Despite what you might think of him, Guy Raz, host of the ultra-popular NPR podcast How I Built This, doesn’t see himself as a great reporter.
“I am not a great reporter in the sense that I’m not the person you’re going to go to for an investigative story or for breaking news,” he told agencies editor Doug Zanger at Adweek’s How Brands Found Their Voice With Audio virtual event. “What I love to do is to tell stories.”
Raz does just that on How I Built This, which launched in 2016, profiling entrepreneurs about their journeys as both founders and in brand building. He’s interviewed the men and women behind some of the world’s buzziest brands such as Glossier, Airbnb, Tempur-Pedic, Brooklinen and Fitbit.
It’s as a podcast host that Raz has found his stride, in large part because having in-depth conversations with these entrepreneurs allows him to quench his “insatiable desire to learn about things that I didn’t know.”
Possessing that innate curiosity, he added, is one of the most important qualities a podcast host—or reporter, for that matter—can have.
“Curiosity is so much more important than intelligence, because actually, the pursuit of curiosity is a choice,” he said. “Sometimes intelligence is an arbitrary measure of what a person can do. But curiosity is a decision that we can all make, to open our minds and eyes to the world around us, to absorb and then transmit the stories we see all around us.”
As well, Raz said the experience of listening to a podcast, particularly week after week, allows audience members to develop a real relationship with the host, because it feels like Raz is speaking directly to each individual—even if they’re actually one of over 3.5 million people tuning in.
“There is a one-to-one direct connection between me and that listener,” he said. “The big reason why is because there are no other distractions. It’s my voice into their ears. So we develop a very intimate and powerful connection.”
In preparing for each episode, Raz does “hours and hours” of research, but the magic of getting that story on air is a matter of more than just being prepared, but asking the questions that will propel a subject to dig back into their experience and truly relive it, not just rattle off a story.
“There are moments inside someone’s consciousness that are never captured in contemporaneous accounts,” he said. “You only discover [those moments] when you ask the right questions and when you’re actually forcing that person to go back in time and to take you on that journey with them.”
Watch Adweek’s full conversation with Raz below: