We Love Schools

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Brett Johnson:
From Studio C at the 511 Studios in the Brewery District in downtown Columbus, this is Note to Future Me. Hi, I'm Brett Johnson, host of the podcast, as well as owner of Circle 270 Media Podcast Consultants. In this episode, we're going to hear from Carole Dorn-Bell. She is a partner at Allerton Hill Consulting and the host of the podcast We Love Schools. Now, full disclosure, Allerton Hill and the podcast We Love Schools is a client of Circle 270 Media Podcast Consultants, but I did want this story to be heard about a consulting firm doing a podcast. This consulting firm, Allerton Hill Consulting, does no advertising for themselves. So, why a podcast when a podcast in itself could be a branding tool, can be considered advertising?

Brett Johnson:
I think Carole does a great job of explaining why they thought of using a podcast, why they are using the podcast, and how they're using the podcast, not necessarily to support Allerton Hill Consulting, but to do a whole lot more. It's a great story, and I think it could be a great example for any businesses who are looking at podcasting but are afraid that it could come off, as she calls it, too schmaltzy, too much of an advertisement for their business. It doesn't have to be, and I think We Love Schools is a really good example of that and, hopefully, you get a lot of good information from this interview. I want to thank Carole for being a part of the podcast, and hope you enjoy this episode, and thanks for taking notes with me.

Brett Johnson:
Well, Carole, thanks for being a guest on my podcast. I appreciate it.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Thank you. I'm glad to be here. I don't think I've ever been a guest on a podcast all this time.

Brett Johnson:
Haven't you so far?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
No.

Brett Johnson:
I was going to ask you about that in email if this was a new experience or if I should be welcoming you a different way because, you know, "Five time guest," you know, that sort of thing.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
It's new, and it's weird for me to be on this end.

Brett Johnson:
Well, that's cool. Good, good. Well, as I start with my podcasts, I usually ask my guests nonprofits that they support with their time, talent, treasure, whatever it might be, just to give a little plug to nonprofits at the beginning, since we're going to be so business oriented toward the end.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
This one's easy for me. I started, and I fully support the Olentangy Dyslexia Network. My two children are dyslexic, and we, years ago, quickly found that we had trouble with getting them properly identified, which is in accordance with the law that you have to identify, find and identify these kids and getting them the services. We work, of course, within our school system, which is Olentangy. They've done a great job over these last number of years, and they've really become a leader now, but we've just found as we've gotten out, that dyslexic services are really far behind for kids. But at any rate, we've done-

Brett Johnson:
Really? You hear so much about it, you would think that it's on task.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
You would, and they need a very specific type of tutoring. Their brains just work differently, and especially my older one is very dyslexic. Of course, all dyslexics are very dyslexic, you know, I should qualify that. I mean, you have it, you have it, but it was just a heartbreaking experience, but very formative, I think, for all of us within the family. I'm not dyslexic. I don't know anything about it, but once we learned that our oldest child was, we were all in in terms of supporting her, and we were willing to change the world for her, and so that is very close to my heart. It is a cause I will never let go of in my lifetime.

Brett Johnson:
Well, that lends toward the area you are in, public schools, schools, supporting public schools, basically, in essence, of talking about that. Let's talk a little bit about that, your background and history and also the company you're a part of.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah, sure. I'm with Allerton Hill Consulting. We're a full-service consulting firm. We work exclusively with schools. As I tell superintendents, my job is to make sure your goals are accomplished, your 30,000-foot goals. We're not a replacement for a communications person, a day-to-day person. So, if you want to talk about lice or the lunch menu, that's not us.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah, right, right.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
If you need to start having the conversation with your community about facilities and the need for new facilities and why you're looking into that in a very informational way, of course, or it could be something like redistricting. We don't do the redistricting work, but it's weaving the conversation with the community as to the need and why you're looking at these things. It's more the 30,000-foot view.

