No. 059 How to Differentiate Your Show in Meaningful Ways That Create Connection

This is the second part of our three-episode mini course on creating your unique snowflake in a blizzard of podcasts.

In our last episode, we discussed how you decide what your show will be about. In this episode, we take the next step of providing a three-step process for differentiating your show, so that it attracts attention and creates connection.

The path to differentiation involves …

  • Doing your research — in your market, out of our market, and even outside of podcasting
  • Making the best decision and moving forward
  • Planning and producing with conviction, while still maintaining an open mind
  • Identifying opportunities within your chosen format to brand your show and make it yours

That last bullet is a meaty one. It includes branding the beginning, middle, and end of your show with the right music, intro narration, tagline, recurring questions and sections, and even your call to action. We linger here for a little while, providing many ideas and examples.

If you want to add meaningful differentiation to your show, don’t miss this episode.

We also have a couple of podcasts to recommend:

Listen, learn, enjoy …

Show Notes

No. 059 How to Differentiate Your Show in Meaningful Ways That Create Connection

Jerod Morris: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at

Welcome to The Showrunner, where we have one goal: teach you how to develop, launch, and run a remarkable show. Ready?

Welcome, showrunner, to the latest episode of The Showrunner podcast. This is episode No. 59. I am your host, Jerod Morris, VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital. I am joined, as always, by my co-cost, Jonny Nastor, the host of Hack the Entrepreneur, bestselling author, connoisseur of coffee, auditor of … what was it again?

Jonny Nastor: Erstwhile auditor of energy.

Jerod Morris: Erstwhile auditor of energy. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, listen to episode 58. Jonny, how are you doing today, man?

Jonny Nastor: Good. I think soon, to your title, we’re going to be adding bestselling author.

Jerod Morris: I hope so.

Jonny Nastor: That’s my feeling.

Jerod’s New Book and Why It Should Challenge You to Repurpose Your Own Content to Expand Your Audience

Jerod Morris: I hope so, man. I’m pretty excited today. I sent you a message on Slack about a half hour ago with a link. I think I’ve mentioned it on the show before. We created a book at the end of our basketball season for The Assembly Call, and it is up on Amazon now. I am now getting some pages on the site so that we can sell it, move forward with it, and get it out there.

Man, when you click over and see that a book that you created is on Amazon, you see your book cover there, and then your name in the author section, that is a really, really cool feeling. That was cool to wake up to today.

Jonny Nastor: That’s awesome, yeah. When I saw it, I was, “Man! That’s so … ,” because I had seen the Google Doc version, but it’s a Google Doc. I see a lot of Google Docs. Yeah, to see it on Amazon is really cool.

The first thing I noticed was all the names of creators of it, which, to me, that’s so cool because you’ve put together a team to get this project done and out the door rather than trying to do it all yourself and not getting it done for five years, or one person on the team just trying to do it themselves. That was really cool. It was really cool. I like that.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. There’s no way that what we’ve done with The Assembly Call would be possible without the team, without my co-host, without Linsey, the person who designed the cover, without Dr. Ferrell. Actually, one of the player’s moms wrote the forward for our book. That’s obviously helpful.

Just so folks know how this book came about. I’ve mentioned before that our opt-in for our email lists, our postgame emails, which we don’t put on the blog. We don’t send anywhere else. You have to be on the list to get it. That’s why our list has really, really grown big.

The book is basically a compilation of all of these postgame emails with then an introduction, a closing, a forward, and then some other little accouchements in there–like we put the box scores in there. Again, it’s taking content that we’ve already created, and then there’s a whole process of getting the book together, as you know well. It’s time-consuming, and that’s difficult.

But when you start with a lot of the content already there and you’re re-purposing it, it makes it a much more efficient, quick process than it would otherwise be. It allowed us to get this done so soon after the season. Really excited, and I share this to challenge you listening right now to think about the content that you have and what other ways can you repurpose this content to take it further, to expand your audience, and to get out there in a different way.

For us, it was taking these emails–which, in a sense, are based on the content of our postgame show because I always write them right after our postgame show–take those emails, put them into a book. Get them out there.

What is it for you that you aren’t re-purposing yet that you could repurpose and take your engagement with your audience to the next step? That’s what Jonny and I have been trying to model with the books that we’ve created. We hope that that’s a plan that you’ll look into, too, because it’s really rewarding.

Jonny Nastor: It is, yeah. We often think that what we have is not enough to create a book. If we’re creative enough and dig deep enough, we really do have more than enough for a book. It’s that mental hurdle of, “Am I an author to put out a book on Amazon?” It’s a bold move.

It’s like putting your first podcast onto iTunes. It’s that same excitement of seeing it there, but it’s also that bold anxiety leading up to it, like, “Oh man, I’m putting this out there as an author now.” It’s totally rewarding, as we all know running our own shows through iTunes.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. It’s a great feeling. Anyway, if you want to see it, you can actually go to, which stands for Better Than Advertised because that’s the title of the book. If you go there, it will redirect you to Amazon, and you can see it. Maybe you’re an Indiana fan and maybe you’re interested in buying the book. But if you just want to see what it looks like, you can go there,, and check it out.

With that said, Mr. Nastor, I think that we should jump in to our next mini course recording. What do you say?

