A Podcast About Podcasts...and a Famous Guest!
Iszi Lawrence: Everybody understands that we are just monkeys who like to talk to each other this is how we socialise a podcasting, I think, is more powerful than almost any other form of media.
I think podcast is incredibly powerful on an incredibly biological level because it feels really important when somebody's talking right into your ear.
Becky Holland: Hello, and welcome to the No Bull Marketing Ideacast. I’m Becky Holland.
IL: Hey, am I the guest on this week’s podcast? You should listen to this week's podcast because we going to be talking about making podcasts. Why? Who are you?
Well, I am Iszi Lawrence. I've been making podcasts since 2008. I've got one at the moment out on BBC Sounds called Your Place or Mine with Shaun Keaveny. I also make them for institutions like the British Museum and, for myself, I love science and I've got one called Terrible Lizards. I am Izzy Lawrence, I’m a podcaster, broadcaster, comedian and author and I'm here to tell you all the tips and secrets that I found out in my years of professional broadcasting.
Chris Attaway: And I'm Chris and I’m a podcast producer.
IL: He's got the proper headphones and everything.
CA: These are BBC standard issue.
BH: Did you steal them?
CA: No, I did not. How dare you. I borrowed them…for a while.
BH: So, I guess question number one. [You’re an] author, comedian, historian, podcaster…there’s a really long list. Which did you do first out of interest?
IL: Stand-up comedy of all of it. So, I did stand-up comedy when I was at university and I did rather well. But then I wanted to join the real world at the same time that...I left uni in 2008, so that's when the kind of universe imploded and so it was actually easier to get a job doing stand-up comedy than any real work at that time. So, I did do that, and I got into podcasting that same year so I've been podcasting since 2008.
BH: Which is quite a long time. How long have you been podcasting Chris?
CA: [I’ve been] podcasting probably since 2010 or something…
IL: I win! I’m the oldest here.
CA: But then we graduated the same year, when everything fell apart, but yeah, I was doing local radio. I did hospital radio.
[WATFORD HOSPITAL RADIO JINGPLE PLAYS]
[RECORDING SNIPPET OF CHRIS AS RADIO HOST]: Welcome to another addition to Left of the Dial on Watford Hospital Radio. My name's Chris and I'm with you until 8:00 o'clock this evening playing a mixture of stuff. Even I don't know what's going to be played tonight although I do know this first track is Waxahachie.
[RADIO SNIPPET FADES]
CA: Then I did my local radio in Watford and would always make stuff on the side and then I eventually just tried to make it my job.
BH: So, you both did the stuff that you really like. It’s nice. Do the fun stuff for your job. That’s the way the world should be.
IL: Yeah, do the fun stuff! Because nobody needs regular income that's for wusses.
CA: Yeah. Who wants to be stable and secure? Not me!
BH: So how did you get into podcasting? I guess a question to you first, Iszi, were you like ‘I want to make a podcast’ or did somebody approach you or what happened?
IL: Yeah, I started listening to [others] podcasting and see, when I like something, I tend to do it. That seems to be my rule in life. So, I quite liked painting stuff, so I’ll get into painting. I quite like watching people beat each other up [so] I'll do ju-jitsu.
So, I started listening to podcasts mainly because I was trying to find more interviews with authors I liked. So, I think I got into really [things like] Sceptics Guide to the Universe, I think there's one called QED or something like that really old sceptics’ stuff. I was into science and nerdy stuff so that's where I got into it and then and Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver started doing The Bugle.
[THE BUGLE RADIO SNIPPET PLAYS] – Hello Buglers and welcome to this the last full Bugle of 2020 a year that has been an absolute object lesson in how to be a thoroughly **** 12 months.
IL: I thought ‘Oh that’s a really lovely idea. I wish I could do a podcast.’ My friend Simon, who's a TV writer, he was like ‘oh I've been listening to podcasts too and said we should do one’. So, we did a very silly one which lasted I think seven or eight years because we had just enough fans that they wouldn't let us not do it.
