How to Write Show Notes & 5 Reasons Why You Need Them
06.11.18 | Podcasting Basics | By: Jon Street
Podcasts are such a great concept. I mean, think about it. You can catch up on the latest news, listen to your favorite celebrities rant or get lost in the latest episode of your current guilty (audio) pleasure, any time of day. We’ve discussed it before & can keep talking about it ’til we’re blue in the face, but podcasts are a unique media platform that are continuing to increase in popularity. And they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. In all honesty, with so many to choose from, it’s hard to figure out where to even start. It can be a little overwhelming, actually. And while this is a really great problem to have as the consumer, this can become a real challenge for the podcaster. You have a great idea. You have great content. You have a groundbreaking interview with that special guest…but how are people supposed to pick you out from the crowd? Well there are a few ways, some of which we’ve already discussed. Things like how you market your podcast or how you go after gaining listeners when you release it, not to mention the design of your artwork to make it pop. These are all great ways to make yourself unique from the others. But outside of these, podcasters are always looking for ways to engage their listeners & differentiate themselves. A great way of doing this is offering show notes & transcriptions for your episodes to engage your listeners on an entirely new level. Now, I can see your eyes rolling. I can hear the quiver in your voice at the mention of having to sit down & write. But I promise that if you stick with me, this one little nugget of advice could have tremendous impact on how your podcast is seen by your listeners.
What they are
Maybe you’ve never heard of show notes, you have heard of them but can’t quite place your finger on what they are, or maybe you’ve fumbled through them on another podcast. Heck, maybe you’re even one of the podcasters who has thought about doing it but haven’t really been convinced of their value. Wherever you find yourself, I want to cover the basics & show you why they’re a great idea for you & why you should start doing them, like, yesterday. Simply put, show notes are a preview or an overview of your podcast episode for your listener. Like the commercial for a business or a trailer for a show or movie, they help the listener understand the point, the purpose & what to expect. It’s a quick summary of the content of your episode where you touch on the theme, offer insight about your guest & you give a quick access point to the content covered that you want your listener to have exposure to.
Description vs Show Notes
Now you might be thinking, “isn’t that what a description is”? Well, yes. But, also, no. A description is an overview of the episode, but show notes are much more. While you are required by most hosting platforms to provide a description to post your episode, show notes are something you have to decide to do. They are a little more involved than a simplified description, but they are strategic & they offer tremendous value to both you & your listener. They are a way of offering more than just a word-bite about the content, but rather they become a platform for engaging your followers. My goal is to convince you of that in the next few minutes.
How to do them
So now that we have the basics out of the way, the question becomes how do you write them? I know that for many of you, the thought of sitting down to write something is like a punch in the gut. You’re not a writer. You’re not a “word” person. I get it. I know that for many people, sitting down to force words together is like putting together oil & water. It just isn’t a good mix. Well, even if you don’t gravitate towards the art of word-smithing, a few simple principles will get you on the way to having great content for your listener, which will result in more dedicated listeners & hopefully, at higher numbers.
Keep them Simple: This is by far the most important to nail. All you are doing is offering your listener a preview of the episode. You don’t need to write a novella. Oppositely, you also don’t want to leave them high & dry without any idea of what they should expect. A few quick sentences is not enough. So, what’s the sweet spot? A great guideline is about 200-400 words of content for them to digest & know what they are listening to. Anything less is simply a description. Anything more will bore your listeners & likely turn them away.
Keep them Relevant: It should go without saying that the content of your show notes should be relevant to the episode. Now obviously you are not going to include information about a different episode or something altogether unrelated. Duh. But the point is that it needs to be a clear synopsis of the main points & content of your episode. If you go off on a tangent in the dialogue of your episode that’s not relevant to the main point, don’t spend much time harping on it in your show notes. Likewise, make sure you do include the highlights & main points of the conversation to help your listeners know what they have to look forward to & paint the picture in a clear way for them.
Keep them Engaging: While this also builds on the issue of relevance, there is certainly more to this. Think of ways to engage your listeners & get them to learn or do something they wouldn’t otherwise. A great way of doing this is using your show notes to promote your guest, their company/organization/cause, details for any ideas or topics you discuss, as well as offering biographical information. What’s this look like? Well, think outside the (text) box. Put external links in your show notes for your guest’s bio or website. Promote their social media handles & hashtags. Put links to any topics you discuss for people to read up about when they’re able. The more outside links you put, the more engaging your show notes will be!
