This post has been a long time coming.
And now I can finally share the details of my podcast with you.
My podcast is called PUNT.
PUNT is a podcast documenting the start of a new political party.
It’s a serialized storytelling podcast.
It will be told in real time so the story will unfold episode-by-episode in the lead-up to the next federal election in Australia (which is on July 2).
I’ve been following these two guys since December last year as they attempt to get their political party elected.
How did this come about?
2014 – The seed is born
When I heard Gimlet’s Startup podcast at the end of 2014, I knew I wanted to make a similar podcast but instead of following someone starting a business, I wanted to follow someone running for an election.
I’ve always been interested in politics and I wanted to know what it’s actually like to run for office: how does someone become a politician?
2015 – Waiting and connecting
I was living in Cambodia (annoying) but I was on the lookout for someone who was running for an election in Australia (any election - council, state or federal).
My “searching” was pretty pathetic and passive, I basically subscribed to a lot of page alerts that would notify me when new political parties registered. I also spent a lot of time "researching" aka googling people in existing parties.
The idea didn’t progress anywhere in the first half of the year.
In July 2015, I remembered that I had this friend at Uni who was super into politics. I googled him to see what he was up to, hoping that he might be working in politics.
B-I-N-G-O! Turns out he’s working as a political campaigner for an elected member!
I emailed him and he replied with surprising news... He’d be able to help me find someone running for the election in 2016. What?! Cue my elation! Finally, I start believing that this podcast might actually happen.
I move back to Australia in September.
In November, I catch up for coffee with my old friend. Because I want to follow someone new, someone who hasn’t run for an election before, he tells me that I’m going to have to wait until early 2016, when the new candidates are chosen.
I’m happy to postpone thinking about the podcast because I’m busy making my colouring book which I’m going to use to fund this podcast.
December lands and I’m busy promoting my colouring book on Twitter, as such, I start following a lot Australian political accounts.
One of the accounts catches my eye, “Hmmm nice logo” I think, “What is this Flux?” I click on their profile.
Flux is new political party that's trying to get enough members so they can register.
I go to their website and die!
This is exactly the kind of story I’ve been looking for.
I get all woo-woo because it feels like fate, like I manifested this political party out of thin air! Ha!
I’m excited about the possibilities of following these guys because it expands the scope of the podcast, it won't just be a story about a candidate, it will be a story about the start of an entire political party!
I draft an email to send to the founder, Max.
This is the exact email I sent him, I spent ages deliberating over this wording:
I’ve been following Flux and listening to your youtube videos on the neutral voting bloc.
It’s all very interesting.
I’m writing to you because I’m an audio producer and next year I plan to follow someone or a party running for the election. It will be kind of like the Startup podcast (https://gimletmedia.com/episode/1-how-not-to-pitch-a-billionaire/) but with the focus being a political party.
I was really excited when I stumbled upon Flux. I would love to document what your starting and I think it would make for really interesting listening. Would this be something you'd be interested in?
Well, have a think about it.
I’d be more than happy to meet you in person to discuss more.
I organize to meet Max and Nathan (the other founder) for coffee and banana cake (as per the waitress’s suggestion) on the 19th December.
They are positive and enthusiastic about being involved in the podcast.
So into it, they even record themselves talking straight after our meeting, which you can listen to an edited snippet of below.
2016 – It's on!
We’ve been recording for 4.5 months now!
The process hasn’t all been peachy, making creative things can be hard and stressful! I need to work on having more fun and not taking myself so seriously! It's an everyday battle!
But, I’ve learnt loads and I look forward to sharing with you (what works/what doesn't etc...) soon.
And the actual podcast, I can't wait for you to listen to that too.
I'm launching PUNT next Tuesday/Wednesday it's going to be an intense weekend!
So, I’m making a podcast.
Which if you’ve been following my cryptic posts on facebook you’ll know that I’ve been to-ing and fro-ing between feelings of “Yes, this is going to work” to “No, this podcast is doomed!”
