Conventional wisdom exists because it works. But that doesn’t mean you can’t break a few rules here and there to stand out. This works in podcasting as much as it does in other areas like art. While there is a lot of merit in following best practices, it is often helpful to experiment with unique podcast strategies to see what you can use to expedite your show’s growth. But you can just break rules for the sake of breaking rules. Everything has to be aligned with the goal of growing your podcast on top of mind. In this episode, Tracy Hazzard and Tom Hazzard discuss the correct approach to experimentation when it comes to podcast strategies. They also break down the most important aspect of this topic: what rules should you absolutely not break? Tune in and learn how rule-breaking is a sensible approach to scaling your podcast and how you can approach it without putting yourself in too much risk.
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Defying The Norm: Rule-Breaking Podcast Strategies For Fast Growth
In this episode, we’re going to talk about Defying the Norm: Rule-Breaking Podcast Strategies for Fast Growth. This is something that’s been said to us when we were students many years ago but we’ve said it ever since. If you’re going to break the rules, that’s okay but make sure you do a good job of it.
It is something that we learned in art school. We went to art school for those of you who don’t know that. We’ve said that before. We went to the Rhode Island School of Design. Part of that model of art school, especially Rhode Island School of Design or RISD, is that you study the masters before you’re allowed to break the rules.
You study what works and what’s been done and then you decide how to make it your own and break the rules but if you’re going to break the rules because there are some things that are conventional wisdom and conventional wisdom can be a good thing and a bad thing, it can become me-too and you can get buried amongst everybody else doing the same thing and you don’t stand out, you’re not differentiating yourself.
However, conventional wisdom can also be there because it works. If you break those rules and you’re sitting back going, “I don’t know why it didn’t work,” it’s because you didn’t even attempt to follow the rules, to begin with. That’s the one thing that I like to say here. I love the rule-breakers in the world. They had a lot of fun. There are a lot of great things to them but if you’re breaking the rules and you don’t even know what they are, that’s a problem.
We need to understand why some of these rules are there so that we understand why we’re breaking them. We’re breaking them for a purpose and the greater good. Also, to stand out and make sure that we’re doing that. If they don’t work, we understand why that didn’t work because we broke them with that purpose. If we didn’t achieve the outcome we wanted, that’s an a-ha and we can learn from that. Another thing is I don’t like to break all the rules at once. I’m all for breaking one rule at a time because otherwise, we don’t know which one failed or which one succeeded.
If you break two rules at once, one of them may be masking the failure of another and give you a false indication so then you try to do that somewhere else and it doesn’t work.
This is called a design of an experiment. This is something that we follow as designers. We learned that you want to adjust one variable at a time, especially with rule-breaking. We want to break one at a time. For us, if you’re going to break up the podcasting rule, we want you to give it a minimum of 1 month but up to 3 months. That depends on how many episodes you’re producing.
If you’re producing an episode every single day, then you don’t need to give it as long as somebody who’s only producing one a week. We want to give it 4 to 12 episodes total before we decide if it’s working but if you’re doing a daily one, give it a month because you will not understand if it’s working or what’s happening in it.
It can be a short-term bump and anomaly amongst your stats, results, outcomes and understanding the impact that might have. Also, you need time for people to listen to it, catch up and then respond to you. When we’re producing a daily show, we have a little bit of overwhelm. While they may be downloading the show, they’re not necessarily listening to it.
They need time to catch up, especially on a daily. Give your listeners time to catch up with you on the production side. It’s 4 to 12 episodes total if you’re doing a weekly and 1 month if you’re doing a daily or 2 to 3 times a week if you’re doing more. Think about it. Giving it a month would be a good amount of time for you.
Let’s talk about some examples of some rules that you might break and maybe why.
Let’s talk about the criticalness of differentiation, especially in social media and websites. There are billions of websites. I don’t know what the last count was. It was like 1.6 billion, 1.8 billion websites or something crazy like that number. I don’t even know what it is in 2023. That’s 2022’s number. There are over a billion YouTube channels. When we’re talking about differentiation, it’s greater and more magnified in social media and on video than it is in podcasting.
I want you to understand that there’s a magnification situation there because there’s so much noise in all those other places. Podcasting is not as noisy. There are 2.5 million podcasts, 2.6 or something the last time I checked it or something like that but there are only about 400,000 active at any given time. It’s not as noisy when you’re looking at active podcasts and that’s critically important. If you’re going to defy the rules, make sure you’re looking at the people who are producing them. There are 1.1 billion websites as we speak, Tom. However, that’s not active. I want to remind you that the stats are the total number of live websites but that doesn’t mean that they’ve updated them.
