How (and Why) We Launched A Podcast In Five Days To Support COVID-19

“Let’s do a podcast to help people master working from home”. That was the suggestion I made to my dear friend and co-host Mel Rosenthal on Wednesday 18 March 2020. 

The show launched the following Monday.

I want to share how we pulled it together in five days and how we deliver five episodes each week. 

If you are thinking about starting a podcast, I also cover the tactics, tools and freelancers we used towards the end.

The reason for investing time in any project is essential. Remote Control, our podcast is no different. 

As leaders, we needed a creative outlet. One that didn’t only result in blowing off steam as we face into the same uncertainty as the rest of the world. But one that also helped us pay our experience forward and remind people that there is a lot they can still control each day in their own lives as they work from home. 

For me, there is one additional litmus test that I apply to every project. It’s this question: Will this project advance my mission?

I get up every morning with one mission, to positively impact the lives of 100M people through personalised medicine and entrepreneurship. 

My day job as CEO and co-founder at Drop Bio, writing my weekly blog post satisfies each aspect of that mission. 

Step 1: Write Before You Record

Mel and I are both biased to action. But we took time out to think about the value, happiness and relief we could bring to people’s lives amid Covid19 chaos. 

Here was our thinking going into the project:

  1. A wholesale shift to working from home was coming
  2. The ‘new normal’ was a while away and would likely arrive in waves so content created would need to map to those waves
  3. Uncertainty would probably shorten people’s attention span so episodes couldn’t be lengthy
  4. The combination of uncertainty and isolation might result in people wanting practical work from home tips to help live happier lives
  5. Developing a new habit is a daily pursuit but given the context, a week-daily podcast (with breaks for the weekend) might be the delivery ‘sweet spot’
  6. Many people haven’t worked from home for prolonged periods so our experience working from home and leading remote teams could be helpful
  7. We have complementary skills, Mel as a seasoned executive coach and mentor and me as a serial entrepreneur and CEO of a young company…with a little podcast experience 
  8. We have busy day jobs, so our workflow to record, edit and ship episodes needed to be efficient

In the 24 hours that followed, we determined that our mission was to help people master working from home and that we would execute via a week-daily, five-minute podcast.

The next immediate next step was a shared google doc where we dumped one-line ideas for each episode. These were the ‘tips’ we wanted to share. It wasn’t hard to arrive at the first 20. 

In the same zoom call, we started documenting what we thought was the architecture of a tip. This was the framework for how we could tell the story of the advice instead of just blurting it out and hoping people would implement it. The architecture was simple:

  • Deliver the ten-word summary of the tip in the introduction (me)
  • Provide context or the reason for the tip (Mel)
  • Suggest how the tip has or could be implemented (me)
  • Build on suggestions (Mel)
  • Call to action

We took this architecture and copied into a new Google Doc for each episode. This formed the basis for the show notes we add to each episode which is followed by this boilerplate text:

Send your work from home tips to [email protected].

You can also learn more about Mel here and Phil here.

 This show is dedicated to helping you master working from home. If you’d like to pay it forward, share this episode with someone who needs to hear it or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts (they make a bigger difference than you think!)

Step 2: Getting Help With Sound

Audio quality is everything in a podcast. And because there’s only so much you can do to improve poor quality audio recordings, we invested in getting the inputs right.

As this was Mel’s first foray into podcasting, she picked up a Rode NT-USB microphone. I use the Rode Podmic (and I love it).

We use Zoom to record the audio (and utilise the ‘Record a separate audio file for each participant’ setting). 

GarageBand is the editing software.

As I’ve done many times before, I turned to Fiverr to accelerate the workflow. By the way, this link will give you 20% off your first order up to 100 USD. 

I asked Monica to do the voiceovers for the intro and outro which she nailed. 

I asked Vitaliy (he’s in Poland) mix and master Monica’s work with a background track I picked up on PremiumBeat.

We also reached out to Carl Freeman (via Airtasker) who helped us fine-tune our audio settings.

Step 3: Walk The Talk

This is a side hustle for Mel and me, it’s our way of helping but it’s not our job. So to make the most of our time we batch record. That can be a week or five episodes at a time or if we’re under the pump, a few episodes at a time. Recording usually happens early in the day at 6am. Before Mel hits the gym and for me, after I’ve worked out and before my daughters wake. 

I do minor editing, which takes about 5 minutes per episode. I then schedule each episode to be published.

Step 4: Spreading The Word

We purchased on GoDaddy and an email address ([email protected]) via Gmail. These minor properties help promotion and audience engagement. 

Mel takes care of promotion on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook. 

We also work with Rob Loewenthal, Alana Mahoney and the brilliant team at Whooshkaa to host the show. They helped expedite the distribution of the show to all the major podcast platforms and their suite of promotion tools, analytics and transcription are impressive. 

When appropriate, we also mention the show to friends and colleagues. This passive promotion has resulted in the show appearing in company intranets as a work from home productivity resource as well as on recommended listening lists in emails of membership organisations.  

As of writing, episode 18, Remote Guilt (It’s A Thing) is our most listened-to episode. 

What have we learned?

It’s fun and therapeutic.

And because we come to each episode with a desire to serve people, the intrinsic satisfaction keeps us coming back for more. 

More practically, we’ve found that because we’re long-time friends with great chemistry, the episodes where we riff off of one another are our best and require next to no editing. 

But the critical lesson is speed to execution. There are two things tied up in this lesson. First, the tools and skillsets to bring a podcast (or blog or vlog) project to life are immediately available. Second, done is better than perfect. Mel and I get better with each episode so, beyond the planning, you need to keep showing up. 

One last thing…

I hope the approach and tactics we’ve used to bring the Remote Control podcast to life will help you start your project. And with that, I have an ask.

Please share the show with your organisation and each weekday we will deliver a single five-minute tip to help people master working from home. 

You don’t need to ask for permission. Just do it. But perhaps let us know so we can give you a big thank you.

Finally, I hope you and your family are safe and holding up as well as can be expected.

Stay strong.