The power of podcasting is enormous. Just think about it, when somebody puts on their earphones and heads out the door for their daily run or their long commute, you are the one accompanying them. Your voice is in their ears and for a little while you have their undivided attention. It goes without saying then that you have the power to personally and massively impact the life of someone you may not even know exists.
But with this awareness also comes a great question: How much of my personal life should I share on a podcast? Or even further than that: How much of my struggles, my victories or even my insecurities am I allowed to share with my listeners?
The truth is that in order to build a successful podcast, you have to create a bond with your readers. It doesn’t matter what your podcast is about, if you only stick to the facts, you’ll hardly be likely to build a strong audience.
The boom of “reality TV” quite powerfully shows that people love to take a look behind the scenes and they hardly ever get enough of it. The same is true for podcasting.
People love to get to know the person behind the microphone. Why? Because it’s in our DNA. We are wired for human connection. We want to hear stories. We want–no need–to belong and relate.
We also have a high level of curiosity and simply want to know whom the person really is that we are listening to.
As a podcaster, you can use that natural tendency for relation to your advantage. By sharing bits and pieces of your life, you’ll create loyal listeners who have a meaningful connection with you.
However, that doesn’t mean that you have to or should talk about all details of your private life.
Keeping your privacy, but still building an effective relationship with your audience is like a dance and you are the one who leads.
You give your audience the nuggets of information that are relevant to your podcast, your topic or just this one episode. You create a bond with targeted, specific and relevant information.
The secret is to share with a certain purpose behind it. The secret is to know which outcome you want to achieve. The secret is to be smart about it.
When I decided to not only blog but also podcast about my recovery from anorexia, I opened myself up and became very transparent. However, I didn’t do it in order to assuage my (non-existent) desire for fame and attention. I did it because I knew that I would be able to help others. I knew that by talking about walking the rocky road to health, I would inspire and encourage others to do the same. I knew that by giving away details of my private life, I would speak straight to the heart of others who are experiencing similar issues.
At the same time, there are still many areas of my life, many stories, many circumstances that people don’t know about and won’t ever hear or read.
Yes, there has to be a level of transparency about your life, but you get to choose how high that is.
There are a few questions you should ask yourself when preparing your podcast episode:
1. Is there a personal story that would illustrate what I am talking about in this episode?
Would my listeners benefit from it? In the end, it all comes down to helping your listeners get the most value when listening to your podcast. By sharing a story, you’ll not only strengthen the bond with your listeners, but you’ll also be able to clarify the points that you are trying to make. We learn best when following examples. So, if you have one, then share it.
Do you want your listeners to let go of their delusional dream that having a certain body size will magically make them feel worthy and whole? If so, then talking about your own story of dieting and never experiencing this transformation makes sense. Do you want to inspire your listeners to get out of an unfulfilling job and find the career of their dreams? If so, then sharing details of how you finally walked out of a soul-sucking job and changed your life for the better is perfect. Do you want to encourage your listeners to find their way back to a healthy exercise regime? If so, then sharing how you fell off the bandwagon for a few months and successfully reintegrated exercise into your life is just the right dose of inspiration your listeners need.
There is a myriad of ways you can use your personal experiences in order to make a point. Just be sure that it really serves your audience in the best way possible.
2. Do I respect the privacy of others?
It is crucial that when you share a personal anecdote and other people are involved, you either ask their permission or change their names and adapt other information. It is easy to forget that not everybody feels comfortable having their name put out there or having thousands of people hear a story about them. I share a lot about my family’s past because it is so tightly interwoven with my history of anorexia. However, every time I share details that may be uncomfortable for my family or I decide to use a story that they’re involved in, I ask for their permission before I publish it online. It’s just the right thing to do. So, be respectful of other people’s wishes and accommodate them.
3. In a few years from now, will I still feel comfortable having shared this information?
I find this to be one of the most important questions to ask ourselves. It’s so easy to talk about something on a podcast when you’re mad, hurt or otherwise emotional and later on regret it. Or maybe it’s not even that. Maybe you feel led to share a very personal part of your life because you feel passionate about it at the moment, but you end up feeling uncomfortable knowing that thousands of people have heard you talk about it. When you get ready to share something deeply personal, then take a step back, breathe and really try to determine how this may impact your life and how you might feel about it in the future. I know this is not an easy exercise, but it is important to do if you want to save yourself some agony and if you want to respect yourself.
Like I said, sharing personal information on your podcast is extremely important to build a strong relationship with your listeners and to bring important points across. But you don’t have to disrespect your own sense of privacy in order to be successful.
Listeners want to get to know you, but they wouldn’t want you to feel uncomfortable doing so.
Know your motivation, respect others and always be true to yourself. If you follow these steps, then you’re on the right path to creating a perfect balance between sharing too little and sharing too much.
How about you? What is your experience with sharing personal information on podcasts? Do you have guidelines or do you feel uncomfortable sharing anything at all? I want to hear your thoughts!