Driving the CBus

In this episode, I interview Scott McComb, President and CEO of Heartland Bank – and host of the podcast Driving the CBus. Featuring insights from individual contributors from all corners, nooks and crannies of the Columbus, Ohio region, Scott has a goal to get to the why of our evolving and eclectic environment. We cover why he started the podcast, what he wants to accomplish, and what the future holds for the podcast.

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Brett Johnson:
So Scott, a non-profit you, or Heartland Bank likes to support. Tell me about it.

Scott McComb:
Yeah that’s … How much time do we have? That is a extremely large question. Part of what community banking is all about is focusing on the community, and what is needed in the community. Because of that, we are sponsors, and supporters of well over 100 nonprofit organizations inside of Central Ohio, and on a national basis.

Scott McComb:
Some of the larger ones I think that we have supported is we are a big supporter of the USO of Central and Southern Ohio – “We’re the Force behind the Force” – that are armed-forces men, and women in active duty service.

Scott McComb:
Our big mantra for the bank on an annual basis … We have a golf outing that supports children’s charities. We firmly believe in the principle set by Colin Powell. The little red wagon concept that he had, about 15-20 years ago, where, if you can invest in a child’s- early-childhood-development type causes, you can make a serious impact to their lives.

Scott McComb:
That brings us to all kinds of different charities that we’ve supported over the course of time, whether it’s Junior Achievement, or whether it’s the Lutheran Social Services, which is a very diverse group. Everything from Meals on Wheels, to childhood development, to reading, and workforce development, to … Victory Ministries is another one that we’ve supported. The Ohio Dyslexic Learning Center for children with dyslexia. That’s hard to say, today, for whatever reason. There’s just a whole host of ones that we’ve covered. Special Olympics … I couldn’t list them all.

Brett Johnson:
Sure. That sounds good. I think there are certain categories of businesses that are obligated, almost. It’s a good thing to do, and you know you need to do it. It’s not one of those, “Hey, we’ve got to do this now” No, We’ve gotta do this.” [cross talk].

Scott McComb:
Community banking is about taking capital inside the community. We take deposits, and investors that are willing to give us their capital, so we can provide them a return. Those are our shareholders. Then, we take depositors’ money, loan it out locally to businesses, and it becomes this perpetual circle.

Scott McComb:
One of the things that is super-important is benevolence. Making sure that there’s a food pantry, and that the food pantry has the resources it needs, in every community that we serve; things like that. It’s just what community banking is all about.

Brett Johnson:
Right. Let’s talk a little bit about your professional background, and history up to this point.

Scott McComb:
Sure. I have a very different background than most folks in my business. I’m an entrepreneur in the banking world. My father was a career banker; started off in a finance company, then got into community banking, here in town, with the Grove City Savings Bank in 1967.

Scott McComb:
That’s when we moved to town, and I was one years old. I was born in Ironton, Ohio, and came up here … My whole family’s from West Virginia. We are hillbillies, and the rest of the family’s still living in the trailer behind the house in the holler. That’s just the way it happens.

Scott McComb:
We were lucky enough to make it out of there, through the power of 4-H. My father actually made it out of the mountains, because he got a scholarship to Marshall University to be the captain of the livestock judging team … He majored in biology. Very eclectic background, there.

Scott McComb:
My background: we moved to Grove City, Ohio, here, and my father ran the Grove City Savings Bank for a guy named Jack Havens, who is one of the founders of modern-day Columbus, really. Chairman of Bank One; Chairman of the Ohio State University. He worked for him, and George Gestos.

Scott McComb:
Anyway, long story short, I finished high school. I was in college. Went to Grove City High School. Went to Ohio State … I was either gonna go to Ohio State, or go in the Marine Corps, because I was kind of a troubled youth. I was never really in trouble, but I liked to have fun … I think we’ve all been there.

Scott McComb:
I went to Ohio State, and I majored in High Street, and High Street was-

Brett Johnson:
I’ve heard that twice now, on my podcast.

Scott McComb:
Yeah, High Street is a great place. You learn to budget. You learn to love. You learn to fight. All those great things, right? I majored in High Street. Never really even declared a major, until I went back the second time, frankly.

