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Podcasts for PR practitioners that are not about PR

Part of being an effective PR practitioner is rooted in having a deep understanding of communications—after all, almost everything about PR—building awareness, trust, influence, credibility, and relationships—is about communicating.

However, it’s a hazard of working in any field that we can get too deep in the weeds of our industry, which can stifle creativity and limit our growth and potential. Sometimes, the best way to hit upon fresh, new ideas is to explore a topic outside of our daily grind.

This is particularly true for podcasts that might be outside of our direct area of expertise but still have an outsized impact on what we do. The following are three podcasts that highlight areas that heavily influence the work that PR people do: data, psychology, and copywriting.

Listening to these podcasts will take you just outside the world of PR, and may give you ideas on how to be a better communicator.

Stats + Stories

Ever wonder what the impact of binge-watching is on the way you think and feel? Did you ever wonder if individual data can truly be kept private, even when anonymized through good statistical design? How can researchers approach epidemiology in a manner that balances research fairness and integrity?

The Stats + Stories podcast digs deep into statistics—how they are gathered, what they are used for, and how we can all be critical consumers of the data and statistics we are provided. This is a great podcast for developing your mental muscles and thinking about how to frame and present data.

Not sure where to start with all of the amazing content? I recommend listening to How People Interpret Charts as a great jumping-off point. This episode looks at how the changing media landscape impacts how audiences consume data and statistics and has highlighted how people absorb quantitative information. A partnership between Knology and PBS Newshour was formed to study “how people consume news and numbers.” Did you know that the colors used in a chart can impact how readers interpret the data? That’s one surprising nugget of information from this show.

Another interesting point made in this episode of the podcast came from one of the journalists, who referenced an analysis that uncovered that the better a journalist understands the data and statistics they are using in a story, the harder they find it to explain it to readers. Essentially, it comes down to trying to explain a lot in very limited space, which leads to a tendency to avoid systematically unpacking the information, and instead glossing over or skipping that step.

Stats + Stories is a production of Miami University’s Department of Statistics and The American Statistical Association.

Hidden Brain

Hidden Brain is not so hidden—in addition to being a podcast, you can hear episodes in the U.S. on National Public Radio (NPR) and the show is routinely in “top downloaded podcast” lists. The host of the show, Shankar Vedantam, is a journalist, social science correspondent, and the 2010 author of The Hidden Brain: How our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save our Lives.

If you’ve ever hit on an idea or pitch that you thought would be a sure thing for a client, only to have it flop—or, conversely if you’ve ever pushed out something you thought would go nowhere and it went viral—and wondered “Wait-why? What just happened?” this is the podcast for you.

Episodes delve into the unexpected ways that human beings respond to all kinds of things, and look at what in our brains is directing that response.

From attaining (and sustaining) success to surprising information about willpower, to learning about how we filter information, each episode explores how what goes on in our brain directly impacts what we understand about the world around us.

If you are wondering where to start, my recommendation is the Mind Reading 2.0 series, comprised of four episodes that each examine different aspects of “how we understand—or fail to understand—the minds of other people.”

Learning how people process information differently, how our own biases can cause us to misunderstand the motivations of others, how people perceive us, and why conversations go wrong, may help you become a better communicator. Listening to this podcast is like being given a secret set of instructions on how people hear and understand things—which is absolutely applicable to communications professionals.

Hidden Brain Media, an independent production company, states that it “aims to help curious people understand the world, and themselves.” It’s a fascinating exploration of what makes us tick, and I’m a big fan of this show.

Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

This is the podcast that is probably most directly relevant to PR pros, but I still felt that a podcast about grammar is worth mentioning, because although writing is an integral part of what communicators do, sometimes the “why” of grammatical structure gets lost.

Understanding grammatical details can make your communications work more accurate and more interesting, so just from that aspect the show is worth listening to. (Others appear to agree, as the show is a five-time winner of the Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards.)

Plus, many of her topics are just fun—I mean, who doesn’t want to learn more about “ever” words (forever, whenever, etc.), and how to (or if you even should) pronounce written Latin words, such as et al.? She also digs into the historical foundations of words, for example an episode that explains how “thank you” today is different than it was hundreds of years ago.

And, for all of you Ted Lasso fans out there, remember the episode where Ted says the word “plan” several times in quick succession and then says, “uh-oh, the word’s lost all its meaning”? That’s called semantic satiation, and Grammar Girl has an episode that delves into it.

Listening to podcasts is an easy way to gain a greater understanding of topics that can help you to become an even better PR practitioner—even if they aren’t specifically about PR. The three podcasts mentioned here have all helped me to think a bit differently about framing data into stories, or about how to get better at messaging.

What’s your favorite non-PR podcast? Does it help you to see the world in a way that makes being a PR pro a little bit easier?

Giving your mind time to rest and think about something other than PR and measurement might end up yielding more interesting and creative insights.

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