When Wistia’s CEO, Chris Savage, wanted to explore the entrepreneurial spirit behind brands, he opted for a content format that’s more conversational and sustainable over time — podcasting.
The beauty of podcasts is they’re easy to execute. All you need is a decent mic, and you’re off to the races. But what about podcasting with a team remotely?
During the pandemic, our team moved forward with launching Chris’s podcast, Talking Too Loud, entirely remotely. Along the way, we knew we’d be in for some unique challenges due to the nature of the interview-style podcast.
For instance, we wanted to capture crisp, clear audio despite the podcast co-hosts and guests being in different locations. How could we get great audio quality as if everyone were in the same studio together?
We also didn’t want the show to feel disjointed. How could we recreate the magic of in-person interviews to be sure the conversation felt natural?
From booking guests to creating at-home studios and editing episodes to show promotion, read on to hear all about the ways our team pulled off Talking Too Loud from home!
To make an interview-style podcast, we needed some great guests to come onto the show. Our Podcast Producer, Adam Day, explained how we’ve been booking guests to chat with Chris and co-host Sylvie Lubow on Talking Too Loud.
For almost every single guest, we’ve leveraged Wistia’s network — Brendan Schwartz knew Lulu Wang, Chris was connected with Nick Francis, and so on. Because podcasts are so common, Adam said it’s pretty easy to find guests through a connection of some kind, especially early in production.
“Because podcasts are so common, it’s pretty easy to find guests through a connection of some kind, especially early in production.”
Our team’s remote communication and outreach first started with verbal and email pitches explaining the show’s concept, our target audience, and why they’d be a good fit. In the very beginning, we were still working on branding but wanted to get the ball rolling on booking guests. So, we presented the essence of the show compared to existing concepts that folks could quickly wrap their heads around — “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend meets entrepreneurs.”
Now that we’ve got several episodes under our belt, our Development Producer, Sydney Rutman, shared that the team will begin doing some cold outreach with more formal pitch decks. These pitch decks give a complete sense of the show’s branding, and we’ll tailor our communication with social media kits and analytics depending on a person’s role and interests.
Understanding that our show’s guests are CEOs and executive-level folks, we knew that scheduling could be an issue. Adam said he tried to be at least one month ahead of our production schedule when reaching out. This helped us set expectations very early, have a 30-minute pre-interview before the show, and get the guest excited to be on the podcast.
We were also super understanding of the fact the pandemic upended people’s lives. On the one hand, connecting with folks was challenging because everyone was affected in unique ways. On the other hand, it made for interesting conversations and openness about how businesses navigated a whole host of complex problems.
Leading up to the actual interviews, we tried to prepare our guests as much as possible. For Talking Too Loud, we let people know the conversation’s tone would be super casual and upbeat. We wanted to give guests the freedom to be themselves, so we reassured them that we could edit things out if needed.
Before we ever reached out to a guest, we already had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to talk about on the show. Adam, Chris, and Sylvie each had different perspectives that helped shape the direction of the conversations. They identified the big pillars and structural points they were curious about in advance as a starting point.
But, pre-interviews with guests often revealed some new interesting topics and hidden nuggets about people that weren’t readily available in other interviews they’ve done.
Sylvie is the show’s co-host, but she also helps produce the show and manages the pre-interviews with our guests. During those calls, she always asks, “What’s got you talking too loud these days?” The guests’ responses have helped Sylvie prepare interview questions and the arc of conversations for the real interviews.
“The pre-interviews with guests often revealed some new interesting topics and hidden nuggets about people that weren’t readily available in other interviews they’ve done.”
So, we’ve approached each episode with a solid game plan, but we also leave space for the conversation to go in different directions as we learn more about each guest and their passions.
In terms of remote tech, we knew most of our guests weren’t podcasters. Their various tech-savviness levels and different environments left us very little control over how they were going to capture their side of the conversation. This is definitely one of the downsides to podcasting remotely, but it can be solved.
For us, capturing high-quality audio was a priority. So, we’ve gifted headphones (Behringer HPS3000 Studio Headphones) and microphones (Samson Q2U or the Audio Technica ATR 2100X USB) to guests who needed a little support to ensure they sounded great. The gear is relatively affordable and a great way to thank our guests for their time.
Wearing headphones is an absolute must for remote podcasting — you don’t want any sound coming out of your computer speakers when you’re having a conversation. So, we always make sure to do a tech audit well before recording episodes and set our guests up for success.
