Part 8: Marketing & Release | So You Want to Make a Fiction (or Any) Podcast?



Photo Courtesy of Malte Wingen.

Note: Multitude is a podcast collective and production studio. This piece is part of a ten part series by them to help you create a fiction (or any) podcast. Did you see Part Seven? Make sure you check that out and come back next Tuesday for Part Eight.

The podcast is finished and you want people to listen to it. Go out there and market, young one! The path to podcast listeners is a long one, and there’s no full guide to getting a million downloads. But there are some things to keep in mind as you get ready to share it out.

You Should Pay for Hosting

Your podcast needs to be uploaded somewhere to get sent out to the far reaches of the internet universe. But which host should you go with?

Here’s the shot: There is no silver bullet for hosting. Audio data is squishy and murky, and no one has really cracked the code on giving perfect audience data.

Here’s the chaser: Because you’re looking for someone to securely hold your podcast for you, there are a lot of decent and affordable hosts out there. Check them out, see which one fits what you need and has a plan that works for you. Our biggest piece of advice is to pay for hosting. If you’re getting it for free, that means the platform is making money off of you some other way: collecting data, murky IP ownership terms, or skimping on tech support to save money.

Talking to the Press

One of the best ways to build momentum for your podcast is to get reviewed on a podcast recommendation website or newsletter. This may seem obvious to you, but even the smallest newsletter has a devoted fan base that looks to them to recommend shows. Not only that, lots of websites that traffic in entertainment are branching out into podcast reviews.

A few weeks before the episodes come out, start reaching out to press and see if they’re interested. You should have two important things attached to that email:

  • A press kit! This is basically a very fancy About page — a document or webpage that gives a potential reviewer information about you and your show. Your show summary is a good starting point, but reviewers will want to know details like when the show started, who you are, how often the show comes out, and whatnot. They’ll also want to download your show artwork, stream your trailer, and know how to get in touch if they want to email you. Make an attachable slide deck or PDF, or give them a link to a Google or Dropbox folder. If you want more inspiration, here’s a link to a comprehensive guide on podcast press kits.
  • Early episodes! Giving reporters actual audio will give them more to write about and make you look on top of your game. This may seem like you’re spoiling your own show, but the audience needs to know what the show is about to get hooked to listen. And any good reviewer will probably leave out any major spoilers. If you’re worried, you can ask for any article about your show to be embargoed until after your release date.

This may surprise you, but reporters are humans just like you and me. So the best way to communicate how much they should write about your show is to talk to them like people. The overarching idea here is to give, don’t take. You’re giving information for them to consider, not taking a spot in their next article. Keep your tone friendly and professional, and end your email by thanking them for their time. These journalists and editors get way more email than they can respond to, so it’s not personal if they don’t respond. The podcasting world is small, so you may see this person at a meetup one day soon.

Compose a polite, concise email to them describing your show and linking to your press kit. Then, save it in a document or your email app so you can easily use it as a template for next time (template here). If you don’t hear back, don’t sweat it. Reporters are busy and not every show is a good fit for their beat. Follow up once (politely!) and move on to your other marketing strategies.

Social Media Is Your Friend

Social media may seem scary, but it may just be the looming obligation of posting on everything constantly that is weighing you down. The easiest way to dispel the gloom is to set some parameters for yourself.

  • What platforms am I going to use? Podcast listeners are big Twitter users and Instagram is a great way to add visuals to an audio medium. If you feel confident in doing both, do it! But if you have to teach yourself Twitter, then it’s ok not to do it. Feel confident in what you’re doing. Just create an account so you own your username, pin a tweet telling folks to find you on Instagram, and never check it again.
  • What is the mission? Think about how you can add to your audience’s experience by publishing content on social media that relates to your show. If you’re a sitcom, you could quote-tweet those no-context meme accounts with commentary. If you’re a horror show, you can write spooky flash fiction. If your show is about K-Pop singers, you better give your takes on K-Pop. You’re not just sharing links to new episodes, though you’ll do that too; you got to give something more.
  • What’s your posting plan? Don’t feel obligated to share more than once a day on Twitter, or once every few days on Instagram. It matters more that you stick to a schedule than do a ton all at once and then trail off.

