The lesson in the explosion of podcasts that has nothing to do with podcasts

Lately I’ve been thinking about what seems like a contradiction: we’re desperately focused with getting our message into 140 characters and sound bites, yet the number of people listening to podcasts that last 30, 45, and over 60 minutes (often multiple times per week) is exploding (FWIW, a 30 minute podcast is about 30,000 characters and 214 tweets.)

I find this to be a really interesting development with an important lesson.

I don’t know who this guy is, but I trust all graphs on the internet

Even if you’re not an aspiring podcaster, there is a reminder in here for all of us: stories and personality are everything. That’s what make podcasts special and, in my opinion, the two biggest reasons they are succeeding.

They tell great stories and enable the hosts to be themselves. And that’s what we’re all universally drawn to — stories that captivate us and people we want to be around.

This is how we build connection, trust, intrigue, credibility, and progress. And when we do those things in support of our mission, special things tend to happen.

Yet, in work, we bury them. We become robots, writing and talking like jargon machines or SAT vocab prep. We’re so focused on what we do that we forget to talk about why we do it. And the why is the birthplace of our personalities and our stories.

We de-emphasize the very things that make us unique and that are most likely to build true connection — and connection is the key to moving anything forward.

Maybe instead of trying to create sound bites, we should do whatever builds more connection and invest in that. When I say that in my head, it’s hard to see how there’s any other choice. But perhaps the challenge is that it goes against the grain of today’s dominant thinking, and therefore actually doing it requires some courage.

Every company and organization has a social media strategy. Maybe it’s time to prioritize a “stories and personality strategy” — and then make sure it’s what we lead with and emphasize in everything we do for our mission.

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