A podcast has a lot of moving parts – from wrangling guests and getting all of the information you need from them, to editing the episode and promoting it far and wide.
Keeping track of all of those moving parts can be a challenge at the best of times. Process optimization and automation make it a lot easier, but those are big tasks that often get sent to the backburner when there is so much going on.
A weekly, or even bi-weekly podcast production schedule can be intense, there is a lot of pressure in making sure you have content to release every week, and even with the best of intentions you can find yourself scrambling at the last minute. But the show must go on, and you must release when you said you were going to – that is your promise to your audience.
When you invest the energy in optimizing and then automating your internal processes for your show, your life, and the life of everyone involved in the project gets a lot easier. That is the topic of this week’s episode of the Business Podcast Blueprint Show – please give it a listen – and if you like it, share it with someone you think will find it useful!
Listen to the Episode:
Steps In Your Workflow
This will vary a little bit from company to company, but the general order of work we can assume is:
- Book the Guest (Optional)
- Record the Interview
- Edit/Produce the Audio
- Create the Show notes and other assets
- Schedule and Release the Episode
- Promote the Episode
- Repurpose the Episode
There can be additional steps in this process, like content planning, a pre-call with a guest, writing a script or researching the guest or topic and so on. If you have additional steps like this, add them to your own list.
Basically, we start by identifying the different buckets of tasks for each part of the podcast process. Buckets can contain different numbers of subtasks, but the most important thing about a bucket is that one person carries it. Each high level category of podcast activity, like those written above should have someone who is in charge of it.
So let’s look into a bucket: Editing and Producing the audio, for example could involve: the host uploading the raw audio to your file storage system, an assistant sending a link to your producer, the producer uploading finished audio to the storage system and letting the assistant know it’s ready, letting the host review for quality control. Ultimately, the Assistant is in charge of the bucket and making sure the high level task: “Edit and Produce the Episode” is getting done on time. It could look totally different, however! Another set of tasks in that bucket could be the host listening back to the episode for key points and noting the edits they want, submitting the audio and notes to a third party producer, and waiting to be notified the episode is scheduled in the podcast host, or uploaded to your file sharing system.
Because it can vary so much, it’s important to get it all written down somewhere.
You want to be thinking in absolutely excruciating detail. Trust me, it’s worth it. And you can probably start to see why getting things down on paper or project management system is a good idea. Depending on the complexity of your show and the number of humans you have working on it, things can get a little unwieldy, and it’s easy to make mistakes.
When it’s all clearly laid out, it’s also easy to see where you can add efficiencies and automations to make everyone’s life a little easier. It’s also going to save you a whole bunch of time when you’re writing your standard operating procedures. Half the job will be done already!
There are a few places that are almost always low-hanging fruit for improving a podcast workflow: Anytime things change hands from one person to another, tasks that are similar each time they’re done, and buckets of tasks that can be delegated entirely.
We have some specific ways we like to do that, and I’m going to share them with you now, but you’ll get the most out of it if you first make sure your process is written out. Really written out. Extremely, profoundly and staggeringly written out.
If a human or a machine does anything at any point, it should be in your starting document. In order, preferably. No detail is too tiny.
Now, because of the magic of asynchronous audio, you can pause this and do that now, or come back and listen to the next rest of the audio again later.
So let’s talk about the methods we’ve developed over several thousand podcast episodes to make weekly or bi-weekly production run smoothly within your team.
Here’s what will be involved:
- An Episode Guide
- A Project Management System
- SOPs, and
Let’s go through how to use each of them.
Your Podcast Episode Guide
Your episode guide is the single source of truth as related to your podcast – it’s the central brain where every answer to every podcast related question should live. We strongly recommend Google Sheets for this, because it can be easily integrated with multiple other systems very easily. You’ll want to have different sheets in your episode guide. A database system like notion or Airtable could work in vey much the same way!
General Show Information and Links – this is just your basic info: your show name and tagline, links to your pages on different platforms like Apple and Spotify, a link to your music assets, your podcast host, and who to contact in what kind of podcast-related emergency! If you have any hard or standing deadlines, those should be noted as well.
Episodes, which will have the title, guest name, release date, embed code, any shortlink you’re using, your full URL and a link to finished assets.
Stats, which will include anything you want to track on a regular basis like monthly downloads, episode downloads by month, 30-day trailing, traffic to specific web pages, conversions – anything you’ve decided is important to track for your business – and make sure to listen to our episode Metrics that Matter for Company Podcasts if you feel like you could be getting a little more value out of your show.
