No. 003 The Right Way to Approach Branding Your Podcast

You may think that branding your podcast begins with the name and ends with your show art. Not so. There is so much more to it, and it’s vitally important that you get it right from the beginning.

In this third episode of The Showrunner, Jerod and Jon discuss all of the following:

  • The inevitable awkwardness of hitting Record
  • Why Jon was right about choosing branding as the topic for this early episode
  • What is branding for a podcast, anyway?
  • How Jon came up with the branding for Hack the Entrepreneur (and how it has been essential to the show’s success)
  • How Jerod came up with the branding for The Assembly Call (and how it has been essential to the show’s success)
  • Practical tips for how to determine the right branding for your show
  • Why it’s essential to dive deep into the content already being consumed by your target audience
  • Does The Showrunner need branded moments?
  • Why Jerod decided to add a “cold open” to episodes of The Lede
  • What Jon learned about the importance of a consistent format by listening to 100 episodes of Internet Business Mastery
  • How we want The Showrunner to stand out in the podcasts-about-podcasting niche

If you have any questions or comments regarding your own podcast’s branding, drop them in the comment section below.

Listen, learn, and enjoy the show:

The Show Notes

The Right Way to Approach Branding Your Podcast

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

You’re listening to The Showrunner, a podcast about podcasting that will teach you how to take your show from good to great. Ready?

Hey, Jon. How are you doing today?

Jon Nastor: I’m doing very well, thanks. How about yourself?

Jerod: Do you like how I just came in and said that like we just got on the phone, as if we haven’t been talking for the last hour and fifteen minutes?

Jon: I do. I do like how you did that. It actually kind of caught me off guard.

Jerod: That’s what I was going for. Well, it’s always kind of interesting when you hit “record” to start recording after you’ve been talking for an hour and a half like we have been, and kind of planning the course, and just talking about Rainmaker FM stuff. It’s been a pretty fun conversation, I think.

Jon: It has been a fun conversation. And it’s fun as podcasters how we do do that, even when we’re about to do an interview or something, we do the little pre-call, and then, now, okay, let’s take a sip of water and pretend we’re starting.

Jerod: Yeah. And it’s always kind of awkward, like there’s no way, almost, to avoid that awkwardness. So hopefully by just acknowledging the awkwardness, we’ve maybe avoided it a little bit here. I don’t know. Anyway….

Jon: Or we’ve made it more awkward. I’m not sure.

Jerod: Yeah, exactly. So last week, after we recorded the second episode of The Showrunner, we were talking about what we wanted to do for this next episode. And we talked about doing branding, and I thought that was a really good way to approach it. Frankly, because I have some logo issues that I’m dealing with on one of my side projects, and I wanted to ask you questions about it. And as we came here to the show today, we just talked about this; I said maybe this is too early for branding, because we haven’t necessarily addressed format and some other topics that seem like they should come before logos and all this other stuff, and you said something very interesting to me that got me right back on track with why I do think talking about branding is the right thing for this episode.

So why don’t you kind of share that with the audience; why I was horribly wrong about why this was not the right time to talk about branding.

Jon: Well said. Branding and logo are almost two different things. Logo would be included in that, but I see it as the very, very, very last step of branding.

Branding, to me, is really everything that your show is about, what it encompasses, and what that end result is that you want your listener–where do you want to take your listener in your show, to me, is branding. My example would be Hack the Entrepreneur.

It’s called “Hack the Entrepreneur,” and I can of course make my iTunes image and say “Hack the Entrepreneur,” but I was instantly aware that I need a hack. Because otherwise it’s just another interview show. And I went through so many different processes of figuring out what that would be, but I pull that out at the end, do the rewind, and then do the little short essay on it so that it literally is, because I wanted to be able to sort of summarize what, or condense, the interview into 30 seconds. And to me, that makes it not just another show. It makes it a hack. And Hack the Entrepreneur, right?

