Friday, 22 May 2015

The Engage Podcast's Guide to Podcasting!

Hi guys
I know it's been just over a month since my last blog post. As ever I've got myself 'bogged down' in Production work (including organising guest interviews). Which you can look forward to hearing in the near future!

A picture I took of the happy couple minutes after they 'tied the knot'!
The happy couple
But more importantly we've had Phil's Wedding! So I'm going to take this opportunity to congratulate the happy couple...again!!!
As the podcast has been released for the past eight months (at the time that I write this), I thought it was a good opportunity to finally write a blog on how to go about starting your own podcast.

Jamie, will know that I've wanted to write for a couple of years (at least), possibly leading back to when we conceived of the idea for The Engage Podcast back in the beginning of 2012. A time when the podcast was a mere shadow of what it has become in the years preceding it.
So it is my hope that the tips below will enable you a #Trekster, to become a budding day!

One of the reasons I want to do this blog more than ever, is because I really want to help (and support) a new member of the 'Podcasting Fraternity'.
Vance of 'A STO Admiral on Deck' over on YouTube, who has just started a new Star Trek Online podcast.
He can also be found on Twitter and his newly created Facebook page!

So I would really like to give him the support of everyone over here at The Engage Podcast Headquarters.
I am hoping that you will support a fellow #Trekster, as I'm glad to say that Vance is a member of your ranks! #PleaseFollowAndSupport!!!

A brief history of the podcast

At this point in the blog, I just want to point out that I am in no way an 'expert' in podcasting!
These Tips are just pointers that 'we' (meaning me, Jamie & Phil) would have liked to have known when we started the long (and egregious) development process of the podcast (January 2012).

Due to that fact I would just like to clarify that there is no wrong way or right way to get into podcasting...making these simply just advice and recommendations based on my experiences.

Although (at the time that I write this) we have only been available for a total of 8 months (since our launch in October 2014).

We did however spend 33 months conceiving of the idea. By recording 'Pilot Season' episodes, which allowed us to test a lot of different ideas along the way.
Some ideas that didn't work so will never hear! Which is why we now refer to them as "The Lost Files". 
While other 'Pilot Season' concepts (and episodes) that worked. Mean that you are now reaping the rewards from them, as those are episodes some of the episode being used (origins of the Pre-recorded episodes).

Once Phil joined the team back in September of 2012, everything began to fit into place...although all the work me and Jamie had done up to that point laid a foundation for us to work with!

Leading to our subsequent launch at Destination Star Trek 3 (DST3) on Friday 3rd October 2014!!!

Before I actually get into the tips themselves, I just wanted to explain that There's are a lot of infrastructure we've put in place at TEP Headquarters that you won't know about.
So I'm hoping this blog will give you a glimpse of that as you read through!

Part of that is the 15 Tips To Engage Your Audience, which acts like my own personal 'TEP rules of conduct'. Which I came across when we were still developing the podcast.
To me it acts like a rough guide on how I'm meant to run the podcast successfully.
It's so important to me that I've got a highlighted printed copy of the rules on the wall above my desk, so that I never forget get them!

I've put them into two categories.
The first set of tips are going to centre on the essential infrastructure you need in place, so that the podcast runs on a day-to-day basis.
Whereas the second group of tips are focused solely on the podcast itself, so that it can be your unique setting itself apart from other podcasts.

Essential infrastructure

Tip #1- Getting the right recording equipment and software
Obviously when your talking about podcasting, the first piece of equipment you have to discuss is the it will be the 'main input' for your recordings.
So I would spending a bit of time researching the different types of microphones available.
Here are something's to think about for a podcast microphone:
  • Price- In this day and age microphone's are freely you will find plenty to choose from! I would however recommend spending £40 and above, as they will give a decent sound quality (essential for podcast microphones).
  • Type- There are many different types of microphone. I would recommend researching all the different types (USB, Omnidirectional, Unidirectional, Cardioid, Super Cardioid and Hyper Cardioid) to find which one will work best for your podcast.
  • Location- Think about where your primarily going to use your microphone most, as that will help you select the appropriate microphone for your podcast.
    Because depending on where your primarily recording then buy a microphone designed for that environment.
  • Abilities- On top of everything else, you also need to consider whether the microphone has an ability which can aid you in your chosen environment. 
  • Accessories-  There are plenty of different additions you can buy for podcasting including Mixing Boards, audio cards and microphone windscreens.
    I would recommend buying a microphone windscreen, as they greatly improves indoor recordings. By reducing popping and hissing sounds. Along with ambient sounds, which can distract your audience from the content of your podcast.