Those are the absolute basics I would expect to see in any episode guide, but you can add whatever else you want and is useful to you. Some people like to use that space for planning future episodes, tracking guest invitations and follow up, and even the different promotional activities they’re using to drive traffic to the show and how they’re performing.
Some people prefer to use database systems, as I mentioned like airtable and notion, and if that’s your speed – awesome! The only thing you need to be absolutely sure of with your episode guide is that it contains all of the information people might want about your podcast episodes in the future in one place, and that everyone knows where to find it and how to use it.
Why do you want this for your internal podcast workflow? Because at no point, ever, should a member of your team have to ask YOU something like “where is the link to last week’s episode?”
And you shouldn’t have to post a slack message asking for the upcoming guest name – it should all be in a single place that everyone can access, and most importantly, everyone knows to consult first.
Having it in a google sheet or a database system also means that you can generally automate some of the communication steps in your exhaustive list. You can set automations to send notifications when deadlines are reached, when new content is added etc. This can represent a huge time-savings, AND there is a “single point of truth” so that if you think you’ve already done an episode with an elephant training expert, and so you don’t need another one – you can check!
Project Management for Your Podcast
A Project Management System is technically optional, and if your team is already comfortable with something like Monday, Teamwork, Notion or Asana or another system, there’s no reason not to have your podcast plugged into it. If you’re not using anything at all right now, you can use a purpose built system like Alex Sanfilippo’s PodcastSOP software. You can learn more about it, and Alex in our episode Solving Problems for Podcasters.
The key thing is to make sure that all of the steps in your workflow are represented in your Project Management system, the most important being who is in charge of what step. This is especially true when you’re working with a third party service provider who almost certainly has their own system or organizing things on their end – you want to be fully aware of when your systems are going to bump up against each other and who is in charge of making sure the necessary communication happens!
We’ve started using Notion, recently, on the advice of Organizational Mastermind Jenny Blake who has some amazing content about how to use it on her Free Time Podcast. I enjoy Notion Walkthrough’s 1, 2 and 3.
In a perfect world, your project management software is also going to integrate neatly with other things like your email, your social media accounts, your podcast host, your communication channel like slack etc. If it doesn’t integrate natively – that’s why we have Zapier, which I’ll be talking about in a few minutes!
Podcast Asset Templates
Now, templates. Templates are your best friend. They are ready-to-customize versions of the different assets you need to create for each episode.
You can have templates for:
- Episode Scripts
- Invitations to be a guest
- Guest Swipes or Sharing Materials
- Emails to your list
- Blog Posts
Anything that you make more than once, should have a template that can be altered to suit each episode. For graphics and videos you can create “shell” versions which contain the basic format and can be copied or duplicated every time you want to make a new version of them. Many designers can create templates for you in programs like Canva or Photoshop that you can then modify yourself, or assign to a team member to handle, if you don’t have in-house graphic support.
For the text-based templates, it’s good practice to have a file or folder with all of your templates in one palace, so you know where to find whatever it is you need to create. Then you just make a copy, rename it, and start editing. Easy peasy.
One “Template” that we have is a New Client Podcast folder. It contains a blank episode guide and empty folders all pre-named and ready to go. When we start working with a new client, all we have to do is duplicate that Blank New Podcast folder, and rename it to reflect the new show we’re working with – it really does save a lot of time!
If you’re not currently using templates, make a list of everything you make for each episode, and see if you have a template for it – if not, add it to your list!
Standard Operating Procedures for Your Podcast
Now, let’s talk about SOP’s. SOPs are standard operating procedures. They are to-do lists with instructions for what needs to happen when. If a person has to do a thing, you should have an SOP for it, so that if the human responsible ever goes away, or wants to do something crazy like take a vacation, any other human can jump in and complete the task perfectly by following the instructions.
SOPs should include:
- The steps to take
- Screenshots of any software or technology that need to be used
- Credentials for any systems that need to be logged in
- Videos of more complex actions, if necessary
- Information about how you want files to be named, stored and saved.
- Instructions for what and who needs to be updated at all stages
- A clear description of what “finished perfectly” looks like.
