Podcasts – it seems like a new one pops up every single day. Everyone has a podcast – or so it may seem. And, with good reason. There's a podcast for just about everything – from cooking to home decorating to cleaning to self-motivation and yes, helping people in their spiritual walk. And millions are listening. As of 2020, there were more than 850,000 active podcasts with more than 100 million Americans listening to at least one podcast each month.
Podcasts have ushered in a new – yet entirely familiar – way of ministry.
"It’s the new open-air preaching," said Ryan Dunn, host of United Methodist Communications’ Compass podcast. "It’s meeting people where they are with messages that have real impact on their lives. As Christians, we carry a world-changing message. Podcasting provides an invitation to hear and interact with the message."
Joe Iovino, host of the Get Your Spirit in Shape podcast, echoes that sentiment. "There is an intimacy to the podcasting experience. People often listen alone—on a walk or during their commute—and develop a connection to the podcast host and guest. This offers an opportunity to mentor others in the faith,” said Iovino “We share ideas and ways listeners can put those ideas into practice. On each episode, we try to offer ways people can put their faith into practice either through a traditional spiritual exercise or something a little more out of the box."
So, what makes a good podcast and how do you go about it? First you need to know who is your target audience. "Everybody isn't a reasonable audience," says Dunn.
Iovino chimes in: "What is the podcast about? You need to be able to state that in a tagline. For example, at the beginning of each episode, I say, 'Welcome to Get Your Spirit in Shape, United Methodist Communications and UMC.org’s podcast to keep our souls as healthy as our bodies.”
With all the podcasts out there how can you make yours stand out? "Well, probably about 75 percent of those podcasts have less than 10 episodes—so longevity helps," says Dunn. "Even more important, though, is sticking to the message and mission of the podcast. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to get exposure, and losing sight of the mission because of that. Podcasts that stay true to mission generally stick around and those that stick around get noticed."
Dunn stresses the importance of consistency and scheduling in order to build trust. "Be consistent," says Dunn. "Whatever consistency you commit to– weekly, monthly, etc – be consistent. People need a lot of drops in the trust bucket in order to make a podcast part of their routine."
Iovino said consistency is also important when it comes to podcast length. "Determine the length you’re going for," says Joe. "Listeners like to know what to expect. Will you be a 30-minute, 60-minute or 2-hour show? There is no “ideal” length, but you don’t want to vary too much from episode to episode."
Most podcasts feature the interview format, with the host(s) interviewing a guest. What's important to remember when conducting an interview that will be a podcast? "The single most important thing is to ask the questions your audience wants to know. In other words, you don’t just want to do the same interview everyone else has done with this guest," said Iovino. Dunn says "Have a vision for where the interview is going—and let the person being interviewed know that vision so they know how to craft their answers."
You don't need to have the best equipment money can buy but make sure to get a good quality microphone, headset and some basic audio editing software. "Don't overspend on equipment. You want the audio quality to be good, but you don’t need to build a studio or buy a $500 microphone," says Iovino. "Also, you don't have to go overboard on production. I’ve overstepped there a couple of times. For example, there was a brief period where I produced some very complicated, NPR-inspired intros that took a lot of time to edit and as I look back now, didn’t add a lot."
So, with all that information, what's next? GO LAUNCH YOUR PODCAST!
And remember this bit of wisdom from Iovino: "Meet your audience's needs. They will find you when you do that."
For more than 80 years, United Methodist Communications has been leading the church in telling inspirational stories of God’s work in the world through The United Methodist Church, reaching new people, supporting local churches in vibrant communications ministry, equipping leaders and delivering messages of hope and healing. This essential work requires financial support. If you believe in our mission, consider a tax-deductible donation to the work of United Methodist Communications through its Foundation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.
*Aaron Crisler is a senior public relations specialist at United Methodist Communications.