Networking Rx

In this episode, I interview Frank Agin, Founder and President of AmSpirit Business Connections, and host of the podcast Networking Rx.  Frank is putting in an extraordinary amount of time networking with his podcast. And his podcast has the unique flavor that it is designed to help him expand his AmSpirit Business franchise base.  

Not only does he produce a podcast that provides insight on networking, but it builds his branding for AmSpirit. He’s just a few months in, but he already knows this podcast will do what he set out for it to do.

Recorded in Studio C at the 511 Studios, located in the Brewery District in downtown Columbus, OH!

Networking Rx (transcribed by Sonix)

Brett Johnson: As I do with every episode with Note to Future Me, I love to ask what nonprofit you’re supporting, or give time, talent, and treasure to?

Frank Agin: I don’t necessarily have one in particular that I give time to. About four years ago, I sat down … You’ll learn, as we talk more, I’m into networking. There’s lots of small businesses that I help to connect one another. I knew of a series of smaller not-for-profits, and I said, “What if I brought them together? What if I brought them together, and allowed them to learn about each other?”

Frank Agin: I told everyone who’s ever been there, who comes, I said, “You know what? I know what everyone’s number-one issue is – it’s money. None of you are gonna give up your money for the next guy, but let’s talk about all the other issues that you have. Let’s just put money aside. Let’s talk about all the other issues.” There are a ton of issues that are out there.

Frank Agin: This is called the Charitable Roundtable. We meet once a month, the second Friday of every month. I invite in any small not-for-profit. I invite small business people who wanna come in, and just learn about what’s going on out there. Volunteer, or whatever they can do to try and help that small not-for-profit community.

Frank Agin: That’s kinda my give to the charitable world. It’s something that I continue to try, and invest time, and a little bit of money every month … Putting a website up, and putting Facebook ads out there, just to attract other people.

Brett Johnson: I’ll put up a link in the show notes about it [cross talk]

Frank Agin: Okay, great.

Brett Johnson: -listening have an interest in it, sure, get a hold of you.

Frank Agin: Yeah, thank you.

Brett Johnson: Sounds good. Let’s talk about your professional background, and history, before we get into your podcast.

Frank Agin: Professional background: I moved to Columbus in 1984 to go to law school. I had no idea where Ohio State was. I had to ask some questions. Anyhow, I came here to go to law school. I got a law degree, and I got an MBA from Ohio State. Finished up there in 1988.

Frank Agin: From there, I started in a really big firm. I was with a public accounting firm; I was a tax consultant. I tell people I hated every minute of it, except for the 26 days a year I got paid. It was a good place to work, but the type of work wasn’t really for me.

Frank Agin: After about six-and-a-half years, I decided to leave, and go into private practice. I tell people a funny thing happened to me, when I went into private practice, and the funny thing was that nothing happened. I started my career with a really large firm, and that really large firm just gives you work. When you’re in small business, you gotta go, and hunt it yourself, and I had no idea how to do that.

Frank Agin: Through a series of introductions, I was introduced to a concept … A concept of an organization was based out of Pittsburgh. They brought together entrepreneurs, sales reps, and professionals into a weekly meeting setting, where the people learned about each other, and they exchange referrals. Thought it was neat. Didn’t think twice about it. I joined. Did very well through it; got lots of referrals; could help lots of businesses. Make a long story short, at one point, I had an opportunity … I bought it. That was back- dating back to 2004.

Frank Agin: I don’t practice law anymore, and I’ve just pretty much … The name of the organization is AmSpirit Business Connections. ‘Am’ is short for American spirit. That’s what I do. I spend my days working with small businesses, certainly here in Columbus, but I have a series of franchisees growing throughout the country, as well.

Brett Johnson: Why a podcast?

Frank Agin: About a year ago, the notion was put on my radar. I’ve written a number of books. I think I’ve written 10 different books on professional networking. I do a lot of speaking – professional, and public speaking – on networking; written a lot of articles. Somebody said, “Hey, you oughta think about a podcast. This is another way to get content out there.” I, right away, dismissed it as , “Okay …” I don’t understand it. There’s so many moving parts to this. I’m so busy.

Frank Agin: Then, over the summer, I was working with a gentleman, and he was … As I try, and franchise this, he was trying to get me to do what they term a ‘sales funnel.’ “Hey, listen in, and if you … Next week, we’ll talk about this.” Just continually pulling people along, and teasing, and teasing, and teasing.

Frank Agin: We were taping that, and one of the episodes, or one of the segments didn’t tape well, and we needed to retape it. He wanted me to just do it on my computer, and send it to him. I thought about it overnight, and it just didn’t feel right. I called him the next day. I said. “You know what? I don’t wanna do this. It just doesn’t feel right. It feels like a cheap sales ploy,” is what it felt like.

Frank Agin: I said, “What I really would like to do is I have so many thoughts and ideas on professional networking; things that I could share to help people become more successful.” He says, “Well, what you’re talking about’s a podcast.” Well, I guess I am. I said, “Give me a month.” I was coming up on vacation, and it’s a busy time. “Give me a month, and I’ll put together an outline.”

Frank Agin: I did, and came back to him with it. I said this is what I sorta wanna do. He really didn’t offer a whole lot of help, with respect to the nuts and bolts. I was very fortunate, because this was happening over the summertime. My daughter, who’s a communication major at Denison University, was interning with me. I just asked her. I said, “Hey, Logan, could you get me a checklist of all the things we need to do to put a podcast together?” She did, and we just started picking through things one at a time, one at a time, one at a time.

Frank Agin: The hardest thing is just coming up with content; not the hardest thing … I got plenty of content, but it’s just deciding what order do I talk about it all-

Brett Johnson: The strategy [cross talk] the content.

Frank Agin: Yeah …

Brett Johnson: Exactly, and that’s a good problem to have, though.

Frank Agin: Oh, it is.

Brett Johnson: The reverse is horrible – not to have anything to talk about, but you need to have a podcast.

Frank Agin: Well, I’m sure there are lots of people out there, get started in podcasting, and get to episode nine, and they’re, “Well, I really have nothing else to say.”

Brett Johnson: Right.

Frank Agin: For me, it’s I want to limit myself to … I could do it every day, but that’s not the business. It’s just- it supports the business, so I kinda have to stop myself, week to week.

Brett Johnson: Right. What factors were discussed in measuring the success, or failure of the podcast, as you began?

Frank Agin: I decided, when I was gonna- when I started … I know some really connected people out there, and my initial thought was I’m going to go to them, and get them on my podcast, because then that’ll get me an audience right away. I thought about it. It’s like, you know what? I bet everybody does that. “Hey, I’m gonna have a podcast. I’m gonna get Person X on, and that’ll change my world.”

I said, “No, I’m not gonna do that.” I’m gonna come to them with 100 episodes under my belt, and I’m gonna come to them, and say, “You know what? I have a podcast. I’ve been doing a podcast. I’ve been doing 100 episodes, or 99; I want you to be number 100.” To me, that seemed to be more genuine.

Frank Agin: I do measure. I do look at the number of downloads, month to month, and see what’s being downloaded, and what’s working, and what’s not working, but I try not to put too much into that, because if you have a bad month – the downloads aren’t going up, or you’re not getting as much – I just …

Frank Agin: I think this is true of anything, in any business; you just need to be consistent. You need to be true to what you’re doing. That’s, for the most part, where success comes from, not just in podcasting, but really in business. You just have to get out there. You have to do things, and you have to stick with it. That’s my game plan is I’m just gonna keep providing great content, and just give it time.

Brett Johnson: From what I’m seeing, and feeling myself, that’s pretty much the best game plan is the long tail of it … Anything you do takes time, and you’re gonna get better at it, and you’re going to find what topics are best, over time; what resonates. Some are not gonna be home runs at all, of course, but the next one will be.

Frank Agin: Right.

Brett Johnson: Just like making calls for sales. That one didn’t say yes to it, but the next one will. It’s that positive attitude of you’re gonna get better; you’re gonna get better.

Frank Agin: Yeah, well, that’s exactly it. You get feedback from people, who say, “I really like that. I love the stories you tell.” Okay, I need to do more of that.

Brett Johnson: Right. There you go.

Frank Agin: I share with people that the first episode I did … Well, the first one was me just talking about myself, and what my plans were, but the first real episode I did, and these are 20-minute episodes, at best … That’s what I want my length to be, the total length. Took me eight hours to record. I wanted to cry. I really wanted to cry, because … If this is gonna be a weekly thing, I don’t have eight hours every week.

Brett Johnson: Right.

Frank Agin: Now I’ve gotten down to the point where a 20-minute episode, I can get done in easily 30 minutes.

Brett Johnson: There you go. Right.

Frank Agin: We get better at it, in time.

Brett Johnson: Exactly. The self-critique goes lower, and lower, and you just get better. The intros are better; the segues are better; you know what you’re doing … You critique less, I think, because … I always have that problem. Either stop doing it, or quit dwelling on it.

Frank Agin: Right. Exactly.

Brett Johnson: Find out how to get rid of the problem. You have a mix of solo, and interview format. Is that on purpose? By accident?

Frank Agin: To be honest, when I started, it was gonna be nothing but me sharing the content from my various books, and the stories, and experiences I had. As I indicated, I franchise, so I have groups of people in my organization all around the United States.

Frank Agin: I had somebody reach out to me, and say, “Have you thought about doing interviews?” My initial reaction was, “Aww, this is self-serving. This guy wants to be on …” Rolling my eyes. I shared these things with him. After the fact, I said I didn’t really think this was a good idea. He came back, and he said, “No, think about it.” So, I did, which is, I think, a … There’s a lesson in there, that people hit us with ideas. It may not be that idea, but there’s something there.

Brett Johnson: Right.

Frank Agin: He said, “You know, when you get people on, you’re gonna expand your audience.” Like, “Oh, geez, you’re right,” and that’s what I found. That’s how I stumbled into it, and it created a new issue of, okay, now, I gotta find guests.

Brett Johnson: Right … I think the adage is if you’re going solo, you’re branding yourself. If you’re interviewing, you’re networking. You don’t really have the opportunity to brand yourself in an interview. There are benefits to both. It just depends on what you wanted to accomplish. You’re right, watching out who’s approaching you, and why do they wanna be on your podcast, filtering that out, without …

Brett Johnson: Again, you can always hit delete, and it never gets aired in your stream, which is the benefit of podcasting, which is great, yeah … You are doing some interviews. How do you go about interviewing- I should say, putting the schedule together to interview? .

Frank Agin: I’m struggling with that right now. I wish I had a great answer for that. I had a flurry of people right out of the gate that wanted to be interviewed, and I’ve got more people lined up, but trying to mix it all in with the regular content … Generally, what I’ve done is Tuesdays, the regular content is coming out. Thursday, I will put an interview out.

Frank Agin: Am I doing interviews every week? Probably not, but, I have for the past six or seven weeks, and I’ll probably continue that for maybe another six or seven weeks. By the time that’s done, I might have another six or seven. I don’t know.

Frank Agin: To a degree, interviews are easier, because they’re not … You don’t have to put the planning in upfront; we just talk. To a degree, they’re a little more difficult, because you have to really put a little more time into editing, after the fact. When I’m doing an episode, where I’m providing value, if there’s something I’ve said that doesn’t come out well, I’ll stop, and rerecord it, so there’s less editing later. Okay, it’s done. I’m comfortable with it.

Brett Johnson: Right.

Frank Agin: There’s less planning on the front end, and I don’t have to worry about it.

Brett Johnson: Right. How is the podcast allowing you, and, of course, AmSpirit Business Connections to showcase your expertise? How did you plan for that to happen?

Frank Agin: Well, a number of ways. Like I said, I’ve written a number of books on professional networking. My take on professional networking is less about techniques, and skills – although that comes in a little bit. It’s really about habits, and attitudes, and how people need to be conducting themselves.

Frank Agin: For example, one of the recent podcasts I taped had to do with our relationships. I analogized it to dealing with Earthbound objects, meteors that are coming towards Earth. Sounds crazy, but there’s two rules … There’s two thoughts on that.

Frank Agin: One thought is that you just go up there … This is the Hollywood approach. You just go up there, and you blow it outta the sky. The problem with that is that you have all this fallout still coming towards Earth. Instead of one big rock, you’ve got 100 rocks coming at Earth. The NASA approach would be to go up to that object, and just gently nudge it; gently nudge it out of the path of Earth.

Frank Agin: I analogized that to our relationships. We all have relationships that are not perfect – even marital relationships aren’t perfect … I analogized it to those relationships that are really detrimental, and you have two approaches. You can have the Hollywood approach, and you can just blow it up, in which case, then you have all the fallout to deal with. Or, you can just kinda gently nudge it; gently nudge that person to be better behaved; gently nudge that person out of your life.

Frank Agin: That’s just kind of a way of … That’s a message that’s really geared towards anybody out there. That’s part of the podcast. The other part of the podcast; the other reason I did the podcast is there’s a lot of things that I do, with respect to training the members of my organization. Locally, I see a lot of these people, so I can actually talk to them.

Frank Agin: I’ve got a growing number of franchises out there, and I want to be able to get these messages out. In each chapter meeting of our organization, we have a segment that’s 20 minutes long for a member to give a presentation. In lieu of giving a presentation, I want to be able to provide them with content. “Here’s Frank talking about this particular concept: The ABCs of asking for referrals,” or whatever it might be. That was the other thought in mind. Again, it’s all about repurposing, recycling-

Brett Johnson: You’re doing that right now. Are you creating a content for …?

Frank Agin: Yes.

Brett Johnson: Okay. How are you delivering that to them?

Frank Agin: It’s just going up on the podcast.

Brett Johnson: Is it? Straight on the podcast. Okay.

Frank Agin: Yep, straight on the-

Brett Johnson: Not a private-channel thing [inaudible] a sign-in … Wow. Okay.

Frank Agin: A lot of it, I really geared towards anybody, but I’ll let the franchisees know, “Hey, this is an episode that you can deliver. It’s just like me talking; me doing the program.”

Brett Johnson: Interesting. Okay … I think a lot of businesses miss that aspect, that this is a communication opportunity to affiliates that may be across the country, or offices that are across the country; that whether it’s a public podcast, or a private-channel podcast, at least it’s a message that’s out there, disseminated, that your sales force can listen to it in the car, on their next stop to their next call.

