Crafting The Narrative

Last updated on March 3rd, 2020

Crafting The Narrative
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In this episode, we talk through what makes up a good story for your podcast, and why it’s an essential step in creating engaging and shareworthy content.

These days creating the same content as the rest of the shows in your niche just isn’t good enough. We all need to be publishing 10x content that really stands out above and beyond what other shows are creating.

To learn how the pros do this I sat down with Jared and Leah from Vancouver based Pressboard Media.

Jared and Leah are experts at crafting a story around their topic, and helping their guests share those really interesting and insightful moments during interviews.

During this episode we discuss:

  • Why you can’t start out at a 10 when telling a story
  • How to be vulnerable without seeming negative
  • Why brands can tell just as good of a story as individuals
  • How to think about your competition (hint, it’s not often who you think it is)
  • How to go about crafting a story arc for your episodes

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:05 Hello and welcome back to audience. I’m Craig Hewitt, your host. This is the podcast where you follow the journey of one brand building their podcast audience from zero to a meaningful and impactful resource for their business. Today we’re talking all about storytelling. Storytelling is so important because it’s really what separates meaningful and engaging and dynamic content from everything else out there in the podcasting world. And today I’m joined by Leah and Jared from pressboard media.
Speaker 2 00:35 We’re in the business of telling stories. Everything we do is about telling stories. And because we’re a storytelling company, we’re always looking for new ways to reach both our audience and help our clients reach their audiences.
Speaker 1 00:48 Why talk about storytelling on a podcast about growing your podcast audience. You might ask, and that’s a fair question. And the reason is in this show we’re going to be exploring kind of all aspects of growing a listenership, uh, from paid advertising to content marketing, email marketing. But the core of it really is creating really excellent podcast content for your listeners. And storytelling is by far the best way to stand out from the crowd and really make your show different from everyone else out there. By sharing a narrative, building a story, and having an evolution of of your message over time, as podcasting gets more mature and frankly more competitive, we have to evolve the way we create content and the way we relate our message to our audience much in the way that the traditional marketing and advertising has changed over time. Jared Grimm from pressboard shares a analogy around this that I think will resonate with everybody.
Speaker 3 01:55 So when you think of moving from a banner ad saying, Hey, we’ve got great shoes and those shoes are on sale and you should buy those shoes to try to tell the story, it’s quite a bit different. So it’s the different, you’re using different marketing muscles and instead of looking to things like, you know, banner ads and print ads for inspiration, you start looking towards things like movies and TV shows and books because that’s where screenwriters and authors have created a story arc. And so the biggest challenge I find in working with brands is, is taking them from a place of you can’t turn your magazine ad into a story. You need to take inspiration from maybe your foundational story of the company or your customer’s story. Uh, and that’s what you’re going to market rather than deals and destinations to buy the products.
Speaker 1 02:47 Getting inspiration from outside of your realm and your world and your niche is really difficult sometimes. But often we find that’s the best place to find new and interesting ways to relay a message to your in a way that they can relate to. And again, that’s share worthy. And that ends up having this kind of viral aspect to it. Building an interesting and engaging dynamic story is not a coincidence or an accident. It, there’s a method behind it and there is a lot of science behind this. We see this in popular movies all the time, and our podcast should follow the same type of arc that we see in popular media to engage our audience and keep them wanting more all the time.
Speaker 3 03:30 We’ve even changed the way that we look at storytelling. So one thing that Leah brought on board was this idea of that a story has to, or it should be a three act play. Um, and I’m maybe Leah, you can speak to what a three act plays and it’s not something you learn in. I took marketing in school. You don’t learn about, you know, how people create movies and the three act play. And that is some of the science. And that applies to whether you’re writing something in text or you’re doing a video for branded content where you’re doing podcasts,
Speaker 1 04:02 but what does a three act play mean? And how do we go about creating this within our podcast?
