On Message: What makes a great podcast?

Adam Batstone

Two of Britain’s best known podcasters Jane Garvey and Geoff Lloyd join us to share their thoughts on the key ingredients that make up a great podcast.


Podcasts have been around for a while, but it’s only in the past two years they have exploded in popularity.

Our guests Jane Garvey, Kate Pogson and Geoff Lloyd share their views on why podcasts have become so popular and what are the elements which contribute to making them memorable and shareable.

Jane Garvey, the presenter of the BBC’s Woman’s Hour, and Geoff Lloyd, a former DJ on Virgin and Absolute Radio present two of the UK’s most popular podcasts.

Jane’s podcast Fortunately is co-presented with Fi Glover and is – as Jane cheerfully admits – ‘a load of tripe’. But their completely unscripted musings have proved extremely popular and the podcast regularly appears in the iTunes weekly top ten.

Geoff’s Virgin Radio interview with then Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband went viral – or ‘more fungal’ as Geoff puts it – and he spotted a side to the Labour leader that didn’t come across in most broadcast interviews.

My interview with Ed Miliband went viral - or more like fungal really

Ed and Geoff now present the weekly Reasons to be Cheerful podcast which is ostensibly a serious discussion about public policy. But the heavyweight topics are leavened by Ed and Geoff’s relaxed approach – a refreshing change to Radio 4’s rather earnest news formats.

Geoff and Jane joined Kate Pogson who leads MHP’s Health team for the latest edition of MHP’s On Message podcast. They shared their thoughts on what they believe to be the ingredients of a good podcast.

Duration: Geoff says: “When the Milligang come round to my attic studio we record for hours. Some episodes are epics – over an hour and a half. I don’t think there’s an ideal length – as long as people want to listen for. The New York Times podcast is 15 minutes and is great.”

Kate says: “People are time poor and have a short attention span. I think the time it takes for a typical commute is probably ideal”

Scripting: Jane says: “We just get the coffees and millionaire’s shortbread and start talking, there’s no script. It’s a refreshing change from Radio 4 where every word is approved. If you are enthusiastic about your subject, that will be very clear.”

Tone: Geoff says: “The reason why Ed Miliband is so good is not just because he is curious and inquisitive, but because he just comes over as a normal, funny guy. He can be himself in the podcast. I’m so used to radio rules that I never swear but Ed does and it always makes me laugh – but I would urge caution about that, you should always be authentic.”

Kate says: “The beauty of a podcast is it gives you personality and therefore more character than something quite formal like a press release.”

Corporate messages: Jane says “People aren’t mugs and they know when they are being sold to and they don’t like it. Just be honest and try to be entertaining – if it’s boring people will soon switch off. Podcasts should not be like adverts, but they are a good alternative to more formal communications. And if there’s a nice short clip, you can always share it on Twitter.”

Kate says: “It’s our job to make what could be quite technical subject matter into something more interesting”

Podcast v Radio: Geoff says: “Radio tends to be something that’s on in the background whereas people really listen to podcasts – typically through headphones so the audience is very engaged.

Jane says: “Don’t over-prepare, read scripts or memorise what you want to say. Trust yourself to know and care about your subject. But be strict with the editing – if it’s boring, get rid of it.”

Kate says: “I listen to podcasts on subjects that maybe before I would have been reading about. But because I’m time poor podcasts are a really useful alternative.”


Jane Garvey, Presenter BBC Woman’s Hour and Fortunately podcast

Jane is an experienced and multi-award winning radio presenter who has become one of the BBC’s most popular on air voices. She has also campaigned with many other high profile female BBC presenters to highlight the issue of equal pay for women.

Geoff Lloyd, Presenter Reasons To Be Cheerful and Adrift podcasts

Geoff made his name as one of the original presenter line up on Virgin Radio. He now combine freelance radio presenting with his passion for podcasting – most notably alongside for Labour Party leader Ed Miliband on the Reasons To Be Cheerful podcast.

Kate Pogson, Managing Director MHP Health

Kate is MHP’s Head of Health, she has 15 years’ experience working in communications, specialising in making better sense of the world of health.


MHP Director, Adam Batstone has a 25-year journalistic career covering newspapers, radio, TV and most recently the BBC News website. At MHP he helps clients to work with the media to ensure they get their voices heard.


On Message was produced by Tom Gillingham and edited by Nick Carter of Mixsonix Audio Production

MHP can help you plan and produce your own podcast – for more information email media@mhpc.comIf you have any thoughts or comments about this podcast do please get in touch via email: contact@mhpc.com

Using your voice – Podcasts by MHP