Planning templates

Before we give you an overview of the editorial components you might want to consider for your show, we want to reinforce the idea that podcasting and radio are platforms that thrive on creativity. These are suggestions that other successful hosts have used. Over time, your imagination will spark and you’ll create a successful segment no one has thought of before.

Let’s go back to our example of Ellen’s “Sports Mom Podcast”. Now that she’s selected a her ideal listener, title, time slot, frequency, and mission, she’s ready to brainstorm her show’s content. We’d like to introduce three visuals that might help you during your planning.

The first is a simple bulleted list that has the topics and the approximate time you’d like to spend on each section.

The Sports Mom Podcast - Episode 1
Avoiding Childhood Football Injuries (30 minutes)

After you design the hook for your first show, it’s time to start thinking about the other segments (also called “blocks”) you’ll record. Recurring segments are called “benchmarks”.

Case study

Let’s take a look at the benchmarks in Ellen’s show:

Ellen’s show has a sports theme and is laid out like a football game. She uses a combination of interviews, debates, pre-recorded sound elements, news recaps, and segments designed to increase interaction and audience participation. She knows that these segments will change over time as she learns more about her audience.

Benchmarks used in popular podcasts

Another example is Dinner Party Download. The show is framed like a cocktail party. Here are the benchmarks they use during a typical show:

If you notice, most of the show is centered on guest interviews. By segmenting the show, the hosts and producers are able to create a predictable experience. It is important to develop a theme for each episode and weave your storytelling, benchmarks, segments, and interviews around that theme. This will prevent you from diluting your topical focus and allow your show to stand out in search results for that given topical focus. If you fulfill the promise you make to a listener in an episode, they are likely to check out other episodes.

The past two examples are on the podcast end of the spectrum. If you are focusing on a live radio experience, you should still consider show segments. You might add in a weekly trivia or debate topic to break up news discussions and interviews.

Common segment types

This section is designed to help you choose a few ideas for your early shows and iterate from there. This is not an exhaustive list.  You can use these ideas to create benchmarks or one-off pieces of content. Keep in mind that you’ll need to name and frame your segments within the context of your show. For example, Ellen’s podcast uses “locker room interviews” for her main interview section while Dinner Party Download calls theirs “Guest of Honor” and “The Main Course”. Whether you’re designing the first episode of your show or adding structure to a show you’ve already launched, consider the structures used by successful hosts.

Interviews

The interview format has a long track record of success across every medium - from magazines and newspapers to late night TV and documentaries.

Interviews are so crucial to the radio and podcasting medium that we’re going to dedicate an entire guide to preparing for and executing interviews. Whether you have a co-host, will do single-subject interviews, or host panels and debates on your show, you should check out that section.

To see examples of great radio and podcast interviews check out the list below.

The Jazzy Vegetarian - Do Potatoes Make You Fat? - with Dr. Pam Popper

  • Start listening at 3 minutes and 30 seconds
  • Notice how she introduces Dr. Popper and how Dr. Popper gives listeners the benefits of listening to the conversation.

TheKnicksBlog Radio - Jadakiss joined Anthony Donahue to talk Hoops and Hip Hop

  • Start listening at 9 minutes, 25 seconds
  • Anthony does a wonderful job integrating live listener calls into his commentary. He also has a high-profile guest.

Dinner Party Download - Episode 273: Jeffrey Tambor, Perfume Genius, and Quincy Jones

  • We’ve linked you directly to the Soundtrack segment of this episode
  • Perfume Genius’ segment is pre-recorded. Notice how the hosts weave it seamlessly into the podcast.

News

Current events provide the content for many shows. Some shows begin with a rundown of the most important or controversial news stories within their topical domains. There are an infinite number of ways to integrate current events and news into your show. Check out the examples below and brainstorm what might work for your show. Movie Geeks United and TheKnicksBlog Radio are great examples of podcasts that tackle news. Keep in mind, that if your show is focused purely on news, demand will be fleeting. Make sure that your show has meaty, evergreen segments with a consistent theme. You want to be Sherry in our authority-building example.

