About the Unmistakable Creative Podcast
I'm your host Drew Conselman. Thrilled that you're with us for this segment. This segment is called Behind The Podcast so we're gonna get to be a fly on the wall and talk about how people got started in podcasting, how they actually create their podcast, and then we're actually gonna get to see them create the podcast live. So fantastic way to learn. Thank you so much for joining us. Our guest instructor today, podcasting expert, is Srinivas Rao. If you're not familiar with his work, he has a podcast called The Unmistakable Creative. He's interviewed more than 700 guests from bank robbers to billionaires is how he puts it, everybody across the board. He's a best selling author. His new book is called An Audience of One. We may talk a little bit about that. Would you help me welcome back to the CreativeLive stage Mr. Srini Rao? (applause) Yeah, welcome.
Thanks for having me.
Yeah, so we're gonna spend like 15, 20 minutes talking about podcasting, how you create your podcasts, how yo...
u come up with the content, how you procure your guests, then we're actually gonna do a podcast.
And who's our guest?
Somebody who's gonna be on the podcast for a fifth time and for a damn good reason, Danielle LaPorte.
Fantastic, fantastic. So how did you get, tell it, well I guess we should start with your podcast. Tell us about your podcast.
Well as you said, The Unmistakable Creative basically features a wide range of people ranging from authors to entrepreneurs to artists and performance psychologists to drug dealers and bank robbers and billionaires, with the theme basically being candid conversations with creative entrepreneurs and insanely interesting people. And the insanely interesting people part was really sort of critical because we never wanted to limit ourselves to just being able to talk to entrepreneurs because when we rebranded, and I'll give you sort of the context for how we ended up becoming Unmistakable Creative in a second, but we were looking at our brand and we thought okay, if we say just creative entrepreneurs suddenly a lot of people get off that list. And so one of my mentors said you know what, we wanna be creative entrepreneurs and insanely interesting people because if the 2016 election comes along and you wanna have a presidential candidate you'll be able to. I thought we would lose almost all our listeners if we had any of the 2016 candidates, one in particular, but we won't go there, but we just did have a presidential candidate on Monday.
On the podcast. But before that it was a podcast for bloggers called BlogCastFM and it really started by accident. I was in this online course, ironically, which was about how to create a blog, and one of the lessons in the course was to interview people as a way to get traffic to your website. And so I interviewed one person and instead of interviewing one person I just created a weekly series called Interviews With Up And Coming Bloggers and the 13th guy I interviewed said, "You're not a good writer but you're a really good interviewer so I think you should take this and spin it out into a separate site," and he became my first business partner. And that's kinda how it started. It was really accidental. It was long before anybody said podcasting was popular. I found the process engaging. I liked the conversations. I thought they were interesting. But more and more, as we got deeper and deeper into the body of work, I realized I really didn't care about tactics. When it started feeling like I was like okay this person is telling me things I could read in a blog post. I wanna get things out of them that I couldn't read by just Googling something about them. And so the focus shifted to being much more story focused than it was, and so as a result you end up with Unmistakable Creative and the sort of wide range of guests. One of our listeners in one of the iTunes reviews said if Ted Talks met Oprah you would have The Unmistakable Creative. So naturally, any time somebody asks us about it, we're like put that anywhere where somebody will see this.
That's a great description, yeah. So it really came out of you learning?
Yeah, I mean, it was very much so.
A point in your life when you were learning, expanding.
I graduated from business school, didn't have a job. I needed a way to pass the time and this ended up being that. I had no idea that it would turn into what it has. It's largely been just serendipitous. A lot of it just fortunate accidents. And we were doing this long before it was cool. When we started somebody said podcasting was dead and that nobody was gonna be listening to podcasts. And that was the one thing I think I didn't do is I'd never been somebody who made decisions based on trends. I always made decisions based on what I thought was interesting.
Wow, and when did you start podcasting?
Probably about 2009. So at the end of this year it'll be about 10 years.
Wow, fantastic. And so how much of your time now professionally is designated to podcasting versus writing?
Well I mean I have the attention span of a five year old so about two to three hours a day is dedicated to almost everything. (laughter) So I schedule, I try to limit interviews to 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. because mornings are really critical for me. Those are the sort of prime writing time. And then I try to do one week on, one week off 'cause I'm an avid surfer and there was a point where I realized, I was like wow, this interview thing is really getting in the way of my surfing so I need to adjust the schedule.
I did not know you're a surfer. I'm a surfer too.
We'll have to talk about that.
