Discover how the recipe for a great joke can make your branded podcast better and why Aristotle has something to do with it.
By Taylor Zabloski
We listen to podcasts for many reasons. We might tune in for something insightful, poignant, or educational. But out of all the options, you know what nobody wants a podcast to be?
A joke is perhaps the most ubiquitous version of a short and entertaining piece of spoken media, so let’s figure out how to apply its secrets to branded podcasts. What makes a joke work?
Before we begin, a word of caution from author E.B. White:
“Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better, but the frog dies in the process.”
We’re not going to kill the idea of entertainment, but we are going to uncover how to use it to make your podcast better.
The secret recipe for joke-telling comes from Aristotle in his Poetics. He says that the thing people are looking for — that essential ingredient that makes a joke work — is twofold.
The outcome must be:
What he means is that the point of any piece of entertainment — including movies and even podcasts — can’t only be a surprise (…and then aliens come down and take them all away to Saturn! THE END).
Surprises are great, but they’re not enough. They don’t leave us with catharsis.
We also can’t only follow an inevitable logical chain of events (…and the murderer at the end of the mystery is who we suspected all along! THE END). What’s the point of experiencing a story that progresses like a list of to-do’s?
Therein lies the challenge. Jokes, stories, movies, podcasts… They all need to be both inevitable and unexpected. It is a feat, but it is possible. That twofold secret is what gets the laugh (or groan) at the end of your dad’s knock-knock joke. It’s what’s made M. Night Shyamalan a famous director. And it’s what we can use in our branded podcasts.
How Do We Use This Concept In a Branded Podcast?
Here are some examples for how you can keep things inevitable but unexpected at the same time in your branded podcast.
This facet is the most apparent for podcasting but is also the most overlooked. Each episode can be a great story, but are you setting up the audience for a great ending?
There isn’t a one-and-done formula for making this happen, but some things to consider include:
- Are you guiding your audience through a question and then delighting and surprising them with the answer?
- Does your guest’s story or position come with a unique twist on the subject matter?
- Does the ending make you lean back after suddenly realizing you’ve been on the edge of your seat during the tale?
Remember, it’s not just, “Oh wow, I did NOT see that coming!” It’s also, “Oh man, I should’ve seen that coming!” That’s inevitable, but unexpected. If you’re unsure you can do it alone, don’t forget that bringing in an excellent writer for your show can make all the difference.
2. Content Formats
There are the gold standard, tried and true podcast formats, but there are always ways to enhance them. One way to expand the inevitable-unexpected area is with interviews. We all know that there will be a guest — but what if you added a third subject with a counterpoint to the discussion? Or a commentator breaking down the material explored?
We’ve also talked before about the benefits of audio dramas. This Is a great way to give the audience a taste of your brand in an unexpected way. For example, our recently launched show, Handsome Molly.
Content and format can also apply to the tone. Comedy is the number one genre in podcasting, and if your brand aligns with it, why not bring in that flavour of the unexpected to the podcast? It’s easy to think as podcasts being purely in an “informational” tone. Don’t be afraid to break down the barriers of traditional formatting to elevate your show and bring in an element of unexpected delight.
Looking for an example? Check out Infernal Communication. They incorporate witty banter and humour, reminding their target audience — other comms professionals — that word play is actually pretty darn fun.
3. Audio Enhancement
It’s hard to choose music for a podcast. You don’t want to overpower the show, and you also don’t want to underwhelm. This is a great (often missing) place to give that secret spice of the inevitable and unexpected.
Why not try linking the music to a key juncture in your guest or story’s journey? Is there a way to forgo dialogue entirely, using music to create a moment?
The same holds for sound design and soundscapes. Does your guest’s story about a bowling alley need some pins crashing? That twofold component doesn’t only have to be a shock. Giving your audience that sigh of delight at the end also works. Maybe your interview or narrative could benefit from some clever sound design — just make sure you’re not making these sound design mistakes while you’re at it.
Podcasting is not an island. There are a myriad of ways to create content outside of the audio or the show itself.
The way that audiences engage with a podcast can surprise and delight as well. We expect the usual social media posts, maybe a newsletter or two. But what about throwing in a hotline for listener questions or a poll that adjusts the format of the show?
Don’t be afraid to take ideas from the interactive parts of other shows that you like and surprise your audience with them, too.
Consistency and Innovation
Let’s go up to cruising altitude and see the podcasting process as a whole. If you look down out your window, you’ll see that the whole thing is inevitable but unexpected. The secret, twofold ingredient that makes a joke land (or a podcast successful) already lives within this creative marketing format. We just need to capitalize on it further.
We expect consistent episodes. It’s the only way to grab an audience. Consistency in content, timing, and quality is crucial for your branded podcast to be a success. Yet, we want something to challenge us unexpectedly (even in some small way), or else we’ve gotten what we already knew.
Even if you think you aren’t doing it, by making a podcast and giving the audience a new episode — you are. This is the catharsis that an audience is looking for.
So how will you make the ideas within your podcast inevitable, but unexpected? If you need excellent writers, strategists, or marketing gurus on your side, reach out to us at JAR Audio. We love finding the formats that fit brands and breaking down the walls of traditional marketing to truly make your show stand out.
To learn more about writing a great podcast, check out this other post.