Creating a Painless Bingeable Podcast with Alan Gordon, LCSW of the Tell Me About Your Pain Podcast
As part of my series of interviews about “5 things you need to know to create a very successful podcast”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pain Psychology Center Executive Director and Tell Me About Your Pain podcast host Alan Gordon, LCSW.
Alan is the founder and director of the Pain Psychology Center where he oversees a team of 25 therapists. He developed Pain Reprocessing Therapy (PRT), a cutting-edge protocol for treating chronic pain, and just completed a groundbreaking neuroimaging study on the efficacy of PRT in conjunction with the University of Colorado Boulder. Alan was featured on CBS’s The Doctors, where he conducted the first fMRI case study of a patient eliminating chronic pain. He is an adjunct assistant professor at USC and has presented on the topic of pain treatment at conferences and trainings throughout the country.
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Can you tell us a bit of your “personal backstory? What is your background and what eventually brought you to this particular career path?
I’m the Executive Director of the Pain Psychology Center in Los Angeles. But long before that, I was a chronic pain sufferer myself. After trying many different treatments to eliminate my pain (up to and including sleeping on a giant magnet), I eventually overcame my symptoms and established a treatment center.
At the Pain Psychology Center, we specialize in treating chronic pain. We’ve developed a treatment approach called Pain Reprocessing Therapy (PRT). PRT is a set of techniques, rooted in neuroscience, aimed at helping patients eliminate or significantly reduce their symptoms.
Now I have a podcast, Tell Me About Your Pain, to help other chronic pain sufferers on their paths to healing.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
Someone emailed me earlier today, pointing out that I said something in a recent episode that contradicted something I said four years ago on a different podcast. They did me the courtesy of transcribing both and underlining the contradiction. I love the internet.
Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaways you learned from that?
I didn’t realize how much of an active listener I was until hearing the first cut of episode 1. It was staggering how many times I said “yea” or “uh-huh” while someone else was talking. Seriously, how has no one ever pointed this out to me before?
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
We are still pretty new to podcasting. We launched our podcast in March and have released five episodes that are available on Apple Podcasts or curablehealth.com.
What are the main takeaways, lessons or messages that you want your listeners to walk away with after listening to your show?
The chronic pain crisis in America is growing at a rapid pace, and traditional treatments have been found to be minimally effective. Our goal with the podcast is to show that there is an alternative (and evidence-based) approach to help reduce or eliminate pain. In each episode, we introduce a different piece of the puzzle and provide a set of techniques to help listeners overcome their symptoms. We also integrate a lot of humor and entertaining anecdotes along the way.
In your opinion what makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or your content?
About ten years ago, I was on the dating website match.com. In the “about me” section, I described myself as funny.
One day I got a message from a girl that said, “Don’t tell me that you’re funny, show me that you’re funny.”
I changed my profile that day.
It was a good learning lesson — why tell someone something if you could show them instead?
That’s exactly what we do on our podcast. Instead of merely describing the techniques to get out of pain, we talk to real chronic pain sufferers so we can show the process in action. It’s a really cool structure that’s not only uniquely instructive but gives an emotional arc to each episode.
Doing something on a consistent basis is not easy. Podcasting every work-day, or even every week can be monotonous. What would you recommend to others about how to maintain discipline and consistency? What would you recommend to others about how to avoid burnout?
The most important thing is joy. If you’re having fun recording your podcast, people will enjoy listening to it. For our show, we determined that one episode every three weeks was the right frequency. Although we could probably churn them out more often, it wouldn’t be as fun, and the quality would suffer.
It’s also helpful to focus on a topic that you’re passionate about. In our podcast, I talk to chronic pain sufferers and try to help them recover. It’s rewarding work, but it’s also enjoyable — chronic pain is my passion. I wouldn’t be having nearly as much fun if I were talking about mixed martial arts or “The Real Housewives of Orange County.”
You’re going to be spending a lot of time talking about your subject matter, so make sure it’s something you love.
What resources do you get your inspiration for materials from?
