Have you met anyone lately who didn’t have a podcast?

With the rise of popularity you may be tempted to get into podcasting.

There is a bewildering array of tools to choose from and many other questions to answer!

A photo of Berenice Smith
Berenice Smith

Berenice Smith, a graphic designer at Hello Lovely Design, helped set up and produce The Full Stop podcast which is on its 12th episode and answered questions about the tech, equipment, design, guests, and more!

The basics – time money and skills!

Ann Hawkins What’s the range of skills and the time and financial commitment needed to make a consistently good podcast?

Berenice Smith I work with two other presenters so getting a good mix of speech and tone is important as is listening skills, empathy, knowing the audience, contacts, branding, and social media.

Technically we needed to research the different platforms and what an RSS is and does. It is useful to know about audio editing though apps like Headliner and Podbean make that relatively easy.  A workflow helps as well. The website is set up to do most of the hard work when the episode goes live. It’s the organising that takes time – the right guests, getting them and us together (this week we recorded across 3 continents!)

Topics – I was told that most podcasts end at 8 episodes as the material runs dry and time is an issue. We’re at episode 14 and have the rest of the themes planned out for the year and beyond, it’s never-ending but in some areas – even design – that might be tricky so pacing the content and making it useful matter. But it does take a lot of time even with three of us sharing the load – more than we anticipated and as we’ve become more known, those demands are increasing.

Finance – At the moment we ask for donations. For us, there’s a big ethical thing around asking for money from this demographic but as I said earlier, we have plans for Patreon or crowdfunding that I’m happy to talk about elsewhere. We have listed all those costs so we can keep a record like a business so that if we are in the position of seeking funding or changing the model we have this to hand. That’s really important. Prepare for growth from the start.

The key thing for me was going for it. I joined a lot of podcast groups on Facebook and oh my, it was all rather geeky! It’s easy to get hung up on tech but if you have a solid plan then try it out and see where it goes. Pod bean is free for about 3 hours I think so that’s enough to do some short pieces and take it from there. See what happens!

We expected about 100 listeners given we hadn’t considered paying for advertising (we never have) so anything over that has been a bonus and we’re way beyond that now but to help one person alone is enough. We had a rehearsal for a webinar we’ve been invited to run with Fertility Network UK next week and the benefit to our mental health, how we’ve learned to listen and really get in tune with others as we do have to ask the questions that others may not want to has really helped with imposters and inner critics.

We are all podcast listeners too. That was important, we know what others do and are getting an ear for what works and what doesn’t!

Andy Boothman Who inspires you in the podcast arena?

Berenice Smith The Good Grief podcast, Fertility Poddy, Guardian book podcast, Creative Pep Talk and Design Matters spring to mind but I’m always looking at BBC Sounds.

Andy Boothman How far ahead are you planning typically?

Berenice Smith We typically block in events and some, like Mother’s Day, Christmas etc require extra care but sometime we have to shuffle around because of a newsworthy item so we try to have some flex. We tend to have the next three episodes in mind and one canned in case we need it – often that’s from a previous podcast so we get a break. Some shuffles happen because we’re getting guests from across different time zones too!

Is a podcast right for your business?

Helen Lindop Can you tell us how you decided that a podcast was right for your project/business and was likely to give you a return on that work?

Berenice Smith We started the podcast after we drew up a proposal for the BBC Rachel Bland award. It was during that research that we realised that there wasn’t a podcast for our niche. So much like a business plan really

Probably the thing to say here is that this is a podcast about involuntary childlessness so there isn’t a direct link to my business, more to me. Although I work with a very wide demographic I also work with men and women who want an empathic designer in this area so it’s been a benefit I’ve not realised before. It’s allowed people to get to know me (something that Ann Hawkins said in the 6 Steps Programme was what would make someone chose between me or another designer is down to personality so it’s been an indirect benefit!)

This is the podcast I co-present so you can get a feel for what we’ve done.

THEFULLSTOPPOD.COM

However,  I’m hoping to set up a creative podcast at some point soon (if anyone is interested!)

Helen Lindop What are the benefits of a podcast compared to say a YouTube channel, or blog?

Berenice Smith I’ve not really experimented with YouTube but I would say it’s about our comfort and that of guests. We record on Zoom but it’s amazing how sitting in your home knowing that there won’t be any video can make a safe space. We do have a blog and a newsletter. We send out a newsletter to our subscribers when the episode goes up and then a few days later we go public and then share some of the newsletter content. Our open stat averages 70% and the clicks around 60%.

