Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Nov 21, 2018

On today’s episode of Just the Tips, Joseph Romm joins Dean and me to teach us in the art of persuasion. Joseph is Chief Science Advisor for "Years of Living Dangerously," which won the 2014 Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series and now generates viral videos online seen by tens of millions a month. He is also the founding editor of, which New York Times columnist Tom Friedman called an “indispensable blog.” Romm is also a senior advisor for New Frontier Data, the leading “big data” firm providing actionable analysis in cannabis, whose content reaches hundreds of millions of people a year. We chat today about Joseph’s extensive storytelling experience and expertise and how he uses that storytelling prowess to create viral content.

Making it clicky and sticky

Joseph first dipped his toe into blogging when it became a popular way for companies to connect with customers. And soon, he became a bit of a data junky, tracking performance metrics on his blog post, and really putting in the work to figure out what makes a post popular, what makes it really shareable for readers, etc. As he says, he was trying to figure out what makes something “clicky and sticky.” You’re going to want to hear what he has to say about that on this week’s episode of Just the Tips.

The fundamentals of making viral content

The first step to making a great piece of viral content, Joseph told us on this week’s Just the Tips, is writing a great headline and then delivering on the promise of that headline. So there is a lot of clickbait out there with catchy headlines to draw readers in, but then the post doesn’t deliver. Eventually, you’re not going to be able to build a good relationship with your readers if you’re pulling a bait and switch. And even then, you shouldn’t expect a headline to bring the entire Internet to your post. As Joseph says, a good post by him has about a 15% clickthrough rate. And it’s all about appealing to reader emotions. Listen to this week’s episode of Just the Tips to find out how.

How Jesus became the first viral content creator

In Joseph’s book, How to Go Viral and Reach Millions, he talks about how Jesus is a great example of someone who knew how to reach lots of people with just how he crafted a story. As Joseph says, Jesus never traveled further than about 100 miles, but his story got out there because he knew how to tell a story in metaphor, various figures of speech, repetition, etc. But Joseph looks beyond historical figures to look at contemporary storytellers who have been able to connect with large audiences based on their storytelling techniques. And luckily Joseph is full of helpful advice on how they did it on this week’s episode of Just the Tips.

The three A’s in storytelling

One of the things that Joseph tells us in this week’s episode is that you have to grab your audience in the first seven seconds, or you’re going to lose them. And a big part of that is appealing to their emotions, which he breaks down as the three A’s: Anger, Awe and Anxiety. He really digs into the meat and potatoes on this episode, including how videos connect with an audience when that audience isn’t even listening to it (as many people online do). And that’s just the beginning of what Joseph has to say on this week’s Just the Tips.

Outline of This Episode

  • [3:23] How Joseph got into creating viral content
  • [5:09] The fundamentals of making viral posts
  • [10:21] Why Jesus is the most viral person in history
  • [12:10] The three-act structure
  • [17:57] The crucial first seven seconds
  • [23:17] What makes stories memorable
  • [30:15] Why short words sell


Music for “Just The Tips” is titled, “Happy Happy Game Show” by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Resources Mentioned

Connect With James and Dean

James P. Friel:

Dean Holland: