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Listen Up: How to Start a Podcast

Nov 12, 2023

This article was written by Jessica Levco, a freelance healthcare writer who is covering the 27th Annual Healthcare Internet Conference (HCIC) for Greystone.Net. photo of a woman speaking into a microphone wearing headphones

Rachel Baker, director of communications at Stanford Surgery, began her career as a photojournalist — and now, she’s a podcaster. She’s learned a lot (and listened to a lot) along the way.

At the 27th Annual Healthcare Internet Conference (HCIC), she quipped, “I wish this was the presentation someone would’ve given to me before I started my podcast at Stanford Surgery.”

Her presentation was full of practical tips on how to create and promote a podcast. From choosing a specific theme to structuring each episode, she gave attendees advice on how to set up their recording space, welcome guests and make adjustments to the podcast’s format, based on analytics.

According to Edison Research, more than one-third of the U.S. population regularly consumed podcasts in 2022. Baker knew her target audience was spending a lot of time commuting in Bay Area traffic. The average drive time in the U.S. is 28 minutes, so it’s not a surprise that 31% of podcasts are between 20 and 40 minutes long. Baker advises keeping podcasts around 20 minutes.

Figuring out the topic for the podcast was her next step. Her advice?

“Think about something you could do 100 episodes about,” Baker says. “Do pasta — not macaroni and cheese.”

Author's Note: We’re not sure if your hospital will let you do a food-focused podcast (but, actually — why not? Nutrition, anyone?), so maybe you’ll be inspired by what Baker focused her podcast on.

Dubbed ScrubCast, Baker’s podcast explores the latest research from the team at Stanford University's Department of Surgery. Each episode focuses on a recently published paper by one of their faculty members or trainees. The podcast airs monthly. She always has a few recorded podcasts ready-to-go, in case she gets sick or a guest cancels.

Welcoming guests has been an important part of her success. She always sends a calendar invite to her guests and sends a reminder email the day before recording. In addition, she also sends them her list of interview questions. She makes guests feel comfortable by telling them if they stumble over a word, she can edit it; and they can review it before it gets published.

Here are five other tips that Baker shared:

  • YouTube is a great place to promote your podcast. Headliner is a tool that can turn all your audio into video. Since YouTube is the second largest search engine, putting your podcast on the platform is an easy way to gain more followers.
  • Be specific. Baker’s podcast about hyperparathyroidism performed well analytically. At first, this seemed surprising, but then Baker realized, “People want to learn more about their specific condition, especially if it’s uncommon.”
  • Market your podcast broadly. Her audience was originally intended for Stanford Surgery staff, but she’s noticed that patients (and non-patients) are tuning in, too. That’s why she promotes her podcast episodes broadly. She recommends posting new episodes on Slack, intranet and employee newsletters. She also goes on Reddit and Facebook groups to connect with the moderator to see if they’re interested in posting an episode, if it’s relevant to the community.
  • Remind yourself. In her studio, Baker posts notes to herself: “Smile,” “Slow down” and another one on how to phonetically pronounce the guest’s name.
  • Don’t expect instant success. “During the first few episodes, I had ten stalwart listeners — and one was my mom,” Baker says. “But I kept doing it. At the six-month mark, my audience really started to grow. Now, we get hundreds of listens per episode.” But more than numbers, she knows she’s reaching her audience. “I had a newly recruited intern stop me in the hall a few weeks ago to mention how much they enjoy the show,” Baker says. “I could have burst with happiness because now I know for sure that I'm reaching my target audience.” 
  • Digital Marketing
  • podcasting
  • HCIC23