Jonny Nastor: Yeah. Excellent. Let’s do it.

In Case You Missed It … Details on the 6-Episode Series of Creating a Mini Course

Jerod Morris: Just to provide the proper context here so that you know what’s going on if this is, by chance, your first time listening to The Showrunner–we’re in the midst of a six-episode series where we are walking through the process of creating a mini course.

Several episodes ago, we talked about why and how you should create a mini course from a podcast. Now we are using these episodes to actually create the mini course. The section that we’re recording here on our main topic, we are actually going to take that, that recording, verbatim, and turn it into a mini course for Showrunner folks.

We’ll obviously have the call to action for that and everything once we have it set up. Right now, we’re doing the recording. That way, you can watch this entire process unfold. If you’re just tuning in right now, go back, and you can catch up on the previous episodes after you finish listening to this one. But that is what we’re doing.

For this episode, we are going to be recording the second lesson of the second mini course. There’s two mini courses going on simultaneously. One that Jonny is doing on creating engaging interviews, and then one I am doing on creating a unique podcast that will attract and retain an audience.

We’ve already recorded the first two lessons in Jonny’s mini course. This will be the second lesson in my mini course. With that said, let’s dive into it.

The 3-Step Process for Creating a Unique Podcast That Will Attract and Retain an Audience

Jerod Morris: Welcome to lesson two of our mini course, the 3-Step Process for Creating a Unique Podcast That Will Attract and Retain an Audience. Of course, as we mentioned in the last lesson, the alternate title is how to create your unique snowflake in a blizzard of podcasts. That’s our goal here. We know how many podcasts are out there. How do we get our podcast to standout?

Our big idea, again, and this again goes back to a statement that Chris Garrett made to me when I asked him about differentiation, is think about our shows with this sentence. We want to be able to fill in the blanks: “Unlike most shows about ______, our show is ______, which means ______.” As we go through this mini course, that’s what we’re trying to do–help you fill in these blanks for your show.

The 3D Philosophy for Creating a Unique Podcast

Jerod Morris: The way that we’re doing that is with our 3D Philosophy for Creating a Unique Podcast. The first D, of course, we talked about in lesson one, which is to decide. We’ve got to decide what our show will be about.

The second D is differentiate. That’s what we’re going to talk about in this lesson. We’ve got to differentiate so that our show stands out. The third D, which will be lesson three, is to display and double down that differentiation.

Lesson 2 of the 3D Philosophy for Creating a Unique Podcast: Differentiate

Jerod Morris: Let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about how to differentiate your show so that it stands out and creates connection. The first thing that we need to remember that we need to think about is actually a review of an idea from lesson one, which is that you’ve got to remember that you are always the biggest differentiator.

Your decision for what the show will be about needs to be driven by your enthusiasm and finding that intersection between your enthusiasm, your knowledge, and how you can then help an audience come to some kind of transformation. Once you’ve made that decision of what the show is going to be about, now, the next question is, how do you move forward from that decision and differentiate?

Again, if that decision, if it’s not truly based on something that you’re enthusiastic about and really have some knowledge in that you can create, it’s going to be very difficult for you to make any of these other decisions of differentiation matter. If you start with that good decision from lesson one, now you’re ready to differentiate.

Let’s talk about the three steps for differentiating so that your show truly stands out, attracts attention, and creates a connection. We want our shows to be able to do all of those.

Step 1 of Differentiating: Do Your Research

Jerod Morris: The first step for differentiation is doing your research. There simply is no substitute for this. You’ve got to do your research because it stands to reason that, if you are going to differentiate, you have to know what is there. Otherwise, you’re just guessing. We’re not here to guess. We are here to strategically, smartly, intentionally differentiate our shows. The only way to do that is to know what is out there.

Consume Podcasts in Your Niche

Jerod Morris: The first step in doing your research is to consume podcasts in your niche. You’ve got to understand what is there. You have to know what is out there in your market so that you know what you need to position yourself against. We used the examples of a couple of our shows in lesson one, and they are extremely relevant here.

So Hack the Entrepreneur, Jonny knew. He went out there, and he did research on other podcasts that are in the entrepreneurship niche. He realized that there needed to be a show that was about mindset, that was about the inner struggles of entrepreneurs because that wasn’t really being filled. It was in the entrepreneurship niche, but it positioned itself a little bit differently.

Same thing with The Showrunner. We realized that there were a lot of shows already out there that dealt with the technical aspects of podcasting. We wanted to deal more with the mindset, with the audience connection, and with that bigger-picture experience that you, as a showrunner, can and are creating with your audience.

We specifically positioned The Showrunner within this existing market of podcasting podcasts, podcasts about podcasting, to be right here in this specific position that was carved out, different from other shows. That’s the first step. You’ve got to consume podcasts in your niche.

Consume Podcasts Outside of Your Niche

Jerod Morris: The second step in doing your research is to consume podcasts outside of your niche. We’ve got to understand what other ideas are working that we might be able to fit into our niche. If we go in and consume podcasts in our niche, understand our market, and understand some gaps in positioning, we can’t just assume that we will creatively, out of thin air, off the top of our heads, come up with this great new idea that we can add to our show.

