Let’s be honest.
Most B2B podcasts are boring. They’re not interesting.
You know your podcast audience has more than 48 million episodes to choose from, so if you bore them, they’ll move on.
Even if you’ve done everything right–picked a great content topic, booked a fantastic guest, upgraded your microphone, selected the perfect music track, acted as the engaging host–your podcast format can still bore your current listeners.
The reason an ideal listener abandons your podcast mid-episode is usually due to a lack of structure.
Fortunately, planning and structuring a podcast isn’t as hard as it sounds.
How a podcast structure helps you (and your listener)
Your target audience wants solutions. Your ideal listener wants you to fill their ears with something actionable that they can apply instantly. They want you to be the guide. So, if it looks like you aren’t going to deliver on that in the first few minutes, they’ll hit stop.
Your podcast needs a clear episode structure to keep your audience listening. Without one, your listener is adrift, wondering what your podcast is about and where the episode is going. The third of Americans who listen to podcasts regularly expect a structure, and they’ll gladly listen to someone else if you don’t provide it.
“You’re literally a fly on the wall here,” Tristan Pelligrino, co-founder of Motion and co-host of Recorded Content, says. “As a listener, if you don’t know where the conversation is going, then you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what you’re going to get from that particular episode. And that’s why it doesn’t appear interesting to you.”
Planning your podcast before you record means having a clear idea of the different segments you will include. For example, most podcasts have intro, body, and outro segments to every episode. Of course, what each one of those segments looks like might change from episode to episode, but it’s important to have that basic structure in mind.
The missing structural element of B2B podcasts
B2B podcasts often sound like a host and a guest got together to talk about a topic for 30 minutes with no clear agenda. But just like on social media, stories are an important way to break through the noise in podcasting. Humans are social creatures, so we use stories to make sense of the world around us. If there’s no story, a listener doesn’t see how the information relates to them.
Having a story structure for your podcast doesn’t mean having your guest come on and “tell stories.” After all, not every guest has good stories to tell or is a good storyteller.
Instead, you’re looking for the best part of a story: the conflict. You’re not looking for conflict in the sense of good overcoming evil, but in the more simple sense of the problems your customers face.
“If you’re looking for tension, a lot of it can be very simple. What’re the big questions from customers?”
The benefits of conflict
Conflict does three things:
First, it creates the foundation of the story under discussion. Identifying the conflict allows you as the host to provide the context and background information that the listener needs to understand the main segment of your podcast.
Second, it provides some guardrails to keep you and your guest on track for your discussion. Rambling conversations that don’t accomplish anything are sure to get your listener to give up.
And third, it tells your listener precisely what they will gain from your podcast–an understanding of how to overcome this challenge.
In other words, it makes the listener think, “Hey, if I invest 20-30 minutes into this conversation, I’m going to get an understanding of how to overcome this challenge,” Pelligrino says.
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Where do I find conflict for my podcast?
You won’t have to look far for conflict and tension because chances are, you already have it. Check out the customer support tickets you receive or the FAQs your sales team curates. These are great sources for the big questions your customers have. Then, use those big questions to plan the topics for your interview podcast.
“If we think about a B2B podcast and the stories that we want to tell, it’s really about how people have overcome [conflicts],” Pelligrino says. Conflicts can be “…certain obstacles that are highly relevant to your audience, observations that you have, or the old way versus the new way of doing something.”
“We don’t see good stories in business…because it’s difficult.”
Business of Story
The ABT narrative framework
Sometimes listeners’ big questions are relatively easy to answer. But you don’t want to answer it in three minutes. You have to draw it out over an entire podcast episode and keep it interesting and engaging. A framework (podcast script template) or episode structure helps you do that.
Park Howell, the host of the podcast The Business of Story, designed the ABT Narrative Framework. He took the elements of great long-form stories and boiled them down to a three-part framework: And-But-Therefore.
And is the setup or context. For this episode, the and is the understanding that podcasts need to connect to listeners and help the audience solve a problem. That’s the background information the listener needs to understand the rest of the podcast. It’s best if the and relates directly to the needs of the customer.
But is the problem. In this episode, the but is that most B2B podcasts don’t have a compelling story or tension, so they can’t help the listener solve a problem.
Therefore is the resolution, which involves solving the main conflict in your episodes and demonstrating how to do it.
The intro segment of your episode includes the and and the but, while the therefore is the bulk of the body segment.
“I take somewhat of a ‘Star Wars’ approach to my episode. I like to lead with conflict and get right into the action.”
Cold open, intro, problem, and resolution
Another framework, the one used by Recorded Content’s host Justin Brown, is the Cold Open – Intro – Problem – Resolution.
