Editor's Note: Rachel Ploss is a current Fellow with The Patterson Foundation and co-editor of Beyond The Blog, an evolution of The Patterson Foundation's storytelling approach. If you haven't already, dive into the seventh edition here.


It wasn’t long ago that the word “podcast” meant nothing, but today, podcasts are the center of conversations. People tune into them at the gym, while driving, or on their daily walks. It’s not only cool to listen to podcasts, but it’s gotten to the point where if you don’t listen to podcasts, you’re behind the times.

More and more organizations in the philanthropic sector are starting their own or breaking into that space. For almost a year now, The Patterson Foundation has engaged in the power of podcasting. As a Fellow, mastering the art of podcast creation is highly valuable. This journey offers a unique opportunity to learn the art of storytelling -- from understanding the equipment to crafting a guiding script while simultaneously keeping the conversation authentic to editing to completion.

Storytelling is the power of podcasts. The type of story you want to tell is already in your mind, allowing a question to form with a possible answer in mind. Will it start with “who,” “what,” or “how” to get the response needed to continue the story? The power of the interviewer is drawing the story out of the interviewee. To do this, the interviewee must be positioned to say meaningful things. This is what I have learned in developing my skills as a storyteller.

Now, I do want to be precise. There is storytelling, and then there’s the interview technique. Both are crucial to developing a good podcast. Drawing the story from the guest on the podcast is an interview technique. It’s not about leading them to the answer you desire but rather asking the right questions so they can respond with impact. Storytelling is keeping the overall goal of the podcast in mind while asking engaging questions. This can’t be structured. A strong interviewer must be able to keep the conversation genuine, authentic, and ask strategic questions as they arise from the information the interviewee provides in their answers. Podcast storytelling is a true skill.

This skill has even broadened to give me pause and reflection on how I form questions I ask people throughout the day. For example, asking someone, “How was your day?” is one of the most basic questions we’ve all been asked. And because it’s a basic question, we’ve all given the basic answer, “It was good.” Essentially, this tells us nothing. A better question is, “What’s something unexpected that happened during your day?” An even better question is, “What’s something new you learned today?” These questions allow the person to reflect and share something meaningful with you, providing a deeper conversation and genuine connection.

I value this because it has and will continue to help me build authentic, connective tissue for myself and The Patterson Foundation. Practicing becoming an intentional storyteller has transformed the way I show I care.

It’s hard to think that a few years ago, I was still behind the times and didn’t even listen to podcasts, and now, not only do I listen to them, but I create them.

Overall, podcasting is a tool. It’s another form of technology that we can use to say anything and put it out into the world. But it’s a tool that gives voice to stories, and if we want people to listen and connect with us, we must be aware of what we say and how we say it. Does it invoke feeling? Does it invite the opportunity for a deeper conversation? Does it reflect true experiences? We all know the power of communication, and podcasting is a mighty tool, but there are many ways to tell stories. So I ask you to think, keeping the power you wield in mind, how are you a storyteller?

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