It was called Sunday Supplements well we reviewed last Sunday's newspapers. So which newspaper should have you bought last Sunday? So, we did it as a silly comedy one and it wasn't until 2014 that I thought ‘Ooh actually, I've got good ideas for some, and I've been pitching Radio 4 with shows and that sort of thing and actually I've got a few good ideas of my own and so I'll start doing that’ and I was roughly around the same sort of time Radio 4 started to use me.
So, I did a podcast called the Z-List Dead List which was about obscure people from history and basically the British Museum got interested [in] me on the back of that and started to do it as a live show for them.
[Z-LIST DEAD LIST SHOW SNIPPET PLAYS]
IL: Radio 4 heard me on that and got me to do some regular journalism and presenting for them. So, I sort of worked my way into it. I did what I wanted to do and then somebody paid me.
BH: That's the dream, isn't it?
IL: That is the dream and then during lockdown I started one called Terrible Lizards.
[TERRIBLE LIZARDS SHOW SNIPPET OF ISZI PLAYS]- Welcome to Terrible Lizards. A podcast about dinosaurs with Doctor David Hone.
IL: Which is a podcast about dinosaurs with Doctor David Hone who is a palaeontologist from Anne’s or Mary's university. It’s either Mary or Anne’s always get confused when he gets annoyed every time because it matters.
[RECORDING SNIPPET OF ISZI ON TERRIBLE LIZARDS] - We're starting a very flappy flap heavy series 7 happened with the original Pterosaur. Pterodactylus. Hello and welcome to Terrible Lizards…
[RECORDING SNIPPET FADES]
IL: And it's been going quite well. We're reasonably successful at that and then there's also my new one which is called…What is it called Iszi? I can't remember. Yes, I can it's called Your Place or Mine and it was [with] that lovely Shaun Keaveny.
[RECORDING SNIPPET OF SHAUN KEAVENY PLAYS] Hi! Hello and welcome go to Your Place or Mine for BBC Radio 4 the travel show that's going nowhere...
IL: I'm basically the boffin on that. It’s like the opposite…ike in Terrible Lizards I’m the idiot and on this one Shaun Keaveny's the idiot.
IL: Ooh, telephones.
BH: Oh, that’s my mum and dad’s phone ringing. Hopefully somebody will answer it in a second.
CA: Oh, hang on I've got the dog barking as well so that's good timing.
IL: The nature of podcasting.
BH: So, when you say you had just enough followers to make it something. How many is just enough?
IL: Now, how many is just enough is really down…I hate people who judge podcasts by numbers because you can have a lot of listeners and absolutely no engagement.
IL: So, just enough is enough engagement that they bother you. It could be you’ve got ten listeners and each one of those ten people will write in and annoy you and make your social media life hell if you don't do what they say.
So, I'd say it's more about engagement than numbers. But I think [with] Sunday Supplement, we were getting about 1000 downloads a week it wasn't huge. However, that was enough. You know, if you think about that as a theatre of people that's huge.
BH: I'd be quite happy with a thousand a week!
IL: Exactly, but you don't need 1000 a week. If you’ve got 300 people and they're really engaged, and they really understand what you're doing, then that's all you need. That's more important to me.
BH: Because I think it's quite interesting because what you do, you’re doing something that is to entertain and educate people. Whereas a lot of the people that I'm talking to is all about business or we think we should do a podcast, but it's still needs to be the same. That's my point because if people aren't entertained if they're not engaged if they're not wanting to have a conversation with you about it, then you've probably missed the mark.
IL: It's very easy [to say] ‘just earn some money there you go.’ It’s not the most entertaining thing to tell people and it is entirely [like] in business it’s all about relationships and interpersonal skills and being able to engage somebody who isn't even there is even better.
I think I think everybody understands that we are just you know monkeys who’d like to talk to each other. This is how we socialise and podcasting, I think, is more powerful than almost any other form of media because you are there in their ears. You're not even stood there on the shelf like a radio.You're actually in their heads while they're doing intimate things like taking a bath or going to the gym or walking up the hill to get the paper.