So branding is absolutely way more important, and I think you need to understand it from the very beginning, because if you’re going to interview people, you need to know what that end result is you want your listener to get from you, and from listening to your show, and you need to find that unique selling proposition, that USP that we talk about in marketing. You need to know how you’re going to fit into the market that you are going to enter on iTunes. And I think that’s very, very essential. You can’t just tag it on at the end. If I wouldn’t have thought that way about the hack, and about Hack the Entrepreneur; if I just did a regular show not even thinking of what I wanted the end result to be, and then at the end just put it on the brand, it wouldn’t have made sense, and it wouldn’t have been congruent to people. And then it doesn’t hit people on that essential level.

Jerod: Yeah, which you needed for that show because entrepreneurship is a popular topic. There are a lot of shows out there about that topic, and I think when you look at podcasting right now, there’s still a sweet spot where there are still land-grab opportunities, right? It’s not like there’s so much saturation that you can’t get in and get heard, but as more and more shows come online that differentiation is going to be important.

And it seems like that’s what we’re talking about here, right? You’re going into this crowded niche, entrepreneurship. There are so many different shows. What makes you different? What makes you stand out? And what do you think would have happened with Hack the Entrepreneur if it had been interviews with entrepreneurs, or something else. How important do you think that’s been to the success of your show? It sounds like it’s been very important.

Jon: Yeah. It’s been absolutely–I wouldn’t be, obviously, recording this episode with you if it wasn’t–if I had named it something else. It’s absolutely key. The whole brand around it, it’s–I mean, the name itself makes sense and people even kind of get it, but then if the show would have dropped the ball there sort of thing where it wasn’t congruent with the whole brand, it wouldn’t have made sense.

Because I recorded, I think it was, eight episodes and there was no thought of a hack or anything. I never released the episodes, but I gave it out to people before launch to listen to. And then listening to it myself, you get to the end and it was kind of like, “Well, why is it Hack the Entrepreneur?” What’s–I guess somebody said something somewhere that was a hack, and then it was like, “Oh, I get it!” And I knew I needed to give that hack. The person listening needs to get a hack at the end.

That’s the end result that they can, literally, walk away with and feel satisfied, like they got what they were told they were going to get from the show. And that makes it successful. And obviously, it doesn’t have to be a hack. But it has to be what it is your show’s about, and it has to make you unique within your space or your niche that you’re going to hit.

Jerod: And that’s the hack. I’ve always wanted to say that on one of these shows with you. I’m glad I could finally put it in there.

Jon: Nice.

Jerod: Because it fits. That is the hack, right there.

I faced something similar when I started The Assembly Call. I knew I wanted to start something about Indiana basketball, because I love it and I had always kind of wanted to build an audience around that topic. But there are plenty of other Indiana basketball blogs out there, there are other podcasts, and who was I? Like, why was anybody really going to listen to me? And that’s one of the reasons why we decided to do it as a post-game show. Both just kind of the organic feeling of “Man, I wish there was a place after the game so when you have all this pent-up emotion, either positive or negative, to kind of just release it with fellow fans. But when you’re watching at home, I guess you can call a friend or something like that. And I kind of took that, and was like, “It will be fun to kind of publish this and do it in almost a big group setting.”

And so that’s where it kind of hit me, that hey, this is a way to differentiate what we’re doing. This isn’t a normal blog over here that’s reporting on news, not just a normal interview podcast. But it’s this kind of unique thing that is totally different from everything else out there. And I think that was, again, essential in people taking notice. And it’s like, “Okay, here’s something else about Indiana Basketball. Another person out there who thinks they have something to say. Why should I listen? Oh! It’s post-game show. They’re actually going to analyze the specifics about this game in this format where I can kind of go hang out with them, and a community will build. That’s kind of interesting.” I think that curiosity is what got people there.

