Can I grab people’s attention?

Episode 5 – Full transcript

How do you grab people’s attention from the first word and can I keep you listening to this episode.


  1. Matthew Luhn (bio)
  2. The Best Story Wins book
  3. Boeing Verses Airbus
  4. The UFO one – Reply All 151
  5. Stuff you should know – 666
  6. The Membership Guys – 247
  7. Tony Robbins – Stand Guard at the door
  8. Joe Rogan – Dr Peter Hotez

Full transcript (automated, not checked transcript)

How do big podcasts hook us in?

if I could tell you how to grab people’s attention so they would listen to every word of your podcast, would you like to know how to do it? If that line grabbed your attention, then what I learned this week is working. Maybe I’ve not got it quite right yet, but I’ve been fascinated since the last episode about why the top podcast companies are so focused on story to find out how the principles of stories work.

[00:00:22] Now, I haven’t worked out how to apply to my own podcast yet, but I wanted to understand how it hooks people, how you create that first impression, and that’s the aim of this week’s podcast.

[00:00:34] in a moment. I want to talk about a book I’ve been reading for quite a while now because I think it’s really interesting, but first, if you’d like to join me on this exploration in what makes a podcast work in 2020 and how we as independents could make one too.

[00:00:48] Then don’t forget to subscribe. Now. This show is called, can I make a hit podcast? Can I make a hit podcast? Literally those words and you can find the website. Can I make a hit?

[00:01:00]So the book I’ve been reading is by a chap called Matthew Luhn, who actually saw us speak at an event last summer, and he really did impress me. What he talks about is the power of story. His background, if you check on his website, by the way, his, his surname is spelled L. U. H. N. so Matthew London’s is his website.

[00:01:17] He’s animated for like the Simpsons. He’s written screenplays and worked with the teams and screenplays at Pixar. So he was one of the people behind toy story. Um, I think it was the film up he was involved in as well. Ratatouille, monsters, inc, all these, these sort of big ones. And he’s now doing this lecturing and talking a big event about how to use the power of story, particularly in marketing, but so much of what he says in that book can be applied to podcasting.

[00:01:44] I think. So what I’ve been doing is I’ve been looking through this book again, sort of analyzing it and seeing how that applies to the way we grab people into our podcasts and how the big names, the big producers, the big production companies, again, are using these techniques to get us hooked in. Because as we found in the last episode or at least I found in the last episode story is huge with the big podcast makers. They really focus on it. So let’s just talk about the first bit. Which is the hook,

[00:02:13] so what is the only line that will grab people and get them hooked in so that they will then get excited and want to know what else is coming along. And I think this is particularly important for independence like me and probably like you, because people aren’t going to give us as much of a chance to impress them.

[00:02:28] So What he says is that the sentence needs to include something which is, or the sentence is needs to include something which is unusual, unexpected action driven. So a bang car crash or some kind of event or raises a clear conflict between people or presents a danger to them.

[00:02:45]Or that they could lose out if they don’t hear the information that you’re about to provide. So it’s got to have one of those elements to grab people in. And he actually says a hook should last eight seconds. But I think certainly listen to different podcasts. You can hear that it varies quite a lot, but eight seconds is people’s attention span, roughly according to him.

[00:03:03] So unusual, unexpected action driven. Raises a clear conflict between people or presents a danger to them, or that they could lose out if they don’t listen to what you’re about to say. The easiest way he says to start with, this is where the question or sort of sort of, what if X happened? As I say, can’t be the usual.

[00:03:23] He makes that very clear. Can’t be something that you expect to happen. So, one of the things we used to say in journalism when I was in his editor. Was the a story. A new story is not dog bites, man, because that’s quite possible. A story is man bites dog because that’s unusual. So it’s critical to break the pattern of their expectations.

[00:03:44] He says the expectations of our ordinary world. And throw up something different. , which leaves you wondering how does this work? or how can you solve that? , how can we get over this problem that we’re expecting to be there? So one of the classic things we’re podcasting is how do you get more audience?

