10 Things I Learned About Content Creation From 100 Episodes Of Podcasting

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Listen to this episode.

It took us a while to get started (thanks, Cynthia Sanchez for the boot in the rear) but some eight months later, after buying a bunch of equipment (thanks, Dino Dogan and Triberr for helping with that), setting it up and connecting eight billion wires (thanks, Chris Curran for making the magic happen), buying even more equipment and not getting on the treadmill nearly enough in the meantime (thanks, Alisa Meredith for being our nag buddy)… we made it to episode 100.

Along the way we learned a lot, and not just about knobs vs. sliders, but about planning, promotion, content creation and the audience we do it for. So as we cross the 100th milestone this week, we want to reflect on what we learned so that if you create any kind of content for your business you can take something away to help on your own journey.

1. There’s Always Room For Improvement

In the beginning we thought our sound was awesome. And our editing was stellar. We loved our graphics. Then a few weeks went by and we didn’t love our graphics so much. And we thought our sound was a little dull. So we made some changes, learned a few things and thought we did a great job.

A few weeks later our graphics started to look… not quite as we wanted. And why were we always breathing into the mic?

So we made some more changes. And thought we did great.

Until the next week…

Are you seeing a pattern?

It’s not that what we did wasn’t good. It’s just that as we learned, tested, tried and gained some perspective we discovered better ways to do things. Sometimes we learned to be more efficient. Sometimes we learned how to improve the quality of our content. Sometimes we just had a “What were we thinking?” moment and went back to the drawing board.

But one thing we never did was stop. We never thought well, we did it and we’re done. All the pieces are in place and it’s smooth sailing from here.

When you’re creating content you can always do a better job. Keep challenging yourself to do better, to be better and to find a way to push just a little bit farther.

If you approach your content as a journey – not as a blog post or a video or a podcast – then you’ll be able to learn, grow and evolve and that will always help you improve.

2. It’s All About The Audience

Why do you create content?

That’s not an existential question. It’s purely a practical one. And there’s only one answer: to provide value to your audience.

Every bit of content that you create as a business exists for the sole purpose of educating, entertaining or enlightening your audience or else you’re just taking up space on the internet.

It’s easy to get a bit lost in your own bubble. When we started podcasting we were hyper focused on our audience (we even gave them a name in the very first episode: Fred).

But sometimes, especially as we got more comfortable behind the mic, we had conversations with ourselves. Maybe we made an inside joke that we forgot to explain. Or drifted from topics our audience cares about into “marketing speak”.

When that happened you can bet that our audience let us know. And if you forget to focus on yours, they’ll let you know, too. It may be as direct as someone telling you that your content was boring. Or it may be quite subtle: dwindling email open rates, lower readership, less engagement.

You have to respond to the feedback and criticism the same way you respond to the silent signals. Never forget that your content means nothing without an audience to consume it.

3. No Matter How Much Work You Think It Is, It’s More

Here’s a little peek into the reality of podcasting: for every one-hour episode that we produce it takes four to five hours of work. One for recording, two for editing, another for listening back to catch glitches and mishaps and at least one more for handling all the technical stuff, writing show notes and producing graphics.

Given that we produce two full length podcasts a week, that’s like a whole second job! If you had asked me back in September if I thought it would be this much work I would’ve laughed. And if I had thought about it too much I would have cried.

I’ve found this to be true of just about any creative task. I think we as content creators are inclined to severely underestimate the amount of time it takes us to do stuff. In part, that’s because we get absorbed and the time doesn’t seem as long. In part, I think we just have no idea of what to expect until we’re thrown into the deep end of the pool.

The thing is, good marketing is work. It takes time. Whether you’re writing a blog post, recording a video or even composing something as simple as a social status update, a lot of thinking goes into that. Thinking takes time. Doing takes time. Revising takes time. And then you’ve got to do it all over again with the next piece of content.

So if you’re creating content make up your mind early that you’re going to need to commit. Commit to working, commit to spending time and commit to keep going.

4. But Work Can Be Fun

For us, one of the biggest reasons we keep going even though sometimes it keeps us up all night is because we enjoy it.

And that’s something I want you to take to heart because a lot of people cringe at the idea of spending all that time on content. But it doesn’t have to be drudgery. You don’t have to take it – or yourself – so seriously. I’m not suggesting you treat content creation lightly but you can produce something of value and still have fun doing it.

If you’re really focused on your audience then it’s a little bit like a dinner party. You can chat, you can joke and you can enjoy the interaction.

If you approach content creation by seeing yourself as the life of the party, you and your audience will have a much better time.

5. Sometimes It’s Not Fun. But You Still Have To Do It.

We recorded our 100th episode yesterday at 1:00AM. It was just that kind of day. And I gotta say, it was not fun.

I mean, recording the episode was fun. But the editing at 2AM? The show notes at 3? Graphics at 4? Not so much.

And yet it got done. Why? Because some things are non negotiable.