Speaker 2 04:08 Yeah. So I think it’s important for any podcasts or storyteller, remember that you’re not just competing against other podcasts, you’re competing against any kind of entertainment, um, whether that’s movies, you know, the newest series on Netflix. So you always need to be thinking about how those pieces of content are structured and what makes them successful. Uh, and try to apply that to your own stories. So like Jared mentioned, we, we always try to keep the three act play in mind, which is just this idea that stakes needs to be raised over the course of your story to constantly sort of re-engage your audience. Um, if you start at a 10, uh, there’s nowhere for your story to go and there’s no reason for viewers or listeners to or readers to keep listening to the content. Do you need to make sure that your story has depth, um, and different moments where you’re re-engaging people.
Speaker 2 05:02 And then two other sort of main, uh, ideas that we try to incorporate into every story we tell is that you need to have a character that drives the action. So you need to have someone that you relate to that you care about, that you can follow through the story. Because that sort of personal connection is often what drives engagement. And then the third sort of thing. So you have the three act play, you have that strong character and then you need some kind of theme or message that readers can take away. You want them to bring something to the water cooler next day, talk about what their friends over dinner, something that sticks with them because if you tell a story that’s some amazing story, that’s great, but if it doesn’t mean anything then no one’s going to care about it a week or a month later.
Speaker 1 05:46 Giving meaning to our podcast content and the message we’re trying to relate really is the key to making it sticky and have it be something that carries over to the water cooler at work or to the sports field or to your church group where people are just talking about this all the time. I think about the cereal brand and the podcast kind of dynasty that they’ve created there and it really was around this concept of people can’t wait to hear the next episode. People are talking about it all the time. Social media in person, newspaper magazine, it’s everywhere. The story is really interesting and engaging and is really worth following along and people are are bought into the concept of this show. If you’re doing a podcast by yourself, this is easy to control and script and plan out. But if you have an interview based show, this is a little more difficult. Here’s where a little bit of planning thought and research goes a long way into prepping your guests for the particular audience and the topic that you want to talk about in that specific episode.
Speaker 2 06:49 But one of the things that we did this year for first season of the scientist storytelling was to select a theme before each episode. Make sure that the guests were aware of what we wanted to talk about. And in this case we talked to different, like I said, thought leaders about a specific campaign or story that they were telling. So inherently you have a story to talk about. The, for example, we spoke with Atlas Obscura, which is a site in the, in the U S about all these amazing travel destinations that you never knew existed. And they did a campaign with chase Sapphire, uh, where they gave chase Sapphire card holders access to these sort of ancient train cars that were formerly using the MTA and let them go on this sort of retro once in a lifetime experience train ride through New York subway system. So right away we have a story to talk about, which is that story within the campaign.
Speaker 2 07:44 And then from there, uh, we ask a few questions of our guests beforehand so you know, where, where did you get inspiration for this campaign? How did you get involved in the business so that we already have an idea of stories before we get to the recording studio. And then from there we can choose, you know, which stories compelled us, which ones do we want to sort of investigate more. And it just makes sure that everybody as well is aware of what they’re going to talk about and even have some anecdote prepared that they can share. So I definitely think that being prepared is really important though, of course spontaneity and having that sort of national conversation is really important as well.
Speaker 1 08:23 So do your homework ahead of time, prepare yourself and your guests for the episode you’re about to record and then let the conversation take its own natural course and let the guest to tell their story like they want to. Oftentimes, this is where the biggest surprises and the most interesting content will come out organically and naturally
Speaker 2 08:41 while we’re creating our podcast series. So a lot of times people are more interesting than company people within those companies. So a good example was we were interviewing Bexley from