Brett Johnson: I think they’re starting to learn this opportunity, but again, it’s one of those, “Oh, I didn’t know you could do that. I thought a podcast was just for the general public.” Not necessarily. It’s an opportunity to talk to who you want to talk to, on their terms, very easily.

Frank Agin: Yep.

Brett Johnson: Has this podcast, in the amount of time you’ve done it, lead to … Has it led to new business referrals, do you think, yet? Have you felt that feedback?

Frank Agin: I can’t say that it has. I can’t say that it has, and I’ve really only been doing it … Started September of 2018, and I think-

Brett Johnson: That’s a short term to figure that out, and to feel that love. Let’s put it that way [cross talk]

Frank Agin: -I’m selling a franchise that’s … It’s not cheap to buy a franchise.

Brett Johnson: Sure, sure.

Frank Agin: But it is really opening a lot of doors for me. For example, I have one coming out this week; I interviewed a guy in Finland. We had connected online, through LinkedIn, or something like that, and we were just talking. Here’s a vehicle where I can learn about him; he can share what he has. It provides content for me. He’s got 20,000 LinkedIn connections, and he’s gonna promote me. I don’t know where that goes.

Brett Johnson: Sure.

Frank Agin: I don’t know where that goes-.

Brett Johnson: But it’s an opportunity you can’t not take.

Frank Agin: Right-.

Brett Johnson: Technically, how did you do that? How did you do the interview?

Frank Agin: We did it via Zoom. I’ve been using Zoom. That’s something that, just in researching this whole thing … Some people say Skype, or Zoom. I just became very comfortable with Zoom, so that’s how we did it.

Brett Johnson: Good, okay. Marketing the podcast, your publishing schedule – every week.

Frank Agin: Yes.

Brett Johnson: Then, mixing in some interviews, as well, when available; so, a couple times a week. Social-media strategy – what are you doing to organically help awareness of the podcast?

Frank Agin: When episodes release, I will put a post up. Maybe I’m not terribly anal, as far as podcasters go, but I think, compared to the general public, it’s kind of anal … When I produce a podcast, I have an Excel spreadsheet. It’s like, “Okay, this is going in here. Here’s the title, and here’s the length, and here’s what … Am I using a short intro, or a long intro? What’s the outro?” One of the things I do put in most podcasts is I’ll put a little plug for our franchising opportunity. Well, which one am I using, so I can keep track of that. I’ll write up a description, at that point in time.

Frank Agin: From there, we populate a Google calendar, so, when the podcasts release, I’ve got all the information I need, and I can just go, and copy from that Google calendar, and then paste on LinkedIn, on my profile, and then various groups that I’m involved with. Same thing, with respect to Facebook. Then people will share that out, and that’s how it’s going.

Frank Agin: Depending upon who the person I’m interviewing, I might make a personal plea to a particular group. For example, if it’s somebody within AmSpirit Business Connections, I will … For example, the first person I interviewed was in Pittsburgh. I sent an email to all the members in Pittsburgh, saying, “Hey, I’ve interviewed Dr. Bulow. You might wanna listen to this podcast.”

Brett Johnson: You’re tracking, and you’re also putting some call to action, as well, in each episode. What is the call to action? Is it an email to you? A phone call to you? How are you putting that in?

Frank Agin: I do ask people for comments. Generally speaking, I don’t know that that’s the best strategy, because if you stop, and think about it, most people, when they’re listening to a podcast, they’re probably in a car, or they’re probably on a treadmill. That’s the feedback I’m getting. “Hey, I really love your podcast. I get up in the morning, and one day a week, I’m able to listen to it on the treadmill,” or a drive in the car.

Frank Agin: I do get emails from people with questions. “Hey, you talk about … You talked about this, but what does that mean?” Right away, I know I’ve assumed too much knowledge, and then I’ll get on a future podcast- I’ll insert something in, and refer back, and say, “In Episode 12, I talked about this. Let me elaborate a little bit.”.

Brett Johnson: That’s fantastic feedback. That’s golden.

Frank Agin: It is. Oh, it is.

Brett Johnson: It’s golden.

Frank Agin: We talk about running out of material. I don’t know that you ever run out of material. There’s always something there. There’s always something there …

Brett Johnson: Right. There’s always a question about what you’ve put in play already.

Frank Agin: Right, yeah.

Brett Johnson: It’s allowing that listener, the listener base, to have access to you. You know you’ll respond in an efficient way, as well as, “Here are the many ways you can reach me. Let’s do this.”

Frank Agin: Right.

Brett Johnson: Yeah, good. Sharing of episodes from the guests – have you got a game plan? What do you give them to help you promote? For example, the gentleman you spoke to in Finland, what are you giving him to help you?

Frank Agin: Yeah, that’s a good question. I have a, call it, a white paper. It’s two or three pages, just talking about, “Okay, here are the topics we’re gonna touch on. Here’s how it’s gonna go; you’re gonna have an opportunity to introduce yourself … The podcast is Networking Rx. It’s all about networking, so, I’m gonna address questions on networking. What’s your pet peeve? What are some challenges you face? What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?”

Frank Agin: Then, I have a list of 10 or 12 other questions that they will pick from ahead of time. We weave that in, in a very natural approach. They have that all ahead of time, which people appreciate. Some people never look at it, but that’s fine, too. At least it gives me a game plan, as to what I want to do, as opposed to just getting somebody on, and “Okay, let’s talk.”

Brett Johnson: Sure. After the episode is done, then do you offer any links, any audio links, that sorta thing, to help them promote it as well, that they were on the podcast?

Frank Agin: I do. We promote up to Libsyn, so we get a link from them that I will share with them, as we get closer. Some of them try to access it ahead of time, but Tuesday, 6:00 a.m., it releases; nothing’s there before then.

Brett Johnson: Yeah, exactly.

Frank Agin: Sometimes, they don’t listen to what I have to say. “Hey, it’s not there!” No, it’s not supposed to be there.

Brett Johnson: Right. Exactly.

Frank Agin: We’ll have them share that out.

Brett Johnson: You spoke of Libsyn. You did some homework, obviously; your daughter did.

Frank Agin: Yep.

Brett Johnson: Why did you both decide upon Libsyn as a platform?

Frank Agin: I don’t know. I really can’t remember the exact reasoning why. There were a couple out there; Libsyn was one of them. One of the things that she had me do … There was a webinar on podcasting every week that would have something: Here’s how you name your podcast; here’s this; here’s the equipment you should have. Every week, there was a little bit of something. Libsyn was on our list, and that was one of the two things that this particular person had mentioned, so, we’re like, “Okay, let’s just go with that.”

Brett Johnson: There is no wrong answer to that. Each platform has its specific nuances; some a bit better than others, but it all depends on where you’re coming from, and what you need that platform to do for you, and your website, and your business. They’re all equally pretty darned good.

Frank Agin: Yeah, yeah-

Brett Johnson: At least the major ones that have been in play for the past 8, to 10, to 12 years. They’re pretty solid. They’re being certified. You can guarantee that the numbers you’re seeing are true numbers.

Frank Agin: For us, it was relatively inexpensive. On a monthly basis, I think it’s $15. When you’re starting out podcasting, and it’s just- it’s not your business per se – it’s just something you’ve added on to your business – you don’t want to invest a ton up front. I figured, okay, 15 bucks … Three months from now, if this isn’t working out, I can bail on it, and I’m really not out a whole lot.

Brett Johnson: Right.

Frank Agin: You’re right. They give a ton of value for that, and it’s worked out.

Brett Johnson: Good. The equipment you’re using to record the podcast, let’s talk about that.

Frank Agin: I generally do it right on my computer. I have bought Blue Yetis; got a couple of Blue Yetis as microphones that I use. They’re not the best, but pretty good, from what I can tell. Again, there was some research done on the front end, listening this webinar, and kinda looking out there.

Frank Agin: Yeah, it’s generally done on my computer, using Audacity. If I’m using Zoom, then I’ll need to take that file, and I’ll need to convert it to an MP3, and then, import it into Audacity, and edit from there. That’s really pretty much it.

Brett Johnson: The learning curve to use Audacity – hard? Easy for you?

Frank Agin: Well, I cheated, because I had my daughter; she pretty much gave me a cheat sheet [cross talk]

Brett Johnson: You jumped into it, and did … Even with a cheat sheet, pretty easy?

Frank Agin: Oh, yeah. Very, very easy. There are times where I might need to text her, and say, “Hey, wait a minute, I’m stuck here. This happened. What do I do?” I think, to a degree, I’m impatient. I’m just so busy with so many other things in my life, in my business, that I didn’t really have time to climb the learning curve, so she really helped me up it. I’m sure there are lots of things, with respect to Audacity, or Zoom, or any of these things – Libsyn – that I’m not taking advantage of. I figure, in time, I will, but it was enough … I know enough that I can-.

Brett Johnson: Put out a good product.

Frank Agin: Right.

Brett Johnson: Yeah … I think that’s with everything that we buy. Buy a new car. There are a lot of things on your new car, you don’t use for a year.

Frank Agin: Right. If ever. It’s like a computer.

Brett Johnson: You just don’t. Exactly. Future plans for the podcast? Where are you going with this?

Frank Agin: Where it takes me, I guess. I just plan on continuing to put episodes out. As I indicated, I wanted to get to 100 episodes, and then really try, and explore some of these-.

Brett Johnson: Quite frankly, that’s a really good goal. I think that’s very smart. If nothing else, because then, you’ll have at least 50 weeks in; looking at twice a week, even more than that. I think a lot of people jump in it the wrong way, and you’re looking at it the right way. Get some in. Then, that way, when your guest looks at what you’re doing, “Oh, he’s 100 in. Yeah, he knows what he’s doing. He’s not trying to build off of my …”.

Frank Agin: Exactly.

Brett Johnson: “… my network to build him up. He’s actually adding some value to my world, as well.” That’s a good idea.

Frank Agin: Right. Early on, when I was researching all of this, I had a conversation with a gentleman, who was looking to put together a company producing podcasts. He didn’t have a podcast himself, but he knew one of the people that I was thinking of approaching. He said, “Yeah, I approached him. He told me no unless I had a million downloads.” I know the person well enough to know that that’s probably not what they were saying. They probably said that, but what they meant is, “I’m not gonna be your first episode. I’ll be somewhere down the line.”

Brett Johnson: Right.

Frank Agin: I think that’s fair. I think that’s-.

Brett Johnson: Oh, for sure, it is, exactly. I think it becomes you’re then working with a seasoned podcast. They’re gonna ask better questions. They’re not going to be listening to other podcasts, and go, “Oh, that’s a good question. I need to ask him that.” What they’re looking for is what makes you different, that you’re gonna ask a better question than anybody else has that adds value to me, adds value to you, holistically.

Brett Johnson: There are a lot of new podcasters that are looking at it that way, say, “I can nail a couple two or three great interviews, and I’ll be right there, up at the top.” That isn’t how it works. Maybe 5, 6, 10 years ago, maybe, because of the lack of number of podcasts, but now, that’s a very difficult road to drive.

Frank Agin: Right. I just tend to put – back to your question – I just tend to put blinders on. I’m gonna put out good material. There are people out there who … Not everybody is gonna listen to every episode, but every episode, somebody’s gonna listen to, and somebody’s gonna get something out of. From that standpoint, alone, it’s my duty to try and get the information out. There might be one podcast I put out that only one person listens to, and that changes their world. It’s a success, so I’m-

Brett Johnson: Sure, yeah. That’s probably the most realistic way of doing this is affecting one person at a time, because those one persons add up very quickly, over time, as networking does, too. Back to your core of what networking does.

Frank Agin: Right. Absolutely, yeah.

Brett Johnson: Advice for business owners considering podcasting as a marketing tool: what would be the first steps that you learned from, that you should have done, or that, “Hey, I’m glad I did this”?

Frank Agin: I think the first step that anybody needs to do is take a hard look at what kinda content do I have? Just hearing yourself talk is not a good reason to have a podcast. What kind of value can you add? I call it Trojan Horse marketing, where what a podcast allows you to do is just …

Frank Agin: I guess what a Trojan Horse is, essentially… Back in the day, the Greeks couldn’t break into the city of Troy, so they gave the city of Troy a wooden horse, and hidden inside the wooden horse were these elite warriors. In the middle of night, they got out, and took down the city, and opened the gate, and that’s how the Greeks got in.

Frank Agin: That’s how I look at podcasting. Podcasting is that way that you can get out there, and get through the gates of the people you’re trying to talk to. They know you’re out there; they know you’re real; they know you provide value. That’s gonna open doors for you. Whereas calling, literally, their gatekeeper, and saying, “Hey, I’d like to talk to the CEO, or I’d like to talk to this person,” that’s just not effective anymore.

Frank Agin: Thinking about what’s my game plan? … You have to have a purpose. It’s like anything. If you don’t have that purpose, you’re not gonna follow through with it. It’s not gonna change your world overnight. It likely won’t. I can’t say that for sure, but if you go in thinking, “If I put out 10 episodes, I’ll pick up a client,” you’re doing for the wrong reason.

Brett Johnson: Well, thanks for being a guest on Note to Future Me. I really appreciate it. This has been this insightful, on your take on why to do podcasting for a networking company, which is great; which is pretty much what podcasting can be.

Frank Agin: Absolutely.

Brett Johnson: You’re right in the zone for what a podcast can actually do for a business, and you’re in networking. It’s a perfect match.

Frank Agin: Well, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

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cbuzz

cbuzz edit for sonix.mp3 (transcribed by Sonix)

Brett Johnson: As I always do, starting off a Note to Future Me podcast, I ask my guest what nonprofit you support with your time, talent, or treasure. Courtney, tell me about your nonprofit. So

Courtney West: I have been lucky enough to become involved with United Way of Central Ohio, since I moved to Columbus. I've been in Columbus for about two-and-a-half years now. I've just really started to become familiar, especially working with the Chamber of Commerce, with a lot of the organizations around town. I became a LINC member, which was really exciting, through the United Way. They're just doing so much amazing work here in Columbus. That's kind of locally where I've been centering a lot of my time.

