How to Start Your CrossFit Affiliate's Podcast
It's the unfair advantage of CrossFit affiliates that owners & coaches are able to spend so much time with the people who choose them, spending upwards of five or six hours of face time with each member every single week. Very few businesses can say that.
At CrossFit New England, we wanted more though.
For all the time spent & all the attempts to communicate, we had one fundamental problem. We were unable to get all our members in the same place, at the same time, to tell them the same thing.
Ben & I were mulling this over before an Affiliate Excellence Seminar in Chicago a few months ago.
Ben talks often to the members of his 8:30 class about issues other than thrusters & pull-ups. He talks to them about happiness, nutrition, & what we're trying to accomplish at CrossFit New England. But Ben only coaches the 8:30 these days. For members who aren't in the gym at that time, they miss these conversations.
We were out to dinner, trying to solve this, when the obvious answer finally came: We should do a CFNE podcast. It was one of those times you feel stupid for not having thought of it sooner.
For the past couple years, he & I have been doing a podcast called Chasing Excellence. We talk about a lot of these bigger issues, but it's pointed outward. Some of the conversations are valuable to our members, but none of them are specific to our members.
We came home & four days later recorded the first episode. It didn’t take long before I was convinced this is something every affiliate should be doing.
My aim here is to give you the tools, strategies, & tips to get you moving toward creating your own affiliate podcast.
Part I: WHY
Relationships get built by two forces: trust & communication. The more a relationship has of either, the stronger it is.
As affiliate owners & coaches, it's imperative you understand that you are not in the fitness business. As Ben often says, he is in the relationship business. You should be seeking every opportunity, then, to build trust & communicate.
As much time as you have with your members, though, it's still often not enough. Even the most efficiently run sixty-minute class can feel jam-packed. Even if your members stick around for fifteen minutes after the workout ends, you don't always get a chance to talk with them. There's always more to say.
Entrepreneur & venture capitalist Gary Vaynerchuk likes to implore business owners to act like a media company, no matter what they actually sell. The reason is simple: In a world where we are constantly communicating, those whose communication creates the most value to the end consumer wins.
Put another way: Valuable communication builds trust, & trust is oxygen to a business.
Five years ago, my suggestion might have been to have a blog on your website, & to update it every week. That's still not a bad idea. But the reason many affiliates haven't done this is twofold. First, I believe it’s because many affiliate owners & coaches don't consider themselves writers. Second, because many don't appreciate how much value there is in communicating with their members on a consistent basis.
If you're a good writer (or even a decent one), then writing a blog is a great place to start. In many ways, it's easier than a podcast. All you need is an internet connection & a keyboard.
If you haven't written anything longer than an Instagram caption since middle school, though, podcasting might be the ticket.
PART II: HOW
Author, investor, & podcaster Tim Ferriss asks himself a question when he's starting a new project. It was one of the questions he asked himself when he started his own successful podcast, in fact:
What would this look like if it were easy?
That's where we're going to begin.
We're in a different boat than most affiliates at CFNE. Ben & I have been running another podcast for a while now. I have all the necessary tools, & I know how to use them.
Your podcast does not need to look, sound, or feel like ours. Your aim should be to execute on the simplest possible version of this project. As you gain experience, you can make it as complicated or complex as you wish.
If you overcomplicate this from the beginning, you'll lose steam fast. You are not a professional podcaster, but you are a professional communicator. Focus on your strengths & let your weaknesses shore up organically.
Toward that end, let's steal another piece of advice from Mr. Ferriss: Commit to at least six episodes of your podcast. Why six? In Tim's words: "I felt like that would give me a certain critical mass, where I could develop new skills, maybe remove a few verbal ticks & decide & assess fairly whether I enjoyed it or not. So I committed to six episodes."
You're not going to be very good at the beginning, in other words. Take the pressure off by giving yourself enough runway to work out the kinks. Only then will you actually know if this is a useful & enjoyable way to communicate with your members.
There are many ways to do this, but we're going to focus on easy & inexpensive. We're not going to worry about creating a podcast that will show up in Apple Podcasts or any other app you may use.
The reasons are twofold:
First, they'll require extra steps that can be annoying & might be the roadblock that stops you before you've begun.
Second, despite podcasts growing in popularity, most people still don't listen them, & therefore don't know how to listen to them. We don't want you to put anything in the way of your members listening.
We're going to focus on creating a podcast that you can host on your website & add to your daily WOD posts. They'll live there & your members can listen when they check the details of tomorrow's workout. (Click here for general instructions with Wordpress. Click here for general instructions with Squarespace.)
A note on why hosting the audio on your site makes sense:
All podcasting apps or audio hosting services get built with distribution in mind. In other words, they exist so creators can make something & then find as big an audience as possible.
You’re not in that boat. Our target market is small & consists of our current members who already visit our website. We don't need to distribute any wider than that, so we don't need to use tools designed to do so.
