No. 073 Empathy Maps: A Podcaster’s Guide

What if you knew exactly what your listener was thinking, feeling, and seeing when they listened to your show? To even think about having that kind of deep insight is empowering.

In this episode, Jerod and Jonny discuss the simple steps you need to take to acquire this valuable insight, and then use it to take your listener on a journey.

In this episode, Jonny and Jerod discuss the following:

  • How your Audience of One ties into Empathy Maps
  • Using empathy maps to create profitable online courses
  • Exactly where and how to start with Empathy Maps

Listen, learn, enjoy …

The Show Notes

No. 073 Empathy Maps: A Podcaster’s Guide

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 back to The Showrunner. This is episode No. 73. I am your host, Jerod Morris, VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital. I will be joined momentarily, as I always am, by my punk-rock-drumming co-host, Jonny Nastor, also the host of Hack the Entrepreneur.

This episode is brought to you by Acuity Scheduling. Acuity Scheduling makes scheduling meetings online easy. Clients can view your real-time availability, self-book appointments with you, fill out forms, and even pay you online. To learn more and get a 45-day free trial, visit

So Jonny, as we record this, I am feeling a little nervous. Do you know why?

Jonny Nastor: No. You seem so calm always.

Jerod Morris: Well, that belies the nerves and the butterflies that are fluttering around in my stomach right now, because we’re recording this on Tuesday, October 11th. This is two days before Digital Commerce Summit kicks off. I am speaking, and I am already starting to feel the nerves of that speaking opportunity as I walk around my room and practice my presentation and do all of that.

Jonny Nastor: Oh.

Jerod Morris: Yes. What’s funny here is once people actually hear this, it’ll be after Digital Commerce Summit. So this is going to be funny if I have fallen on my face.

Jonny Nastor: It’ll be so justified, all the nerves.

Jerod Morris: “Oh, well he was really nervous beforehand, so that’s why he just ran away screaming after two minutes. Now it all makes sense.”

I always do get really nervous before presentations. Typically, as soon as I get out there, I feel a lot better. That’s part of why I like giving presentations, because I don’t do a whole lot of daredevil-type stuff. So it’s my one chance to embrace my fear and meet it head on and then move past it. But anyway, I’m already starting to feel some of those butterflies.

Jonny Nastor: That’s cool. What are you presenting on?

Jerod Morris: Well, I am glad you ask, because that leads into the topic that I want to talk about today. It’s incredible. I didn’t even tee you up for that question, and you asked anyway. That’s the kind of teamwork and chemistry that we have here on The Showrunner.

Jonny Nastor: Well, because you’re telling us all about this presentation and how awesome it’s going to be, and you might fall off the stage, and then it’s like, “What are you talking about on stage?”

Jerod Morris: The title of my presentation is How to Turn What You Love Most into a Profitable Online Course — which, obviously, that’s what we did with The Showrunner. We both love podcasting. We have huge enthusiasm about it. We both had experience to share, and to help folks. That’s part of obviously why we started this podcast, and so that is going to be the topic of the presentation. I’m actually using The Showrunner as an example, and some of the other courses that I have created.

In fact, I was just practicing in here before we got on the mic here to record, and one of the areas of the presentation that I’m talking about is the importance of really understanding your ‘who.’

It’s the same for an online course as it is for a podcast. You got to understand who you’re talking to. Longtime listeners will remember our episodes about the ‘audience of one.’ And, of course, we have that lesson inside of The Showrunner Podcasting Course.

I want to talk about that some today on this episode, and take the audience of one a step further and talk about empathy mapping. How that fits into understanding the ‘who,’ and making sure that we’re creating content that really solves a need.

To do that we have to understand who people are to understand what their needs are in the first place. We’ve talked about the audience of one before. I want to take it to the next step and talk about empathy mapping. What do you say?

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, I’m looking forward to this. I think I’m going to learn just as much as some people out there listening.

Jerod Morris: Well, hey. That’s awesome.

Jonny Nastor: So it’s going to be fun.

Jerod Morris: Cool. All right, let’s do it. Let’s hop into the conversation.

To begin, Jonny, let’s review audience of one. When we talk about our audience of one, what do we mean by that?

The Importance of Your Audience of One

Jonny Nastor: We mean the one specific person as a showrunner that we are speaking to at all times. Whether that’s actually just speaking into the microphone and envisioning everything about this one person, but also creating the format for your show. How long do they have to commute? Are they listening during a commute? Are they listening at other times? And how does your format have to fit into that? Your branding, the show title, the topics.