The biggest thing to remember is to be yourself. You’re not trying to go viral, you’re trying to become a presence in someone’s internet life. So sound like yourself, or what you think your show would sound like. The best way to do this is to read your tweets out loud as you write them. If you like it, someone else will like it too.

Let’s Talk About Transcripts

We’re just going to be straight with you. You should have transcripts. It is a right, not a privilege, for audiences to freely access transcripts for your show.

If you need some more convincing, here’s who transcripts are for.

  • The d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Just like subtitles in a movie, transcripts open up the storytelling of your show for those who cannot access audio.
  • Plenty of English language learners or people who know English as a second (or third or sixth) language would love to listen to your English-language podcast. But, they could use a written reference as they do. Reading along as they listen to the audio enables these listeners to access and enjoy your show.
  • The same goes for those who have auditory processing issues. They want to participate in podcasting, but need text to help understand what they’re hearing.
  • Transcripts also help a great deal with search engine optimization (SEO). Google has been doubling down on reading podcasts and surfacing them, but your episode titles and description alone aren’t always enough. Putting the transcript of the show on your website makes your audio way more searchable.

It will not take away from people listening to your show, no one is going to steal your script, and transcripts will not spoil potential listeners. I promise.

And, you’re in luck as a scripted fiction podcast producer: you have all the language written out in scripts! Do a quick reformatting for readability, which we can help you out with here, re-listen to your episode for any improvisations or cut lines, and voila! Throw those bad boys on your website, and you’re good to go.

Do I Pay for Marketing?

If you had an infinite budget, we would say definitely hire a marketing expert to help you. They’ll hook you up with paid search on Google and good promoted social media posts—they’ll also introduce you to a Rolodex of relevant contacts, write the emails you don’t know how to write, and set you up with strategies that make sense for your show.

If you have a limited amount of money, that should probably go to other places right now, so you can tackle marketing yourself. The rolling tasks of marketing, social media, engaging with your audience take a lot of time. Sending one email won’t make your downloads spike; building a community around the show and spreading by word of mouth is a slow, but effective, process.

It doesn’t have to feel endless though! Take 15-30 minutes out of your day every day to respond to comments on your show’s social media and reply to emails. Don’t feel like you have to post more than once a day on Twitter or Instagram. And don’t get bogged down in podcast reviews—it’s good to have some to show that there are listeners, but there is no proof that an algorithm surfaces podcasts by that metric.

More Marketing Quick Hits

  • Have a website! Pay a little bit of money to have a real website for the podcast. Remember — if you take yourself seriously, other people will too. And this is going to be really great for your press emails, so reporters can find all your information on that website.
  • Make a trailer! Give ‘em a taste of what is to come. We can tell you how to do that here!
  • Write down credits somewhere! Preferably, you should at least put it in the description of each episode and on the website.
  • Make your description clear! Space it out. It does no one any good if it’s all one big block of text. Have sections like this: 1) episode summary BIG PARAGRAPH BREAK 2) advertisers BIG PARAGRAPH BREAK 3) socials for the show BIG PARAGRAPH BREAK 4) cast list BIG PARAGRAPH BREAK 5) crew list.
  • Bring other podcasters into the mix! Use the template email you created for press outreach and contact some podcasters you respect whose audiences might be interested in your show. Ask if they would be interested in cross-promotion, where each of you recommends the other person’s podcast on your own. Send some bullet points summarizing your show and a call to action sending listeners to your show’s website. The most effective cross-promotions sound genuine, so appeal to that specific audience and their interests, leave listeners wanting to learn more, and close with a clear call to action.
  • Get weird! Brainstorm new ways of spreading the word with your team and put people’s skills to use. Want to make an online choose-your-own-adventure game to promote your D&D show? Hand out recipe cards for your workplace dramedy set in a restaurant? Print roommate wanted flyers for your sitcom about three roommates? — oh wait, that’s us!

And Finally, Celebrate!

We’re so proud of you. You and your team created a massive creative project! You have to remember to celebrate your successes. Have a party, or go out somewhere with the cast and crew.

The best part about podcasts is that they can theoretically live forever, waiting for someone to pick your show and listen. You are fully contributing to the rich tapestry that is audio fiction, and people will find your show and love it. Good job!