At the moment, I’m feeling positive, buoyed by the fact that I’ve just finished editing episode 1.
More on the podcast to come next week but I’m aiming for an early May launch.
We’ve recently moved back to Australia and I’ve been catching up with a lot of old friends.
Of course everyone is asking me this question:
EVERYONE: What are you doing Zena?
ME: I’m working on my podcast about .......
They then always ask me:
EVERYONE: So are they paying you to make this podcast?
It’s then that I see their eyes flicker, there's a slight change in the muscles on their face which tells me that they think, even just in some small way, that what I’m working on is less worthy/valuable/important.
Thank you very much everyone.
Now what I should say, but I always frigging forget to say, is this:
ME: Actually, I’m funding my podcast from sales from my colouring book!
Yes, a colouring book!
Late last year, just in time for Christmas, I made an Australian politics colouring book.
No, I’m not trying to sell you my colouring book (in fact, you can’t buy it because it sold out!).
I ended up selling nearly $3K worth of these books!
And I've been using this money to pay for my RSS hosting, website, extra SD cards, hot cross buns (fuel) etc... It won't be enough to cover everything but it's something.
This whole colouring book thing probably seems random, but it isn't.
My podcast is actually about Australian politics and hopefully, the people who bought my book will hopefully be interested in listening to my podcast.
Cool side note: some people even coloured in the book and shared their pictures with me!
I wrote this post to give you an example of an alternative way to fund your podcast or creative project that doesn't involve any crowdfunding (I can't think of anything worse than crowdfunding, having to ask friends, family and strangers to give me money makes my soul shrivel!).
I’m really into business and I've worked as a digital designer so it made sense for me to make this product.
But what about you, what can you make? T-shirts? Cakes?
Or what can you sell? Old clothes? Furniture?
Better yet, do you even need money to make your project?
Don't let the idea that you need money stop you from starting your project.
Start with nothing.
A few months ago, I read an article by James Altucher and this passage resonated with me.
Don't wait for others to choose you (I've made this mistake over and over again).
I'd love to hear about how you've done something different to fund your creative projects?
Interview shows are flooding the podcast market and they've been the staple format on radio airwaves for years because they’re easy and cheap to make.
Because you don’t have to do any editing, the audio from the studio or skype session is uploaded without any edits!
But, these type of shows can make for boring and predictable listening.
The Australian radio series I'm breaking down today is the perfect antidote to this format.
Plus, it has a simple structure that you can emulate.
Yes copy it, if you don't trust me, trust Alex Blumberg.
First a book and now a radio series, Funemployed by Justin Heazlewood.
The series about what it's like to be a working artist in Australia.
Re above: I'm definitely in the "no job" section :).
Each episode is based on a topic:
- Self promotion
- Mental illness
- Selling out
- Giving up
Justin interviewed loads of creatives about the above topics and the best bits from his interviews make up each episode.
Each episode is kind of like an extended vox-pop:
Host introduces sub-topic 1
Person one talks about sub-topic 1 (vox pop 1)
Person two talks about sub-topic 1(vox pop 2)
Host introduces next sub-topic
Here's a visual of the same thing.
The above structure is then repeated for the rest of the episode (see the graphic near the end of this post).
This simple structure doesn't sound as predictable as it looks because the narration, where Justin shares his own experience, breaks up the interview snippets and gives you story to latch onto.
The narration is fun too, Justin puts on voices to act as different people and ends each episode by singing one of his songs.
A Breakdown of Episode 1: Sell Yourself
Let's have a close look a one episode.
If the title doesn't give it away, the topic of this episode is self promotion.
The episode has 5 sub-topics, as shown below.
The episode only goes for 15:30 minutes, but it includes nine interviews (whoa!).
Now here's a full visual breakdown of the entire episode structure (you can listen along if you like).
Okay, disclaimer, while I've said that the above structure is easy to copy, I don't want to downplay two things that are hard to copy from this series:
The episode relies on Justin's 'persona' to hold each episode together. And boy, has he got some pizzazz!