Treat your content creation as non negotiable or I promise that you’ll be negotiating with yourself every day. Should I write this? Should I just publish tomorrow? Should I do the video? Should I wait until next week?

And content creation will lose every time. Let’s face it: we’re all busy. We’ve got to pay bills and service clients and deal with the roof repair. If you let yourself slide on content it just won’t happen.

A few weeks ago we got busy and I said, “I’ll write my blog tomorrow.” Tomorrow came two weeks later.

Make content creation a priority even when it’s not fun, even when you don’t want to do it. Those times will pass. And you’ll be incredibly glad that you pushed through.

6. You’ll Fall Off The Wagon. But You’d Better Chase It Down And Get Back On.

Remember how I said tomorrow came two weeks later? Sometimes you won’t produce when or what you planned but that doesn’t mean you give up.

We went months without blogging a few years ago. Months! We could easily have left it on the back burner forever. But when you’re running and marketing a business, that’s not an option. So even though we had to make a massive sprint, we swung ourselves back up and kept going.

You’re going to go through dry patches, too. Your blog will languish. Your podcast will drop off the radar. Someone will visit your Facebook page and see that the last post was from November 2013.

You have to keep going. Get up and move.

7. The Promotion Wheel Has To Keep Spinning

Great content isn’t enough. All the great content in the world won’t do you any good if nobody is reading it.

And you know that loyal audience you worked so hard to build? They’re busy, too.

If you let up for even one second on promotion, your results will suffer.

There’s this misnomer in marketing that you can’t be too self-promotional. In content curation circles, there’s the 80/20 rule that insists that your content can only be 20% of your total shares.

I’m calling shenanigans. We promote the heck out of our podcast (and other content). And when we do, our listens and reads go up. And when we don’t our numbers plummet.

Even after five full years at the grindstone, even with our loyal audience of Fred. We still have to get the heck out there and promote.

So if you’re worried that people are going to get sick of your content and think you’re some sort of self centered jerk, get over it. If your content is good, people will snap it up. And there is always a way to self promote without being a self promotional jerk. Focus on your audience and the rest will follow.

8. Make Mistakes Loudly

We recorded our first episode four times. Either the sound was too wrong or the conversation was too weird or something just wasn’t right.

It would have been very easy to forget our focus – delivering quality content – and way too easy to get caught in a perfectionist loop.

But instead of dwelling on our missed cues and the overly loud breathing into the microphone and how Ralph kept forgetting to unmute me at the beginning of every episode, we decided to just go with our mistakes.

In fact, our mistakes became kind of a lesson in themselves. We talked about them, laughed about them and brought our audience in on the joke so they actually liked our mistakes as much as they liked our content.

Actually, the mistakes are the content. People love to hear about the goofs and mishaps because it makes you human. Everyone can relate to those embarrassing or irritating or horrifying moments. They empathize. They sympathize. And you become one of them.

And a magical thing starts to happen! As they get to know you, flaws and all, they get to like you. And then they get to trust you. And that is exactly when business happens.

9. The Minute You’re Ready To Record, Someone Will Turn On A Power Saw Outside Your Window

This is totally true.

Of course, sometimes it’s a thunderstorm. Or a dog barking. Or a baby crying. Or a truck backing up with that horrific beep beep beep sound. Or the next door neighbors doing a vent cleaning.

It’s part of the reason why we bought the expensive compressor – so we could block out more of those sounds.

But that won’t stop someone from using a louder power saw. The fact of the matter is, there will always be obstacles, irritations and frustrations. Whether they are literal, like the beeping truck, or ethereal, like the block in your brain telling you that you have nothing to say, all content creators have to overcome them.

And the thing about obstacles is that they don’t get in your way when you’re ready for them. In fact, they are most likely to fling themselves in your path at around 4AM after you’ve been up all night working on some non negotiable deadline.

For me, I’ve found that the best way to deal with obstacles is to just keep going. Plow over them, smash through them, crawl under them, whatever. Don’t even think about them. They’re like flies buzzing around your head and you’re too busy creating content to do more than swat them away.

Then when you’re past them, as inevitably you will be, you can look back on your accomplishments and smile and just say, “I win.”

10. We’re Not At The End

It kind of feels like the end. It feels like a big deal with a big ribbon-cutting ceremony, and after the champagne is drunk we should be able to go take a nap.

And eventually we will, but here we are at episode 101. And tomorrow will be 102. The confetti will be cleaned up and we’ll have to plan and record and promote and do it again!

Milestones are fun and should be celebrated but remember to keep on going. There is always another one just ahead a bit. If you play your cards right, there will be ice cream and cookies at each one.

