When you’re ready to record your podcast, it can be super tempting to play the episodes by ear. After all, it can’t be that hard to pull off an unscripted chat or interview, right? Well, we’re not going to say “wrong.” But, unless you’re a skilled improv comedian, we don’t recommend seeing where the wind takes your podcast. What we do recommend, though, is writing a script and making a plan to keep folks entertained and invested in your content.
Now that you’re less tempted to wing it, you might be wondering what goes into a good podcast script, or if there’s room for any unplanned banter? Well, you’ve come to the right place, because we’ve launched a three-part blog series with Jay Acunzo — the founder of Marketing Showrunners and one of B2B marketing’s best podcasters — to help answer your questions. Jay’s been kind enough to chat with us and give us his top tips for creating an entertaining podcast for your business.
Part one of our series was all about storytelling and structuring your podcast. And now, for part two, we’re going to get a peek at how Jay approaches scripting and how he wrote the script for his new podcast, 3 Clips, to build a loyal, passionate audience.
Your episode’s story structure is like its scaffolding. Using it as an outline will help you build onto the episode and decide how to fill in each of its segments and determine its overall direction. For every episode of 3 Clips, the person in charge of the creative direction — which is either Jay or his co-host, Molly Donovan — will copy and paste their story structure into Tettra, their internal wiki. Then, they fill out ideas for each block, calling it the “rundown.” After Jay and Molly finish the rundown, they copy it over to Google Docs where they can collaborate on the script’s finer details.
When you read a blog post, you can afford to be a little bit wordy (just a little bit). But, when it comes to podcasts, it’s a good idea to remember that your audience isn’t reading your script. They’re listening to your host read it out loud, which means channeling your inner William Faulkner might just meander them right into another podcast. Plus, don’t forget that you have to breathe. If you’ve written long-winded sentences, it can sound really strange on tape to try and orchestrate your breathing between words.
When Jay and Molly start collaborating on their script, they only write in short sentences. For example, in their script that deconstructs Adobe’s Wireframe podcast, notice how they wrote the majority of their cold open in crisp, succinct bullet points:
This particular cold open scored a “2” in readability on the Hemingway App, which means it’s written at a second-grade reading level. Given that Hemingway wrote at a fourth-grade reading level, you can confidently assume the script is an easy listen.
Audio is an entirely different medium than video or the written word. It lacks visual cues that let your audience know that something important is about to happen — like an actor’s facial expression or a header in a blog post, for example. To avoid jarring your audience with choppy transitions, Jay recommends guiding your audience with signposts.
What are signposts? Signposts are obvious transitions that tease a crucial bit of information, nudging your listeners to pay close attention to the next part of your episode. They can also recap previous moments of the episode.
“Signposts are obvious transitions that tease a crucial bit of information, nudging your listeners to pay close attention to the next part of your episode.”
For instance, a signpost that teases an important moment of your episode could look like this:
After hearing that signpost, your audience will be asking themselves, “Who is this guy? And how in the world has he done the seemingly impossible?” Building intrigue and piquing curiosity like this is what keeps your audience listening.
Similarly, a signpost that recaps a critical moment could look like this:
As you can see, this signpost reiterates the importance of the previous statement, which brings your audience back up to speed and grabs their attention.
Though Jay preaches the importance of planning, he also believes improvisation makes your podcast better. Why? Well, improv infuses more personality and authenticity into your podcast and, in turn, better holds your listeners’ attention. It also makes you sound more like a person and less like a robot, which is always a good thing.
“Improv infuses more personality and authenticity into your podcast and, in turn, better holds your listeners’ attention.”
When Jay and Molly record 3 Clips, they insert placeholders in their script that literally say “riff,” which indicates that they need to go off-script. They write their entire script this way to hold their audience’s attention and get them to the end of the episode. For example, in their script for the episode that deconstructs Adobe’s Wireframe podcast, notice how Acunzo only wrote down his main takeaways for the first clip’s analysis. This left him a lot of room to improvise and express his genuine feelings at specific points in time.
Now that you have a few tips under your belt, we hope you’ll feel less tempted to scribble a bare-bones outline for each of your scripts, especially if you run an interview podcast. Dedicating time and effort to your scripting process allows you to elevate your podcast past the talking-head shows that already flood the space and, in turn, build a loyal, passionate audience.