Scott McComb:
When my father got to a certain point, where his bank was sold – he was working for a larger bank – he started Heartland Bank, and he was going to start Heartland Bancorp from scratch, and buy another smaller bank, and change the name to Heartland. That’s how Heartland started.

Scott McComb:
When he did that though, he realized … He had a big epiphany moment in his life, where he said, “You know, really, Scott, the only way to wealth, to true wealth, is to own a business, and to earn money through equity; earn capital through equity. You can’t really save your way to wealth, and to financial independence. It’s just extremely difficult to do that.”

Scott McComb:
He encouraged me to start my own business, as well. I was, again, majoring in High Street, and he helped me … He helped me start a home and business monitored-security-system company. I started that when I was 20. I ran that for about 10 years. It was called PFM Alert Systems. That standed for Police, Fire, and Medical Alert Systems.

Scott McComb:
That sprouted a couple other things. I sprouted a janitorial business, because I didn’t make any money in the security business, for the first four or five years. To pay the mortgage, I had to clean other offices, and it just so happened, he needed a janitor at the bank. My first job at Heartland Bank, I was the janitor.

Scott McComb:
I cleaned the office in the Grove City office. Then, we had a Wilson Road office; then we had a 161 Frantz Road-Dublin office. I cleaned that. I had three or four different cleaning jobs. Then I started contracting out for other cleaning jobs, and that became a whole business, where I had employees, and 1099 contractors, and that kind of stuff. Meanwhile, the security business continued to thrive, and do really well.

Scott McComb:
I took the proverbial quarter off of High Street, at Ohio State, because reality was hitting me in the head, and I was doing … I was starting to do well. I was starting to turn a profit, and do those things, so I dropped out of school, and I just ran my business.

Scott McComb:
Did really well for about 10 years in that business. I was offered a number to … Was approached to sell the business, and they said “Well, just write a number on a piece of paper”, and I wrote a number on the piece paper. and they took it; and I thought, “Damn, I should have probably asked for more money!”

Brett Johnson:
One more zero! Why not one more zero? Yeah, right.

Scott McComb:
My gosh, what did I do? Anyway, I went to work …I sold the business; did really well. Paid off all my debt. Put away money for the kid’s college education. Went on to work for corporate America, with a company called Vector Security. Vector’s one of the top three, probably, alarm companies in the nation, and a very, very good company, but you can’t own any of the company; no one can own any of the company.

Scott McComb:
It’s actually a wholly owned subsidiary of the Philadelphia Contributionship, which is the very first insurance company that was started by Benjamin Franklin in 1752. Goes way, way, way, way, way, back, and no one owns any of it except for the Philadelphia Contributionship. They paid me very well, but it was very disenchanting, because I wasn’t building equity again.

Scott McComb:
I was going to start something else. I gave them three months’ notice, and said, “Guys, this has been great. You paid me really well; took care of me, but I really gotta build equity, here. I’ve learned the only way to true wealth is through owning a business, and creating equity through sweat equity, and creating values.”

Scott McComb:
I left there, and I was going to start something else. My father and I were on a golf trip in Orlando, Florida, and we’re sitting at the bar having a Jack Daniels. That’s what him and I like to drink, and what we drink together. I said to him, “Hey, is there anything I could do for you at the bank?” and he said, “Let’s talk about that.”

Scott McComb:
He laid out a whole plan of what I would do at the bank, and he agreed to give me a salary, which was 50 percent of what I was making at Vector Security, but I had no experience in the banking business. I said, “Okay, great. Let’s do it.”

Scott McComb:
I joined him at the bank as the Director of Internet Banking. We launched – very first thing that was in the technology world – driving, launching an internet bank, or the internet portion of the bank, in 1999, which was pretty revolutionary back in 1999.

Scott McComb:
I started there, and my entrepreneurial skills that I had learned in the previous decade really just kicked in, in the banking world. There’s not a lot of entrepreneurs in the banking world. It was very easy to go in, and make common-sense decisions, work circles around folks … Entrepreneurs work 10-12 hours a day. That’s what they do every day. Bankers not so much; bankers are usually [cross talk]

Brett Johnson:
The banker hours come true.

