Diving Deeper

Our podcast, In Good Company, is centered around our friendship. It’s a time capsule of sorts to share our experiences throughout our childhood and young adult lives. As three women, our friendship is built on deep and emotional conversations. While I love having fun and going out to do things with Laura and Carly, they know my deepest and darkest secrets. They’ve helped me through romantic failures, family issues, personal insecurities, and the list goes on.

Female friendships are often open about highs and lows because we find it easy to talk about everything that is going on in our lives. A fun night for Laura, Carly and I usually involve sitting around sipping wine and catching up on what’s been going on. Now, when we hang out with our guy friends, they often have to be playing a game (whether it be beer die or their pick of video game for the night) or out doing something such as going on a hike or bowling. I never put much thought to this, as we always chalked it up to them being bored and antsy to get out. But, upon further research I found that males often take a different approach to friendship.

In an article on Psychology Today, written by F. Daine Barth L.C.S.W., she states that men “tend to be friends around activities, like exchanging tools, fixing cars… women are more likely to share emotions and talk about feelings” (Barth, 2018). This seems like a fair point, but it’s not all black and white. The article talks further about how when women put so much emphasis on “emotional attunement” as a friendship ideal, it creates many issues when harsh, negative feelings such as guilt and anger come to surface. Men tend to avoid those issues within male friendships. They save those sort of emotions for their female friendships, girlfriends or spouses. As for their reasoning, it could have something to do with being afraid of not being seen as masculine by other men when they show their emotions. This is why they turn to filling their time with things such as playing poker or sports.

But I think it may be possible to have a deep emotional connection within your friendship without those harsh, negative feelings surfacing. Laura, Carly and I have been friends for 16 years without those consequences. We’ve just found a good balance of understanding and respect. While we share details of our day and our emotions we also understand that we cannot let those negative feelings affect our relationship.

In a Wall Street Journal article entitled, “Friendship for Guys (No Tears!)”, by Jeffrey Zaslow, he talks about how he’s had the same friends for over 15 years. He also makes an interesting point about when how and when men and women form and keep friendships. Women tend to lose touch with friends in their early 20’s and 30’s when they are busy building families and careers but once those kiddos are full grown or their careers take off, they have time to reconnect with old friends in their 40’s. Men form friendships until around their 30’s and after find it hard to keep up as geographical distance can make it difficult because their friendships revolve around doing things together. Now, the internet is making it easier to reconnect in their late 40’s and early 50’s.

I think men and women may approach friendship differently, but that’s not to say one is better than the other. Men show support for their buddies in other ways that might not directly emotional. Many men say that just spending time with old friends to get their minds off their troubles helps tremendously. No matter how you choose to spend time with friends, the good ones will always be there.

A Learning Curve

Building our Brand Kit!

This week, we recorded our pilot episode. That was the easy part. Now, I’ve been working hard to diligently edit and enhance the project. I have many projects this week that I have been trying to work on. First of all, a huge chunk of my time has been spent on editing the pilot. I have edited all of the parts that we have recorded thus far. I have also started editing our trailer, but I plan on incorporating content from multiple episodes. I have also been trying to create social media posts for our Instagram.

This week, I have had to deal with many obstacles along the way. But, these have all brought me moments of clarity and I have learned how to deal with these things moving forward. Let me break it down for you.

Recording Our Podcast

Going into this, I was very nervous. We had all been over the script and talked about how we would approach the show, in the moment we all made some mistakes. One of my co-hosts, Carly, ended up sitting too far from the microphone, which really shows up on the on the audio file. We did do audio tests, but it didn’t show up on them. Maybe she moved or wasn’t speaking as loud. Next time, we are going to change up the seating as well as really listen to our microphone tests before recording our final product. We also ran out of time because of set-up and testing, so we had to push that last segment of our podcast to be filmed the week after. This makes things a lot harder, but I am learning to work with other people’s schedules.

