All this week, I've been exploring ideas that came to me during my chat with CJ Silva of Vocalize on Monday. Today I'm rolling up to another high concept, how serious podcasters like you and me can make memorable shows, episodes, and other forms of content that stay stuck in the minds of our audience members.
Making your podcast memorable isn't easy. There isn't an easy-to-fill-out template or checklist to get you there. It's not a filter that you apply to your master track. It's not a task you leave to the very end of the creation process as you might do with a final proofreading pass.
Even if you do manage the herculean feat of making a truly memorable episode, your memorable episode is in direct competition with dozens of other pieces of content your listeners are exposed to that very same day. That memorable impression you made as they listened to your show on their way to work can be completely knocked out by a different podcast episode they listened to over their lunch break. Harsh but true.
And it's not just episodes of other podcasts you have to worry about. It's the full compendium of content that they—we—are exposed to every single day. There's a lot coming at us day in and day out. We quite literally cannot keep everything in our active memory.
Forgetting is a survival mechanism for our species, and it affects all of us. Many afternoons, my wife will ask me about the topic I discussed on the day's show. And more often than not, I draw a complete blank just a few short hours after I created the content.
I spent between three and four hours making that content... and it's completely gone an hour or two later. What the heck is wrong with me? And if I can't even make content that sticks in my own head for any length of time, why should I expect any of my listeners to remember what the hell it was I said?
Acknowledging Some Realities
Before we start this discussion about making memorable podcast content, let's acknowledge and accept a few things.
First of all, we must acknowledge and accept that we have zero control over what goes on inside the heads of our listeners. Second, we must acknowledge and accept that we can't control the other content our listeners are exposed to. And the third acknowledgment we must also accept is that our experience as a creator is markedly different than the experience our listeners have when they consume our creations.
And it's that last one that's important.
I'll again use myself and Podcast Pontifications as an example. For the three to four hours it takes me to create an episode, I'm fully engaging the "creator" part of my brain. Or parts, I should say. Those parts are busy creating the episode that I slowly turn from idea to concept to final product, making all the necessary publishing pieces along the way. It's creative, but it's also methodical.
That's a very different part of the brain than you use when you enjoy the content I've created. Unless you're intensively listening to see where I got something wrong (and yes, I get things wrong all the time), your "creator" brain is mostly dormant as you listen. At least until the point when you hear me say something that may activate your "creator" brain, obviously. But until that time, you're just enjoying the content—at least I hope you're enjoying the content— and hopefully considering ways to apply the ideas into your own podcast.
So even though my "creator" brain lets me forget everything after I'm done creating, it's quite possible that your "enjoying" brain does not forget everything I've said after you've heard it. At least I hope not. The creator experience with their created content is not the same experience as those who enjoy that created content.
With that last acknowledgment thoroughly explored, let me run through some practical tips that I use that you too can use to make your podcast content more memorable.
1. Have a schtick.
I use at least two schticks in my episodes; one at the top of the episode and one at the bottom. I know these schticks... well, stick in at least some people's brains because I've had people repeat them to me when we meet. The phrases are said by me each and every time I record, they aren't canned and added in the final production stage. They aren't voiced by someone else. I can and do change them slightly each time. And whenever I forget to speak them or dramatically change how I speak them, I hear about it from regular listeners. So I know that at least those two aspects of my show are making a lasting impression.
2. Be about one thing.
Some podcast formats, like news roundups and variety shows, are by definition about more than one thing. But for most other podcasts, adding in more themes or points into a single episode isn't a great idea. It's one that can inadvertently make your episodes less memorable.
Earlier in this episode, I reminded you about the vast amounts of content people are exposed to every single day. A flood of content that forces their brain to choose one memorable thing over another. Don't do that to yourself by packing your episodes with more than one thing!
Even if you're the host of an interview-based podcast, think seriously about keeping your conversation on point and about just one thing rather than asking your guests about the myriad things they've done in their lives. Yes, I'm sure your guests are complex. It's OK to invite them back on the show in a few weeks to talk about a different thing!
3. Reinforce and repeat.
You've probably heard the trick of "Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, tell them again, and then tell them what you just told them", right? That actually rings true and podcasters often forget it.
If you or your guest drops a nugget of wisdom, ring that bell. Loudly! It's okay to break into your interview or your narrative and say something like, "I want to pause for a moment and underscore that point in case you missed it", and then jump right back into the flow. And then you'll do something similar again at the end of the show in a custom closing statement. That means your listeners have heard the point at least three times. That'll help it stick in their memory.
4. Less is more.
This may seem in stark opposition to what I just said about reinforcing and repeating. It's very easy to get deep into an explanation or a discussion that you, in full creator-brain mode, seems like excellent content. But your listeners, with their brains fully in enjoy-mode, might find it tedious or boring.
So don't be afraid to cut out content to avoid that. But you can't do it in the moment. At least not as well as if you waited and took another pass on the content you recorded when your brain is not in creator mode.
5. Don't flood your audience.
By that I mean don't give them more to think about than they can handle. Personally, I'm guilty of this on Podcast Pontifications. I've known I've been overloading you with content for quite a while to both of our detriments. Now I'm more than 550 episodes in and I'm finally doing something about it. Starting next week. Stay tuned for more.
And on that note, I shall be back directly with yet another Podcast Pontifications.