Podcast Intro Script Tips to Get New Listeners Hooked
They say first impressions count, and there's no exceptions for podcasts. Audiences are turning to podcasts for information and entertainment in record numbers. But consumers today are quicker to judge than ever before.
For businesses and brands looking to successfully leverage podcasts as part of their marketing strategy, this drastic shift in mindset has placed incredible importance on a podcast's intro script. As a podcaster, you need to set the right engaging tone in the first few minutes—or less—to hook your listener's interest.
The first few opening moments of a podcast episode are often the most meaningful for new listeners. An intro explains a podcast's purpose, introduces the host or speakers, and allows listeners to understand what's ahead in the most concise way possible.
As some of the most successful branded podcast hosts will tell you, convincing people to stay around once they've pressed "play" may not seem like an unreasonable request, or impossible task—but it's definitely becoming more challenging.
You get one chance, so you have to make it count.
What Is a Podcast Intro Script?
A podcast intro script is the written document that helps guide the host as they introduce a podcast episode. Intros usually explain a podcast's purpose, introduce the host or speakers, and allow listeners to understand what's ahead.
While there is no creative limit in what to include in this script, there are a few common elements:
Podcast name: Help audiences know what they are listening to
Host(s) names: Introduce yourself and any co-hosts in a few sentences
Episode title: Some podcasts like to mention the episode title to help listeners orientate themselves
Episode number: Chronology allows listeners to get an idea of where they are within a podcast series
Music: Use intro music to set the tone
Tagline: The brand's catchy elevator pitch is used to create uniformity and brand identity
There may be other optional additions that you could include, such as sponsorship mentions. We'll go into more detail on those later on in the article. We'll also include some podcast intro examples to show you exactly what we're talking about.
Podcast Intro Uniformity Is Crucial
Edison Research mentions that only 41% of new listeners listen to an entire episode instead of 71% of regular listeners. So what's the disconnect here?
Many podcast intros suffer from the same problem: the content lacks structure or direction. The initial two minutes need to set the listener up for the episode ahead so that any passer-by understands whether they're in the right place or not.
But, since there are no real restrictive rules for podcast intros, you can exercise a healthy amount of creative freedom. But with creative freedom comes great responsibility. Rambling, unstructured introductions just don't mesh well with listeners.
Audiences like consistency and often take comfort in a podcast's familiarity and grounded identity. A well-crafted intro galvanizes people and gets them in the mood of the podcast.
What works well? Personality and rapport. You can achieve this by using consistent music and naturally introducing yourself or the host while keeping the content short and snappy.
Put Yourself in Your Listener's Shoes
Industry experts called podcasts the “saving grace of 2020”—both for brands and consumers. Evidently, some of the world’s biggest brands have invested heavily in podcasting, and podcasts are occupying a unique position in the media landscape.
But, the sole driver for creating a podcast is to get a brand positioned in front of as many new leads as possible. To ensure that your messages are being heard, you need to be striking a chord from minute one.
New listeners coming across the podcast for the first time won't be invested in you, your community, or your podcast; the only driver for them to explore a brand's content further is out of sheer curiosity, and that's where a well-crafted intro script comes in.
Think About Brand Identity
First and foremost, you need to be thinking about your brand identity. ‘If our brand were a person, who would we be and who would our friends/ideal audience be? What do we stand for—are we striving to be useful or entertaining, or perhaps a bit of both?’
A big part of promoting your podcast is having a firm grasp of its purpose and the messages you want to convey to the newcomers of your brand. It's essential to think about who you're striving to target. Instead of casting a wide net—like targeting all "marketers"—address your specific audience. What would they want to hear? What kind of pain points or challenges do they face?
This whole premise should be based on your audience avatar—that one ideal audience member or customer. Once you have a clear idea of precisely the type of audience you want to target, the way you structure the content will quickly follow.