Every single aspect of everything that we create is always for that one person. And if you hone it in well enough to that one person, it will resonate with hundreds and thousands, and possibly tens of thousands, of that exact one person. It’s just allowing us to find that person and find the message. And always be focusing on them, rather than trying to act like we’re speaking to a thousand people at a time that all have different worries and emotions and hopes and dreams.

That audience of one is really just honing that down to that one.

Jerod Morris: And getting real specific, to the point of: What’s their name? What’s their age? What’s their gender? What’s their income level? Do they have kids? What magazines do they read? What social media sites do they end up on? Really going in depth to find this person.

I know that that throws some people sometimes, because they think, “Well, wait a minute. If my audience of one — if it’s a man, does that mean that I’m not talking at all to any women? I don’t want to split my audience up like that.” That’s not the point.

What you said, Jonny, is so important. You have to talk to that one person to actually reach the others. If you just try and talk to everybody, you’re going to reach no one. But if you talk and really connect with that one person, you’re going to reach a lot of other people who are close to that person. Maybe they don’t share the exact gender or the exact income level, for example, but they share enough of the other traits, and you’ve really hit that nerve with that person. You’ve really tapped into something with that person that other people can relate to. But you’ve got to go one, and then expand out, as opposed to trying to talk to everybody and then believing that you’re going to make connections with the one. It just doesn’t work that way.

That’s why we really preach this idea of the audience of one and why it’s so important. And why we have that worksheet inside of the course. We want people to get it down. There’s little boxes and you write it out, who this person is. So that you can really get a feeling for who the person is.

Some people take a picture of that person and put it up on the wall by their microphone, so that when they’re recording their podcast, they’re looking at that person and talking directly to that person.

But it’s so important, even in how you address people. Say, “You.” Talk right to a person. Don’t say, “You guys,” and all of that stuff. It all really is important in making the listener feel like they are that person that you are talking to. And that helps you connect with many, many people.

Jonny Nastor: And to me, even a step further, where, in a selfish way, it helps me create. I don’t get stuck of what I should cover next as a topic. I don’t get stuck of what the next email should be about, because it’s just to that person.

To me, it’s really easy to speak to one person. But if it’s like, “I got to write an email to 1,123 people on my email list right now,” it’s like, “Uh, what do I write?” But it’s like, “No, I got to write to this one person,” and I literally just sit down: “Hey, hey. This is what’s up. Here’s how it’s going. Here’s what you should do, because it will help.”

That’s it. It’s easy, but it’s going out to 1,100-and-however-many people I said. To me, it really always keeps me going, momentum wise, for creation. It’s easier to create for one I find than it is to create for many.

Jerod Morris: Absolutely, and we have an episode or two about this in our archives, and so we will link to those in the show notes. But what I want to do next is, I want to expand on this idea of who are we talking about?

We talked about the audience of one, and I want to take it to the next level with empathy mapping, because this is an exercise that can really, really help us dive in even more to what our audience of one — what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling, how we can truly help them as showrunners. We’re going to get to that here in just a minute.

Before we do, I want to take a quick break and tell you about Acuity Scheduling, which is the sponsor for this week’s episode of The Showrunner. You probably know how challenging the back and forth of booking appointments, meetings, and podcast guests can be. Jonny and I certainly do, with all of the shows that we run.

For instance, with The Digital Entrepreneur, as soon as we switched over to doing interviews on that show. It was a lot easier when it was just me and Brian trying to find a time between us, but when we started doing interviews on that show, it became a lot trickier. You got to do the back and forth of emails, and “What time works for you?” All of that.

It can just be such a headache. So when you actually have software that can make it easy, and you can go in and say when you’re available, when you’re not, and someone can just look and pick a time that works for them, it makes it so much simpler. And just gives you so many fewer headaches.

And that’s the thing. What if you never had to ask, “What time works for you?” again? Acuity Scheduling makes the entire process of scheduling appointments easy. It works with your existing Google, Office 365, iCloud, or Outlook Calendar. Clients can view your availability and self-book appointments, complete onboarding forms, and even submit payment. So you can get back to running your business, which is what you should be doing. Acuity Scheduling also helps you avoid no-shows with automatic text and email reminders. It’s simple to use, and they offer phenomenal customer support.