Speaker 3 08:56 Bleacher report. Uh, and Bleacher report has an interesting story. You know, it started out as a, as an app that basically found could record and get highlights, cetera, crowdsource or Abba was really interesting about the podcast was Bakley who is heading up their branded content division. How he became is the role that he was in, how he got to that role. He was a high school basketball coach and he just loved basketball. Like love every part of it, like playing it, love coaching it, love watching it, like he sees himself as basketball in a lot of aspects of his life. And that was intriguing. So because it told the story of Bleacher report and why bleach report was important to people, but we were able to look at it through Besley’s eyes and it was really cool. Yeah. If you started as like a beat reporter doing a little bit of basketball coverage, who’s a basketball coach at a high school at the same time, and he was so passionate about the sport, he was able to easily talk about why police report made sense and why he wanted to work there. And that became really the story of the podcast. It would be really difficult to find that out on the spot during the podcast while you’re interviewing the person where you only have 20 to 40 minutes. But by knowing that that could be a nice three act play that could exist in there, uh, helped us at least have some really good guidelines on where we’re going.
Speaker 1 10:31 So we’re sold on good character development and a story arc being an important part of creating interesting content that our audience can relate to and will want to share with their friends. But how do we go about this? This is a really difficult thing to do if it’s not something that you’re familiar with and have a journalistic background. Jared gives a really great example that I think we all know and love and certainly can relate to.
Speaker 3 10:55 The easiest way to reference this is for most people is to look at movies. So if you like the matrix, if Neo would have started as the one solves all of the matrix problem, there wouldn’t be much of a movie there. So starting the character off in a baseline. So being a normal person that people can relate to and then identifying what the inciting incident was that brought them to a new normal. And so let’s reference back to the matrix scan, right? You know, takes the pill that’s being setting and goes on this journey with lots and lots of tension and challenge along the way. Finally realizes that he’s the one and then there’s the new normal. And so I think you want to start at how was this person before they are what they are now and what were the events that led them to the place that they are now. And that isn’t super interesting story arc and you can do it people, you can also do it with companies like the story of Uber is, is really like, there’s this folklore almost now, but Travis and his friend can’t get a cab. They decide, Hey, wouldn’t it be easier for you to just get like quickly on our phone? They, you know, decide to start Uber. Uber goes through a thousands of challenges along the way, including Travis being one of the biggest challenges to the company.
Speaker 1 12:19 So we don’t start off at a 10. We give the character some room to breathe and grow and be real. Uh, I like how Jared says that this can be a personal example or an example of a company. Many of us are podcasting for our brands and this is a, an entity bigger than just ourselves. So give yourself some space and the Liberty to talk about your organization or your brand as the entity and as the thing that’s experiencing these troubles and going through this journey, uh, itself, not just a person individually.
Speaker 3 12:50 It wouldn’t be very interesting to hear the story of Uber. If it was Uber dominated. It is worth billions of dollars and everything. Right? It’s much more interesting that it didn’t exist and that they ran into massive problems with their CEO and cofounder that they kicked him out of the company and that’s still going.
Speaker 1 13:08 One thing that the story of Uber reminds us of his image and brand and really who we’re competing with to develop and instill the, the image of our brand with our audience and with our listeners. And a lot of times we think of brand as is competing our brand versus another, but a lot of times competition comes in in a lot of different forms and isn’t always obvious to us as we’re sitting here today thinking about our podcasts versus the others in our space. We have to consider other types of media and other things that are vying for audience attention.
Speaker 3 13:44 Your brand story isn’t competing with other brands. It’s competing with entertainment that’s available in the world. So the storytelling around a brand or a company, you have to think of it in a way that it has to follow a lot of the same rules as entertainment cause that’s your constant, your competitive set when you’re building a podcast. The same thing. There is no shortage of podcasts out there. There is thousands of podcasts being created every hour. Um, but why is it that we listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s revisionist history, right? Why do we care about the NPR ones? Why is reply all from Gimlet interesting. Like why are these ones more interesting than other ones? Because they tell an interesting story
Speaker 1 14:23 and this is where the onus comes back on us as content creators to do our work and do our homework and sit down and think about the story that you can tell around your brand and your message and that your audience can relate to. Jared mentioned some of the best storytellers out there and the best content creators in the business and as podcasters, whether you’re just starting out or whether you have an established and growing show, the onus is really on us to up our and up the style of content that we’re creating too to match some of these best in class content creators. But we can only take this so far. We create the content, our audience listens and then forms their own opinions about our message and our brand.
