a worthwhile podcast just a little bit easier.
The philosophy and story behind the show.
Last year, I spent a lot of time working on the business.
You know, the thing everyone tells you to do. Work on your business, not in it. So I did.
I made processes, set goals, grew the team, and helped create an efficient, predictable machine.
But, I was burnt out. I missed making things. I felt too far from my craft.
I was also tired of being at my desk.
Even though I work in the digital space, I prefer physical life.
All of these things led me to the decision to do something new.
Why Outdoor Sounds.
I decided to start Outdoor Sounds for a few reasons (in no particular order):
- To take advantage of some emerging trends in the podcast space.
At the time, I was starting to notice an increase in white noise and sleep-aid style podcasts. Some were making good revenue through ads and sponsorships.
- To challenge our team and learn something new.
We have traditionally worked in the B2B company space producing interview and narrative-style shows for some amazing clients. To take on a show intentionally outside of our comfort zone would force us to question commonly held beliefs and adapt in new ways.
- To get outside and travel more.
This one is selfish, but the show forces me to be outside more and thus be a happier and healthier leader. It’s also an excuse to write off more travel. Now as long as I get a decent amount of recording when I’m traveling, I can write it off as a business expense.
- To open up new possibilities.
Most of my journey has been seemingly unrelated events that have all added up to what I’m doing now. I’m not sure the skill of field recording will lead to anything but I like to think it will.
Recording the show and buying the right equipment.
Speaking of challenging myself and needing to learn new things: I chose to buy new field recording equipment specifically for this show.
Recording nature is WAY different than the human voice.
The talking human voice is relatively consistent and predictable. Plus there are mic techniques you can use to help when volume level does vary.
Nature has a full range of quiet breezes to loud squawking birds. It makes it a lot harder to properly level your recording when in the field.
The right equipment can really help with this.
Fortunately I already own a Sound Devices MixPre-6 digital recorder and the Sennheiser MKH 416 Shotgun Mic. The MixPre has fantastic preamps and features that help with recording the sound without a bunch of background noise. I also bought a K-Tek audio bag for the MixPre.
The shotgun mic is a high end, directional mic that helps capture specific sounds from a range of distances.
I also purchased the Zoom F3 digital recorder, the DPA 4560 CORE Binaural Headset Microphone, and the LOM basicUcho microphone set.
The DPA headset is amazing because I wear it like regular headphones and it captures sounds the way the human ear actually perceives them. And the Zoom F3 + LOM mics are a ridiculous combo because of how small but mighty they are. They basically let me have great equipment on me at all times.
When you are first starting out, stay within your budget and skillset when choosing equipment.
Plenty of great stuff exists.
But if you’ve been at it a while, buying the right equipment for the job can really make a difference.
Designing podcast cover art.
What makes great podcast cover art?
I recently had to revisit this question with Outdoor Sounds.
Here is a look into the process for designing our cover art:
1. Create an art brief.
The first thing I did was research to create a brief. It included the following:
- Show title
- Podcast cover art expectations
- Context on what the show would be about
- Come Alive Creative’s branding guidelines (I wanted the cover art to loosely live in our brand)
- Examples of style and feel, color contrast ideas, and layout ideas (mostly pulled from Dribble artists like Lisa McCormick, Mariel Abbene, Matt Carlson, Febin Raj, and Matt Erickson).
Beyond the look and feel of the cover art, I also listed some functional aspects I was looking for:
- I wanted the style to lean towards less detail so it would be easier to create additional illustrations at an affordable rate. If the project shows promise, we’ll invest more into it.
- I also wanted the illustrations to be modular—meaning it’s one big image that could be broken into several smaller pieces. For example, you could zoom in and focus on the bird, the sun/moon and mountain, the trees, etc.
Last was the title itself. I originally thought I wanted a badge shape to look similar to a scout’s badge or patch.
2. Find a designer.
This one was easy. I used Dayle from our team. He helped us with the company rebranding and a variety of other projects.
There are a ton of great artists. Don’t bother trying to design it yourself.
3. Begin designing.
Design began with the title choices. After reviewing several, I found one I thought I liked best.
Next was the cover art. Our designer stuck this on the first try, minus a few minor revisions. However, we quickly realized the badge shape was too busy when paired with the cover art.
After several more versions and font changes we settled on:
- An icon: the audio waves in the shape of a mountain to use for social
- The title: printed in a simple, readable font
- The cover art: which, as noted, came together quickly based on the direction and the talent of our designer
Final confession: I didn’t research the competition on this project.