Scott McComb:
-working the banker hours. Not so much anymore, but back in that time frame, that’s the way it was. I joined the bank, and I never really gave up any responsibility. I learned the business. I was a teller for a while. I was the worst teller on the planet. I have dyslexia, so I transposed numbers, I can’t read really fast, unless it’s a financial statement, or something like that. If you threw a box, opened up a box of matches, and threw ’em out, I’d get within five of how many are on the table, just guessing. I have that going on, as well, which is confusing, and exciting at the same time.

Scott McComb:
I came through the bank, and I kept getting promoted, and taking on more responsibility. I’m a natural salesperson, and I love to build relationships, so, that worked out really well. I ended up becoming a loan officer, and getting a whole portfolio of customers that I brought into the bank.

Scott McComb:
Then, they made me the Chief Operating Officer of the bank, like seven years after I joined the bank. I thought to myself, “Wow, if I play my cards right, they might let me run this place.” Because I knew my father was gonna retire … I’m coming up through the ranks, but I didn’t have my degree. I’d promised my mom, before she died – I lost my mom very early – that I would finish my degree one day.

Scott McComb:
I put those two things together, and I decided this is the time to go do it. In 2007, I went back to school, and was running the bank as the bank’s Chief Operating Officer; also, during the financial crisis, and then, I was going to school at night in Ohio State. I ended up graduating in 2009 [cross talk] Thank you. I’m very proud of that. It was a lot of work, a lot of dedication.

Scott McComb:
Then, I guess in between there, I went to the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin. That was in the early 2000s, it was like 2000-2003. A lot of education there. That’s really where they teach banking there. You don’t learn it in college, you learn it when you get out in the field, and in multiple other schools, and in courses, and things in the banking world.

Scott McComb:
My philosophy is that I never stop learning. I’m like a sponge. I’m afraid that I’m going to fall behind by not constantly figuring out how I can make myself better, or how I can find the next thing for my team to execute.

Scott McComb:
That’s my background. It’s a lot different than what you’d hear from other folks. Whenever I tell other bankers that, they can’t believe that … They just can’t believe it. They’re like, “Oh, my gosh, no wonder!” So much things make sense, after that point-

Brett Johnson:
Sure. Sure.

Brett Johnson:
-because we don’t run our bank like a bank. We run it like a technology company; like another business. If we want to run in herds with the other banks, then that makes what we deliver a commodity. Most people think banking is a commodity. I’ve discharged my team with going after the three or four percent of the population that understands value, and if we get those folks in the door, then we’ve successfully doubled the size of the bank, and we’re probably doing pretty well.

Brett Johnson:
Exactly. Let’s go into why a podcast for the bank. What were you thinking about?

Scott McComb:
Well, again, podcasts are hot. People want to understand. They want snippets. They don’t want an hour long, or they don’t want two hours long; a dissertation on this, or that, or the other thing, but they’re very interested.

Scott McComb:
The population now understands that knowledge is at their fingertips. Well, that didn’t happen … That’s only been there for about 11 years, 12 years … The advent of the iPhone, or the iPod. Besides that, you had the internet, and podcasting really wasn’t that popular, because it wasn’t convenient. You had to be sitting at your desk.

Scott McComb:
Well, now, if I’m running, I can listen to a podcast. I’m out doing sit-ups, or I’m out fishing; I’m out knitting, I’m doing whatever … I can educate myself. I think there’s a whole class of people, a large portion of the population, that has that same desire that I have. That, “Hey, what am I missing? What else can I … How can I stimulate myself, besides sitting in front of the TV, and have somebody lie to me, or try to change my opinion on something, or whatever? How can I educate myself, and maybe understand culture better? Maybe reach a new level of enlightenment?”

Scott McComb:
I think that’s what podcasts do to folks, so, I thought that it would be really cool to have a podcast, where we could pump the bank a little bit, but it’s really not about the bank. People don’t want to be sold anything, right? That’s just not what people want to be sold. They want to confirm their decisions. They want to be enlightened.