Enough of the dry theory. Let’s get practical! What should they look like? Well because they are an expression of your brand you can certainly adapt them to your own liking, but below is an example of some show notes from a member of the Resonate family, Arleigh with the Shift Up podcast:
Why they matter
Now that we’ve tackled the basics about what they are, we need to dig into the motive for you to do them. Why go through the headache of putting time & effort into compiling some words for your listener? Well there is a real benefit for them, sure. But there’s also tremendous benefit for you. Show notes are a way that you can boost the overall impact of your podcast both in the eyes of the current listener but also to prospective listeners who haven’t found you yet. Consider the following:
Engaging Your Listener: As mentioned before, they are another level of engagement for your listener. They force your listener to do more than just listen to your voice. They force them to become a part of the interaction by clicking links, learning more & leaving comments with their thoughts. It’s your opportunity to give a call to action for them to support you, your guest & engage on the things you’re discussing. It’s a simple yet startling reality that the more you engage your listener, the more they will come back to you. Show notes are your chance to gain followers for the long-haul.
They’re a Differentiator: It’s no doubt that more & more podcasters are offering them, but they are offering them because they see the value. The are a differentiator. Yes, they differentiate you from those not offering them, but it’s more than that. They differentiate you from the rest who are offering them as well. Even if other podcasts in your same genre offer them, yours will be unique because your conversations will be different. They are a tailored encapsulation of you & your brand for your listeners to consume. Your guests are your own & your topics are your own. Use your show notes as a way to make yourself different from the rest of podcastdom & have people be drawn to what makes you unique from the rest.
Boost your Credibility: Think about it. When you read something from a company or a person that references a link from or for another person, place or thing, it adds instant credibility. It shows thoughtfulness & shows you are a bona fide professional (at least in some way) who is not just thinking about yourself, but that you see yourself as a part of a bigger picture, a broader scope. By offering show notes you’re telling your listener that sure, you care about your podcast, but you also care about them & you’re looking for ways to be of value to them. When you communicate that to your listeners, they will thank you by coming back again & again while telling others about you.
Cross-promotion Opportunity: This is a no-brainer. If you are cross-promoting your guests, their companies or causes, it will instantly give you leverage to invite other guests on to your podcast with more favorability. This is particularly true when you gain a large following. Promoting them in your show notes (as well as your other marketing channels) is a simple gesture that shows them you’re in it for them just as much as for you. Now sure, you want to have them on your podcast because it helps you. Sure, you want to be seen a legit podcast by your listener by offering them more content. But think of what a great asset it will be to your guest to have them know you are promoting them & helping your listeners know them more. The value of this cannot be undersold. Because so much of podcasting is done grass-roots style, this can be a real game-changer.
SEO Goldmine: While all the other points we’ve mentioned are fine & dandy, this is where the greatest value is for you. In the magical world of technology, everything you put out into the tech world mystically finds its way onto Google & other such search-enginery. You don’t have to “register” your podcast with Google to have it be found in a search result. The real selling point for you is that by targeting SEO keywords in your show notes, you are helping yourself be found on the interwebs. The more relevant the information is you put in your show notes, the more it will result in higher numbers of people having the opportunity to stumble across your podcast when looking up those target words in a search engine. Now you will no doubt gain listeners through other means, but there is tremendous value in boosting your SEO search game through a simple thing like show notes.
There is without a doubt much more that can be said, which we will handle in another future entry. But this is a good place to start that I believe will help you see the vision & value of show notes for your podcast. Show notes are an incredibly simple way to step up your podcasting game & show your listeners you are thinking about ways to engage them with relevant content. Even better, they are something you can easily adapt to doing yourself with minimal effort. But we realize not everyone is able to take the time, or perhaps, muster up the desire, to handle these alone. Remember that the Resonate team can help. Let our creative team help you compile the show notes for your podcast as a stand-alone service or as an add-on to our other post-production services. We are helping podcasters just like you unlock more potential & gain more listeners through show note assembly for their podcast episodes. It’s an easy way to get the professional exposure for your brand & your podcast that you’re looking for.
Looking for other ways to make your podcast stand out from the crowd? Consider reaching out to the Resonate team to create a custom audiobite of your episode for your social media platforms as a way to engage your followers in a unique, professional way that reinforces your brand & shows them you’re ahead of the game.
By: Jon Street
As the Production Coordinator at Resonate Recordings, Jon leads the production team & ensures that all our podcasters have everything needed to release consistent high-quality episodes. Jon & his family are from West Palm Beach, Florida & now live in Simpsonville, KY.