Hosting on your site puts the audio exactly where your members already are & makes it stupid easy for them to listen. That's the only success metric we need to measure.
Here's a look at some options for which tools you might want to use, in order of most to least simple. Keep in mind, things can get far more complicated. Take a look at the set-up for The CFNE Way:
Option 1: Smartphone
You have everything you need already to make this option work. (Unless you're still rocking the Nokia 1100i.)
Most smartphones come with an audio recording app built in, & we recommend you start there. (If you want to get a little fancy, you can check out Audio Recorder [Android] or Griffin iTalk Recorder [iOS]. They both have great reviews & some advanced features.)
Option 2: Smartphone+Microphone
There are no two-ways about it: Audio straight into your phone won't sound amazing. If you want to improve the sound, you may want to invest in a decent microphone, of which there are plenty. What you choose will depend a little on what you want to do.
Here are a few options, in order of least to most expensive. (Keep in mind, some of these need headphone jacks, some need lightning ports if you're using an iPhone 7 or later. Be sure you double check the microphone is compatible with your device before you buy.)
- Olympus ME-51S (sub $50)
- Rode smartLav+ (sub $100)
- Blue Raspberry (sub $200)
- Shure MV88 iOS (sub $200)
- Apogee MiC 96k (sub $300)
Option 3: Microphone+Computer
This option is the one that's going to get you the best results, & the one that will need more effort & expense.
If you're using a Mac, you already have an app called GarageBand that makes it simple to record audio. (Here's a quick how-to guide to get yourself going.) If you don't like GarageBand or are using a PC, you can explore Audacity, which is a free piece of software that's been around for a while. (Here's a video covering the basics of how to use it.)
These will have a little bit of a learning curve, so be patient & play around before recording an episode.
The real magic will come with a higher-end microphone, which you'll plug into your computer's USB slot(s). As always, there are lots of options. Here are a few you might want to consider:
- Blue Snowball (sub $100)
- Audio-Technica ATR2100 (sub $100)
- Blue Yeti (sub $150)
- Audio-Technica 2020 (sub $200)
One thing to keep in mind when looking at USB microphones is whether you'll want to use a single mic for two people. If so, we recommend the Blue Yeti. It has a bidirectional option for recording people sitting on different sides of it. Here's an example of CrossFit OGs Pat & Taz Barber using one (skip to 1:20 to actually see/hear it):
Option 4: Audio Recorder
You can skip the phone, computer, & microphone by getting an all-in-one recorder like the Zoom h2n. More technically advanced, it can serve as both microphone & recorder for under $200.
If you don't have a decent laptop or use a Chromebook, this might be the best option for those wanting to go beyond recording into a smartphone.
Regardless of which option you choose, here are a few basic rules to keep in mind before you hit record:
- Get Clean Audio - Find a quiet room or a time when the gym stereos aren't blasting the latest Kendrick Lamar track to record. Then get as close to your microphone as is comfortable. If your audio is too low or there's too much background noise, people won't stick with the episode.
- Talk Like a Human - Don't script out what you're going to say, but know what you want to talk about. Write out bullet points if those help keep you focused & on track. If you're interviewing a member, have a couple relevant questions queued up to get the conversation rolling.
- Avoid Awkwardness - Think about how you want to start & end each episode. These are the two most self-conscious, rambling parts of every new show. Plan beforehand how you want to handle them.
- Delete Videos of PRs from 2008 - Make sure to double check how much space you have left on your phone's hard drive before recording. Audio files aren't big, but if you're already maxed out, you'll run into trouble.
PART III: WHAT
There are two formats your podcast can take. The first is single-person. Here's an example from the late, great Chris Moore of what this sounds like.
The second is a conversation between two people, which is what we choose for The CFNE Way. Unless you are a particularly elegant orator & already have a habit of talking to yourself (out load) for 10 or 15 minutes at a stretch, we'd recommend going with the two-person format.
For us, episodes consist of Ben sitting alongside one of our coaches, Dan. They'll figure out what they want to talk about before recording. To ensure spontaneity, though, they won't go any deeper than that. Dan welcomes viewers & cracks some jokes (usually about the history of turtlenecks), then gets into the topic. At the end of the show, they cover whatever events are upcoming.
We try to keep the episodes around fifteen minutes, but occasionally go longer if Ben gets revved up. Aiming for ten to fifteen minutes per episode will keep you free from too much rambling. It will also have the added benefit of not taking up too much of your already limited time.
If you want to remove as many barriers as possible to execution, here are a few of the subjects we've covered so far. Steal them if you feel like you've got something to say on the matter.
• Core Values
• Recording scores on the whiteboard
• Why the programming is not random
• The health care industry
• Our Elements program
We record once a week, at the same time & in the same place. We can't stress the importance of this enough. The fact that it's on our respective calendars means it doesn't get pushed aside if the day gets busy. If it doesn't get scheduled, it won't happen.