Courtney West: I actually just started going through the process of starting to work with the Columbus Humane Society. Huge dog lover; don't have one of my own, but when I lived in Indianapolis, I volunteered at the Indianapolis Humane Society. That was very difficult, because every day, there was a new dog that I thought for certain I needed to take home with me. I was in college at the time, so that really wasn't a possibility. I have a feeling the dorm, the RAs in the dorm, would not have taken too kindly to me starting my own little pet shop through there.

Brett Johnson: Probably not.

Courtney West: I'm looking forward to just continuing that involvement. Then, outside of the Columbus community, I'm involved in the Play for Jake Foundation, which works to raise awareness, and raise funds for undetected heart conditions in our youth. That's a cause that's near and dear to my heart, so, I spend a lot of my time donating some of my specialty in media – social media, website development, that kind of stuff – with that organization. I'm really starting to dive into the local philanthropy, which has been a lot of fun. If anybody has a suggestion on another way to get involved, always, always open, open ears.

Brett Johnson: There you go. Why a podcast for the Columbus Chamber? Big question. Let's go right into it.

Courtney West: Great question, and we get that question a lot. It's funny, the amount of Chamber of Commerces around the country … In fact, just last year, we had the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce reach out to us.

Brett Johnson: You had to go visit them, right?

Courtney West: Oh, I tried. They emailed, and they said, "We would love to just learn more about how you've started this up." I thought that's a great conversation; oddly enough, I feel like we need to do this face to face, and I'm more than willing to come visit.

Brett Johnson: We cannot Zoom this. There's no way. I don't wanna see the ocean behind you while we're talking.

Courtney West: Exactly. I need to be there … Toes in the sand. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, but I haven't completely crossed it out. We'll see.

Brett Johnson: Right, right …

Courtney West: Back to that, all over the country, we've had Chamber of Commerces, and just various organizations, even businesses reach out, and say, "This is really interesting what you're doing, and not something we would have expected for a Chamber of Commerce. How did this happen?" It's a question that I answer quite frequently.

Courtney West: I'll give you a little bit of background on how I got started with the Chamber, because that'll provide some insight. I, back in 2016, moved to Columbus for an opportunity with the Chamber, in their marketing department. It was pretty unique, because they were having some … A jump in their previous director was leaving, and a new director was gonna be coming on a few months later. They needed somebody to run the department on their own, during that time. Luckily enough for me, I was a good fit for the job, they thought. I came on to the Chamber, and there was a lot that I was learning pretty quickly, and on my own.

Courtney West: One of those things was cbuzz. My predecessors in the marketing department Dilara Casey, and Liz Dickey, both still very active in the local community, they were the ones that really dreamt this idea of cbuzz, and got it off the ground at the Chamber, and really started around with it.

Courtney West: They were able to, for over a year … I think it was about a year and a half, almost two years, they were putting out episodes consistently, and working with various members of the business community. They were the ones … Credit goes there, to them coming up with the idea, and really taking it off the ground, and running with it.

Courtney West: When I came on to the Chamber, I was very interested in continuing the podcast, because I saw a lot of opportunity for it to be taken to the next level, and even the next-next level … I knew that it was a market that we could be in, in the Columbus community, and really thrive. I knew that a lot of other people, a lot of other Chambers weren't really involved in that space, so, it was an opportunity for us to set ourselves apart.

Courtney West: We started a process of doing some research. About three months after I joined the Chamber, we had a new director come and join, and we started a year-long process of really diving in to what that looked like for us, and if it made sense.

Courtney West: What we came down to was that we have so many amazing stories in this community, in Columbus, to tell, and to share. We are a booming Midwest metropolis that just … There's so much opportunity here, and it doesn't often get translated, let alone, within our community, our Greater Columbus community, but outside of Ohio … There are so many stories here that are worthy of people hearing, on the East Coast, on the West Coast, all over.

Courtney West: We just saw the opportunity, and knew that we could take the time, and if we did it right, and did it well, and did our research, that we could really make something that would be beneficial to the Columbus business community, and the greater … Just the economics of the business world. That's kind of what was our driving factor was that this could help set us apart, so that was our guiding force.

Brett Johnson: An interview format is where it's continuing on.

Courtney West: Yes.

Brett Johnson: Was there a focus on the interview aspect of it? "We're gonna interview members. We're gonna interview authorities in the field." What type of mixture are you looking at, from an interview format?

Courtney West: That's one of the biggest things that we changed, when we kind of went through the reboot process of cbuzz. In the past, we were featuring individuals, who weren't necessarily members of the Chamber. With the business model that we have at the Chamber, the people who want to be a part of what we're doing, we really wanna make sure that we're lifting them up, and highlighting their stories.

Courtney West: As of this month, we have almost 2,000 members, which is really exciting for us. That's a large chunk of our business community that we're able to work with, each and every day. Every single one of those members has such an interesting, unique, exciting, fresh story, but might not have a way to share that story.

Courtney West: That was one of the biggest things that changed for us was that, moving forward, once we rebooted the podcast, we wanted to feature only our members, because we were confident that that pool of our membership was so strong that we could call just about anyone, and there was gonna be somebody within their organization who had a story that we wanted to tell, and that they could have to benefit the listener. That was, I would say, our biggest change moving forward.

Courtney West: The interview format, it was previously done in an interview format, and we wanted to continue that. We really just like the feel of having a host that carries the conversation along, and somebody who's kinda consistent. We played around with the idea of inviting a new host, maybe every quarter, switching things up.

Courtney West: Our host, Mikaela Hunt, I mean, she's … Mikaela's amazing. It takes five minutes of listening to any given episode, since the reboot, and it's just- it's a piece of cake. She makes it easy, which is fantastic.

Courtney West: Once we started working with Mikaela, it was very evident that she was the perfect … Had the perfect tone. She's an entrepreneur, herself, and has experience in the journalism world. She really brings every aspect to the table that we were looking for.

Courtney West: It just made sense to continue that interview format, and then, to really just focus on our membership. Within breaking down who we feature, more often than not, it's usually a leader in the company, but we've had lawyers come on, who provide their expertise … It's not really geared towards just the president, or CEO, or a founding partner, or even like Chief Marketing Officer … Anybody that has a good story, and that is able to carry on a conversation pretty well, because we know that that … That sometimes is a struggle, too, is finding somebody who's willing to talk on the mic-

Brett Johnson: Oh, for sure.

Courtney West: Which is always an interesting hurdle to go through with some people. Yeah, so that's kind of how we came to the set-up that we have today.

Brett Johnson: Your reboot focus on the intended listener – who is that?

Courtney West: It's interesting, a lot of people would assume that it would just be anyone in the business community. While that is true, we really tried to approach our topics, and our guests – in the way that we're formatting our content – with the aspiring entrepreneur in mind.

Courtney West: Columbus is known for its entrepreneurial community. We have such a strong focus on that here, so I think that's really what sets apart our business community, as well. For the Chamber, we wanna see the business community thrive, and that means supporting aspiring businesses, and the businesses of tomorrow.

Courtney West: We wanted the topics that we're featuring to be able to have somebody that's maybe sitting at their job right now, or sitting in their college classroom, and they have an idea, or a dream, or something that they think would just thrive, and really take our community, and open market … Really take the community to the next level … We want them to be able to listen to these episodes, take something tangible away, and learn from somebody else, and apply the directly in their business model.

Courtney West: Maybe that means that they don't start their business for another five years down the road, but our hope is that, when they do establish that business, they will think of cbuzz, and, in return, the Columbus Chamber, and how we were maybe able to just pay a little bit of a piece in their journey to creating that business.

Courtney West: That's kind of our niche where we try to focus, but it's really fun. We have people of all different levels in their career that listen. My mom lives in Indiana, and she listens; it cracks me up. She's a teacher, and she's like, "Oh, I just- I learned so many new things on this month's episode …" It's a lot of fun. It's definitely applicable to everyone, but I'd say our niche would be those entrepreneurs.

Brett Johnson: Good, good. How many people do you have involved with this process? From what you said earlier, there were at least two. They brought you in for one-

Courtney West: Yes.

Brett Johnson: -but now, what does it look like?

Courtney West: On the Chamber side of things, there's … I'm kind of the main lead on the podcast, which is exciting for me because I love being a part of it. Our marketing department is two people strong at the Chamber. We're strong but mighty. On the Chamber side of things, we're the ones that kind of manage all of the planning, the interview-question writing, all of … All the fun stuff behind the scenes.

Courtney West: Then, we actually work in a partnership with Capital University, which is another really unique aspect that changed with the reboot. At any given time, that number fluctuates with how many people we're working with at Capital. We have, currently, a class of students who we work with, and a faculty advisor of some sort. He's their teacher in the course, but he's also my main contact. He is fantastic. Chad, shout out to you; you're awesome to work with.

Courtney West: Once you add in the number of students I work with at Capital, it's anywhere between 10 to 12. Then, you take Mikaela into account. It's under 15 people, but the majority of the people who are working on the podcast is those Capital students.

Brett Johnson: Gotcha. How did that collaboration start with Capital, working with students? This is very different-

Courtney West: Yes!

Brett Johnson: -of anyone that I have interviewed so far, and know that are putting podcasts together; that they're using university students to get it done.

Courtney West: Yeah … That's a great way to put it – they are getting it done. That is kind of a unique story. When we started going through the process of re-evaluating what we were doing, we were going through a lot of change at the Chamber, and really taking a look at what we were doing, who we were doing it for … We wanted to make sure that the podcast was … Hi, Mikaela!

Brett Johnson: Come on in!

Courtney West: Come on in.

Brett Johnson: I've got mic on. This is exactly what we were …

Mikaela Hunt: Perfect.

Brett Johnson: We said, "You know, Mikaela's gonna come in, in the middle the podcast. We're just gonna leave the mic on, so she can sit down, and begin the questions right then, and there."

Courtney West: Right, which is where you thrive, Mikaela. I feel like you can just jump in, and-.

Mikaela Hunt: Make it happen.

Courtney West: Yeah.

Mikaela Hunt: There you go. Let me take off my hat.

Courtney West: We were just talking, Mikaela, about … I was getting ready to tell the story about how Capital became involved. Welcome.

Mikaela Hunt: Great. Good to be here.

Brett Johnson: Let's go into that.

Courtney West: Yeah. Talking a little bit more about the partnership with Capital, when we started to go through the reboot process, we wanted to find a partnership that would be mutually beneficial with somebody, so that they were potentially going to be taking just as much away with it as we were.

Courtney West: Myself being a, at that time, recent graduate … I guess I'm still kind of a recent graduate of college, but, at that time, I was about six, seven, eight months out of college. I went to Butler University in Indianapolis. Go Dogs.

Courtney West: At that time, I had taken classes, just a year prior, that involved video editing, audio editing. I was on a sports TV show, on the back end of it, at my university, so I knew that universities were doing things, like making podcasts, and that they had studio space that was state-of-the-art.

Courtney West: I also knew that students are always eager to be able to get that real-world experience that they can add to their resumé, because a year before, I was that student that was looking for that experience to add to my resumé.

Courtney West: Luckily enough, living here in Columbus, we have so many amazing universities that are truly state-of-the-art, and the students are so advanced beyond their years, even when they're in school, that I saw an opportunity for us to take advantage of a partnership.

Courtney West: I started kind of doing some research on some of the courses that some of the local colleges were offering. When I started researching a little bit about Capital, and their audio facility, I noticed that they had a brand-new studio space that they had just opened up-

Brett Johnson: Wow, great timing, yeah.

Courtney West: -that year. Oh yeah, and it was almost as if the stars aligned. They had a brand-new studio space. I needed a studio to record in, and I knew that they had students who would probably be eager to be involved. That was a fun moment of realization.

Courtney West: Then came the part of trying to figure out if they would be interested in being a part of our rebooted podcast. I scheduled a meeting with Chad, who I shouted out earlier for all of his awesomeness. Had a meeting with Chad, just over coffee, and started to feel it out. I told him about our idea, what we wanted to do, and how we wanted to utilize our partnership with the university to maybe execute the podcast, itself.

Courtney West: He was so excited from the start, and he said, "You know, I think this is something that Capital is really gonna be interested in. Let me take this back to our Dean. We'll have a conversation, and I'll let you know." I thought, "Okay, now I just have to wait …" Go home, back to the office, and try not to think about it.

Courtney West: They ended up coming back, and saying, "We think this would be an excellent opportunity. We have a brand-new state-of-the-art studio space, and we would love to have the Chamber come in, and record their podcast. It's great experience for our students; it's great experience for us. It's great visibility for both organizations."

Courtney West: Like you said, the timing really couldn't have been better. We really lucked out there, so, we just decided to start that partnership. We've been working with those students now for over a year. I guess it's about a year and a half now. It's been a fantastic partnership, and was really just great timing, like I said, and us realizing an opportunity to take advantage of, where we could both kinda scratch each other's back a little bit, which, you know, it's always nice.

Mikaela Hunt: I think we're at a moment, too, where universities sometimes struggle with doing some of the latest, and greatest things, from a teaching perspective. I went to a fantastic journalism school, one of the best – University of Missouri – but, at the same time, we weren't prepared, I don't think, for where media was headed. Even though it was the best of the best, we weren't prepared. The fact that Capital has a program like this, and that we can bring real-world application to them, and they can help us? It's a win-win.

Courtney West: These students are having the opportunity to meet some really amazing, influential people in the Columbus business community. It's actually funny, tonight, I'm meeting with their class, their new class for the semester, just to introduce myself, and give a little bit of background about the podcast …

Courtney West: Whenever I do these meetings with the classes, I always stress to them, this really is … It's potentially a little bit of- not a job interview, but you're making … You have the opportunity to make a great impression on somebody, who knows just about anybody in this community. They do a fantastic job. They're always so professional, and they blow me away with how much they know, but, in that aspect, too, they're getting to meet some really great people.

Brett Johnson: Good. Mikaela, you jumped in the middle, which is great. That's why I left the mic open, so you could walk right in, but I do want to establish a little bit of your background, so our audience gets to hear who you are, where you've come from, and actually how you transitioned into being the host of cbuzz.