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How Your Audience of One Ties into Empathy Maps

Jonny, let’s dive into empathy mapping. At the show notes, not only are we going to have links to the ‘audience of one’ episodes that we’ve done previously, but we’ll have a link to a PDF of an empathy map, so that you can actually see what we’re talking about here.

But what I want you to do is just think about a piece of paper, and think about a piece of paper that is drawn into four quadrants. In one quadrant is the word ‘thinking.’ In another quadrant is the word ‘feeling.’ In another quadrant is the word ‘seeing.’ And in another quadrant is the word ‘doing.’

So you’ve got these four different quadrants. What you do with an empathy map is you start to fill in these quadrants, putting yourself into the shoes of your audience member and imagining, “Okay, what are they thinking? What are they feeling? What are they seeing? And what are they doing?” So that you can start to see the world through their eyes, especially if you’re trying to create content that isn’t just entertainment but is trying to solve a need.

We are here with The Showrunner. We want to be entertaining, of course. But really what we want to do is we want every single one of these episodes to help take you to the next step in some element of podcasting.

For us to do that, we have to know what you’re thinking. We have to know what you’re feeling, what you’re seeing, and what you’re doing to really understand what the needs are and understand where the gaps are that we can fill. Sitting down and doing this, and actually taking the time to write it out — it fills in the gaps of your audience of one portrait. Because it’s not just this person’s demographic information, and it’s not just stuff like where they hang out on social media and what magazines they read to give you an idea of stuff they like.

This is tapping in even deeper. What are they afraid of? What are they thinking? When they go out looking for other podcasts about podcasting, what are they seeing, and where can we fill in there?

Also, if you think about this piece of paper with the four quadrants, leave yourself a little space for ideas. As you go through this, you want to write down then ideas that — “Okay, if they’re thinking this, well, what can I do then in response to this? If they’re already doing this, what can I do now in response to that?” And by really tapping into this inner core of your person, of your audience of one, it gives you such a clear picture of what to do next and how you can provide the most possible value to that person, by truly understanding what’s going on inside of them.

Jonny, have you ever done an empathy map before?

Jonny Nastor: I’ve never done an empathy map before.

Jerod Morris: What are your thoughts hearing it — and I sent you that article earlier — reading about it? I’d love to know.

Jonny Nastor: It’s really, really interesting, and it seems like if I hadn’t done the audience of one work numerous times now, that I would just be like, “Oh, this is just a whole bunch of work for little reward.” But because I know how most people feel about doing that work and trying to figure out that one person, and how most people don’t do it — but the value is unbelievable. And it’s the cause for the success I’ve had at Hack the Entrepreneur and knowing that one person. That I know that this is the extension of it, like you said, and the value is there.

That article you sent me was written by Demian Farnworth, and there was one question, or it’s a statement I guess, that was mentioned by a doctor. It helps because he uses this statement as the basis for this empathy map, and I thought that that was really interesting. It made me instantly try and think of, “What is that for Showrunner?” It really helps that whole process. So I’m not sure we were going to cover that, but I’m fascinated by it.

It’s a cool thing, and I think especially that seeing — like when you said when they go look for other podcasts about podcasting, what are they seeing? And we’ve covered this in the course. That’s how we decide what you’re going to call your show and what your artwork is going to look like. It’s all based on what they’re seeing there now, and how you can stand out from that market, but also fit into the gaps that might exist there.

Jerod Morris: Let’s talk about a few examples, because that’s what can really help crystallize it. Again, the idea is to go beyond the audience of one. Take it even to the next step.

If you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, “How do I know if I need this?” The answer is yes. You do need this. It’s going to make your showrunning better, but in terms of if there’s an acute need, where maybe you may want to sit down and do this right now. Jonny you hit on it earlier.

If you’re struggling at all to think about what your next topic should be, then you’re probably ready to do an empathy map. If you’re feeling a little bit overwhelmed or you’re feeling a little bit disconnected from your audience, you should sit down and do an empathy map. It is a great panacea for so much of what can ail us as showrunners. Let me give you an example.

I’m creating this course for Digital Commerce Academy. It’s called Savvy Social Advertising. I’ve been going through creating these lessons, and I’ve been struggling with it a little bit.

