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Podcasting and the Power of Creative Storytelling

Tick, tick, tick. The rain was jarring. The drops were slow, but Carlie jumped each time they slapped the windshield. Her Honda slowly chugged over the minefield of potholes.
“I don’t know if my car can handle this, Ian,” she warned.
“Well, there aren’t any other roads…according to GPS,” he replied.
The car continued to bounce along, until there was a sudden CRASH and POP! The right, backside began to slouch, and the rim shrieked as it scraped across the gravel. Ian’s eyes darted toward Carlie.
“You’ve got to be kidding….” he said exasperatedly. “Now we’re gonna be late to the interview. Happen to know how to change a flat tire?”


Like any good story, you need a compelling, solid intro. Now you’re hooked and hopefully going to continue reading the remainder of my post. 

Words. We often forget the weight they hold and how powerful a well-timed, thoughtful phrase can be. We all can think of personal moments where certain words have had profound impact on how we’ve felt and how we’ve acted as a result. Words are influential, and their amazing influence comes in many forms. Whether gathered from movies, books, or a simple conversation, words stay with us long past the moments our brains initially process them. A good story, fact or fiction, will stick with us for life.

Last week, the founders of Goat Rodeo, a Washington DC based podcast company, led a discussion at Forum One on the importance of audio (see presentation slides). As high school best friends, Ian Enright and Carlisle Sargent turned what started out as a cross-country road trip into the foundation of their own podcast and company, Goat Rodeo.

With full idealism, the discussion at Forum One focused on helping organizations utilize audio as a new way of approaching both internal and external storytelling. The following are some key takeaways from their talk.

Develop Your Approach

It is important to develop your story idea and theme before you begin production. When you first begin your storytelling journey, you need to ask yourself if the idea is worth talking about — to people other than just yourself — and if you will attract an interested audience. 

Before breaking into the audio industry, determine the focus of your story. Making your own creative story while keeping two important points in mind: (1) how to tell a compelling story using audio; and (2) how to make that story sound professional and polished. 

Next, you need to think about how to talk about your idea and the way in which it will be presented. If you’re hosting a podcast, keep in mind that you’ll be speaking a lot. This means you need to create an enjoyable storytelling experience that will engage your audience as well as entice them to become return listeners. Finally, think about how to get others to talk about your idea.

Captivate Your Audience

One of the main upsides to using audio media is that your audience is already inherently targeted for you. For example, in Washington DC specifically, over 300,000 people work in the city, 40% of which uses public transportation. Travel time is on average a half hour for most commuters. This is a significant amount of daily time that people can use for entertainment. Additionally, 70% of adults own smartphones, and three out of five drivers use a connected devices to play media in their vehicles. They have the time, so it’s up to you to captivate their attention and imagination.

Learn to Narrate

Accept that you’re going to hate the sound of your voice. You will have to record and re-record multiple sessions of the same program before you end up with your final, edited product. A few things to keep in mind when scripting your narrative:

  • Outline your story
  • Get in touch with your emotions
  • Immerse yourself in the dirty details
  • Don’t be too ironic (It is extremely hard to capture irony in audio)
  • Tell your story from multiple perspectives 
  • Don’t be afraid to just press record and start talking

Remember, in audio, you can’t rely on nonverbal cues. You don’t have irony, built-in context, or physical cues – but you can take advantage of other feature specific to audio, such as inherent interaction with your audience and a fast lane to your audience’s emotions. Audio is emotive, and your tear ducts are connected to your ears. When producing a program for headphones, think about how you literally will be whispering directly into someone’s ears.

Become a Great Interviewer

If you’ve decided to take the interview approach for your audio story, there are some major tips to keep in mind during the interview:

  1. Ask the right questions. Make sure they are open ended and generate a longer response. Try something along the lines of “Can you tell me about a time when…?”
  2. Frame your interview chronologically. By lining up your questions appropriately, the interviewee’s responses to fall in a logical manner and create a story timeline. “What happened first?”
  3. Mimic a therapist. Have a poker face without being and impersonable robot. Make sure you remain quiet and listen.
  4. Create the right physical atmosphere. Your body language and nonverbal cues set the tone. Your interviewees will mimic your body language, so create a zone of comfort. This will result in you getting much more open, honest responses. 
  5. Hold off on taking notes until after the interview. Record first, take notes later.

Final Takeaways

To recap, here are some of the most important items to note about creative storytelling:

  • Find an authentic story and change your content delivery to fit that story 
  • Utilize the strengths and areas of depth already found in your organization, professional background, or personal interests
  • Don’t over-invest in “high end” technology at the expense of a good story — a good story will stand out more than an expensive mic
  • When interviewing, mimic a therapist: use good body language, and ask questions chronologically
  • Effective interviews are about getting your subjects to speak in story
  • Audio is a fast lane to connecting to your audience’s empathetic nature — keep that in mind when telling your organization’s story

More than anything, remember that there is a storyteller in each of us. Don’t rely too much on bells and whistles, such as heavy music or quirky sound effects. People are intelligent consumers, and they know when you are using music as a manipulative tool. 

Still have questions on podcasting or creative storytelling in general? Don’t know where to start? Feel free to reach out to Ian and Carlisle today!

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