We talk about creativity, and it’s not just sitting there, staring out the window, and having a great idea come to you. A lot of times, creativity is much more the synthesis of other ideas of our experiences and seeing the same thing in a new way. Applying the same thing to a new concept in a new market. That is such a great way to differentiate.

Really, it’s one of the only ways to intentionally differentiate. Otherwise, you’re just waiting and hoping that this magical muse comes to you. In reality, the magical muse is actually your subconscious a lot of times, synthesizing these different ideas. Get out there and consume podcasts outside of your niche.

If you think about the New Rainmaker podcast, that was the first podcast on the Rainmaker.FM network. The big idea for Robert and Brian is they wanted to create a podcast that was like This American Life meets the business world.

If you go back and listen to the first seven, eight episodes, those were all scripted. There’s a story element to it. There’s music. It was something a little bit different that you hadn’t really heard in this business podcast area.

Think about StartUp right now, which, obviously, Alex Bloomberg came from This American Life. That really is a This American Life meets the business world. That’s already out there. Now, maybe that kind of show doesn’t differentiate because it’s already been done, but maybe there’s a way to tweak it. It’s this idea of taking something that is working in another market, applying it to yours, and that can help you differentiate and position.

Consume Content Outside of Your Niche, Perhaps Even Outside of Podcasts

Jerod Morris: The third element of doing your research is consuming content outside of your niche, perhaps even outside of podcasts. It’s not just podcast content that will give us the ideas that we need to differentiate. Consuming all kinds of content can. Of course, we want to make sure that we’re consuming intentionally. This is not just your license to go binge on Netflix under the guise of doing work for your podcast.

You want to consume intentionally, and you want to do this so that you understand what is possible. Maybe there are elements of story that you want to add to your show that you see over here. For example, with The Assembly Call, that idea was from going out and consuming sports content outside of podcasts.

I had always seen postgame shows. Now, let me apply that to a podcast. I didn’t get that from listening to another podcast. That was from consuming content outside of the niche and outside of even podcasting. That’s what you want to do.

Those three elements of doing your research, consuming the podcasts in your niche, consuming outside of your niche, and then consuming content completely outside of your niche and podcasting, that will give you the raw information that you need to A) know how to position yourself, and then B) to know what kind of new, different elements you can bring to the mix to truly differentiate your show.

How Long Should You Do Research, and Should You Set a Timeline?

Jonny Nastor: So I’m starting a brand-new show, and I want to get into this research phase because it absolutely makes perfect sense. I’m going to consume podcasts in my niche, outside of my niche, and completely in different total formats, in different types of media even. How long should I do this? Should it have a definite amount of time?

Otherwise–I’ve known this to happen with myself, and I’ve known it to happen with other people–all of a sudden, it’s eight months later, and you’re still in the “research phase” because you could use it as a procrastination tool. Should we put a timeline on this?

Jerod Morris: Yeah. You certainly can’t do it forever. There’s no question. Actually, I’m glad you brought this up. In step two, we’re going to cover this a little bit.

At some point, you just have to make a decision. If you know yourself that you’re prone to procrastinating or you just think it would help, I would give yourself a deadline of two weeks or a month to say, “Okay. I’m going to go out, and I’m going to consume. I’m going to do this research, then I’m going to make a decision, and I’m going to move forward.”

Because what’s really important to understand here is that all of these ‘decisions’ that we’re making based on this research, they’re just guesses. They’re just hypotheses. We have to actually continue to have this mindset of looking at what’s there in our market, looking at what’s there outside of our market, and continuing always to differentiate.

If we never get started, we never allow that loop to be open. We never allow that feedback loop to be open with our audience to know if this is really working. You’ve got to get out there. Really, a rule of thumb I would say is, you probably want to make that decision and get started sooner than you think you’re ready. You could go out for a year just consuming content, doing all of this, and never make a decision, never settle on something.

There are two different states. One, if you know you want to do a show and you’re doing this research intentionally to get a show started, in the example that you were talking about, Jonny, then I would say give yourself two to four weeks to really go out and do this. Then make a decision, and start moving forward.

Maybe you don’t know. You’re just thinking about doing a podcast. You’re not sure. Maybe you take a little bit longer, but you still want to make sure that this research that you’re doing is intentional, all of this consumption that you’re doing. But yes, giving yourself a deadline to make that decision is important. I’ll explain a little bit more why when we get into the next section, too.

Jonny Nastor: Excellent.

Step 2 of Differentiating: Move Forward with a Format

Jerod Morris: Let’s talk about section two. We talked about doing your research. Now, step two is moving forward with a format. Again, you’ve got to move forward.

Brainstorm and Hypothesize

Jerod Morris: The first step is you got to brainstorm, and you got to hypothesize and understand that no idea is too crazy. You hear that show Beautiful/Anonymous that I was talking about. I recommended it on a recent episode of The Showrunner, this show Beautiful/Anonymous.

It’s just a show where a guy, for one hour, people call him, he can’t hang up, and he just has conversations. Maybe you think, “Hmm, I’m running a show. We could apply that to The Showrunner for podcasting. Podcasters call me for an hour. I can’t hang up, and they share their podcast stories.” Maybe that’s your show, and you brainstorm that idea, “Okay, that’s kind of crazy”–but no idea is too crazy.