Whatever it is, you are right there with them. You're on the train with them. You are the distraction from whatever uncomfortable world that they’re living in which most of their attention is going to. You don't even get that with a romantic partner half the time. Do you ever sit down and listen to your romantic partner for half an hour at a time?
CA: I have to.
IL: You have to? Fair enough. But this is why I think podcasting is incredibly powerful on an incredibly biological level because it feels really important when somebody's talking right into your ear. Much more than it does when they’re on a screen on your YouTube in the little panel over at the side while you're meant to be doing that Excel spreadsheet.
BH: Yeah, it's true and you're the only the person, I suppose, that's the thing I'm just thinking about when I'm listening to podcasts when I'm out walking the dog. There's nobody else there. There's no distractions there's just me and whoever it happens to be. As it happens it was me, you, Shaun Keaveny, and Michaela Strachan talking about Cape Town last week!
IL: Aw, that’s a good-un that one. That was weird sat opposite her going ‘Hi I like animals because of you because of your show’.
But yeah, it is incredibly powerful and podcasting not only is useful just to engage people full stop. But it’s also a very useful way of learning how to do that.
CA: I think that’s really well put and I think I'll use a bit of that for the top line quote for the beginning of the podcast.
BH: There you go!
BH: So, what’s your view on this Chris cause, you've been doing this for a while as well?
CA: [I] agree, exactly what Iszi said about being in someone's ears while they're doing things [and] going about their day. Like, me personally, I spend every waking hour sitting at my desk making podcasts. You’d think the last thing I’d want to do is listen to a podcast but then I'll go downstairs to make a cup of tea or empty the dishwasher or something and then I'll stick Adam Buxton on or something like that and listen to him while I'm emptying the dishwasher [or] getting some water for the dog or you know while I'm out for a walk with her.
It's company, isn't it? I guess is the very basic form of it, it’s company. I think it's probably because they're in your ears, and in your head, that you feel so connected to them and that they’re so regular that you form a sort of a weird bond with these people that you've never met and that is really comforting, I think.
BH: So, if you met them in the street you’d say ‘Hello’ and they’d go ‘who are you?’
‘We go on walks, we go on runs, we tidy the house.’
CA: Yeah, exactly you're always with me.
IL: It is that thing of celebrities in general you feel like you know them, and they have no idea who you are and it's a very weird [experience]. It's like seeing a mirror and you just going ‘oh you have no idea you don't know that you were there that time that my dad was in the hospital, and this was my only entertainment.’ You don't know all of that, but you get to know somebody.
Also cause the nature of podcasting, cause a lot of us do it from our homes or where we’re very comfortable, and as a result things just get…we let things slip and we forget we've told the universe about it. Yeah, it's very intimate.
CA: Because you're recording basically to no one you don't get that instant reaction so you kind of feel less vulnerable while you're doing it. It's only when it goes out into the world that you realise ‘Oh yeah someone's going to hear that’.
So, recently I recorded the first seven months of having a puppy which drove me absolutely mad. I had several breakdowns. A lot of them on mike and Erica Heilmann who produces a podcast in America called Rumble Strip, which I really, really recommend, she put all the footage together and made a podcast about me and my partner, Beth, getting this puppy.
[RECORDING SNIPPET OF CHRIS PLAYS] - Day 25 5:00 AM. I've always wanted a dog and I feel like I can’t cope. I feel like I'm completely out of control and she's just wild and I feel like I'm failing. I feel like I’m doing everything right and failing. It's no good for your self-esteem.
CA: And it went out live in the world that I realised ‘Oh my God I'm just basically crying for 30 minutes’. But you don’t think of that while you're doing it because it just feels kind of safe.
BH: But that's what makes it genuine. I think that's what makes it feel real isn't it? Because people will open themselves up perhaps a little bit more than they would if they were sat there with a camera pointing at them.
IL: Yeah, I think cameras really put people off when you're interviewing them.
CA: Yeah, you instantly act differently.