You have websites all over the map as to whether they’re dormant or active but there are 1.1 billion websites that are figuring into Google searches. It’s very interesting because we talk a lot at Podetize about standing out from the crowd, being found and heard. There are a couple of ironies there. You’re right. There are 1.1 billion websites and 400,000 active podcasts. That’s a much smaller pond to rise above the crowd in.
On the other hand, your podcast is only able to be discovered in that small pond on a small set of data. There’s more data you can put about your podcast on your website to get you found. The great part is Google doesn’t discriminate. They want the most relevant and current content they can find. You can compete among those 1.1 billion podcasts using your podcast as fuel.
You can rise above and certainly, for certain phrases and things in your niche. The 1.1 billion is scary on the one hand. On the other hand, I’m not scared of it at all because Google care about anything except you’re putting out quality content that’s relevant. You compete against the biggest Fortune 500 companies for content. If you’ve got better content, they’re going to put you above them on the list.
That’s what I want to mention here. The conventional wisdom and the things that we shouldn’t rule break on are consistent and constant. Consistent and constant is a bot rule in every search engine, whether it’s a podcast search engine, YouTube search engine, Google search engine for your website or any search engine but it’s also a human characteristic. Humans like consistency and constant. It’s what we trust.
When we look at that conventional wisdom, I don’t want to break that but can I break some things within that? As long as I’m being consistent and constant, I can break a lot of rules on capturing your attention and doing different things. However, there are these people who talk about pattern disruption. That’s a differentiation. We try to do it when we write an email. Maybe sometimes when we write a subject line to an email, we want to capture your attention so we do something that’s a disruptive pattern in our languaging for that.
What we don’t do when we send out emails and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you about it, it can harm you, is that you don’t deviate from being consistent about sending out emails regularly. There is still consistency and constancy in how we reach out and utilize our emails because lots of things break on the technical side if we’re not consistent and constant in our emails. The same thing happens on our website and podcast but it’s because it’s both a human and a bot requirement here. We crave it. That’s one of the rules that I do not want you to defy. No matter what happens, keep that consistent and constant.
I can’t tell you how many times I have existing podcasters come to me and they don’t understand why they’re not getting found through their podcast. I look at their publication schedule and they haven’t published in 4 months, 5 months or 6 months. I’m not sure if they understand what the expectation is from a listener’s perspective of a podcast. They want to hear what you’ve got next for them. Not always are they interested in listening to what you’ve done in the past. Even if they have listened to you for a long time, they already heard what was in the past. They don’t want to hear it again. What’s new? What’s in it for them now?
Certain conventional wisdom, this one does not mess with. There are so many technical reasons why that are going to prevent you from being seen, heard and found so that what you do that’s so wonderful and different will never be found. That’s what we want. If you’re going to defy the conventional wisdom and how this works in the podcasting space and want to be seen, heard and found, then you’re going to have to do it right.
Some of the things you have to do within the rules is the one rule, consistent and constant that you do not want to defy. Once you’re in that, the next rule to defy is, “I need to stand out. I want to capture attention. I want to make sure that you find me.” The reality is that there’s so much that is bought, artificial intelligence and cookie cutter because you followed somebody’s guide and rules.
We’re out here telling you what some of the rules are here at Podetize. We’re sharing them with you but when we do it for and with our clients, we’re also doing it in what we call a bespoke way, a way that finds your brand and personality and that builds that within the model. We want to do what works but we don’t want to adhere to it so we have no personality left. We bring nothing to the table at the end of the day that’s us.
That’s not why someone’s going to listen. Someone’s going to listen to your show. Someone’s going to find your show. Someone’s going to choose to subscribe to your show and check it out because something appealed to them. That can only come from bringing you to that model. How do we bring personality and humor? That’s some of the most important things that you can bring to it.
How many of you have gotten emails that were templated and somebody said, “Plug your company name in here,” and everything else? It’s all a template. How many times do we see headliner audiograms that are templates that look like everybody else is out there? I don’t even know that it’s my podcast being shown there. How many times do we see that in a Canva template of a graphic that we post on social media that makes us look like everybody else? It’s the same colors and model. Everybody’s Instagram looks the same after a while.If you're going to break the rules, make sure you do a really good job of it. Click To Tweet
That’s not okay. We need to bring our personality and brand to it but not overly brand. Remember when I talked about pattern disruption? Let’s disrupt it on occasion on ourselves as well. Our brand needs occasional disruption. It happened that our team was putting out everything in Podetize blue and I was like, “I don’t want every in card to our videos to be all Podetize blue. Mix it up a little. Come up with an accent. Do something different. Make sure you capture people’s attention.” My team was like, “I forgot about that.” We want to do that. We also don’t want everything to be so branded and so us that it loses meaning.