Your first version of your SOPs will be insufficient – at least mine were! Write them to the best of your ability, give them to a team-member and try to get them to break it. They probably will, then you can improve it and eventually you’ll have a living breathing answer to every question that isn’t you. 😉
This is a big task, and one I have noticed, that often gets back-burnered, especially if everyone on your team is hardworking and reliable, it’s really easy to get to it later. But later becomes never and then if something DOES happen, you’ll find yourself in a very unpleasant situation of not knowing how to do what your colleagues or team members do, or them not knowing what YOU do and scrambling to keep the train on the rails.
Take it process by process, and as you create the procedures test them. Give them to team members that aren’t involved in the process. Try them yourself, if you have other people normally doing the work. A little redundancy in key marketing operations can go a long way to making sure you’re consistent, and consistency is the most important thing in podcasting.
Now, before we wrap up, let’s talk about
Zapier. If you’re not familiar with it already, Zapier is basically a little internet robot that makes different software talk to each other. It’s slightly fiddly, but really cool.
Once you have all of your steps written down, and your episode guide sorted, you can look for ways to automate some of the things that a person currently has to do. Depending on your own tech and set-up the possibilities will be different from show to show.
Some examples you might want to test:
- When raw audio is uploaded to a certain folder, an email is sent to the next person in the chain.
- When a blog post is published, a tweet is automatically sent.
- When a new calendar booking is made, a new entry in the episode guide is created.
Zapier, and all of it’s possibilities can make you a little drunk on tech-based excitement – not that I’m talking from experience, so the best way to decide what to automate is to first create your workflow list – absolutely everything, then open up Zapier and type in the softwares that are right next to each other. For example, if one of my workflow steps is “upload raw audio to google drive” and the next one is “send a slack message to the editor” I can search zapier for Google Drive and Slack, and see if Zapier has a function I can use to automate that step! There are plenty of other automation tools out there as well, so if there’s one you like, go for it! I’d love to hear about what you’re using, by the way! Find us on twitter @OneStoneC!
Automation tools are not strictly necessary, of course, just like the project management system – but it can be extremely helpful, especially for a small team. There is a book I really like on the topic of automations, Less Doing More Living by Ari Meisel. If you’re new to the practice, it’s well worth a read, and explains the type of thinking that goes into it really well.
To quickly recap, we’ve talked about why you want to optimize and then automate your podcast workflow – so you’re getting the most work done with the least effort, and setting yourself up for smooth operations when unexpected events or vacations inevitably occur.
You do this by first identifying what your workflow is, creating a single point of truth about your podcast – called an episode guide, saving time with templates and creating clarity with project management systems. Finally, we talked about adding safety and redundancy with Standard Operating Procedures, and automating steps in the process with Zapier.
Question: How Much Time is an Interview Podcast Going to Take Me Each Week?
The most honest answer is: it depends. But I do have some rules of thumb for you.
On preparing for interviews:
If you have a fat rolodex of people you know reasonably well who would make great guests, then booking calls and prepping for them can be very fast – you will already have the basic info and familiarity to more or less jump right in. If you are will be talking to people you only sort of know – maybe those you want to nurture and get to know better, prep might take a quarter or half of the time spent recording. If you’re stepping outside of your network and bringing in totally new humans, that is going to need a lot more research and prep, probably equal to or exceeding the amount of recording time.
Your recording time will be about 15 minutes longer than the time you actually spend interviewing. If you aim for a 30-minute episode, make sure sure you leave 10-15 minutes for chatting and tech issues.
On Post Production:
The next big investment of time is post-production: if you outsource it, your time investment is an email that says “Hey! Audio is ready!” and you can even delegate that to a team member. If you’re doing it yourself, or having it done in house a reasonable standard is about 5 hours of post-production for every hour of content – but that can vary HUGELY from editor to editor – your mileage may vary.
For every hour planning and recording, spend an hour promoting!
Action Step for this Episode:
If you haven’t created podcast standard operating procedures yet – the time has come to invest an hour or two into clarifying your workflow.
- Start by listing the big high level steps in the process – your buckets of tasks like “Book guest, record interview, Audio Editing, Sharing Assets, Scheduling, Promoting” whatever you use in your own business.
- THEN for each of those high level buckets write down every step involved.
- Look for opportunities to condense, delegate, outsource or automate your list.
- Once you have done that, codify the specific, minute details of absolutely everything into your SOPs.
Do you have a podcast you want to level up, or an iea you want to get off on the right foot? Try our free email training series, Optimize, Automate and Grow Your Podcast – we cover all of the tools and strategies we help our clients with, with specific actions you can take as a new or seasoned podcaster.