Our guest blogger tells you how to map out a podcast script.
There’s a wonderful freedom to the podcast format: simply press record and start talking, and then take it in whichever direction grabs your attention. When you’re burned out on the restrictions of other forms of media, it can really hook you in.
But, there’s a catch: the freewheeling, ad-hoc, off-the-cuff podcasts don’t tend to be great. They’re actually more likely to be bad.
Look at it this way. Even among professional comedians, improvisational skills are rare, and there are two reasons for this: not everyone is cut out for coming up with things on the fly, and — more significantly — scripted material is generally better. You can workshop it, refine it, and practice it until you’re happy with the overall level of quality.
The same is true of podcasts. The podcast you map out is almost always going to be better than the podcast you don’t.
But how do you map out a podcast script for maximum impact?
How To Map Out A Podcast Script
Here are some core tips to help you on your podcasting journey:
Bracket with promotional details
If you don’t have a powerful brand, then creating one isolated podcast won’t accomplish much. If you do have a powerful brand, then failing to take advantage with a recurring podcast would be a waste.
Podcasting is something you steadily build up using various methods, until eventually you establish enough of an audience that your archive becomes a powerful tool.
Because of this, it’s essential that you include promotional details at two points in every podcast: at the beginning, and at the end.
People often use podcast streaming services that shuffle through podcasts in selected genres and industries. That means that any given person listening to one of your podcasts might not know which podcast they’re listening to.
What happens if they enjoy it and would listen to more, but can’t look for more until well after the episode is done, by which point they don’t know how to find your show?
If you clearly state the name and nature of your show (along with your social media details and website address) when the episode starts and again when it ends, you’ll have a much better chance of picking up returning listeners.
Preview, content, wrap-up
Each podcast is built around a specific purpose, and you need to make it clear for anyone who might have got episodes mixed up (or failed to understand the episode based on the brief description). This also involves bracketing, only this time it’s about setting things up, delivering them, and then revisiting them.
For instance, let’s suppose you wanted to create a podcast about writing the perfect comedy sidekick.
After your opening promo, you should talk for a short period about the subject of the episode:
- What you’re planning to get across,
- How you intend to do it, and
- Anything else you think the listener needs to know (the length of the episode, perhaps).
You can then proceed to the core of the episode, covering the topic however you prefer.
Once you’re done, it’s time for the post-podcast cool down. For anyone who zoned out at times or missed a part, cover the highlights of what you’ve been through, identifying key actionable takeaways and explaining how they gel with your other episodes.
Leave some room for ad-libbing
Remember that freedom I mentioned at the beginning?
While I’ve set about explaining why it isn’t quite as useful as you may have thought, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t play a vital role. The element of spontaneity is extremely important in speech: if you recite entire lines, you’re likely to sound stilted and awkward, and listeners will notice.
Consequently, all of the scripting that we’ve looked at so far should be about broad strokes. Some parts you should write out in full, such as the promotional material (it needs to be compact, detailed, and clear, and those things don’t gel with ad-libbing). Almost everything else should allow some freedom to get creative while recording.
You might feel that this undermines the process of scripting your podcast, since you then end up with a disparity between the two, but that’s not a problem. There are tools like Otter — an AI transcription service I heard about through this podcasting interview on Marketing Speak — that you can use to generate downloadable transcripts of the finished recording. These are particularly useful for helping you turn your podcasts into articles, blog posts, or videos.
Split into chunks for comfort (or ads)
We’re not great at paying attention for large amounts of time. Even a typical 30-minute podcast length can be too much for someone to comfortably consume without missing parts (particularly if they’re listening while commuting).
To accommodate this, and to make the content easier to write in a cohesive way, you should split the core into chunks. A podcast is like a story — it needs rhythm.
This can be extremely simple. If we return to the comedy sidekick conceit, you could use a structure somewhat like this:
- What is a comedy sidekick?
- Famous comedy sidekicks
- Quotes from comedy experts
- What does a sidekick contribute?
- Why you should add one to your story
- How that will affect your main character
- Ideas for creating a comedy sidekick
- Getting the dialogue right
- Testing your material
After every part, you should allow a beat to let things sink in, and after every main section, you should allow a larger break. You could fill that break with general talk about your podcast, relevant anecdotes, or even advertising segments (they can be static, or inserted dynamically). You do need to pay for your hosting and production costs, so it’s entirely fair to have sponsors.
So, there you have it: writing a script for a podcast isn’t particularly complicated. It’s mainly about covering the bases (your branding and episode structure), then segmenting your content to keep people interested, and allow space for contemplation (and advertising if you want to take that route).
Give it a try!
by Hollie Jones. Hollie Jones is an expert lifestyle blogger who lives for writing. Hollie’s drive, passion and background come from the arts and media sectors. She’s worked with some of the biggest and most responsible brands in the world, making her ideally positioned to offer lifestyle support and advice. You can read her latest blog posts on Hollie and the Ivy, where she shares tips and advice about her passions while having a lot of fun along the way.