By outlining within the first few beats of an episode who you are, what you're going to cover, and how that could be beneficial for audiences, new listeners will be more inclined to stay the duration.
Use Journalistic Tactics
There's also another factor to consider, and that's subtlety and being conversational. Listeners want to be engaged, moved, educated, or motivated enough to stick around—they don't want to be lectured about a brand or product. Just because you have this platform doesn’t mean you can monologue about a product's benefits.
Instead, strive to create an interesting hook. Use a journalistic approach of finding your ideal angle, such as using a headline to draw people into the detail further on within the episode. Subtlety is key here, so keep it conversational, light and engaging.
Keep It Short and Sweet
No matter which of the below elements are included, all the best podcast intros are short (30-60 seconds max). Furthermore, they are unique to each episode and tell listeners who you are, what your podcast is about, and why they should listen.
"Scripts are another way to prepare and another way to take the stress out of things. There's enough to worry about when you're recording. I don't want to be improvising my lines when it comes to record. Depending on the show and the organization, there might be a review process, there might be engineers or co-hosts or guests, and I don't want to waste their time.
—Andrew Ganem, producer at Lower Street
Key Elements of a Good Intro
There are no strict rules for your podcast intro except that it should work to your particular style and format and shouldn't take too long.
For some podcasts, starting with a cold open by using a short audio teaser from the episode might be their opening segment. Others may begin with a brief introduction accompanied by music.
That being said, there are several key elements that you'll typically find included in the intros of many successful shows.
Introduce the Show
Audiences sometimes need some clarification that they're in the right place. So, within the podcast intro script, give a quick one-liner overview explaining what your show is about and what your audience can expect from your podcast.
While this isn't the place to go into great detail, you can mention your podcast title and the episode's name and number if necessary. Also, episode details can help listeners orient themselves within a podcast series.
"People can pick up your podcast at any time," notes producer Elizabeth Amos. "They're not necessarily listening from the very first episode and don't have all the context of every episode that has come before. So it's very important that each episode of a podcast is able to welcome in new listeners in a way that's not going to immediately alienate them."
“Hey everybody, this is _______ from _______ and you’re listening to the _______ podcast, episode _____ [name and number] the show that [explain the purpose of your show] _______.
Introduce the Host(s)
Podcasts give brands a trusted voice. Not only can they convey what a business stands for and why they matter. They can also educate, entertain, inspire, inform and create communities—all the treasured hallmarks of effective content.
To steer this content ship, a podcast host is often the captain at the auditory helm. They are the voices that draw listeners in, and are the guide for whatever journey you're taking listeners on.
For any genuine connection to happen between podcaster and listener, your audience needs to know who is speaking. When outlining your podcast intro script, mention your name (and co-host's name) and title, depending on your podcast's format.
Explain your connection to the podcast topic if you feel it's relevant. For example:
“Hi guys, this is ______ podcast and I’m your host [name of host], [enter profession or qualifications, e.g. head of content marketing] at _____, and this is my co host _______.
Again, keep it short and to the point. Your opening few lines aren't the place to talk about a host's full bio.
Introduce Your Guest(s)
While every podcast introduction should be nice and concise, when it comes to mentioning your guests, it's their profile that will determine how in-depth you go. For example, say you're interviewing Jerry Seinfeld. He's a household name and incredibly well-known. Therefore, he probably needs little to no intro.
However, if you're interviewing an expert who is, say, the last remaining traditional trug whittler in southeast England—but isn't well known in the wider sphere—you may need to establish why this person is important.
By demonstrating your guest's expertise and experience in your podcast intro, you add that little extra incentive for your audience to continue listening.
Don't just list what's on their LinkedIn profile or resumé. Instead, strive to give the audience something that helps listeners visualize the person. It only needs to be one or two things.
“Welcome [guest name] to [podcast name]. She/he/they are here to [their purpose for being on the podcast: answer questions, tell their story, provide expertise, etc.]."