If everything is the same, people stop paying attention. They’re like, “I’ve seen it.”
Especially when you’re saying something similar to other people, we might need to say it in a new way. Say it in something that has a little bit of personality. I categorize our humor here and our humor comes from our wonderful creative director but a little bit from us. It’s us magnified. I consider it to be a little bit of what we would call snarky geek and snarky is something that my stepfather-in-law says.
He says, “I don’t like things when things are too snarky.” However, sometimes when we were like, “How many times do I have to tell you consistent and constant,” I get to be a little bit snarky about it because I’ve repeated myself so much but I can still bring some humor to the repetition about it. We like to call that snarky geek.
We throw in. It’s about to be May 4th, 2023. May 4th is May the Fourth Be with You in our household. We care about that. To not put out a social media post on May 4th would not be characteristic of our humor, our direction and the geekiness that we have and it needs to happen. You got to bring you to the table.
It’s also about standing out. If you say something a lot because it is an important message, you repeat it consistently and constantly all the time. Sometimes you have to inject some humor, snarkiness or something into it to be a little different and get attention to make your point or make sure that people see it. It sometimes takes people to hear something many times before it sinks in.
Bringing humor to it is one great way to do that. Maybe you’re not funny. That’s okay to be straightforward about it. Maybe you’re a little bit angry about something. Dive into the anger. Anger is good too. It’s a differentiator so as inspiration and power in that. It can also be diving into why people are attracted to you. What do you bring to them? Do you bring to them anger that gets them moving and empowered to make a change in their life? Go ahead and do that.
Do you bring to them the power of happiness in inspiration in a way that it’s infectious? Go ahead and do that too. If you got humor, play to it. It’s because when you make people laugh, they pay attention and that’s something that I want to bring to us. We’ve got an example of something that made me laugh. Something that we repeat is that intro/outros are way too long. There are a lot of coaches and “gurus” in the podcast world.
One of the things that they say is, “You have to make sure you tell everybody all about you and share everything about you. Sell in the very first 30 seconds and 1 minute of your show and that means in the intro.” I say, “That’s a great way for someone to go, ‘Your show’s about you and not about me, the listener. Do I even want to give it a shot?’” It’s a great way for you to pop out of that.
The outro is a great place for that as well, although, we have binge listeners who go from the outro of one straight into the intro of the next so you have to also pay attention to the length. That’s why we are very conscious of the length. One of the things that we say again and again is we highly recommend switching things up. If you’ve been doing this for a while or you followed these gurus and made a long intro and outro, then go ahead and switch it up and shorten it. Thirty seconds is our ideal here.
However, if you are going to make it longer, you better make it interesting. If you can do that with humor, there’s no way I’m going to tune out. What Tom’s going to share with you is one of the best outros I have ever heard. It’s on the show called TherapyBites. Doc Heath is fantastic. I’ve been on his show. He’s been on my show. There are a bunch of swaps. There are tons of his humor. He’s very funny in this geeky psychiatry way, which is even funnier. He’s got a lot of inspiration and baseball humor and baseball analogies as well in there too. His outro is one of the longest yet most brilliant outros I have ever heard.
It is long. This is going to be a little more than two minutes of an audio clip that I’m going to play for you. It is worth listening to because he did something brilliant. He made it fun, even though it is the same in every episode. I’ve already listened to it several times because it’s so unusual. I was talking about it with other people and I’ve shared it with other people. Can you imagine? I’m in the podcast industry and I have shared somebody’s outro with other people just because the outro is so great. That doesn’t happen every day in a podcast. Check this out. I’m playing this from the Apple Podcasts desktop app.The things that we shouldn't rule-break on are consistent and constant. Consistent and constant is a bot rule in every search engine, but it's also a human characteristic. Click To Tweet
“Government legal gobbledygook. TherapyBites is not intended as a diagnostic or as an alternative to professional clinical treatment. Resources and advice are for information and entertainment purposes only, brought to you by someone saying things you don’t like. Tape that nagging loud mouth shut. Government-approved speech tape and gas tapes are now available at your local hardware store.”
