What do you do when you think you've nothing left to say on your topic?
Matthew: A question coming in though the website from Brian. What if I've run out of topics to cover? What if Brian hadn't got in touch and we'd run out of topics to cover? I'm not even joking there because this whole series is a series where we're answering people's questions. There's a very, very quick win for you. Just start answering questions.
Colin: Yeah, totally. You run out of topics, just get your emails, get your comments on your blog, start answering them. It's a great way to engage with your audience as well isn't it?
Matthew: Yeah. That's 100% your starting point here is okay, let's start with the audience. Straight away you want to find out what do your audience want to know from you rather that what would I just like to talk about. What are some of the ways that you can ask your audience what they want from you and what they want from your episodes?
Colin: Firstly on the podcast just like we did recently. We've been asking people to send us in questions via the podcast and this is a real request actually so send us more questions. You can either email us at [email protected] or you can send us a voice mail which is great at thepodcasthost.com/contact or you can tweet us at thepodcasthost. There's a real life example. You should do that but also, that's what you can do with your own listeners.
Matthew: Asking on your episodes is obviously the most logical route. Something we've done in the past on my own show is very now than then we'll do a survey. You just create a free survey. There's lots of tools online. I think we always use Survey Monkey.
Colin: It's always the popular one.
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Matthew: With surveys, I like them as easy and as quick as possible and not too indulgent that's going to take people so long that they won't fill it out. Just use it as an opportunity for people to ask you questions about what they want to hear. Bigger topics, smaller topics, anything. Just get feedback from people and you'll be able to come up with some episodes.
Colin: Yeah, for sure and that works. One of the best ways that we get topics for the podcast but also for the blog, for our videos, for anything is through a survey on our email list. One of the actions that we ask people to do when they get to website, they'll read an article, watch a video, listen to a podcast, and at the end of each one there'll be a little sign up box saying if you want to download our How to Podcast ebook, then put your email address in here.
Obviously, that's a marketing technique for us because it means that we can then start sending them even more good stuff. We can tell them about new blog posts, new podcast articles, all that kind of stuff. We can send them this book which increases our credibility, helps the listener, the subscriber in some way but about three emails into the automated sequence after they sign up, is a survey. I say it's a survey, it's really just a question isn't it? It's just an email that goes out and asks the question what are you struggling with? We get so many good responses to that. We get so many questions, so many issues, so many pains and barriers and struggles that we're never going to run out of topics because people just respond to that. We get probably one every day at least. That's a good way to do it I think.
Matthew: Another way is, even if you've got a very small audience, hopefully you've had some interaction before and you're aware of some listeners that are out there. If you could maybe just approach two or three people who are quite engaged with the show and have spoke to you before, just approach them personally and either say to them “Look, can I ask you some questions over email or, even better, can we jump on Skype for half an hour? I just want to find out how you're getting on, what you're struggling with stuff.” You'll come up with content that way as well because you're essentially speaking to someone who's your target audience.
Colin: It doesn't have to be listeners either. If you're running a business, you have people coming into the shop, into your office and you're going out to visit people, you're a tradesman or something like that. Speak to people. You have to anyway, obviously you're speaking to people but they'll be asking you questions. The mindset to get into is that every time somebody asks you a question about your job, about your trade, about your industry, write it down. Have those questions to hand. Keep a notepad in your pocket and have those questions written down every single time. Then next time you go to create an episode or to plan out your next series or something, you can just look back at that and see, what were the last 10 questions that my customers asked me? That's the best things that you can answer because that's obviously the things that are on your customer's mind. That's what's going to help them find you.
Matthew: You touched on email lists. What's some of the best ways that you can get feedback through you're email list? If you're putting questions out there basically for them.
Colin: I think it's just keeping it simple actually, I've been guilty in the past of emailing my list and giving them five or six different questions, so an actual survey. Asking them to spend some time on it and sending them off to a survey page. We do do that and it does work but the biggest responses we get is just when I literally send an email that actually just says the question just curious, what's troubling you just now? I'd love to write a blog post on it or I'd love to help you out. It's one sentence, less than 20 words and it's written as a personal email so they just hit reply. There's no need to go off to a survey page or anything like that. They just hit reply and they just tell me and I get some great responses from those.
Matthew: Not had anyone pouring their heart out about the cat dying.
Colin: No personal, no marriage breakdowns.
Matthew: Husband had an affair.
Colin: Not quite yet but you never know.
Matthew: Looking online for Facebook communities, forums and things like that in your niche as well is great because people are always going online and asking questions aren't they? You'll maybe see a good discussion and you'll have something to add and you think well why don't we just put the recorder on here and do an episode about it? You're always going to find content just by searching in these communities where people are asking a lot of questions.
Colin: Facebook, Google plus, Linkedin, places like Quora. Quora is a specific website for asking questions and generally you can find a topic which suits your niche. There is a podcasting tag on Quora which we watch and get questions from and use that to inspire our own topics. Loads of places out there you can get them isn't there? Reddit actually. It's not something I use a lot but a lot of people I know do use it quite a bit and apparently, Reddit is just a mine of questions. I keep thinking we should get in there.
I think, definitely the stuff that we've just talked about should be the first stop but what about if you're just actually brainstorming some questions yourself? You just want to sit down for half an hour and try and figure out some topics yourself. Are there any techniques you can use to go about that?