I would also recommend buying a Headset...or to be more specific a Gaming Headset. As this is an important piece of equipment for talking to guests over the internet.
The one I would recommend buying is the Star Trek Gaming Headset, as it has great functionality needed for podcasting (and for playing Star Trek Online)!

The last things I want to talk about in this group is the recording software (and there different uses). I know this will sound a bit odd to those unfamiliar to the podcasting world...but it is something that caught us out!
The first kind of recording software is the most obvious, the software you'll record (and edit) episodes with.
Its fair to say that the choice goes down to two pieces of software, which are GarageBand and Audacity (which is what we use).
Although I've never used GarageBand, I would have thought it would be no harder than Audacity in it's simplicity.
As within a few hours of practice you'll be able to grasp the art of editing! This definitely true for us, as we're all quite competent editors these days (if needed).
Which makes Jamie's life an awful lot he's responsible for editing each episode! 

The second kind of recording software is the one that 'almost' tripped us up, it's the piece of software responsible for recording internet based interviews.
This is a piece of software crucial in a podcasters arsenal, as this will enable you to invite guests onto your podcast from around the world at the press of the button (and a small fee).  
Depending on what your using to communicate to people over the internet, there is likely to be a way to record what is said. 
Over here at TEP Headquarters, we use Skype in association with Evaer to record our interviews. Before you all think it (as I do every time I say it!) is unfortunately not a brand of water (although it does sound like it)!!!
Evaer enables you to record a conversation into either an audio format (mp3) or a visual format (mp4). As we're an audio podcast we use the Evaer mp3...and move into Audacity for editing purposes.
Our friends (Wayne & Matt) over at Trekmate Podcast use Google hangouts for the same function, by recording interviews into an audio format (mp3) and a  visual format (mp4). Which they then upload onto their website and YouTube channel.

Once you've recorded an episode it doesn't end there!
As you need to make your recordings freely available to your audience. For that purpose podcasts use an Online Distribution Platform website.
Which distribute your podcast via a page on their website. While your setting that up you can also establish a RSS Feed with iTunes, distributing your podcast even further.
As you can imagine there are lots of different companies which offer the service (for a fee).

Companies which offer the service include Soundcloud, Stitcher to name a few.
However the company Phil (his responsibility) originally decided we should use is Podomatic, So we created a podcast page for it.
Which we used up until October 2015, where we then moved over to the aforementioned Soundcloud.

Somewhere I imagine you download our episodes from?!
This is another piece of software which is easy to learn, so after a little bit of practice you'll be able to upload episodes with ease!
Tip #2- Connecting to your audience through social media
When you start a podcast, a worldwide community is formed as a result. The community will need somewhere to congregate and chat.
So it is important that you have social media accounts available for your podcast.
The first four suggestions are ones I think you definitely require, while the rest of my propositions are auxiliary social media sites (and are optional).

I think a good place to start communicating to your audience is so obvious I don't really need to talk about it.
But if I don't I'll probably end getting either an e-mail about it (ironically) or a comment about it!

I am of course talking about a podcast e-mail address. This is one (1/4) of the cornerstone pieces of social media all podcasts need, as it allows your listeners to:
  • Send you feedback on an episode.
  • Give you topic suggestions.
  • Send you fan mail, enabling them to communicate with you directly (and privately if necessary).
It is such an essential part of a podcast's social media arsenal.

The next completely essential a podcast website and forum!

I know some of you reading this will say "Simon, if it's so important why don't you have a forum?"...and my response to will "I know, and I have been on about to Phil (his responsibility) for lets just say 'quite awhile'! 
But Phil assures me (at the time that I write this) that a forum is coming soon!!! 