Scott McComb:
Moreover, I wanted to let people know, because Columbus is now this hot … One of the hottest cities east of the Mississippi. I wanted everybody to understand why, and how it got that way. That was the whole part of Driving the CBus. Who is driving the CBus? Obviously, CBus is Columbus, but who is driving it, and how did we get here? It wasn’t by accident that we got here.

Scott McComb:
I’ve been in this town all my life, and when I have people grow up, younger folks in their 30s, they don’t know Jack Havens. They don’t know what the Ohio Sports Commission does. They don’t understand the place of Kip Morse, and the Better Business Bureau, and what they’ve done. They don’t understand local radio, with Randy Malloy, and CD102.5, and what they’ve been fighting.

Scott McComb:
I just thought it was a really good topic to start off with. That was our first line of topics. Now, I think we’re shifting to where we’re going to talk about just business in general, and then some other things that are happening in central Ohio, and try to keep it going.

Brett Johnson:
You got a team around you thinking about this, brainstorming, or is it just you, solo, going, “Hey, we’re gonna do this … We’re gonna do this …”?

Scott McComb:
We have a little bit of a team. I was the impetus of the whole team. We have a really crack marketing team. My assistant, Tracy Bayles, is really a crack person, and helps out a lot with me brainstorming stuff.

Brett Johnson:
By the way, she’s in the room, folks [cross talk]

Brett Johnson:
Yes, she is here, and she just winked at me, so, it’s cool. Then, my daughter Kailyn really helped us. She was the producer of Driving the CBus. She has really had an impetus there. We also have a group called Distribution Strategies, which is led by a young gal, named Ashley Trout. Ashley is one of the most creative people in our company. She is able to take all the wild ideas that I come up with, and boil them into value, and then execute … Her, and her group executes that value. She’s helped me out quite a bit, as well.

Brett Johnson:
Well, good. From first thought of the podcast to open mic, and recording, how long did that take for you?

Scott McComb:
It took about two and a half months. We read some white papers on how to do podcasts; we listened to some podcasts. We had a little focus group – inside the bank – of people that listen to podcasts regularly, about what they like, and what they don’t like.

Scott McComb:
We read one paper, I can remember it was the impetus, I forget the name of the author who it was, but basically said, “The most important thing is don’t script it. It can be about anything. It has to be in a manageable amount of time, and the most expensive thing that you should really focus on is a really good microphone.”

Brett Johnson:

Scott McComb:
Those are the things we took to heart, and I created the questions that I would ask. I created … Sent those out to our folks, and I created our first 10 or 12 guests. Kailyn produced them, and then off to the races we went.

Brett Johnson:
How hard was it to get those first guests, when you didn’t have a podcast produced, and you’re calling them, going, “I want you to be a guest”?

Scott McComb:
They were so excited. They were just excited to be part of it. The whole idea that I had was to obviously do things not only to tell the story, and all that, and you try to help the community, but you’re obviously trying to help yourself, as well. If there’s no reward, or some gratification, or some way that it helps, then what are you doing with your time? We live in that kind of society.

Scott McComb:
I actually hoped, and we actually were able to accomplish, where we could take our social media circles, and promote the podcast, and we were hoping to marry up with their social, the guests’ social media circles, and maybe we’ll meet somebody new. Maybe somebody will learn something different.

Scott McComb:
It’s so inexpensive. It doesn’t take a lot of time. There is a craft behind it, and frankly, it’s becoming even more, and more eclectic over the course of time, with cameras, with all kinds of things, where people can look, and see … I actually drove to Cleveland to watch a podcast of things you should know, which is super-popular. There’s millions of people that watch things, listen to things you should know. She wanted to go and see the podcast, so she drove up there with a friend to see the podcast that I thought, “Wow, you know the podcasts have arrived, when someone’s gonna drive two and a half hours one way to check it out.”

Brett Johnson:
Yeah, and I think we’re dealing with a generation that’s never experienced … You and I are at the cusp of it. We can listen to old radio programs. That’s what they did. That was the entertainment form at the time, but, I think it’s really cool that it’s going back to that, that somebody will drive, or spend money to sit in an audience, and watch two people talking, or three people talking behind a table, and be entertained. Simple as that. It amazes me that it’s come back to that again. I think it’s great.