Put all of these ideas down together. Draw connections. Hypothesize. Understand that probably 99.6 percent of the ideas that you have, you’re going to laugh off, or you’re going to be excited about them for six hours, think it’s the next great thing, and then reason hits you. You realize it’s not great, or you tell it to someone else and they say it’s crazy. That’s fine.

Understand that, for you, no idea is too crazy and you just have to go through this process, this iterative process in your mind, to ultimately settle on what might be a good idea. There were so many ideas I went through for a sports show before I finally settled on The Assembly Call. That will happen.

Some of those shows even started. Some of those shows were just in my mind and never got past the idea phase, but you’ve got to let that idea phase truly run its course. Brainstorm and hypothesize.

Make the Best Decision Possible … Today

Jerod Morris: Then, at some point–again, you may want to give yourself a deadline for this–make the best decision possible. Notice that I said ‘best,’ not the ‘perfect’ decision. We’ve got to understand that what is the best decision today may not be the best tomorrow or six months from now.

If we wait for this perfect decision and this perfect idea, really, we just end up paralyzing ourselves, waiting for something that’s probably not going to happen. Make the best decision today. All that we know for sure or certain is that the worst format is the one for the show that doesn’t exist.

If we never make a decision, if we never start a show, that was the worst decision. We’ve just got to make the best decision. We do our research. We hypothesize. We settle on the idea that feels the best, we go forward with that, and we start to open that feedback loop.

Plan and Produce with Conviction

Jerod Morris: Then, the third step in moving forward with the format is to start planning and producing with conviction–this is important, and it goes back to your question, Jonny–while never totally abandoning the open, exploratory mindset that you had in step one.

Just because you’ve made this decision and just because your self-imposed four weeks of doing your research is over, it doesn’t mean that you’re not still out there with your ears perked up, your eyes open, looking at other ideas, seeing what comes into and out of the market, seeing what kind of new shows, new formats, and new ideas are working. You have to constantly be on the lookout for changes in your market and new ideas that might help you combat them.

Again, an example, The Assembly Call started as a call-in show on Blog Talk Radio. Our initial hypothesis was, “Hey, we’re all sitting around after the games. We want someone to talk to after the game. We’ll host this show, then people can call in, and all these people from around the world will be talking about IU basketball.

But then we realized that the callers didn’t really add that much, it was hard production-wise, and our audience, our core audience, just liked it when we talked. The best decision that we made when we went out, that it was a call-in show and that, that was going to be the big differentiator … we actually ended up shifting our mindset a little bit, and it was the live, immediate postgame reaction. We added a chat then, so the fans could engage with each other and get their thoughts out there, but it was different from what we initially thought.

Now, we’re five years into it, and we’re still sticking with the live format because it remains our differentiator despite the fact that there have been a proliferation of other IU podcasts out there. There are four, five new shows out there, but they’re all regular podcasts.

Our differentiator of the live, immediate reaction maintains, so we’ll keep it. But I’m constantly on the lookout to see, “Okay, is someone else going to enter this and try and do it. If they do, now, do we pivot a little bit this way and maintain our differentiation?”

You’ve got to constantly understand that it’s a hypothesis. You’re making the best decision for today. Don’t wait for perfect. Then make sure that you keep your eyes open, ears perked up so that you can notice changes in your market and be ready to respond to them, hopefully, with other better, bigger, bolder, brighter ideas that you have found elsewhere.

When It Might Be a Good Idea to Turn Off Your Open, Exploratory Mindset Briefly at Launch

Jonny Nastor: It’s interesting, the planning and producing with conviction. When I did it with Hack the Entrepreneur, that’s when I 100 percent stopped listening to other shows for almost six months because I so didn’t want to be knocked off.

I did the brainstorming, I hypothesized, and then I made the best decision I felt I did. Then I literally just had to stop because I felt that I would be in production, then I’d be like, “Oh! Actually, I should do it that way,” and I’d want to go back and rerecord everything.

It’s hard. But then you did it with Assembly Call, and you made that pivot from the call-in show to your after show, the after-game show. It was exactly what made you successful. So it’s hard to know, right? There is this point where you have to just move forward, confidently go in that direction, and know it’s the best one for today with everything you have.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. I’m glad you brought this up because you do. You have to start planning and producing with conviction. I don’t think you can ever totally abandon that open, exploratory mindset we talked about. But for a lot of people, it may be a good idea to shut it off for a couple of months while you do those first few episodes once you make that best decision, you want to move forward, give it the best chance to work, and get that content out there.

Really, Jonny, that’s probably people knowing themselves. If you’re prone to distraction and if you feel like you’ll be knocked off course, then I would probably stop consuming other content and just get your stuff out there, but you just got to make sure that you can flip it back on.

Again, that decision that’s the best one today, it may not be the best one six months from now. You’ve got to understand what’s going on in some of the changes, but you also have to get your content out there. If you don’t produce it with conviction, it will never reach an audience.

There is a bit of a judgment call there. Same thing with how much time you’re going to give yourself to make the decision. The big point is, don’t totally shut yourself off from it because you may miss an idea that could help. You may miss a new market opportunity that comes in or a new threat that comes in. If we’re talking about differentiation, we do have to be ready to respond to those.

Jonny Nastor: Right. I think that’s a great point to make because you’re right. I just knew it as myself. I had to do this otherwise I would get partway through, and I would like, “Oh!” I’d hear something, “No. Actually, maybe I should have went this way. Maybe I should go this way,” and none of it would have actually happened.