“TherapyBites™ A.R.T. LAB™ is not an approved, endorsed or authorized broadcasting affiliate of the United States Special Offense Assessment Police, SOAP for short. A warning, consumption of TherapyBites™ A.R.T. LAB™ content by Kool-Aid, drinking, stinking, thinking social media, pseudo-psychological pushing, wacky woke, anti-free speech, mambo jumbo advocates may cause spontaneous internal skull combustion, stomach discomfort and/or laxative effects.”
“Allergy warning. TherapyBites is manufactured in a facility that challenges nutty distortions and processes nuggets of accurate, realistic thinking and life-affirming beliefs. This is the audio version of the legal fine print. Why are you still listening to this when you can catch the next great episode of TherapyBites™ A.R.T. LAB™ with a good friend or family member? Really? Are you still there? This is getting silly. Move on to the next psychologically thrilling episode of the best advice on the net. No copay is required. Me eat copay with Dr. Heath and T-ball team. Go ahead. Don’t be podgoraphobic. Scoot, scoot, scoot. Onto the next episode.”
I love that, “Are you still there? Why are you still here? Move on,” but what he also does in there is you hear that moment where he says, “Go on and listen to the next episode with someone you love and someone you can share it with.” He is inviting them to do that in that process. There’s a lot packed into this wonderfully energetic, fascinatingly funny and extra-long outro that captures your attention. It disrupts your pattern of thinking. It gets you in the mindset for that next episode, which is also important. He is being conscious of that flow in the bingeability of shows from one to the next.
Most of them eventually, if you listen to his show every single time, once you hear that outro, you’re probably going to skip to the next episode because you’ve heard it before, as fun as it is, unless you’re driving in a car with somebody and you say, “You got to hear this. It’s fantastic.” You’re going to play it all through so they can hear it but it got your attention, put a smile on your face and probably makes you more interested to listen to what he’s going to say in the next episode.
Some of the other options that I’ve seen in the intro/outros in terms of treating them like pattern disruption is to have short ones and long ones and mix them up at different times. Have different voices record them. I have heard a podcast where they have their kids do an intro and it’s pretty funny. Mixing it up now and again and making changes to it is not a bad thing.
Try out some different things but one of the things that we hear again and again from seasoned podcasters is, “I finally listened to you and I cut down my intro and outro. The audience reached out to me and thanked me.” I was like, “If you want engagement, do what they want.” That’s important. Understand what that is. Capture their attention but also, do what the audience wants and what’s important to them.
It’s pretty obvious when you think about it. They’re listening to you every episode. They want what’s new. They want a new part of every episode. They’ve heard the beginning. That’s why we say less is more in the beginning. Let’s welcome the listener, introduce the show and get on with the show type of thing. It’s a little oversimplified but having a prerecorded intro is still important though.
I don’t recommend not having one. It’s important to have a little familiarity like, “Press play. I recognize that. That’s the show I meant to play.” There are so many other ways to do this pattern disruption that you were talking about, Tracy. Changing up your intro or outro once in a while to freshen it up can be a very good thing to see who is paying attention.
People are afraid of this. This is that over-branding situation that we get into. We get afraid to defy the model and bring ourselves to the table. I hear it a lot when I’ll be listening to a show and I’ll say, “I could tell that you trained with this particular coach.” They’re like, “How’d you know that?” I was like, “It’s because you’re making the same mistake that dozens of other people make. It is a mistake and I’m going to tell you that.”
They’re like, “No, that person is a goddess so I’m not going to change it. She told me I have to do this.” I said, “She gave you something easy for them to execute and get you moving but at the end of the day, it’s not going to serve you into 100 episodes. While it was great to get you started, it might not be what needs to continue for you.” That unwillingness to take that open-mindedness and growth mindset required to take your show to the next level is important.
I applaud anyone who puts out a podcast coaching program or a podcast boot camp, a podcast class or how to get started. Go do it. We have one that’s free. Very few people have the ability to get through it. Someone putting it out there and getting you to go through it, there’s power in that and I applaud them for that but how are you going to succeed from there? Is that everything that you needed? It got you going and moving. It did it in a simple, easy way and because of that, we sometimes simplify concepts.Rule-breaking doesn't necessarily have to mean you do something radical, it just means changing things up a little bit. Click To Tweet
We don’t give you everything at once because we need to make sure you move into that next phase. We then add the next layer and the next layer. You need to be on a model of customizing things over time. We were talking about the design of the experiment. One thing at a time at the right moment and making a shift, before you know it, your show is unique. It’s completely you but also working with the audience that you’ve attracted.