Today, with [guest name], who [outline a few credentials/successes and explain why your guest is an expert on the topic]. We'll be discussing the interesting world of [the episode topic: hook listeners in with a short teaser/episode audio clip]. Thanks for joining us, [guest name]!
Establish Who Your Show Is For
Know your audience. If you've adequately planned your podcast, you will already have a firm idea of who your target audience and ideal podcast listeners are. As mentioned above, putting yourself in your audience's shoes can help with the content direction and the kinds of topics you want to be tapping into.
But, once a listener stumbles upon your podcast, they want to be convinced that they're 100% in the right place. Time is precious, and no one should listen to 45 minutes of a show, only to realize that there's no value in it for them.
Including a statement about who the podcast is for allows audiences to identify if they're in the right place or not. While this may seem counterintuitive, having some listeners tune out after hearing that is a great way to filter out those that aren't engaged with your content later on.
Hi! I'm _____, and this is [name of the show e.g. Ripping Yarns], a podcast for men who knit."
You want to cut right to the point when introducing who the podcast is for. Explain what the podcast is about and who it serves in a matter of seconds.
Listeners who feel part of a tribe will almost certainly take any calls to action seriously, whether that's leaving feedback, sharing episodes, interacting with your content or community, or investing in products and services that are on offer.
Introduce the Topic
Your podcast intro is like giving your audience a quick summary of a podcast's who, what, where, when, and why. The main thing listeners want to know from your podcast is what you're going to talk about and how it will benefit them.
This is the most overlooked element, and yet it's the most crucial part of a great podcast intro. You need to tell the listener how this will improve their lives.
Mentioning the topic and possibly how you're going to address it could be the defining factor between the listener staying or switching off. Try to answer the questions:
What are you going to talk about?
Why are you excited about it?
It gives your listener a reason to listen to you. It should also hook your audience right from the get-go.
This week we're going to be diving into [add the topic or subject with one or two points you'll touch upon].
When you can clearly state how your podcast will help them, new listeners will be more likely to subscribe and return to listen to more episodes in the future.
Define the Tone (Music)
Music is a language—the language of emotion. In a matter of moments, audiences should understand the kind of podcast they're about to hear. And utilizing music is a great way to set the mood.
However, music can be a great asset or a strong divider. That means that you need to vet your backing track(s) and make sure they are on brand with the type of podcast you're creating. It mustn't overshadow the speaker, but rather compliment the host's personality and the overall context.
For example, a heavy metal sting won't necessarily mesh well with a health and wellness podcast. Instead, choose a song/tune that directs listeners in the right direction emotionally (happy, thoughtful, dramatic, etc.).
Adding music to a podcast intro can quickly establish the ambience you're looking for. You can indicate where you want to add music by using tags such as [Music], [Intro Music], or [SFX] within the script.
Remember, music should set the tone and not be the star of the intro. There are plenty of great (paid and free) places to find good intro music for your show.
Optional Intro Inclusions
Finding the balance between brevity and hooking a listener in can be difficult. You don't want an intro to be so lengthy that listeners skip the episode, yet you do want it to include enough details that listeners' interests are piqued and they are curious enough to continue listening.
When done right, including some of the optional elements below can go a long way to convincing your listeners to stick around.
On the other hand, others may be a contractual obligation to include, or help with building brand affinity.
Mention Podcast Sponsors and Studios
If you're lucky enough to have a podcast sponsor, including the name of a sponsor or production company may be necessary (and a contractual obligation). Sponsorship messages are often advertisements that might appear at the very beginning of an episode, the very end, or somewhere between.
These slots are known as:
Pre-roll: before the content starts.
Mid-roll: during the main content of the episode.
Post-roll: at the end of the podcast, after the content has finished.
These can come in multiple forms, such as host-read ads, which are usually part-scripted and part-ad-libbed—giving the host free range to add their creative spin. Alternatively, they could be scripted ads, where the host reads the ad verbatim from a pre-written script.