Mikaela Hunt: Yeah, it's great to be here with you guys, because I believe so strongly in this project, and what the Columbus Chamber of Commerce is doing with it. I spent about 17 years in TV news, starting at the University of Missouri in journalism school, working for a commercial affiliate, when I was probably about 19 years old; working a 12-hour shift as a reporter, anchoring some cut-ins, running camera as needed on my shoots, as well. We called that one-man-banding, back in the day.

Brett Johnson: I guess! Wow!

Mikaela Hunt: Now, they call it digital journalists, or DJs. You hear about that a lot more, even in places like Columbus. In those 17 years, just to kind of lay where we were, when I got out, and started working, my first real job in TV was as a producer in Market 82.

Mikaela Hunt: We didn't have … We were barely utilizing our websites. I think I created SiteWatch for my TV station. I was the 10 o'clock producer. "If you need to know information, go to WANDTV.com, click on SiteWatch, and that'll take you to their website." We didn't have that.

Mikaela Hunt: I came out of school at a time where a ton was changing. Facebook was like a little blip on the college radar, within two or three years after that. We truly did not know where media was going. We didn't know. We didn't have our arms around what was being created-

Brett Johnson: No one did, really, if you think about it. It's hard to teach, when you don't know the next yea … Wait a minute, where'd this Facebook thing come from, all of a sudden?

Mikaela Hunt: Right. When I was graduating college, to put you there, we didn't have cell phones. Some seniors did, my senior year, but it really was the year after, when I traveled as a fraternal consultant; took one year off to do that. I had a cell phone.

Mikaela Hunt: I worked for 17 years, everywhere from Market 130 to Market 32, here in Columbus, ending up anchoring a morning newscast for the last, I wanna say, six, or seven years that I was in TV. That was really interesting to see that, as people went to 4:30 a.m. programs. That was when that transition kind of was being made.

Mikaela Hunt: There were changes in TV, and there are still changes in TV. The level of experience sometimes that you get, even in a market like Columbus, isn't what it used to be. I'm not saying they don't value it. I'm just saying their business model has changed.

Mikaela Hunt: Got out in 2015, and knew I wanted to tell stories. I knew community was hugely important to me, still. How are you gonna do that? Well, there was this concept called brand journalism that I just embraced. Through video, and social media, started to do some work in that sphere.

Mikaela Hunt: Then had opportunity come along to produce a podcast, with Sunny 95, here in Columbus. For about a year, we did it, specifically for moms, and families. Then, around the time that was kind of sunsetting, Courtney came to me to say, "Hey, I know you don't know me, but I've kinda been following you, and I think you would be great to host this show, given your background of interviewing people, and really engaging in story."

Mikaela Hunt: That's been my belief about being a journalist all along. It's you are diving into an area of expertise, or thought that that person is there for you with. You are getting into their head; you're asking questions from that viewpoint, and that perspective.

Mikaela Hunt: Courtney came along, and I said, "Yeah, I think it's great." I'd been involved with the startup community some, here in town, at this time, as well, and I find those stories fascinating. I said, "Yeah, if this is an opportunity to tell stories about what's going on in different industries, let's do it.".

Mikaela Hunt: Then, in that time, this radio show … I also do a radio show for WTVN, right now, every Sunday. That's been great, too. It has nothing to do with business. Total opposite end of the spectrum, more about families. It helps me stay in media, and podcasting, now, is a more traditional media. It's becoming more, and more.

Courtney West: Yeah. We just were talking about that earlier.

Brett Johnson: Yeah, it is. Exactly. It's changed very quickly, too, considering how old podcasting is; now, in the last, maybe, five-six years, it's becoming mainstream. I don't think there's a marker in time, necessarily, but it is. You now hear people say, "I need to do this. How do I do it?"

Mikaela Hunt: Because people wanna consume niche content.

Brett Johnson: Right.

Mikaela Hunt: That is what podcasting allows. A good friend of mine here in town produces a podcast about minimalism, and moms. It's very specific, but there is an audience out there looking to absorb that information.

Courtney West: Well, and the way our society operates, we're always kind of looking to be doing something, or accomplishing something, whether that's necessarily always a good thing, or a bad thing. When you're driving in your car, you can listen to a podcast, and learn something completely new, and have a good time while you're doing it. I think it's really changing the way we utilize our time, as well.

Mikaela Hunt: Yeah.

Brett Johnson: Correct. I initially contacted Mikaela at about this, to interview cbuzz. She said, "Oh, I'm just the host. You gotta get a hold of Courtney."

Mikaela Hunt: She's the brains behind the project.

Brett Johnson: This next question, looking at the interview scheduling, and the strategy, and the process … Typically, those that host their own podcast do the scheduling, bringing … If they're doing an interview process. How did you two work together, in regards to scheduling who's going to be there to have Mikaela interview, and make it all work with the school, as well?

Courtney West: Of course. Internally, at the Chamber, we always have a running list of potential candidates, whether it's people that we know are doing really exciting things, or have a great story, or people who reach out to us, and say, "Hey, I have this great story, and I think I would be really interesting to listen to on cbuzz."

Mikaela Hunt: People reach out to me, too, and then, I have to forward them to Courtney.

Courtney West: Yes, I think more people reach out to Mikaela, because Mikaela knows everyone, which is super-helpful-

Brett Johnson: That would be a piece of it, right there, right.

Courtney West: Yeah. I feel so bad, sometimes, because they'll just reach out to her, and [cross talk].

Mikaela Hunt: I'll say, "No, Courtney's taking care of it …"

Courtney West: Exactly.

Mikaela Hunt: "She's the scheduler; she's the one who's talking content.".

Courtney West: Yep. We have a long-running list at any given time. A lot of it is what's relevant at that current time. Then, too, like I was saying earlier, there are some people who have really great stories, but they have no interest in being featured on a podcast. They don't really like to talk, or feel comfortable talking in a microphone, which makes sense.

Courtney West: Then, sometimes, the process is a little bit more of, "Okay, well, who in your organization also can share that same story? Who maybe is comfortable on the microphone?" There's some research, some background that goes into it, in making sure that it's a good fit for both of us, on both ends. We want them to be comfortable.

Courtney West: From there, we kind of go through our booking process. We have to make sure studio space is open at Capital. We try, whenever we record, to knock out anywhere between two to four podcasts in one evening. We're changing that a little bit. We're doing two this coming semester …

Courtney West: Mikaela has to be on for about four hours straight. She is one person who I can say I have seen be able to hold a conversation for four hours straight, and not skip a beat. That just plays into how well of a fit it is for Mikaela, and with our organization; she's a natural on the mic, so it works out very well.

Courtney West: Back into that scheduling process, once we have our people finalized, our date finalized, I'll brainstorm some questions here and there, and then, Mikaela, with her journalism background, if I even provide a few bullet points, she can take it and run with it … I think we work really well together, in that sense of just kind of collaborating on the background questions, or what things we might wanna touch on.

Mikaela Hunt: I'm kinda like the closer-

Brett Johnson: Yeah, there you go.

Mikaela Hunt: They do this [cross talk] this prep, and they prioritize what's needed from that timely, and relevant place. Courtney provide some questions, some bullet points, and then, I get to dig into the meat of it. Depending on how I'm feeling … Obviously, everybody kind of gives off a vibe, when they're going through an interview. I play upon that. Some people are more comfortable, to your point, than others. I feel like it is my job to make them as comfortable as they possibly can be.

Mikaela Hunt: I've always been that way about the work that I do in journalism. I want people to feel able to tell their story, and not to be overwhelmed by the fact that there's a mic, or a light in their face. That's what I do. That's how I close it.

Courtney West: I think, too, Mikaela, I don't know if this is something you consciously do … I'm sure it is, but I've noticed that we'll have somebody come in, and Mikaela will just jump-start a conversation with them, ask, "Hey, what's going on? How's life been? How's business?"

Courtney West: Just because I draft questions, and I think those things are the most interesting, there's so many things that we don't find out about these people until they're sitting in the studio. It's always a fun process to have somebody come in, and Mikaela will engage them in conversation, before we even start recording; we'll just be setting up the mics.

Courtney West: Then sometimes, the interview kind of takes a completely different angle, just based on the information that they provide. Like John Rush; he had just come from a meeting with-.

Mikaela Hunt: He'd been with a parole officer-

Courtney West: Parole officer, right?

Mikaela Hunt: Yeah.

That had completely changed the way we approached the interview-

Mikaela Hunt: And his day … I mean his attitude … It was a tough conversation that he had just had with his parole officer. John's a pretty upbeat guy, given what he does, and how he helps people; but we did … that did change a bit of that interview.

Courtney West: … That's another big part of it is just we are professional, but we also allow some flexibility to let Mikaela run with it.

Mikaela Hunt: To that point, I will say it's not overly scripted. I think when you have something like this … This is a part of what the Chamber has, in terms of offerings, but at the same time, you have to make it be authentic. You can't just go down a list of questions. If you really want an organic conversation, you need to be free to have the conversation.

Brett Johnson: Right. You did have a transition of hosts, as we referenced just a little bit ago, and there was a bit of a downtime that you weren't publishing.

Courtney West: Yes.

Brett Johnson: What was the strategy of bringing it back, and going, "Okay, we're back"?

Courtney West: Yes-

Brett Johnson: Of course, unveiling Mikaela Hunt as the host is a huge, "We're back!"

Courtney West: Yes.

Brett Johnson: What were the discussions like in regards to, "Okay, we've taken …" I guess it was maybe nine months, a year off, something like that?

Courtney West: Yeah. It was about eight or nine months that we had taken off, and we weren't even recording. I think the last episode … When I came on to the Chamber, there was a few of the previous- the cbuzz that was previously being published in the bucket, so to speak.

Brett Johnson: Sure.

Courtney West: We were putting those out through December of 2016. Then, January of 2017 is when we really dug in to re-looking at everything, or just taking a second glance at what we were doing, like I've talked about a little bit, today.

Courtney West: I think we recorded our first ever of the new rebooted cbuzz, our first episodes, in October, or November of 2017, so there was about maybe 9-10 months where we weren't recording. We weren't doing anything, but doing some scheduling, and just taking a look at things. We debuted the new rebooted cbuzz in January of 2018, so there was a full year where people weren't having any new content.

Courtney West: Now, the interesting thing, and I think something that gave us a glimmer of hope that we were making the right decision to continue this podcast, was that we still were watching the numbers go up. People were still tuning in, after we hadn't put out new content for about five or six months.

Courtney West: They were still downloading old episodes, and still finding the podcast. That just told us there is a niche here; there is opportunity here; it's a space we do need to be in. People want to hear from these business, and community members. This makes sense. That was reassuring, as we were going through that planning process.

Courtney West: When it came time to finally put out that first episode, there was a lot of uncertainty in regards to will people understand that this is kind of something new; that we're building off of something old? Like I mentioned, there was a great foundation for us to work off of, thanks to our predecessors in the department.

Courtney West: For us, it was a lot of focusing on marketing it as something new. "Tune into the reboot of the Columbus Chamber's business-focused podcast, in partnership with Capital University," because that … The Capital aspect has a really unique play, and a really unique opportunity to market, and advertise what we're doing. It automatically makes people a little bit more interested, sometimes, when they hear that we're working with students to produce the podcast.

Courtney West: For us, it was a lot of just organic … Also, word of mouth. Mikaela has a huge following, so we got lucky there that she was willing to also promote the podcast on her social media sites, and through people she was meeting with.

Courtney West: We saw people dive right back in, and we kind of knew right away that we had gone in the right direction, and had not struck gold, but we had essentially hit a niche that we were meant to be in. It's a little bit about what it looked like, just kind of going back in. We've just built it from there, over the past year.

Brett Johnson: This is a guess, but if you hadn't found a Mikaela to reboot, do you think cbuzz would be publishing?

Courtney West: That's a great question. I think it would be publishing. I'm not sure if it would be nearly as successful, just because Mikaela's voice … I talked a little bit earlier about there's just the tone that she brings to the podcast. It's very conversational, as Mikaela mentioned, so it makes people feel like they're really getting to know these people.

Courtney West: We had Dr. Frederic Bertley on the podcast. He was our second episode in the reboot. He's president and CEO of COSI. Fascinating man, so, so fascinating. One of the most intelligent people I've ever met. That's not somebody that you normally probably get to sit down and talk to. It's fascinating what he's accomplished. and I won't give too much away, because everyone should go listen to that episode.

Brett Johnson: There you go. A little teaser, exactly.

Courtney West: Yeah, there we go, but Mikaela … The way that Mikaela was able to talk to Dr. Bertley, and some of the stuff that he was talking about is so niche, and she was able to make it applicable to everyone-

Mikaela Hunt: While still having fun.

Courtney West: Yeah!

Mikaela Hunt: Because he's a blast.

Courtney West: Yes.

Mikaela Hunt: He truly is. Here's all of this intelligence, right? And then, he's just a good time-

Courtney West: Oh, yeah.

Mikaela Hunt: -and has a good backstory.

Courtney West: Oh, yeah, and-

Brett Johnson: Interesting.

Courtney West: He has doctorates in immunology, or something like … He's just- he's so smart, and so-.

Mikaela Hunt: But he also wears these orange Converse all around, like the orange Chucks that have become a thing.

Courtney West: So cool. Just the coolest guy. I don't think we would have been able to find another host that could so easily translate the personality of the guests that we were having, and have that come across the mic so well, because that's hard to do. It's hard to have somebody on the mic, and if you don't have somebody that can naturally lead the conversation, sometimes it comes off a little bit awkward.

Brett Johnson: Right.

Mikaela Hunt: Well, I so appreciate you saying that, obviously, Courtney. That means a lot to me. I think something also that was important for me, in this role, that maybe your traditional media person – and I was that traditional media person for a long time – wouldn't bring is that I'd been a small-business owner for two years.

Mikaela Hunt: Working in that space of kind of a newer concept, in terms of brand journalism, and creation for companies – from that content creation, from that perspective, and from the subcontracting end of things … I am a solopreneur, micropreneur, but, to have myself in that head space really helps me out, when I'm interviewing business owners. You get that.

Brett Johnson: Makes sense. The host being an entity that's outside of the business is intriguing, because I think a lot of businesses who want to get into podcasting may not have the personnel inside to really be the host. I think this offers an opportunity to really think outside of the box, going, "Okay, you don't have to have somebody from inside your organization, or your business to host the podcast," but you do need to find the right person outside to take care of that for you.

