Before you launch your legal podcast, you need to think about whether you should have a podcast at all.
Sorry, not sorry.
I love all things podcast, from listening to hosting and guesting. And I’ve learned that it takes a special skill set to create or maintain a podcast, and the truth is, not everyone has those skills. For better or worse, creating and maintaining a podcast goes well beyond a charming personality. It demands organization, creativity, and technical competence, too.
Disclaimer: I might be insane. I don’t have one legal podcast. I have two: Clienting and Lunch Hour Legal Marketing. So it’s safe to say I know a thing or two about how to scope, brand, launch, record, publish, and promote them. I also know that launching a legal podcast is nothing you should take lightly.
Lawyers typically have a lot to say on a variety of subject matters. But before you hit record and start pontificating, you have a laundry list of things to consider first.
Before You Hit Record: Identify your 6 Ws.
1. Why a Podcast?
Are you thinking of doing a podcast? Why would someone want to listen to it?
If you can’t articulate in one sentence why you want to do a podcast and why someone would care to listen, you shouldn’t be doing this. Harsh? Sure. But if you can’t clearly articulate your “why,” no one else will, either. The inevitable result is a bad podcast. Believe me, the world has plenty of bad podcasts. Also, if your only goal is to get clients, I suggest you move on now.
AttorneySync, the digital marketing agency where I serve as Marketing Director, holds transparency as a core value. So, transparently (and, probably, obviously), one of our secondary goals with Clienting is to earn clients. Our primary goal, though, is education. We want to expand our own knowledge and share our marketing experience and insights with people who are kind enough—and motivated enough—to listen. Selfishly, the more knowledgeable about marketing our future clients are, the easier it is to work with and for them.
2. Who is Involved?
Who will listen? Who will host? Who will join you as guests (if you have them)? Who is your podcast meant to serve?
Before you do anything else, figure out your ideal listener’s profile. Is your podcast for other attorneys? Potential clients? If you’re a family lawyer, will potential clients listen to a podcast about divorce? Maybe. A lot depends on the subject matter and the host’s ability to communicate with non-lawyers. Podcasts can be great for building a professional network or building a client base, but it is imperative that you identify your listeners’ goals before you can do anything else.
Think long and hard about the best person to host your podcast. Maybe it’s you. But maybe it’s not. A host has to be an excellent conversationalist if you have guests. If it is a single-person show, you need someone who can communicate clearly, effectively, engagingly, and—probably—with a dose of humor. It is rare that a solo show can sustain engagement for more than about 10 minutes, so keep length in mind if you are going solo.
After you’ve landed on a host or hosts, brainstorm potential guests (if you’ll have them). How will you entice them to serve as guests? If they aren’t in your network today, think about the reality of securing those people as guests and the time it will take to connect with them and schedule recordings.
3. So What?
What will you talk about? What is your format?
Podcasts without a central focus have trouble growing a dedicated listenership. Example: You are a general criminal defense attorney and decide to focus your podcast on all things DWI/DUI. That’s got legs. Have at it! But if in half the episodes, and for half the time, you end up bloviating about defending cat burglars, expect your listeners to stop subscribing or stop listening.
Successful podcast formats vary widely. The most common are feature interviews, co-host discussions, or storytelling. Interviews are by far the most common podcast format (and, at least in today’s market, tend to work the best). The challenge with the interview format is the work involved in sourcing consistent guests who understand how to podcast. We’ve been purposeful—and a bit lucky—in selecting guests with podcasting experience for Clienting. Familiarity with the format breeds comfort, and comfort tends to lead to better conversation and a better listening experience.
Storytelling is a great format for a solo-hosted podcast because you can add sound throughout and play up the entertainment angle. Co-host discussions work well when you have two people with good rapport and equal knowledge-sharing ability.
4. When: Timing Matters.
When will you record? Will your schedule allow you to do it on a regular basis? When will you release each episode?
I admit it: I’m skeptical of new “podcasters.” One of my biggest beefs is their propensity to release a few episodes, then trickle a few more at random times until they inevitably fall off the face of the podcast universe 3 months on. Don’t do that. Before you get too excited about starting your podcast, make sure it’s something that you can commit to over the long haul. Do you have time to record episodes regularly? Will you edit, create graphics for, upload, release, and promote each episode on your own? All of these tasks impact how much time episodes take to launch and are a huge reason why some new podcasters can’t maintain a regular release schedule.