Editing Our Podcast

I was very eager to start editing. But, I found that editing overall topics were easy, but editing our stumbles and filler words took me endless amounts of time. First, I listened through one time and made notes of when I wanted to cut certain things out. Then, once I went through and made those changes, I began combing over the stumbles and filler words. This proved difficult. Next time, we are going to more actively avoid using words such as UM and LIKE. Something that we really focused on in this episode but weren’t completely successful at was trying not to speak over each other. This makes editing so much easier for me because if I need to cut our certain sentences, I can make clean cuts. I am looking forward to see how much we improve episode to episode.

Social Media Posts

This is where I love to have fun and be creative, but this really has been challenging me on this project. I feel a certain amount of pressure to give off a good social media presence. This week, I worked on creating a font family for our socials. I have been gathering items for a brand kit, so that it makes it easier for me to create posts. Canva does a great job of helping me create this. I am able to save certain fonts, colors and templates so that all of my creations are at my fingertips. I finally settled on a few fonts I like and I even put them to the test on some sample stories such as these:

Next week, we are recording our second episode as well as the outro to our first episode. I am very excited to try again and apply all the lessons I’ve learned this week!

At a Crossroad

I’m just going to say it, I’m frustrated. This week, I hit a little bit of a slump. In our weekly meeting, we went through a dry run of our pilot episode, which I felt dragged on a bit. Our recording date for our pilot is tentatively set for this Sunday, but we may have to move it until later next week. That puts me slightly behind schedule, so I will have much more to show hopefully by next week.

I wasn’t particularly happy with my original cover art that I created last week, so this week I went back to the drawing board to see what I could work with. I dove deeper into podcast logo design and looked at many different options. In my research, I found a great guide made by 99designs blog on how to create a great logo that represents your show. This post talks me through everything, from what to know before creating your cover art, to how to make your words and your visuals work together long after it is created.

Before You Begin

Now, in order to really capture your podcast visually, you have to know what you know what you are talking about and who is listening. Since I already have a pretty good idea of subject matter and audience profile, I felt as though I was confident in the fact that I wanted my logo to have a fun and vibrant logo.

I also found it extremely important to look at templates and other podcast art to have a good starting point to work with. I personally love using the online tool Canva to help me create designs that look professional without having to pay for a software.

Workin’ On It

One of the most simple but important decisions to make when creating your art is whether you want to use a picture or graphics for your podcast. This is still something that I am torn over. I have options with real photos and some without. While I want the listener to know the faces behind the podcast, many of the non-photo options pop better and I think are better attention- grabbers.

Color is an extremely important aspect of your cover art. For mine, I think I have decided to go with bright and fun colors such as neon pink or yellow. After choosing my colors, I wanted to find a font that complimented the overall theme of the podcast. I am still playing around with this, but I need to find a cool yet legible font.

Creating a Lasting Effect

99designs puts it perfectly when they say, “The perfect podcast logo combines a multitude of elements geared toward a singular goal: telling the audience who you are, and why they should listen to you” (Price, 2018).

I think that’s why I’m having such a hard time deciding on which logo I want. Maybe after recording my pilot episode, I will see which one fits our podcast the best.

Price, Matthew. “How to Design a Podcast Cover: the Ultimate Guide.” 99designs, 99designs, 19 May 2020, 99designs.com/blog/design-other/how-to-design-a-podcast-cover-the-ultimate-guide/.

Setting Things in Stone

A podcast’s cover art helps attract viewers as well as serve as the image that represents our show. This week, I worked on creating a draft of our cover art. I think that I really captured who we are as friends. I’m having trouble choosing a color scheme, so I plan on creating multiple versions before I land on the right one.