We’re inspired by our patients and their journeys to live a pain-free life. The podcast allows us to reach more chronic pain sufferers that aren’t aware there are other treatments available to them to help alleviate their pain.
Is there someone in the podcasting world who you think is a great model for how to run a really fantastic podcast?
Conan O’Brien’s podcast is a great model. I think it shows that if you have fantastic guests, impeccable producing, massive sponsors, and are the funniest person in the world, you have a pretty good shot at success.
Seriously though, Conan’s podcast is revolutionary. The best part of the show is his back-and-forth banter with his assistant, Sona. There’s nothing better than listening to two people who really enjoy talking to each other.
I host Tell Me About Your Pain with one of my best friends and noted author, Alon Ziv. He’s not an expert in pain, but he’s an expert in banter. And I think our back-and-forth is one of the best parts of the podcast.
What are the ingredients that make that podcast so successful? If you could break that down into a blueprint, what would that blueprint look like?
Our podcast is still new, so we are constantly tweaking our formula. It’s been a learning process but with every aired episode, we are getting a better handle on what our listeners respond to and enjoy. There have definitely been some surprises along the way (more on that later) but we aim to entertain, while also maintaining a strong focus of the podcast — helping people learn to eliminate chronic pain.
Can you share with our readers the five things you need to know to create an extremely successful podcast?
1. Dialogue is more interesting than monologue. Bill Simmons is one of the most successful podcasters. He interviews guests, banters with his friends, and occasionally has his daughter on the show to talk about Netflix rom coms. But five years ago, his HBO show “Any Given Wednesday,” bombed terribly. The only difference? He hosted that show by himself.
As Bill Simmons learned, you’re more likely to engage listeners if you’re playing off someone else than if you’re flying solo.
2. Make it fun. We once released an episode of our podcast where a woman overcame five years of back pain during the show. But the most memorable part of that episode? My co-host told a story about helping his daughter inflate a rubber unicorn (spoiler alert: it was enormous).
No matter your topic, if you bring lightness and humor to it, people will be engaged.
3. Find a podcast partner. Do you know how much “Shawshank Redemption” earned during its initial theatrical run? 16 million dollars. It’s one of the best movies of all time but it couldn’t find an audience. Even if your podcast is Shawshank-level great, you need to find a way to get it in front of people. One of the best ways to do that is to find a strategic partner who authentically pairs well with your message and already has a loyal following. We were lucky enough to partner with Curable, a chronic pain app, with both of those advantages. If you can partner with a group that already has a deep understanding of your target audience, you’ll have a big head start in developing your listenership.
4. Editing is key. Here’s a sentence I said during one episode of our podcast:
“See if you can bring your attention to your breath.”
Here’s that same sentence before editing:
“See if you can, like … kind of … you know … bring your attention to your breath.”
When you take the time to edit your podcast, I promise you two things:
- Your episodes will be much tighter.
- You’ll learn to hate your own voice more than you thought possible.
It’s totally worth the tradeoff.
5. Social Media. We created a Tell Me About Your Pain Facebook group. There we have podcast “extras,” tips to get out of pain, and fun stuff like pictures of my co-host’s daughter’s giant inflatable unicorn. (I’m telling you, people could not get enough of this unicorn.)
This kind of engagement with your listeners helps build enthusiasm and sustain momentum between episodes.
Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine Article about Alan Gordon!
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Podcast Influencer, Alan Gordon, LCSW of the Tell Me About Your Pain Podcast shares the best ways to:
1) Book Great Guests. We get guests from the pain community, people we’ve met from studies or therapy sessions. Many pain sufferers are desperate for relief and finding that together with them is invaluable.
2) Increase Listeners. Find a strategic partner who authentically pairs well with your message and already has a loyal following.
3) Produce in a Professional Way. Focus on audio editing. Make your shows tighter.
4) Encourage Engagement. Create a Facegroup group where you can share “extras” with your audience — it can be a tip, a behind-the-scene, or random fun and personal stuff.
5) Monetize Your Show. Use your podcast to promote your boot camps or courses.
What makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or the content itself?
Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine Article about Alan Gordon!