IL: Yeah, but also you do get it. If you tell people ‘I'm going to interview you now and I'm going to ask you these questions’ my mother is like this. Because she will slow down and she will talk really simply because she believes, because most people are, much stupider than her that they need to have these things spoken very slowly.
BH: We've kind of covered this a little bit but in terms of talking about it being genuine, relaxed all the rest [of it], but makes a good podcast? Because you could quite [easily] have a nice relaxing chat but actually not really have much substance. Does that make a good podcast, or do you need to really think about the topic and the audience and all that type of stuff? What's good in podcast world?
IL: OK, so number one. Know kind of who you're speaking to, wanting to speak to, and about what helps. Make it clear what you want to talk about and get to that quite quickly off the bat. You [should] get into the meat quickly when you're in the meat, the meat is what you want it to be and that doesn't mean to say it has to be ping ping ping ping ping ping ping really heavily edited and all the ‘ums’ and ‘ers’ taken out. It can just be what it is.
But there's a regular sort of like ‘this is the point of this conversation in there’ and I think that really helps and you're just clear about what to expect. So, if your first episode’s 10 minutes [long] you second episode is 3 1/2 hours [long] in your third episode is 30 minutes [long], you're going to have some sort of clear…
‘OK this person [thinks] I've got to commute, my commute lasts 35 minutes I'm going to listen to a 30-minute podcast on my commute.’ Fair enough. But if it's 30 minutes one week, 50 minutes [the] next week, 10 minutes the week after, it becomes quite a frustrating experience for the user.
So, the more you can make it easily digestible, the better. However, the beauty of podcasts, as we've already discussed, is they’re not as edited as radio. It [has this] ability to sit down and it's like you’re there. So, if you make it too processed it becomes mush and nobody wants to listen to mush.
BH: Yeah, I kind of felt a little bit like that with the first couple of episodes that that we did. So, I first got into podcasting because I was a guest on somebody else's podcast. They said, ‘oh you can just do it yourself, download this bit of software, interview a few people, put it together and it will all be fine.’
I interviewed three people, and then I had this bit of software – I can’t even remember what it was called - some Adobe software, and I had all the different tracks, and weeks and weeks of my life and it was just hell. Then I found Chris [Attaway] and said ‘help’ and actually he was able to rescue it, but that first one wasn't that great if I'm honest. The guests were really good all the individual interviews were very good. But it was too forced. It's taken a little while I think to get it to this point where we're actually just having a nice natural conversation. I don't know what you think Chris, but this feels much better.
CA: This is more free-flowing and more natural and that's who you are. So that's what you should stick with. Doing a narrated podcast wasn't your style. I thought it turned out really well. I thought it was a really good episode and I thought the links between all the speakers, you would then introduce the next speaker, pose a question and introduce the next speaker I thought you did it I thought you do it really well.
[RECORDING SNIPPET OF BECKY FROM SEASON ONE] – Marketing in this world is tough I mean it's really tough. Getting market share is even harder time for me to introduce my first guests.
Jasper Martens: Hi I'm Jasper Martens I am the CMO at PensionBee. PensionBee is…
[RECORDING SNIPPET FADES]
BH: It was a lot more a hard work I can tell you that.
CA: It’s a lot more hard work for both of us. Yeah, and I think you're naturally…you just want to have a chat. So that's what you should do. You shouldn't try and force yourself down a certain route if that's not who you are, I don't think we should do that.
BH: So, all of this makes it sound quite difficult and I guess there's going to be people listening to this going ‘well this is all very well, that there's no way I could do it. I know my topic, whatever it is some digital marketing thing, inside outside upside down, or you know we do sustainable buildings, and we do whatever it is, we've got boffins. But how on earth do we make it interesting? So, is it just a case of just starting? So, what would you say to somebody that’s thinking ‘I should do this I've got lots of material…’?
CA: You can't it's really, really, really difficult and you need a producer. Hire me. I’ll do it for you. You can't do it by yourself you need me.
BH: But obviously come via BH&P!
IL: If Chris is too busy, if Chris is too busy it's really thinking about who you're talking to.