Consistency is key for a lot of things. It is particularly important for podcasting. Your podcast’s goal is to get subscribers—those people who choose to automatically download every single episode. Having a consistent release schedule that you communicate and that your ideal listeners come to expect will make your podcast that much more successful. We didn’t start off with a set schedule in mind. But now we release Clienting episodes every other Monday like clockwork. It takes organization and planning to stick to that schedule. For Lunch Hour Legal Marketing, we are fortunate to have Legal Talk Network produce that show, which greatly reduces my time commitment.
5. Where does the podcast magic happen?
Where will you record? Where will the podcast be hosted?
The “where” is much more important than you might think. I bet your default “where” is your office space. Are you sure? How are the acoustics? Is there a lot of background noise? Are phones ringing, people yelling, or high heels tapping? There are countless noises that can interrupt the flow of conversation or disrupt your audio quality. The great thing about becoming a podcaster is you will also quickly become an audiophile out of necessity.
Beyond where you record, you’ll also have to decide where your podcast will “live.” Are you going to upload the audio to your website? Or pay for a podcast hosting service? If you choose not to have a podcast host, it will take additional work to get episodes on iTunes, Google Play, and other podcast-listening apps. You need a Really Simple Syndication (“RSS”) feed to syndicate your podcast on iTunes and Google Play. If your podcast lives only on your website, you may have trouble growing your audience. We use Libsyn, which is the most popular podcast hosting site. You can find countless others with various bells, whistles, and price points, of course.
6. How do you make it all happen?
How are you going to record and edit the podcast? How are you going to stay on track with schedules, guests, and the rest?
The technical side of podcasting is crucial. You’ve undoubtedly heard podcast episodes where it sounds like someone is recording in their car on the way to work, and you’ve cringed—like we have—at that poor sound quality. For Clienting, we use a great audio editor who takes our raw audio recorded on Zencastr and magically transforms it into the single audio clip we publish. You can find people who call themselves podcast editors on any of the freelance worker sites. You can also reach out to ask me for our editor’s contact information. Audacity is another widely-used audio recording option, which Legal Talk Network prefers for our other podcast. It involves a little more technical know-how, but it gives you more editing flexibility.
If you’re serious (and by now, I hope I’ve convinced you to be serious), you should also consider investing in recording equipment. The built-in options on your computer or phone can work in a pinch, but adding a simple microphone like the Blue Snowball for $70 or less will take your audio up to professional status. Do a few sample recordings before you try to go live. You’ll quickly learn where and how you record best.
How are you going to stay organized and consistent? I’ve said that consistency is one of the most important things to consider before launch. How are you going to stay on track? I, for one, have found it far more difficult than I originally expected to manage the schedule and find potential guests.
We’re learning to stay on track through calendaring. We put release and recording dates on our calendars and have at least 1-2 recorded episodes in the pipeline. That way, we’re not panic-recording every other week and releasing sub-par episodes. If you’re lawyering full-time and scheduling guests, recording episodes, and promoting all your output, you may find yourself running out of time and losing your audience’s respect.
If you made it this far, you might be ready to start a podcast.
Other than the “6 Ws,” you’ll need some simple social media and podcast graphics. We did ours on Fiverr for $25.
Prepare yourself for a few eye rolls when you tell people that you do, indeed, have a podcast. And get used to hearing your own voice without cringing. This last one is no small feat, I assure you!
Once you’ve brainstormed and created your plan, everything else is relatively easy if you stay with it and focus on incremental improvements. It takes time to build an audience. Hit publish and keep up your relentless, consistent pace for at least six months. Then re-evaluate as needed.
I’ll end with the single most important element of podcasting: passion.
True passion felt deep in your gut sustains your podcast efforts when you don’t feel like recording that day. Passion belts you over the head with topic ideas. Passion draws people into listening because they hear in your voice that you care enough to talk about this subject in detail, on repeat, and without knowing where it ends. It doesn’t mean you’ll have hundreds or thousands of downloads each episode (because, frankly, the market may be in a bit of a bubble), but it does mean that you will have an outlet to share your knowledge and dedication with others. And hey, you might just get a client or two out of it.