Starting a Podcast? Start with Why.
How to Find Your “Why” and Craft a Compelling Podcast
04.25.19 | Podcasting | By: Adrian Mathenia
There is no shortage of new podcasts populating sites every day, but only a few cut through the noise and make an impact on thousands or millions of listeners. Why? That’s a great question! If you’re starting a new podcast, or perhaps taking a step back to evaluate your current podcast, we recommend you take a moment to ask yourself “why?”
That’s precisely what Simon Sinek would encourage you to do. He’s the author of the 2011 best-seller Start With Why. He also presented a summary of this concept in a TED Talk that quickly became a viral hit. If you haven’t read his book, press pause on reading this blog and pick up a copy at an artsy fartsy local bookstore that needs your money more than those dudes delivering your Instant Pot, batteries, and cat litter. I won’t walk through the whole book today, but using some of Sinek’s key principles, I will try to help you thoughtfully explore the broader purpose of your podcast. We’ll look at how to choose a topic or direction that will energize you and your audience, and give you the tools you need to pull it off.
Why Ask Why
Big surprise here; we’re going to start by asking ourselves why. Sinek’s classic example is Apple. The computer company is just a computer company, right? Why are they the most profitable public company in the world? Well according to Sinek, it’s because they have mastered what he calls “The Golden Circle.”
Most companies lead with their product—Here’s our computer, want one? Apple flips the flow of information. Apple leads with their why, their philosophy. They lead with an idea that they are challenging the status quo, that they do so by making great computers that work well and are easy to use, and that you can join their revolution by purchasing their products. And the crazy thing is, it’s not a sham! Apple truly does hold strongly to their philosophies. It shows up in everything they make.
Most podcasters lead with their podcast first:
Here’s our podcast on trucks. We like trucks. Other people like trucks too and those people should listen to our podcast.
That’s why the vast majority of podcasts have an audience of merely family members and obligated friends. Sinek’s key takeaway from the Golden Circle is this: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Serial didn’t become the most successful podcast in the industry because Sarah Keonig found an interesting case. Sarah Keonig communicated clearly and very early on that humanity, justice, and basic human rights are vital in healing our divided world. She expressed that philosophy through good storytelling and investigative journalism. She let everyone feel like they too can care deeply about those things just by downloading a free podcast. Sarah started with why and you didn’t even notice; you just knew you had to be a part of it.
Finding Your Why
Let’s go back to this trucks podcast and use our imagination a little bit. Say we have a friend named Dale who really wants to make this trucks podcast happen. What is Dale’s why? Dale would probably tell you it’s because he obviously has a big interest in trucks. He’s been driving them around the back roads of Kentucky since he was 13. He knows how to take them apart and put them back together. He just wants to chat it up with other people who share his passion for them. Dale may not know how to verbalize it just yet, but there’s a beautiful why propelling his desire to start this podcast. He just hasn’t been trained to identify it. To do so, all we really need to do is help Dale ask himself what he really, truly loves.
Dale loves his small town, his small high school class, and his small church. Let’s call it community. Dale loves his way of life. Other folks may view it as simple, but Dale knows better. He knows it’s not easy rising before the sun and getting home long after it sets. Let’s call it hard work. He knows it’s not an easy choice to pursue a line of work that goes back centuries in his family tree and helps keep a nation fed. Let’s call it family and tradition.
And Dale also knows that somewhere in the center of all of this is a light blue ‘93 Ford F150. He drives it all around his town. His friends drink beer in the back when it’s parked by the Nolin River on a summer night. His dad helps him restore it in the family barn. Dale takes a few days to slowly unwrap his passion for trucks and finds beautiful pieces of humanity that connect all of us; community, hard work, tradition, family. Dale found his why.
Putting Your Why to Work
After you’ve taken some time to find the threads that connect your passions to the rest of the world, it’s time to employ them. No one needs a podcast on trucks. But even I, who drives a tiny Japanese hatchback, would listen to Dale’s podcast. Because in his marketing, he’s going to communicate something much bigger than trucks:
“In a time when it seems humanity has lost its way, I want to celebrate the things that have guided us back home time and time again. Community, hard work, tradition, and family. Wherever you are right now, wherever you come from, you’re invited to hop in the back of my 93 Ford, grab a beer from the cooler, and join the conversation. My name is Dale, and this is the Pickup Podcast.”
Are you kidding me?? I’ve already hit subscribe and told my cats about it! It’s still a truck podcast. He’s going to talk nerdy truck jargon about engines and manifolds and beds or whatever (is it obvious yet that I don’t understand these things?) but what would have been a disinterested listener will instead be an engaged listener because the table has been set to help connect the dots between truck stuff and larger ideas of being human.
How and What
If you’ve accomplished the philosophical task of identifying your beliefs and finding your why, then let me take a moment to congratulate you! You’ve done the hardest part! The rest are the nitty gritty of details of recording and releasing a podcast. Admittedly, these things aren’t easy. They require a lot of skill and industry know-how to accomplish with excellence.
At Resonate Recordings, we believe everyone has a story worth telling. Whatever you’re passionate about, however niche it may be, is important to all of us because it’s important to you. The life experiences that have brought you to this moment matter. Having a production team on your side that understands that is invaluable. We will couple our expertise with your story and make the technical side of podcasting easy. Recording, editing, mixing, hosting, publishing, promoting, etc.. You can focus on the content and let us handle everything else.
If you’re ready to start with why, you’re invited to talk to us about the how and what. Give us a call at (888) 917-8793, or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Adrian Mathenia
As an Audio Engineer, Adrian works in various capacities from editing to mixing and mastering audio, ensuring that every podcast episode we process is consistently polished and professional. He and his wife Angeline live in Louisville, KY.