Have a clear point of view for your show. There are a lot of podcasts that are simply imitating each other — they have the same format as multiple other shows in their category, asking the same questions, essentially sounding the same. Think about how your show can stand out and be different. A great example is Claire Pelleatreau’s show Get Paid. She didn’t want just another interview show — she wanted to dig into exactly HOW each business owner generated revenue, what their expenses look like, the nitty gritty that most shows never dive into.
As part of my series of interviews about “5 things you need to know to create a very successful podcast”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Business Strategist, CEO and podcast host Racheal Cook.
Racheal Cook is an award winning business strategist who believes entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be so complicated. Over the last decade, she’s helped thousands of women entrepreneurs design predictably profitable businesses without the hustle and burnout.
She is the author of Amazon best-selling books Fired Up & Focused and Your Business Sweet Spot, and hosts a weekly podcast Promote Yourself to CEO. A sought after speaker on entrepreneurship, marketing, and productivity, Racheal’s work has been featured on US Chamber of Commerce, Forbes Coaching Council, Female Entrepreneur Association, and more.
Her next book, Promote Yourself to CEO, launches in early 2020.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit of your “personal backstory? What is your background and what eventually brought you to this particular career path?
In2008, I started experiencing massive anxiety and panic attacks while working in the traditional consulting world. Years of the 75–80 hour work weeks coupled with a toxic work environment
brought me to the point where I realized my health was actually at risk. I took a 3 month medical leave of absence (aka disability) from my company to figure out what was going on healthwise.
Once I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, generalized anxiety, and panic disorder, I made it my mission to figure out how I could live a life that actually supported me rather than depleted me. At the time, I started practicing yoga daily in addition to attending therapy and working with a holistic healthcare provider.
My yoga teacher mentioned to me one day “I know you are nearly at the end of your 3 month leave and you don’t want to go back. I know my business is smaller than what you’re used to working with, but I could use some help.”
It was a massive AHA moment for me! It had never occured to me that small owner-operated, micro businesses needed the type of strategy and consulting I offered. I turned in my resignation the next week and began the journey of consulting these small businesses.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
I’ve had a podcast since about 2015 but it wasn’t until I attended She Podcasts Live in 2019 that I realized how powerful the show truly is! I had so many women who I’d never connected with before come up to me and share how much they love my show. It was amazing because we could skip over the typical small talk and dive right into meaningful conversations.
In the last couple of years as podcasting has become more and more popular, I’ve also noticed a massive uptick in sales coming from podcast listeners who have never engaged with me on social media or via email. In fact, last June, when I announced my CEO Accelerator Mastermind for women entrepreneurs, we filled 8 spots within 10 days. It was the fastest I’d ever sold out a high-end, five-figure program.
Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaways you learned from that?
The biggest mistake I’ve ever made with the podcast is worrying about doing what everyone else is doing. My show is primarily a solo-show with occasional client interviews, but I get pitched constantly for people to be on my show. There have been a few times when I said yes to a ‘big name’ interview, thinking that it might bring traffic or credibility, but 9 times out of 10 the show just isn’t as good because they are more focused on promoting themselves then providing real value for my audience. So these days, I decline the majority of pitches and only publish episodes with guests that are packed with value.
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
I’ve been podcasting since 2015 and we’ve published over 250 episodes since then.
What are the main takeaways, lessons or messages that you want your listeners to walk away with after listening to your show?
My goal with Promote Yourself to CEO is to help women entrepreneurs learn the practical and profitable strategies to start and scale their businesses. There are TONS of shows that focus on the latest tips, tricks, and tactics — my goal is to help small business owners understand the big picture strategy so that they can make better decisions around what tactics will help them achieve their goals. I don’t want people to walk away feeling overwhelmed with all the things they should do — I want them to have clarity on the right next step for them to grow their business.
In your opinion what makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or your content?
I don’t think I’m particularly special as a host — in fact I can’t listen to my own podcast episodes!