Matthew: I'll tell you what, just with you saying that, one of the best ways that I've found coming up with any sort of ideas is going out for a walk and not taking your phone with you. It's amazing how, when you're constantly sitting looking at your phone or looking at your computer screen, you're brain's not really working at its full capacity so it's actually like going out for walks. It sounds silly but going and doing manual tasks, doing dishes, do a bit of gardening. I don't know if it's the same for everyone but it really works for me when I'm kind of switched off, I'm on autopilot and suddenly wee things just come to you that wouldn't probably come to you if you're sitting looking at a blank word document.
Colin: It's giving yourself the time to think up, to imagine, to daydream and things just come to you. Absolutely. I think the one thing that I've done in the past, maybe more structured than that obviously, not as creative Matthew but, the more structured is to use … There's a chap called Marcus Sheridan who does a great show, a great podcast and a great blog as well. He defined five different categories for customer questions. He's all about customer questions, that's his thing. The big five he calls them and they are cost, versus. Versus being like this product or that product so in his niche he does pools. It would be like a concrete pool versus a fibreglass pool so you write an article or you do a podcast episode on that. Then you've got reviews, so reviewing this particular make of fibreglass pool or for us, it's like reviewing microphones or reviewing the latest Mackie mixer. Then you've got problems so it's common problems like, I've just noticed I was doing it so I'm leaning back a bit, popping my microphone. How do I stop myself from popping my microphone? That's a problem question, then the last one is best so people always asking, as a plumber you'd be like what is the best boiler for my house? You'd write an article around what is the best boiler for my house.
Those five topics. Cost, versus, reviews, problems and best, if you write those headers, I've done this before, get a piece of paper, or get five pieces of paper, even better, write those headers at the top of each and then just spend an hour just writing as many different ideas as you can, inspired by those headings. It's amazing how that little constraint, so those little suggestions at the top of the page, can help you come up with some great ideas for your podcast. I've come up with 50 at a time before using that technique.
Matthew: Another method that I've found myself using in the past is just reading books. I suppose predominantly books in your nice but it's not limited to that and whether it's a fictional book or a self help book, or a factual manual or things like that, there are always wee nuggets. I'm not talking about plagiarising stuff but just mentioning on the show “Look, I was reading this book, linked it in the show notes by the way here. Affiliate link in there but there's a really good section on this and it got me thinking about this and how it relates to this.” You can always relate stuff to your own topics. When you're consuming other content like books, it's keeping your brain working and you're going to come up with ideas.
Colin: It's that mindset isn't it of being a question, a topic hunter I suppose. Of being a person that every time you hear about a question, you hear a topic, you read something, you're always thinking in the back of my mind, how can I turn this into a bit of content for my show? Do you know what? The best thing about books is that you don't have to own them either. I've done this before. You go onto Amazon and you just do the preview thing and you just look through the contents actually. The contents page of a book can be a gold mine for topics. Just find a book around your topic, take all the chapters, chapters might be kind of higher level topics and then you've got little sub chapter headings and they can be great ideas for topics for a show.
Often a book can give you a really good idea for a series because you might do a series of say five to 10 episodes around one particular topic and maybe that will be every chapter in the book or maybe it's actually a chapter and all the sub headings. Go through and start exploring some of the chapter listings from books in your industry.
Matthew: Another wee idea, if you're not an interview podcast is, just to maybe go out and do three or four interviews with people in your niche that you've always wanted to speak to. Maybe not setting out to talk about one particular thing and again, we can't digress on interview skills and things like that but just having a really good conversation with someone from the point of view of your audience. Some of the questions that you think that they would want answered off this person. Just title your episode based on what was the meat of the conversation. You never know, the things that get thrown up in that conversation as well could lead to other topics that you could talk about. Getting other people on the show can help to stimulate that sort of thing.
Colin: Often. If you get somebody who's expert in an area maybe you're not quite so confident in, something in your industry that maybe you don't have so much experience in, then that prompts questions from you. You end up asking them questions and that can prompt a blog post or a podcast episode or something as well. It works well.
Matthew: Any other tips then?
Colin: I think that's about it. I think people worry too much about running out of topics because if you use any of these things, any one of these ideas, especially just talking to your audience, just listening to people, listening to the people you're interacting with every day, it's practically impossible to run out of topics.
Matthew: That's why we'll never stop this season. We'll just keep going. I think this is actually the end of the season isn't it?
Colin: It is, yeah. This is episode 12.
Matthew: We've run out of topics.
Colin: We're thinking about doing a Christmas special before Christmas. We'll see what happens with that, see how we manage but we might do a more light hearted version. This is the official end of season 12. Is this season 12? This is episode 12. The official end of season seven. Episode 12 of season seven. Remember you can always go and get the show notes at podcraft.net/712. That's series seven, episode 12. Thanks for following along with this season. I hope you've enjoyed it. I've enjoyed answering the questions.
Matthew: I have too and if I could indulge you for one more minute, I just want to mention the scholarship as well. The Scottish Podcast Scholarship competition, open to all students in Scotland. It's a competition running until the 31st of January 2017. We're inviting you to pitch podcast ideas to us through the website and the winner could win 400 pounds recording equipment, free media hosting, a whole lot of other things. You could find all details about that competition at thepodcasthost.com/pitch.
Colin: Indeed. We'd love to see your ideas. Hoping to get some great podcasts out there.