[00:03:58] Everyone asked that question, including me. So if someone offers an answer as to how to do that, we would like to know .

[00:04:04] One thing. Steve jobs was a master at this, and in fact, Matthew Luhn worked with Steve jobs and Steve jobs, for example, launched the iPad by not saying it’s got two, two gigabytes of data or whatever.

[00:04:14] He said, what if you could put a thousand songs in your pocket? It never been done before that. So what if you could, there’s a immediate sentence that grabs your attention. It makes you go, Ooh, how do we overcome this obstacle and he’s going to offer a solution to it.

[00:04:28]you can also do this through the power of a story. If you open a book, it’s got to grab you, hasn’t it?

[00:04:34] Straight away that So they present very quickly a scene, a scenario, something that’s going on with someone involved in it. and then within moments I started painting that picture a little bit more and leave you wondering about what might happen next and then something happens or some prospect of conflict, and you know that then your going on a journey where you’re going to find out what is the result of that.

[00:04:56] So hooks can obviously also be visual as well. They need to be images you don’t expect and exactly the same way. So a model, for example, in a catwalk model, but with no makeup or with makeup streaming down their face, that’s going to grab your attention far more than what you expect.

[00:05:11] Which is a model made up perfectly. A podcast microphone with the top broken off. that’s going to grab your attention farm on the picture of a normal regular working microphone. And sound also in an audio that’s deliberately sounds terrible, like recording your voice from a distance could grab people’s attention as well.

[00:05:30] And lung talks about the eight second pitch. and you need within that four key elements, and that is a hero, it could be the listener themselves, or it could be someone else, a goal, something to achieve, or the prospect of a goal that seems obvious that you’d want to achieve in a situation.

[00:05:46] An obstacle. That’s getting in the way, and then the promise at least of a transformation. If you’re selling something or if you’re doing a strong opening line, then you want to say what that transformation is that you’re going to offer. You know, I’m going to get you more listeners,

[00:06:02]the point is your audience has to want to wonder what they would do in that scenario, or you’re gonna lose them. So they have to willingly want to go along with the story or the value proposition that you’re offering to them.

[00:06:13] It could be that they want to learn what the hero learns or they want to learn the information that you’re going to give, or they genuinely wonder what they would do. I mean, there’s quite a few podcasts out there that have this sort of principle. A title would be something like, could you survive on Mars?

[00:06:27] Could you, how did they get fit despite being overweight for years? Each of those are a sentence that tells a story. So is anyone else using these principles of the, the hero, the obstacle, the transformation? Well, kind of put it to the test. I’m going to stop recording this podcast for a second. Listen to some podcasts.

[00:06:47] I will report back to you in just a moment. So that was really interesting. I can’t obviously use clips and podcast here and I really don’t have time to ask permission from all these podcasters. So. Here’s the first one I listened to and I mentioned this one in the last episode as well cause this really got me thinking about story.

[00:07:03] And this is from an episode called Boeing versus Airbus from the production company Wondery and this was from their business Wars series. And this episode, one of that, if you want to hear that, I’ll put a link on the website to this. I just got to read a little bit the the script, and I’m going to paraphrase it a little bit, but to give you an idea, so this is how that episode starts.

[00:07:22] It’s an overcast day in 1954. A small fishing boat. Bob’s on the water of the lagoon sea off the Northeast coast of Italy. Jeff Varney DeMarco has been a fisherman all his life, and he knows his water as well. It goes on. He looks up hoping to grab a glimpse of one of those new airliners, but then he hears a boom.

[00:07:43] He looks up and he spots something. A large metallic object falls from the sky. So it’s not going to take long to realize that here’s a very obvious story opener. And the whole series of the business was, episodes on Wondery are really based around this. The only line isn’t the grab line, but it does create that curiosity and that mystery.