It too is one (1/4) of the social media foundations a podcast relies upon.
This is mainly due to the fact that it is effectively the centrepiece for talking with your audience, as it binds all the other social media accounts matter what you choose!
It also allows you to have a base of operations, where your listeners can:
  • Learn more about you (the hosts), and the podcast.
  • Catch up on the latest Star Trek news (possibly due to Facebook and Twitter Widgets).
  • Find links to your other social media.
  • Download your latest episodes.
  • Talk to each other in the forum, building a community.

Next, I think I'll move onto is Twitter and Facebook. As both of them are great places to easily gain fans (and followers), due to their popularity! 
Although it does help if your already at depth with we've had to learn quickly when it comes to twitter!!!
Again...I know some of you will be thinking "Simon, if your talking about Facebook, are you going to mention Facebook groups, as you don't currently have one?"
This is something that has come to our attention recently, and is now on Phil's To Do List!

These are sites I would recommend establishing from the moment you begin, as they are (2/4) strong social media foundations. you'll probably start off small...but someone's going to notice!

I think Twitter is something you definitely need, as it's a great way to communicate with your listeners...even though it's got limitations. Which I think can be alleviated if you use it for the right things.

While Facebook can act like a 'community hub', even more so if you decide to have a Facebook group devoted to your podcast. As your listeners can get a lot of the information from your Facebook page which I've already spoken about, so I won't bore you by repeating myself!

Ok, so you've got the key four social media sites up and you can start having a bit of fun selecting the podcast's additional media outlets.
It's a matter of taste what you want to do, but I would recommend going with your gut feeling...which is what I did when I set up this very blog!
Which as I write this very paragraph is a month away from its one year anniversary!
Blimey....where has the time gone?!

I'm only going to be suggesting three additional sites you might like to consider for your podcast's social media 'empire'. I would advise (if possible) creating these sites simultaneously with the four social media sites I think you need.

As you can imagine I'm only touching the 'tip of the iceberg' when it comes to what you can use, so be creative!
  • YouTube Channel- I would recommend this option, if you are a promising director who likes saying "lights, camera, action!" by creating your own videos on a regular basis.
    As owning a YouTube Channel can inspire the viewer to check out what else your offering on other social media.
  • Instagram- Like the old saying goes "A picture is worth a thousand words", so if enjoy taking pictures it's well worth considering. As you can make the viewer feel like they're actually attending the events (or conventions) with you!
  • Blogger- If your still feeling uninspired you might like to take some literal inspiration, by starting your own blog!
    As it is a great way to get your thoughts (and feelings) across in such a way that can make use of all my other suggestions.


Tip #3- Giving your podcast a unique identity
Ok so I've given you a good idea about what infrastructure you need for a podcast. 
Which means that I can now start getting your creativity flowing.
By discussing all the things you need to consider (and should be wary of) when you are thinking about giving a personality to your podcast. 
I've separated all the different elements up so that they are easier to read. They aren't in any particular order, due to the fact that there's no wrong way or right way to do it!
As I've said before these are just my advice and recommendation.

Podcast logo and name

With that in mind, I'll begin with the most obvious, a podcast name and a logo!
As my advice for both is the same...keep it simple.
With a podcast name I would suggest keeping it to between 3-4 syllables, as that way your name is easy to remember for you...and your listener.

The same is true for logo's, as a Graphic Designer friend once told me that the simpler logo the better....which is why she ended up designing our logo the way it is (thanks Gerry)!

'Character' is an easy thing to say (and suggest) but is a fretfully difficult thing to pin down, although depending on what order you develop your podcast.
You may define the 'character' of your podcast through your other choices, as I'm about to explain!
'Character' is something which is an element of podcasting which is all down to personal opinion.
We decided to base our 'character' (logo & name) on the look and style of the Star Trek: The Next Generation it made sense with our Captain Picard quoted "engage" name.
Music (and sound effects)
Moving onto your podcast's music (and sound effects), this is an area where you've got to be wary of what your using.
As if you make a wrong decision...can cost you a lot of money. This happens if your unable to obtain permission to use the music from the original owners.
So my recommendation is to be original and compose your own podcast music, that way you can avoid the 'minefield' surrounding ownership!
If you do however 'need' a particular piece of copyrighted music, then tread carefully and seek advice  from the appropriate legal sources.
Failing all of that, use a bit of common sense and play it safe by not using it!!!

