Not to get all emotional about podcasting, but this episode is all about emotions and podcasting. More to the point, I'm going to help you think through the emotional responses your podcast elicits from your listeners. We, humans, are emotional creatures. We have emotional reactions to all but the most mundane of things. And I know your podcast is anything but mundane.
If you’ve taken any formal presentation-skills training, you’ve likely been exposed to the concept of changing the emotional state of your attendees with your presentation. Knowing what assumptions (and feelings) the audience comes into the presentation with helps a good presenter understand how to guide them to a different set of assumptions (and feelings) at the end of the presentation.
Not surprisingly, that same basic before-during-after emotion-shifting framework can be applied to podcasting. Without a painfully over-animated slide deck!
Are You Not Informed That You Will Be Entertained?
Every one of your episodes elicits some sort of emotional response from every one of your listeners. Intentional or not, every podcast evokes an emotional response. Even if the podcaster had no intention of doing so. It happens. We’re human
Without a shred of evidence to back up my claim, the most common emotions or feelings elicited by podcast are:
- feeling informed
- feeling entertained
Think about the podcasts you’ve listened to or are aware of, and you’ll probably agree that most trip one of those two relatively benign emotional triggers.
But are either of those, in isolation, enough? If nearly every podcast elicits feelings of being informed or being entertained… how does any particular show stand out? If any podcast can make a listener feel either entertained or informed, why would listeners tell others about any particular podcast? Commodities are common, and common things are not remarkable.
Luckily, podcasts don’t elicit a single emotional response from most listeners.
Some Podcasters Are Experts at Blending Emotional Responses
There’s a fascinating study from 2017 that examines 27 distinct categories of emotion, which is a lot more than the basic emotional responses most people can list. (I highly encourage you to spend some time with the interactive tool associated with that study to see how all of those emotions work together when exposed to content.)
But let’s stay simple for the sake of this article about podcasting, since I have neither a Ph.D. in psychology nor parapsychology. If you think one-level deeper about the podcast you listen to, you’ll see how skillful podcasters blend the emotions they elicit from listeners.
Hardcore History, Dan Carlin’s extremely popular and long-running podcast, is clearly informative. It’s a history podcast. But Dan masterfully weaves in entertainment along the way. Again, because it’s history and most of us slept through a good portion of history class, precisely because history class was not entertaining. Dan’s show is, which is why millions of people eagerly await his episodes on the history of ancient civilizations told in real-time. Kidding. But they are often many hours long. And did I mention extremely popular?
Drew Ackerman’s popular podcast, Sleep With Me, is designed to help you fall asleep. But it’s more than that, as insomnia affects people differently. Drew knows he can’t force you to sleep, but he can keep you entertained as you—hopefully—drift off. And if you can’t fall asleep, that’s OK. At least you were entertained by his creaky dulcet tones. Drew’s episodes make listeners feel sleepy and feel entertained.
Now think about horror podcasts. Many people love being scared or creeped out by horror content, but only if it’s also entertaining. It’s why we watch scary movies. My wife and I wouldn’t have invested 5 hours in IT 1 & 2 last night if we were not entertained. And a bit scared from time to time. That’s all part of the fun! Horror podcasts hit those same triggers for their loyal fans.
For me and with Podcast Pontifications, I want to leave you with a contemplative feeling as I inform you about the concepts and ideas I bring forth on each episode. Were I just going for “informed”, I’d just tell you about the 27 emotional states and sign off. But to get you to contemplate what that means for you and your show, I ponder this concept in real-time with you. Hopefully it rubs off. And you’re still here, right?
What Emotions Can You Blend With Your Podcast?
Ponder the show(s) you make, and think of the emotional responses elicited in your audience. What's the primary emotion your think your content elicits in your listeners? Chances are, you’re probably trying (or not trying) to make them feel either informed or entertained. But what else?
Can you elicit feelings of inspiration among your listeners? Can you make them feel empowered by your words? What about anger, so that their anger turns into action? You might intentionally make your audience feel sad, perhaps for similar reasons? Do you want your episodes to stir up feelings of arousal? Or maybe you want to impart a sense of relief to your listeners.
That's just a handful of possible emotional responses your show can elicit. And again, whether you're doing it intentionally or not.
So here's your homework: Think about the two primary emotions you want to elicit with your episodes? Maybe you already intentional about this on your episodes now. Or maybe not, but you really want to get more focused.
Write those two emotions down on a sticky note and put that note right next to where you do your episode prep. Your mic, your monitor… Wherever you can keep them in visual range to constantly remind you that this is what you are trying to achieve with your episode. Your episodes should elicit at least those two emotional responses. And yes, you can—and should—blend in other emotions as appropriate. But don’t lose sight of the primary two for your initial blend.
Stick with those for a few episodes and see how you feel. Measure your audience’s response if you can. If it’s working—you feel better and your audience isn’t running away—great! But if not, change it up! I’m a big fan of change, as you know. Like anything, it may take a few iterations before you hit on the right blend of emotional responses that sets your show(s) apart from the rest.
If you liked what I had to say, please go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra to show your support.
And if I did leave you feeling contemplative and well-informed enough, I would love for you to share Podcast Pontifications with one of your podcasting friends.
I shall be back tomorrow for yet another Podcast Pontifications,