How to Come Up with Topics for a Podcast

Timmy Bauer
July 29, 2020
How to Come Up with Topics for a Podcast

One of the hardest parts of creating a business podcast is coming up with interesting topics consistently. You need to keep your audience engaged, provide content of value, and keep yourself interested and motivated.

There are a variety of popular methods podcast creators like to use to help them come up with topics for their content, but I think there’s one method that is more effective and engaging than any of the others.

Having a plan for how you will determine your podcast’s topics is important to ensure that you’re creating consistently good content that will appeal to your audience.

How do you come up with topics for a podcast?

The best way to come up with topics for a podcast is to use interview-based podcasting and help your guests to go as niche as possible.

Interview-based podcasting enables you to take full advantage of your guests’ expertise without much extra work from you.

Content strategy, but no content calendar? I don’t know about you but I think that sounds pretty sweet.

To help make this as clear for you as possible, I will break down exactly what you need to know about why interview-based podcasting is so great, and exactly how to do it, in this order:

  • Interview-Based Podcasting
  • Creating an Interview-Based Podcast Episode
  • Incorporating Solo Episodes 
  • Who to Interview

Interview-Based Podcasting

What is it?

Interview-based podcasting is the best way to have a constant stream of high-quality topics for a podcast. Interview-based podcasting is when you invite professionals and experts in the industry you want to serve to come on to your show, that’s it. They choose the topic. Sure, you help along the way, but it really is that easy.

You're crowdsourcing your content strategy!

Make it Hyper-Specific

As the host, your job is to make sure that the topic they choose is as granular as possible. This means making sure that the topic they pick is as narrow and specific as possible.

No one wants to listen to 45 podcast episodes about what marketing experts think about marketing.

You and your guests should avoid discussing the same general wisdom that any industry expert will say. First, after just one time it gets boring and second, expertise is in the details, not the generalizations.

Try These Questions

Ask these Point-of-View discovery questions and see what produces a passionate and different-from-the-norm answer. Make the episode about discussing that answer.

Here are the questions (that work like a charm):

  • Q1: What's a commonly held belief about [your field of expertise] that you passionately disagree with?
  • Q2: In the world of [your field of expertise] what should everyone stop doing?
  • Q3: In the world of [your field of expertise] what should everyone start doing?

You want to get to super-specific content like an episode on "demographics marketers should stop overlooking in their social content".

It needs to be relevant to your audience, interesting, and different from what is commonly talked about.

But hang on! Make sure your experts are not just selling their product through their topic. They should be providing knowledge and expertise.

If they interest a listener, the listener can find their product (especially if you mention it at the beginning and/or end) but don’t let the podcast be a commercial.

Interview-Based Podcasting in Action

A great way to get inspiration for how specific you should go with your guests is by looking at podcast titles for an interview-based podcast like B2B Growth.

The episode title “9 Things to Do in Your 1st 90 Days as a VP Marketing” is both clear and engaging — anyone who’s interested knows what they’re going to get, and anyone who isn’t won’t waste their time.

Notice how long interview-based podcast titles can be. Long titles can be super useful if they tell the audience exactly what they need to know about the podcast episode’s content.

Short and sweet is great, but when you’re being hyper-specific, it serves your audience even better by telling them exactly what they’re getting into so they know you value their time.

Creating an Interview-Based Podcast Episode

Don't Skip the Pre-Interview

There are two main reasons for a good pre-interview:

1. Relational equity.

As you talk, you might hear about your guest's kids, hobbies, struggles, goals, etc. Write it all down. Write down everything you learn about your guests.

It will help so much as you continue to nurture the relationship with your guest long after the episode is recorded.

I recommend loading all your notes on each guest into an app called Fabriq so that you get alerts to stay connected on the things that matter to that guest.

2. POV discovery or content planning.

As you're asking questions you'll strike cords within your guest. They'll start to get passionate. Whenever you hear the soapbox tone, make sure you're writing. Write down every point your guest passionately makes. 

