Get Them to the End: How Jay Acunzo Built a Killer Marketing Podcast

November 27, 2017 | Melissa Nazar

Podcasts have one job: To get listeners to the end.


How to go about making that happen is the real challenge.


The case for the podcast is intriguing. Listening is on the rise: monthly listeners grew over 24% in the past year and the average listener consumes five podcasts per week, while subscribing to even more.


It’s this growing consumer interest that has made plenty of marketers wonder, “Hey, should we do a podcast?”


(Source: Edison Research)


It’s enticing for sure. A new, fully owned content channel to spread your message? That must be why it sometimes seems like everyone in the industry today has a podcast. The podcast may go down in history as the must-have marketing accessory for 2017.


Personally, I’m an avid podcast listener, but have never been able to get into any “marketing” shows. I think about marketing most of my day – I like to spend podcast time on entertainment, inspiration, and true crime (oh hey Serial).


So imagine my surprise when I came across marketing veteran Jay Acunzo’s Unthinkable (which, shame on me, has been around since 2016) and fell in podcast love. Smart, interesting, and even funny, it’s the kind of podcast that makes me sad when my commuting time ends (and I’ll continue listening to as I start making dinner, this definitely happened with recent episode The Man Bun).




The podcast bills itself as “Stories about conventional thinking at work and the people who dare to question it,” and it’s true. There’s something about Unthinkable that has an irresistible quality – interesting stories with fascinating people that often (in fact, usually) has nothing to do with marketing.


And it’s not just me – a 5-star rated podcast with thousands of subscribers makes it clear that Jay is onto something.


So how did he do it? How did Jay unlock the secret to a successful podcast? Lucky me, I got to fan-girl out a bit and had a chance to talk to Jay about his podcast (which just launched its third season) and see what wisdom he could dish out from the podcast trenches, and why it pays to be different.



(Source: Sorry For Marketing)


Tell me a bit about the beginnings of the podcast — why did you start Unthinkable?

Originally, this was a show for people in marketing who care deeply about content. The first blog post I ever wrote about it was called, “How to Work in Marketing When You’re Bothered by Suck.” In Unthinkable, I wanted to send up a flare to other people in marketing who are disgusted by or worn down from all the cheap tricks, commodity work, and shortcut culture raging across the industry.


But that was the original intent. In just over a year, it’s become something else, something I️ think will have far more impact.


Your tagline at the beginning of the show — “Stories about conventional thinking at work and the people who dare to question it” — how did you land here?

From talking to listeners. I️ quickly realized that there were far more than just content marketers listening — and listening with passion and excitement. I schedule 6-10 video calls per month with listeners, one-on-one, and I found myself talking to CTOs and CEOs, software engineers, graphic designers, musicians, professors. “Creativity in content” was a symptom of an illness that affects way more people that simply marketers.


Over time, we moved from talking about creativity to talking about craft (i.e. the process instead of the results). More and more listener calls revealed a variety of professionals – accountants and lawyers and recruiters — people who didn’t “make” stuff in the classic sense.


In the last three months, I’ve found the actual challenge – the desire to do exceptional work in a world flooded with commodity crap. The show centers on the idea of intuition, which literally means “knowledge from within” in Latin. That’s the true solution – as conventional thinking and best practices drown out originality, you need to ask the right questions to find your answers from within.


How do you decide on your topics? What’s your process?

It’s shockingly simple (thankfully — got enough stuff going on that feels hard): Examples of work that seems crazy in some way. If I laugh because it’s so out there or shake my head in disbelief, that’s a thread I pull. I research it to find the story — the conflict, the emotion, and the human protagonist who can share the tale.


You just launched a new season — what should listeners look for this season? Any favorite topics coming up?

This season is all about one thing: Context. When you obsess over your context and know yourself, your customer, and your resources rather than focusing on “best practices,” you can find the actual best practice FOR THAT CONTEXT. We’ll launch eight stories, all with music and narration (and plenty of sarcasm).


In the end, all I want is for people to root out their own answers from within their context — not obsess over all the gurus and tips-and-tricks externally. That’s how to hone intuition, or “knowledge from within.”


What are some other podcasts you’d recommend?


Any advice for people or companies thinking about starting a podcast? What’s a good reason to start a podcast?

Ask the following questions:

  1. Am I any good on a microphone? (This is what podcasting IS. Podcasting is 99.9% hosting talent as an interviewer or storyteller. The rest is incremental.)
  2. Do we have a strong hook? (Have a concept. You’re making a show, not pieces of content. Articulate how it’s unique. Everyone interviews thought leaders. That’s a commodity and that show gets worse over time. Pick an angle or theme or topic. Articulate that with the show name and tagline.)
  3. What’s our episode rundown? (Plan out the flow of one episode and keep tinkering until you have the “IP” of the program.)


Above all, stick to the Golden Rule of Audio: Get them to the end. Listeners can only hit play or stop, so your job is ensure they don’t hit stop. Do NOTHING inside your episodes that could give them reason to bail. Optimize for time spent and resonance, and reap the rewards of podcasting. This is not an audio blog. This is something much different. Act accordingly.


You can listen to Unthinkable’s new season on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.


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