Preparing folks was also a delicate balance of not overwhelming or underwhelming them during the process. For example, we didn’t send out a pre-show checklist or anything formal to prepare guests and instead relied on emails and informal communications. But, for other shows, a pre-show checklist might be super helpful for guests recording remotely.
Additionally, if you want to sound like you’re all in the same place despite being in different locations, make sure the guest records audio on their end for editing in post-production. Recording separate audio will ensure each voice is captured in the most professional way possible. There’s no harm leaning into remoteness either; it’s entirely up to you!
The show’s two co-hosts also needed their own reliable setups for recording. Here’s a look at the gear both Chris and Sylvie are rocking at home.
Chris uses a Shure SM7b Microphone on a mic stand, Apogee Duet USB Audio Interface, and GarageBand. Sylvie is also using a Shure SM7b Microphone on a mic stand, but her audio recorder is the Zoom H5 recorder. During interviews, both of them record on Zoom on individual tracks.
Our budget allowed for slightly elevated setups from a tech perspective, but you can still manage to create an affordable recording studio from anywhere. We have another blog post all about remote podcasting tips from Adam!
Before each interview, Adam does a tech check via Zoom to ensure everyone’s setup is good to go. He said you want to interact with your guest over Zoom, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts to try and recreate the energy of an in-person conversation. This helps the guest feel more comfortable, but it also helps us get the best sound as possible in a remote situation.
Adam makes sure guests are super close to the microphone, which can be the difference between outstanding and “meh” audio quality. It was also super important to make sure everyone was set up to record audio separately because it gave us more control over editing. If only one person records, the audio ends up being less polished for “internet audio.”
The technical set up is the most significant variable when podcasting remotely. After recording several episodes, Adam said technical road bumps are bound to happen. That’s why we try to compensate by setting up those backup recordings for every participant and building in redundancies.
“The technical set up is the most significant variable when podcasting remotely.”
Overall, Adam’s biggest tip for our guests is to keep it casual. Talking Too Loud is designed to be easygoing and relaxed (with the occasional dash of snark). This will vary for every show, so be sure to articulate the overall vibe to guests in advance so they can prepare.
For any interview-style show, talking to humans has its everyday challenges. Sometimes, we think topics might get someone fired up, but the person doesn’t have much to say. When this has happened, Sylvie has jumped into producer mode to switch gears. She’ll message Chris separately to help navigate the conversation and nudge him to move on from a topic. It’s always a good idea for hosts to collaborate in real-time to keep the energy high and the conversation on-track.
Moving on to the editing stage, we collaborate with outside audio engineers to cut episodes for Talking Too Loud. We use Dropbox and Frame.io for file sharing and collaboration. File transfers are the biggest piece helping to simplify our process because the same engineer doesn’t edit each show.
Frame.io is the real hero because it made delivering feedback incredibly easy. In this remote world, almost all feedback is documented now. If we were in person, these comments likely wouldn’t be formally captured, so that’s been a key lesson for our team as we’ve transitioned to a remote work environment.
If you’re thinking of creating a remote podcast, you can have everyone record their audio using Zoom or another free recording software like Audacity, Quicktime, or GarageBand. ZenCastr is another option that’s best for stable internet connections. And remember to have everyone on your show save their separate audio files and then send their side of the conversation to the editor. You can mix and match to find the best setup for everyone!
When it comes to putting the podcast out into the world, we’re lucky enough to have a team dedicated to audience development and show promotion. Vanessa Luis collaborated with key teams (Design, Studios, Content, Growth, and New User Experience) remotely over Zoom to help bring the Talking Too Loud brand to life. Several assets accompany each episode, from social media posts and audiograms to emails and images for promo kits.
One of the greatest challenges about promoting a show remotely is not being in the same room with your co-workers for brainstorming. Something about being in-person with your co-workers gets the energy up and gets everyone excited to participate.
To overcome this challenge, Vanessa set up various brainstorm sessions with key teams. She kept the groups small, giving more people a chance to share their ideas and speak up. Often, when too many people are in a Zoom call, it can be hard to know when to speak up or express your ideas — it can feel somewhat intimidating. To alleviate that, keeping those sessions small and focused is key.
It was also essential to establish check-in points and meetings for folks to provide status updates. This helped ensure things were running smoothly and gave people a chance to raise any concerns or ask for feedback. For Talking Too Loud, we started meeting every week to discuss new ideas around promotion.
There you have it — our complete process for launching a podcast remotely. We hope our challenges and lessons learned inspire you to take the leap and launch your own brand show.