This is a guest post by podcaster, podcasting consultant and business systems strategist Yann Ilunga.
Automation may be something that sounds super technical to you. But why should you look into it – and leverage it – as a podcaster?
How can you identify tasks to automate? And what about systems, what role do they play?
This article is the first part of a 2-part guide that focuses on systematizing and automating your podcasting workflow.
In part 1, we’ll take a look at why podcasters should look at automation, how to organize and systematize your podcasting workflow and what to do when you can’t fully automate a task.
As a podcaster, you’re probably spending most of your time focused on planning and creating your content.
So why should you even bother thinking about automation?
And will automation actually make a difference for your show?
Here’s the thing: when leveraged (the right way) automation not only helps you – and your team – getting things done in a more efficient way but it also helps you win back some time.
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How would you like a couple of extra hours each week or month?
Extra time you could spend with your family or doing other things you love.
You could even opt for reinvesting those extra hours into activities that can help your show grow. I’m talking about community-building, marketing, lead-generation, partnerships, and monetization.
Marketing School co-host Neil Patel said it best: ‘[Automation] will allow you to optimize how the task is done, not spend any time executing the task yourself […]’.
So, why should you look into automation as a podcaster?
There are 4 key reasons why you should:
- Stop being involved with every single aspect of your podcast (I’m looking at you, manual tasks!)
- Use the tools you’re currently using in a more efficient way
- Make different tools communicate with one another (don’t worry about this for now, we’ll explore it later on in this article series)
- Win back some time that you can reinvest in activities like community-building, lead-generation, podcast marketing, and monetization
Breaking Down Your Workflow
The first step of the process is to actually look at your entire podcasting workflow with a 30,000 feet, bird’s eye view.
It doesn’t really matter whether you’ve been podcasting for 3 months or for several years or whether you’re doing things solo or have a team working with you.
Typically, your podcasting workflow can be broken down into 5 steps:
- #1 Pre-Production: planning an episode series or a season, looking for podcast guests or preparing to record an episode are all examples of activities that fall in this category.
- #2 Production: as the name suggests, every task that has to do with the production – aka the recording – of your podcast is part of the Production step.
- #3 Post-Production: this is where you (and/or your team) edit your audio content and apply ID3 tags to the audio file.
- #4 Publishing: this is the stage in which you upload your episode to your go-to media host and either publish it or schedule its future publishing. In my workflow, I’ve made the publishing of the episode show notes page, as well as the embed of the episode podcast player Publishing steps too.
- #5 Promotion: this is where you want to let others know about your podcast, share your content with your community and attract new listeners, potential partners and sponsors. The marketing of your podcast, the repurposing of its content into a different form of content and content marketing altogether are all part of the Promotion step.
Now, grab a pen and a piece of paper or open your digital note-taking app (if you don’t use any particular tool, I’d highly recommend the digital whiteboard Miro).
Begin the mapping out process by focusing on the Pre-Production steps first.
Write down every single task – and tools – involved in the Pre-Production stage of your podcasting workflow, then move on to the other ones.
If you’re working with a team, I’d suggest adding the name of the person responsible for the specific task too.
And the same goes for other companies or freelancers you may be working with (e.g. podcast editors), make sure to add their names next to the tasks.
This process is going to take a while, so don’t hesitate to pour yourself a glass of wine (or a cup of tea) and play one of your favorite Spotify playlists to make things more fun!
Once finished, you’ll have a complete overview of your entire podcasting workflow, its steps, tools needed to carry them out and the people in charge of them.
Systematize Now, Automate Later
Now you’re ready to organize those steps into actual systems.
If you’re a business person, then you’ve probably heard of Standard Operating Procedures (or SOPs) before.
Here’s how Process Street, a process and workflow management platform, defines SOPs:
‘A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a detailed procedure that outlines the steps needed to complete specific tasks following your company or industry standards.
Technically, any checklist or step-by-step instructions can be referred to as a procedure. For instance, in order to ensure consistency and efficiency, a manufacturing company would provide its employees with precise, step-by-step instructions for them to follow when manufacturing their product.’
Monday is another tool that's very popular with businesses in creating SOPs, and which can work really nicely for podcasters. They've got a good article on how to choose a good workflow tool here, if you're interested in exploring the options.
Essentially, a system (or SOP) is a series of tasks, steps or processes organized in a sequential way.
You carry out task #1 first, task #2 second, then task #3, and so on.
You’re probably wondering ‘Why should I focus on systems first instead of automation?’’
Here are the 3 key benefits of leveraging systems:
- You remove guesswork and overwhelm as a podcaster. Something like a recording checklist, for example, will ensure that you tick all the boxes before hitting Record.
- You make the onboarding of new team members smoother. Having everything mapped out and organized into systems/SOPs (processes, checklists, templates) will enable new members of your team to get on your same wavelength faster. And the same applies to working with freelancers and similar.