And kind of like you did with Hack the Entrepreneur: We even had these little branded–and we still do this–these little branded moments inside of the show where I knew–college basketball fan, sports fans in general can be really negative–I knew I wanted the tone of our show to overall be positive. So that’s why we always started out with a banner moment. Even in a loss. What’s the one part of this game that makes you think, “Hey, this team is on track to eventually win another championship.” And sometimes it’s a stretch. It’s a real stretch to come up with one. But people have e-mailed me, and they’re like, “You know, I love how you do the banner moment every show, no matter what, and it kind of gets people into it.” So I think the branding of the show, that unique selling proposition, and then even the branded moments inside of the show that almost anchor people, that orient them to the show and to the content. Those can be really important, too.

Jon: Yeah. And having people e-mail you, saying, “I love how you do the banner moment,” that is the branding. It’s amazing.

I had people e-mail me, and I had this grand vision before I launched: Imagine if somebody e-mailed me and argued with me about the hack that I picked? That to me would mean that they were listening so hard to the interview, and then they actually listened all the way to the end to hear the hack, and they so strongly disagree with me that they’re going to e-mail me. And I get e-mails all the time about it, and I love it. And they’re like, humorous, and they’re joking, and “Aw man! Me and my wife, we listen, and we always stop it right before you say what the hack is, and we argue about what it’s going to be.” To me, that’s engagement. That’s the brand. You have to have something like that in your show. That engagement really, on an intellectual level and just on a personal level, is really what creates true fans and builds you an audience. And I think to me that is branding, and that is essential.

And then to go back to what you said, where there were no other post-game shows. I think that’s also super key that we have to make clear, is before you go into this market that you want to go into, consume the top ten podcasts on it, and then also go down iTunes to number 200, and some other podcasts that look like they maybe should have done well, but something’s off. And they didn’t. And listen to those, and see if you can figure out what is wrong, or what didn’t go quite right, and then you have to–this is your market. This is where you are trying to be found, so you have to uniquely fit into these top 10 shows. Because, of course, you need to have at least the confidence to be like, “Well, I’m going to be one of these shows one day.” Not in a month, not in six months, but within two years, yeah, maybe I’m going to be up there. But how do I uniquely fit in? If I sound like the top three shows, then I’m not going to uniquely fit in. So therefore, I probably won’t even make the top 200. So I liked how you said that, how you just realized there was no other post-game show, so let’s go against the grain and let’s do a post-game show. And you’ve been successful at it.

Jerod: Yeah, and the reason why I knew that is because I’m such an avid consumer of content about that topic. And frankly, I don’t know how you can determine a good, unique selling proposition–a real unique selling proposition. I mean, you can get lucky, I suppose. But you can’t really do it accurately without really knowing the market that you’re getting into. So like you said, consuming all the shows. Really getting in there. And that’s why, as people are kind of getting back to last week’s topic, what should you podcast about; think about the stuff that you really consume. That you really understand the market for, that you understand what audiences see because you’re part of that audience, because you may have an unfair advantage right off the bat in being able to figure out where a new piece of content could fit in. That’s a great place to start thinking about what your topic would be, because now it can blend so easily, or so simply I should say, with the branding part of it. Because it’ll all kind of come together. And when it comes to Hack the Entrepreneur, by the way, as I’m listening I’m always trying to pick out what it’s going to be. I’ll hear you say something and I’m like, “Oh, that’s the hack,” and then five minutes later, “Oh no, wait, it’s something different.”

Jon: And I hear so many other shows–people are like, “Yeah, I was listening, and then all of a sudden I realized 20 minutes had passed and I had walked 10 extra blocks with my dog, and I wasn’t paying attention to what was happening.” And it was like, “Well, let’s try and stop that. Let’s make people pay attention so they can argue with me at the end that I’m wrong. And the hack is completely subjective. That’s it. It’s just me literally at the time, “I think this is the one,” and if there’s one that’s too obvious for me, I’m not going to pick that one. I’m going to make people really work for this.

Jerod: See, that’s a great point. But you’ve built the authority because you’re the guy hacking the entrepreneur, conducting the interviews. I mean, what you say is the hack is viewed with a level of authority, which you’ve earned through that podcast. So it’s interesting how that’ll happen.