Scott McComb:
I think the death of cable is upon us. Really, it is. I think that the sitcom … I think the lackluster of Hollywood, all those things are … people have better things to do with their time. Now, we have books on tape. We have all kinds of things. I think the more nonfiction type entertainment models, and inputs are really coming on with this generation.

Scott McComb:
The millennial, everyone wants to throw the millennial generation under the bus, about, “Oh, they sit in the basement, and play video games, and they’re living here til 35.” That’s not true. There’s a very, very, very, small group of the millennial generation that are doing that.

Brett Johnson:
There’s been a piece of every generation that did that.

Scott McComb:
That’s right. Exactly.

Brett Johnson:
Every generation. Yeah.

Scott McComb:
Exactly. That’s just wrong. Frankly, we hire a lot of millennials that are at our bank, and if we can get more, and more of them, that’s what we want to do. The fact the matter is they are very focused. They do treasure their time, but because they can use technology … They grew up never having to change a channel, to get up to change a channel. They’re not afraid of the technology, so they can run rings around us baby boomers, and X’ers. They’re just three times more effective with what they can do with the tools. They don’t need as much time to get the same stuff done. Let’s face it.

Brett Johnson:
Right, and looking at it as tools, too. They have that recognition, where X’ers, and Boomers are going, “This is so fun, I’m getting sucked in …” It’s like, “No, it’s a tool. Stop!”

Scott McComb:
Well, that, and also women in the workforce. I’m a big proponent for single moms, and for just women, in general. They are able to handle so much more on a different level, emotionally. I don’t know how to explain it, but they’re just more effective. Now that we’re having more, and more women in the workforce, I think we’re finding that we have … If you take those tools, and you put them together, a more decisive, focused workforce with technology, no wonder we have all the productivity we have, and we’re chasing inflation that we can’t ever get.

Brett Johnson:
Right. Yeah. With your busy schedule, how did you figure out a publishing schedule? How many times per month? Every week? How did you figure that out? What did you want to do?

Scott McComb:
My schedule was very hectic, so, what we were able to do, though, is do it in spurts. I would set up three in a row, and do three in a row; produce them. Then we would wait to launch them. We did them in spurts, when my schedule would allow.

Scott McComb:
Summertime is a decent time to do those. The spring and the fall are usually very, very busy with travel for me, because I have some national positions. Then, the Winter, I like to spend some time in Florida, and get out of these Ohio winters. We were able to do them in spurts, and I think we had a total of maybe five recording sessions for 12 podcasts, and it worked out pretty well.

Brett Johnson:
I think a lot of podcasters do a batch recording. It’s just easier; it fits the schedule. As long as it’s not time-sensitive, it’s okay. It works out just fine.

Scott McComb:
It’s not time-sensitive, but, that’s the thing … If your topic is about current events, though, then it’s-

Brett Johnson:
Can’t do it. Right.

Scott McComb:
You can’t do it, and if you’re gonna do something, have segments about current events, and things, then it wouldn’t work out so well.

Brett Johnson:
Any references to it, of-

Scott McComb:
That’s right.

Brett Johnson:
“This coming summer …” Oh, gotta edit that out.

Scott McComb:
That’s right. Exactly.

Brett Johnson:
But it happens, yeah … You talked about social media, between yourself, as well as guests. What was the social media strategy, at least for your podcast? Which channels to use? Which social media has you’ve seen work real well, and maybe ones like, “Nah, kick that to the curb; it’s just not working”?

Scott McComb:
We’re very active on social media, primarily for the bank, on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook; not so much on Instagram, and not so much on Pinterest. We’ve really used those three things along with our website. We have a lot of customers, because they’re doing internet banking, and paying bills, and checking their balance. Very active website.

Scott McComb:
We were able to push those things out on those mediums. Never really did a press release, per se, we just wanted to put it out there, and let people start to see, and see what kinda reaction we got. Obviously, we wanna maintain our reputation risk as a financial institution.

