I'm not a big fan of the word authentic. On the one hand, it's been so overused that, to me at least, it’s lost all meaning. And on the other hand, the word is often misused. Anyone talking about authentic American food is using the word authentic incorrectly.
But there’s one place where I’ve no issue with hearing the word, and that’s when you’re talking about yourself; your authentic self.
Your Authentic Podcasting Self
We’re all more or less in touch with our authentic selves. I’m on one extreme end of that spectrum and am rather incapable of being anything other than my authentic self for more than a dozen minutes. There’s only so long I can feign interest before my lack of a poker face gives me away.
If you’re one of those who can by choice or perhaps are forced to by necessity be someone other than your authentic self for hours on end—perhaps as a day job, to appease your family, or just to fit in—you either have my sympathies or accolades, whichever is most appropriate for you.
My hope is that, regardless of how much you can let your authentic self shine through during your waking hours, you are able to be your authentic self on your podcast.
I sat in on a conversation with Cameron Esposito at She Podcasts LIVE over the weekend, and I jotted down a line Cameron said. It’s not an exact quote, and I’m not trying to distill Cameron’s experiences down to my talking points. That’s not very authentic, is it? But I was inspired enough to jot this down as inspiration for today’s episode and wanted to give credit where credit is due. Here’s my takeaway:
Your audience is your audience. It's okay to talk about things that only your audience cares about. The masses don't matter.
Now, I think that's an incredibly grounded perspective for any podcaster to take and reflect on from time to time. Your audience is your audience. Those five words can work as a re-centering mantra when you need it. Saying them out loud can, when needed, help you reconnect with your show, which in turn will help you reconnect with your audience. Again, when you need to.
Stay Focused On What You And Your Audience Cares About
So that I don’t talk about myself the entire time, I’m going to use a friend of mine and fellow listener of yours, Suzy Buttress, as my focal point. Suzy runs the Casual Birder podcast. And if you’re a fan of birding, even just casually, you’ll likely enjoy listening to her show.
Suzy’s show, as you might expect, is exactly what it sounds like; it's a birding podcast. Birding is the singular thing that both she and her audience have in common. It’s one thing that both she and her audience care about. It’s not the only thing Suzy or her audience cares about, for sure. But it’s what they have in common.
Suzy, oftentimes with others, talking about the birds she encounters is what the audience cares about. It’s why they tune in. Suzy never has to worry if she’s talking too much about birds. That’s literally in the title of her show!
But let’s say some consultant/producer/manager/sponsor comes along and suggests Suzy (you’ll forgive the pun) stretch her wings and talk about more broad topics. Perhaps exercise tips (lots of walking when looking for birds) or travel tips (some birds, like the African swallow, are non-migratory, so you’ll have to travel to see them if you live in Mercia.)
On balance, those might be good ideas. They seem in line with the type of content her audience might like. But then again, those ideas might not be what her audience wants to hear. How the hell would I know? Suzy knows her audience is her audience, so she can safely ignore the advice offered by whoever provided that advice. Because they do not know her audience like Suzy knows her audience.
More importantly, Suzy may not have enough interest in those adjacent topics to make them sound interesting. Every second you spend talking about something you don’t care about it a second of your show you don’t care about. Over time, that’ll pile up on you and become noticeable to your audience.
It's very easy to get caught up in the desire to grow your podcast. And yes, I think that growing a show is important. To some degree, growth is at least somewhat important to most podcasters. How important is debatable, obviously. But if your quest to grow your show drives you too far away from the content your authentic self cares about, then you may see the opposite of growth.
To thine own self be true. That's why your audience is listening to your podcast in the first place.
Love these little nuggets of knowledge to help me be better at podcasting.
I appreciate your support, Doug. That's the not-so-secret-sauce as to why I make Podcast Pontifications: it's for serious podcasters who want to get better at podcasting so we can all make podcasting better.
If you haven't yet signed up for the free Advancing Podcasting community, please do so! It’s filled with other serious podcasters who all share the same goal of not only becoming better, but making all of podcasting better. So please join me and a hundred or so other podcasters over there. We’d love to have you.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.