Okay. So if I’m a listener to The Showrunner, listening to this, I’m thinking, “Okay, this is great, guys. Jerod, on your side project, you’ve got these branded moments in the show. And Jon, on yours you have them. Where are they in The Showrunner?” Our first episode was, obviously, more kind of the storytelling narrative type, and now we’re getting into more of these conversational types of episodes. And there will be different formats that you’ll see on the show as we try stuff out, and just try and bring you different types of episodes. But I’m kind of wondering now if we should come up with something like that for The Showrunner. Some type of branded moment, whether it’s at the beginning or the end, and I didn’t come to this episode with any ideas, nor did we prepare to talk about this. But I’m just kind of throwing it out there. Are we–should we have something like that in this show, do you think?

Jon: Yeah. It would be really weird for me to say no at this point.

Jerod: (Laughs) I know.

Jon: (Laughs) But it’s funny, because when I was listening to the first episode, you sent it to me via Dropbox, and I was walking my dog. That’s why I use that always as an example, because that’s what I’m doing when I’m listening to podcasts. And I was walking my dog, listening to it, and I started going over all these ideas like, “Okay, so this episode now is about introductions and intro music,” and I was kind of like, “What if we played four different introductions from shows, and literally I just play them for you and don’t tell you what they are, and get your opinion as to what’s good about them, what’s bad, and what you would change. And it was kind of like, each show would only be a small section. And so this show’s about branding, and then somehow we would tie–which we did, I mean, my show and your show into the branding–but then we would kind of do like a mini sort of case study of those, just really quickly. But then I couldn’t get further past that, and I think that’s because my brain is saying that you do have to have that hook.

Jerod: Yeah.

Jon: That really gets people engaged on that level. Otherwise it’s too passive. And you don’t want your show to just be noise in the background, because the message doesn’t get across then the way it needs to.

Jerod: All right. So I’ll start the episodes out with a banner moment about why The Showrunner is on track to be a successful podcast, and then at the end, you hack The Showrunner. It’ll be perfect.

Jon: Nice.

Jerod: We’ll just blend all of the stuff that we’ve already done together.

Jon: Yeah! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Jerod: But I think this is good, and I suppose we’ll probably take this conversation off air to come up with something like this. Because that’s the interesting thing. It’s been successful for us in these other shows, and for instance, on The Lede, one of the reasons why, when we brought The Lede over to Rainmaker FM, and I kind of had this mental freedom to re-think how I was editing the show, I really liked the idea of doing that cold open, where you just pull some part of the episode out of context, put it at the beginning. Because I think for me, when people do that I look forward to it. And then you get this out-of-context quote, or whatever little exchange. It kind of opens up that loop in the brain and it’s like, “Well, now I’ve got to hear how that is in context, because why did he just talk about clown school? How does this conversation eventually get to talking about going to clown school?” And it’s like you have to do that. So it’s interesting that we’ve done all this, and now we have this podcast about podcasting, and we haven’t come up with that yet. So I think that’s a challenge for both of us, is we evolve the show to come up with that. I think it’ll be a really good thing. And I suppose there’s a purpose to not having it and being able to talk this out with everybody, let them know how we’re thinking and how this develops, and let them see it develop. It’s almost like we’re putting these episodes of The Showrunner out there before The Showrunner is ready, kind of like Alex Bloomberg did with Startup. Where he’s almost chronicling the development of it. I kind of feel like that’s what we’re trying to do with The Showrunner, is kind of chronicle how we’re putting it together as we put it together, while also giving little snippets or previews of what’ll be in the course as well. So just to kind of let everybody know what our thought process is on that.

Jon: Yeah. Could I just go back quickly to one thing?

Jerod: Yes.