Scott McComb:
It was very important that Scott didn’t get out there, and say something that would offend people that are depositors, or whatever. We wanted to be very sensitive to that. At the same time, I think my customers, they bank with us because they know who we are, and we’re very transparent; we’re just going to say what we feel, and we believe everyone else should be able to say what they feel – no big deal.

Scott McComb:
Those are the mediums that we really chose, so, we drove those … A very regimented preemptive announcement for each launch. One that’s gonna launch on Saturday, we would hit the media, hit all those mediums, and say, “Okay, this is coming on Saturday”, and then maybe one or two more posts about that coming up, and then it’s live. Then we’re back into square one, again, waiting for the next episode to be launched.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah. You’re using YouTube as, basically, the platform. I wanna know, why did you choose YouTube?

Scott McComb:
Well, it’s just where we had videos already. We have various interviews from me, and other mediums. What we would hope is that because everything was already there, that they would see this, and then maybe go to see some other things that had to do with the bank, and get to know us, and what a community player, and a community supporter we are.

Brett Johnson:
Gotcha. Your current setup for “studio,” what’s it like? Describe it.

Scott McComb:
It is basically the Amerine Conference Room at Heartland Bancorp. It’s just a basic conference room; not a big one. We don’t do anything special. My daughter Kailyn plugs in microphones into her laptop; we have two microphones there that are $150 a piece. That’s our total cost, and a little piece of software, and that’s it.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah, good. She does the editing, as well, then, too [cross talk]

Scott McComb:
She does the editing. We try not to do a ton of editing, because we really want it to be real, and conversational. I think podcast listeners understand that … They don’t want it to be too scripted. They want people to speak off the cuff, and talk about things that come to their mind, and be very genuine in their delivery of the material.

Brett Johnson:
Sure. What are your biggest challenges in creating the podcast?

Scott McComb:
Biggest challenge is my schedule, and lining up with Kailyn’s schedule, because that’s not what she does full time. This is an add-on to her thing. We really don’t have somebody that we’ve hired to specifically do this, that does that for a living, and such, and so forth. That was a big challenge, getting it going.

Scott McComb:
Another challenge of getting going was getting buy-in, internally. I do a lot of things where I don’t have a lot of buy-in, because I think that I’m going to create the buy-in. I lose as many times as I win, but I’m not afraid to lose, on the aspect that you have to take risks in order to win.

Scott McComb:
I think everybody knows that at the bank, that I’m willing to jump out, and do something new, to see what happens, and try it, and see how effective it might be. That was a little bit of a thing. People were like, “I don’t know what that’s gonna be about …” What kind of reputation risk do we take? “What’s he gonna say?” Nobody ever knows what I’m gonna say, and I kinda like it that way. Those are a few things.

Scott McComb:
Besides that, we really didn’t have any challenges. It was very smooth, and once we did the first couple episodes, people were like, “Hey, when’s the next one? What’s the next one gonna be about?” or, “Hey, here’s a suggested guest you could have …” “I really like this.” We got a lot of feedback, a lot of likes; social media really took to it. I think we really accomplished what we set out to do.

Brett Johnson:
I think that leads into the next question about advice for businesses, not necessarily in the banking industry, but any business interested in podcasting – from your experience, what you’ve had to do internally. Not, again, businesses that are like yours, but they’re going to run into those walls of internal, “Uh, do I really wanna do that?” What advice would you give?

Scott McComb:
Well, a lot of folks’ll say, “Well, geez, you only had 35 people listen to that. That’s not very much”. Well, have you ever done direct mail? You’re gonna send out 5,000 things, and you might get 10 phone calls. That’s better than direct. mail, and it’s cheaper. Before you shut the door on it, and you decide never to do it, why not try it?

Scott McComb:
I think the big thing is that they have to have a commitment to it, to keep it going over time. Even if you did one or two a year, or three a year, and you’re talking about your business, and what you did, and everything else, there’s nothing bad, I think, that can come from that, unless you get too political, or if you- with your business … Maybe your business is only gonna cater to people on the left, or whatever. That’s fine if that’s an angle that you’re gonna go for, but you do take some risk in that regard.