I think lots of us are like that. If we know that, then, yeah, turn it off. Become the producer at this point, not the consumer. Switch it, and then switch it back and forth as you have a live show. Sometimes we just have to work around ourselves to make sure that we get this done. We don’t have a team pushing us. We don’t have deadlines that are imposed by other people always. It’s all ourselves. We have to trick ourselves into getting these things done.

Jerod Morris: And we have to do it in a way that always allows us to bring our best selves to the microphone. When you’re behind the microphone, you’re naked. Your voice is naked there in people’s ears. You’ve got to make sure that what you’re doing, you maintain your conviction for your topic, your enthusiasm, and all of that. You do have to protect that, and there are different ways that everybody does that. It’s a good point, Jonny.

Why ‘No Idea Is Too Crazy’ Doesn’t Mean It Has to Be a Crazy Idea

Jonny Nastor: To go back quickly, brainstorm and hypothesize, no idea is too crazy–this doesn’t mean that you have to necessarily create a super highly produced, heavily edited music in and out because it’s never been done. Or a phone-in show with people and you’re sitting there thinking, “I don’t know who I would possibly phone.”

Could it also mean that, if your market is going hyper-produced, you could actually just bring it back to absolutely dead simple, “I’m going to do monologues,” or very simple interviews, old school, like 1950s radio style even, and just do it as simple as, “I’m going to start every episode. I’m going to tell them what I’m going to tell them.” Exactly like we’re doing with these shows. We’re going to tell them what we’re going to tell them. Then we tell them. Then we just summarize it, and tell them what we told them.

A very simple formula that has been proven to work across every medium. ‘No idea is too crazy,’ doesn’t mean that it has to be a crazy idea.

Jerod Morris: Right. Exactly.

Jonny Nastor: Okay, cool. Sometimes it gets overwhelming I think. It gets overwhelming for us because people–and there’s companies now, legitimate podcast companies–that have massive budgets and teams around these new shows coming out. I don’t think it’s that us, as solo showrunners, have to one-up them. I don’t think it’s possible.

Jerod Morris: No. I love that. It’s not just so much that no idea is too crazy. It’s don’t judge yourself as you have these ideas. Just let them come and go. Let them percolate a little bit. You’re going to have an initial reaction to them. Embrace that initial reaction, but then come back to it a few hours from now, a few days ago. See if that reaction is still the same.

It may be a very simple idea. It may be a totally out-there idea. Just treat them all the same until you settle on the one that feels like, “You know what? This is the best decision for right now. I’m going to move forward with it.”

Jonny Nastor: Love it. Great clarification.

Step 3 of Differentiating: Identify Opportunities to Brand Your Show within Your Chosen Format

Jerod Morris: Okay. We’ve talked about doing your research. We’ve talked about moving forward with the format. Now, step three, we’re going to identify opportunities within our chosen format to brand our show. A format is just a format, but what makes it your format?

This is the really fun part about differentiating and making your show unique, branding your show, and all of that. Probably, when you started doing this mini course, you were thinking about these ideas. As we’ve been going through this, when you probably have been thinking, “When are we going to talk about music? When are we going to talk about sections in the show?” and all of this.

Well, it’s right here. This is the time when we want to identify these opportunities. These are the things that truly create connection and that create a listenership and an audience that feels engaged and that feels like they’re really part of something. There are three spots that we can brand: the beginning, middle, and end.

The Beginning

Jerod Morris: Let’s talk about the beginning. We can brand it with our music choice. Think of iconic podcast music like Serial. When you hear that Serial sound, you know exactly what it is. It not only fits the tone of the show in that unspoken way … especially non-music people like me, I couldn’t describe for you why it fits the tone of the show. I just know that it does. When I hear that, I know that I’m back. I’m entering back in to this world, into this community. It just feels good.

The new Bill Simmons podcast. He has Picture Me Rollin’ from the old Tupac song. It just fits. It’s a perfect intro song. One of the best intro songs I’ve ever heard is the Hack the Entrepreneur song. When I hear that beat, I just know. I know where I am. I’m oriented, and that’s what your music does. Your music choice can really brand your show. Don’t overlook this. Don’t underestimate its importance.

Number two, in terms of branding the beginning, is the intro-narration and the tagline. If you want a great example of into-narration or tagline, go listen to an episode of Unemployable, and you will hear the golden pipes of Robert Bruce who does the intro for Brian Clark on that show. State the tagline, “Unemployable is the show for people who can get a job, they’re just not inclined to take one,” which is such a great tagline.

Again, it’s all about orienting people at the beginning, just giving them that quick clue that, “Hey, you’re here. We’re ready for you. You know what this is. You know what this is about. Now, let’s jump right into it.” It just gets people back into that familiar feeling. Then you can brand your show, differentiate your show with simply the first words of your show. There is value in keeping them consistent.

When we started The Assembly Call, this really happened organically. I didn’t do this intentionally, but just the first show, I said, “And welcome Hoosiers fans to another victorious episode of The Assembly Call.” So every episode where Indiana wins, I say that same thing, “And welcome to another victorious episode of The Assembly Call.” Now people will Tweet after a game, “Can’t wait for another victorious episode of The Assembly Call.” Again, it’s that thing that allows people to feel comfortable and to know where they are.

