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Podcast Trailer Best Practices
Podcast Trailer Best Practices
I remember a time when folks in podcasting thought trailers were an afterthought; something they had to do to submit new feeds to podcatchers, but not something to spend a whole lot of time on.
But a good trailer can be absolutely magical. It’s a small taste of a larger project that, when done well, can make it impossible for listeners not to hit play on the first episode.
So, what makes a good trailer? And how can you make yours even better?
We’ve put together this guide with some of our best tips, tricks, and secrets that the pros use to make their shows shine in 60 seconds or less.
What is a podcast trailer, and why should you make one?
First things first. When we talk about podcast trailers, what do we mean? You’ve seen trailers for movies — podcasts trailers are audio-only previews for a show. They’re great audience development tools, promotion tools and, honestly, having one will make you feel like a super-professional podcaster. And isn’t that what we all want?
At their most basic, podcasters use them as the required piece of audio on a feed before submitting to podcatchers like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. But they can also be vital tools for introducing your show to an audience, teasing out special episodes, cross-promotion, and so much more.
Trailers are likewise great sales tools. The quickest way to describe a podcast to a client isn’t to describe it at all — it’s to bring it to life by playing a trailer.
Think of it this way: potential listeners and sponsors don’t generally have time to listen to a full episode, but they can make time to listen to a two-minute trailer.
When should you make a podcast trailer?
There are two key times to make a podcast trailer: before a show launch and, if your show is seasonal, before each new season. Outside of these two moments, trailers can be useful for cross-promos with other podcasts, big pushes around timely episodes, and in audiograms.
People are less likely to listen to trailers if there are full episodes on the feed, so just keep that in mind if you’re thinking of posting a trailer after making a podcast for a long time.
1. Before show launches:
Before show launch, trailers serve a key technical function: before you can submit your podcast RSS feed, an audio file needs to be uploaded to the feed. A trailer is a great thing to use for this purpose because it allows you to test the feed on all platforms prior to your launch date, at which point there’s more pressure to get your first episode up on time.
From a promotion perspective, having a trailer up before the first episode also gives people a landing page to subscribe to your show. That way, when the first episode drops, it’ll automatically appear in their podcast apps.
2. New season:
For similar reasons to before a show launch, trailers are useful tools for promoting new seasons. They create some buzz, and remind previous subscribers that your show exists — and that it’s coming back for more.
3. Timely moments
Does your show have an episode around a big media moment, like the Oscars, elections, holidays, and so on? Or are you covering a topic that’s currently a big conversation in the media cycle, or on social media? Putting together a trailer in these instances can be an incredibly valuable way to do some on-the-fly cross-promotion.
How long should a podcast trailer be?
Acast recommends putting together two versions of your trailers. Firstly, one that’s 1-3 minutes long, which would live on podcast platforms — where listeners may want a bit more to dig into before pressing play. The second trailer should be no more than 30-45 seconds long, and can be used for cross-promotions or on social media, where people have shorter attention spans and are more likely to scroll away.
What should be in a podcast trailer?
We recommend writing a script so you know you’re including all the vital information. You can check the length of your script or talking points using this very handy tool: http://readtime.eu/.
Now, just because we’re recommending a script doesn’t mean you want it to sound like you’re reading from one. Talking points should be guidelines that you build on to make your trailer your own.
Here are some must-includes:
- Your full name(s): This may seem obvious, but who are you? If you don’t already have an audience, saying your name in the trailer builds some familiarity with the listener. We know podcast listeners often feel like their favorite host is a friend or a person they can trust, so cementing that personal connection from the start is key. If you’re an established media presence, be sure to focus partially on the people who may not be familiar with you, and be sure you give them something to Google afterwards.
- Description or Logline: Trailers can be huge endeavors with long descriptions of what you’ll cover, plus sound design, multiple clips and voices, and so on. But, at the very least, you should give listeners a one-liner of what the show is — sometimes referred to as a “logline”. Ideally, your trailer will fall somewhere in the middle. What are the things that make your podcast interesting and set it apart? What are the things you want someone who’s never heard your show to know? Remember to keep your audience in mind — the trailer should be aimed towards the absolute newbie, and include the context they need to start listening.
- Feel: It’s hard to describe, but it matters. What sets two pop culture shows apart, for example, is the feel.
- The hook is a great place to add in a bit of feel. Think about creative ways to get your audience’s attention from the first seconds of your trailer. That might not be starting with a show description, but instead a funny moment, an interesting clip, or just a bit of scripted scene setting.
- For personality-driven podcasts (think chat shows or interview shows), this can mean adding in a bit of banter between you and your co-host, or clips of banter with your guests.
- For more dramatic shows, think about how you can set the mood in a short space of time. Sound design, impactful bits of dialogue and music can make all the difference.
- A clip montage is also a very common practice in podcasting. Intercutting clips with some narration is an easy way to do this.
- CTA: You’ve made this great trailer, it’s interesting, it’s engaging, and it’s got the right feel. You’ve really hooked your audience. Now you need to tell those adoring fans what they should do next. Here are some questions to consider when deciding on your call to action:
- Is this a seasonal or ongoing show? What day(s) of the week will each episode be dropping?
- Is it an entirely new show or a new season? Be sure to let listeners know.
- When is your podcast out? Is it live on podcast platforms already? Any relevant dates can be incredibly useful.
- Which platforms is it on? There’s some good research that says mentioning actual platforms, instead of saying “wherever you get your podcasts”, is better for those who might not be hearing your trailer on a podcast app and want to listen. You could try something like, “Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and your favourite podcast platform.”
- Is the feed already live? Tell your listeners to go subscribe or follow, so the first episode automatically appears in their preferred podcast app.
What else should I know about podcast trailers?
Think of your trailer as your first impression, and make sure it showcases the best of your show.
- Record in a quiet space and use the best mics you can get your hands on. The better the sound quality, the more professional your podcast will seem.
- Music can add so much, but it can easily overwhelm your audio if it’s too loud or distracting. Always err on the side of the music being too soft rather than too loud — your voice is the main event.
- Rules are made to be broken. At the end of the day, you know your show best. These guidelines are here to help you get started, but feel free to bend/break/twist these suggestions as needed.
What are some good examples of podcast trailers?
Ones and Tooze: Great introduction, great use of music to set a mood, and a great use of clips to show listeners what the podcast is about, versus just telling them.
Kasich & Klepper: Bit of a longer trailer (used on the podcast feed as opposed to promotion). The hook at the top shows how the podcast will subvert norms within the space. It moves into an introduction and show description, and then really leans into a casual show description. A great long-form trailer.
The Nobody Zone: The first time I heard this trailer, I literally gasped. It’s so simple, it sets such a clear mood. It doesn’t follow every rule from the guide, but I think it’s good enough that it doesn’t need to.
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