How Podcasting Can Help You Rise Above the Noise.

We all have something to say. We want people to know about our brand. We want others to know our unique spin on a product, and the value we add to the world. Yet, we all face the same problem: Rising above the noise. And it’s insanely noisy out there. 


So what do we do as entrepreneurs, as leaders, to rise above the noise? We could read one more marketing book, look at one more strategic plan, or worse add one more tactic to our list of ways we communicate. Great! Just what I need, one more activity that will take away time from my family or presently eroding sleep allocation (5 hours of sleep is enough, right?). 


That’s not what this blog post is about. My goal is not to complicate your life further. Actually the opposite. I want to tell you a little bit about podcasting, why it’s become so popular (50% of American households are podcast listeners according to Neilson), the value it could add to your business, and how it may just be the tool to streamline everything you do, and give time back to your life. 


I run a podcasting company, and the truth that podcasting is such a powerful platform, honestly still baffles me. With everything around us screaming about the new technology, VR this, bots that, podcasting is at its core an old technology. It’s essentially on-demand radio. So why is it such a powerful platform for listeners? Even further, why is it growing so fast and how can it help you?


- On demand. We must start at the major shift in the way we consume content. Over the last 15 years we have all grown quite fond of on demand content. Entertaining and educating ourselves when we want to. 


- Multi-Tasking. Podcasting is one of the only ways to safely educated and entertain yourself while doing something else.  


- Our Desire for Connection. In our ever connected world, consumers want to feel connected to the people they work with and buy from. Now, with millennials (arguably the most connected generation yet) representing 1/3 workers in the work force today, that desire for connection hasn’t even reached its peak yet. 


- Trust. The connection made through audio is a powerful one, earing is one of our first senses to develop in the womb. There has never been another time in history when you could be piped directly into your customer's and pre-customer's ears.


- Evergreen. Generally speaking, most podcast are evergreen. Once they are produced and distributed, the content has an extremely long tail. There’s actually a show I have that has been dormant for 4 years, and it still receives 25-30 monthly listens. Without any work on my part, that’s 25-30 people hearing my voice, my message. Unlike a social media post, The residual benefits of podcasting are incredible.


- Non-disruptive. With so many marketers disrupting our lives. Podcasting doesn’t do that. You are not trying to grab someones attention while they are scrolling at the speed of light, or capture their attention while they are grabbing something from the kitchen in between their favorite shows. Listeners are choosing you. Taking their valuable time to listen to you. 


I know I’m probably getting a little ridiculous, but it’s simply to show you this platform is for real (I also had to delete 3 more reasons because this blog post is getting too long ha). It may be called something else in 5 years, but on demand audio is here to stay. Much like social 10 years ago, we are beginning to see more and more brands look up and say, “hey! everyone has a podcast, we should probably do that”. The initial big chuck of the early adopters are here entering this platform. 


Let me wrap up by speaking of the last big benefit of podcasting. It can give you back a large chunk of time. For some of our clients, they have a perfect storm of a thriving business, no or a small marketing team, and the need to participate in multiple platforms of communication. For those podcasts, we take the audio content and transcribe it to text. Then we pull out 1-2 blog posts, and quotes for social media (pairing it with hi-res pictures). That’s right, 1 podcast creates a month worth of content on multiple platforms. The big picture impact is two fold. First, obviously it quit literally adds back hours to month. And if you’re like me, toiling away over every word in a tweet, maybe even days. Secondly, it takes away that frustration of having to constantly teach your social media director how to speak in your tone of voice. You don’t have that frustration because it is literally pieces of content you’ve already said being disseminated on other platforms. It’s you. Your voice.  


Don’t sleep on podcasting. It can change your business in a big way over the next year. Or you can choose to continue to communicate through legacy platforms and miss the first big wave of podcasting for brands. 

Driveway Moments

Before I dive into this post, I want to say this isn't a post about trying to be hip with the lingo, but let me define the term. A “driveway moment,” is something that happens when a podcast is so good that you simply can’t get out of your car, so you sit in your driveway until it’s over. Most of us have had these moments at some point. The feeling that the entire world is slipping away, and you’re locked into someone’s story. That is what we want as a host. We want to make listeners so captivated that they leave the car running in the driveway. Of course, this is not something you can just manufacture. It’s also not something that will happen with every episode, but we, as hosts, can facilitate conversations that are more conducive to these moments. Here are a few thoughts on how.

