How to be your Personal Best: School of Journalism trainee launches self-improvement podcast

Third year School of Journalism trainee Ruby Smith has created a self-improvement podcast titled ‘Personal Best’. Every week, Ruby hosts conversations with inspiring guests where they discuss different ways to better both your physical and mental health. 

Here she talks us through the process of creating a podcast, the reality of going viral and what modules from her degree course have been the most helpful for this project.

Why did you create a podcast? 

I’ve always wanted to have my own creative outlet. I used to write a blog but over the past couple years, I really fell in love with the podcast medium. Originally I had a fitness Instagram because fitness is a really huge passion of mine but it didn’t feel very authentic to me to be posting gym selfies. It was then when I thought I would combine my love for fitness and podcasts and create my own project. 

What does your podcast cover and what is the aim of the podcast?

The podcast is called Personal Best. I use the podcast to talk about health and fitness. You might achieve a personal best in the gym, but you might also want to achieve the best mental health space. Achieving a personal best includes other areas of self-improvement as well. I always say the mission of the podcast is to help people live healthier, happier lives, and ultimately become the best version of themselves. I, as the host, interview guests from the health and fitness industry and discuss ways we can better ourselves. 

What made you decide to interview a guest on each episode? 

I always wanted to have guests on because I didn’t like the idea of the podcast becoming ‘The Ruby Show’. I am also on this journey of trying to better myself and I haven’t got it all figured out so, I thought it would be beneficial to not just my listeners but also to me. 

When trying to find guests to feature on each episode I reach out to people that I follow online, or I think have a really good story to tell. It’s a matter of networking. As well as reaching out to people on social media I also reached out to people I have crossed paths with in the past. Some really inspiring individuals with big followings. The followers aren’t everything, but it just goes to show that these people have a platform for a reason and they were willing to share their advice with me and my audience.

I’ve spoken to Gymshark athletes, a professional ice hockey player, personal trainers, nutritionists and so many more. I feel grateful to be able to have these conversations. Regardless of putting it out on my podcast, just to have those interesting chats has been invaluable and I’ve learnt so much. 

What has the response been like so far? 

I felt super passionate about the podcast but I didn’t know how people would respond to it. I started the podcast with no social media presence at all. I set up the Instagram page at the end of August 2023 and now on Instagram, I’m nearly at twenty thousand followers. The growth has been amazing considering I started this journey about 6 months ago. In four weeks I have gained ten thousand followers. it just goes to show like, social media is so unpredictable. You’ve just got to put content out there because you don’t know what’s going to do well.

It’s a nice feeling that people care and are interested in the content I’m making and that it’s not just my mum listening/watching. I’ve had so many supportive comments and I really love the community I have built. I will get messages from people who tell me an episode has inspired them to go on a run or this podcast has helped reduce my anxiety. It is really lovely.

I have had several Instagram reels and TikTok videos gain a lot of attention and the comments are mainly positive but with the nice comments also come the nasty, sexist comments but I don’t let that stop me. 

What is the end goal for you? Where do you want the podcast to go?

It’s still early days and I am still learning so much but ultimately I want to keep the conversations going. In an ideal world I would love my podcast to be listened to by hundreds of thousands of people but I just want to keep creating content in this space because I think it is important. 

Having spoken to a lot of people who have had success on social media, they all told me to expect the unexpected. You never know what will happen. I want to attend events where I can meet and collaborate with more people and try to help as many people as I can. Someone who listens to the podcast said to me that I am building a growing community.

Everyone who listens, every guest I have on is part of this community where we are all trying to be the best versions of ourselves. No one is perfect but we are all willing to work on ourselves to achieve our personal best.

Who would be your dream guest to interview?

There is a woman called Krissy Cela, she’s a fitness influencer. She is amazing and she’s doing so much for women in fitness and women in business. She even has her own gym clothing brand which is incredible and her own fitness app which is super popular. 

What is the biggest lesson your degree has taught you when making this podcast?

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt from The School of Journalism is confidence. I’ve learnt that you need to put yourself out there and push yourself out of your comfort zone otherwise you will never grow. That comes from networking, interviewing people and from our tutors saying ‘right you need to go out and interview someone, get vox pops on the street and don’t come back until you have something!’

This course is super practical so gaining those skills have really helped me. I definitely have a lot more faith in myself. We also did a podcast module, which was really good and I learnt editing skills that I still use today. I didn’t know how to do any of that beforehand. In a funny way I have had to ‘unlearn’ the typical journalism interview structure we have been taught. In my first few podcasts, you can really hear the question, answer, question, answer structure and there was no flow. I was so scared to interject or interrupt a guest as I had a list of questions I wanted to ask them. I have learnt to be an even better listener than I was before. 

It’s a real skill to be able to adapt your style of interview to the guest because I’ve had people on who are quite shy. I’ll ask them a question and they give me quite a short answer. And then I’ve had people on who just talk and talk and talk. And I have to find a way to bring it back to the question. So, adapting your style of interview is so important as well.

One of the biggest takeaways I’ve had from doing the podcast is you don’t know if you don’t try. Send that message to somebody, go up to somebody in person and ask them a question. Put yourself out there because you don’t know who’s going to say yes. 

A photo of Ruby with one of her guests, Mo Gawdat.

Have you got any advice for those wanting to create a podcast?

Have a niche. There are so many podcasts out there where the idea is to have conversations with interesting people. With Personal Best, yes the conversations are broad but they centre around health and well being and self-improvement. I know people who have a podcast centred around running or centred around gardening. Having a niche also helps you narrow down who you want to interview. 

Really utilise social media. I think even though podcasts are a long form piece of content, there’s so much you can do that is short-form and entertaining which is eye-catching that are going to draw people in. You might watch a 20 second TikTok clip and feel inspired to then go and listen to a 30 minute podcast. Don’t be afraid to have a social media presence and create shorter content.

Click here to listen to Ruby’s podcast.