Special Events

If there is an important event that is relevant to your show, you might consider pre-recording content at the event and airing it during your broadcast or reporting live from the event. The Movie Geeks United podcast has an episode where they report from the New York Film Festival. Another example is the AndroidGuys doing a recap of Google I/O.

Reporting around events helps your listener stay on top of industry news. Events are also a great place for interviews because you’ll have access to many experts in one place (there are sound and recording issues to consider and we’ll cover those in another section).
Reviews

Hosting a show allows you to build your reputation as an expert. Your listeners care about your opinion. Break out your listener persona and list the TV shows, books, movies, articles, tweets, gadgets, and other things that are top interests. You, your co-host, guests, and callers can offer reviews. For example, a podcast about Apple products should feature a review of the new iPhone. If you’re Ellen and planning The Sports Mom podcast, you could review everything from kids’ sports gear and snacks to coaching techniques. The AndroidGuys feature many reviews on their smartphone-focused podcast. Movie Geeks United review movies.

Countdowns

You’ve noticed that numbered lists are a prominent feature of traditional and new media - from Buzzfeed and Upworthy to sports shows, magazines, and late night TV. Countdowns tap into listeners’ curiosity. You can apply a countdown to the editorial strategies we’ve listed above. You can arrange product reviews, sports predictions, and news rundowns into countdowns. As you add episodes to your catalog, you might even do a countdown of top moments, interviews, and bloopers.
Games

NPR’s popular Wait, Wait...Don’t Tell Me! is an hour-long quiz program that test the knowledge of hosts, popular guests, and listeners. You can adapt this strategy for your show - your game can be 30 seconds or 30 minutes. Try a weekly trivia series. You can have live listeners call-in answers, guests can compete, or you can tell listeners to figure out and post the answer on social media after the show. Think about your favorite party or childhood games and adapt them for your show. You can have guests write haikus and limericks on the spot and review the news by matching quotations to world leaders.

Transitions and cues

It is important to remember that your listener will be with you every step of the way - there is no break for them. This means that traditional “resets” are not necessary. On the other hand, you may need to build in cues to remind listeners of the context of your conversation. For example, if you’re talking about a specific football team and game, you should refer to the team, coaches, and players by their names every once in awhile (rather than pronouns) so listeners can keep track of the discussion. A good rule of thumb is to use names instead of pronouns every other sentence.

After you are finished with a segment, it’s important to think about how you will close the story or conversation and transition to the next topic. On The Brian Lehrer Show, Brian Lehrer thanks his interview subject at the conclusion of this segment, then promotes two upcoming topics. He also asks listeners to participate with ideas for one of the segments.

Outros

You should strategize the last minutes of your show in the same way we encouraged you to think about the first 30 seconds. You’re trying to make an emotional connection with listeners and encourage them to listen to your next show. If you’re successful, you’ll also help them share and rate your podcast on Stitcher and iTunes. High ratings and great reviews on these platforms drive downloads.

Your outro can include any of the following elements:

  • Thank your guest(s) and anyone else who may have helped with planning or production
  • Promote what you’re doing in the next show and when it can be heard.
  • Ask listeners to follow the show on BlogTalkRadio and take action on your preferred social media platforms
  • Remind them to support your show by rating you on iTunes and Stitcher
  • Thank the audience for listening
  • Remind the audience of the name of your show and when you broadcast or make episodes available for download
  • Say your name and contact details

Action item

  1. Use Google Docs, your favorite word processor, or pen and paper to start outlining your show. You can use one of our planning examples above.
  2. If you’re planning your first show, select the one-off segments and potential benchmarks that look best to you. Add them to your planning template.
  3. If you’ve run shows before and want to add more structure, ask yourself these questions as you choose new segments to experiment with: How did my last show go? Which part of the show is receiving the most feedback? Which conversations did guests and listeners enjoy the most? What have listeners requested?
  4. Map out your segments for the next four shows. Remember - successful podcasters treat each show like an experiment. You might need to try something more than once to see if it should be a part of your show.

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