2.7 Min Read • Attraction • Packaging

Write Better Podcast Episode Titles Using the SHARP Framework

Improving your episode titles is perhaps the single highest leverage task for winning over more new listeners. Here's how to do it.
By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

Of all the skills necessary to grow a podcast, few are more important than your ability to write episode titles.

Your titles are the single data point most listeners will use to decide whether or not to click play on their episode.

As such, improving your titles is one of the highest leverage opportunities to both win over more first-time listeners and convert more casual listeners into regulars.

Despite their singular importance, however, creators tend to spend shockingly little time and effort on titling their episodes in a way that will maximize plays.

Sometimes, this is because the episode wasn’t well-scoped, making it impossible to title it in a compelling way.

More often, however, it’s because, well… titling is hard!

What’s more, it’s often one of the last steps in the production process, when your energy is lowest and your publish deadline is looming.

And so, you spend five or ten minutes thinking about title options without any real framework or methodology before settling for the best of the mediocre bunch and moving on.

You’ll do better next time, you tell yourself…

The bad news is that this approach is almost certainly costing you listeners.

The good news is that you have no shortage of opportunities to practice and improve your title writing skills.

And with a simple framework to follow, sharpening up your titles and attracting more listeners is easier than you might think.

Writing SHARP Titles

Great titles are built using 5 components that form what I call the SHARP Framework.

  • Specifics – That jump out at a potential listener and tell them precisely what the episode is about in a way that differentiates it from otherwise similar episodes
  • Hook(s) – That create intrigue by subverting expectations, piquing curiosity, and/or making a bold (but believable) promise
  • Alignment – Between what the title promises and what the bulk of the episode is actually about. Without alignment, listeners will learn not to trust your titling and you’ll have a hard time winning them back.
  • Relevance – To something your ideal listener cares about and is already actively looking for.
  • Polish – The title reads well and doesn’t feel like an awkward jumble of keywords.

To see the framework in action, let’s take a generic (but unfortunately common) title—How to grow your business—and sharpen it up together.

  • How to grow your business
  • How to grow your freelance business
  • How to grow your freelance design business
  • How to grow your freelance design business in 2024

This is starting to look pretty good.

So far, we’ve dialed up the level of specificity and relevance which already makes the title more appealing.

But we still don’t have a strong hook.

Let’s see what happens when we add one.

  • How to grow your freelance design business in 2024 (w/o social media, networking, or cold emailing)

Now we’re getting somewhere.

After just a few rounds of step-by-step sharpening, we have a much more clickable episode title.

But for good measure, let’s see if we can take it further.

  • The stupidly simple pitch strategy to grow your freelance design business in 2024 (w/o social media, networking, or cold emailing)

That’s better.

By adding “The stupidly simple pitch strategy”, we’ve added both an additional hook (”stupidly simple”), as well as an additional layer of specificity (”The pitch strategy”) to an already solid title.

Title Sharpening 3.png

Let’s try a slightly different angle on the same topic:

  • One dumb tweak I made to double my freelance design business in 6 months (why didn’t I think of this before???)
Title Sharpening 2.png

Of course, for these SHARP titles to work they also need to be aligned with the content of the episode.

For this reason, I recommend going through the title sharpening process in the episode scoping phase, rather than after the episode has already been recorded.

It’s much easier to come up with an engaging title and then create the content to fulfill it than to record a loosely scoped episode and then title it after the fact.

That said, the SHARP framework can be applied to improve the appeal of any title.

When in doubt, start with the most boring version of the title you can think of.

Then, pass by pass, whittle it into a point capable of piercing the defenses of any potential listener who comes across it.

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