You've either got to step up and try to be like Justin, find a host that's like Justin or try a different narration style (I'm keen to know your thoughts about what other types of narration styles you think might work instead).
2. Bulk interviews
Justin interviewed over 100 people for his Funemployed book. It's not clear whether the radio series uses these same interviews or if Justin did new interviews for this series.
Either way, you're going to need to interview a lot of people to get a good selection of tape to choose from because remember, some interviews are duds!
But don't let those two things put you off, we should all aim to make our audio bigger and better.
That's why I'm here anyway.
And a quote from the final episode of Funemployed sums up exactly why I need to keep making audio:
I’m always a bit nervous at the start of an interview.
My head is full of thoughts:
Don’t forget to ask…
Is it too loud in here?
Am I sitting close enough?
Please, please, please don’t stuff this up!
I worry the person I’m interviewing is going to notice my nerves and think I’m crap and unqualified to be making audio.
Which is ridiculous, I mean can you imagine anyone ever saying:
“Stop this interview! This girl is far too unqualified to interview me.”
Yes stupidly unlikely, but I still get nervous.
But something different recently happened at the start of an interview which took my nerves away instantly.
The interviewee was in awe of my gear.
“Ooooohhhhhhh nice microphone”, she cooed.
“Wow, cool headphones!”
Then the same thing happened again, in another interview.
Maybe it’s because of the popularity of podcasting these days and people are more interested in audio?
Whatever it is, I’m all for it.
Especially because it gave me something to talk about which calmed my nerves.
“Yeah, this is microphone is so easy to use and there’s hardly any handling noise, try it (they put headphones and hold the microphone).”
She was impressed.
Your gear fools people into thinking you know what you doing.
Even if in reality you have no idea what you’re doing, because you actually have the gear, it doesn't matter.
Even if you're gear is not the most expensive gear in the world (they won't know that, how could they?).
Hold a microphone and put some headphones on and people won’t question you.
Your gear is your uniform.
Or “hide behind it” as Bryan Cox says.
Use your gear to your advantage.
Let it fool them.
I collect interview questions.
I like to pull them out when I'm mid-way through mediocre interviews.
These are my favourite questions from my stash.
From the 36 Questions to fall in love with anyone (from Arthur Aron’s study)
Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share ... “
Share an embarrassing moment in your life.
When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
Alexandra Frazen's "Tell me everything" questions
Tell me about a moment when you quit — and regretted it later.
Tell me about a moment when you quit — and did not regret it later.
Tell me about a moment when you felt intense shame.
Tell me about a moment when you felt intense joy.
Tell me about a moment when you felt like your world was ending.
Tell me about a moment when you felt like your world was beginning.
Tell me a secret you’ve never told anyone else.
Tell me about your current hero and why you admire them.
Tell me one thing that would feel like a miracle for you right now.
Danielle LaPorte's Conversation Starter app (perfect companion for a road trip)
Some example conversation cards:
What are your first thoughts when you wake up in the morning... or this morning?
Are you still tolerating something or someone?
What or who do you “think” you should forgive because that might be the evolved thing to do, but you really don’t want to?
StoryCorps have an endless list of amazing questions, here are my favs:
Do you have a nickname? How’d you get it?
Who were your best friends? What were they like?
Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
Who has been the kindest to you in your life?
What is your favorite memory of me?
Are there any funny stories your family tells about you that come to mind?
What are you proudest of?
When in life have you felt most alone?
If you could hold on to one memory from your life forever, what would that be?
How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?
How would you like to be remembered?
Is there anything that you’ve never told me but want to tell me now?
Is there something about me that you’ve always wanted to know but have never asked?
If you were to die suddenly this evening, what would you most regret having not told someone?
AND... don't forget you MUST ALWAYS ask this question:
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Try it at the end of your next interview. It's the best interview question ever!
And now it's over to you, what's your favourite interview question?