On here for The Showrunner, when we created the content for The Showrunner podcast, I felt such a strong connection to the audience. Frankly, the audience was us. And there’s no question it makes it simpler to do an audience of one and an empathy map when, basically, your audience is you or you from six months prior, and now you’re sharing all of the experience that you’ve gained.

That is really simple, but I wasn’t quite feeling that same connection with the people that I was creating this course for, Savvy Social Advertising. Whether you’re creating a course or podcast episodes, it’s all very similar in terms of the mindset to create good lessons.

So I sat down and I did this empathy map exercise. I can’t explain how much it helped to crystallize who I’m creating these lessons for, what direction I need to go in next. My overwhelm went away because I immediately got back to, “Okay, here’s the person. This is why I’m doing this. These are the problems I’m going to help them solve.” And immediately you get that rush of motivation and confidence, because you know what next step to take. It was huge in that respect, and now I’m not feeling that same kind of worry and struggle with that as I go through and create future lesson.

It all traces back to sitting down and doing this empathy map exercise. It may take 15, 20, 30 minutes. It may take even longer to do. And, yeah, it’s not like you’re going to turn it in or anybody’s going to do anything with your empathy map. You’re doing it for yourself. But what you get in terms of clarity and direction moving forward can be absolutely invaluable, and it can end up being one of the best investments of time that you make.

Jonny Nastor: This is interesting, because you’re absolutely right. When you said creating the course for Showrunner, it was easy. Well, it was simple. It was simple in the fact that we were that audience, or we were that audience six months or a year before.

Same with Hack the Entrepreneur. Literally, when I wrote out this person, if it was an empathy map, it would’ve been based on me two years prior. 100 percent. That’s just what it was. I could picture and envision all of it.

But, when you’re doing it, say, for Savvy Social Advertising — and I’m sure you could be out there listening and you could be saying, “Well, my market, that wasn’t me, or that isn’t me.” How did you go about finding the information for this, Jerod?

Exactly Where and How to Start with Empathy Maps

Jerod Morris: Well, that’s where you have to sit down and do some research. The thing is, with The Showrunner, figuring out the audience of one and the empathy map, we had done all of the research because we had just been there. So we knew what other people were seeing. We knew what they were thinking and feeling, because we had just been thinking and feeling a lot of that ourselves. And if you don’t know that, because maybe you haven’t been right there in that situation previously, then you may need to go out and research. You may need to get into forums and see what people are saying, and that’s part of what I did.

Go out and explore. Go out and try to put yourself, “Okay, I’m going to be in the position of these people. What do I see as I go through this and I try and do some of these things that I’m going to teach? How do I feel? How do I think when I’m doing it?”

With an empathy map, you’re trying to figuratively put yourself into the shoes of your audience. And if you’re struggling with it, you might want to just literally put yourself into the shoes of your audience, and really go out and do some of the things that they’re doing. Doing that, again, it really helped me to really be able to see through their eyes, which was huge.

I want to use another example too, to bring this back to podcasting. I think back to when I launched The Assembly Call. Look, I think most of the people that we’ve talked to that are Showrunner listeners, that are people in the course certainly, are running shows based on topics that they have a real investment in, a real enthusiasm about, because they’ve lived it in some way. I think you’re always going to set yourself up for success when that’s the case.

You’re going to have more legwork, more homework — it’s going to be a bit more of a struggle if you’re creating a show, if you’re creating a course, on something that is outside of what you have really dived into recently. It’s going to be a little bit more of a challenge, so prepare yourself for that.

With The Assembly Call, part of the reason why that show was able to be successful is because we went from being the target audience to creating the show. I look at that, and the reason why that show came about is because sitting there as a potential audience member for a show that had not yet been created, I always found myself after the games saying, “Man, I wish there was another place to go after the games, because I want more IU talk. I want a community to share this with.”

Going out there looking for it, what am I seeing? I’m not finding it. What am I doing? I’m trying to find it. What am I thinking? I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed that this isn’t there. What am I feeling? Again, frustrated disappointment.

So you take all of that. And understanding that, now you start a show. That’s what we did. We started a show that fit in with all of those things.

So there’s two different ways you could go from it. You can either be that person who is the potential audience member for a show that doesn’t exist yet, and you’re doing the empathy-mapping work on your own before you even start, and that’s how you identify the need. Or you go back to the reverse.

