Hey, podcast creator! Are you forgetting something? You’ve got your season all planned out, a few episodes in the can, and your marketing assets are squared away, but you may be missing an important element: the podcast trailer.
Podcasters all over the world — indie and established, big budget and bootstrapped, true crime and chat show — want to make a splash on launch day.But you can make a splash before then, too.Better yet, you can have a few splashy days — and it all starts with a podcast trailer.
I’ve been hanging out in the world of podcasts since 2016, first as a newsletter writer, then an in-app curator, a studio manager, a producer, and now, a combo of all of the above, plus I head up community and content at SquadCast.fm. I also launched a podcast earlier this year called Trailer Park: The Podcast Trailer Podcast. I love podcasts, I love trailers, and I love helping creators grow by reaching new audiences. What I’ve found is that the challenge of distilling down your season-long content into a short audio snippet for the purpose of attracting potential listeners is a tough one, but when done right, it can have a number of benefits for your marketing strategy.
Creating a trailer forces you to reckon with what your show is actually about.If you can’t tell me what your upcoming season is focused on in a few sentences, I’ve already pressed “next.” Harsh but true. A trailer makes you answer that question concisely, and hopefully, in a way that’s attractive to a soon-to-be superfan.
It also gets your listeners oriented to your show without settling in for a full episode. It’s a great way to give your potential listeners a sense of who you are, what the show is about, and most importantly, what they’re going to gain from listening to it.
You can use this to promote the show before it’s ‘officially’ launched, too.Creating a trailer for your podcast allows you to populate the RSS feed before episode one drops. This means that your feed is now live and you can begin sending listeners there to listen, rate, and review, so when the actual launch day comes, you’ve got a leg up.
In this same vein, you can reach out to other podcasts that you have prior relationships with or that would make great promotional partners to see if they’d be interested in driving listeners to your show on a trailer-swap basis. Example time: If your show is about beluga whales, reach out to a few other marine-related podcasts and see if they’d be interested in dropping your trailer in their feed or as a post-roll.
The podcast listening apps make this easy, with dedicated space for trailers.Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, and more all have real estate devoted to trailers — both in the editorial section on the homepages, and on an individual podcasts’ landing page. Trailers also allow you multiple opportunities to build buzz.When I launched Trailer Park, we posted a pre-trailer, a trailer, and then a teaser — so I had three entries on the feed before our first official episode dropped a few weeks later.
How to create an engaging podcast trailer
As you can imagine, there’s no absolute right or wrong way to put together a trailer, but there are some things that I recommend doing and some things that I recommend avoiding.
Firstly, there are some key details to include:tell us your name, the name of your show, and why you’re the right person to be hosting it. You don’t need to give us your life story, but it should be obvious who you are, why you’re making this show, and what we’re going to get out of it. You should also make sure that the trailer fits the tone and mood of your show, and if it’s a fiction podcast, decide on a style.Is your trailer going to be ‘in-universe’, with one of the characters voicing it, or will you use a narrator’s perspective? If your podcast is serialised or contains a story with potential spoilers, be careful not to give too much away!
While you may be tempted to fashion your trailer from parts of existing episodes, this isn’t the best idea. We can tell when you’ve just taken clips from existing interviews and mixed them together for this trailer, so making something bespoke will be much more engaging. One helpful tip is to listen to other trailers in the same category before you make your own. Figure out what you like, don’t like, want to emulate, and what you want to avoid. The best creators are consumers first.
When you’re wrapping up, make sure to direct your listeners;what action should they take after hearing the trailer? If your show is already live, maybe hit them with, “listen to the whole season now.” If the show is set to drop in a month, give them a date to look forward to. I like to drop trailers at least two weeks before the first episode is set to publish, and since publishing a trailer means your feed is already active, you should be enouraging them to follow and/or subscribe to the show, too.
Also, remember that trailers are short, by design. They are meant to tease us into wanting more, so try and keep it under three minutes! There’s no exact length that I’m going to prescribe for you, but I like to keep my audio trailers between 60-90 seconds. If you want to make another one with more information, then guess what! You can — or consider also recording and publishing a teaser or a pilot.
Bear in mind that the trailer train doesn’t stop after your show launches, either. You can update it between seasons, or even when you just feel like it needs a refresh. Maybe you’ve recently been featured somewhere (like Apple Podcasts, for example) and now you have tons of new listeners who need an orientation. Drop a trailer to acknowledge them. You can always change it out later for another trailer — you can mark multiple audio files as trailers and the podcast listening app will mark the most recently published one, if there’s a space dedicated to it.
If you’ve decided to make more of an effort in the marketing department of your podcast production, you’ve gotta keep up a consistent schedule. Don’t just post and ghost. You’ve created and published your trailer, but don’t stop there. Make sure to set up promo swaps, feed swaps, even trailer swaps, with other creators.
If you’re interested in listening to some of my favorite trailers, I made a list recently for Pocket Casts, featuring a diverse range of audio creators and trailer styles. Or, if you want to hear my take on why some podcast trailers are more impactful than others, my podcast Trailer Park should do the trick.