Podcasts are a great way to connect with your target audience and potential customers. Episode after episode they tune in, listen to your shows and sometimes even follow your advice to buy sponsored products or even your own products. Podcasts take the excitement, the vintage feeling, the nostalgia and the charm of the radio and bring it to the on-demand digital age. However, after a while, it becomes harder and harder to develop new, exciting, enticing and relevant podcast topics.
Many hosts make the mistake of recycling through their old topics and lose the interest of their audience in the process. It is important to keep your listeners engaged with your shows with the help of relevant, catchy and new topics.
Unless you have an entire team of writers working for you, you have to take care of coming up with the topics on your own. Below are our 6 steps to coming up with better podcast topics!
Step 1 – Brainstorm, Brainstorm and Brainstorm
To get started, schedule yourself a brainstorming session. In this session, start by writing down a list of any and all topics that come to mind. At this stage you just want ideas so don’t worry too much about how good these topics are. Just write them down. Try to get 30 or so topics on this list, the more the better.
Step 2 – Quick Elimination
Now that you have your starting list, go through it and quickly eliminate any topics that you have no expertise whatsoever in. We are not saying you have to be an expert in all of the topics that make it to your show but you need to have at least a basic understanding of these topics otherwise you will struggle to keep a conversation going while recording your show. You also don’t want to research a thousand different sources just for one topic. Understand your areas of expertise and focus more on your skills, knowledge and experience.
At this point you should have close to 10 topics left. The number is not an exact science but you should have more than 2-3 left. If you don’t then go back to step 1 and go through the steps again unless you have close to 10 topic.
Step 3 – is the Podcast Topic Relevant to Your Audience?
Review the list of topics you have left, at this stage you want to ask yourself the question: does this topic matter to my audience? In order to do this properly you need to first and foremost understand your target audience. In a future article we will discuss podcast listener personas and audience but for now, write down who your average listener is. What is their gender? income? education? hobby? marital status? age? job? etc. The more you know about your audience the easier this exercise gets (this article does a really good job at giving a quick overview of personas).
Once you know your audience, for each of your remaining topics add a score with a scale from 1 to 5 depending on how relevant the topic is to your audience. A topic that is really relevant (for example: your audience is first time founders and your topic is how to land your first customer) mark it with a 5, if it is not relevant at all (for example: your audience is first time founders and your topic is how climb the corporate ladder at large enterprises) then mark it with a 1. Reminder that this is a scale so some items could be in the middle with a 3.
Step 4 – Is There More Room To Talk About This?
The next step is to understand and thoroughly evaluate the topic out in the wild.
What this means is that you have to search on Google, iTunes, Stitcher, or Spotify to find similar topics that have been discussed already in the past few months. As you do this search and find results try to read through the show descriptions or even better the show notes. Then ask yourself a few questions:
- Can I add more to this conversation?
- Will my episode be useful to my audience?
- Is there still interest in this topic?
As you ask yourself these questions what you are trying to figure out is will talking about this topic still draw listeners in today or will they tune our right away or even worse hit the unsubscribe button? As you wrap up this step just remember that the goal here is to have your podcast stand out from the rest and make your content unique. Don’t waste your time and your listeners’ time by recycling old topics no one wants to hear about anymore.
Step 5 – Think of Pros and Cons
You have your topics from the brainstorming session, you scrubbed the list against your audience and the timing of it in the market today. Now let’s really think about why you should or should not talk about this topic. Take a look at the remaining topics your are evaluating and for each just do a simple Pros and Cons list.
The audience research was easy, and you had no difficulty understanding the topic. Furthermore, the content list for the topic can easily be created, and people are eager to hear more about the topic. All of these points contribute to the pros column.
If the podcast topic lacks sources of information, then it counts as a con for the topic. Moreover, if the topic is sensitive and is offensive to the audience, it is better to avoid it. Look at the heuristics for the previous discussions about the topic, and find out its cons.
Step 6 – Take It For A Test Drive
At this stage you may have 1 or 2 topics you are debating about. You can of-course use both since you need to come up with new topics weekly or bi-weekly depending on how often your show goes on (tip: we are assuming you are a good podcasting citizen and follow a regular schedule, more on that in a future article). The best thing to do now, is record yourself for just a couple minutes talking about the topic.
If you find yourself staring in space with nothing to say, you may run into trouble while recording your actual episode. If you find yourself rambling for several minutes then you at least know you have a lot to say about this topic and should definitely use it while of-course working on the rambling part!
See how it feels on the ears. Imagine how the audience would react to your show. Understand how the audience might react. Most of all, see if the topic would be appreciated by the audience. If the test drive is shaky, try another topic from the list and give that a try.
Better Podcast Topics In A Nutshell
Coming up with a new topic isn’t easy. It takes skill, experience and time to understand how the listeners will react to your show. However, it isn’t rocket science. Follow our 6 steps above each time and you are sure to have a very successful episode and show. The more times you go through this process, the better your topics will be. Each one of these steps can also lead to different streams which you should be working on at all times. How much do you truly know your audience? If you don’t make it a priority. How much do you know the topics they want to hear about? If you don’t add it to your Audible wish list (get 2 free books if you are not a member already) and start studying!
Keep your worksheets handy and refer to them regularly. You just never know when your audience changes, when a topic comes back or when you have a new interest that you may have crossed off in the past. Over time, you will have hundreds of topics with proper market and audience research, pros and cons and content sitting in your Evernote, Google Doc or wherever you keep your notes.
We would love to hear your thoughts about our method for coming up with podcast topics in the comments below and would welcome any ideas to add to our steps! Please share this article with a friend and help us improve podcast topics on every show!
If you need help starting your own podcast, contact us!