Podcasting is a lot of moving parts that require more time than you think, more resources than you planned, more effort than you were ready for and more technical knowledge of how internet content is delivered than you anticipated. To make it easier to track, follow this map of key podcast phases: pre-planning, planning, pre-production, production and post-production.
Should you do it?
This is your initial research and assessment phase, where you ask yourself, "Should You Start a Podcast?" You’ll be conducting market analysis to see what’s out there and how you will develop a robust implementation and communication plan if you are to target the internal audience. Members should develop their RPIE vectors at this point to meet identifiable targets after implementation. Search out similar podcasts to help you develop a baseline for your podcast and expand on that with your own innovative ideas. Yours will be tied to your commander’s intent and your strategic communication plans. Lastly, you need to make sure you have the time, budget, equipment and human resources to support this effort.
- Listen to other podcasts and take notes on where you would be similar and/or different.
- Listen to different formats.
- Explore market possibilities by conducting a SWOT analysis.
- Determine your podcast’s purpose.
- Establish audience personas (you’ll need them later, too).
- Grab a pen and paper and jot down topic ideas and ideal guests. Sketch out the layout of your podcast equipment.
How are you going to do it?
Once you've done your legwork to determine if you should start a podcast, it’s time to align your podcast to your communication plan and commander's intent. Utilize the podcast proposal template and great RPIE with measurable results to gain leadership buy-in. As part of your strategic communications plan, you will be nailing down the details of your podcast, such as topic, title, audience, voice, style and frequency.
In nailing down the details, make sure to:
You might be eager to step up to the mic and start recording, but choosing the right topic for your podcast takes time. You want your topic to be broad enough that you can easily imagine 25-30 episodes but narrow enough to appeal to your identified audience. For example, a podcast about one incident surrounding Special Forces would run dry quickly. Instead, have a specific focus or story for each episode that illustrates the Special Forces' overall contributions to national security.
- Keep the idea broad.
- Have potential guests in mind.
- Create a list of ideas that you can add to daily.
- Road test ideas with a group of peers.
- Stick to your communication strategy.
The name of your podcast is one of the first ways you will reach people. A compelling name will invite readers to pause and read more. Any channel name will need command approval, so be prepared to propose multiple options.
Keep your channel name as natural as possible. Trying to stuff it with keywords may result in removal from hosting sites like Apple podcasts. Still unsure? Share your ideas with people around you and ask them their opinion. It's a great excuse to tease your podcast.
- Choose a name that reflects your message.
- Prepare multiple options for your command to choose.
- Look at other podcast names you like and conduct a brainstorming session for your podcast.
- Make your name easy to understand and relatable to the organization.
- Check the U.S. Patent and Trademark registry to ensure the name is available.
- Think about voice controls:
- How will it sound if someone is asking verbally?
- Do all the words run together?
- Are there any unintentional tongue twisters?
- Ask your friends for opinions and help.
- Use social media polls or surveys for suggestions.
If your channel name is the hook, the description is where you reel them in. Use your description to connect with your audience using whatever keywords and phrases you think your audience might use to search for podcasts of interest. Look back at your audience research (and any personas you may have created) and write as if you were speaking directly to them.
- Connect with your audience, so they know this podcast is for them.
- Introduce your credentials.
- Imagine how your listeners would finish the sentence, "Oh, you have to listen to this new podcast; it's great because it's the only one I've found that…"
What's the ideal length for a podcast? It depends on the message. It doesn't make any sense to try and cram a heavy topic into a 15-minute format, but it also doesn't make sense to drag it out to 40 minutes if the information is better suited for a short podcast. Always take it back to your audience research and use that information to help inform your decision.
- Look at your audience research for guidance.
- Consider what time of day your listeners will be tuning in.
- Think about where they will be listening. If they're in their car, how long is the commute?
- Trim your episode. Just because you record an hour doesn't mean you have to use all of it.
The most effective podcast schedule is the one you can keep up with. Whether you publish weekly or monthly, your readers expect consistency. Delaying or skipping episodes confuses your listeners and they may not return when you start posting again. If your publishing schedule is interrupted, be as transparent as possible with your listeners. They'll appreciate the authenticity.
If you are interviewing guests, get a sense of their expectations. Does their message relate to recent events? Is your guest trying to get out the word about a talk or a book release that may influence your schedule? You may want to produce a backlog of episodes as well as some evergreen favorites that you can choose from to avoid any disruptions.
- Be consistent with your publishing frequency.
- Give yourself enough time to produce a backlog.
- Ask guests if they need the podcast released by a certain date.