We'll absolutely have to talk about that. So basically, one week on, one week off is kinda the way we go with interviews. And then the off weeks I'm able to deal with things like production, reaching out to new guests, all that, and we can talk a little bit about that. But yeah, that's kind of how it started. It was really just by accident.
Yeah, that sort of segues me to a question that I'm really curious about, starting a podcast for somebody that doesn't have a lot of connections with guests who are well known. How do you start to, how did you build that? How did you get your first big guests maybe and what was the process like?
Well I mean it was almost all by referral and I think that the greatest gift I had was the fact that I got to interview really unknown people. The funny thing is that I still go out of my way to find people that nobody's ever heard of. Those are our most popular guests because there's this idea I think that's really wrong in that oh, you should interview famous people, 'cause this is what I thought when we started. I mean I'm gonna interview all these really well known people that are gonna tweet my interviews with their millions of followers and every interview will go viral. Within two months we figured out that that wasn't true and what I realized is it was gonna be our listeners who were causing our audience to grow. They were the ones who were going out and telling people. So I think that, the thing is, when you start with somebody who's not super well known or somebody who's small, it takes a lot of the pressure off and it's a great way to practice. And just because somebody's not famous it doesn't mean they're not gonna be a good interview. I mean there's people who literally don't have any online footprint or who are virtually unheard of who have been some of our most popular guests on The Unmistakable Creative. And I've always gone out of my way to ensure that we keep putting people in front of our audience that they might not have heard of or exposing them to new ideas because it's easy to say okay, I wanna interview all these famous people like Tim Ferriss or Gary Vaynerchuk or whoever, a lot of people who have been on CreativeLive. But people don't realize those people get interviewed all the time and so that's actually not gonna make you stand out in any way at all and we're called The Unmistakable Creative. The entire ethos of Unmistakable Creative is standing out in a sea of noise. So I do everything I can to make sure that in addition to super well known people I am always putting people that are new in front of the audience.
Yup, I love that because it's empowering to people just starting out podcasting. I think that if you can take somebody and not rely on their following and build creative, interesting content that builds its own audience when people listen to it, that's super compelling and encouraging.
My friend Nikki Groom, who is a recent guest on the podcast, the episode was titled Everybody Has A Story Worth Telling. And so, sometimes I think, I have friends who will email and say would you be up for it and I say no, I don't think the story is quite there yet. It's still a work in progress. It needs more development. I can't get a full story out of it. But I think when she said that everybody has a story worth telling, it was really, to me that was very much indicative of exactly what you're talking about, that they do have a story worth telling and it's on the interviewer to find what that story is.
So how 'bout getting guests when your podcast did go to a certain size and you did wanna get the Tim Ferris and the Gary? How do you reach out to guests like that and how do you onboard 'em?
So I won't mention names but there are really well known people that I've said no to because they made absurd requests like asking us to buy thousands of their books or stuff like that and I was like no, no go. And not only that, once they said things like that I was like we're not aligned in terms of values. But as far as getting a lot of the bigger guests, part of it has been through referral, asking people that I know to recommend somebody. But I think that also, the other thing that happens, the best way to get somebody to promote an interview that they've done with you is to do a damn good interview.
I never ask my guests to promote their interview. Danielle has probably been the single largest referrer of new listeners to be on Unmistakable Creative. I only know this because for some strange reason, despite being a guy, I have an audience that skews heavily female and I'm pretty sure that's Danielle's fault. And we also feature a lot of female guests, so much so that we spent an entire month back in the days when we were BlogCastFM doing it, nothing but women as guests because my friend Erica Leermark said, women talk a lot to each other and I thought well, in that case, let's do an entire month when we just feature women and that caused our audience to boom quite a bit. So which, I was talking to Erica last night. I was like oh, we should do that again. But yeah, we've had, I think in that sense we're somewhat of an anomaly because there are a lot of popular podcasts that don't feature a lot of female guests and we actually probably have had the overwhelming majority of our guests be female. So part of it is doing a great interview will get somebody to not only promote the interview that you've done with them, but they'll also recommend people. So I have also a couple of referral sources that I go to pretty regularly. My friend Sarah Peck who's got an amazing podcast called Start Up Pregnant. And she's just this brilliant writer and speaker. I mean she's, you can listen to her talk for hours on end and it's just therapeutic and poetic.
So she's out in the world, she's aware of people, and she can sort of draw people in?
She's usually, she's probably at this point the one person, I don't even look at the bios of the people she sends me anymore. I just say yes.
You just trust it, okay.