Most of these ads will have some points you need to cover that will be given to you via the brand representative and can come in the form of a few topic bullet points or a full script. Depending on your pre-agreed contract, the length can vary from 15 to 60 seconds.
If your podcast is sponsored, but you are contracted to have the ad within a mid-roll spot, it is often good manners to give a quick mention within the introduction. If you want to go down this route, mention the sponsor before getting into the intro proper.
Today's episode is brought to you by [mention sponsor]. Hi, this is [name of podcast], a show about [podcast topic]. In today's episode ____ …
"Today's episode of ___ is brought to you by our friends at BetterHelp Online Therapy. [Include an anecdote that includes the brand] BetterHelp is here to help. [Talk about the product/brand/service and why someone may need it].
For a more in-depth look at how to write a podcast message, read our article: How To Write a Podcast Script
Include a Call-To-Action
A call-to-action (CTA) is a marketing term for a prompt or direction to help encourage someone to carry out the desired action. When used well, it can be an effective tool in podcasting.
Ideally, if you're choosing to include a CTA within your podcast intro script, you need to think about the goal you're trying to achieve.
Do you want to increase subscriptions? Direct listeners to your website? Would you like your listeners to review your show on Apple Podcasts? (The latter is especially useful for new podcasts trying to get a place in the New and Noteworthy section.)
Once you have your goal, you need to think about the phrasing. The best calls to action are brief and use strong verbs:
Join our community
Rate and review the podcast
Click the link in the show notes
There are thousands of ways to ensure you get your marketing CTA messaging on point, but as long as it's snappy and concise, you'll most likely have better results.
Make sure whatever you're asking of your listeners is clear, that they know what to do, how to do it, and that you don't overwhelm them with loads of asks.
"Remember to click the link in the show notes to get your FREE podcast script template!"
"Make sure you hit subscribe if you haven't already. And, if you'd like to check out our other channels, you can find them here [Insert website].
Keep it short. Your CTA should never take away from the main point of your intro.
Use the Cold Open
A cold open (also called a teaser sequence) is a narrative technique used in television and films. Traditionally it's a way of jumping straight into a story before the title sequence or opening credits.
Because of the audio medium, podcasts can use audio clips from the upcoming episode to give listeners a glimpse of what's to come—think of it as a movie trailer.
Cold opens hook audiences within the first few moments, dissuading them from skipping forward or tuning out altogether.
According to recent data, only 14.04% of surveyed podcasts use the cold open technique in their intros. Why is that important? Cold opens are pretty rare and therefore give podcasters a creative edge.
One thing is a must when taking on the cold open option. It must be either compelling, surprising, or unexpected. The goal is to capture a listener's attention and give them a taste of what's to come, so the audio clips need to be as enticing as possible.
"The cold open is basically where you start with a clip or some clips from the podcast itself to get things going. This can really help to draw your listener in by hearing a little bit of content that they're going to be hearing in the episode right away. It can add a little mystery sometimes."
—Erin MacIndoe Sproule, producer
Keep in mind that a cold open isn't something that you're going to be able to script until you've done the interview or completed the episodes. So add a placeholder in the script such as [interview audio clip] or a description of the kind of audio clip you want within the intro.
Include an Open-Ended Question
Questions usually need an answer, but if you have the expertise you can certainly tackle it for your listeners. Tapping into a listener's pain point or piquing their curiosity using an open-ended question is an old marketing tactic that translates exceptionally well in podcast intros.
Questions like the ones below prime audiences. They let listeners know that they'll get the answers to these burning questions if they continue listening.
How is Crypto going to make you money?
How is fintech going to affect your retail business?
Using open-ended questions also works well for sponsored host-read ads, so make a note next time you get a sponsor.
Mention Your Podcast Tagline
Taglines, hooks, and slogans can be incredibly sticky. We can often identify a brand just by its slogan. Take Nike's "Just do it" slogan. You don't even need to see the tick or a pair of Air Jordans to know exactly who that is. Why? Because it sticks in our minds.
