9 Essential Tips for Addressing Sensitive Topics On Your Show



It’s no secret that our world is constantly changing. Furthermore, what we’re willing to talk about, and the things we’re no longer willing to keep quiet about are changing. In some ways, things are changing for the better, but in others, we’ve still got a long way to go. As a result, discussing delicate subjects can be difficult for some podcast hosts. With that in mind, below we’re covering some tips for addressing sensitive topics on your show.

However, it’s important to note that while we can give advice, you have to know your audience and what will be acceptable to discuss with them. It’s also worth noting that you must understand ahead of time that no matter how much prep-work you put in, or self-education you take on, you can’t please everyone 100 percent of the time.

The truth is that some people will be triggered by subjects that will seem innocuous to others. A single word or phrase can send a person into a rage, and it might have nothing to do with you. Still, there are some topics that are triggering for the majority of people such as those related to race, politics, sexual orientation, etc … This post is meant to help you navigate them as tactfully and with as much care as possible. Hopefully, the words that follow will get you thinking about your listeners, and how the things you say could impact them.

Provide Your Audience with Trigger Warnings

If you will be discussing something that could be triggering, let the audience know that you will be talking about sensitive subject matter. It’s also a good idea to give a preview of what that entails as early in the episode as possible. If you’re covering topics of race, social injustice, violence, terrorism, politics, or any other hot button issues on your podcast, your audience should be warned in the episode description and in the first few minutes of your show. This way if they don’t want to hear what you are covering in that episode, they can skip it.

Have the Facts Straight Before You Begin Recording

Even if your podcast is an opinion show, when addressing sensitive topics, it’s best not to assume, guess, or speculate about the subject matter. For example, if you are discussing a sexual assault case, learn all the facts that you can about the case before discussing it. And, avoid rendering an opinion about guilt or innocence when there is no way you could know that from the information that has been made public about the case.
Where can you get the facts on sensitive subjects? Depending on the subject, we recommend using verified sources such as academic and medical journals, government agencies, and objective news sources. In other words, opinion pieces and skewed media coverage may not be the best source to get the facts on some of the topics you are trying to learn about.

Don’t Make Jokes about Delicate Subjects

Something that is funny to you and your friends can be highly insensitive to your listeners. To be completely honest, there are some things that shouldn’t be joked about whether it’s in public or private. Though you might sometimes feel like you’re walking on a tightrope, it’s better to err on the side of caution and watch what you say when recording your episodes.

man walking a tightrope

Have Talking Points Ready Before You Record

Even if you normally record episodes raw and unscripted, when you’re addressing sensitive topics on your show, it’s a good idea to have talking points in mind. This will help you avoid stating things that are inaccurate, or making biased points that are rooted in your own personal background.

Continuously Educate Yourself on the Issues

In an age where unlimited information is at our fingertips, ignorance is no excuse for saying the wrong things when addressing sensitive topics on your podcast. For example, “I didn’t know that was racist,” or “I didn’t know that I was being homophobic,” is not going to fly when your listeners are offended.

Case in point – how many actors and YouTube influencers are losing brand deals, opportunities, and income due to racist statements and inappropriate actions, as well as homophobic comments? Influencers and celebrities also come under fire for political commentary when they don’t get the facts before speaking.

We don’t want that to happen to you! Educate yourself on the issues so that you can avoid inappropriate statements and stereotyping individuals and groups.

man working on a laptop

Don’t Post Your Episode Without Vetting It First

It might be a good idea to have a diverse group of trusted friends or colleagues listen to your episode before you post it online. Sometimes having a second, third, or even fourth set of ears can be all you need to catch something that may be misunderstood or deemed insensitive. Think of it like having a proofreader look over a blog post before you hit publish.

For example, a comment made about the terrorists who attacked a landmark may seem innocent to you, but could be blatantly inappropriate to others. A different perspective can help give you an idea of how your listeners might respond to the things you’re discussing, and the way you are presenting the materials.

Give Resources to Your Audience for Further Education

Sharing where you got your information, as well as giving your audience resources to learn more about your subject matter can go a long way in helping others to be more sensitive, and empathetic. For example, if you are talking about systemic racism, you could provide resources in your show notes related to what systemic racism is, and how we can change things for the better.
Definitive Podcast Directory List Woman Submitting Her Podcast on Spotify

Remain Open to Change

How we are raised and our cultural norms dictate many of the opinions we have, but that doesn’t mean these things are set in stone. Be open to change and be more accepting of others for who they are. Of course, just because you are accepting others for who they are doesn’t mean you have to change who you are. It just means that you are opening yourself up to the belief that regardless of one’s sexual orientation, political affiliations, race, religion, socioeconomic status, etc … we all have the right to be on this planet and live out our lives.

Be Prepared for Tense Reactions and Angry Comments Regardless of Your Good Intentions

No matter what you do, you may upset some people in your podcasting career even when every effort is made to be open and honest. Unfortunately, this can be a hard pill to swallow for some podcasters. However, it’s important to remember that just because you have educated yourself on an issue, doesn’t mean your listeners have done the same. It’s important to understand that there may be tense and awkward responses to your subject matter as a result.

This can show up as negative feedback on your social media pages and in your reviews. While you can try to prevent this from happening, the larger your show gets, the harder it will be to stop ignorant comments and reactions to your material. If you have used all the tips in this post for addressing sensitive topics on your show, that’s really all you can do.

Hopefully, the number of loyal fans you have will outweigh any trolls you may experience. No matter what, don’t let anyone stop you from getting your message out there to the people that want to hear it.

💡Bonus Tip: Be Mindful of Your Language

Researchers at Spotify recently found that the language we use to communicate with our followers and fans has a direct effect on the engagement a podcast receives.

More specifically, they found that high engagement podcasts have these characteristics in common:

  • Longer and more relevant descriptions
  • Use diverse vocabularies
  • Contain more positive emotions and fewer negative emotions
  • Contain more conversations and personal narratives  
  • Fewer words associated with swearing

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