Guiding & Mentoring Junior Podcasters With Honesty & Expertise
If we’re going to make podcasting better, we need to take our message to the masses. Because you’re a working podcaster, you’re the perfect person to do so! Just watch out for these pitfalls when you do.
Almost 60 years ago, John F. Kennedy told us to ask not what our country can do for us, but for us to ask what we could do for our country. I’m no Jack Kennedy (heck, I’m not even George Kennedy), but I’m going to to take inspiration from him (Jack, not George) and say this:
“Ask not only what you can do to make your podcast better, but ask what you can do to make all of podcasting better.”
That’s what we’re going to tackle this week on Podcast Pontifications: ways in which you can use what you’ve learned to make all of podcasting better. Today, I want to focus on your relationship with people who have been podcasting for less time than you.
Podcasters are people with a passion, and just like anything we grow passionate about, many of us want to proselytize. I see that as a Good Thing about podcasting and wish to encourage you to take the message to other people who you also think would make great podcasters. There’s plenty of room! So I think you should absolutely — assuming you want to — take up the purpose of guide, mentor, or whatever you wanna call it, and go encourage other people to jump into the podcasting space.
I’m personally mentoring three different noobie podcasters right now. Yes, that sort of dips into my profession, but not every relationship I have with every other podcaster requires a financial transaction before I get involved. These three are people that I’ve met in my local community who, for whatever reason, have taken a liking to me, and I’ve taken a liking to them and the promise of what their shows can be.
I think, as a working podcaster who also wants to help make podcasting better for the rest of the world, you should consider doing something similar. That’s one thing you can do to make podcasting better for everyone.
But there are two things I want you to watch out for as you go down this path, because it’s easy to overreach and actually do harm to podcasting if you’re not deliberate and aware in your approach.
The act of making a podcast doesn’t make you a podcasting expert.
I’m sure you’ve met at least one person in your life who’s been tinkering with something for a few months, has read a book on a subject or taken a workshop… and suddenly they want to start charging people to pass on the knowledge they have acquired. Ah, capitalism. But very quickly, they run into the limitations of their newfound knowledge. Because one book does not equate to 10,000 hours, as discussed last week.
There’s another pitfall on the other side of that. Just because someone has been doing something — podcasting, in this case — for 15 years, it doesn’t make them an expert at all aspects of that thing.
If you’ve been rocking your podcast as a monologue show for 15 years, releasing episodes every week almost without fail, you very well may be an expert at making a monologue podcast. But if someone asks your advice for starting a full-cast fiction podcast, your help is greatly limited, if your opinions and “expertise” is relevant at all.
There’s so much more to podcasting than the one style you’ve been refining for 10 or 15 years. So unless you’ve launched dozens of shows across multiple formats, it’s very hard for you to honestly call yourself an expert in all things podcasting.
So don’t offer your expertise on an aspect of podcasting where you are not an expert. To speak in the modern parlance; stay in your lane, bro. Yes, you are free to offer your opinions. And that opinion might even be a considered opinion. But don’t present it as expert advice. Everybody podcasts for a different reason. Everyone has different goals and objectives. Everyone has a different vision of what they want.
You may not be able to answer all questions. It’s okay to say “I don’t know”. “I don’t know” is a fantastic answer, no matter what Mr. Hand says.
Honest feedback always trumps insincere praise.
When you offer to help people — or when people ask your advice or opinion — to make their podcast better, you have an obligation to be honest. If their podcasting baby is ugly, you have an obligation to be painfully and sometimes brutally honest with the person who sought out your opinion. That’s hard and often terribly uncomfortable. For both parties.
But remember: The person has come to you for advice on their podcast, and you have an interest in making podcasting — all of podcasting — better. Therefore, you must give them advice on making their podcast better.
Unless, of course, that isn’t your goal. If your goal is to encourage anybody anywhere to make a podcast on anything and everything without any consideration of purpose or quality… well then you must be new to this program. It’s not hard to make a podcast. It’s very hard to make a better podcast. And as my friend and podcast critic Wil Willams said, if you think podcasting is easy, your podcast is probably just bad. That’s why you listen to this show: to make podcasting better.
With the idea of making podcasting better, you have to be honest with the more junior podcasters you choose to guide and mentor. If their show sounds like garbage, you have to tell them their show sounds like garbage. That’s hard to do. Hopefully, you’re nicer than me about breaking that news. But you still have to give honest feedback.
If your mentee is asking you for marketing advice, but they’re still setting a single microphone in the middle of the table while four people talk over one another… do not give them marketing advice until you’ve first told them to improve their audio quality!
Yes, you should also praise and encourage, but only when praise and encouragement is warranted. You’re not talking to a 7-year-old who has glued macaroni around a picture frame and gives it to you as a gift. A 7-year-old who does so deserves your praise and encouragement for that macaroni-encrusted picture frame.
But if the person seeking your mentorship and guidance is not seven and they’ve come to you because they want to make a better show, you have to be honest.
We need more good guides and mentors in podcasting to make podcasting better. Just remember to stick to the things that you actually are an expert on and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”. And when someone asks your opinion on how they can make their podcast better, it is incumbent upon you to be honest to that person.
Tomorrow, more on how you can help make podcasting better by becoming an excellent advocate and steward of podcasting to would-be listeners. This week is all about what you can do in this movement of making podcasting better by advancing podcasting.
If you need some help doing this for your business, perhaps a podcasting pro in your back pocket, get in touch with me. email@example.com or go to PodcastLaunch.pro to see a list of the services I offer my clients.
Since you got this far, how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!
This article started life as a podcast episode. The 207th episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.