Podcasters want to be memorable, and adding a tagline in your intro is a great way to do just that.
You may recognize a tagline as a line of text often seen accompanying a logo or title. Its sole purpose is to clarify a message and help people connect with a brand in the shortest time possible. In addition, a tagline can help clarify a show's title, create uniformity, and identify what listeners can expect from a show when it comes to podcasts.
"It could be a few words or a few sentences that explain a bit about who you are, what you are doing and creates that identity for your audience."
A tagline is often part of your brand. Once they're fans, your listeners will know it—more than likely by heart. There's no one size fits all with taglines; they can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.
"Welcome to Reply All, a podcast about the internet."
"A podcast that helps you boost your eCommerce sales."
While they aren't essential for a podcast intro, they offer a lot in return if you get it right. Podcast taglines are, in essence, an audible signpost for audiences. Taglines help seasoned listeners focus on your content while also allowing new listeners a point of entry.
Begin with a Disclaimer
Disclaimers can address specific liability points that fall outside your terms and conditions agreement, such as affiliate link usage, medical risks, atypical results, adult content, or that the opinions stated in the podcast may not reflect those of a network.
Depending on the context of a podcast, disclaimers can be split into two parts. One part is explained on your website, the other is stated at the beginning of an episode.
A good example is Gimlet's, Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel. Their intro disclaimer informs listeners that:
"None of the guests are ongoing patients of Esther Perel. Each episode of Where Should I Begin is a one-time counseling session. For the purposes of maintaining confidentiality, names and some identifiable characteristics have been removed, but their voices and stories are real."
Then there's The Usual Rejects at the Chain Theater, which places a podcast disclaimer on their website that could be condensed to be included in their podcast intro:
"The opinions expressed during this podcast are conversational in nature and expressed only for comedic purposes. Not all of the facts will be correct, but we attempt to be as accurate as possible. Chain Theater holds no liability over the conversations on this podcast, and by using this podcast, you understand that it is solely for entertainment purposes."
A disclaimer sets the audience up to understand that an element of a podcast may not be suitable for specific audiences. Or that the podcast team isn't responsible for a certain outcome should a listener take a certain piece of advice.
"This episode contains subject matter and language that some audiences may find offensive. Listener discretion is advised."
"The information, opinions, and recommendations presented in this podcast are for general information only, and any reliance on the information provided in this podcast is done at your own risk."
Use Your Show Notes as an Extension of Your Intro
Podcast hosts only have a limited time to hook listeners in with the introduction. Specific points or details get lost when you're trying to set the scene in under a minute. Your podcast show notes play such an essential role in forming the bigger picture and can take the pressure off you trying to cram as much information within your introduction as possible.
Podcast show notes should house more about the episode's content, guests, important information, and any additional resources mentioned within the episode itself.
Much like a podcast outro, the best podcast intros are more than just scripted words and music—it's also how you structure all the information your audience needs to stay engaged and coming back for more.
Your podcast intro is the first impression many listeners will have of your show, which means it's an essential part of any podcast. It's ideal for engaging, persuading, and motivating your listeners to keep listening. Without a doubt, it is extremely important for winning over new subscribers and growing your audio brand into the broader sphere.
Creating a solid intro puts into the minds of listeners that your brand is creating high-quality content and is certainly worth listening to. Ensure that you address the who, what, why, and sometimes, the how of each episode. Keep it lean, short, and concise—this isn't the time to go into lengthy descriptions.
Understanding how to make a good podcast intro takes time when you're just starting out. That's okay. Remember, personality trumps all! So use your intro script as a guide, and don't fuss over the tiny details too much. Podcasting is a creative pursuit, and the characterful voices behind them are one of the most significant factors in this medium's success.
So, go forth, write, but most importantly, have fun.