[00:08:04]It’s no promise of a value proposition that you’re going to get some tips or something, but it does make you wonder, well, what happens next? We love stories more and listen in the next episode, but let’s stick with the opening line for the moment. This hook line, let’s run, I listen to was reply all from Gimlet episode one 51 and here’s the inline in their show notes, and this is a killer line here.

[00:08:24]A listener finds a UFO floating in the sky over a leather store, and Alex sets out to find the man who put it there. What a great opener. I mean, you’re wondering what’s happened. A UFO over a leather store. Great one. Another one from a podcast called “Stuff You Should Know”, the question is posed in the title stuff, you know, so you know you’re going F it’s about things that you wonder and the answers to it. So the episode I just listened to was about the number six six, six. The show title asks the question, stuff that you should know, and the title of the episode six six six tells you what you’re going to learn about.

[00:08:58]Where those numbers came from. There’s hound dog training works from them as well. Can nuclear fusion reactors save the world? Our next one I listened to was the membership guys podcast. I know this is about a company who are helping people to set up membership websites, episode two, four, seven to them.

[00:09:16] And what they say very quickly in the only few words is this is a number one place for proven practical advice on growing a successful membership business. Then he says how you can find new ideas. So in the first couple of sentences, there’s the clear value proposition in there, the hook line. So if you want to know how to find new ideas.

[00:09:34] For your membership site. You know that that’s the episode that’s now going to deliver you with those ideas. Hopefully, the next one I listened to was a Tony Robbins podcast, and the episode title was stand guard at the door of your mind and the opening of this show.

[00:09:47] After the advert talks about how social media and mass information today can bombard you with negative thoughts, the thing immediately realized that it fits really well with the whole principle of the hero, a goal, an obstacle, a transformation, and how the hero changes principle in this case, the way they are.

[00:10:03] Meaning it is that you are the hero. The goal for you is a happier life. The obstacle they talk about is fair. The transformation is what they’re going to be offering to you as a result of listening to the podcast, which you know, with Tony Robbins. Cause you know the brand that you’re going to

[00:10:19] I also had a lesson to another reply all episode from Gimlet episode one 60 and this was about the Corona virus. And it starts off with a promise of stories about the Corona virus.

[00:10:30] They tell you within a few sentences that they spoke to lots of people this week and got a snapshot of what the world felt like this week. So what are they saying? They’re, they’re saying that we’re going to deliver stories to you over the next few minutes and lots of short stories. So it’s easily digestible as well.

[00:10:44] It’s really interesting to see how the different approaches are done here. You know, you can see that everyone’s using that same principle of , they’re giving some sort of story that you’re going to have to follow and conflict and find out what the transformation is.

[00:10:56] But it’s, it’s interesting that the, the smaller scale, the more niche the podcast, the more blatant that value proposition is at the, at the beginning, the bigger the podcast, the longer they waffle until they actually give a a clear idea of what you’re going to get from it. And even then, it’s still. Can be quite vague.

[00:11:13] So I think as I said earlier, the better known you are, the more leeway people are going to give you. If you are lesser known and independent, you need to get it straight out there,

[00:11:24] a strong hook is something that I learned as a journalist years ago, although clearly forgotten how to do it myself, but that opening bit clearly needs to tell the hero the goal, the obstacle, and the promise of a transformation.

[00:11:36] Whether that is done through a story or through a blatant sentence. There is a lot more stuff in Matthew Don’s book, and I’m going to carry on reading it and I will share that with you and keep comparing it with what. Major podcasters are doing to see how we can apply that to our own podcast as well, and I will get that to you next week.

[00:11:54] Don’t forget to subscribe. Can I make a hip hop kind of make a hip hop wherever you are, whatever podcast app you’re on, if you would like to follow over my exploration into how all the big podcasters are actually doing it and how are we going to apply it to our own podcast too.

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Published by Richard

25 years in the communications business. Former news editor, journalist, political public relations professional, social media content creator, and podcast host of

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