True be told, I didn’t review any cover art until writing this post. Sometimes it works to trust your gut and sometimes it doesn’t. Now that I look at our art compared to the competition in the “nature” podcast search results, I feel great about how ours compares. That’s to say, I got lucky. I recommend you take the time to research and not risk it. Your due diligence will likely pay off.
Choosing a podcast category.
My general guiding rule for this question is to choose the most niched category that logically makes sense.
For example, according to Dan Misener’s article on ‘The most crowded categories in Apple Podcasts’ from 2021, there were almost 150,000 “business” podcasts but only about 10,000 “Management” podcasts.
So it’s more beneficial to choose “Management” because it helps your potential listeners better know what your show is about and you’ll have less competition for ranking on podcast charts.
So here are the steps I took to decide:
1. Find similar shows to Outdoor Sounds.
Similar shows included:
- Field Recordings
- Comforting Sounds
- Calm Rain Sounds
- Music to Calm the Mind
- Sounds By Nature
- Nature Therapy Podcast
- Relaxing White Noise
2. Review how they categorized their shows.
I found the top categories for shows like ours were:
- Health & Fitness
3. Review the number of podcasts in each category and the top podcasts in each category.
- Health & Fitness included: Huberman Lab, On Purpose, and a bunch of shows about sleep or sex
- Science: Hidden Brain, Ologies, and a bunch of Bigfoot shows
- Arts: Fresh Air, The Moth, and Snap Judgement
- Music: This category didn’t make sense at all so I didn’t bother
4. Decide which categories to use for Outdoor Sounds.
I ended up deciding on:
- Nature (a subcategory of Science)
- Places and Travel (a sub of Society & Culture)
- Mental Health (a sub of Health and Fitness)
The first category is the most important and the main one every podcast platform recognizes.
Nature made the most sense. Every episode is 95% field recording of nature sounds.
Places and Travel was a great runner-up because 80% of the episodes are location-based.
Mental Health was the biggest stretch for me but it’s fine because the third category you choose typically doesn’t carry a lot of weight.
Handling the podcast trailer.
This was another area where we decided to forget everything we thought we knew about podcast trailers and start fresh. Our findings were exciting (and the data about movie trailers was super interesting too).
99% of the advice out there says to release a brief trailer a week or two before the first episode goes live.
We decided to ignore that advice and try something different.
First, we released 3 trailers:
- A 45-second teaser trailer two weeks before launch
- A 1-minute promotional trailer about 10 days before launch
- A 2-minute 41-second sample trailer one week before launch
Overall, the sample trailer was the most popular, having about 25% more downloads than the other trailers.
And while I’m glad we did different versions of the trailer, I wish we would have given ourselves a month to promote it instead of two weeks.
Odds and ends of launch week.
Pre-launch week is where the first trailer goes live. Then comes actual launch week when the first episode drops. Podcast launch week is a totally different beast from pre-launch.
Launch week for Outdoor Sounds was filled with variety of tasks:
- 🧑💼 Our PM was setting up the media host, submitting to podcast distributions platforms, and getting the right team members on the right tasks.
- ✏️ Our copywriter started writing show notes for every episode we have finished (currently 6).
- 🖥️ Our intern was busy doing some additional research, prepping promotional materials, and other odds and ends.
- 💬 Our content manager was gearing up to start promotion on the new channels we were creating for the show.
- 🤪 I was doing a bunch of random stuff.
As a founder, you become a jack-of-all-trades and it’s a super power to focus on what you’re best at and delegate the rest. However, I still like digging in at ground level with select projects like this one. Especially when new things are being added.
As a result, I found myself doing several things:
👌 Putting finishing touches on the trailer episodes
👀 Reviewing audio and other work from the team
🖱️ Setting up Twitter, Unsplash, and YouTube accounts for Outdoor Sounds. I was considering a LinkedIn page (but now think that’s a dumb idea) and a Vero account but haven’t yet.
🏗️ I built a landing page on Carrd.co in a day. My background is web development on WordPress, but that would be overkill for a light project like this. Carrd is perfect to get us started and it would look even better if we weren’t taking a minimally viable approach to begin
Outdoor Sounds is off to a standard start. I wish we would have given ourselves a bit more runway to share the trailers and for promotion, but I didn’t want to delay the launch any further.
We’re committed to it for at least the next year.
Now that we’ve had a successful launch, the next phase will be to maintain production and focus on some intentional promotion.
If you’re thinking about starting a podcast for your company, don’t go it alone.
Podcast planning is a ton of work. Even if you know what you’re doing. Even more if you don’t.