Podcast Intros: How to Hook Your Audience
One of the biggest complaints listeners have about podcasts is that the host/s waffle on for too long before getting to the point of the episode. Your audience wants to know where you’re taking them, or they’re going to bail. So how can you create an above average podcast?
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Each episode should have a purpose
What’s the primary takeaway for your listener? What will they get out of the episode? What will they learn? How will you inspire, entertain, and/or educate them? Use this information to hook them in as soon as possible. Don’t forget to say who you are and the name of your show. This is your friendly welcome. You’re throwing open the door and letting in your guests.
And as I mentioned in the beginning, those first few minutes are crucial. According to Edison Research, only 41% of new podcast listeners usually finish an entire podcast episode, compared to 71% of veteran listeners. They define the new listeners as ‘rookies,’ people who’ve been listening to podcasts for less than six months. The veterans are defined as having listened to podcasts for three or more years. This stat suggests that enticing podcast intros will only become more important.
How to hook your audience
So what can we do to entice our audience to stick around? Here are the top three ways to hook your audience with a compelling intro:
Tease the best content. If you interviewed someone, you might want to start the show playing a clip of something brilliant or funny they said. Thirty seconds or less. You don’t want to give away the whole show. If your guest has something to say that your audience is dying to hear, tease the best part to hook in your audience. But make them wait for the answers. This is called an open loop. You’ve suggested something to them and now they want the answer. They want to close that mental loop.
Even if you don’t use a clip at the beginning, when interviewing someone, it’s a good idea to record the intro later so you can reference what you talk about in the interview at the beginning of your show.
The same goes for solo episodes. Tell your listeners why they’ll want to stick around.
Tell a story. Do you have a personal story related to the episode? Leading with a story is a great way to hook your audience, especially if it’s related to a struggle they’re going through. People respond to emotional connections. Yes, they want you to help solve a problem, but they’ll keep coming back to YOU if they feel like you understand them. So sharing a personal story is gold, just make sure to bring it back to your audience in the end. Your story should connect with the episode’s purpose and what’s in it for your listener. These kinds of introductions usually take longer to tell than a direct intro that spells out what the listener will learn.
Ask a question. Rhetorical questions are another strong way to open an episode, especially if you’re using your podcast to promote your brand and business. Just like in good sales copy, you want your listeners to feel like you totally get them. Speak to ONE person. Use the word ‘you’ instead of ‘all you guys’ or ‘everyone who’s listening out there.’ The word ‘you’ creates a more intimate feel between you and your ideal listener. Speak to their pain point:
“Are you feeling X?” “Well, what if you could feel Y? In today’s episode, I’ll help you...”
And if you’re using your show to promote your business, your episodes should be aligned to what you are selling. People buy from people who get them.
“I was in your shoes. I was you!” or “Have you ever gone through this? I feel you. On today’s episode, I’ll talk about how I got out of it…”
Do you need music in your podcast intro?
Music isn’t an essential for a podcast intro, but a lot of podcasters like to have music as part of their intro. It’s a nice way to brand yourself and set the emotional tone of your show. I wouldn’t play more than five seconds of music by itself without you talking over it. Play the music, then fade it out or reduce the volume when your voice comes in. One of my favorite places to get music for podcasts is Epidemic Sound.
A lot of podcasts have what’s called a bumper: A standard show-level intro that stays the same every week. I have one for this show. And then I also do an episode-level intro that varies from show to show. However, on my travel podcast, Postcard Academy, I only do an episode level intro over music. I might mix things up and create a bumper for that show eventually, but for now I like the existing structure.
I bought the music for Postcard Academy from a service called Premium Beat. They are more expensive than some of the other royalty-free services out there, but the music is incredible. I was listening to some of it last night and it gave me the feeling of dancing on a beach, even though I was lying in bed. Choose the music vibe that’s right for your show.
I always think it’s nice to hear the host do their own show intros, but you can hire a service like Music Radio Creative to create a podcast jingle for you. They also offer full podcast production as one of their services.
Have a call to action in your intro
A lot of podcasters save their call to action (CTA) for the end of their episode, if they include one at all. Remember that Edison Research stat I mentioned above? Not everyone is finishing our shows. If you’d like your listeners to take an action, mention that in your intro. Do you have a freebie for them to download on your website? Mention that upfront. Something that I like to say is:
“Don’t worry about writing everything down. You’ll find links to everything we’ve talked about at postcardacademy.co” And then I’ll repeat that at the end of the show.
Don’t do this in your podcast intro
Last week in the ‘how to name your podcast’ episode, I talked about how having a clear and obvious name for your show can help new listeners find you. I also mentioned that there are some popular shows that have seemingly random show titles or they use their own name as the show title. They can get away with this because they already had an audience when they started their show. And they’re also more likely to get away with waffley intros.
Mark Maron will chit chat with his audience for 10 minutes before getting to his guest. But he has an established audience who want to hear from him as much as his interviewee. He’s on a personal growth journey and he’s really vulnerable in the things he shares, not because he’s trying to manipulate people -- and this happens sometimes, fake vulnerability -- Mark is trying to better himself and let other people, especially guys, know that it’s OK to have emotions. So he’s a very compelling person. But if the average podcaster told me in their episode title that they were interviewing Brad Pitt, and then I download the show and hear the host pontificating on something random for five minutes, am I going to keep listening? Why would I when I can listen to a million other interviews?
Some shows don’t have any intro at all. They just jump right in like the guys on the Accidental Tech Podcast. No intro, not even intro music. You walk in on them having a conversation. Again, I wouldn’t advise this If you don’t have a built-in audience that will listen to whatever you say. Hook them in with a solid intro.
To sum up this episode
Hook your audience from the beginning. Let them know what they’ll get out of spending the next 30 or 60 or however many minutes with you.
Teasers, stories, and questions are great ways to hook your audience.
In addition to your hook, your intro should include your name and the name of your show.
Music is a nice way to brand your show and get your listeners in the right mood to hear your message.
Speak to one person. Use the word ‘you’ instead of ‘all of you.’
Consider including a call to action in your introduction.