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

I'm a business owner, content creator, podcaster and marketer. In 1999 I founded Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio, with my husband and business partner Ralph. In 2011 we created Web.Search.Social, a consulting and marketing service line for small businesses. We also cohost the Web.Search.Social Podcast where we challenge the status quo of marketing and the Carbon Based Business Units podcast where we talk about the human side of being an entrepreneur. On any given day I wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. My true passion is writing and in my spare time I'm busy planning my early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera
  • Your podcast is one of the few I listen to on a regular basis – it’s outstanding on every level. Congratulations on your 100th episode!

    • You have exquisite taste in podcasts, Stephen. 🙂

    • Thank you Stephen, I appreciate the compliment and I’m so happy to hear you enjoy our podcast! On to the next 100…

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    I will be back to read the article, but, for now, CONGRATULATIONS to the most engaging, educational, empowering, encouraging and entertaining ‘Podcast Couple’ #HUGSSSS

    I am so blessed to have been on ‘one’ of your episodes – thank you for giving me this opportunity! <3

    LOVE YOU
    Kitto

    • Thank you! We have so much fun because of people like you who make it fun. And always come with hugs 🙂

  • Katherine Kotaw

    Great tips, Carol Lynn! I think anyone who cares about content has faced each and every one of the glitches/setbacks you named — and forged on ahead anyway. Because if you really believe in your content — and the power behind it — you don’t give up. Congratulations on crossing the 100th episode line!

    • Thanks Katherine! It’s definitely a challenge but for me at least it’s also fun so I could create content all day!

  • I’m calling shenanigans on the blessed 80/20 rule, too. Pffffttt! 🙁

    If you shut your promotion engine off, it’s almost impossible to crank that baby over again. It can sputter in protest or blatantly seize up. Furthermore, rust will start to form and you’ll be left with a heap of messy junk and gunk.

    Even something as basic as a blog post must be PROMOTED. And more than twice! I’m always baffled at bloggers who don’t understand the importance of “marketing” their posts. How do they think people will find out about their posts?! Through osmosis, maybe? Mental telepathy?? Divine intervention?!

    “Make content creation a priority.” Yep. That says it all.

    • Yeah, it is definitely hard to get back on a roll once you… um, roll off. And YES, promote over and over. If you go through all the effort of creating something, why would you let it sit there? We realized just the other day that we have over 700 blog posts on our site. That’s a LOT OF BLOG POSTS! They are not all brilliant but I bet there are at least a few we can revisit. Everyone should be doing that for sure!

      • Talking about “re-visiting” posts …

        Do you ever recommend one of those set-it-and-forget-it plugins for, let’s say, Tweeting out old posts? I read about them all the time but something inside me says it’s better to go with a manual approach. (Yeah, my gut has been known to stop me in my tracks.)

        • Can you imagine how confused you would be. Someone would strike up a conversation with you on a post you wrote three years ago. You would totally be in the mindset from something you wrote a week ago. And of course, your views may have changed in three years. You may have learned something new, the climate on the subject may have changed. You are sitting there scrambling to figure out what the heck they are even talking about.

          • I hear ya, Tammie, and REALLY good point! I must say, though, that the majority of my archives would be considered evergreen content. It’s my personal style and the kind of posts I love to write. 🙂

          • Agree on both counts… you do have to be careful what you share. There is some stuff that was timely before but out of date now so I wouldn’t put that on the roster (hence why automating = no). But plenty of stuff is still relevant and the comments that come in are associated with the post they are for, so it’s not hard to figure it out. ESPECIALLY the more recent stuff… why wouldn’t you at least share your last year’s worth? Month? WEEK? I shared a Mother’s Day post I wrote 3 years ago and it went from zero traffic to a big spike that day. Because sharing.

          • Wow. That’s really cool, Carol Lynn. Happy to hear the news about your Mother’s Day post! What a great feeling to see that big spike in traffic.

            And once again, my gut prevails. Automating = no. But sharing older posts = yes. 🙂

  • Now that you’ve shared 10 things you’ve learned, Carol Lynn, here’s what I’ve learned …

    Content creation trumps content curation. (You saw that coming, didn’t you?) 😉

    • RIGHT? Short story for you: I’m doing some social for a local dentist and experimenting with different content on Facebook. When I post his stuff? Services, photos, blogs…. people love it. When I post “other stuff”? Sometimes I find news or cartoons or other unique info… CRICKETS. So there.

      • Well, there you have it! The proof is (and always will be) in the pudding! 🙂

  • If I have learned anything from you guys, other than totally being myself. It is to give myself a break. The weeks when I am more busy in my shop and don’t have time to post on my blog, I just don’t. I work on creating beautiful bags that I can later brag about in my blog. That way, I have something to actually talk about when I do post. I don’t do a typical blog, of course. But, when I forced myself to blog every week religiously, I hated it. I was constantly hard on myself to have it done by a certain time. And honestly, I get more traffic since I stopped doing that.

    • No doubt, you have to save time to do your actual work. And making yourself blog if you have nothing to say is a recipe for disaster. You could make something up but then it would show, so if blogging when you have that super special thing to share is working then that’s what matters!