Brett Johnson: I really think it's a really good example of don't let that become a hurdle, and you've accomplished that, in spades.

Courtney West: Well, thank you.

Brett Johnson: It's finding the right person … I think you've given a really good example of how to do it, whether it is going to a traditional media person, or somebody that may be in the community that has some social media collateral that would do it.

Brett Johnson: There are a lot of other pieces to that, though, too, that they do have to be a good interviewer, because most interview podcasts are for networking purposes by the business owner, or the business, itself. They want to network; they want to bring in potential clients, or their clients that they're already working with, like you're doing, and offering them branding opportunities, and collateral. They can take that podcast, and put it on their website, and such.

Brett Johnson: You're an outsider.

Mikaela Hunt: I am, yeah-.

Brett Johnson: Totally outsider. You have no skin in the game, other than you believe in the Chamber, of course; otherwise, you wouldn't be doing this-

Mikaela Hunt: Correct.

Brett Johnson: -but you're having a great time, too. I guess I'm leading to a question of how do you find a person like that? I mean, you got lucky.

Courtney West: Yeah.

Brett Johnson: You really did. You asked, and she was available, and that's why I wanted to go back to would it have happened without her?

Courtney West: I'd like to think it's because maybe I'm a little bit of a good salesperson, Mikaela … I sold you [cross talk]

Mikaela Hunt: You are. You sold me pretty well.

Brett Johnson: Sure. Sure. Well, and I think that adds to … By going into the next area I wanna talk about is the marketing that you do behind it, and there's a strategy behind it. What social media do you use? How do you go about promoting future episodes, as well as past episodes, and continue that into the … Every episode you produce is evergreen. It has long tail, until that person may be gone from that organization … How do you approach that?

Courtney West: I'll be frank. We haven't fully capitalized on the marketing capabilities with the podcasts at the Chamber. We've had a year at the Chamber that's been full of a lot of growth, which comes- a lot of work. At the Chamber, like I said, we're a two-person team. There was a little bit of this year, where I was a one-person team, so there was a lot of different areas that needed attention.

Courtney West: … We have a new director, at the Chamber, of marketing, who really believes in the podcast, and he really believes in the work that we're doing, which is fantastic. I think that we're finally going to see 2019, where we capitalize on some new opportunities with marketing, because, in the past, it's mainly been all organic.

Courtney West: Funnily enough, we do not have a budget for cbuzz, as it stands. We're looking to change that this year, and trying to monetize it enough to where we can put some money on the back end, in regards to paid social; reaching new audiences that we, through our own channels, ourselves, we might not have the ability to reach.

Courtney West: I think there's gonna be a lot of growth for us in that area this year. There's always, when it comes to podcasting, opportunities to take it to the next level, and I think that's our biggest marker, because we have a great host; we're bringing on really exciting guests; we have an audience. How can we continue to grow that audience?

Courtney West: The past year has been a lot of organic social media, working with the guests that we're featuring to bring them on board, working with Capital to have them also push the podcast, themselves, within the department, outside of the department, to prospective students. There's a lot of opportunities for cross promotion with both the guests, and the partners who we work with.

Courtney West: We're lucky, in that sense. That is another perk to having somebody, or working with people on the podcast, who are outside of your internal organization, because you just have that many more people on your team, and that many more networks to dig into. That's been our main focus is really trying to utilize that.

Courtney West: We have done some interesting- a few interesting things with marketing this past year. One good example is we had our Retail Summit this past August, and we had a really exciting panel that we were featuring. It was the Women in Retail panel. We had Cindy Monroe of Thirty-One Gifts, Denise Doczy-DeLong, from Singleton Construction, and Lauren Culley, from Fox in the Snow – three major, very diverse, powerhouse retail speakers.

Courtney West: We decided this is gonna be such an interesting conversation; we know it's gonna be full of just some really gems of little tidbits, so we decided that we were gonna make that panel a live podcast recording. We were lucky enough, to where we'd actually brought Mikaela in as our emcee for that entire event, so, we already had our emcee there. Mikaela moderated that live podcast that we did. That was a whole other opportunity to, kinda within that room, and within the event, market it as, "Ooh, yeah, our cbuzz podcast …"

Courtney West: We've been trying to get a little bit creative with – even internally, within our different events that we're doing in our different programs that we're offering, or members that we're meeting with – we're trying to really let people know that this is a resource that we have, and it's free. That's another thing that's great about podcasts, and what they look like. It's free information.

Courtney West: That's kind of what the past year in marketing for us has looked like. The coming year for us, I think we'll see a lot more going behind paid advertising for social; maybe some ads that we're doing in various local newspapers, magazines; maybe some on-air stuff. More to come on that.

Mikaela Hunt: Ultimately, when it comes down to it, if you really think about cbuzz, you're getting the opportunity to talk with these playmakers here in Columbus that you … You hear them speak, I should say, and hear a conversation with them that you're not getting anywhere else.

Mikaela Hunt: No one else is having the president of OSU; no one else is having Dr. Drake on for a 45-minute, to hour-long conversation. A TV station's not gonna do that. A radio program is not gonna do that, here in central Ohio. Same with Dr. Bertley; same with all of these other big names in Columbus. The place you're going to get it, because they have the ability to bring them in, is honestly the Chamber.

Brett Johnson: Right, and your recording without looking at a clock.

Mikaela Hunt: Yes.

Brett Johnson: Hit record. Yes, you're kind of cognizant of we don't want this to really be two hours long, but you're still not watching a clock. Let it go-

Mikaela Hunt: -Courtney will tell you, though, for some reason, I am like on it, when it comes to timing for these things.

Courtney West: It's almost a little weird. Sometimes, it's creepy-.

Mikaela Hunt: How much editing do you do?

Courtney West: I was talking about this, when I first got here, today. I was joking, sometimes, I almost wanna tell you, Mikaela, please mess up just once, so the students have something to take out, because it's funny, because I do … I will listen to the audio, and-

Mikaela Hunt: We hit 30 or 40 minutes, and I'll be wrapping up, and I don't … I kind of know it, but, at the same time, I don't, and it's kind of-

Brett Johnson: I think when you're dealing with somebody that interviews all the time, you have an internal clock.

Courtney West: Yes.

Mikaela Hunt: I probably do-.

Brett Johnson: You know where it is, and you … It also speaks to where you go in your mind, I'm sure. "We're done. We've covered what we need to do. We're good.".

Mikaela Hunt: True. "We're good. We don't have anything else we really need to talk about."

Brett Johnson: I'm going to make it too long for the listener. That's not fair to their time. They've given us 30 to 40 minutes. I got everything covered. That's another sign that you're right where you need to be.

Courtney West: Luckily enough, another thing that really pays to having a host that has background in interviewing, and even in journalism, is that there're some people who will answer questions a lot quicker than others, so, sometimes that throws you off a little bit. You get through your content a little bit quicker. Luckily enough, Mikaela knows how to ask a follow-up question.

Courtney West: There's been times we've had a guest that will kind of run through the list that we provide, and I'm sitting in studio following along, thinking, "Oh, no, we're about to hit 15 minutes for this one." Then Mikaela jumps in, and she's able to build off of what they've already answered.

Courtney West: That's another thing. If you're looking to start a podcast, really, being able to invest in a host is key, because it's just gonna make it so much easier in the long run. It saves so much time for us.

Mikaela Hunt: If you can't get a traditional media person, what you must have in a host is someone who is naturally curious.

Brett Johnson: Bingo. I was just gonna say, as a great interview question, going, "Okay, so, if a host … If who you're interviewing answers the questions very quickly, what do you do next?" That's the interview question, and if they can't answer that, go to the next candidate.

Courtney West: Exactly.

Brett Johnson: I think a key to that is, and you've learned this, too, is you just have to listen, because, all the sudden, there are a little rabbit holes. "Whoa, that's good! Let's go down there. That's great!" That adds to the content, as well as that makes a great interview, because it's something unique that no one's ever asked me that before.

Courtney West: Right.

Mikaela Hunt: Then they get really excited to talk about it [cross talk] You've got 10 more minutes of content.

Brett Johnson: Yeah, it's a lot of fun. What do the students at Capital do for you specifically?

Courtney West: When we will come in for a recording session, they already have the studio set up for us, which is fantastic. Then, as we're going through to record, they'll be checking audio levels, making sure that the mics sound clear, and crisp.

Courtney West: It's a great opportunity to get hands-on experience with that, because we are able … We're not a live podcast, so, if something goes wrong, we're able to stop, and go back. I will say that, in the past year, over a year, that we've had the recordings at Capital, we've … I don't think we've ever had a time, where we've had audio problems, or difficulties there.

Courtney West: For the students, a lot of it is the technical side of things. It's making sure the mics, the levels are correct, people sound okay; making sure that the room is set up so that the sound isn't … I'm sure there's a term for this, Mikaela, but the sound isn't bouncing off the walls.

Mikaela Hunt: Hollow.

Courtney West: Yes. I'm learning a lot, but I still have a little bit of the ways to go. Then, they're also keeping track, too, of any parts where we know for sure we might need to go, and edit out. If somebody has a coughing attack, which [cross talk]

Mikaela Hunt: -yeah, we've had that.

Brett Johnson: Sure. Sure.

Courtney West: We'll just go ahead, and they'll mark that for us ahead of time. Then, they're able to … After we get done recording, they will send me the raw audio files, and then I will sit down, and listen through the conversation.

Courtney West: More often than not, the editing that we're doing is very minimal. It might just be cutting out some coughing, or some 'ums,' or maybe somebody wanted to rephrase a question, something of that nature. Occasionally, we'll wanna cut down a question or two, just to keep it more concise.

Courtney West: I will provide edits back to the students. Timestamps is what we call them, and the students will go ahead, and make those edits, and send me back the final version. They'll edit in an intro, an outro. We're starting to explore a little bit with sponsorships this year, so they'll be editing those in, as well. For them, it's a lot of the technical side of things, if that makes sense – behind the glass, so to speak.

Brett Johnson: Right. Then, you are using Blubrry as a hosting platform. Do they go ahead, and upload to Blubrry, or you take care of that?

Courtney West: I go ahead, and take care of that now, at this time. We just switched to kind of being a classroom model. It was previously students who were in the Audio Engineering Club at Capital. They were dedicating their time to come in, and gain experience. We've just started exploring with the model of having this be an actual class for the Capital students.

Courtney West: I think that as time progresses, and as we figure out what the curriculum for that course looks like, it might be an opportunity for them to be involved in the publishing side of things; but as it stands now, once I get that finished file, I'll go through the process of publishing it to Blubrry, and then posting it on our website. We have a cbuzz page, where we also have the podcast available for consumption.

Brett Johnson: Do you know what the decision process was of picking Blubrry?

Courtney West: That's a great question. I do not.

Brett Johnson: I'm not advocating one platform; rather, I think there are a lot of good ones out there. It's interesting to note how people choose what they do, because each one has its own nuance.

Courtney West: Well, and we're starting … Now that we're gonna have some money behind the podcast, we're starting to explore maybe some other platforms that might be able to give us a little bit more insight into just the metrics of the podcast.

Brett Johnson: Right, yeah. Keep asking them, though, because, number one, they're local. It's RawVoice-

Courtney West: Oh, are they really?

Brett Johnson: Yes, they are-

Courtney West: That's amazing.

Brett Johnson: -local. As a Chamber, probably need to … But they're so approachable. They really are, so-

Courtney West: Oh, great.

Brett Johnson: Really, as a platform, they may be the best to get you that information.

Courtney West: Really? That's awesome.

Brett Johnson: Honestly. Yes.

Courtney West: Good to know.

Brett Johnson: Make some phone calls [cross talk]

Mikaela Hunt: -to translate the metrics-.

Brett Johnson: Yes.

Mikaela Hunt: Because I think, a lotta times, it's about [cross talk] what does this …? What does a download mean versus [cross talk]

Brett Johnson: Right. Yeah, because they have- they have people here locally that actually you can meet. Okay, so, yeah …

Courtney West: That's huge, because that's part of it, too, is I didn't have any experience in podcasting, necessarily, other than being an avid listener before I came into to creating cbuzz. For me, it's still an ongoing learning process about what is the best way to host the podcast? What do these metrics mean? Is there better ways we can be looking at this? That's awesome.

Brett Johnson: Right. Yeah, it's an education, and understanding what a download is; what does it actually represent? I think Blubrry, as well, they're the first platform to be certified through IAB. Basically, their numbers are true, when it comes down to it. It's based on things that IAB has said, "You must do this for it to be …" [cross talk]

Mikaela Hunt: Transparency.

Brett Johnson: Yeah, transparency, basically, because a lot of platforms will say, "Okay, every five minutes, we're gonna grab," and your numbers are inflated. Blubrry's gone through a huge process of getting this done, and now, other platforms are being IAB-certified [cross talk].

Courtney West: That's amazing, so it sounds like I don't need to do my research, then-.

Brett Johnson: -they went through pains. They went through the pains, but no, you don't have to. Call them; talk to them. They will walk you through-.

Courtney West: Perfect.

Brett Johnson: -to understand what it means, not necessarily to get better, but they have some … They've been in it a long, long, long, long, long time-.

Courtney West: Amazing.

Brett Johnson: -and they work with large networks of-

Courtney West: I love that they're local-

Brett Johnson: -networks … Yeah, they are. Let's talk about future plans for the podcast. You mentioned a little bit earlier looking to [inaudible] some money to help promote; maybe some sponsorships. What other ideas are coming up for you?

Courtney West: That's a great question, because we're kind of just starting to dive into the next stage of cbuzz. What does it look like? I think, for us, now that we've had a year of some really reputable guests, it's easier for us to start to maybe book some people who are in high demand, so to speak.

Courtney West: There's definitely a dream guest list that we would love to be able to dive in to, but I wanted to be smart, when we were first asking guests; very cognizant that there's gonna be people who maybe don't wanna be involved right away, because they don't know exactly what that's gonna look like.

