Podcast Pre-Production: Why You Should Plan Ahead
A podcast pre-production is the foundation for any good show - here's why you should plan ahead before launching your podcast.
Improve your productivity and make shows faster and better with a podcast production workflow.
By Laura Beth | 12/09/2018
When you’re producing a podcast you need to ensure that you plan ahead and prepare for every eventuality ahead of recording. Setting off without a plan and without backups for when things go wrong can cause problems in the middle of recording. It’s also important to come up with a plan so everyone involved knows what’s happening and when. If you’re starting a new podcast (or even if you’re in the middle of a long running one) it’s always good to evaluate your podcast production workflow to make sure that your content is the best it can be.
Every big podcast has a lot of people working behind the scenes. There’s researchers, writers, editors, operations, producers, and more. With your podcast, you need to work out who is in charge of what (even if it’s just a skeleton crew of 2 people).
You’ll need to assess people’s skills and make plans early on with your team to see who wants to take certain responsibilities. It’s especially important to ensure that roles are divided up equally so that some members of the team aren’t doing more work than others. It’ll need to be made clear to everyone early on who they need to contact regarding certain aspects of the podcast.
An important role to delegate is a manager who will make sure that podcast production workflow is effective, everybody is doing what they should be, and that the podcast is staying on track. Another important thing to consider is who owns the intellectual property behind the podcast and how money will be divided if the podcast becomes successful. It’s crucial to decide these things early on to save problems arising later. It is also important to establish who has the final say. This will help prevent arguments taking place. Publishing a staff list that is accessible to your team will help with your podcast production workflow. Look at Serial’s staff list here that is on their website for inspiration:
When beginning your podcast an important aspect of podcast production workflow is where the voicing of ideas will take place and where you’ll begin with coming up with ideas. Creating a space that your team feels comfortable sharing their ideas in is the first step to coming up with a good idea.
Setting a topic or springboard for the podcast can help to focus ideas especially if the podcast is regarding a specific subject and you want the ideas to be suitable. If it is yet unclear what the podcast is about and the brainstorming is more of a general collaboration of ideas it might work to use other podcasts as inspiration. It should also be made clear to your team that all ideas are welcomed and that however crazy they are the team will be supportive and will try to expand and elaborate on all suggestions. Make sure to note down all ideas and keep track of what’s been said so that you have things to come back to if idea channels fail.
After you’ve come up with an idea it’s time to switch on your pessimism. I know it’s not good to be a downer but it’s a crucial part of organising your podcast production workflow to anticipate where the problems may lie along the way. Problems can arise in all aspects of the production process. It can be anything from problems with your idea, technical difficulties, availability of your team or lacking important skills that are necessary for podcasting.
It’s important to identify these issues at the beginning so that when they arise you’ll know how to deal with them. It’s also important to anticipate problems before every episode of your podcast. What happens if a guest cancels? What happens if your presenter has an emergency they need to attend and can’t make the recording? Do you have contingencies in place and can you access them easily? Even if you’ve been podcasting for years and seemingly have it all figured out it’s still a good idea to reevaluate every now and again.
To make things easier for yourself and your team and to improve your podcast production workflow it’s a good idea to figure out where you can use templates. Starting from scratch when making each episode of your podcast will get tiring and essentially doesn’t need to happen. Templates can be used everywhere.
Creating a doughnut for each segment of your podcast on your editing software that has all the correct settings, has your beds permanently saved into them and is a specific length will help the editor to get the audio spot on every time. If presenters use specific microphones then leaving the levels the same and leaving them in the same place where possible will improve recording quality and help make things easier for the sound engineer. You can use iTunes to store jingles, idents, bumpers and sound effects so that everyone always has access to a wide range of sounds with little effort.
Email templates will come in handy for contacting guests, getting equipment and negotiating with sponsors and advertisers. To make sure your artwork stays on brand it’s a good idea to create artwork templates that display dimensions, colours and fonts that should be used. All of these little things will save time and effort in the long run and will help improve your podcast production workflow. If you want some tips on how to create podcast templates in Audition then check out Mike Murphy who talks you through how to do it.
A key part of podcast production workflow is to agree what the key milestones are. How many episodes do you want to record and in what time frame? When you’ve figured out this it’s important to set milestones for each individual podcast. How many days will it take to record and edit the podcast? How many days before the recording of each podcast do guests need to be booked for and plans need to be made? It might be a good idea to do trial runs first of all and then figure out how many podcasts you think you could make in a specific time period and outline dates that things need to be done for. It might be a good idea to set up a Google calendar or other interactive organisational tool that your team can access so they know what they need to have achieved and when they need to have achieved it.