Brett Johnson:
Right. Okay. How did the process begin to talk about a podcasting? You're very insulated in regards to your business, you know, who your business is, who you're targeting and such. Why a podcast for Allerton, and what were those first discussions like to go, "Okay, hey, this podcast thing, we should look at it," how did that begin for you?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
We do have a very specific niche and, Joel Gonyea, my business partner within the firm, came to me and said, "I think this is a great idea." He's a big podcast listener. By the way, he's dyslexic too. I feel like I'm surrounded by them, like, you know, like my life. I mean, things really come to you for a reason. Your life just all makes sense, I think, the older you get, so I'm to that point. At any rate, he came to me, and he takes in content very differently than I do. We're a good yin and yang in a whole lot of ways, but he came to me … and I'm also a big podcast listener in general. I have my definite favorites out there. He said, "Let's do this." You know, we're talking to, in working with our clients out there, we're encountering all these really cool things that they're doing, and let's give it a larger platform, and yeah, it could be good for business.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Honestly, to our core, all of us within the firm, we're deeply, deeply committed to public schools and into that work and, therefore, to the work that our clients are doing, so it's not a business, per se, to us. We never view it like that. It's just a calling, and so the podcast is really our venue for providing this platform. Public schools take so many hits all the time out there, as we all know, and largely they're unwarranted. They're doing a lot of really cool things out there with, sometimes, very few resources and, especially, when I'm out there talking with, you know, I can talk to a super affluent school district that has more resources … None of them really have a whole lot of resources, honestly, you know, when you really look at their budgets, but that's a whole different story.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Some of the super affluent school districts, it's easy for people to say, "Oh, that's where the talent is, and that's where they're doing the really innovative things." Well, that's not true. If you go out to some of these districts in Appalachia, and I've interviewed them, they're doing some really cool things. I did a podcast recently about a summer lunch program where they're taking this blue bus all around, and it was a really cool podcast, and I felt like it was such a creative, innovative way to identify a need and fill that need to meet that need. That was just in, you know, any school district, Ohio kind of thing, but they're doing something really cool out there, and that's worth people knowing about.

Brett Johnson:
Right. Well, and it's funny you make the comment that you've had a conversation with Joel that the podcast doesn't necessarily have to bring in business for you, but it's the stories. It's the who is the intended audience, and let's get that information out there. In your mind, do you think that lessens the pressure of what that podcast has to do for you and who you talk to?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah, I think it does a lot. It just fits with our mission. When you're in, I think, in the right line of work for the right reasons, you accept that a lot of what you do may not be directly toward the ROI of things. You're planting seeds, and maybe they'll bloom in the future, but it's goodwill, and it puts our name out there and it puts their name out there and I want to show them in a good light. But, yeah, I think actually it does take a lot of the pressure off. Because when I sit down, then, to interview somebody … it's so interesting you ask this question, it's really got me thinking. When I sit down to interview somebody, I approach it more from the standpoint that I'm sitting down and just having this conversation with somebody, so there is no pressure. I really, genuinely, want to know what you're doing, and I want to give it that platform, so I think it does.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah. Well, and then it's coming through to me … full disclosure, you're one of my clients. We've been working together now for, I don't know, a few months. I don't know.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I feel like it's been way longer than that.

Brett Johnson:
I know. I think at the beginning of the year, I think. I don't know. I never really look at the clock and go, "Okay. Hey, it's now a six-month anniversary," kind of thing. Unless it's a year, then I kind of like to make note of that. But, at the same time, noting the content that you've been sending me to edit and then, you know, we help promote and such like that, it's the episodes and the content that you are, especially, in the last couple about the food, okay, the-

Carole Dorn-Bell:
The Blue Bus.

Brett Johnson:
The Blue Bus, as well as the innovative ways of creating this local food, ingesting, bringing locally produced food into a school cafeteria, to me, looks as though those pieces of content are not going to help your business.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
No.

Brett Johnson:
Putting that out. It actually, I thought, this is a general public type of podcast that they should be listening to this and knowing what schools are actually doing that's so innovative to help their students do the best that they can by feeding them during the summer with the bus, as well as just a normal school time, to make the best of a situation and get the best out of their students. I thought they were great examples of … Yeah, your target might be superintendents. Okay, great overall, but those two episodes did much more than that.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
They do. Do you know what else? We have so evolved with the podcast too, but do you know what else it does is, I didn't have a relationship with that superintendent prior to that. I didn't know that person. Someone tipped me off, tipped me off? Clued me into that, that sounds like news stuff, right, like, "Hot tip, they're doing this. Go investigate." Someone clued me in, "They're doing this. I think it would make a cool podcast," and so I reach out, and what I find is when I reach out just with an email, you know, "So-and-so said you're doing this cool thing, and I'd like to interview you. The format is friendly, and bah, bah, bah" I have only had one person over the many years we've been doing this say, "You know, I think just not right now," kind of thing. It wasn't even "I'm not comfortable with the platform," it was just kind of not right now.

