Simon Sinek famously wrote Start with Why back in 2009 and since then, the author has been changing the way people approach their business. If you haven’t read this book, based on the title you can get the idea that Sinek is teaching readers the value of starting with why and explaining it to anyone that may come across your brand.
Personally, I’m a lover of this book. Its framework is unique, especially considering it was written in 2009, and it’s something that all marketers should continue to remind themselves as we get caught up in the what and how of what we’re doing.
And since I love this book and mindset so much, I wanted to share why podcasters should also be asking themselves the question of why.
The main question that Sinek is trying to answer in his book is this: “why are some people and organizations more influential, innovative, and profitable than others?” If we look at podcasts, we can ask ourselves why some podcasts are more influential, innovative, and even profitable than others.
And yes, we obviously take into account that some podcasts have been created by celebrities and with that, an automatic audience usually follows. But we’re talking about the indie or pro podcasters that have grown in popularity strictly through their content, marketing tactics, and the voices behind the audio. Podcasts like Call Your Girlfriend, Call Her Daddy, or even the rising show, Inappropriate Questions. What makes these shows so great that listeners keep tuning in every episode?
Before we get too into this article, we also want to make a note of audio quality. All of these shows have great sound quality and production behind them. This definitely helps to increase your likeability among listeners but there are hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there with great quality. So in this article, we’ll be focusing on the messaging behind these shows.
Sinek’s book, Start with Why lays out the idea of “The Golden Circle”.
Basically the Golden Circle has the “why” at its centre, followed by “how” in the second largest ring and “what” in the largest ring. The idea behind this is to discuss the challenge that so many brands or in our case, podcasters, struggle to uncover why they’re producing the content that they’re creating. Why are these conversations or stories being shared? Why should we care as a listener? Why are you the one to be sharing these stories?
And once you’ve identified your why, you then move into the how and the what of what we’re doing.
When you start with why, you’re giving yourself the ability to lead, inspire, and build a dedicated listener base for your podcast. As a listener, I don’t want to know what you’re doing or how you’re doing it, I want you to show me why you’re creating this content and why I need to be listening.
Podcasts are such an intimate medium, you’re in your listeners ear for sometimes upwards for 90 minutes. To be frank, this is a crazy amount of time to be able to hold an audience’s attention. Aside from videos (and albeit, this medium’s average consumption rate is much lower in overall length), not a lot of other marketing channels can achieve these results.
So basically, we’re saying that as a podcaster you hold a very unique and powerful opportunity with your audience. How you use this power will be one of the deciding factors around whether or not your show will become a leader in audio.
The popular podcasts out there typically didn’t start with mass budgets or resources. Yes, they acquired them over time as they gained traction and yes, it definitely helps the overall growth of your show. BUT those large marketing budgets or resources aren’t the reason why listeners continue to tune in and become dedicated fans.
So what is?
It’s the message. It’s the hosts. It’s the relatability factor. It’s the why of why they’re creating this content.
These podcasts all do something similar by hitting an emotional response in their audience. Listeners tune in and can relate to the content, have questions answered that they’ve been too scared or embarrassed to ask, or just feel like they have their own personal connection/relationship with the host.
Let’s take a look at the podcasts that we mentioned above:
The Why: They believe that women sharing their experiences with each other can be a potentially life-changing act.
The How: They have conversations among themselves to share these experiences and beliefs.
The What: A podcast.
The Why: To share her (Alex’s) experiences with relationships, sex, social scenes, and embarrasing moments that listeners can relate to or feel more comfortable in their own experiences.
The How: Alex has conversations with listeners on her own or with guests to talk about these experiences.
The What: A podcast.
The Why: To make space for curiosity by unpacking tricky and sometimes uncomfortable questions to give listeners a starting point for tackling this subject matter.
The How: Hosts Lena and Harvinder sit down with guests to discuss the tricky questions they get asked and better ways to approach these topics.
The What: A podcast.
Alright, now let’s unpack this.
Looking at the above breakdowns, what do you notice? We’ll give you a minute.
Alright, we’ll tell you. If it’s not already obvious, you can see that what makes the podcast unique, relatable, and authentic is their why. The how and what are pretty similar across the three podcasts – they have conversations with either themselves or guests and it’s done through a podcast.
But the why is the reason listeners tune in and keep coming back. The why is what connects to audiences on a deeper scale. And the why is how these podcasts have become leaders in audio and have made a name for themselves. It’s what makes listeners choose them over other podcasts that might be similar.
To wrap this up, as Simon Sinek writes, start with your why. This is your unique differentiator and connector to listeners because the how and what just don’t cut it.
Creating audio for the sake of creating audio or because you think it’s the popular thing to do just isn’t going to work (again, it might work if you’re a celebrity but we’re assuming many of you are not… sorry). As a creator, you have to not only identify what your why is but also lead with it.
If you don’t, you’re falling into the sea of podcasts that also have conversations with themselves or guests on an array of topics. Not surprisingly, this won’t make you stand out.
A passionate storyteller, Ali is Quill’s Director of Growth Marketing, previously the co-founder and CMO of the branded podcast agency, Origins Media Haus (acquired by Quill). She excels in merging creativity with data in order to successfully build and grow a brand.