Unique Selling Points (USP's)
This is an element which is crucial if you want to make your podcast to be different, and to stand out from the crowd. Which is getting harder and harder everyday as more podcasts 'come into the market'.
There are loads of different concepts you can offer a potential audience, which only you can offer!
I can't tell you what they are, as that is something your going to have to explore. But once you've worked out your unique skill sets (and talents) you can then start utilising them for the podcast.
This tip, is also reconfirming my underlining theme (and point)'ve got to be creative and innovative in order to survive and attract listener.
Which is why I'm always mixing things up at TEP, as you've got to intrigue the listener before they've even hit the play button!!!
Target audience
Obviously with this type of media you need to consider what your target audience is going to be for your podcast. As working this out before you launch may mean the difference between your podcast being a huge success or a complete flop.
Simple erythematic dictates that the wider your audience base is, the wider your listener base will be. Which sounds great...on paper!
But then you need to find a way of keeping everyone happy with your content.
Although if you go for a smaller niche market, the opposite is you can never really expand.
My advice is simple and really not that helpful...but do what you think is best for you and for your podcast at the end of the day!
Format (and rough episode length)
They are both intensely interlinked, mainly due to the fact that you can't work out one of them without the other! 

The format of your show is an important element to any podcast.
As it can add a layer of structure to each episode, and depending on what sections you choose can differentiate you from other podcasts. 
Once you've worked out what sections your going to do each week, you can then think about how long you want your podcast to last for each week. 

Again...with a podcasts format (and episode length) "your damned if you do, and your damned if you don't".
As if you go for a long podcast (an hour and above) you run the risk of losing your audiences attention. All because of the fact that people's attention span have been decreasing over the past decade, due to the direct results of our 24 hour media society.

Whereas if you go for a short podcast (an hour or less) you don't run the risks of losing your audiences attention...but you'll probably not be able to get into your topic fully. Not giving you the opportunity to get your point across to your listeners.

So once again my advice is do what you think is best for you (and for your podcast)!

Other things to consider


One consideration you'll come across every now and then, is the fact that plans don't always happen the way you envisage.
When this problem comes up you've got to be ready with either an already thought out back up plan or be prepared to compromise in someway.
Part of being a podcaster is how you deal with unexpected changes. As sometimes an original problem, can be completely transformed into an opportunity. Which you'd never have had if the initial dilemma had never occurred!  
Something else you might want to consider giving your podcast is a tagline, as it can give a clearer explanation of who you are and what your podcast offers.
With this I always think that you want to keep it catchy so that it 'rolls off the tongue'...and is also easy to remember. 
A simple way to ascertain whether your idea is too long is to see if you can memorise it. If you can remember it in it's entirety, then you can use it!
But if you however can't memorise it...then it's too long, and I'd go back to the drawing board!

Going back to what I was saying earlier about connecting to your audience through social media, you might also consider coming up with a term for a follower of the podcast.
I think this is well worth spending the time brainstorming as it can heighten the idea of a 'community' centred around your podcast. It can also act like a form of 'ice breaker' between a fan and host.

Which gets me onto the story of how I came up with the term #Trekster. The term is something I came up with around half a year before we launched.
Although in it's original inception, it had a totally different meaning to what it means today!

Today, you all know it as our term for the podcasts followers...but when I initially conceived of the idea I was reminiscing about the 2 different terms we call ourselves (Trekker & Trekkie).
Which got me thinking about a new term, you've got to remember that there was (and still is) a 'divide' between 'Prime' universe fans and 'Abramsverse' fans at the time.
So I wanted to find a unifying new term which meant that you were a fan of the 'Prime' universe and the 'Abramsverse'...and that is why I originally came up with the term Trekster!!!

I'm hoping this advice comes in helpful! As I'd like to help any budding podcaster reading this become a member of the 'Podcasting Fraternity' sometime in the future. So that I can give you a warm welcome into 'the club'!
This is Simon from The Engage Podcast signing out!