Figuring out what tools you’re going to use to record, edit, promote and publish your podcast will help with your podcast production workflow. Looking for the best products and figuring out how to use them effectively will help you get more done in the long run. It will also make podcast production workflow quicker as you won’t be stopped at each hurdle trying to figure out what you need next and how to use it.
We established before that things could potentially go wrong and that it’s important to recognise where things could go wrong before they do in order to improve podcast production workflow. However it’s also important to identify what the backups are for each of the things you’ve identified as being a potential problem. Problems can be as simple as guest cancellations. When booking guests make sure you have a contingency plan, someone you can call upon to step in if one guest pulls out.
Other minor backup plans include making sure you take spare batteries with you when recording; choosing 2 locations so if you’re unable to record in one you’ve got another option and even having spare ideas in case a podcast doesn’t look doable or you need to change it for some reason. Other problems you may encounter may be more serious involving copyright, money or equipment. If equipment gets damaged can you afford to replace it or do you have a spare? If you’ve spent more money than the podcast is earning do you have a backup plan regarding money and expenditure. Do you have people who will help you financially if it goes wrong. If you accidentally breach copyright you need to come up with a backup plan that you can turn to in order to solve the problem. It might seem like doom and gloom to come up with contingency plans for if you fail but it will strengthen your podcast production workflow in the long run.
It’s important to think about the content of your podcast early specifically what kinds of media are going to feature in your podcast. Knowing whether you’re going to use spoken word, music, idents, ambient recordings, interviews or a mixture of all of them will help with podcast production workflow. It will help you to plan what people need to do, what roles are required, what skills are needed and if you need to gain ownership or rights over any of your content. If you’re music then you’ll need to look into the rules regarding music in podcasts and make sure you get the correct permissions first. It will save headaches later on and fewer headaches means that your podcast production workflow will be improved.
It’s always important to evaluate what can be done to simplify podcast production workflow. If people are getting confused on what they need to do or issues are being met along the way that you’re struggling to solve and you definitely put a workflow plan into place, then the likelihood is it’s not simple enough. Think about calling a meeting and discussing with your team what will work best for them and tailor your work schedule to the needs of the team. Asking the team what problems they have faced and what they think will help them to improve will allow you to put a better and more efficient podcast production workflow into place and improve your overall productivity.
Communication is key when looking to optimise your podcast production workflow. It’s important that every member of your team knows how to get in contact with each other and that they are all contactible in some way. Setting up a group chat over Whatsapp, Facebook or Google Chat will help to collate ideas and ensure that everybody has access to what has been said. Not hearing from people from one week to the next should be a red flag that something isn’t right and that there is a problem that needs to be solved. It’s also important that each member of your team is aware that they are able to contact anyone at anytime if they need something working on or have identified an issue rather than waiting until the next time you have a meeting to bring it up. Better communication means things can be done quicker and your podcast production workflow will run much more smoothly.
It is important to collate ideas, data and information throughout the planning and making of your podcast in order to improve your podcast production workflow. Figuring out how you will keep notes, how you will organise data and who will take the notes in the first place can help out in the future when you’re struggling for ideas or need to see how you dealt with a specific situation before. Using programmes such as Google Docs, Dropbox, Padlet or Trello will give everyone on your team the freedom to add their thoughts and own notes where they can be seen by everyone. It then stops it being one person’s responsibility to take notes for everyone. It also stores the data and information you input immediately so there’s no chance of losing or forgetting to save important information. It will also help you to document your podcast production workflow as everyone will have access to what has been done and what still needs to be done.
The last thing to look at is how you’ll archive your podcasts and notes to use again later. Having information and previous work to call upon when you require it will help improve your podcast production workflow. This in turn will improve your content and productivity overall. Investing in good quality equipment and large storage hard drives will be a good way to archive your podcasts. It will also help to put your podcasts in a few different locations so that if anything happens you’ll always have a back up. Being able to call on previous episodes or information will mean that any new query you have you can look at how you dealt with something similar. You can also look at ways to improve on your old material and search for ways to keep your output fresh and interesting. It’ll also help if anyone new joins the team that they’ll have access to all previous material so that they can hit the ground running from the beginning and continue with the podcast production workflow without a break.
It is always essential to review your podcast production workflow. It doesn’t matter whether you’re just beginning and have every decision and bit of planning ahead of you or if your podcast is years old and very well established. As soon as you take your eye off the ball you allow for problems to arise. If you regularly review the workflow you will spot new ways to improve it and catch any new problems immediately. It’s always good to have a change so if you think there’s a technique that would work better than the system you’re already using, don’t be afraid to switch it up and try it.
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A podcast pre-production is the foundation for any good show - here's why you should plan ahead before launching your podcast.
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