Podcast cover art is usually the first and most prominent thing people will see about your podcast—often even before the title itself! Visual space is limited (usually only half an inch or 1.25 cm square—or about the size of your thumbnail). So should you include a photo of yourself in your cover art? Here are some questions to help you decide!
This episode is not sponsored, but I still want to promote my friend Mark Des Cotes from PodcastBranding.co. Please mention that you heard about him from me and I'll earn a commission, but I recommend Mark's personalized design services because I believe in him and his niche skills, not because of any potential earnings.
1. How well-known are you?
“Celebrity” and “influence” come in all sizes. You might not be known to the average person, but if you're known outside of your own audience within a niche, then it might be helpful to include your face in your podcast cover art.
One of the benefits of this is when someone recognizes you from a collection of other podcasts. That will make your podcast stand out more. Imagine what you would do if you recognized one of your favorite celebrities with their own podcast.
For example, if you watched the American version of The Office, you would probably instantly recognize Angela Kinsey and Jenna Fischer on the cover art for Office Ladies. In fact, you might recognize them so much that you would just assume it's a podcast about The Office because that's how you know them. And even if their podcast wasn't about The Office, you might still be interested to try the podcast because of how much you enjoyed those actresses.
So if you are already well-known (even if only widely within your niche), then you might want your photo in your cover art. And even if you're not well-known, yet, then keep reading!
2. What is your show's focus?
Does your podcast focus on specific topics, or does it focus on your perspective on various topics?
For example, what is Joe Rogan's podcast primarily about? It's actually right in the title: “The Joe Rogan Experience.” It's about his experiences and perspectives through the variety of conversations he has with diverse guests. Thus, it's very fitting for the cover art to have his photo in it.
I would suggest the same for any kind of “The [your name] Show.”
But when your show focuses more on the topic than on the person, your photo might actually be stealing space that could otherwise be used for a relevant visual element. And that visual element might better communicate the topic of your podcast and better attract an audience for that topic than your face would.
3. What are your podcasting goals?
Maybe you're not a celebrity or influencer at any level, yet, but you want to be! How would you know this?
- If you'd like to be cited as an expert in your field
- If you'd like to present about your field at conferences
- If you'd like to be recognized by others in your field
- If you'd like your personal brand to unlock more opportunities within your field
If any of these points resonate with you, then you probably do want to build your personal brand. And having your photo in your cover art is a great way to help with that!
This can lead to people recognizing you at events before they hear your voice. This can also make it easy for them to see a gallery of speakers and know they want to attend your session regardless of what you say, only because they recognize and trust you.
This is all part of your personal brand.
But if you aren't interested in building a personal brand (and you do not have to!), then you probably shouldn't include your photo in your podcast artwork.
Another consideration is if your goal is to connect more deeply with your audience. A photo literally puts a face to your voice, so it will be easier for your audience to relate with you. This can be extremely important for podcasts on more emotional subjects, like mental health, recovery, relationships, and more. Or if you're in a visually unique demographic and you're targeting that same demographic, like women, Asian, black, bodybuilders, etc.
4. How good is your photo?
Lastly, consider how good and usable your photograph is. I'm not referring to how attractive you are, but the quality and versatility of the photos you have.
For example, I've seen a couple of people who simply don't pose well for portraits. So even if you hire a professional photographer, but your photos make you look like a creep, you might not want to use these photos. But instead of giving up, try finding or taking some better candid photos, or try different expressions. Maybe your smile—whether posed or genuine—just looks weird, so you could try a more serious expression, or maybe an action photo of you doing the thing your podcast is about (unless your podcast is about murder!).
And if you're working with a designer, always give him or her multiple photos to try, like multiple poses, all high-resolution, and as uncropped as possible. Mark Des Cotes told me he often finds the photo that works best is not the podcaster's first choice. And when you work with a skilled professional designer, like Mark, they can ensure the photo fits in nicely with the rest of your visual branding. For example, a photo of you in a Hawaiian shirt and straw hat would not fit well with a podcast about emotionally supporting your loved ones in the days leading up to their death. You don't have to go “cliché,” but you also don't want to visually clash.
The lighting, composition, and background of the photo can also make a huge difference in how you or a designer (like Mark) can use the photo. For example, a dramatically lit portrait that leaves a lot of shadows on your face might not coordinate with a predominantly light-colored cover art.
My face coming to your podcast app soon?
As you consider these things for your podcast, I'll use myself as an example, I actually think my photo should be on the cover art for The Audacity to Podcast! Why?
- I'm already known enough within the podcasting industry to be recognized.
- My goal is to build my personal brand through the resources that I provide.
These have actually been my thoughts for several years, but I haven't done it before because I simply didn't like the thought of plastering my face in my cover art—as if it would seem conceited or narcissistic. But I think the benefits for me outweigh my personal reservations. So you might see my face show up in your podcast app soon! (But please do share your opinion with me!)
Need help with your podcast branding?
You can design your own podcast cover art with tools like SoVisual.co or Canva. Or you could try hiring a random designer from 99designs or DesignCrowd. But I think your best choice would be to work with a skilled designer who knows the unique qualities of podcast-branding and even has podcasting experience. And that's why I recommend Mark Des Cotes from PodcastBranding.co.
(As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases through these links. But I recommend things I truly believe in, regardless of earnings.)
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If you need one-on-one help or you haven't launched your podcast, yet, click here to request a personal coaching and consulting session with me and I'd love the opportunity to help you podcast better!
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