Jon: Because I’m thinking of this now as you’re talking, and I haven’t thought about this, but now I am. My process, like the three months sort of leading up to starting Hack the Entrepreneur, and I had no idea what it was going to be called, what it was going to be, anything. But I remember thinking about years ago, listening to Internet Business Mastery. The first show I ever listened to, I literally listened to the first hundred episodes. And I remember, and I think I was really trying to figure out why that show really stuck with me. And so maybe you can’t come up with something that’s the hack, or that is the banner moment. Because that’s maybe specific to our shows. But it doesn’t have to even be that sort of direct. With Internet Business Mastery it was always: There’s the intro music, which everybody has on their show; and then it was the two of them just kind of bantering for a bit, and then they were like, “Okay, now let’s get into the main thing.” Which was usually an interview, or else it was just a part with them. But then there was music again, and there was the same music every time with a voice-over, again, just like people do in their intros, that was like, “Now to the feature segment!” or something like–it’s been so long since I’ve listened to it. But it was such a standard thing, and then at the end of that they did an outro to that, and then it was like, “That was your feature segment! But now let’s go to…” and they did a tip of the day or something. And there was another voice-over. And it was so standardized that that was their branding. You knew exactly what was coming, so I knew that if I only wanted to get the tip, I knew that I just had to go to the end of the show and it was there, every single time. And it was very radio-broadcast to me, which means that they took themselves and treated themselves as professionals, and therefore as the listener, I treated them as professionals immediately because of that. And that stuck with me. And that’s actually, really why I ended up–which had nothing to do with hacking, but I needed people, I guess, if they just wanted to cut to the very end they always knew that that hack was there, and they would at least get that moment out of it. So you don’t have to come up with a hack or a pre-game like the banner moment, but if you can at least brand it in the sense of creating different sorts of sections. And I did this, actually, with my daughter when she launched her podcast at, like, nine years old last year. We created very defined, branded moments. There was a joke store she went to, and music in and out of it, and a little voice-over, and then there was her fun facts of the day, and people really took to it. It was like, “Wow, this is interesting.”

Jerod: Yeah.

Jon: And it was only hard to set up the first time. So I just really wanted to say that because you don’t need to really necessarily pull something out of your show and make it like that. It can really be done through transitional music in one sort of setup at the beginning, and then you just have it.

Jerod: So obviously we have some things that we’re still kind of working out here with The Showrunner, with how we want to do it in terms of specific branding. But I think overall we understand quite clearly where The Showrunner fits into this whole podcasting niche. Podcasts about podcasting. And we were talking about this before we went on air, and you had just a perfect description of it that basically described exactly what I was thinking. It’s almost like your words put the thought in my head before it was even there, it was so great. So I just want to close up with us, just to give you an example of the kind of things you should be thinking about from a branding perspective in general, in the big picture, for how you fit into a niche. A crowded niche, but even how you should be thinking if it’s an open niche, because eventually there will be other people coming in. So if you would, just kind of share that. Your thoughts on where The Showrunner fits into this niche of podcasts about podcasting.

Jon: So the podcast about podcasting niche is fairly large, but it’s the reason why we’re entering it, which I think people should think that way, rather than niche-ing down. But on one side, I see there’s a group of people who are technical podcasters for podcaster’s sake, and they want to geek out over microphones, they want to geek out over sound quality and everything. And that’s great. That’s where they stay. And then there’s another side that’s podcasting to make a million dollars. And then there’s The Showrunner down the middle, which is us, I feel; which is–podcasting to me is like the pirate radio of now, and the fact that you have this platform that you can use to showcase your art, showcase your passions, showcase whatever it is that you want to showcase, and there’s nothing holding you back except some technical stuff, and then obviously doing it just right so that you get an audience. But ours is sort of that, I want to empower people not to geek out on microphones. I think that’s already covered in the market really, really, really well. And it’s not the “You can make a million dollars in your first week.” It’s really just you want to build this sort of platform and showcase your voice to the world. And it’s literally sitting just on a desk in front of you on a laptop or your computer, that you have this platform to speak from. And that’s just really how I see The Showrunner fitting. So I guess the idea is you don’t want to look at this market and be like, “Well, it’s already covered, and it’s too big, maybe I should niche down.” No, that’s our unique position within it, and I think it’s a very wide sort of area through the middle of people who just really would love–they love podcasts, and they would love to be able to put their own out. But they’re never going to be nerding out about it. I don’t know the technical side super well, and I don’t do my editing. I’m not super into that. I just love having my voice and being able to put it out there to the world, and I just want to be able to share that with the audience of The Showrunner.

