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Marketing Showrunners

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By: Jay Acunzo on January 8th, 2020

The Doctor Who Prescribes Podcasts

“What do you do for work?”

Oh no — not this question again.

A funny thing happens when you happily share what you love with others: the barista politely nods until, look, it’s time to step to the right, there’s a line building up, and if working from home really leaves you this desperate for conversation, maybe reconsider your chosen profession.

But enough about yesterday.

The real thing that tends to happen when you share what you love with others: You find commonalities you’d otherwise might not see. That’s the power of a story, in the end. It’s a shortcut to understanding — understanding the information at hand, sure, but even more beautifully, understanding one another.

“What do you do for work?” 

Oh no — not this question again. 

I was sitting in the doctor’s office, minutes away from stripping down to my skivvies. (Shoot, did I pick the SpongeBob underwear today?) Here’s the thing: Describing what I do is … complicated. I create and host podcasts and video shows with brands. I consult on them. I write a lot of blog posts on my personal site. I give speeches. I write books. I run a media company — THIS media company. 

Screw it: I love what I do, and I love building this company. I’m just gonna come out and say it.

“I run an online media company that teaches people how to make great shows, like podcasts.”

“Ah, very cool. I love podcasts…”

Wait, does he “get it”? 

Ten minutes later, I was still sitting there, skivvies unrevealed, the threat of SpongeBob smiling that creepy-ass smile up at my doctor no longer on my mind.

Yup. He gets it. He gets it … and then some. 

“I actually prescribe podcasts to patients.”

“Oh, cool,” I said mindlessly, the spectre of spongey smiles slowly returning. “Wait. Wait what?!” 

The Doctor Who Prescribes Podcasts

Yes, my doctor prescribes podcasts — a fact that I, Guy Who Supposedly Knows Podcasts, would never have known … unless I was willing to share openly and confidently what I love about what I do.

My doctor. Prescribes. Podcasts.

“It saves me so much time!” he said. He smacked away at his keyboard, then turned the monitor slightly to me to reveal the show — yes, it’s one show — that he often prescribes to patients. The podcast is from Dr. Peter Attia, who, according to his bio, is “a Stanford/Johns Hopkins/NIH-trained physician focusing on the applied science of longevity, the extension of human life and well-being.”

It turns out that doctors, especially primary care physicians, don’t have all that much time on their hands. You think your marketing job is demanding? The worst thing that happens if you and I don’t keep up with our ever-changing industry’s body of knowledge and new ideas is we miss our numbers. The worst thing that happens when a doctor fails to keep up? Let’s just say, we marketers need to calm down. What we do is so hopelessly far from life and death. 

Layer on endless patients to see, paperwork, follow-ups, internal affairs, and more — and the time a doctor has to dedicate to any one patient becomes razor thin. So, to ensure he has time for each patient, and to add more value than he could in the exam room, my doctor (whose name I don’t want to reveal just in case it’s a sensitive issue) prescribes Dr. Attia’s podcast. As in, he types up the URL, prints it out, and hands it to you — a prescription. 

My doctor loves Dr. Attia’s podcast for the very same reason we should all love our podcasts: It’s a chance to go deeper, to explore what truly matters. We shouldn’t publish podcasts to grow at lightspeed or generate massive sales this quarter. We should publish a podcast because we have something meaningful to say, and saying it to our audience can help change them for the better. That level of service in turn creates brand affinity and evangelism. 

According to my doctor, Dr. Attia’s show explains medical topics — backed by research — in layman’s terms, which my doctor prescribes in order to help his patients understand the “why” behind his suggestions. He then makes himself available to patients like me should we have any questions about the show. (For the record, this was my first physical with this new doctor, and I did not receive the coveted Podcast Prescription. Though I’m dying to know if he has a customized Podcast Prescription Pad and, if not, how I might design one.)

My doctor gave me an example of how he uses that show to help serve his patients. He told me about an unnamed patient who was drinking entirely too much alcohol each week. (Under 5 drinks per week greatly reduces risk of heart disease, he told me.) This other patient wasn’t drinking at work or anything so overtly linked to alcoholism, but his consumption was beyond the recommended limit, consistent, and clearly starting to affect his health. 

Alcohol can hurt your ability to experience deep sleep, which is when your body removes plaque from your brain — yes, plaque in your brain, not your teeth — which can help both near-term cognitive functioning at work and at home and long-term prevention of diseases like Alzheimer’s. Deep sleep is when your brain does “important janitorial work,” to quote Duke University’s Dr. Jade Wu, a psychologist studying sleep health and behavioral sleep medicine.

(That’s a quote I got from, of all things, Dr. Wu’s podcast, The Savvy Psychologist. Is this article chasing its own tail now?) 

Back to my doctor and his insistence that his patient stop drinking. Here’s what he told me about prescribing a podcast episode as part of that patient’s visit:

“It’s a lot easier to understand why I’m recommending something and take it seriously if you can see and hear how life changes when you do, rather than just hear it from me.” 

My doctor got into podcasts 3 years ago, which he told me made him late to podcasting. (I pointed out that only 51% of Americans have EVER listened to a podcast — a stat from Edison Research’s annual Infinite Dial report.) He says he arrived to the medium like many did: through NPR.

The punchline here? When something truly matters, when we need to go deeper and explore the “why” behind something, podcasting offers a rare chance in today’s world to create that level of understanding, which then creates change in others — change we want to see in this world to make it better. 

In a world so full of frenetic content, this medium offers a beautiful chance to slow down, explore the nuance, and say (or hear) what matters most. 

Share what you love about with others — maybe on a podcast. Some funny things tend to happen when you do. Some wonderful, rare, funny things.


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Founder of Marketing Showrunners, host of 3 Clips and other podcasts and docuseries about creativity, and author of Break the Wheel. I’m trying to create a world where people feel intrinsically motivated by their work. Previously in content marketing and digital strategy at Google and HubSpot and VP of brand and community at the VC firm NextView. I write, tinker, and speak on stages and into microphones for a living. It’s weird but wonderful.

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