Helen Lindop Do you do the editing and uploading yourselves or outsource it?

Berenice Smith We do it all ourselves. There’s loads of software from Garageband to Adobe Audition, and sites that can do this such as Headliner (which we use on the free version for audiograms). We’re really lucky that Michael (one of the co-presenters) loves the audio editing and has had media training, I’m happy with social media, running the website and seeking out opportunities to increase our reach and Sarah is a great writer for our blog so we all bring varied skills.

Attracting listeners

Helen Lindop How to you get subscribers/listeners?

Berenice Smith Being social. We’ve currently got 2.8k listeners over all time and we’re fortunate that our community is incredibly committed. Presenters and guests are important. We started with published authors who did well with social media to bring in traffic and we intersperse guests like Bibi Lynch and Susan Muir (look up Suzy and the Simple Man, she’s incredible) with stories from new names, less established to give balance and humanity.

Spotify is in beta at the moment for podcasts so that took a bit of time to sort out, but we’re doing well on Apple, and Podbean is great. We’ve recently launched on Stitcher so we’re always checking the platforms and asking our listeners. We’ve recently added in a community news and a toolkit of resources.

There’s a new Google podcasts app too.

It’s really hard for us to get reviews in this field as people have the right to privacy but encouraging reviews especially on Apple, really bumps it up along with all the benefit that reviews bring.

Standing out in the crowd

Eliza Adams I’m thinking of starting a podcast about being a copywriter – but there are already a lot of people doing it; is it worth creating a podcast with so many discussing similar topics, and if yes how could it stand out?

Berenice Smith I think research really important – there are lots of podcasts that cross over so we do have others with similar aims (the more the better to be honest when it comes to mental health but it’s good to have a niche). For example we found that there were very few men talking about mental health and grief so our male presenter is very important. The other female presenter is a coach and training to be a counsellor so she brings a lot of ethics and fantastic questions.

We also engage with other podcasts so we’re appearing on a podcast in USA very shortly and the person who founded that has just recorded an episode with us. The collaboration really works if you can find the subtle differences.  Also, if you decided to collaborate with others, the team dynamic has been important for us so whilst your subject matter might be similar, maybe there’s a collaboration that makes it unique.

Branding

Branding is really important too – I’ve seen so many podcasts with covers that are illegible, so our brand is very strong and personal and it has reach. A good website and all those important design rules matter.

Helen Lindop I hadn’t thought about the importance of having a good mix of presenters, great point.

Clair Slade Did you have an exact idea about what you wanted it to be like? e.g. is it scripted?

Berenice Smith We really have no script! We do script the intro, middle part and ending so it’s topped and tailed by website and social media though and we always research the guests.

As for the what we wanted to be like – we had key words – empathy, funny, sweary and human. We’ve been told that the biggest draw is us as team and that we do laugh. That’s so important with difficult subjects that can been uncomfortable and we’re all about building bridges so it’s for all (hence the name not really alluding to the subject matter). But we do edit so that each episode usually started with one of us digressing or laughing to set the tone. We’ve had tears – especially over one specific one on mental health – which has increased our audience.

Charlotte Ashley-Roberts That’s interesting. I tried without a script and waffled too much

Berenice Smith I have had to record a few pieces on my own and oh yes… I’m terrible. As we’re presenting as a team we tend to have hand signals for waffle alerts or we’ll ping a message to each other but I empathise completely!

Who are ideal guests?

Helen Lindop I actually quite like being a guest on podcasts (weird, I know). What’s a good way to approach a podcast host? What are you looking for in a guest?

Berenice Smith I love that you love being a guest, me too! Oddly it’s not about the tech – guests get worried about not having a recording studio but in the main, a pair of headphones and a quiet room is fine.

Someone who is relaxed, not over promoting and has something valuable to share, is engaged with us already as a follower and has listened to the podcast. There’s a lot of the ethos of Drive about how we approach the social media so it’s all about supportiveness not sales. Subtle 😀

Find our more about Berenice at Hello Lovely Design and on Twitter @hihellolovely

Find out more about The Full Stop Podcast at TheFullStopPod and on Twitter @TheFullStop1

Berenice is also a finalist in the Digital Women Awards and has been selected as one of the 40 women to watch!