But my podcast episodes are usually released in a clear series of content, like chapters of a book. When I tackle a topic, we will create a series of 4–6 episodes so that we can go deep into the concept and provide a strong foundation for understanding how this works in the listeners business. We layer in lots of examples and client stories to illustrate these business concepts. We’re in the middle of releasing a series right now — The Unsexy Secrets to Sustainable Success! https://www.rachealcook.com/get-unstuck/
Doing something on a consistent basis is not easy. Podcasting every work-day, or even every week can be monotonous. What would you recommend to others about how to maintain discipline and consistency? What would you recommend to others about how to avoid burnout?
- Batch Record Content. I usually sit down to outline and record an entire series of content at once, 4–6 episodes at a time. This helps me make sure that the series is cohesive and provides depth for the listener. It also helps me to get 4–6 weeks of content recorded in about 2–3 days, then I can focus on other tasks in my business.
- Get Help. There is no way I could do a weekly solo show at this level without help. Once I record the show, my podcast producer (who also happens to by my husband Jameson) edits the show and works with our marketing team to get the show notes, promotional graphics, newsletters all ready for the week the show goes live.
- Repurpose Episodes. It’s so easy to feel pressured to constantly produce NEW content — but when you are sharing evergreen content, you can promote and share it again with little or no edits! When I saw How I Built This by NPR republishing older episodes, it instantly got me thinking about what content I should reshare to my audience.
- Talk To Listeners. I’m always engaged and talking with my community because my podcast is simply an extension of my consultancy. I find myself writing down ideas during client meetings, writing down notes in my notes app at events, I’m always coming up with ideas based on what they are sharing with me.
What resources do you get your inspiration for materials from?
My community gives me all the ideas for what I want to talk about on the show. I’m always listening to my community, which includes not only connecting with them on social media but jumping on live calls to talk with them about what they are struggling with. My community and clients give me the best ideas.
Ok fantastic. Let’s now shift to the main questions of our discussion. Is there someone in the podcasting world who you think is a great model for how to run a really fantastic podcast?
I listen to a lot of story-driven or investigative shows like The Dream, The DropOut, or WeCrashed. All of these shows are great at digging deep into the material with each episode building on the last.
What are the ingredients that make that podcast so successful? If you could break that down into a blueprint, what would that blueprint look like?
These shows are a combination of great storytelling and investigative reporting. There is a layer of depth and nuance to these podcasts — they aren’t just reporting the surface level of what hit our newsfeed, but they are actually digging deeper into WHY these things happened. These podcasters are doing in-depth research, interviewing people on the inside, and making connections that we — the public — may not have made on our own.
Now, I’m not running an investigative podcast, but my podcast also produces shows that are part of a bigger series. I pull in research, personal observations, and storytelling to help my audience understand higher level strategic topics.
Soundbites might work well for an entertainment podcast — or in the business space, a podcast focused on tips and tricks — but a deeper conversation is needed for higher level strategic topics.
You are a very successful podcaster yourself. Can you share with our readers the five things you need to know to create an extremely successful podcast? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)
- Have a clear point of view for your show. There are a lot of podcasts that are simply imitating each other — they have the same format as multiple other shows in their category, asking the same questions, essentially sounding the same. Think about how your show can stand out and be different. A great example is Claire Pelleatreau’s show Get Paid. She didn’t want just another interview show — she wanted to dig into exactly HOW each business owner generated revenue, what their expenses look like, the nitty gritty that most shows never dive into.
- Know your audience. If you don’t have clarity about WHO you are creating this show for, the content will be too broad and likely fall flat. We do this by creating a listener profile — an actual description of who our ideal listener is. Even Oprah has a dream audience member! In the podcast Making Oprah, she shares how her dream viewer Susie helped her decide what topics to share on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Having a clear picture of who you are talking to will help you create better and more relevant content.
- Planning is KEY! Anyone can get on a microphone and record themselves talking — but the true pros take the time to plan and prepare for each episode. They do research, create outlines, and have clear talking points prior to recording. You may even find that it helps to script out the most important parts of the show (I always script my ‘hook’ at the beginning) if not the entire show.