Courtney West: I think now that we have a year under our belts, and it's proved to be pretty successful, in a sense, that people are maybe now more comfortable to become involved. We're very fortunate for the people, who, in the beginning, we said, "Okay, we don't have anything to really show you yet. You're gonna be one of our first guests, but we'd love to have you." They were willing to take that gamble, and come on to speak with us …

Courtney West: I think this year, we're gonna see a lot of growth in the guests that we have online. I think, eventually, as we nail down … Just continue to focus on this partnership with Capital, it'd be great to produce the episodes a little bit more frequently. Just because I know-

Brett Johnson: Mikaela's giving them no work.

Courtney West: Exactly. I know. If she made it a little bit more difficult, then-

Brett Johnson: Maybe the frequency can go … Sure, if it's a one-and-done with her, we're good.

Courtney West: Exactly. As a podcast consumer myself, I know how difficult it is when you have a podcast that only goes out once a month. For the other part of the month, sometimes, it seems snobby at top of your mind, because it's not at the top of your podcast list, with the way a lot of the aggregators work.

Courtney West: I think for us, growth might be related to in terms of how many podcasts, how many episodes we're putting out, growing the sponsorship side of things. Being able to put some money behind the marketing of it, I think, is really gonna be huge, and just really focusing on … This has been so successful, so far, and because we're a small team at the Chamber, this could be a full-time job, I would argue, with just booking guests, and if we were to do it more frequently, there's somebody that could just focus on cbuzz, or at least part-time.

Courtney West: I think once we're able to continue to just be more comfortable in the process of it all, that it'll become a little bit more smooth. I think there's a lot of opportunities for us this year. I'm excited to see where it goes … The past year flew by, it felt like, the first year.

Mikaela Hunt: It does not feel like it's been that long, no. I think, too, Courtney, and I, we see each other every couple months, and correspond over email, but there's so many interesting things in tech that are changing that are helping podcasts.

Mikaela Hunt: There things like Headliner.app, which is real popular right now. That could be an opportunity for us to tease out a show. We haven't talked about that yet, but only because, literally, we're producing content ahead of time with these big names, but then, see each other only every couple months.

Mikaela Hunt: I think the sky is the limit to what the Chamber wants to do with it, and what's possible. It's just a matter, for you guys, I would think, what makes the most sense, in terms of timing, and what you can devote to it.

Brett Johnson: This is probably the same answer to both of these aspects of when you get a Chamber call, and say, "How do you do this?" as well as a business asking, "Okay, you're doing a podcast. How are you doing it?" What advice would you give to both, that they're looking at this as a marketing tool? Their first stages – what do you tell them?

Courtney West: I tell them they really need to sit down, and, one, do their research, and also start to plan out the content that you're gonna be putting out on that podcast, at least six months to a year in advance. Especially when I talk to businesses, in particular – make sure that you have enough things that you can talk about, or guests that you can bring on, where it makes sense for you, and your business model, because there's nothing worse than going through all of the work to build a podcast, put it together, and, after three months, you kind of realize that maybe you don't have enough ideas, or people, or content to really make it strong, if that makes sense.

Courtney West: Research is always the number-one thing I say. Don't just reach out to the Columbus Chamber, reach out to other podcasters who might not be directly involved in the business community, but they're gonna be able to provide a better background on the technical side of things.

Courtney West: … When we get the calls from the Chambers themselves, that's a little bit more unique, because they have the same model we do, so it's a little bit easier to explain to them what that process looks like. They kind of have an infinite amount of guests, just like we do, which is a nice perk there to starting a podcast.

Courtney West: Then, I just tell them, too, make sure you have somebody on staff that is passionate about doing this, because it is time, and it is effort, and you do have to be willing to learn about the podcasting world – what people wanna hear, how they want to hear it, how often. Having somebody that's passionate, and is going to own it, I think, is important. That's not to say that a team can't own it, but just there needs to be a group of people, or one person within that organization that is dedicated to making this thing work.

Courtney West: If there's one thing I've learned about podcasting, it's that you can't go halfway. You have to go all the way, and you have to be dedicated to providing quality content. We talked a little bit about this today, when I first came to the studio, but podcasting has changed so much … The audio; just how nice, and crisp everything tends to be nowadays, compared to when podcasting first started. and it was somebody in a basement, recording a podcast.

Courtney West: There's a high level of expectation from podcast consumers, and if you aren't able to deliver on that end of the spectrum, it's almost kind of difficult to justify the rest of the work you're putting into it. That's kind of always my lead off to people. Mikaela, you probably field some questions, too, about people who are interested in starting a podcast, based on your involvement with cbuzz. I don't know if you have people that reach out to you, that you would echo the same sentiments?

Mikaela Hunt: The thing that you said that really resonated with me, based on people who say, "Oh, I wanna start my own podcast …" is the content piece. You cannot decide the week before you're recording, who you're gonna have on, and what you're gonna talk to them about. That's not a way to operate.

Mikaela Hunt: Sadly, and I will say this about traditional media, too, sadly, too many times, we are not good enough about strategizing in this area. You've gotta have some strategy behind what you're doing. You can't just show up, and see what sticks, right?

Brett Johnson: Right.

Mikaela Hunt: You really do need to be thinking … That's the thing about the Chamber – they're really detailed about that; where I've seen a lot of people be not so detailed, and then, they don't find success, because there's all these little nuances to what it can be, and how you can market it, and how you can do this, that, or the other. If you're not organized, it's not gonna be successful.

Brett Johnson: Right. I agree. I think a lot of it is, too, when you reach out to somebody, "Can you be a part of my podcast?" You have to give them the reason why. It's not just, "Well, I think you're fascinating. I wanna hear your stories." There are some other pieces to this that … "I would love to deep-dive into this, and this, and this, as well, and maybe give you an opportunity to talk to you about that, as well.".

Courtney West: Exactly. No, that's a good point.

Brett Johnson: Well, thank you both for being a part of Note to Future Me. I appreciate it. Your situation is unique, for sure, as an interview podcast of having an outside person doing the interviews for the organization. I think there's a lot to learn here, and opportunity for anyone that's looking to podcast, that's looking at that hurdle of who will be the voice, the face, of the podcast. I greatly appreciate your insights.

Mikaela Hunt: Former journalists. I honestly believe, if you can find former journalists in a community that can help you out, as a side project, it's a great opportunity.

Brett Johnson: They're more than eager to do it, and, if they're like you, they wanna tell stories. They want stories brought out, as well, to join in the story-.

Mikaela Hunt: Correct.

Courtney West: It's natural. Yeah.

Brett Johnson: Well, thanks again. I appreciate it.

Courtney West: Thank you. We appreciate you having us on today.

Mikaela Hunt: Thank you.

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Business Inspires Podcast

Stephanie Evans and Michelle Wilson are my guest on this episode. After Michelle left the her executive director position at the TriVillage Chamber Partnership and hosting duties of their podcast, Business Inspires, Stephanie has stepped in as the new executive director and host of the podcast. We talk about that transition, and what the effects will be.

Business Inspires (transcribed by Sonix)

Brett Johnson: Well, before we get into the heavy of the podcast, talking about Business Inspires' podcast, I want to ask each of you, Michelle, and Stephanie, about nonprofits that you support, that you give time, talent, or treasure to. I'll start with Michele.

Michelle Wilson: Sure. I think that the one nearest and dearest to my heart, right now, is the new Nationwide Children's Hospital On Our Sleeves. It's a mental health awareness program. I just think that it's something that's so important, and needed. The conversation, while it seems like it's out there a lot, I think it's really just beginning. I think it's an amazing program, I definitely … I'm trying to become more involved with it. I've supported it financially, and I'm just figuring out ways that I can support it otherwise.

Brett Johnson: And Stephanie?

Stephanie Evans: I would say the one that I probably spend the most of my time with is Best Buddies, Best Buddies Ohio. It's part of a national organization to assist folks with developmental disabilities, to engage them in one-on-one friendships, and then to help find them work in the workplace. My husband's on the board there for Best Buddies Ohio, and I help out when I can. Really, my whole family's involved, because there are high school, and college-age groups, as well, to help the students make lifelong friendships. It's a really great organization. That's where we spend our time.

Brett Johnson: Great, thanks. Let's talk a little bit about each of your professional backgrounds, and, as the podcast develops, we'll figure out, and the listener will figure out, "Oh, this is where the two come together, and why this is a podcast about the Tri-Village Chamber Partnership's Business Inspires podcast. Let's start with Michelle, because your history with the Tri-Village Chamber Partnership is longer. Let's talk a little bit about your background, and how you became a part of the TVCP.

Michelle Wilson: I have always been in the nonprofit or not-for-profit world. I started out at Experience Columbus, when it was the Greater Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, way back when. Moved around a little bit from there in membership departments at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association. Always found that that was where I landed.

Michelle Wilson: Was able to land a amazing position with the Grandview Area Chamber, back in '09, when they were looking for their first full-time director. I landed there; got that job. Grandview was where I grew up, and had my kids, so it was a nice fit. I knew the community; I knew a lot of people there.

Michelle Wilson: We were able to then grow and expand that into a merger between the Upper Arlington Chamber, and the Grandview, and Marble Cliff Chambers. We, in 2016, became the Tri-Village Chamber Partnership. That's my background, and, of course, I have recently left that position after almost 10 years, and landed back at Experience Columbus, so a little bit of a full circle there.

Brett Johnson: Exactly. Stephanie?

Stephanie Evans: For me, I started at the National Kidney Foundation of Ohio in the communications department there, and then moved my way up, ultimately, to executive director position there, and was there for a while. Then left that position, really, to stay home to start a family. Then, in that time, two, what turned out to be three businesses of my own … So, a small-business owner-

Brett Johnson: One just wasn't enough. I've gotta do three.

Stephanie Evans: They weren't all simultaneous. They were kind of-

Michelle Wilson: Not one; not two, but three …

Stephanie Evans: A couple of 'em overlapped. Yeah, a couple of 'em overlapped. Anyway, so I spent that time having my own business, and raising my kids at home. Then, a couple of years ago, just had some changes take place in my personal life, and decided to let my photography business go. That's what my more recent one was.

Stephanie Evans: Really, through a friend of mine, who happened to be related to Michelle, let me know that there was an opening there, and connected with Michelle. That's how I landed at the Chamber. Came in as the membership manager, part-time, and have been there almost two years. It'll be two years in March. Then, when Michelle made her next step, I switched seats, and I went from membership manager to executive director.

Brett Johnson: From the baby pool to the deep end.

Stephanie Evans: That's right.

Michelle Wilson: Quite literally. Yeah.

Brett Johnson: I have you both on because … We were talking about this before recording. I've jumped on this theme, by accident, of the host transitions. The Business Inspires podcast is now going through a host transition. Michelle had hosted the podcast from its inception, up through her leaving recently, and Stephanie's now taking the roam and doing the interviews, and setting up scheduling for guests, and such, for Business Inspires.

Brett Johnson: I wanted to bring both of you together to talk about that. I know Michelle'll have a little bit more knowledge on the beginnings, as I will, too, but I think it's worth the discussion, because this is a Chamber-focused podcast, Business Inspires. Why a podcast for Tri-Village Chamber Partnership, Michelle?

Michelle Wilson: For me, it was having discussions with you, and I hadn't even really considered it, but when you approached me, it seemed like an edgy new different thing to do. I think that's one of the things I like to pride myself, or the Chamber on. At the time, we were going through a merger. That was something that was pretty rare. We had taken a couple of leaps of faith along the way, with the Grandview Area Chamber, and done some really cool projects that others had not yet tried.

Michelle Wilson: I thought this was a really great new edgy way to perhaps reach a new demographic. Chambers, and membership organizations, in general, we're going through a bit of an identity crisis, and I thought this might be a really cool way to reach the younger demographic that didn't necessarily understand why they should be a member of a Chamber of Commerce.

Brett Johnson: I know when we first started, too, I was looking at it as a potential engagement tool. I know Chambers have a difficulty. Yeah, they have … The email database is great, but the open rate, no, and the feedback from members, and getting them involved, and such … I was envisioning the podcast, possibly, as an engagement tool, as well, too.

Michelle Wilson: Right.

Brett Johnson: If nothing else, reaching out to members, being part of the podcast, and getting 'em involved in a different way that they hadn't even thought about, it's like, "Oh, wow …" [cross talk]

Michelle Wilson: Right, and they didn't understand it.

Brett Johnson: They didn't-.

Michelle Wilson: Any more than I did.

Brett Johnson: Correct. Correct, yes. Trying to go in the back my mind, how the process began, I think we just had coffee to talk about this idea. Luckily, you were very welcoming to the idea, too, because I think I laid it out as you have a lot of content, great content. You refined it even more, talking about, "Okay, let's talk to businesses about how they started, and how they're growing."

Michelle Wilson: Right.

Brett Johnson: I kinda wanna go a little bit more on that, why that popped in your mind.

Michelle Wilson: I think we're really lucky in the Tri-Village area that we just had this … We have a really great group of members. One of the things that we never really have to preach is to support one another, and make sure you're using member businesses, and make sure you're looking there first. People just naturally do it.

Michelle Wilson: You may use a vendor, here and there, that you've gotten great service from, but you don't really know why they do what they do, or why they got started. I thought it would be a neat premise to figure out if this was something they really- was their lifelong aspiration, or if they just landed there. I think finding their personal connection to what they do was just a different way to approach it. There are lots of business podcasts out there, and I thought maybe putting a spin on it might be more engaging.

Brett Johnson: I think the guests have done a great job, as well, and they get it, when they're on the podcast.

Michelle Wilson: Yes.

Brett Johnson: They bring it back into why the Chamber is so important to them.

Michelle Wilson: Right, sure.

Brett Johnson: Not a guest that we've talked to that we've had to tell them, "Hey, be sure to incorporate why the Chamber's so important to you."

Michelle Wilson: We've never asked that question.

Brett Johnson: Never have asked it. It's come up organically in every interview. Stephanie, even the couple that we've done, have come up … With your transition, we've never told them to say anything about it.

Stephanie Evans: Right. It did just come up naturally.

Brett Johnson: It's amazing. Again, you can have the leading questions, as we had one … Not leading questions, but to incorporate that maybe one member has done a lot to help with some events, and such. That's gonna come up in conversation, obviously, too. I know we talked initially, too, Michelle, when I brought up the idea … I knew that I had to come up with a way that might be comfortable for you. I knew the question may come up about, "What kind of podcast? Are you talking about me just being the podcast?"