Jerod: You can make a million dollars in a week from podcasting?

Jon: I don’t know. I’ve heard such things.

Jerod: (Laughs)

Jon: That might have been–maybe too far. But you know. You know what I mean.

Jerod: Yeah, I know.

Jon: There’s always that. It’s the same in the blogging world, right? It’s how it is. There’s the “Make money today doing nothing!” and then there’s the “Let’s just technically learn how to blog for blogging’s sake,” and then there’s the people down the middle that just really would like to be able to write and put it out there, and get read by as many people as possible.

Jerod: Yeah. And I feel so similarly about it. I talked with Robert on the New Rainmaker podcast about the evolution of the name “The Showrunner” and how it really is kind of an homage to the great TV show guys like Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad, and Matt Winer of Mad Men. This term, “The Showrunner,” kind of came out and got big again as these guys kind of executed their vision. They were the people behind the vision for these great pieces of entertainment, great pieces of media. And at Copyblogger we really teach this media approach to marketing, and so it just seemed like the perfect fit. Like you, I want people–empowered is such a big word that I want people to take. I want that to be one of the first few words they think about when they think of The Showrunner, because that’s really what we want to do. Is empower people to get out there and tell their podcast story, and like you said. It’s not all about geeking out about the technology, because that’s out there. And it’s not all about making a million dollars in a week, and all that stuff. But that part in the middle. And then just empowering people to get out there and do it, because now’s a great time to do it. And that kind of leads me into just reminding everybody as we close up that part of what we’re doing here with The Showrunner is developing a course, and we really want to give you some specific tools and share our experience with you. What we learn from our experience so that you can step up, become a showrunner, or improve yourself as a showrunner if you’ve already got a show out there. And so if you go to you will see right there at the top of the page a place to get on the wait list for The Showrunner Podcasting Course, and when the course does come out anybody who’s on that wait list will get the best possible price. In fact we will, when it is ready, we will allow people on the wait list to be the first ones to sign up for it. And you and I, actually, before we went live on air, were just talking about some new elements that we want to add to the course, like bi-weekly office hours where basically we’ll be there on a Google Hangout, and people can come and ask us specific questions, and we’ll probably prepare some kind of 10-15 minute quick little webinar on a specific topic, but then just be available to folks. And that’ll be one of the fun elements of it.

Jon: It’s going to be so much fun.

Jerod: Yeah. Yeah, it is. It is. I’m really excited about it, and of course really excited to share that with everybody. So that’s still coming. We’re working on that when we’re not recording these episodes, and if you get on that wait list we will keep you updated as relevant updates are made available.

That is it for this next episode of The Showrunner. Always fun talking with you, Jon.

Jon: Yeah, you too, Jerod. I think we’re going to evolve into something really cool here.

Jerod: Yeah, and it’s fun. I like evolving in public, almost. Kind of letting people in on some of these conversations. We were talking before we came on air, we should have recorded this whole thing. Because I think there were so many great nuggets in that. I’m looking at the Skype thing right now. We’ve now been talking for an hour and 40 minutes today.

Jon: (Laughs)

Jerod: So we give you this brief snippet here…

Jon: Wow.

Jerod: …on The Showrunner, but that’s the kind of stuff that, inside of the course, we want to expand even more and really let you in on this whole process of setting it up.

So yeah. All right, Jon. You go rest your ears after so much listening, and we will talk next week.

Jon: Excellent. I look forward to it.

Jerod: Okay. See ya.