Speaker 3 15:05 So one way to think about it is your brand story is a dinner party and you don’t get to the side what everybody at the table says, but you get to control your own voice, right? You get to control what you say and what you contribute to the conversation, which is your owned assets, right? It’s your, you know, you do a podcast because this is your viewpoint and you’re going to contribute that to the dinner party conversation. What other people say about your brand and the part you don’t control. And so you can only control your contribution to the conversation. And then other people are going to contribute to that story as well. So it makes sure that your voice is heard. You don’t want to sit at a dinner party and let everybody else talk and you not say anything. So make sure that you use your outlets to be able to say the part that you want to contribute.
Speaker 1 15:53 And as independent podcast creators, we often have an advantage over a lot of conventional media outlets here.
Speaker 2 15:59 One of the most exciting things about doing content for brands or as a brand is that you have access to stories that journalists have never heard of. You have access to data in your company that journalists don’t have access to. So there’s stories that people want to hear, they just don’t know exist. So for example, um, I think I read a story just recently, it was a small story by a local food delivery company that examined where people were ordering their food in the city and what kind of food they were ordering. So we live in Vancouver. So people in the West end of the city, uh, for the most part were ordering like falafels and in the East part of the city they were ordering, um, you know, Chinese food and subpar city. Most people are to sushi and um, that’s data that no journalist really has access to.
Speaker 2 16:50 But it’s for as this kind of conversation about, you know, what is the food preferences of the city? How does that reflect people’s personal taste, their demographics in the city? Um, so it was just sort of an interesting thing that I thought, Hm. Like who would have that information without putting a or something. And so you want to think as a brand, not about necessarily how do I counter the narratives that other people are putting out there cause they’re gonna do whatever they want. But it’s more about what stories haven’t been told that I know represent my company exactly as I want it to be represented. And how do I tell those stories to the best of my ability?
Speaker 1 17:29 What story hasn’t been told or what story hasn’t been told in the way that you can tell it? I often think that the best podcast content out there is in an interview format at least of people that I’ve never heard about in a particular niche or people that we all know and have heard on many podcasts. But hearing them talk about you’ve never heard them discuss either way, you approach this way of creating a new angle on your content, whether it’s a story that’s not been told in your space before or having a guest on talking about an aspect of their life and their journey that you’ve never heard in another podcast they’ve been in before. Either way you attack this. I think this is a great strategy for creating interesting new and engaging content that your audience is going to love.
Speaker 3 18:15 Like my advice to everybody is the most interesting stories are the ones where you share these personal aspects because they are very relatable. Uh, I, I was lucky to learn this almost in the first week of starting the company, started the company, uh, both five years ago we had zero clients with zero products. Um, we had zero credibility, but all we had was that me and GM, my business partner took that big leap of faith. So I had just had, uh, I have two kids, we just had our second kid, Henry. So that’s, that’s like a big thing that happens in your life. We just bought a house in North Vancouver. We just have this big mortgage. So second kid mortgage, my wife’s going on mat leaves who have no income coming in from outside. And then I quit my job. So now we have zero income, a massive mortgage second kid.
Speaker 3 19:02 And we did that all in, up through period. Terrible idea. But I was like, okay, well we don’t have any, I’m just going to say it. I’ve got nothing to lose. Right? Like, and I, I posted something on LinkedIn and it was just like, Henry’s, you should have a baby, buy a house, what your job and start a company. And it’s still the most viewed piece of content that I’ve ever had, like on any blog post or anything that I’ve ever done, regardless published. And people still ask me about it. I think it was funny because my sister’s hairdresser, she lives in Edmondson, said, uh, Hey grim, do you know Jared? And she’s like, yeah, that’s my brother. And she’s like, I just read something LinkedIn on LinkedIn about when starting a company. I have no idea what they do. But that’s really interesting now. I mean it’s not like this was such a big story that everyone saw that she’s connected to my sister LinkedIn’s algorithm. But that was my first realization that something that’s really interesting is something that is like incredibly personal, incredibly vulnerable. And I found that’s like powerful from a marketing standpoint.