Scott McComb:
Besides that, I really don’t see any downside to people telling their story. Because, especially, in Columbus, for instance … In Columbus, people support local ventures, and they wanna know your story. Part of what we even tell our Heartland Bank associates is, “Go out, and tell your Heartland story. This isn’t a mechanical thing. You’re helping make this story over the course of time. Go tell your story, and people will become believers.”

Scott McComb:
I truly feel that any business can do that, as well, if they are ethical, if their associates are taken care of properly, and they have a positive attitude, and they have the utmost in integrity. I really think you could take this medium. and make it work for you.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah, because you can’t fake what you just did. You can’t. It’s from the heart. Yes, there are actors that can put on the voices, and such, but we’re not actors. We’ve not been trained to do so. I think the inhibitions come down, and you just want to talk, and talk about yourself, and talk about the story, and talk about helping people, for the most part.

Scott McComb:
Right. They definitely don’t have short, fat, bald, actors. That’s for sure. I would not be an actor.

Brett Johnson:
Without giving away too many secrets, possibly, maybe a vagueness … Some future plans for the podcast? Where do you want to go with it [cross talk]

Scott McComb:
I’d be more than happy to tell we’re going. We’re an open book. Where I want to go is I want to find someone to help us to be more professional in putting it on. I’d like to true it up a little bit more, with taking on a challenge of going to some of the other things, like, if we had a video thing of it, a video portion of the podcast. Not every one, maybe, but certain ones.

Scott McComb:
I would love to talk about different strands of conversation. Not just about Driving the CBus, but taking Driving the CBus as an impetus to have some conversations that have different threads, whether that’s an industry thread, whether that’s a local thread, maybe that’s a national thread, maybe it’s a nonprofit thread, who knows? Just some of the things that I’m involved with to be able to help the people that we associate with continue to grow their communities, and get the word out, and talk about their challenges, and their victories. That’s our next step.

Scott McComb:
We’re trying to … I think we figured out that we’re going to take it not only to a business segment, where we’re going to talk to our customers about their business; not about how they bank, but about their business, and challenges they have with their business, and successes, and what works, and what doesn’t, that kind of thing …

Scott McComb:
As well as a more industry-focused piece that would be a different angle. That’d be maybe even a separate podcast, where we talk to industry experts, and service providers, and that kind of thing, just about what’s happening in the business, and appeal to the banking community as a whole, on a national level.

Brett Johnson:
I think any way you can peel away some mysteries of what banks can do, whether it’s the B2C, or the B2B, it’s good. Again, this will time this podcast, but just with the school-admissions scandal. That stuff happens because there are so many layers of mystery.

Scott McComb:
That’s right. That’s right. Well, yeah, I don’t know if we wanna get started on that. It was just nice to see the IRS, the FBI, and the Justice Department actually take some people down that are breaking the law. Not only breaking the law, but they’re just dishonest. These are people that don’t have to do it.

Brett Johnson:
That’s what’s the head-scratcher about it is-

Scott McComb:
It just is amazing-

Brett Johnson:
-that’s exactly right.

Scott McComb:
I’m gonna ruin my life, and my kids’ life, and everything else, just because I wanted them to have this status. They can buy status, right? They have [cross talk]

Brett Johnson:
Yes, they can. For the amount of money that was being thrown around, they could have donated to get their kid in … Ultimately. Really.

Scott McComb:
Yeah, it’s crazy.

Brett Johnson:
I think this forum helps bring back those layers that, then, you can understand the banking business.

Scott McComb:
That’s right.

Brett Johnson:
There are a lot of misconceptions about it, and I think podcast is a really good way-

Scott McComb:
Oh yeah.

Brett Johnson:
-to bring back saying, “You know what? I remember Scott talking about that on his podcast.”

Scott McComb:
That’s right. Well, you know what it’s about? We find our customers, all the time, just don’t understand the why. They need to understand the why. When we go to talk to folks about banking, and such, and so forth, we’re not in … We’re just not going to come back with a yes or no. I never want to come back with just … I fight that every day, as the bank gets bigger. Our culture is the most important thing to us, and to our board of directors. As soon as that changes, we’re going to have issues. I’m not going to let that change.

