As podcasters, your listeners are the most important part of your show. Most of the time, we see them as anonymous totals ticking up our analytics. Those numbers are real people, and they came for a show. When I’m podcasting, I have seven words taped to my wall to remind myself of what I owe my audience when I sit down to record: Consistency, Accuracy, Friendship, Expansion, Play, Objectivity and Voice.
I call it the Café POV. You know, like the corner coffee shop where all the Bohemians hang out; an inclusive and playfully creative clubhouse. That’s what we owe our listeners.
Consistency means publishing on a regular schedule. Make it weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, but establish a pattern and stick to it. Consistency also means consistency in content. If your podcast is about running a small business, make sure every episode’s main topic covers an aspect of running a small business. You can still fall down fun rabbit holes as long as you deliver on your show’s brand promise first. Rabbit holes are a staple of podcasting, after all.
If your podcast is about something factual, you owe it to your listeners to have a good handle on the information before you sit down to record. Nobody wants to listen to you Google an answer. If you get something wrong, your listeners will let you know. Or worse, they’ll just stop listening and you’ll never know why your numbers are ticking down. Avoid the confusion. Do your research.
When you host a podcast, you’re introducing yourself to new people every week. You’re starting friendships. Treat your listeners like friends. Ask them for feedback. Never judge them for disagreeing with you. If they ask you for something reasonable, try to give it to them. Like most friendships, the more you put in, the more your listeners will give back.
It’s important to be consistent, but if you get bored with your show, your listeners will get bored too. Shaking things up keeps you and your audience engaged. Look for ways to expand on things that are already working. For example, if your listeners e-mail you and say they love the custom jingle you made for your feedback segment, consider making custom jingles for the other segments. Never stop growing.
Listeners love it when it sounds like you’re having fun. If you’re a solo host on a scripted podcast, don’t be afraid to go off-script with an adlib or two. Worst-case scenario, you can cut it later. If you and your co-host record live over Zoom, take a page from improv comedy and make a promise to “Yes, and…” to each other. You don’t have to agree about everything. Listen to what your co-host has to say, respond to it without dismissing it, then offer up your take. Even when you disagree, you’ll keep the conversation positive and playful.
The Friends Reunion might be the best thing in your world, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing in the world. Everybody has an opinion. Your listeners subscribe because, for the most part, they like how you think. Be confident in yourself, but don’t shy away from opposing opinions. Sharing them in a respectful way makes you look even more confident. The listeners will feel respected and they’ll keep coming back. They’ll also respect your opinions, even when they disagree with them.
To grow your podcast into a community, give your listeners a voice on your show. At some point, every single one of your listeners has considered starting their own podcast. Some people don’t have the technical know-how or the self-confidence. These people are your greatest assets. Read tweets, play voicemails, solicit letters. When a lot of people share a little content, it adds up to something much bigger than you could create by yourself.
Your community adds value to your show. Invite your most vocal listeners on as guests or co-hosts. When you include listeners in your show, you create a positive feedback loop where other listeners feel encouraged to contribute.
Podcasting is the world’s biggest open mic. Grow your community with a Café POV, and they’ll be ready to cheer you on every time you step into the spotlight.
Do you have a unique way to honor and engage your listeners? Let us know in the comments.
Bill Meeks is a writer, performer, and recovered fan podcaster living in San Gabriel, CA. You can find more information about all his projects at billmeeks.com.