How to Build an Audio Production or Podcasting Team
Content, by its nature, is time-consuming to produce. There's no reason you can't do it yourself but, much like running a business, if you spin all the plates you will not be able to grow beyond a certain size. Having a team frees you up to focus on what you do best.
So who do you need in your team? When should you start building your team? And how do you become an efficient content machine?
For 15 years I worked behind the scenes in television and presented on local radio, and with virtually all of these jobs being freelance positions I had to integrate myself into teams quickly and efficiently. Even for a commercial broadcaster content creation is a delicate balance, because what money goes into content creation must draw the required audience or it will eat into profits.
So you must realise that developing your content creation team doesn't happen overnight and it will require your business to be profitable. However, we can all start, even if it's just on paper. Michael Gerber's book The E-Myth explains how you structure any business by writing down all the positions in your business as it will look in the future. In the beginning, you assign your own name to a lot, if not all, of the roles. But, as your business matures these responsibilities get passed to your new team members.
So that begs the question of what our team would look like if we could just conjure it up in our minds? To answer this we need to imagine our ultimate content output.
How Complex is Your Content?
Content is weird. You can spend 5 minutes, 5 days or 5 years creating a piece of content, but that doesn't mean what's taken 5 years is better. Hopefully it is! There are no guarantees though. And my gut feeling is that a good marketer would be playing at both ends of the field. You have the immediacy of jumping on Facebook Live with its warts and all. Then you have content that has had resources poured into it to communicate a message as clearly as possible.
So in terms of complexity, a movie might be one extreme. Not only would it require a big team of talented individuals but they need time to get their craft right. We sometimes hear successful internet marketers suggesting that as we release more and more content we behave like a traditional broadcaster. As far as I'm concerned nobody has done this as well as it could be done or is likely to be done in the future. There is little competition on this higher level, but like everything that will change.
Create a Long Term Vision for Your Content
Getting back to that question of what would your content look like if you could do anything, I'll give you an example. So, I am all about creating energy-efficient homes. That's my niche, my area of interest. A very obvious piece of content is to create my own series like Grand Designs. This would not only allow me to get my message out there but it would be great lead generation.
Yes, I know this dreaming is expensive! It's exciting though. Thinking big just helps us understand what could be possible if we could grow a sizeable business. Now, if I'm honest, that's where I'm stuck at the moment. I know how to produce useful, interesting, professional content and I frequently hire talented individuals who work in radio and television, but my business is not where I want it to be. Even if I don't have bumper profits I see every professional piece of content as an investment, building up my library that will serve me well when I get things right.
Talent is Good, But Talent + Plan is Better
My end goal is to spend a good proportion of every week fronting content. Why? Because I believe it's where I would have most impact . . . and it's what I enjoy doing most. You can already see people like Gary Vaynerchuck grasping this concept and having vlogger DRock following him around. This is obviously perfect for maximising his amount of screen time but it doesn't necessarily equate to the best way to get the message across.
It reminds me a little of my time in radio where you would meet two types of presenter. One would have the gift of the gab and just breeze into the studio and wing it! I was probably more in the next category who put the hard work in, building up the elements of the great show and then executing the plan. But how much better could the talented presenter be if he/she had prepared? That's where resources might have helped. Local radio often eliminates the position of breakfast show producer but a producer could put in that work to lift that show to new heights.
How a Local Radio News Team Works
Even the news team on a local radio station is streamlined these days. There might be four multi-media journalists working across a whole week and they all have to pull their weight! While a certain amount of news is responding to breaking stories there is a lot that is planned.
The news editor might sit down on a Friday and look at the following week. They would use press releases, court case dates, previous year's seasonal news, sports fixtures and awareness days and so on. Gathering all this together the editor would then make decisions as to what the strongest stories are and allocate resources accordingly.
As I've already mentioned resources are tight and so often they would turn around stories in a couple of hours, unable to leave the newsroom. For a proper package, two guests with opposing views might be sourced and interviewed over phone (recording on the Voice Memo app). This level of audio increases the professionalism of the piece without too much extra work. The audio would be edited and a script would be written to lead into the audio cuts. Finally the whole package would be stitched together.
A simpler example might be a wrap. This is where a journalist who's not reading the bulletin would sum up a story in 30 seconds or so, perhaps sometimes adding some sound effects, etc. It just brings a bit of variety to the news.
So this team is actually multi-skilled. There is an editor (or manager) and then a number of multimedia journalists. The multimedia journalists (and actually the editor too) would be expected to research, interview, script, voice, edit and present the bulletins to name but a few tasks.
With a bigger team, there would be more room to define roles. For example, one journalist could focus exclusively on sport and it would make even more sense if this is what that person loved. You could even go back to the roots of journalism with some investigative work. The economic pressures on commercial radio make this extremely difficult to achieve but as a business owner you could be free to invest if you got a hunch it would pay off.
How Does This Apply to Podcasting?
So returning to podcasting, having reflected on what they do in radio, I think there are a couple of points to take away. Firstly you can get a heck of a lot done with a small team. Operating in a niche I believe it's vital that your journalists or content producers have a passion for the subject. You'll just get so much more value out of them. For example, one of the cameramen I use frequently has not only built his own energy-efficient home but has a whole career of experience as an ITV news cameraman. Absolute magic. There will be people like this out there in your niche. When you find then, do what you can to keep working together!
Secondly we operate in an environment which is less time sensitive and therefore we have the ability to stack up content without the worry that it will be shelved as something more interesting has come in. This is a huge advantage, and where research and planning will be key.
Thirdly, our podcasts can never really stand-alone. There are show notes to create, media hosts to upload to, social media accounts to maintain, emails to our list to write and so on.
Therefore, unless you plan to make podcasts like Start Up or Serial, a simple team can increase productivity no end. Plus the great thing about online business is that you can increase these people's hours as and when you're ready.
In addition to you – the leader and podcast host – a basic team might be:
Responsible for organising interviews, controlling the calendar, writing interview questions, filling in script information, creating show notes.
Responsible for compiling all the elements together and enhancing it along the way.
Responsible for executing your vision (as leader) and making sure everyone is delivering on schedule and to the right standard.
With the need to get more done or if the complexity of the podcast increases, you could separate out the roles and have an administrator and a researcher, or a manager and a producer. Or you could bring in more professionals. Imagine having a writer create your show notes, giving him/her the freedom to make them as compelling and useful as possible.
There are no absolutes. It's about finding the structure that works best for you, given your resources.
So how do you structure your audio production team at the moment for maximum productivity? How could you see things changing? I'd love to learn what works best for you.
Ben Adam-Smith is a film-maker, communicator and eco-building enthusiast. After 15 years working in TV and radio, Ben changed channels to set up Regen Media – a business that uses cutting-edge new media tools to help green-minded construction firms build better communications. Ben also runs the website and podcast, House Planning Help, which is dedicated to inspiring a new breed of self builders to build energy efficient homes. He loves cooking and hates plastic topiary.