Howard Brown’s Top 10 Tips for Building a Successful Podcast

Howard Brown with some of his readers at a Big Brothers Big Sisters event. If you click on this photo, you can read an earlier column Howard wrote about his goal of encouraging “raving fans” who are willing to publicly show their support.

Since I started my Shining Brightly podcast, other writers, entrepreneurs, podcasters and activists have asked me for tips.

My whole approach to life—as captured in my memoir Shining Brightlyis to make the world a better place by sharing light wherever we can. So, today, I’m freely sharing the tips I’ve picked up so far:

1.) Start with a substantial number of recordings “in the can.” It takes a while to feel comfortable preparing, hosting and producing a podcast. So, I launched my weekly series only after I had a good number of recordings ready. That meant I was releasing quality recordings—and did not have the stress of wondering how I could keep up with the pace.

2.) Hire professionals. I did. The difference a professional production house can make is substantial! Yes, I know there are many successful podcasters who learned these skills and produce popular media every week without any outside help—but producing podcasts is not my profession. I have a very full schedule of other professional commitments, every week. My team of “podcast pros” reliably polish and package my podcasts for me and release them like clockwork.

3.) Carefully select your podcast guests. Today, podcasts are a very popular form of media marketing. In the publishing world, podcasts about new books are now as common as newspaper or magazine stories about books. In fact, as fewer newspapers cover books, podcasts are becoming an even more valuable form of outreach. So, appreciate the value you are contributing to the world, if you decide to launch a podcast. Look for guests who have great stories to tell—and who have their own big audiences to amplify the podcast you will produce.

SPECIAL NOTE: Visit my website——and listen to Podcast No. 47, headlined “Incarceration to Inspiration.” Alana Moor’s story from British Colombia—about how she wound up in prison in Panama—turned out to be one of my most successful podcasts as measured by the downloads from our fans.

4.) Swapping podcast appearances is a common currency in this form of media. If you’re an author, activist or entrepreneur hoping to appear on top podcasts, you will quickly discover the first question a podcast scheduler asks is: “Do you have your own podcast?” Swapping podcast appearances is a popular way to mutually build up our audiences. So, as you are carefully selecting your own guests, one thing to consider is whether they might return the favor and share your story with their audience. At the same time, watch out for podcasters who may present issues that concern you. I won’t say more on that point, except to stress: Do some “due diligence” about other podcasters you are welcoming onto your platform. You won’t want to accept all invitations.

5.) Make full use of promotional materials to share across social media. My “pro” team provides me visuals each week and also a short teaser that I can share. The teaser clip from my interview with Alana Moor began with her saying, “I remember being in the back of a truck and the long dirt road to get to the prison.” After that line, who doesn’t want to “click” and hear more of Alana’s amazing story?

6.) Don’t “bury the lede.” That’s a classic line from daily journalism and it’s certainly true in podcasting. If you have listened to a wide array of podcasts, as I have, then you know that some podcasters spend the first three, four or even five minutes rattling on about issues that aren’t at the heart of the episode. My standing introduction to the series lasts only 30 seconds, which means I’m telling listeners about the uniquely exciting story in each episode within the first 60 seconds.

7.) Pre-interview your guests. In this list of tips, I stress this one as absolutely crucial to a quality podcast. You can’t properly produce a podcast that jumps right into compelling conversation unless you know what your guest can talk about in a clear and animated way. I’m basically pre-editing my podcasts by having an initial unrecorded conversation to plan how to launch into our actual, recorded podcast interview.

8.) Actively promote what you’re doing—and make it easy for your podcast guests to do the same. Each week, I prepare a text summary of my podcast and have ready-to-share media assets from my “pro” team that I can email to the guest and to other media professionals, like my friends at Front Edge Publishing. Making it super-simple for friends to share these images, teaser clips and summaries makes it more likely that they will actually share the good news with others.

9.) Watch your numbers. I watch my analytical data like a hawk. The data on individual listeners and downloads will help you sort out your best productions from those that simply did not interest people. Yes, the numbers can be brutal sometimes, but they also can point you toward especially successful guests and topics.

10.) What does success look like for you? My final tip is posed as a question because you will have to answer this question on your own terms. One of my initial goals is to find sponsorship that can pay for the professional services I hire to produce my podcast. I’m writing this column as I just crossed over a total of 20,000 downloads of my podcast. There is no “industry standard” for success in podcasting, but my data now indicates that I’m among the top 10 percent of podcasters and, assuming I continue with this rate of growth, my podcast now is attractive to sponsors.

What sponsors?

Well, stay tuned to my website and to in coming months to learn more about how my podcast is developing. I’ll share my best tips about sponsorship with you as I explore that part of my podcasting journey.

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Care to learn more?

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

This is a perfect moment to become one of Howard’s growing global community of friends by ordering your copy of his book.

Here are other articles we have published, exploring the launch of this book:

Take a look at the book’s Foreword: ‘Shining Brightly’ Foreword by Dr. Robert J. Wicks: ‘Learn anew about the American Dream’

And especially read this story: Two-time cancer survivor Howard Brown writes ‘Shining Brightly’ to encourage others to stay healthy

Free Resource Guides

Download (and free-to-share) resource guides for discussing Shining Brightly:

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About Howard Brown

Howard Brown is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, two-time stage IV cancer survivor, author, speaker, volunteer, peacemaker, and health care advocate. He is the author of the memoir, Shining Brightly.

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