Managing Your Practice

Starting a podcast


 

In my last column, I discussed blogging as a great way to capture the attention of anyone interested in your practice, especially prospective patients. If you are already blogging – or would like to consider a less crowded and competitive activity – podcasting might be the answer. At this writing (November 2022), more than 600 million blogs are online, compared with about 2 million podcasts, and relatively few of them are run by physicians. With podcasts, you have a better chance of standing out in a crowded online world.

Starting a podcast is not difficult, but there are several steps you need to go through before launching one.

Dr. Joseph S. Eastern, a dermatologist in Belleville, N.J.

Dr. Joseph S. Eastern

As with blogging, start by outlining a long-range plan. Your general topic will probably be your specialty, but you will need to narrow your focus to a few specific subjects, such as the problems you see most often, or a subspecialty that you concentrate on. You can always expand your topic later, as you get more popular. Choose a name for your podcast, and purchase a domain name that accurately describes it.

You will also need to choose a hosting service. Numerous inexpensive hosting platforms are available, and a simple Google search will find them for you. Many of them provide free learning materials, helpful creative tools, and customer support to get you through the confusing technical aspects. They can also help you choose a music introduction (to add a bit of polish), and help you piece together your audio segments. Buzzsprout, RSS.com, and Podbean get good reviews on many sites. (As always, I have no financial interest in any company or service mentioned herein.)

Hosting services can assist you in creating a template – a framework that you can reuse each time you record an episode – containing your intro and exit music, tracks for your conversations, etc. This will make your podcasts instantly recognizable each time your listeners tune in.

Many podcasting experts recommend recruiting a co-host. This can be an associate within your practice, a friend who practices elsewhere, or perhaps a resident in an academic setting. You will be able to spread the workload of creating, editing, and promoting. Plus, it is much easier to generate interesting content when two people are having a conversation, rather than one person lecturing from a prepared script. You might also consider having multiple co-hosts, either to expand episodes into group discussions, or to take turns working with you in covering different subjects.

How long you make your podcast is entirely up to you. Some consultants recommend specific time frames, such as 5 minutes (because that’s an average attention span), or 28 minutes (because that’s the average driving commute time). There are short podcasts and long ones; whatever works for you is fine, as long as you don’t drift off the topic. Furthermore, no one says they must all be the same length; when you are finished talking, you are done. And no one says you must stick with one subject throughout. Combining several short segments might hold more listeners’ interest and will make it easier to share small clips on social media.

Content guidelines are similar to those for blogs. Give people content that will be of interest or benefit to them. Talk about subjects – medical and otherwise – that are relevant to your practice or are prominent in the news.

As with blogs, try to avoid polarizing political discussions, and while it’s fine to discuss treatments and procedures that you offer, aggressive solicitation tends to make viewers look elsewhere. Keep any medical advice in general terms; don’t portray any specific patients as examples.

When your podcast is ready, your hosting platform will show you how to submit it to iTunes, and how to submit your podcast RSS feed to other podcast directories. As you upload new episodes, your host will automatically update your RSS feed, so that any directory you are listed on will receive the new episode.

Once you are uploaded, you can use your host’s social sharing tools to spread the word. As with blogs, use social media, such as your practice’s Facebook page, to push podcast updates into patients’ feeds and track relevant Twitter hashtags to find online communities that might be interested in your subject matter. You should also find your episode embed code (which your host will have) and place it in a prominent place on your website so patients can listen directly from there.

Transcriptions are another excellent promotional tool. Search engines will “read” your podcasts and list them in searches. Some podcast hosts will do transcribing for a fee, but there are independent transcription services as well.

Dr. Eastern practices dermatology and dermatologic surgery in Belleville, N.J. He is the author of numerous articles and textbook chapters, and is a longtime monthly columnist for Dermatology News. Write to him at dermnews@mdedge.com.

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