So, if you are - what did you say? A sustainable building architects?
IL: Who are you trying to connect with? You’re trying to connect with other people within your industry and people considering, maybe, hiring an architect for a sustainable building. So, they're going to be searching for ‘ooh how do I get an architect for sustainable buildings?’ and you are going to be searching for other architects sharing work, whatever it is. So, you want that industry to be listening to your podcast. What's that industry want? They want to know what's going on. What's the difficulties coming up. What are the future projections? Who are the people who are coming up with new ideas? What's fashionable? What isn't? Just like any sort of industry magazine, and the point is unlike an industry magazine, you can make it much more friendly much more accessible for people in the industry.
So, it becomes more of a chat. It becomes more of a ‘how did you get involved in this?’ ‘Oh, I started in engineering, and I was a mud engineer, but I decided, I was earning too much money, so I went off into you know whatever it is.’ and then it's basically it's about creating a little network and you can do that around conversation and by opening that conversation up to everybody in your industry. Then they’ll start receiving it, going ‘well actually I disagree with that, and then they’ll go ‘well why do you disagree with that?’ and this will generate conversation. So, it's really thinking about what your industry wants to hear about and if your industry is a load of ostriches with their heads in the sand you can make some big waves.
BH: Yes, and those are probably the people that need do podcasting more than anybody else.
CA: I would add to what Iszi said on a technical level you just ask like if someone is thinking about it and they think it sounds incredibly difficult. It depends what type of podcast you want really because, like, anybody with a phone can literally make a podcast. There’s an app called Anchor. You can download Anchor, you can record it [podcast] within the app, you can add music you can add jingles you can edit it within Anchor and publish it from Anchor. It’s all done, in your phone. So, it depends, what you want to do. You could sit there next to your friend shoulder-to-shoulder with the phone in the middle and chat, and then edit it on your phone afterwards.
If you want a bit more of a high-end production, you might need to get some editing software, you might want to get a nicer mike. It all depends on the level that you want to do. But in answer to the question ‘what would I say if someone wanted to make a podcast?’ I’d say go for it because podcasting really gets a bad rap. People say, ‘oh bloody hell not another podcast everyone's got a podcast these days.’ So what? There's hundreds and thousands of movies. Look all the music and books and films out there. [A] podcast is miniscule in comparison.
So, there is a load of junk but there's a load of rubbish art as well. I think if you want to do it go for it why not? No one has to listen to it.
BH: What do you do if you get a guest on and they’re terrible? You start interviewing you start talking to them and they just can't do it?
IL: It depends why they're bad. If they’re bad because they just have frozen up completely you can try and get them to relax. If that isn't the reason, and they’re just terribly boring and they really don't have anything to say about it and they don't know about it, this is when we have the wonderful thing of ‘Oh no do you remember that podcast episode that we did the other week unfortunately every single bit of technology I had exploded, and we've lost the recording I'm really sorry.’
BH: I had an opportunity to ask Lawrence D’Allaglio to be on my podcast and I had the opportunity to ask Noel Fitzpatrick to be on my podcast and neither of them accepted and they missed this great opportunity to just have this nice chat.
BH: They’re too famous!
IL: It’s not that they’re too famous, they’re often too busy and the trouble is you do get a lot of requests, so even I get a lot of requests. Thing is, when you're asking people to be on your podcast you have to remember that you are an e-mail in their inbox and their ability to accidentally ignore an e-mail in their inbox or not reply to an e-mail in their inbox is nothing to do with you and your self-worth because it's not.
It's literally, they've got a life. At that moment you know they spilled a drink when they got that e-mail and there you go that's your one shot gone. But it's not and everything’s about chance and you're statistically likely to do better for more you fling emails out there and ask.
CA: I got really lucky, early days, when I was just making a podcast for fun. Me and a couple of friends used to make a podcast about cultural anniversaries. So, it would be like ‘30 years of the Game Boy’ or like ten years since the smoking ban and all this kind of stuff and it was coming up to 30 years of The Simpsons and we got in touch with Jake Hogan whose a Simpsons writer. He wrote for the first four seasons, and we just said, ‘I don't suppose you fancy chatting to us about The Simpsons, do you?’ and he did and we got to interview Jake Hogan!