The cold open captures the listener’s attention with a powerful soundbite from the episode.
The intro is the show’s opening sequence introducing the title, the host, and the guest. It also states the focus of the episode so the listener knows exactly why they should listen.
The problem presents the conflict the listener is experiencing.
The resolution provides various solutions for the problem. Solutions should be actionable and specific; don’t give your listener vague suggestions.
An episode structure isn't etched in stone, so play around
Treat your podcast episode structure like a roadmap. Just like when you run into construction and take a detour to arrive at your destination, you can change your structure depending on the issue under discussion. It doesn’t have to be linear or predictable every time.
“The important thing is to really have those three core components at some point in time during a podcast episode,” Pelligrino says.
You can always “fill in the cracks with lots of that background information as [you] go along and [tell] a story,” Brown says.
Do I need a podcast script?
The type of structure you use to prepare is entirely up to you.
Some hosts, especially solo hosts, prefer to write out a detailed script and read from it word for word for their podcast.
Others prefer to use a script as more of a blueprint for the key elements, writing down transitions and interview questions but letting the rest of the podcast interview happen organically during the course of the discussion.
At the very least, it’s best to have a podcast intro script and a podcast outro script to keep the beginning and the end consistent for your listeners.
Grab the listener by the ears: kick off your podcast with conflict
Getting the intro segment of a B2B podcast right is key to getting your listener to stick around.
In many podcasts, the host starts by telling the audience what they are going to talk about and introducing the guest to establish their credibility. The host means well; they are trying to make sure their audience has context.
“Your audience didn’t show up to get context. They showed up for solutions, and if you start your episode with ‘Alright, let’s start,’ the podcast is very broad,” Justin Brown, co-founder of Motion and co-host of Recorded Content, says. “Get to the content very quickly; give your audience something valuable early.”
Another big mistake is asking the guest to set up the podcast episode by asking them to tell you about their background. “They’re here to answer your questions,” Brown says. “You asked them to come on, and if you ask them about their background, they may go for five to ten minutes, and your audience may tune out.”
Brown starts each conversation by stating there’s a problem with X and asking the guest their opinion on that problem, and he has a lot of success with this cold open strategy.
He describes this memorable example:
“I was talking to Christopher Lochhead, the author of Play Bigger and the number one business podcast on Apple Podcasts, and I said to Chris, ‘There are so many podcasts, and people are saying that podcasting is getting saturated. What do you think of that?’ And Chris’ response to me was, ‘With all due respect, if you feel that podcasting is saturated, you have your head up your ass.’ And that’s how our podcast episode started.”
Brown says, “You want to draw people in with stories, with conflicts they’re seeing, feeling, experiencing in their day-to-day and draw them in with these issues and tell stories through those issues.”
Soundbites such as this one draw the reader in and establish the story you will tell in your podcast, which pulls the listener in. Then Brown edits in the beginning sequence (which he records after he and the guest finish recording), sprinkling in the podcast’s topic and the guest’s background in a few short sentences. He calls this the Star Wars Approach. “You have your playing of the background, and boom, we’re going to jump right into the action so that I don’t waste any of your time.”
If more context is needed, it can be sprinkled in throughout the episode as you and your guest discuss the topic. It will flow in naturally, and if it doesn’t, you can always find a way to squeeze it in.
Finding the conflict isn't just about the structure
Following a podcast structure does more than just keep your listener listening. It spills over into the rest of your marketing: title creation, question development, research process, summary writing, video creation, and social media messaging. A core conflict is the foundation for everything related to your podcast, which is why it’s so important to decide on your conflict and structure before you start recording the podcast.
Start planning your podcast's structure now
Fortunately, structuring your podcast doesn’t require a massive overhaul of your brand or a huge reset of the content you’re creating.
All it takes is some planning before you hit record, and you’ll never have a boring B2B podcast again.
Your listeners will thank you.
Want to see how other B2B marketers structure their podcasts?
Recorded Content is a show for small, scrappy marketing teams who are looking to launch & grow a successful B2B podcast. In each episode, we provide stories on how to overcome the challenges of launching, running and growing a show. We tackle issues with technology, content marketing, distribution and more. We help you become a B2B podcasting hero with an amazing show.
Written by Tristan Pelligrino
Tristan Pelligrino is the Co-Founder of Motion. He’s a serial entrepreneur who started his career as a consultant with large IT companies such as PwC, IBM and Oracle. After getting his MBA, he started and grew one of the fastest video production companies in the country – which was listed on the Inc. 5000. Tristan now enjoys leading the content marketing strategies of some of the most innovative B2B technology companies in the country. You can find him on LinkedIn and Facebook.