Brett Johnson:
Sure.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
But, you see, I guess it's the planting of the seeds. Then I interviewed that person, they're satisfied with it, someday down the road, you know, these superintendents, they move up or maybe they just move out and retire, as everybody does toward the end of their career because they're usually toward the tail end of their career. But it's the planting of seeds that I feel like, you know, someday will bloom, but there's no pressure. We don't advertise as a firm. We do no advertisements whatsoever. We don't offer our services or anything. This is, I would say, the closest we come to it, and we really don't push our firm within it.

Brett Johnson:
No, I'd have to say you don't.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
We probably should.

Brett Johnson:
I think at the beginning of the podcast, you established who you are. I think that's legitimate, otherwise a listener will kind of go, "Okay, why are they doing this? Who is this business?" Okay, but there's never really a call to action, a hard call to action.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
No, we just don't do that.

Brett Johnson:
It just is.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Either people believe in what we do, or they don't. We're all word of mouth.

Brett Johnson:
Right. Which, in essence, it's just a branding podcast for you.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Right.

Brett Johnson:
Ultimately, you know, as a tool.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I guess it is.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah, and a networking opportunity too.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah.

Brett Johnson:
That you get to talk to people that you never would before.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
It is. You know, I had somebody on recently, and he was such a good interviewee, and I said to him afterwards, "We gotta do this again. Like come up with a topic because you were really fun and really good in this medium." You know far more about this than I do, truly. You've been, and this is like a very shameless plug on my end, but you've been nothing but great for us to work with.

Brett Johnson:
Well, thank you.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
And so professional. We really appreciate it.

Brett Johnson:
Well, thank you.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I mean that, that's genuine. You don't often have a chance to tell people that.

Brett Johnson:
Sure.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I won't get any more sappy. I'm done.

Brett Johnson:
No, I can handle it. Sappy is good for every once in a while. You know, there's some days you kinda go, "I'm faking it today, aren't I?"

Carole Dorn-Bell:
We all are.

Brett Johnson:
Exactly, you know, and then you hear a couple of pieces and you're like "Okay, maybe I'm doing okay." Everybody needs that occasionally too, so yeah.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yes.

Brett Johnson:
Well you talked about you and Joel having this conversation about the podcast. I know there had to be more people involved because you have more people supporting each time we publish, in regards to putting it on the web and social and such. Let's talk a little bit about that. So, once you and Joel had the conversation, "Yeah, let's do it," what was the next step? What did you do? Who was brought in, and how did you get it accomplished?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
We started out with … See, I call what you do "podcast guru", that's your official title in my brain, so we've started out with a podcast guru of sorts who could go through, tell us what equipment to buy, which was so easy. I set it up in my office, and Joel and I started taping. It really is an evolution. We started out taping together, smashing in the whole interview, so the intro and outro that kind of bookend the podcast, we were kind of all doing it at once, and we just learned things as we went along that, well, let me back up.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
You know, right now ours is face-to-face, and we don't tape ours like that, so I don't have this beautiful studio that you have. It's in my office, and so I tape over actually Skype. I call that person at that set hour, I ask them in advance, you know, "Make sure that you have a headset if you can," doesn't always. I've had people try and do it on speaker phone, which is terrible. It was terrible anyway, it doesn't matter what, it's terrible. We've learned because you can't see somebody, if you're doing it that way, we learned it's very difficult to have more than two people, the interviewer and the interviewee on, because they're kind of like planes colliding in the sky, people talking over each other, the awkwardness.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
It's like, "Oh, this is so difficult," so I usually, for mine, only want one person. We started out interviewing. We said early on, "Let's interview, let's right away run through our clients. Let's talk with them. Whatever they want to talk about. You know, let's arrive at the topic," and things like that. That's a no-brainer. We interviewed some people within our firm. They were very supportive, and they have been. They haven't been interested in being the interviewer, because we did open that up to everybody who wants to do this.

Brett Johnson:
Oh, okay. Great.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah, we did. Right away I said, "You know, I'd like to do this. I mean, I definitely … This is something that interests me," so really Joel and I do it because it is what interested us, but everybody else is like, "Yeah, you got that. You guys go do your thing, and we'll send clients to you."

Brett Johnson:
Well it's always great to have another point of view, another angle of a different interviewer, you bet.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah, and I feel like our firm is very democratic or whatever, but we all bring just these different talents and skills, and we're always very sensitive of what do you want to do, and where do you want to be, and this thing that we have, do you want to be a part of it or not? Is that where your skills are and where your love is?