I could not believe that he actually replied, and he was such a lovely bloke. So, I would say throw those emails out because you never know, you might get 100 rejections, but you might get to speak to Simpsons writer which was pretty cool.
BH: You don’t ask you don’t get!
IL: Exactly. And the real thing is you have to- when you first start out with a podcast - you have to swallow all pride and say ‘hello everybody I've ever met. I'm starting a new podcast, I'm going to be really annoying about it and I'm going to continue telling everybody about it on all my social media platforms and also when I'm in the gym, and also when I'm going shopping and did I mention this? Yes, you're going to get sick of me telling you about it and then the next time I see you I’ll go ‘what do you remember the name of my podcast is?’ and they’ll go ‘Uh, uh’ and then you go ‘It’s this!’ and they're going to go ‘Oh yes that I'm going to listen’ and they won't.
But the point is that one day they'll be bored, and they'll just go ‘Oh I’ll put it on and say I listened and then they will and some of them might like it and some of them won’t. But you need to get your friends to review you to listen to you and to like you because that's the only way you're going to attract other people to it. A lot of people find podcasts through the actual apps themselves and so if your podcast is doing well the app recommend them.
Now the magic of this, I'm sure Chris has theories, and you know all the different ways to do it, but honestly if you can get your audience to write a review that will push you up higher in the charts. There are tips and tricks we can talk about when you're launching a podcast if you want to do that?
BH: Yes! How long have you got?
IL: Quick tips if you’re launching a podcast. This is what I found OK, that I think works. When you first launch the first two or three episodes at the same time, so you launch a trailer. You make sure that that gets on all the apps and make sure that – because it takes a few days when you first launch something for it to get on the apps - so launch a trailer. Say, ‘we're coming soon keep this feed, subscribe to this channel’, so make sure you have subscribed on the app and then when you launch, launch two or three at the same time. So that you get that initial bump of listeners so the same one listener counts as three downloads because they listened to three episodes and that gets you that initial bump then you wait a week for episode four and then that will give you another one.
Then it looks like you've got a regular audience coming in and it might get you up the charts a bit and might get you some organic listens that way. Being really, really regular and clear about the type of podcast you're doing. So [with] Terrible Lizards, we always do it as eight episode-seasons and we’ve run those seasons three times a year. That’s kind of how we've been doing it. That first initial trailer for season one really matters cause a lot of people will listen to that and decide that they want to listen to make sure that really represents what you're on about and you're happy with it.
So, really think about your launch and think about trying to make sure that everybody…[that] nobody can escape it. Because a lot of what people happen is they will just go ‘I'm a bit embarrassed don't tell anybody about it, it's cringey and I'll put it out there… Oh nobody listened to I well I can't do it and so therefore I don't have to I’ve tried. I tried!’ and you didn't try.
BH: It's the same like that with a lot of marketing though. I talk about it quite a lot with clients, about making wells in the middle of the desert and it's like you make this great stuff if you don't tell everybody about it then they won't come. They’ll all be parched of thirst half a mile from your well dying. It’s there, it’s this great stuff, go out and tell everybody, even if it's uncomfortable, even if it's sort of bloopers even if you completely stuff it up. Just get people coming and the more you practise and the more you do it, the more people are talking about it better it will be.
IL: Exactly, I understand it entirely, because it's much easier to fail than it is to risk actually trying and failing.
BH: This has been a lot of fun thank you so much!
IL: No worries, speak to you later, bye!
CA: Bye, Iszi, cheers!
BH: Bye! I thought that was awesome! I thought I was terrible, but she was amazing, and you were pretty good.
CA: Thanks. ‘Terrible, amazing and pretty good.’ I’ll take that!
BH: So, that about wraps it up for season two, episode five. I hope you've enjoyed this episode. Episode six promises to be just as good so I will see you next time. Until then, have a good week! Bye!