What’s interesting about that is, I now do the same thing on Podcast on the Brink, which is a show that I guest-host for another IU site. It allows me to brand The Assembly Call across those two shows. When people who have listened to The Assembly Call hear Podcast on the Brink, they hear that familiar opening and vice versa. That happened by accident the first time, but then it’s been very intentional to keep it going.

Really think in the beginning, through music, through an intro-narration and tagline through your first words–“How can I remind people where they are?” Put them back into that familiar feeling of being here with this show. You’re the host. Make people feel comfortable. Make it yours. Those are three ways to do that.

The Middle

Jerod Morris: When we talk about branding the middle, you can do that. One way to do that is with recurring segments. On The Assembly Call, we have a Banner Moment at the beginning of each game. That’s the moment in that game that allows us to think that Indiana is on track to hang another banner, win another championship. We have the Bottoms Line, Ryan’s Rant. We do all of these at the beginning, again, so people know what to expect.

Same with Hack the Entrepreneur that Jonny does, where he has the hack. You’re going through the show. You’re listening. Then all of a sudden you get to the end, and it’s not over. You’ve got the hack. Jonny’s going to pull out the hack from that episode, and it trains you as a listener to be thinking along as you listen to, “Okay. Where’s the hack? Will that be the hack? Will that be the hack?”

It gets you leaning in a little bit. It makes you feel like a part of something, as opposed to just passively listening. “This is Hack the Entrepreneur. We’re going to do the hack.”

You’ll hear it when you listen to The Showrunner, how we have structured the show where we have a quick intro. We do a main topic. We have a podcast recommendation, and then we have a call to action. You know what’s coming. Makes you feel like a part of something.

The next thing that you can do when you’re branding the middle of your show is have a recurring highly relevant questions, especially if you’re doing an interview format. Jonny on Hack the Entrepreneur, he has a very consistent opening question and a very consistent closing question.

Within that, there is room to move and explore the studio space. He knows where he’s starting from, where he’s ending from, and he can get people there. Again, it orients folks.

Tim Ferriss does this on his show where he has recurring questions. He’ll always ask people, “What is the one book that you’ve given as a gift more than anything else?” I find myself, when I’m listening to the show, looking forward to that question coming.

Now, for this to work, it’s important to understand that the questions need to be especially germane to your big idea and to your intended audience transformation. Why does Jonny’s hack work? Because he’s trying to help entrepreneurs make a transformation in terms of the mindset they need to succeed.

Pulling out that specific hack highlights a specific thing they can perhaps add to what they’re doing. Highly relevant. Same with Tim Ferriss’ book question. People who want to move forward, achieve greatness, and do all the things Tim talks about, these are books that extensively will help them do that.

Furthermore, when it comes to branding the middle, the timing of ads and interruptions. Remember that audiences like to know what to expect. For them to feel comfortable with you, to feel oriented, to feel like part of something, you can’t constantly be shocking them and yanking them this way and that. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have pleasant surprises every now and then. Just make sure that they know what to expect for the most part.

It’s part of building trust. It’s part of building a connection. Keep your ads and any consistent interruptions at the same point. Think about radio. You know when those ads are coming. It’s very similar to what you want to do when you’re hosting a podcast. That’s branding the middle.

The End

Jerod Morris: Now you have the end. What are some ways to brand the end to differentiate your show through the connection that you create at the end of your show? Well, your call to action. You should have a call to action at the end of your show. Make it relevant. Make it interesting. Make it enthusiastic. Maybe even make it a little dangerous.

When I talk about making it a little dangerous, don’t always have it perfectly scripted. Go off script a little bit. Take your audience in a bit of a different direction. If it’s always the same call to action … not to say that that doesn’t work. A lot of people use pre-recorded calls to action. Especially if you want that to be paid attention to and for your audience to continue engaging in it, switch it up a little bit. Keep it interesting. Keep them leaning forward.

If they know that you do something fun with your calls to action–maybe you share a little story instead of just a pitch–they’re going to be more likely to listen and to be in on it. That’s what you want.

You can also recommend another show or another episode of your own show. Keep it consistent. And as I mentioned before, you can really explore the studio space. It’s the end of your show. Who’s going to be listening at the end of your show? Only the most die-hard folks still listen at the end. They’re listening all the way through. Maybe they just have your show on … they’re listening to three or four episodes in a row, so they’re just going through the whole thing.

Well, maybe give them a little treat for doing so. Maybe it’s a deleted scene that didn’t fit the rest of the podcast but is entertaining. Maybe it’s some relaxed post-show talk, like Jonny and I do on The Showrunner where we just keep recording after our call to action and after we close.

As you know, I’m sure, from when you’ve done shows, a lot of times you kind of exhale after the recording is over, especially if it’s an interview or a discussion. Sometimes the best stuff comes then. Well, keep recording. If it’s good, if it’s relevant, if you cursed or do something that you wouldn’t want heard, then you can play that. Give people a little peak behind the curtain.

Again, I’m not saying that you have to do all of these. When it comes to the beginning, you’re going to want intro music. You’re going to want some kind of intro-narration and tagline. You’re going to want to think in the middle about some recurring segments, and especially if you’re doing an interview question, what kind of recurring questions can you ask?