- Practice Practice Practice. Unless you are working for NPR or another large podcasting company, the first few shows just aren’t going to be your very best. Practice makes perfect! The more content you create, the more you sharpen your skills.
- Promote Your Podcast. Just creating a podcast doesn’t mean that anyone will find it. You must make a plan to actively promote your podcast and every single episode you release! For each episode we publish, we send out emails to our entire community, write a SEO optimized blog post, share 3–5X on social media, create audiograms, create videos, etc. We make it a goal to share each episode at least 10 different ways.
Can you share some insight from your experience about the best ways to: 1) book great guests; 2) increase listeners; 3) produce it in a professional way; 4) encourage engagement; and 5) the best way to monetize it? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)
- Although I don’t have an interview style show, I do bring guests on occasionally. I especially love bringing on my own clients to share case studies of what is currently working in their businesses. I find that guests need a lot of prep prior to recording. We make sure that they all complete a pre-interview questionnaire, send them a list of potential questions, and sometimes will even have a pre-interview call before we record the actual episode. I find that the more comfortable the guest is talking with me and responding to questions, the more natural the conversation will be. A great example is the episode I recorded with my client MegAnne Ford about how she navigated a cyber bully who was coming after her and her business as a parenting coach. Prior to the call, MegAnne and I connected to talk through all the key points we wanted to cover and make sure that we were on the same page with our goal for the episode — which was really to encourage women entrepreneurs to continue to show up and be visible in the face of haters or critics. It was an extreme example of an online troll but many of our listeners responded back that they were so glad we talked through how to prepare yourself for visibility and not let one negative person hold you back from doing amazing work in the world.
- What is working more than anything for me to increase listeners is to be a guest on other podcasts! The average podcast listener listens to multiple podcasts every single week — and we’ve seen that consistently getting interviewed on other shows in the business and entrepreneurship space has been the best way to continue to attract new listeners. I regularly hear from new listeners that they heard me on Tara McMullin’s What Works or Tara Newman’s The Bold Leadership Revolution. Being a guest on other podcasts has hand down been the best way to attract new listeners — and new clients.
- It helps that I’m married to my podcast producer! In all honesty, I knew when I decided to start a podcast that I needed to invest in the right equipment and have someone who knew how to do all the mixing and editing so it sounded great. Jameson also helps me with the production schedules, planning out the content calendars, pulling research, and making it as easy as possible for me to be prepared when I sit down to record.
- We are finding right now that the best engagement is coming from Instagram! Because everyone is listening to their podcast on their phone, we started asking people to take a screenshot of the show and tag me in their Instagram stories. Each week, we come up with multiple types of Instagram stories to promote the show including audiograms, me talking directly to video, ‘slides’ about the show. People engage a ton with Instagram stories that include polls, questions, and quizzes. I really love that you can share from Spotify directly to Instagram stories and link directly to the episode even if you don’t have the swipe up feature.
- I consider my podcast self-sponsored. Because I’m leveraging my podcast to sell my own products, programs, and services, the podcast is a huge part of my strategy to attract listeners and invite them to take the next step to work with me. I am always talking about the services that we offer and how people can take the next step towards working together. I’ve even experimented with creating my own ads to say ‘this episode is brought to you by The CEO Collective’ or ‘this episode is brought to you by The CEO Planner’.
For someone looking to start their own podcast, which equipment would you recommend that they start with?
I would highly recommend keeping it as simple as possible and just STARTING! Personally, I use a Blue Yeti or Blue Snowball microphone and record into Garageband.
Ok. We are almost done. 🙂 Because of your position and work, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am inspiring a movement right now! My mission is to end entrepreneurial poverty for women business owners. Despite the fact that women are starting businesses at a rapid pace and represent 42% of small businesses, most simply aren’t making enough revenue (women owned businesses generate only 4.2% of total business revenues according to the AMEX Open State of Women Owned Business Report and nearly 75% of women owned businesses generate less than $50K annual gross revenue). With the inequalities in the traditional workforce, entrepreneurship is an incredible opportunity for many women! My mission is to provide the practical, profitable strategies to create sustainable success.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing your time and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.