Launching a podcast can feel overwhelming if you bit off more than you can chew. That’s why we recommend that organizations start off by launching their podcast with a pilot season.
When I launched my first podcast series, I thought of it like 60 Minutes; that is, I assumed I would put out a new episode every week until the end of time. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. After thirteen episodes, my series “podfaded” — or, went on a permanent hiatus. This was very discouraging for me. At the time, I viewed my podcasting endeavor as a failure.
But that wasn’t the end of my podcasting career. In fact, it was just the beginning. Today, I host three different podcast series, and I travel all over the country to speak about podcasting. I learned a lot from that first foray into the medium, and I have built upon the knowledge that I gained in every new podcasting venture. When you first step up to the plate, you sometimes hit the ball out of the park; but it’s far more likely that you’ll do just enough to get yourself on base. The same is true of podcasting.
Podcast Reframing: You’re a Television Studio, Not a TV Show
Today, when it comes to podcasting, I advise clients to think of themselves as a television studio, not a single TV show. Television studios produce numerous new shows each season. They know that some will become hits while others will not. The failures don’t sink the studios. Their revenue models have built in the expectation that not every new show will be a home run. They try things to see what works. Studios reinvest in shows that have promise by renewing them for a second season; they cancel the ones that don’t.
Like television studios, organizations trying their hands at podcasting for the first time should walk in with the expectation that some shows will connect with an audience and others won’t. If you believe that your podcast is only a success if it continues in perpetuity, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, I encourage clients to launch a podcast with a pilot season containing a finite number of episodes. If you go into a podcast with a goal of producing a defined number of episodes — say, 10 — then, once you’ve completed them, you have a natural point at which to pause and evaluate your efforts. If it was a huge success, you can come back for a second season. If it was a dismal failure, you can scrap it and move on to something else. Most likely, however, is that your podcast will fall somewhere in between these two extremes. It will contain some successful elements along with others that can be improved upon. By launching with a pilot season, you’ve given yourself a natural point at which you can pause, evaluate, and tweak or pivot as necessary.
For example, let’s say you’re a local theatre company. For your first podcast, you decide that each episode will features a behind-the-scenes conversation with the director of a different play from the upcoming theatre season. At the end of your podcast’s pilot season, you may decide that you want to incorporate interviews with the actors into the episodes. You can easily do this when you return for a second season of podcast episodes.
Pause Between Seasons to Reevaluate Your Podcast
By launching your first podcast with a pilot season, you give yourself the breathing room to figure out the medium and improve as you go. If the podcast is a huge hit, you can come back for a second season. If your podcast is a dismal failure, you have a natural stopping point to finish and move on to something else. In all likelihood, your podcast will perform somewhere between those two extremes, so you will benefit from the opportunity to pause and evaluate what is working and what needs to be tweaked. By launching your podcast with a pilot season, you aren’t pressuring yourself to hit a homerun during your first time at the plate, and this increases your chances of success in the long run.
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