As we get closer to recording our first episode, I’m growing more and more nervous that I’m not going to be able to produce high quality content that will attract an audience. I often compare myself to others and it creates unnecessary anxiety and insecurity around my work. I also am finding it really hard to focus lately. At the beginning of quarantine, I found that I was able to find a routine that kept me active and focused. I woke up early, worked out, and then sat down and focused on my work. After I completed my undergraduate courses and my internship came to an end, my schedule began to fall apart. I found myself struggling to motivate myself to stick to a schedule and get things done. This week I tried to control those thoughts and find the motivation to do this project and try to really get excited about this awesome thing that I’m doing with my closest friends.

During a meeting with my co-hosts this week, we sat down to flesh out a first draft outline of our pilot episode. Since this show is unscripted, I wanted to make sure that I created an outline that would act as a guide as we are recording. In preparation for this, I found this awesome resource that gave me a lot of great information and examples regarding this topic.

In the post by Buzzsprout.com, there are three different styles of podcast scripts:

  1. Bullet point approach
  2. Detailed episode outline
  3. Word-for-word script

For our podcast, I chose to use the detailed episode outline approach. This is best for shows with co-hosts. This structure allows for some ad-lib but helps us remember topics as well as other key points that we want to include. I thought that this was more useful than the bullet point approach, which is less structured and doesn’t require much preparation. This is good for people who have no trouble speaking off the cuff, but I felt like we needed a little more of a security blanket. Word-for-word scripts were out of the question for our podcast because it doesn’t allow room for conversation to flow back and forth.

Next week, I am looking forward to recording our pilot and officially get moving on our actual podcast!

Buzzsprout. “How to Write a Podcast Script: 3 Examples.” Buzzsprout, http://www.buzzsprout.com/blog/write-podcast-script-examples.

Getting Things Together

You have to start somewhere right? When I began this project, I had a lot of ideas. Some good, some bad. As I get closer and closer to the launch date, I am narrowing down what is possible and what is not so possible. In such a tight timeframe, it is easy to get off-track. I have begun to nail down my timeline so that I can produce high-quality work without feeling rushed or stressed out.

I plan on using these next two weeks to create a script and nail down segments and topics to prepare for recording. This way, I won’t feel flustered or unprepared come recording day. I want to create plans in case something goes wrong or we run out of things to say. For this, I will include backup topics and plans to record in different ways (such as remotely).

An exciting milestone that happened this week was that I was able to land on a name. This past weekend, my co-hosts and I sat down and brainstormed for hours. We thought of hundreds of good and (horrible) bad ideas. We started with the general idea of friendship and togetherness. Once we narrowed down a theme, we started running through all different phrases to see which one stood out to us. We finally all agreed on the name “In Good Company”. The name helps define our show and we wanted to paint an image in our listener’s head. To me, “In Good Company” sparks images of old friends hanging out around a table having a good laugh and just enjoying being around each other. I want our audience to feel that way when they listen to our podcast.

I believe that the most important part of any project is research and preparation. This week, while creating a more detail project plan, I conducted further research into Adobe Audition, the software I plan to use to edit this podcast. Previously, I have used only Audacity, a free audio editing program. While this worked for short-term projects that weren’t very lengthy, it proved to be not very reliable. I knew that if I was going to create pieces that were any longer than 15-20 minutes, I would need a better quality software that allowed me to create higher-quality work.

I took a risk choosing Audition because I haven’t had experience on it before, but I am confident in my ability to quickly pick up skills pretty quickly. I dove into a deep YouTube hole, watching free tutorials on how to begin using Audition. One that I found extremely helpful was this 11-minute guide for beginners. Although this doesn’t get into specific problems I may run into during the editing process, it helps me become less intimidated by this new and complicated software.

As I get further into this project, I will continue to learn and conduct the proper research that is needed. I’m excited to really start planning the pilot episode this week and lay out what segments and topics will be included.