Michelle Wilson: Right.

Brett Johnson: That's why I introduced let's do the interview. Makes it a whole lot easier. You still had the nervousness, in regards to, "I'm not an interviewer. I haven't done "radio." How do I do this?"

Michelle Wilson: Right.

Brett Johnson: How did you prepare yourself to be, I think, a great interviewer?

Michelle Wilson: Oh, thank you.

Brett Johnson: I think you agree, now, too. I think you've done a great job with it. You actually started have a lot of fun after the first couple-

Michelle Wilson: I did, yeah, right.

Brett Johnson: You did. How did you jump into that, in regards to getting yourself prepared, and getting more comfortable to being an interviewer?

Michelle Wilson: Again, going back to just who we are as … Who our personality is at the Chamber is we're very relationship-driven. While everybody says that, I believe it to be true. I believe that so much of the success of the Tri-Village Chamber has been because Stephanie and I have gotten to know people. We know them on a personal level, generally – not every single person – but I think that's been a big part of the success.

Michelle Wilson: Preparing for the podcast was just figuring out how do I ask somewhat personal questions without getting too personal? Finding out what it is they wanted to be, when they were young, and having them take a step back, and look at why they are where they are. I did basically the same research, every single time.

Michelle Wilson: We did identify … At least initially, we identified members that perhaps I knew a little more on a personal level, so that I could … They were kinda my guinea pigs. I could ask them questions that- and I would be more comfortable asking them questions, because I kinda knew what their answers would be. Although, I think, each time, they surprised me, and that was also fun. It was always a discovery, no matter how much I thought I knew going into the interview. I think that led, each time, to a really great end product.

Brett Johnson: It did, I agree. I was thinking about the time process, when our first discussion, and when we kicked it off … I don't remember actually how many weeks/months it took. I think it went fairly quickly, honestly.

Michelle Wilson: Yeah.

Brett Johnson: I think a lot of the time that it took, and this is part of the interview process, is booking people; getting those businesses in. At that time, we were very lucky to have a great relationship with a local radio station group to utilize their studios. I know the owner was extremely happy to have business owners coming in to the radio station, just to see the Hollywood of it, to be a part of this podcast, but also just a monthly process of seeing new businesses coming in, because of this podcast.

Brett Johnson: That was a nice relationship, at that point in time, to get things going, to legitimize the podcast, as well, working with the radio station group. The sound of the podcast versus just being in front of a computer laptop, and, "Okay, talk as close as you can to the screen …"

Michelle Wilson: Oh, it made a difference. It definitely … Absolutely, it made a difference being in a professional setting.

Brett Johnson: I think it made a little bit easier for you, too, I'm assuming, because you were at a radio station. This is what happens here.

Michelle Wilson: It did. Right.

Brett Johnson: Interviews, and content, that sorta thing, yeah.

Michelle Wilson: I was lucky enough to be a part of a couple of other podcasts, and they were fine. I would never say anything negative about them, other than the sound quality … The difference in sound quality, I felt really lucky that we had what we had with that radio station.

Brett Johnson: Yes, and I think the process of us moving as fast as we did – I'm gonna say probably a couple of months, quite frankly [cross talk]

Michelle Wilson: Oh, I think it was, yeah.

Brett Johnson: -it probably was. We didn't really have a lot of people involved.

Michelle Wilson: Right. That's true.

Brett Johnson: We went rogue for the most part [cross talk]

Michelle Wilson: If you asked my past board members, they would say that ,"Michelle asks forgiveness, not permission," and that's just how it worked.

Brett Johnson: I don't know if that's the proper way for any Chamber to think about doing something like this, but what is the harm, as long as you have the game plan, and this is the direction you're going with it?

Michelle Wilson: Sure.

Brett Johnson: You focused a couple of the board members as guests, as well, so that made a big difference.

Michelle Wilson: I did. Right. Some of that was strategic, but they also are really good interviews … Perhaps it was for a double reason, but there was good content there.

Brett Johnson: Yeah. How has the podcast been able to showcase the Chamber's expertise? How did you incorporate that, as well as with Stephanie coming in, as well, too, what the Chamber is? I know there's, like you said, an atmosphere; a culture that the Tri-Village Chamber Partnership has, compared to any other chamber – good, bad, whatever. Every Chamber has its culture; its feel. How do you think you incorporated that, in regards to what you were doing with the podcast, as well as what Stephanie will be doing in the future, too?

Michelle Wilson: Steph, do you wanna take that? I can take that. I think I can take that. There's a saying, and I probably said this on past podcasts, that you've seen one Chamber, you've seen one Chamber. We all operate very differently; every community is so different. Partnerships vary.

Michelle Wilson: The Grandview area, Upper Arlington area, and now, of course, Tri-Village, I think have been very lucky to have good relationships with their city governments, with their key players in the area. I think that really played beautifully into the podcast just being an extension of what it was we were already doing. That was finding new ways to engage our members; finding new ways to keep them interested, and on board.

Michelle Wilson: When we started receiving feedback, pretty quickly … It takes a while to build your listenership, of course, but when we started receiving feedback, pretty quickly, from members who were intrigued by the fact that we were doing a podcast, and they were learning about these small businesses on a different level, that was exciting.

Michelle Wilson: Again, I think, going back to some other chances we took as a Chamber: the Chamber Challenge, when we did a business makeover in three days; that was that was a huge undertaking, and a great success story. The podcast was just the next thing we were trying. I joked about asking forgiveness, not permission, but kinda true. We just said, "Sure, that sounds like a good idea. Let's give it a shot." We didn't have a lot to lose. It's turned out to be a really great benefit, I think, to our members. People are asking to be a part of it now. I think it was just natural, that it was something we did that was different, and edgy.

Brett Johnson: I think one great story that came out of … I think we maybe had three or four published at the time, but the first episode that we published, she got an inquiry about her business for new business-.

Michelle Wilson: Yeah, and got the business-.

Brett Johnson: And got the business. When you told me that, I'm going, "Wow, okay, this stuff kinda works, doesn't it?"

Michelle Wilson: Yeah. We thought, "Gosh, if that happens every single time, we've got something …" which, of course, jokingly. We knew that wasn't gonna happen every single time, but-

Brett Johnson: Sure … Being the first episode of the whole podcast-

Michelle Wilson: -but the very first episode did produce business, yeah.

Brett Johnson: Yeah, amazing. That was a difficult episode, because that was your first. That was her first, but it came out great-

Michelle Wilson: We were both so nervous-

Brett Johnson: -and she got to showcase exactly what she wanted to for her business, and it obviously worked.

Michelle Wilson: Yeah, she came off beautifully. She really did.

Brett Johnson: Yeah, she did. Have you seen adding the podcast content to the website improve the site's search component?

Michelle Wilson: That's a great question that I would have to … I don't know that we have done a ton of analytics on it. It's certainly something we can do. You've provided us with numbers that have increased over time. I'm certain that it probably has, I just wish I could give you exact numbers, but I can't-.

Brett Johnson: No, and that's fine, because I can answer a little bit to that, because I know the user agent piece to the back end that I do see. This is not atypical of a business-oriented podcast; it is a lot more desktop listenership than through phone. Therefore, they are listening via your website, or a link through the email.

Michelle Wilson: Yeah, sure.

Stephanie Evans: One of the things we did on the website, too, was we added a tab; specifically, it says Podcast, so you don't have to look for the podcast in the other drop-down menus. It used to be part of the news, or something like that-

Michelle Wilson: It did, yes.

Stephanie Evans: We changed it to add it, so you see it right when you log onto the website.

Michelle Wilson: Right-

Brett Johnson: Which will make a difference over time, of course, too [cross talk].

Michelle Wilson: -much easier to find.

Brett Johnson: Right. I know a lot of businesses, they wanna add content to their website, but it's like, "Okay, where do we put it without junking up the site?" Or maybe the original design of the site was not really set up to incorporate any video, any audio.

Michelle Wilson: Right.

Brett Johnson: It's kinda difficult to measure, because it's not in the right place. A tab, obviously, will help tremendously, and such, too. Another unexpected thing that happened, but we were focusing on this, we had a sponsorship for the podcast.

Michelle Wilson: We did.

Brett Johnson: We'd always talked about this, but we just … Had come up with a list of potential sponsors, but knowing that any sponsorship could limit who might even wanna be on the podcast, or it might sound as though, "Okay, they're sponsoring, but what are you giving 'em?" You're a Chamber sort of thing.

Michelle Wilson: Right.

Brett Johnson: I think our focus of who did sponsor the podcast made a lot of sense. I'll let you talk a little bit about the story-.

Michelle Wilson: It did-

Brett Johnson: -because you carried the water on this one.

Stephanie Evans: Yeah, well, I approached … Of course, the Tri-Village Chamber Partnership is made up of Grandview Heights, Marble Cliff, and Upper Arlington. We approached the three of them, and said, "These are the businesses that are representative of each of your areas, so, let's get you on board.".

Michelle Wilson: What I really love is that the smallest of those three municipalities stepped up. The Village of Marble Cliff got it really quickly. They went through a few readings, and they listened to some podcasts, and they stepped up with some dollars. One of the things we said was we'll be sure to make sure that we are including businesses in the Village of Marble Cliff. There aren't a ton. It's a very small village. Not a huge ask on their part, but some great businesses there.

Michelle Wilson: The businesses that we already had focused on in Marble Cliff helped sell it. Then, we made a commitment to feature some more, and we did that, and we're still doing that. I was really happy that they stepped up, not just from a dollar perspective, but because it was a great way for a small village to get some awesome exposure. Their logo went on there, and then they got to think of a fun slogan, and tagline. I think it helped them, and is helping them in a different way, as well.

Brett Johnson: It's little bit of moral support, too.

Michelle Wilson: Yeah.

Brett Johnson: I felt really good after you … I know you called me. It wasn't an email. "Hey, we got a sponsor!" and you said who it was. It was a struggle. It was … It will be, working with municipalities, and cities, of course. The process is a bit slower; a lot more people have to sign off on these ideas of money being spent. I totally understand that versus going to a business as a sponsorship.

Michelle Wilson: Yeah.

Brett Johnson: Hearing that feedback, and knowing that they're going to do that meant monumental pushing a big rock-

Michelle Wilson: Right, right …

Brett Johnson: -knowing that it doesn't matter what size of government there is, there had to be a lot of eyeballs seeing this, "Yeah we're gonna do this; we're gonna do this; we're gonna do this," because this money is being spent here, versus here. It was good feedback.

Stephanie Evans: One of the things that their Mayor, Kent, had said about it was that they view it as a professional education opportunity for the businesses in the Marble Cliff area, and felt that, by supporting the podcast, it was encouraging their businesses to listen in, because they can't always make it to a luncheon, or a breakfast, or a coffee, or an event, where we might have a speaker, or some kind of educational program.

Stephanie Evans: It really is educational, when you listen to how someone got their business started, or how they made the next steps to grow, and that kinda stuff. They felt like it was a good option to treat it as professional education, in a way, to give to the business community, and support us, as well.

Brett Johnson: One of your last interviews was with Kent, and-

Michelle Wilson: It was.

Brett Johnson: -probably one of the better podcasts, in regards to understanding the Village of Marble Cliff.

Michelle Wilson: Right.

Brett Johnson: He's such a great speaker [cross talk]

Michelle Wilson: He is.

Brett Johnson: -understanding this very … What is it? Two square mile, if that? I forget how many square mile it is, but government is government, and it's just a smaller version of it, but it's the same mechanisms, the same "politics" going on, but just on a smaller scale; a microcosm, comparatively, but still important to those that are living in that little community.

Michelle Wilson: Right, and they're very lucky they have somebody who's forward-thinking, and is … Again, I think like the Chamber taking a chance on some doing something a little differently … We're very lucky that he sits on the board, and has a great voice to lend, on behalf of the village.

Brett Johnson: We tried to come up with the most convenient publishing schedule, and we varied that. I know, initially, we went with … Because of scheduling issues, and problems, and fitting in your schedule, obviously, to sit down. and talk with folks, and give yourself some time for research, we are on a once-a-month publishing schedule. It worked really well, I think.

Brett Johnson: Then we started to crank it up to every three weeks, and I think we saw some momentum come from that, as well, too, that it started to take off a little bit more, as well. We could get more people in over a year's time, as well, too. How did that change, in regards to how you set yourself up, and your scheduling, too, that one extra week, or one fewer week to prepare? Did that take some mental strain? How did that change your life?

Michelle Wilson: Not tremendously, because I think it was something that I so enjoyed. It was just one of my favorite parts; truly getting to take a deep dive into one business was so enjoyable for me. Doing the research … I had basically the same list of questions every single time. That would always be my fall backs. Then, depending on who we were talking to, and how well I knew them, or if there had been something in the news recently that I wanted to make sure I touched on, I customized that each time. It was more exciting, quite honestly, to increase it, and get to talk to more people, and beef that up a little bit.

Brett Johnson: I know Stephanie, you can answer this, as well, too, because of being on board as long as you were, installing the social media strategy, and the email strategy. Let's talk a little bit about that, how that's evolved, as well, too, from your standpoint, and moving forward. This podcast is included in every newsletter that goes out for the Chamber, which is a weekly … What other pieces are being implemented that are being done/were being don, as well as looking to the future?

Stephanie Evans: It goes into our weekly newsletter with a link, so it's on our website. It always sits there, and the link sends you to the website. Then, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram … Trying to think of all the social media. Admittedly, we are in a transition there with the social media.

Stephanie Evans: We had contracted out some work; the person that was doing that work for us recently moved to Seattle. In theory, he could do it from there, but it's more practical to have it here, closer to home. We're in transition, getting our head around how to do that social media, and how best to approach that. The podcast link is included in all of that, and we're trying to stay active on that, and keep up to date, and find a new rhythm with our social media.

Brett Johnson: Yeah, it's kind of a double-whammy, with the transition of hosts, also losing the social media person, or [cross talk] choice to keep the social media in-house; let's put it that way.

Stephanie Evans: Right. That's the goal at this point is to keep it in-house, and just, I guess, have a more intimate knowledge of it. I don't know if that's really the right way to phrase that, but we could do things a little more quickly [cross talk]

Michelle Wilson: Well, it's certainly more immediate.