Why It’s Okay (and Even Good) to Use Ideas from Other Shows

Jerod Morris: You don’t have to do all of these, but put them together in the way that makes sense for your show and realize that the big idea here, what we’re trying to do, is yes, on the surface, we are trying to differentiate. We want these structures, these formats, and these elements, so they separate our show. But it’s not to be different for difference sake.

It’s to be different in a way that attracts attention but, then in the long term, orients people, builds trust, and builds the connection. That’s what’s so important. Differentiation without connection means nothing. We need both of those. Fortunately, they go together in a lot of ways when we’re intentional and when we’re smart about it. Following these ideas of differentiation will help you do that.

Jonny Nastor: You’re giving away all of our secrets.

Jerod Morris: That’s what we agreed to do when we started The Showrunner. Can’t stop now.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah. This to me is the absolute key. I think people so often ignore or just gloss over and just get music for the beginning. I was so hyper-focused on music to the point where it could be almost annoying. But it had to be catchy to the point where you hear it for 10 seconds once, and it’s in your head. That’s just how it is.

It’s such an essential thing. Think of any commercial that’s embedded in your head or any TV show’s opening intro. Seinfeld, like nobody would ever sit there and listen to that baseline over and over again. But you hear that, and you instantly know where you are. This is so, so crucial.

My music I just found an artist by just searching veraciously, and it’s an artist in the UK that just records from his laptop himself. I found him on Facebook, and I just asked him if I could use it. He said, “Yeah, of course.” Hilariously, some guy on Twitter, a listener of mine, sent me a link to an Instagram ad some company has, and they took my intro music, the exact same cut of it even. I was like, “That’s awesome.”

Jerod Morris: That is awesome.

Jonny Nastor: This is so crucial. You mentioned your show. You mentioned my show. You mentioned Tim Ferriss’ show. It’s not wrong to go in, if somebody has a successful show that’s not in your market, you can copy this. You don’t have to create it from scratch.

This was an excellent episode that Brian Clark had on Unemployable with Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Entrepreneur. Steal Like an Artist is Austin Kleon’s book. It’s the idea that this is where ideas come from, that there’s people who have become super rich and famous by just taking other people’s ideas, re-branding them, and putting their unique spin on it.

If you really like Tim Ferriss’ show and you’re in a different market, just literally listen to it and write out questions. The book that you give as a gift, that could be in any market. I don’t care what market you’re in. People give books as gifts, and it doesn’t have to just be the business market.

These are things, you don’t have to now come up with a question that’s different than that because it’s a different market. Listen to how the show is structured, and maybe that’s your baseline for starting. Do not underestimate how important these three segments … Jerod has now laid out the beginning, the middle, and the end, what each of them needs, at least one part of each of those. That is what’s going to define you.

I actually don’t have a question for you. I just wanted to emphasize how, when you were going through this, I was like, “You just nailed the show. That’s how to do a show right there.” Don’t brush over any of these sections.

Jerod Morris: Let me add one thing, too. I know sometimes people get a little bit uncomfortable. It’s like, “Well, I don’t want to steal that idea,” or, “I want to give credit for it.” Hey, let’s say that you do want to take that question of Tim Ferriss’. You can actually build that into the question and actually make the question even more profound.

You can say, “In all the podcasts I’ve listened to, the best question I’ve ever heard asked is when Tim Ferriss asks his guest, “What’s the one book that you’ve given more than any other as a gift? I just have to ask you this question, the same thing. What is the one book that you give more than any other?”

You’ve almost added more gravitas to the question while also letting people know exactly where you got this from so that, if you do feel bad about ‘stealing,’ you can assuage those fears and actually turn it into a positive. Just know that you can do that. This idea of stealing, it’s not stealing. It is synthesis. It is taking ideas from elsewhere, putting them together in your specific way for your specific audience in your specific market. There are so many opportunities to do that.

That’s why it all goes back to your research. The more of these ideas that you can get in your head, the bigger your toolbox for differentiation that you will have.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, exactly. And Austin Kleon, you should read the book. It’s a really short read. You can get in any library even, Steal Like an Artist. ‘Steal’ is from a marketing perspective. It sounds great. It’s not just stealing the idea directly.

A question is a question. It’s not branded. It’s not trademarked. It’s not copyrighted by anybody. I’ve been absolutely honored when people have emailed me, “I’ve started a new podcast. I’ve stole the hack, and I put it into my show in a completely different market.” I’m honored. That’s awesome.

You can do that. If you take somebody’s question, drop them an email. Send them a Tweet. Say, “I totally use your question in my show.” It’s a great way to just reach out to people and make another connection. Nobody’s going to be like, “No. That’s my question. I created that question.”

Jerod Morris: You’re not going to sue them? Send them a cease and desist.

Jonny Nastor: Exactly. Stealing is tongue and cheek. That’s the idea that ideas have been done everywhere, and so be loose with it. But know that you need to come up with something. A great way to have a baseline is to find a show you like in a different market, analyze the steps–under Jerod’s idea of the three sections–listen to it, pull out those three sections, and then be like, “Okay. This is my starting point now. Now, how can I uniquely make it mine?”