Bai. “Adobe Audition – Tutorial For Beginners in 11 MINS! [2020 Version]”. 5 Jan 2020,         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSsIRfjb-ho

Beginning My Podcasting Journey

I’m diving in. For the past year, I have been itching to create my own podcast. Prior to that, I was simply a listener. I started out with crime podcasts such as Serial (a true masterpiece, I highly recommend) and The Clearing. I then moved on to follow more talk-show style podcasts such as Girls Gotta Eat, Schnitt Talk, and Best Friends with Nicole Bayer and Sasheer Zamata. These talk-shows demonstrated how important chemistry between hosts is. I found myself laughing along with them as if they were my friends. The more I listened, the more I wanted to create.

I’ve had my topic nailed down for a while. I wanted to create a talk-show style podcast with my two childhood best friends. Laura, Carly and I go all the way back to the second grade. We spent our childhood sleepovers creating sketches and songs that we would record for ourselves to watch back at a later date. Our creativity never dulled, as we always found unique ways to document our friendship. At the end of every year, we have our “Year in Review” which summarizes our highs and our lows. We’ve always wanted to share our thoughts with the world, and now we’re finally doing it.

During the last semester of my undergraduate degree, I took a podcasting class that allowed me to learn how to record, edit and share my content. This was the push I needed to put our plans into motion. We sat down months ago to work on topics and segments that we could make work for our show. Having been friends for so long, we’ve seen each other through it all, awkward middle school fashion, rough high school patches, and our best college achievements. We want to highlight what makes our friendship work and how we’ve managed to keep a strong bond even when living hundreds of miles apart.

Unscripted podcasts have always been a wonder to me. They seem so casual and off the cuff, but there is truly research behind every minute. While reading up on how to launch my own content, I came across a lot of great advice. Voices.com helped me really understand the structure of an un-scripted podcast script. In order to maintain a steady structure to our show, we have to lay out the details first. Every good script needs an intro, segues, topics, and closing remarks. This way, we say what we need to say in a timely manner, without getting off topic.

Previously, I have only used my phone to record audio and used the free software, Audacity to edit. These were all for shorter assignments that spanned anywhere from two to twenty minutes. For this podcast, I want to create a higher quality product and that requires higher quality tools. After much research, I have recently purchased the Adobe suite so that I could use their audio editing software, Audition. In terms of recording, I have been looking into many different microphones that will enhance the sound quality. Previously, I have used sites such as freemusicarchieve.org, soundbible.com, and freesound.org to add in sound effects and music, but the library is very limited. I have invested in Epidemicsound.com, which is 15 dollars per month and it gives me access to an unlimited library of music that is cleared for YouTube and podcasts.

I am excited to begin this journey and share my content with the world. I plan on documenting this process in more depth once I finalize my timeline. From there, I can determine how long it will take me to fully complete the pilot episode.

Clark, Niki. “How To Plan Your Podcast with Scripts & Episode Formats.” Voices.com, 18 May 2020, http://www.voices.com/blog/planning-your-podcast/.

When Writing For The Ear

Within the past few years, podcasts have exploded. So, how can you make your own successful piece of audio art?

When writing for the ear, rather than for the eye, there are certain elements that you should be aware of that will enhance the experience for your listener. Sentence structure, word choice, and most importantly, practice. In “Writing for the Ear Instead of the Eye” by Jill Swenson, she urges you to “follow your ABC’s. Accurate. Brief. Clear” (Swenson, 2017). This can prove difficult, because as writes we often want to create detailed stories that are great if the reader has time to re-read and indulge in our story. But, when someone is listening to a Podcast, they need to be able to take in the information quickly and easily. Like reading, listeners will turn off the radio or a podcast if it doesn’t catch their attention, so it’s important to really capture your audience just as quickly.

One of my favorite examples of how to quickly capture an audience comes from a podcast called, “Missing Richard Simmons”. Hosted by his long-time friend, this podcast dives deep into the mystery behind Simmons recluse from the outside world. It opens with a live recording of one of Simmon’s  exercise classes. His loud and peppy nature immediately draws the attention of the listener. From that moment on, I was hooked and listened to the whole series in one day.

