Radio veteran Jeff Brown is a Nashville-area podcaster with over two decades in broadcast radio. Since 2013, he’s hosted and produced Read To Lead Podcast. Episodes of the podcast feature business book authors sharing their latest books and unique insights on leadership, personal development, productivity, marketing, and entrepreneurship.
Because of his podcast, Jeff recently got the opportunity to do his own book and is currently working with a publisher to make that happen. I asked him about this as well as the story of his transition from broadcast radio to podcasting.
How (and why) did you start podcasting?
Initially, I started my podcast because of my love for reading great, life-changing business books and my desire to share that love with more people.
Around 2011 and 2012, I was beginning to grow tired of radio as a career. At that point, I was 25 years in, and it was the first time I’d ever thought about what life might look like beyond broadcast radio.
There was a real sense in my heart that I wasn’t going to be doing this forever. I started thinking about what might be next, income-wise, for me.
A podcast wasn’t a part of that plan at first. Working for myself, however, was.
Part of my desire to leave radio was predicated on the fact we moved so slow when it came to implementing change. By that I mean the industry in general though, at the time, it felt like my company was moving especially slow. It was frustrating, to say the least, and I wasn’t afraid to make my feelings known.
In early 2013, as I was starting to make plans for an exit, I landed upon my podcast idea. I began developing it (research, gathering equipment, creating a guest list, etc.) over the course of a few months.
Right in the middle of all that, and almost exactly one month before my planned podcast launch, I was let go from my job. There were myriad reasons for this (I was one of several let go that day), but I’m sure my loud voice with regard to our snail's pace made it an easy decision for the executive team.
My “goal date” for leaving broadcast radio had been December 31. I was let go in June.
My time table had been moved up dramatically. My podcast idea - up to this point a labor of love - suddenly took on a whole new significance.
What makes a great podcaster (and podcast)?
A great podcast episode is one that keeps the promises it makes at the outset and demonstrates a respect for the listeners’ time.
A great podcaster is someone who makes every decision related to their podcast by first asking the question, “Does this respect the listeners’ time?”
Respecting your listeners’ time is, dare I say, your top priority when creating a podcast.
Often times, in the context of podcasting, the thinking goes, with regard to things like length, format, you name it:
“There are no more constraints! There are no more rules! I can do whatever I want! It’s the ‘Wild, Wild West!'”
Good luck with that, I say. Those frameworks you find so abhorrent exist for a reason.
I would assert that no creative endeavor exists outside a framework; none worth paying attention to anyway.
Frameworks don’t stifle creativity – they help it flourish.
There are a number of ways you can demonstrate you respect your listeners’ time in the context of a podcast. The very first is to answer within the first 60- to 90-seconds What’s in it for me?
“What’s in it for me?” means being so clear and concise with who your show is and isn't for, that some people (maybe a lot of people) will decide to do something else with their time.
This clarity should happen on a “per episode” basis as well. And because of it, there will be people whom your show is ultimately designed for who may conclude today’s episode is not for them.
Let listeners know what they’re getting. Some topics you cover will not be for some, otherwise, regular listeners. Make sure they know that right out of the gate.
Giving listeners permission to leave, and doing it early, will increase the likelihood they’ll return the next time. Why? Because you showed that honoring their time is more important than your own agenda [of keeping them listening].
When you do this consistently, your listeners will reward you with their long-term loyalty.
Be less concerned about trying to keep people for all of today’s episode. “Life happens” after all (e.g. the commute ends, the exercise routine concludes, etc.), and you can’t control the specifics of those routines.
Be more concerned about doing things that make listeners want to come back the next time.
What do you wish you'd known when you started podcasting? Why?
When I started, I wish I’d known what a great networking tool hosting a podcast is. I would’ve started sooner.
What do you love most about podcasting? Why?
As a podcaster, I love the people I’m privileged to meet and get to know along the way. Not just the guests, that’s part of it for me, but also the many quality people in the industry.
What's the worst thing about podcasting? Why?
The worst thing about podcasting, I think, is that when anyone can, anyone will. By that I mean that, nowadays, launching a podcast is fairly simple. This means that everyone with an idea can enter the space. I sometimes wish it weren’t so cluttered.
What makes a great podcast interview?
A great interview is one where the interviewER understands we’re not there to hear him or her. We’re there to hear and learn from the guest.
Likewise, an excellent interviewer understands how to leverage the “intimacy” of the medium by making the listener feel she’s a part of the conversation AND that it’s a conversation that’s taking place RIGHT NOW, as opposed to something she’s merely eavesdropping on.
What's the best thing that's happened to you because of your podcast?
The best thing that’s ever happened to me because of my podcast, besides the wonderful people I’ve been able to meet, is the recent book deal I was offered.
In my case, this book deal came as a result of connections made through my podcast. Specifically, someone who’d seen me speak at a conference a few years ago (a speaking invitation also made possible by my podcast).
This person, who had an idea for a book, shopped it through his literary agent to the major publishers.
They didn’t get any bites.
The main feedback from publishers was, “You don’t have a big enough platform.”
One day, about a year later, it occurred to him that the subject matter of the book he wanted to write was right in my wheelhouse. He contacted me about the idea and I said, “Yes” to co-writing it with him.
We redid the proposal and created an extensive marketing plan, adding my platform and such to the equation.
The literary agent went back to work and we got exactly one offer…from our first-choice publisher.
We’ve gone back on forth on what’s called a “deal memo” (essentially a simple, one-page offer) and agreed to the terms.
What's something you attempted to do on your podcast failed miserably?
I can’t think of anything at the moment with regard to something I’ve tried on the podcast that failed miserably as I came to podcasting after a 26-year stint in radio. Most of the crash and burn moments were well behind me.
But as far as radio mistakes, where do I begin?
My first major radio mistake was about nine months into my first job (early 1988).
During my time there, I’d “graduated” from board-oping-only (I wasn’t allowed to talk on the mic) on an AM station, to taking on-air shifts on the sister, 50,000 watt FM music station.
Eventually, I was asked to host the “Rock All Night with Bracy Lee” show on the weekends (Bracy was the weekday host).
One of my weekend stints immediately followed a Saturday evening filled with local high school basketball tourney coverage, which was something I found ridiculously boring. With nothing more than a 60-second PSA separating this hours-long coverage and the open of my show, I began with something like, “Did somebody say basketball?” followed by an obnoxious puking sound. “Let’s get to the good stuff!”
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: Could he really have been that stupid? Yes, is the answer to that question.
I was fired, less than a week later, on April Fools' day. No joke.
What non-podcasting skills do you have that have helped you to be a better podcaster? How have they helped you?
The non-podcasting skills that have helped me most are my written communication skills, as they have aided me tremendously when it comes to working with guests and publicists. I’ve also leveraged just about everything I ever learned while in broadcast radio about marketing and sales. This has helped me when it comes to getting the podcast attention and when working with sponsors.