Stephanie Evans: Yeah, it's more immediate-

Brett Johnson: That person's desk is five feet away [cross talk]

Stephanie Evans: Right, instead of sending a picture to somebody … It does make it more immediate. We just have to get up to speed with it.

Brett Johnson: Sure, sure. Well, and you can look at it as good timing, or bad timing. It's probably very good timing, because you get to own it – the change of it – and evolve with it, as well. I know, with the transition, we're looking at probably backing up publishing dates, back to a month, probably, just because, again, new role for you [cross talk]

Stephanie Evans: Yeah, just a little … This big microphone looking at.

Brett Johnson: -of looking at, "Okay, I still wanna continue …" Well, "I still wanna continue on with the podcast," but how to incorporate it into my day, as the newly appointed executive director for the Chamber. It's just a week, so not big, but I think that the implementation of a new person with social media, keeping it in-house, may be an easier transition, as well, too.

Stephanie Evans: I think we're still very much in a transition phase. I just officially took this role as executive director in October, so I was still in my learning curve. Then, add to that the change in the social media contractor that we were using, and bringing someone in-house, and me changing roles altogether. There's a lot to learn.

Michelle Wilson: You're welcome [cross talk]

Stephanie Evans: I didn't know as much as I thought I knew. I sat next to Michelle in the office, and I [cross talk]

Brett Johnson: -osmosis works pretty well, too.

Stephanie Evans: Yeah, and I knew a lot about the Chamber activities, but not so much the things that she did. Now, I have literally switched chairs. I took your chair.

Michelle Wilson: That's a great, great chair.

Stephanie Evans: Yeah, it's a great chair. There's a lot to learn, and it's a busy day. I make my to-do list at the end of the day, for my next day, and inevitably, I get to work … Sometimes, I check my email before I get in, and my whole day changes.

Michelle Wilson: That's right.

Brett Johnson: Welcome to life. Yeah, right, exactly.

Stephanie Evans: Yeah, exactly. It's never quite like I planned. Just kinda keeping up with things still has me in a transition.

Brett Johnson: That's a great segue into talking about the transition of hosts. Obviously, you knew you were going to leave, and whether that was being discussed or not … One way or the other, in the mind, you knew, "Okay, I'm moving on, but there are things I have to take care of.".

Michelle Wilson: Right.

Brett Johnson: What was the discussion like with Stephanie, when you said, "Hey, I'm outta here. Totally up to you if you wanna keep the podcast going, but let's talk about the podcast …"? What was that conversation like?

Michelle Wilson: Well, I told Steph that it was one of my favorite parts of the job. It had grown into that, and that I would … I just told her the truth. I think that I was very nervous, and that if we kept it going, which I thought we should, that we approach it the same way. Don't put a ton of pressure on yourself, because the conversation really does take over.

Michelle Wilson: We scheduled a couple of podcasts, my last two, and and did those in the office, in a more comfortable setting, and Stephanie sat in on those, and got to see that I wasn't exaggerating. It really is very laid back, and conversational, and the flow should be fairly natural. You have these questions that you can fall back on, if conversation halts for some reason, but that never really happened, thankfully, but they were good conversation starters.

Michelle Wilson: The Chamber is very lucky that Stephanie knocked on our door a couple of years ago, and said, "Hey, I'm interested in coming here." Her background, and personality just lent itself beautifully for the transition. I knew she'd be great, and, of course, she is.

Stephanie Evans: Thanks, Michelle.

Brett Johnson: She said that in the conversation. What did you hear? [cross talk]

Stephanie Evans: -I'm like, "What? Who can I get to do that?"

Michelle Wilson: How do you portray deer in the headlights over a microphone?

Stephanie Evans: I think, from the start, I totally agreed that it needed to continue. I think it's a really great thing for the Chamber, for our members, and for the folks who are listening. There was no doubt that we wanted to keep it going. The struggle for me is overcoming the anxiety of having this big microphone in front of me, and feeling like I don't know how to do this.

Stephanie Evans: My first thoughts were, "Okay, well, we have to keep it going. We have to keep it going. Who can I ask to do it? Who can be the voice?" I went through all kinds of different ideas in my head, and I'm like, "Okay, the fact is it's most natural, probably, for me to do it. Take a few deep, cleansing breaths, and just do it." Your encouragement, Brett, and your encouragement, Michelle-

Brett Johnson: Thank you.

Stephanie Evans: I know-

Brett Johnson: Did you end up going back, and listening to some older episodes to really listen to 'em differently, and how it was done?

Stephanie Evans: That's a good question. I guess I didn't go back very far. I generally listen to them as they come, but I did go [cross talk]

Brett Johnson: Right, right, right … But you can hear it with a different ear, when you have to host it.

Stephanie Evans: Yes, and I did. I did go back and listen to probably three or four … Not the entire podcasts, but parts of the three or four of 'em. You're right. I didn't even remember that I did that, but I did, right before we recorded my first one; to go back and just listen to the flow, and how the conversation went.

Stephanie Evans: That helped, and I had Michelle's list of questions that I just had in front of me. I did use them probably more than Michelle does, or did at the time. It does help provide the backup, like when you are afraid of stalling out; you know you won't, if you have that.

Stephanie Evans: The other thing that you had said, Brett, is that it doesn't really matter how long it is, It can be 10 minutes; it can be half an hour. It's just wherever the conversation just naturally stops. Relieving that pressure of having to fill 20 minutes was helpful, too. I think probably mostly it was in my head, because, you're right, it's pretty natural, but heart races, at first, and your mouth gets dry [cross talk]

Michelle Wilson: Even though you know it's not live, you do have this big microphone in front of you, and there's a sense of pressure, when that's not something you do every day, but-

Stephanie Evans: Yeah, even today.

Michelle Wilson: Right, but it's also a sense of relief, when … If you can get out of your head long enough to think, "Okay, we can fix this," because it's not live, and it can come off sounding pretty smooth, if we stumble a little bit along the way.

Stephanie Evans: I think that the biggest thing for me was just the commitment to knowing that it has to go forward; not going to stop doing this. I've gotta figure it out.

Brett Johnson: Mm hmm, yeah. I hadn't thought about the transition you talked about, in regards to bringing it back in the office; getting away from the professional studio. That probably maybe helped you with the transition, as well, too. It's in your office, now-

Stephanie Evans: Probably, yeah.

Brett Johnson: Bring a couple microphones in; it's not the intimidation factor of a studio that you're not comfortable in. You had never been in that studio that we were recording in, and we were taking the podcast on the road for a few episodes, as well, too, for convenience sake, as well … Moving what we thought was gonna be a different direction, but didn't happen. It was an experiment; just didn't happen. Back in your office makes a whole lot of sense, and it may be just as comfortable for your guests, as well, too, because [cross talk]

Stephanie Evans: Yeah, a lot of 'em had been there before, and they're nervous, too, the people that we've interviewed. They were nervous, definitely, so having that comfort level of knowing where they're going, knowing how to get there, and that kinda thing, I do think helps.

Michelle Wilson: For me, I had the benefit of recording promo spots for some of our past events at the studio, so I at least had a little bit of a level of familiarity with going into the studio, and talking into a microphone. That's not the case for everybody, so I do think it's a nice familiar setting to do it in the Chamber offices [cross talk]

Brett Johnson: Moving forward, any new thoughts? Any new ideas that you wanna implement over the next few months? Have you put thought to that, or the different type of people we wanna talk to?

Stephanie Evans: With regard to the podcast?

Brett Johnson: Yeah.

Stephanie Evans: I think one of the things that we had tossed out … I really do love the up close, and personal, and finding out how a business came along. I am a small business owner, myself, still-

Brett Johnson: You've been there.

Stephanie Evans: Yeah, I have. I've owned two businesses by myself, and then my husband, and I currently own a business together. I'm a small business owner, too, and so I do appreciate hearing other people's stories. I think that I learned from it. I think our listeners can learn from it. Everybody's tackled it a little differently.

Stephanie Evans: One of the things that I think has been great about the ones that we've had so far is the variety of businesses that we've invited in for it. I think, for the listeners, if you look at the list, it's this huge variety. I think that shows the breadth of our membership. For folks who aren't members, or just out there listening, they can see the kind of businesses that we have, and that it really covers a whole range of businesses.

Stephanie Evans: I think that the up close, and personal, "How did you get here?" way is great. We've also tossed around, do we start doing more like … I don't know, a specific topic in business, and how do we address that, and kinda come at that from different angles. For right now, I feel like if it's not broke, don't fix it. If this is our niche, and this is what we're known for, then that's the track we should stay on. If we start to feel like we wanna mix it up a little bit, I do think that there are some other avenues we could venture down.

Brett Johnson: Yeah, we talked about other opportunities, as well, too, just expanding the role of the podcast. It gives you the opportunity as a new host to do that, as well as Michelle was always kicking around that idea. We were always kicking around those ideas, so it's always on the table.

Michelle Wilson: Sure, yeah. I think it's really key to mention, too, from the member perspective, besides learning about other members, is that it's a great marketing tool for them. They walk away with this podcast. We walk away learning something; a little bit more about, perhaps, that member, or that industry, but the member walks away with a marketing piece that they can put on their website; that they can pull snippets of. You're great about helping them with pulling out key pieces that would be great for marketing. There's no charge to them for being a guest on our podcast. It's really a benefit to everybody involved.

Brett Johnson: There's not an episode that I didn't learn something-

Michelle Wilson: Oh, my gosh, yes. Me, too.

Brett Johnson: -or heard something said, going, "That makes sense," especially when you start to change what you're doing in your world-

Michelle Wilson: Right.

Brett Johnson: -and things hit you differently, when you start to think about things differently, whether it's a new business venture, or you're venturing with a new career, whatever; you just hear it differently. I think every episode, all the guests have done a fantastic job of bringing just little nuggets, yeah-

Michelle Wilson: A nugget, right. There have been times that I've walked away thinking, or not thinking, but just having learned something that I just didn't expect. There was a couple of times when I was kind of gobsmacked, for lack of a better word.

Michelle Wilson: In one of those, a piece of advice came out of it. One of my favorite things was to ask, "What advice were you given, or what advice would you now give?" One of the podcasts, there was a piece of advice given to one of our interviewees that I loved, and I have now used in a practical way with my kids, and in my life. I definitely learned a life lesson out of doing an interview that … Gosh, that's not what I expected to get out of it, but it was great.

Brett Johnson: All right. Advice to a business owner, or another Chamber outside of the Columbus area … They would like to start a podcast … Wouldn't want any more competition here, but since the podcast is worldwide-

Michelle Wilson: We've got it covered.

Brett Johnson: We've got it covered, here, but I'll ask both of you, what advice would you give a business owner, or another Chamber that may be considering podcasting as a marketing tool? What would you tell them to keep in mind?

Michelle Wilson: Steph, jump in anytime. I think I would tell them to try to come up with what's unique about them, and capitalize on it, with their podcast, with whatever the theme is, or what it is that they want to accomplish. Find out what's- identify what's unique, and use it.

Michelle Wilson: Also, try to get the supporters on board first, and not necessarily ask permission, but now that there's somebody that's doing this, and it's working, don't recreate the wheel, and definitely get people on board first. Realize that there are resources out there to help you get started, and that it's really a phenomenal tool to engage your members.

Stephanie Evans: They might be able to get sponsorship upfront [cross talk]

Michelle Wilson: Upfront, yes.

Stephanie Evans: -say, "Here's what we wanna do," and model it after this or that, and be able to get some sponsorship upfront. I would say definitely think about that. One of the things that I think our podcast does is, alongside of the information that's shared from the interviewees, is it showcases the personality of the Chamber, just in the conversations that take place.

Stephanie Evans: I do think that the conversations … Michelle's done a really great job of being very natural, and being able to bring out the personality, not only of the person being interviewed, but her personality shows, too. I think that that …

Stephanie Evans: I always tell people who are thinking about joining our Chamber that the personality of our Chamber, I really do feel like, represents the communities that we represent. It's a really warm, sincere group of people who wanna see each other support- sorry, wanna support each other, and see each other be successful. I feel like that comes through in the interviews, just the personalities. I think that's a real nice benefit for our members, and for the Chamber, as a whole.

Brett Johnson: Yeah, I would think, and I agree … I always think this medium is not a fake-it medium. It's raw. It's raw. The emotions are there. You just can't fake it, versus writing a blog, or having a professional blogger write it for you that represents your company. This is it. I think the podcast brings that out of the Chamber, as well as the guests I've seen, overall.

Brett Johnson: Congratulations on your move, Michelle.

Michelle Wilson: Thank you very much.

Brett Johnson: That was a kick in the gut, when you told me you were leaving. a little bit-

Stephanie Evans: I second that-.

Brett Johnson: -because I knew I was going to miss working with you. I knew the podcast would live on, because it had legs, and I knew Stephanie was more than capable of getting this done, but working with you, I knew I was gonna miss [cross talk] because it was a lot of fun.

Brett Johnson: I am looking forward to what Stephanie is gonna do, as well, too, because the focus of this podcast, I think, is extremely important to me, as well as getting it done for the Chamber, as well, too. Congratulations on your move to Experience Columbus-

Michelle Wilson: Thank you.

Brett Johnson: -and congratulations on your new chair, and new role.

Stephanie Evans: Thanks, Brett … Literally a new chair.

Brett Johnson: Exactly.

Stephanie Evans: Literally a new chair. It moves.

Brett Johnson: I do look forward to working, as we continue on with Business Inspires.

Michelle Wilson: Thank you [cross talk].

Stephanie Evans: Thank you, Brett. I look forward to working with you, too.

Michelle Wilson: Thank you for all your support. This is because of you, and your great idea, and that our members are benefiting. Thank you for doing that.

Brett Johnson: Thank you. Thank you.

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Recorded in Studio C at the 511 Studios, located in the Brewery District in downtown Columbus, OH!

Brett Johnson is the owner and lead consultant at Circle270Media Podcast Consultants. The podcast consultants at Circle270Media have over 30+ years of experience in Marketing, Content Creation, Audio Production/Recording, and Broadcasting. We strategically bring these worlds together with Podcasting.

You can email Brett at podcasts@circle270media.com to talk more about your new or established business podcast. www.circle270media.com