But if you’re going to do that correctly, then you really need to get back into that beginner’s mindset, or get into that audience member mindset. Really try and see the world through their eyes. That may be actually doing some of the things that they’re doing so that you can experience some of what they’re experiencing, and that’ll help you get a feeling for those thoughts and those feelings that they’re having.

Now you can put that empathy map together and use it to move forward and use it to help give you the answers that you’re seeking.

Jonny Nastor: Thinking, feeling, and seeing seem more obvious to me than doing. Let’s say for a show, for a podcast — not for a course, but for the podcast itself — is the doing what they’re doing while they’re listening, or is it what they’re doing to actually find you for the first time?

Jerod Morris: I think it can be both. I think certainly for a podcast, you definitely want to think about what are people doing when they’re consuming your content, so that you give it to them in the format that is going to be the best. That’s certainly one way of looking at it. The other way of looking at it is, “I’m trying to educate them in some way or help them create a better process or whatever it is. What are they doing right now?”

Like right now, with this very episode. What are people doing right now if they’re struggling to get in touch with their audience. Well, the goal of this episode is to help give you more tools to do that, a reminder of the audience of one and empathy mapping. You may be doing all kinds of things right now. Or you may not be doing anything but just sitting there frustrated, because you don’t know what episode to go to next.

So that doing can have a dual meaning there, and certainly you want to keep both of those in mind. But it’s a really important distinction. I’m glad you brought it up, Jonny.

That’s especially important with a podcast, because your format, your length, when you publish — all of those things are going to be really important. Understanding that element of the doing is going to be necessary for you to get that part right.

Jonny Nastor: I love it.

Jerod Morris: The takeaway from this episode is to go try an empathy map. Maybe you’ve done this. If you have done this, I would love for you to tweet at us and let us know: @jerodmorris, @jonnastor. Tweet at us and let us know.

Maybe even take a picture of your empathy map and send it to us. It’d be great to know what your experiences have been, if empathy mapping has really helped you. If you haven’t done it yet, or if you’re at that point that we described earlier where you could really need to do this, then go to the show notes.

You can go to Showrunner.FM. Find episode No. 73, go to the show notes, and you’ll find this PDF. And then just print it out. Sit down, turn off your computer, turn off your phone. Get rid of all of the distractions, take a pen, and start writing this stuff out.

And if you get stuck, if you get to seeing, and you’re like, “Well I don’t really know what the audience is seeing,” then maybe open up your computer and put yourself in the shoes of the audience and go see what they’re seeing. Try to understand it.

If you get there and you get to a part where you’re not quite sure what to write, don’t be frustrated. Be really excited, because now you’ve identified a blind spot, but that gives you the direction to go in, so that you can make that blind spot a spot of sight. You can replace your blindness with sight just through knowledge and through research.

That’s going to make you so much better as a showrunner. You’re going to create better, more compelling, more valuable content for your audience, because you’re going to understand them better. That’s the takeaway. That’s the homework: either to let us know about empathy maps you’ve done in the past, how it’s helped you, maybe even take a picture of it. Or go download the empathy map that we include in the show notes and do one. And let us know how the experience goes.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, and then tweet it to us.

Jerod Morris: Yes, and then tweet it to us. Absolutely.

Jonny Nastor: If you download the PDF off the show notes, then I would print out like five of them. Because, like you were saying, Jerod, to me, it’s going to be brainstorming. I’m going to print out five, and I’m going to be willing to go through five of them, and scratching them all up, and by the end I’ll have one that I’m happy with.

But you don’t want to edit your ideas as you’re going right now. Probably just get things out. What do you think about thinking, feeling, seeing, doing, and ideas? And just see what comes out, and then you can whittle it down until you have a good one at the end. And that’s the one you can take a picture of and tweet to us.

Jerod Morris: Absolutely.

Jonny Nastor: It’s really about getting the motion going and getting the thoughts going around it, and not worrying about it being perfect the first time. I think that that’s how this is probably going to work best for us showrunners.

Jerod Morris: I agree. So go to Showrunner.FM, get that empathy map. But also if you’re not already, get on our weekly newsletter so that we can be in your inbox every week with some words of encouragement, as well as a link to the recent episode, announcement of public events, and other fun stuff that we do on our email newsletter.

We want you to declare yourself a showrunner, and you do that by going to Showrunner.FM and getting on that list. And with that said, we will talk to you next week on another brand-new episode of The Showrunner.

Jonny Nastor: Take care, everybody.