After the pre-interview, write What/Why/How style questions that you know will reactivate those passionate answers.

This is your guide through the conversation — as the host, you have to keep things moving from strong point to strong point.

Tell Your Guests the Plan

Your guests are not the experts at making your podcast, you are. Guide your guests through what to expect to help them be ready to move through the podcast comfortably.  

Tell them exactly how you’re going to introduce them so they can fix their job title or name pronunciation if needed. This doesn’t need any explanation. Always confirm.

If you’re going to ask them broad questions, tell them what to expect and how long to take. If you’re going to ask how listeners can find them online, give them a chance to plan for that. Be sure the guest feels confident and won’t be caught off guard. 

Incorporating Solo Episodes 

Solo episodes are the moments where you can reconnect with your listeners and talk directly to them rather than a guest.

You also have an opportunity to talk about topics that you’re an expert on, explore something you’re passionate about, share updates about your show, and the list goes on.

The key is to make sure you’re providing value and you’re still within your niche. Your listeners aren’t there for you as a person (harsh, but true) they’re there for what you provide.

Where Your Solo Episode Should Go

Solo episodes are your moments where you can reconnect with your listeners and talk directly to them rather than a podcast guest.

You also have an opportunity to talk about topics that you’re an expert on, explore something you’re passionate about, share updates about your show, and the list goes on.

The key is to make sure you’re providing value and you’re still within your niche. Your listeners aren’t there for you as a person (harsh, I’m sorry, but true). They’re there for what you provide.

Tying Everything Together

Solo episodes are great for weaving together disjointed podcast topics if you feel like things have been straying a bit.

Solo episodes can also be fantastic if you’ve put out a lot of content and are getting requests or suggestions for things you’ve already done. You can talk about your “top hits” and direct people to earlier podcasts that are of interest to your audience.

Besides “top hits,” some of my favorite ideas are profiling industry leaders who you’re not able to interview, examining innovations, or providing personal anecdotes with a lesson.

Who To Interview?

A great place to start is by figuring out who you're trying to serve. Hint: it should be the person who buys your product.

Make sure your podcast is focused completely on the audience you want to serve, and not on yourself, your brand, or your company.

The person searching for helpful customer experience content will skip right past "Keep them Happy: brought to you by the experts at BlahBlah."

They'll subscribe to "The Customer Experience Show" whose podcast cover resonates with them and has nothing to do with you.

For example, if you're a company whose ideal buyer is CIOs, a CIO is your ideal guest for the show.

Why is your ideal buyer also your ideal show guest?:

  • You will form as many relationships with your ideal buyer as you have episode numbers.
  • You want a show whose ideal listener could see themself as a guest.
  • You want guests with the in-the-trenches understanding of a practitioner.
  • Your understanding of your buyer will grow with every episode.

Fill out your guest list with these people:

  1. People who can buy from you (aka prospects)
  2. People who can spend more with you (aka customers)
  3. People who can refer you (aka Partners)
  4. People with an audience similar to yours (aka influencers)

Be careful on #4 though. A lot of people focus too heavily on this or they target the wrong kind of influencers.

B2B Growth has interviewed Gary Vee and Simon Sinek. They're two of our lowest-downloaded episodes. Meanwhile, Chris Walker, an influencer in the B2B Marketing space, consistently brings subscribers every time we interview him.

In Case You Skipped Right to the End

Interview-based podcasting is the best of both worlds: less work for you and better content for your audience. It’s successful because it brings so many minds to the table and offers your audience such a good range of content. Try it, I think you’ll like it!

Just remember these five things:

Your guest is the expert and you guide them.

Use POV discovery questions to discover what valuable content your guest has to share

Be super specific each episode is a small part of the whole theme of your podcast.

Use solo episodes when you have valuable content to share.

Your ideal buyer is your ideal guest.

Ready to scale your podcast, get your dream guests booked, and captivate your target audience? Discover how Sweet Fish Media can help grow your B2B podcast and enhance your company's reach by creating an influential media brand.