Scott McComb:
We want to go, and tell customers how it can be a yes; not a no, but how it can be a yes, because they have to get that from someplace. They’re not getting it from their accountants; they’re not getting it from their suppliers, and everything else. They have to have somebody telling them, “Look, this is what has to happen for you to get to the next level.”

Scott McComb:
Me giving them more money could be the nail in the coffin. That’s really … I could kill somebody with a loan, just a company, with a loan, just as soon as we can help somebody with a loan. That’s really what we want to try to provide folks. I think that the why behind banking is … It would be very, very revealing.

Scott McComb:
Right now, the history books are being written wrong about the financial disaster, for instance – how it occurred, what happened, the big bad [TARP]. That was just such a bad thing. All those are … That’s all fiction. I lived it. I was going to Ohio State, after majoring in High Street. Remember, we talked about that earlier … All through that section, that would be a whole ‘nother … We could do something on the financial disaster, with people that lived it, and say, “This is how the Big Short occurred,” and it would be fascinating [cross talk] and it’s not what you see on TV-

Brett Johnson:
You’ll have a following for it; people love that stuff that was not covered properly. They love it.

Scott McComb:
That’s right.

Brett Johnson:
They love it. We’re in a generation that that instant information is there, that you can google it up, and find what you hope is the truth, or at least differing views. Then, it’s up to you to come up with the right stuff in your mind, whatever you wanna believe, yeah-

Scott McComb:
That’s right. Getting it from the people who lived it, I think, is about the most real way you can get that information.

Brett Johnson:
Exactly. Exactly.

Brett Johnson:
In today’s world, it seems like … In one of my podcasts, I was interviewing someone from the media. They’ll remain nameless. Somebody does their homework, they can find out who it is. The fact of the matter is that person said to me … I said, “What do you think about what’s going on in the media these days? What’s happening to journalism?” He says, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, I mean it seems to me like everybody … Everybody that has an interview has a preconceived notion, and they’re asking questions to validify their preconceived notion.” He said, “Oh, that’s the way they teach … That’s why they’ve teached journalism for the last 20 years.”

Scott McComb:
What happened to reporting the facts? He says, “Well, that’s not what it’s about. Journalism is about developing an axiom, or a thought, or a theorem, and then proving the theorem through your questioning.” I said, “That’s not journalism. What happened to …?

Brett Johnson:
That’s muckraking, ultimately, yeah, I guess-

Scott McComb:
Anyway, that’s what he said, and I didn’t want to queer the podcast, so I’m like, “Okay, we’re not going to do that.” We changed the topic, and went on to something else.

Brett Johnson:
That’s interesting. Again, I think that’s unique [inaudible] as a podcaster. You can go down a rabbit hole, which we’re doing right now, which I have no problem with at all, because it validifies what this whole thing’s all about.

Scott McComb:
That’s right.

Brett Johnson:
It’s just interesting conversation. Find out more about you; find out more about … I want to listen this podcast, now. Scott sounds like a pretty good host. They must be pretty good. You’ve referenced a couple … That’s the thing. That’s what it’s all about, as well as being a proponent, with my radio background, as well, too, it’s just a really easy-access forum to talk to your future, or current customers, too.

Scott McComb:
That’s right [cross talk] It’s all about relationships. The world’s about relationships. People want to do business with folks that they know, like, and have respect for, and can [cross talk] have trust. That’s what it’s all about.

Brett Johnson:
Well, thanks for being a part of the podcast. I really appreciate it. It’s good to know you better, about where the podcast has been, and going. Our listeners at least can have an opportunity to know what to expect in the future, too, which is fun.

Scott McComb:
That’s great. It’s been a pleasure being here. I love your studio, everything that you’ve got here is great. Promoting, the whole basis of this podcast, was very interesting to me, because it really hit me as being, yeah, I would love to talk about that. I did it. It was easy. It was … It can open up doors for you. I appreciate being able to tell my story. Thanks very much.

Brett Johnson:
You bet. Thank you.

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

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