She's got, for some reason, a really good knack for knowing what I look for. I've never had a single person that she sent me that didn't knock it out of the park and the only people I've said no to are people that we've already had. And then I have another friend Clay Haybare who's also super connected and he tends to refer a lot of people. So I'm always looking to people in my network. And the other thing that I think I do is my curiosity is my first sort of filter. Is there a story here? Is there something about this that interests me? So Andrew Yang, the presidential candidate that we just had on Monday, I was in a Barnes and Noble and I needed to buy some books for a flight because Amazon Prime was delayed for a few days, and I just caught this book out of the corner of my eye called The War on Normal People and I looked at it and then I opened it up and I said oh wow, this is interesting. So I took a picture of it and I went home and I Googled the guy and I was like wow, he's running for president. And so I emailed him immediately and said hey, I just ordered your book on Amazon. I'm wondering if you'd be up for being a guest. And he said yes and so we read the book and we just aired his interview on Monday.
Oh fantastic, fantastic. Let's shift gears a little bit. We have five to 10 minutes left. I wanna get and talk about, we've talked a little bit about it before we went live here, just about your sort of content development plan and how it's a little bit more unique and unstructured than some other podcasters that we've talked to during this week. What is your process? Once you find out that you're gonna have a podcast with a person, from there to actually recording it what's your prep like?
Well I think for prep, you're right, mine is unusual in that so much so that I was like if you guys want me to do a session on podcast prep you'll be severely disappointed, mainly because I don't do a lot. I read people's books when I have them. That's one thing I made a point to do pretty much for every guest. Somebody told me once that Oprah reads all the books of the people she interviewed. I was like ah, that's turned out okay. I think I'll do that.
Yeah, she's doing alright.
Yeah, and I also noticed that it actually changed the nature of the conversations I was able to have because I could draw on things inside their books that I couldn't otherwise get to. So I will make an Evernote file. That's about the only thing I keep in front of me. I'll usually read their about page and usually when I'm reading their about page it's because I'm looking for a nugget, something that might be a little weird, something that wouldn't have come out in other interviews. That's I think, the ultimate goal for me is always can I get something out of this person that they haven't said a thousand times? Can I break through their pattern? I'll give you an example of one of our really weird questions that we start the show with is what social group were you a part of in high school? And I asked Gay Hendricks this question and he said, "Nobody's ever asked me that before." And I was like that's where we wanna go
that means it's a good one.
And he told me this really hilarious story about how he was in the chemistry lab and three girls in his high school came up to him while he was in the chemistry lab at lunch and said hey, we have a friend who doesn't have a date for the prom and we know you don't have a date for the prom and so we were wondering if you would take her. And I was like I'm getting to hear Gay Hendricks talk about what a dork he was in high school and the fact that he didn't have a date for the prom is like wow, this is, I think it's, in my mind, what I wanna do is I wanna humanize people that appear super human to the outside world because of the fact that they have status, because of the fact that they have huge audiences. I wanna make them relatable. I think that often what happens is that people are listening sometimes and they hear these people and they're amazing and they're great at what they do. I even had a listener once who told me, "I'm really sorry, I can't keep listening to this. This is getting really depressing." I kind of understood because you're talking about people that have accomplished seemingly impossible things. They're all outliers, every one of them. And I think that when we don't see them through the lens of their accomplishments we actually start to see that they're all just like us, that they're much more human and they become more relatable. And I think that is always what I'm aiming for is to create that kind of a connection between somebody who is listening and somebody who is a guest.
So you go in with pretty loose content goals? I mean, you understand the person, you understand their story, I mean I'm just trying to.
Yeah I mean I know where I'm gonna start and I know where I'm gonna end and I'll tell you why I do that. I think it's a really terrible idea to plan your questions in advance. Part of it is because when you don't plan your questions in advance you have no choice but to listen very intently and if you do that, what you'll find is that the question that you wanna ask is often in the answer that you're being given to the previous question. So I explained it I think. It's kind of like you're just peeling layers, right? So you ask one question, somebody gives you an answer, and then you base your next question based on the answer that you've just been given. But that means you have to really learn how to listen and you have to just shut up. And there are a lot of people who are not good at that. I'm not good at it in the context of my normal life. So I think I've somehow, for some reason figured out how to do it really well here 'cause I suck at it everywhere else. (Drew laughing)
Okay. So our guest today, your guest on this podcast, I'm actually gonna go off set and we're gonna welcome Danielle out here in a second. Speaking of Oprah, she's in Oprah's Super Soul 100. You've interviewed her, you said five times before?
This will be the fifth time.
This will be the fifth time. She's a speaker, poet, business strategist, does tons of stuff. Check her out on Instagram if you're not already following her.