Sentence Structure

Put yourself in the shoes of the listener, it’s sometimes hard to take in complex, long sentences. Use shorter sentences. A good goal to aim for is around 20 words, brief and impactful. 

Be linear in your sentence structure. It should read as: Subject-verb-object. This creates a simple, straight-forward sentence. A large difference in writing for the ear rather than the eye is that repetition works in favor of your listener, where it can become boring to a reader. The ear is attracted to bouncy, catchy phrases. Get creative to paint a picture in your listener’s head.

Word Choice

Choose your words wisely. This type of writing favors short, simple words. I refer back to the ABCs. Listeners need a brief, clear picture, so it’s okay to avoid detail. Swenson says, “Don’t fall in love with your words. Show your affection instead for the message” (Swenson, 2017). This is a great point and I often relate it to the curse of knowledge. Especially when writing for the ear, treat your audience as if they are brand new to the topic. By using terms that anyone could comprehend, you can ensure that you are being clear.

Practice

There’s a whole new element to writing for the ear, speaking. Developing a voice that will be compelling to the listener is important to the success of your piece. Since the listener cannot see what you’ve written, it’s important to take it slow and make sure to dictate your punctuation. Not only will this give variety, it will make you sound more interesting.

Practicing what you have written will give you time to filter out words such as um, like, really, and other filler words. When performing or recording, you have a smooth deliver and you eliminate anything that may distract the listener from your message.

A great example of writing for the ear that encompasses all of these aspects is the podcast, Serial, which in the first season, follows Adnan Syed, who is in jail for the murder of his high school girlfriend. It is hosted by the great Sarah Koenig, who does an outstanding job of storytelling. I found Serial in high school and found myself suddenly obsessing over a mysterious murder case from 1999. Koenig incorporates complex and compelling characters that will make any listener stick around. In this quote from the first episode, she describes a few of the main players.

“Rabia is 40. She’s short, and she’s got a beautiful round face framed by hijab. She’s adorable looking, but you definitely shouldn’t mess with her. She’s very smart and very tough, and she could crush you. Her brother Saad was at Rabia’s office too the first time I went. He’s 33, a mortgage broker, more laid back than Rabia. They told me about Adnan Syed, their friend– not just a good kid, but an especially good kid– smart, kind, goofy, handsome. So that when he was arrested for murder, so many people who know him were stunned.”

But more importantly, it’s her personality. The listener wants to hear what she has to say because she is likeable and relatable. Whether it’s sifting through stacks of criminal files with lawyers, or retracing Syed’s steps the day of the crime, the listener is right there with her. Anyone considering writing for ear, I highly suggest taking notes from Koenig.

How Business Writing Differs From Personal Writing

When writing  for business purposes, you often have to consider many factors such as audience, document structure, and tone. Unlike any personal essay or fictional stories, business writing follows more formal procedures that require much practice.

Structure

Business writing has a strict structure that allows for users to have easy access to important information. It should include elements such as a table of contents and have clear and informative section headings with page numbers. This way, readers can find navigate it quickly. Users should be able to grasp the most basic and important information by reading an executive summary at the beginning of the document. Specific details should be found further down in your writing. 

Perdue Online Writing Lab emphasizes that business writing is user-centered. This means that you should always consider not only how your audience will be reading your text, but also how they will be using it. Many times in business writing, participants will be helping design the document so that the end product will be the most beneficial This concept is known as participatory design.

Understanding Your Audience

An important aspect of business writing is understanding your audience. Unlike personal writing, understanding your audience may require feedback from users during the process of production. The common stages of your document include the developmental stage, the reading stage, and the action stage. During all of these, you may consult with experts or your supervisor to help improve the document. You want to make sure you are getting the message across as effectively as possible.

Typically, the composition of a business piece follows these stages:

Development Stage

During this stage, it is common to perform an audience analysis to help develop an accurate profile. Start thinking about who, what, where, when, why and how. You can do this by meeting with members of your audience to discuss their needs.