- You’re able to identify which series of tasks can be organized and carried out in automated systems and which ones still require your presence and need to be carried out manually.
If you’re winging it with your podcasting workflow, then put automation aside for a moment and focus on creating systems for your podcast first.
There are several ways you can go about it.
You can keep things super simple and have lists of bullet points in something like Google Docs, Microsoft Word or Pages.
Alternatively, you can create and store your systems in the form of checklists or task cards into a project management tool such Trello, Asana, ClickUp or Nifty.
Not sure which option to go for? Here are a few things to consider:
- Are you and your team already using a project management tool?
- Would you like members of your team to have direct access to the systems housed in your project management tool? Or would you prefer to simply send them PDF files?
- How do you typically communicate with the other members of your team or people you collaborate with?
- Would you like to create text-only processes or would you like to rely on multimedia elements (e.g. video walkthroughs) too?
Answering these questions will give you clarity on what you’ll need to create and store your systems.
The key tool I use for the systems related to my podcasts (and business) is ClickUp.
I’m a big fan of ClickUp for the fact that it lets me create checklists and it integrates with other tools – with both Miro and Process Street, for instance.
Additionally, ClickUp enables me to attach files (like a video or PDF) to a specific task or checklist and it comes with a chat feature, which is perfect for team communication.
Now go back to your list of tasks and organize them into sequences.
And remember: systems don’t have to be too complex.
This is my Recording System, a simple checklist I go through before recording a solo episode (I have it saved as a ClickUp checklist):
By relying on this simple and easy-to-use resource I make sure that I’ve ticked all the boxes before hitting Record.
No more trying to remember everything – especially if I’m in a hurry!
I have a checklist I can use, just like airline pilots do with their take-off and landing checklists.
And in case you’re wondering, here are some examples of systems you may want to create for your show:
- Podcast Content Planning: a better way to plan your podcast content.
- Podcast Guest Pitching: a system you can use to pitch potential podcast guests.
- Interview Scheduling: an easy way for guests to schedule interviews.
- Team Meeting Hosting: a system to run better team meetings.
- Podcast Guest Onboarding: a process to onboard guests of your podcast.
Focus on a set of tasks. Organize them into a system and then execute it.
What to Do When You Can’t (Completely) Automate
By mapping out your entire podcasting workflow and organizing it into systems, you’ll be able to identify the tasks that eat up most of your time, as well as the type of manual tasks that can be automated and those that can’t.
At this point, you might be asking yourself: ‘What about the tasks and systems that can’t be automated – what should I do with them?’
When you can’t fully automate the execution of a task, the next step is to consider whether:
- It’s something you can still take care of by yourself (you may want to use the Eisenhower Matrix to help you with this type of tasks – see image below)
- It’s something you should delegate to a member of your team or an intern
- It’s something you should outsource to an outside company or freelancer
Keep in mind that, sometimes, some tasks or systems can’t be automated because they require a manual action.
Other times, it may appear as if it isn’t possible to leverage automation because the tool you’re using doesn’t seem to allow it.
We’ll explore automation more in depth in part 2 of this guide.
For now, though, I’d like to briefly introduce you to some tools that can help you with this aspect.
If you are unsure whether a tool or app you’re using could be used more efficiently – or if some of its steps could be automated – you can look into third-party platforms.
Zapier, Integromat, Automate.io, and Integrately, for example, are platforms you can use to automate certain steps inside a specific tool, as well as making different tools “communicate” with one another.
Let’s say you’d like for something to happen in Asana whenever a certain action takes place in Process Street.
Zapier would allow you to do that with just a few clicks:
No matter how we look at it, though, creating and leveraging systems for your podcasting workflow will simplify things for you – regardless of the degree of automation your systems have.
Start by dissecting your podcasting workflow, identify all the tasks that make up your “podcasting puzzle”, the tools needed and people who take care of them.
After that, organize and house your systems somewhere (my recommendation is in a project management tool).
Now, you’ll have a series of processes and resources you and your team can follow, in a step-by-step fashion, to run your podcast.
And, actually, you can do the same if you’re a podcast guest too.
In the next part of this series, we’re going to focus on automating different components of your podcasting workflow and on the tools you can use to make that happen – ah, I’m also going to have a list of specific automated system recommendations I think podcasters should use!
Now over to you: how do you systematize and manage your podcast? Leave a comment below and let me know how you go about things and which tool(s) you use to do that.
On Twitter? Then, send me a tweet over @TheYannilunga (feel free to attach a screenshot of your systems and resources)!
Recommended Resources to Create Systems
- Project Management Tools: Trello, Asana, ClickUp, Nifty
- Third-Party Automation Tools: Zapier, Integromat, Automate.io, Integrately
- Other Useful Tools: Miro, Process Street, Meet Edgar
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