Brett Johnson:
Well, and each one of your members of the team is very visual on the website.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Is it, good?

Brett Johnson:
I think it's neat to put a voice to a person.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yes.

Brett Johnson:
Because it doesn't always come through, though you have the video portion of the website to find, you kind of want to hear how that person sounds.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah, yeah. I think so too.

Brett Johnson:
You do, and I think that's neat to go. "Oh, that's Carole, that's Joel, okay."

Carole Dorn-Bell:
That's true because, of course, I've looked up Terry Gross, you know, people like that from my favorite … or the guy from This American Life, Ezra? No, Ira Glass. Of course, I've looked him up. What's he sound like? He doesn't look like that!

Brett Johnson:
It's funny you bring up Terry Gross because she was the keynote speaker at last year's Podcast Movement, just happened a year ago, it was in Philly. She comes out and she's this very short, petite lady, but she's in total leather, coolin' it up, you know? She just had this, for as small a person as she is, she had the stage presence and she owned it.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Did she?

Brett Johnson:
She owned it, but didn't do a whole lot of movement stuff, but people were just glued because she is what she is. She brought these examples of what she did, her mistakes and bad interviews and things that went really bad, and just over a lifetime, just giving good examples of, okay, you're going to be an interviewer with your podcast, this stuff's going to happen and you live through it. It's funny you bring her up because it was just so funny. Everybody was just enamored by her, but she's just this very petite, leather, you know, cool-looking 60-year-old.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I wish I had that kind of cool.

Brett Johnson:
I know.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I just, I do. I do. I envy that.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah. You're thinking, "Okay, now she's back on her way to WHYY, you know, after the gig, so yeah.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
If I came out like that, my friends would be like, "You need to go back in and change. You can't pull this off."

Brett Johnson:
That's too funny. Oh, my gosh, yeah. Well, good. That's interesting that no one's picked up the baton to want to help, but it's good that you gave that opportunity to them. That's great.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Absolutely.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah, exactly. You said you were targeting superintendents with the podcast, but I think, as you said, it's evolved. Let's take a look at when you first began. Of course, you said you were talking to clients already, and you did talk about just a little bit ago in regards to how it's evolved and changed, and the topics are really ever changing and such. At the beginning, what were you thinking about in regards to the content? What did you want to get out there? And, then, how and why did it change over time?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
You know, I worked so hard at the content, at kind of the flow and the questions and kind of the back end of it, and then, because I think a function of two things. It was so labor intensive, and I was so busy with the part of the work that pays the bills on a day-to-day basis, that something had to give. I didn't feel like it always made for … I was putting a lot of work into the back end of weaving the content when I always wasn't … It was difficult for me because I wasn't the expert. I'm going to go back to the Blue Bus. It would be hard for me to fully understand the flow of the questions that need to occur because I only have a cursory level of what that project is about, and so I was making it far harder is what I learned.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Because of those two different issues that I had converging on me, I started with a few of the coming interviews after that to say, "Can you get me about five to six good questions? Good questions so I get the flow, I get what you do, so that we make sure we also cover what you want to cover." I want to accomplish their goals. I don't want to waste their time, and I want them to feel like they got something out of it, too, that people need to know. That's been really effective, and I've stayed with that format, and I feel like it's made for a better interview. Now I don't always stick with the questions that they give me, but it's just this kicking off point, this jumping off point, and it's just made everything so much better. Does that help?

Brett Johnson:
Yeah, I think that's a perfect way of going about it because sometimes there isn't enough information to know about what you want to talk about. Like you said, you were tipped off about this thing happening. I know the bus had TV coverage, so you could probably watch the two-minute piece on the TV. Not a whole lot of information, but the latest episode that you have up talking about the change at this cafeteria in, I forget what school system it was.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Oh, yes. I don't remember, yeah.

Brett Johnson:
I'll look it up. I'll put it in the podcast show notes. But there's probably no information about that, other than going on the website. Their Facebook page was where most of it was, so you could get a little bit of it, but how much time this woman has put into changing everything about the food.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
She was so thoughtful, and I was impressed by how deep her knowledge was. She was really an expert, she really was.