Reading Stage

Your work will reach your primary, secondary audience and shadow readers.

Action Stage

After your work has been distributed it is important to listen to the feedback provided by stakeholders. Your work has the ability to affect decision-making, so it’s important to make revisions to make your communication as effective as possible.

Tone

Contemporary Business Communications defines tone as, “the writer’s attitude towards the reader and the subject of the message” (Ober, 88). In business writing, it is important to maintain a confident, courteous and sincere tone. You should address the audience with confidence and courtesy, which helps gain their trust and allows you to be a credible source. Your tone controls how your audience receives your message and you need to remember who you are talking to and what you want them to know.

Business writing should “aim to effect positive change, through both persuasive and informative strategies” (Perdue). Your document should be concise but provide essential background information to give your reader a full picture. The main purpose is to inform rather than entertain, so creative details take a backseat to readability.

Overall, business writing takes on a formal structure that allows the user to easily understand and apply the information given. Personal writing often takes on a more creative role that focuses on the role of entertaining the audience. Document elements such as a table of contents and clear, informative section headings are an important tool in business writing. Users want to quickly move through and get all the information they need and be able to apply it to their work. Because this is so important, audience feedback plays an important part in the creation of the document. In any personal writing, the main audience does not have any say in the writing process.

Finding a Balance: Writing For Yourself and Others

Audience plays a pivotal role in writing. After all, in order to qualify something as “good” or “bad” you need to have an audience. But writing for your audience can prove difficult. How do you attract and keep readers? Each one will have a unique experience because every reader is different. Although there are many technical skills that one can perfect, there is a huge part of it that depends on creativity. The question I want to tackle here is what role does the audience really play and how much do they really affect a writer’s style?

            In William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, he poses an interesting question: “Who am I writing for?” This has a complex answer. While writers should always be considerate of their audience, should they be aiming to please? Zinsser says no. He believes that writers should write for themselves, rather than the audience. He recognizes the challenge of keeping the reader’s attention while also not worrying about their opinion, “I’m talking about two different issues. One is craft, the other is attitude. The first is a question of mastering a precise skill. The second is a question of how you use that skill to express your personality” (Zinsser, 25). The reader will lose interest if a writer throws form and good English out the window. Technical skills that should be up to par when writing should help form a good backbone for a piece. The “attitude” that Zinsser discusses is how a writer uses their voice. This, he claims, is how the writer should be writing for themselves, not others. They shouldn’t push issues or force humor to gain attention from readers or publishers, but instead, write about how they truly feel. Genuine writing will succeed with audiences because the passion will come across the page. I think Zinsser makes a great point when he says “Don’t try and guess what sort of things editors want to publish or what you think the country is in a mood to read. Editors and readers don’t know what they want to read until they read it” (Zinsser, 24). No one sets out knowing how they want to be entertained. That’s the job of writers, actors, or any other type of performer. They figure out how to entertain and the audience comes to them.

            The writer needs to be cautious when speaking to the reader, whether it be the Average Joe or a superior at work. Sometimes they can overwhelm the audience in a phenomenon called the “curse of knowledge”. In his book, Sense of Style, Steven Pinker explains the “curse of knowledge” as “a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know” (Pinker, 59). While writing about a subject someone may be an expert in, it is easy to slip into complex terms that sound like gibberish to everyone else. While this isn’t always intentional, it takes an effort to simplify explanations to help readers understand things fully.            

So what role does the audience play? It’s not cut and dry, as there are many aspects of considering an audience. While a writer should be concerned about technical elements and how well audiences will understand the topic at hand, their writing should be in their own voice, and they should talk freely about what they are passionate about. I think that Zinsser makes a great point. When I open a book or an article, I’m looking to be informed but also entertained. A huge element of writing is to provide a piece of entertainment. I think that entertainment comes naturally to writers and they should trust their gut when it comes to how they write.