Summary of Lesson 2

Jerod Morris: Yup. In summation, do your research, move forward with the format, and then identify opportunities within your chosen format to brand your show. Remember, your format is just a format, but what makes it your format? When you do that, you will have a differentiated show that stands out and that creates connection.

We’ve talked about deciding what the show will be about. We’ve now talked about differentiating your show so that it stands out and creates connection. Now, in our final lesson of this mini course, we will talk about how to display this differentiation and double down on it to create the maximum impact.

Jonny Nastor: I think it’s time for our podcast recommendation.

Jerod Morris: I think it is. This branded section of our show that we do every episode. Let’s jump into it.

Podcast Recommendations of the Week

Jerod Morris: I have a recommendation, Jonny, and it actually goes back to an episode of the Tim Ferriss show that I was listening to where he interviewed Mike Rowe. Of course, Mike Rowe is the guy from Dirty Jobs and has done so many different things. That episode itself was actually a fascinating two-hour interview with Mike. He’s such a terrific guest, but he revealed … I didn’t even realized that he had a podcast.

He’s got this podcast called The Way I Heard It. This podcast is little, short, five- to six-minute episodes. They’re short, and they’re in the style of Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story.

Mike basically takes someone famous, someone well-known, and gives you the unknown story of how they got to where they are. One of them, he was telling the story of Bruno Mars, how Bruno Mars ended up becoming a star, and how he had to change his name and do these different things to get there that you don’t really know. You don’t know who he’s talking about until the end.

He’s got the big reveal–“That’s how such and such became Bruno Mars … at least that’s the way I heard it.” That’s how he ends every show. It’s a great lesson in branding, and it’s funny because, on the interview with Tim Ferriss, he said the reason why he titled it The Way I Heard It is because he goes and does Google research on this, but he’s not fact-checking and really digging into it.

Just in case anybody comes back to him and says, “Hey! Wait a minute, that isn’t what Bruno Mars’ original name was.” He was like, “Well, that’s the way I heard it. So what do you want from me?” That’s how he ends every show. They’re really great.

What’s amazing is, you listen to this, it’s a five-, six-minute show, but he’s got advertising at the beginning of it. Of course, he can do that. He’s Mike Rowe, so he’s got a bigger platform than any of us are going to have when we start a show. Such a great example of how to tell a good story in a short amount of time, really make it meaningful. A great example of exactly what we’ve been talking about here with stealing.

Unabashedly, talks about the influence of Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story on this. It’s a beautiful homage to what Paul Harvey used to do and a great podcast. I highly recommend it, The Way I Heard It by Mike Rowe.

Jonny Nastor: Wow, so he stole like an artist.

Jerod Morris: He did. He sure did.

Jonny Nastor: I love that.

All right. I’m going to keep it close to home again, another Rainmaker.FM show. An excellent, excellent show that everybody should check out. It’s called Zero to Book, and it is hosted by Copyblogger’s very own Pamela Wilson, and the author and blogger Jeff Goins.

You can find that on Rainmaker.FM. It’s been around only for the last few months now actually. It’s one of the newer shows, but you should definitely check it out. Zero to Book, Pamela Wilson and Jeff Goins–find it at Rainmaker.FM.

Jerod Morris: Absolutely.

How to Take Your Showrunning to the Next Level

Jerod Morris: All right, everybody. Go to Showrunner.FM. Make sure if you’re not on the list yet, if you haven’t joined The Showrunner, make sure that you do–and there’s a couple of reasons why.

Number one, you want to make sure that you get our weekly newsletter, which includes announcements of free public events that we have, each week’s episode, plus our now world-famous, ‘we highly recommend’ section that you’re not going to want to miss to get really cool tips on tools, articles, and just things that you need to be thinking about or doing as a showrunner.

More importantly, especially if you’ve been following along with this mini course series that we’ve been doing, get on the list, so when the actual mini course is up, you can follow along with this whole big meta lesson that we’ve been teaching you and actually see the mini course in action. We’re going to build it at Rainmaker.FM, where the show The Showrunner is housed. We’re going to build it using Rainmaker so that you can see how we’ve actually gone from podcast episode to mini course.

Joining The Showrunner by going to Showrunner.FM and adding your name to our email list is the way to do that so that we can communicate with you once that is ready.

Jonny Nastor: Let’s do it. I love it.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Good episode, man. This was fun.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah. It was fun.

Jerod Morris: I’m loving this series.

Jonny Nastor: I am. It’s really cool. It’s cool because it’s so different, the structure, how we’re really structuring them. It’s cool. I think we’re doing pretty good at it.

Jerod Morris: I think so. Again, hey, if you have thoughts, let us know. You can always Tweet us, @JerodMorris and @JonNastor. Let us know what you’re thinking. Let us know what you’re feeling. Let us know anything.

Jonny Nastor: Anything. Anything at all.

Jerod Morris: Anything at all.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah. We’re here to listen.

Jerod Morris: Except that one guy who let us know when he was taking a shower.

Jonny Nastor: Oh, that guy. Yeah.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Don’t do that. Just kidding.

Jonny Nastor: It’s been fun.

Jerod Morris: All right, everybody. We will talk to you on next week’s brand-new episode of The Showrunner. It’s going to be No. 60. Holy moly, 60 episodes. Crazy.

Jonny Nastor: Take care, everyone.