- Be mindful of special observances and holidays.
You're approved! Now what?
Congratulations! You’re about to embark on an exciting endeavor. In this phase, you will locate a space and equipment to record your podcast, begin writing and planning episodes, establish an editorial calendar and contact potential interview candidates. During this phase, your episode will be going through drafts and approvals till it is ready to be produced.
In working out the logistics, make sure to:
Your command may have microphones and recording equipment available for your use, such as field recorders, task cams, lavaliers and data cards. Test out your equipment to determine which option gives you the best sound. Consider adding rugs and foam padding to your recording space to help eliminate sound disruptions.
You'll need software to record into—there are several commercially available (free) options such as Audacity and GarageBand, but check with your command for specific requirements.
- Check with your command for available microphones.
- Test out all options for the best sound.
- Determine your recording software.
- Reference these articles on microphone selection and choosing the right audio equipment.
Your podcast cover art is an essential part of your presentation. For Apple Podcasts specifically, a visually appealing podcast image gives your show a better chance of being featured in highly visible sections of iTunes, such as their "New & Noteworthy" and "What's Hot" sections for your show's category. Always work with your Visual Information (VI) manager and follow your command's branding requirements.
- Create graphics and promotion thumbnails.
- Follow branding requirements.
As a writer, staring at a blank page can quickly become overwhelming. It can be helpful to start with the end in mind and just jot down your thoughts (edit and refine once you have a framework). What are the key takeaways? Who would my subject matter experts be? What do I want the audience to remember? It’s okay to pivot mid-episode, especially
if you’re following an interview format. Write out some talking points and let your guest take the lead from there. Listen to how The Leadership List
follows this format.
- Establish a podcast episode calendar to track your episodes and talent availability.
- Start with the end in mind, focusing on the episode's purpose and key takeaways for listeners.
- Compile a list of stories, points, case studies and/or bodies of work needed to reference that support the commander's intent.
- Imagine yourself speaking to an audience member.
Let's do it!
So you're finally ready to record. Refer to the Podcast Production Checklist for specific guidelines on the production process. This phase aims to conduct the interview(s) for your episode, prepare any guests and record. You will need to have approved outlines, scripts and any questions you plan to ask before starting production.
- Determine the order of key talking points and define the structure of the conversation.
- Keep the podcast episode plan in front of you with each topic to cover along the way.
- Mark the timecode when good soundbites happen.
- Watch the clock to limit rambling.
- Look for follow-up question opportunities.
- Conduct sound tests.
- Do a hot wash for quality assurance.
Go for launch!
During this phase, you will be editing, polishing and finalizing your episode. Once it is reviewed and approved, you can distribute it and promote it. Consider coordinating the release with the social media team. Refer to the podcast post-production checklist for specific guidance. Once you finish one episode, it's time to start another one!
During post-production, make sure to:
You don't have to hit record and get it all done in one seamless take. You're going to mess up. You're going to have to re-state lots of things. You're going to have awkward pauses... but no one has to know. That's the power of editing!
- Hit record and run through the entire episode and then go back and edit out those mistakes, long pauses and awkward moments in post-production, or record and go until you mess up. Stop, cut out the mistake and then hit record and pick up where you left off.
- Clean up your audio and remove any unwanted noise.
- Get plenty of feedback before you present for review.
Your music sets the tone and mood and should be consistently applied. It helps to bookend your podcast with intro and outro music, and if you need to transition out for breaks, using familiar music helps your audience stay engaged. You may be able to find shareable files from the American Forces Network (AFN)
. You'll need to check with your command regarding sourcing requirements/guidelines.
Use music/FX/SFX only from DMA-authorized websites like Benztown Branding and Universal Production Music.
- Use logos and colors that relate to the service or organization.
- Avoid complex detail.
- Coordinate with the VI team.
- Ensure it aligns with the command.
- Design for smaller devices.
You have finally got to the point of sharing your podcast with the world. Be sure to upload it to DVIDS
and secure your RSS feeds. Uploading to DVIDS ensures your podcast is pushed to public platforms via AFNgo
Perfection will ruin any chances of your show taking off or even getting published in the first place.
You must get through a good number of episodes before you start to get into a rhythm and feel the groove. You will never have a podcast if you wait until you feel good about your show before you hit publish on episode one. Just get it out there, let the world find it and use that experience to continually improve your podcast. Put the first one out, make the next one better and keep moving forward.
Remember to follow DoDI 5040.02 regarding the archival of visual information. See Visual Information (VI) submission methods and Lifecycle Management of Released VI Records for more detailed information.