Speaker 1 20:07 Being vulnerable and telling a story from the heart is really the essence of good content. And I think this is something that’s scary for people who haven’t done it before, who’ve maybe kind of hid behind the veil of, of their organization or their brand or their company, but opening yourself up to really sharing how you feel. And what the journey was like in the high points and the low points and being emotional about sharing that experience with your audience is something that they are going to love you for. When you do this, you find that you have a deep connection with your listeners and they’ll reward you by sharing your podcast with their friends and their coworkers and people in their world.
Speaker 2 20:46 Vulnerability have to mean negativity. It just means talking about something, um, that you don’t have in your company bio that you don’t have on your company website and being fluid and able to sort of take the conversation where it goes.
Speaker 1 21:01 Jared and Leah from pressboard are experts at creating a story arc and telling a narrative around their message and we can be too. I think the, the onus is on us and it’s time for us to do a bit of homework on how to implement this storytelling method within our podcast and within the content that we’re already creating. Jared, share some more about how exactly they do this.
Speaker 3 21:21 One thing that we’ve started doing from a marketing standpoint, I think marketing applies to podcasts a lot is to draw out like screenwriters, write it as if it was a TV show or a movie or a book. So when you have a podcast, rather than having let’s say a series of 10 questions that you’re going to ask the other person, do some prep on the person or the story you want to tell, kind of sketch it out, right? Whether whatever your most, your favorite way of doing something, you can storyboard it and you can screen write it. Uh, you can, we do this three act play and we create a story arc and actually like events that are happening throughout it. It’s a very different way to approach any piece of content that you’re creating. But if I were to leave one tangible thing, that’s what it would be be to map this out as if this is your of thing.
Speaker 1 22:11 But unfortunately our audience’s attention span and their tolerance to let you develop your story is getting shorter and shorter over time. So you have to catch your audience quickly and give them a reason to keep listening throughout the episode.
Speaker 2 22:24 So we interviewed were shell shark Tran awhile ago, who is a screenwriter and a producer and she says that if you don’t have the compelling incident in the script, if you can’t read that within the first 10% of the script, someone’s going to put it down. I think it’s like you have to have that sort of hook, that compelling incident within the first 10 pages of your script. So I think it’s important when you have a podcast, when you’re crossing that narrative, sure you don’t want to start at a 10, but you want to sort of hint at what does that exciting thing that we’re moving towards. That means it’s worthwhile to listen to the podcast. I think there’s, there’s like the meme where someone is in sort of like a crazy moment. There’s a fire happening in the background and an explosion and there’s a record scratch. Like you’re probably wondering how I got here. Finding a way to tease out those intriguing moments or, um, sort of drop that foam early in your story so that people know that there’s something that is worthwhile to listen to. It’s a really challenging skill. But if you can figure out a way to do that, I mean, you’re going to just set yourself up for success
Speaker 1 23:35 in this episode. I think we’re all inspired, educated, and entertained by Jared and Leah telling the story of storytelling. And this is something that we all definitely can and really should carry over into our own podcast. This is a massive part of growing a large audience, which again, is what this podcast is all about, which is creating an impactful and meaningful audience size for your brand so that you can help share the message through podcasting. And a big part of doing that is through good storytelling and good content and content that people want to share and want to engage with and want to follow in between the episodes in your Facebook group or in your email or in your local organizations. Uh, and so I think Jared and Leah from pressboard have done a great job of sharing with us how they go about creating that narrative and telling a story in their podcast and for their customers.
Speaker 1 24:30 And this is certainly something that all of us can and should carry over into our own shows as well. Uh, this is something that we’re going to be following along with and keeping ourselves accountable to in this podcast. We’re hoping that every episode here can be as engaging and as interesting as this episode. And so please let us know what you think. If you have comments for us for this episode or want to hear anything more about storytelling or kind of good content creation, please let us know. Drop a comment in and the post for this episode at dot com slash podcast.

Now Over To You

We’d love to hear your stories about telling stories through your podcast. Drop a comment in below to tell all about the highs (and the lows) you’ve encountered in crafting an engaging narrative around your podcast topic.

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