1) Don’t be a generalist. Embrace your niche content. Ask the deep-diving questions that your target market would want to know. That’s the beauty of podcasting. You don’t need 100k listeners to reach your 1k true fans. Speak to those who care about your niche content. You may only need 50 listeners. They are there and ready. Deliver. 

2) Be willing to abandon the script. I’m eight episodes in to producing my first season, and I’ve gone into each interview with a solid script mapped out, but I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve strayed from them. I’ve noticed that people want to talk about something they care about, and they will naturally steer the conversation that way. I’m pragmatic enough to recognize that this won’t work with every show’s structure or every episode. But if you see your guest wants to talk about something, if they light up around a certain subject—lob them a softball that gives them permission to address their passions. 

3) Stop talking! I recently listened to a podcast that I did a few years ago. I know that my guest was trying to tell an amazing story, but I was in the way. Sometimes, just keeping your mouth shut will provide the real estate necessary for the guest to build the cathedral that is their story. 

While we can’t force people to tell the kind of dynamic stories that lead to driveway moments, we can facilitate them. That’s our job as hosts. Like most things in life, we get better with practice. Keeping podcasting and email me some tips when you learn something cool!

Spotify, Audible, & Google Play, welcome to the podcasting world!

Over the next year, as podcasting grows from 46 million active listeners to an estimated 57 (Edison Research), there are several new players in the podcast distribution game that we’ve been watching. Ranked in order from most interesting to meh. While we don’t feel there’s any call to action just yet, here are the ones on our radar. 

  1. Spotify. If you open the mobile app for Spotify, one of the top 5 icons you will see is labeled “shows.” “We’re a daily companion for music fans," Spotify's vice president of product, Shiva Rajaraman, said. “That shift has not changed. That said, music fans increasingly want more than just audio in various moments. We’re following that need. We’re not too sure yet exactly what that means.” MOST INTERESTING: Spotify’s algorithm for listening, called Discover Weekly, finds you new content similar to what you already like. Applying a better algorithm to podcasting so you can discover new cast similar to ones you already listen to would be awesome!
  2. Audible. While there are only a few new things that have us excited about podcasts on Audible, we’re most excited about how many new podcast users Audible will bring. I know a lot of people who use Audible to listen to books. Yet, so many of them have never used podcasts. This will be a seamless introduction. By integrating long and short form cast into their app, it’ll be easy for someone to flip from a book to a podcast in a few clicks. MOST INTERESTING: The podcast or show section will allow Audible to offer freemium content (then up-sell users to a paid $14.95/month). They are also rolling out short-form audio of text-based articles. Chosen and read by Audible editors. So you may see a section of an article from The New York Times delivered as a podcast. 
  3. Google Play. Google announced last fall that it would bring podcast to its Google Play music app, however, it’s hard to be too excited about it, because Google doesn’t seem very excited. Ha. MOST INTERESTING: Much like Spotify, your music, podcast, and radio streaming are all in one app. 

Again, I don’t think there is any need to distribute through these platforms just yet, however, I do think there are a few takeaways. First, there’s still no punishment for distributing your podcast on different platforms. Minus SoundCloud (the non paid version), no one can see if five or five thousand people listen. Secondly, I think we’ll start seeing distribution services for podcast. As in, you upload your podcast to one place, and they distribute to iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, etc, etc. Currently, you have to register your RSS feed on all of those platforms. While this isn’t difficult or time-consuming, services like SoundCloud and Libsyn will gain competitive advantages by allowing easy, one-time registration for multiple platforms. Lastly, this is version 1.0 of podcasting. With every new competitor, iteration, and improvement, podcasting will gain more listeners and more momentum. I can’t wait to see 2.0!