If it didn’t work with them, you would have discarded it along the way. That’s where we want to get to. We don’t have to do that all from day one. We can do that over time. We can start to defy those odds when we start to understand what’s working, what’s not working for us, for our audience and what doesn’t feel right to us. It’s okay to say, “This expert is not the right advice for me.”
It’s not the right advice for me anymore or going forward. Maybe it got me going and that’s great. I agree. Anybody who’s putting out a podcast on a regular basis, congratulations. That’s awesome because at the end of the day, you’ve got to bring your message to the world if you want to be heard and I’m glad you’re doing it but how can we get you more from it? More listeners, fans, leads, customers and community members or whatever it is your goal is.
I want to mention a couple of things, Tracy. Rule-breaking doesn’t necessarily have to mean you do something radical. It means you are changing it up a little bit. You say you are consistent and constant. You publish every Wednesday like clockwork. Your audience is used to it but you’ve got an important point you want to make. If you want to stand out, here’s a thought. Have a bonus episode. Publish one on a Friday or Monday.
I don’t mean not on your Wednesday. I’m saying an additional one. Show up at an odd time on a different day with additional value for your listeners. That’s going to get their attention like, “This one’s so important. They didn’t wait to put it out on another Wednesday or at the end of 3 or 4 more they’ve got already in the queue. They gave it to me sooner.”
Here’s another one that we hear a lot. “I have to have guest episodes.” You don’t have to have guest episodes. You are sacrificing some growth models by not having guest episodes because you don’t have somebody else sharing your show with you and for you but that doesn’t mean that’s the right model for you. That is critically important. There are other ways around it.
I can’t tell you how many guest models there are out there of podcast types that I could come up with off the top of my head. There’s one that’s right for you that might be a way in which your guest is more like a debate than a guest. They’re not a feature. You and them are debating. That sounds like an interesting model and it’s putting you on an even playing field so that they’re not being featured. They’re in debate and discussion with you.
That’s still topic-focused at the end of the day and you’re still getting accomplished what you need to accomplish from your content production side but you’re also getting across talking about what you want to talk about. Also, solo episodes, mixing them in. I hear more and more podcasters doing that at both in addition to and/or mixing up their month and doing fewer guest episodes and more solos but not doing it necessarily 100%.
If they’re still in the growth mode of needing to grow their listener base and they need outside help, they’re mixing them. There are ways to break the rules and still get what you need but you might need a consult. You might need to talk to someone who’s doing this and who has an understanding of what works and what doesn’t work. It’s one of the reasons we offer our appraisals and options to have a call with us for anyone out there because we want you to keep podcasting.
The more the industry keeps podcasting, the better off it is for everyone else. Our show values grow. Advertising values grow. If that’s what you’re looking for as an outcome, a value grows for that. “This isn’t working for me. I’d like to do something different,” and not being open to a new idea, consider testing, trying that and holding fast to the way you’ve been doing it is a recipe headed into podfading. The more it’s not working for you, the less it starts to work for you. That’s all a part of a self-fulfilling prophecy that’s going to happen on it.
That is another good reason to break some rules. If you as the host aren’t feeling it, you’re not getting what you want out of it and you’re not enjoying it, that’s a very important reason to change things up and figure it out. I also want to put a footnote on something you said, Tracy. We find some of the people that have added solocasts mixed in with their interview episodes, shows that were entirely interviews that have gone to doing some solo content. A lot of recent case studies have been pointing out to us that their show is doing better. They’re getting more engagement and listenership. Listeners are enjoying that solo content. It’s not that they don’t want to listen to the episodes with guests. They only like that they’re getting more of the host’s mindshare outside of the context of a guest episode.
Break some rules. Once you understand why you’ve made the choices you’ve made or why some of the advice is the way it is, purposefully defy them. Break them for a reason that resonates with you and/or your audience. Either one is way more powerful than breaking the rules for breaking the rule’s sake. It’s also more sustainable at the end of the day and that is going to keep you podcasting and keep your show resonating. It’s keeping your message out there to the world.The more the industry keeps podcasting, the better it is for everyone else. Click To Tweet
We’ll leave it there, Tracy. I don’t think I could wrap it up any better. Thanks so much for reading this episode of the show. Until next time, everyone. Have a great one.