Seasonal Approach to Podcasting

You may have noticed that more and more podcasts are gravitating to a seasonal approach. One of my favorites, Michael Hyatt’s This is Your Life, was one of the first podcasts to move to seasons. If your podcast is narrative-based, this concept may make a lot of sense. But if your content is centered on your business and expertise, this shift could be harder to wrap your mind around. So far, I’ve seen several benefits of doing a podcast this way, and here are a few of them:

  1. You can approach a season with some type of theme, almost like a miniseries.
  2. You have a clear and definitive time to readjust the show structure, change the format of intros and outros, and even change ad sponsorship—that way, you get commitments through the season. 
  3. You have an easy entry point. New listeners can sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed when they start listening at later episodes, but with this approach, newcomers don’t feel like they have to binge listen before they join in. (I did this with LOST back in the day. I started watching at Season 3, and I didn’t lose any sleep over it. Although, I’m still not sure how they got on the island. jk)
  4. You have an easy re-entry point. Old listeners who may have stopped listening can come back without feeling like they’ve missed too much. Over holidays I get busy sometimes and look back at a podcast in January to see I’ve missed 4 episodes. I hate missing stuff. That stresses me the freak out. 
  5. You can batch process production. You could spend 2-3 days producing an entire season and work on the other elements of the next season in the meantime. 

This style is not without drawbacks. Here are a few of them:

  1. You can lose listeners. As easy as it is for listeners to jump on in Season 2, it is equally easy for them to fall off between seasons if you take a break. I advise going straight from Season 1 into Season 2, without altering release frequency. 
  2. You don’t have time for batch processing production. It can be difficult to set aside massive amounts of time to produce a lot of content at once. When you produce a monthly or weekly show, it gives you some time to breathe and adjust.
  3. You lose the opportunity to improve. I feel like I’m getting better at interviewing and producing my podcast as I go from episode to episode. However, when you do everything at once, take a big break and then come back sometime later, you don’t necessarily reap the benefits of craft growth

Pragmatically, I feel like adding seasons to your podcast can be super helpful, but I’m not sure you should change your general approach to production or release frequency. The benefit is more in how you organize the podcast for yourself and your listeners. 

Kevin Bacon and Podcast

Did you ever play that 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon game? It’s that game that’s based on the idea that any two people on earth are connected by less than 6 people. Super silly game, but a beautiful concept when you really think about it! It’s likely you know someone, who knows someone, who could change your podcast. Your proverbial Kevin Bacon. Specifically, the right guest could double your podcast listenership over night. 

Seriously. Scott Britton, of the Competitive Edge Podcast, almost doubled his listenership though one of his guest. The guest wasn’t necessarily the biggest he’d interviewed, but he had a huge email list. Just by sending out a simple “Hey I was on the Competitive Edge Podcast” email - Scott’s listenership surged in a few days through his guest.

Back to Kevin Bacon (how bad was that Tremors movie btw?). I encourage you to make a list of 5 guest you know would dramatically grow your listener base and target them. It’s hard work, but finding an introduction to get them on the podcast could be a game changer for your podcast. Think for a second about the benefits of doubling your listenership or simply growing 30%! Because I bet on Kevin Bacon that someone you know is friends with one of your targets.

Asking Better Questions

There are so many parts that go into a great podcast. Having killer intro music, great sound quality, and dynamic guest. But at the heart of a good podcast you have to ask great questions. Even if you have the most well known guest in your field, if you ask wimpy questions, the podcast will be mediocre. Here’s 3 tips for asking better questions. 

Push Yourself. This one sounds simple, but its very hard to do. After you’ve worked on your questions for the show take a look back over them and ask, what can I do to make these better questions? What can I word differently to reveal something about my guests expertise or experience that my listeners would really want to hear? 

Do your homework about your guest. When you’re designing your questions, remember to be curious. This may sound like a given, but doing your homework about your guest will lead you to ask the best questions for them. You may find out something interesting about their previous job or life experience. That will lead you to start forming hypothesis about their success. Then, connect the dots for you listeners. How did being a part of ____ add to your success/expertise today? If you could go back and talk to yourself 5 years ago, what advice would you give? 

Think about the second question. Some of the best interviews start with a pretty basic question. Like, what trends do you see in the ____ industry? After your guest answers that question, be prepared to ask a followup question that lifts the veil on WHY they think that. Asking something as simple as, “What makes you say that?” or “Why do you feel that way?” will show your listeners the thought process behind their likely well rehearsed answer to your first question. And that’s valuable.