Brett Johnson:
In just, what, two years out of, well, just a handful years at school, right? If I understood that correctly?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yes, she really was. You're talking about somebody from my generation who, their idea of somebody who runs the food service program is like Adam Sandler's Lunch Lady Land song, which I mean, is just a really, you know, crass kind of thing, but it's a whole different vision. I mean, she's amazing. I should say, too, and this hits, again, to the evolution of how we've changed over time is, yes, the content but, also, we started out, and I haven't looked at the metrics on the back end as of late, but we started out realizing that our target for this podcast are superintendents, which we do have a lot of loyal superintendent listeners, they tell me. I've actually been recognized out there.

Brett Johnson:
Isn't that cool?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
It is so weird. It is so weird. I don't even know what to do with it.

Brett Johnson:
You need the leather stuff.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I need the Terry Gross.

Brett Johnson:
(inaudible) the Terry Gross today, right, there you go.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
But also women. Women are big podcast listeners, which I didn't realize until I started getting into this. I don't know if that's still the case, so we've realized those, and those are two very different audiences at times. Not that there's not a lot, well, there's not a lot of female superintendents, but you get what I'm saying. We're talking about kind of, they're just very different. But I've had superintendents refer people to our podcast as PD, a form of PD, listen, and here's-

Brett Johnson:
Oh, really?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yes, I have. We were even in a book by an educator, that an educator wrote. He presents all over the world, and he recommended our podcast as one of the very few that he recommended to listen to.

Brett Johnson:
That's fantastic.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I felt like, "Wow, this is just really something cool."

Brett Johnson:
Isn't that fun? That you put something together, you don't really go out to do that, it's just to get information out, and things happen around it that organically happen to support it because you're doing the right thing.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Because we're doing the right thing for the right reasons, and we're staying true to that. I think that makes a big difference.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah, and I dwell on this piece of it because I think a lot of businesses who don't advertise themselves, just like you talked about, look at this, but they, number one, see it as an advertisement, but it doesn't have to be. And, number two, can be an avenue to brand themselves softly.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah.

Brett Johnson:
That's why, again, dwelling on this past 15, 20 minutes in regards to the content piece, you're doing it properly.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah.

Brett Johnson:
And you're having fun doing it.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
We're having fun. I mean, and if it weren't fun, I wouldn't want to do it. Our work is fun. We love our work, but nobody wants to sit through a sales pitch or feel like.

Brett Johnson:
And they won't in a podcast.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
And you know what? I don't want to give one. I don't know, I feel skeezy. It's just me. It's not me.

Brett Johnson:
And, then, saying that as well too. All the sudden, you're giving an example of what working with Allerton is like.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah.

Brett Johnson:
That's exactly. That's what this whole thing can do is give an example of those guys sound like they know what they're doing, number one. And number two, she sounds like she'd be fun to work with. She gets it.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yes.

Brett Johnson:
And Joel does, too, in the episodes that he records and has done. Let's call them, let's have an interview with them, you know, and see if we can work with them sort of thing.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah. I mean, it's so easy to reach out to somebody. I mean, it's kind of like blind-date-ish, right? But it's so easy to reach out to somebody and they accept, and then you've got this interview and this really cool podcast that you're putting out to people with great information. It's just a great thing.

Brett Johnson:
There's a lot of discussion about, okay, we're going to create a podcast. We've got to publish, what should our schedule be? Every two weeks, every week, every day, blah, blah, blah? You are against the norm, for sure, in regards to when it happens.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
The frequency?

Brett Johnson:
Yeah, the frequency.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Is that a good thing?

Brett Johnson:
Good or bad doesn't matter, does it? Because you're getting noted in books. You are now in the level of professional development, so what? The contents good. I do want to make a point in regards to, really, you don't have a schedule. I'm sure in your mind you do. It's like "Okay, I want to get a couple of them done a month," but a lot of it hinges on if the person's available to talk to, of course. I think, overall, we've been, maybe, doing one to two a month for sure, depends on availability. Probably during the school season, it might be a little bit easier. Let's talk about were you thinking of a frequency schedule, or just like, you know, when this happens, we get it done, but let's make sure we kind of focus on getting something out once a month, a couple of times a month?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yes. We, of course, have a schedule in mind, but we're also forgiving of ourselves because this is something we do for fun, right? I'm going to back up a little bit. After we started our podcast and had it going for a while, we contracted with somebody that could kind of audit our podcast and give us some tips and tricks and things like that. All I did was provide a couple different samples, and … But, anyway, he kicked back some really good input for how to improve our podcast, and they were simple fixes that I could do, that I feel like greatly improved them, and Joel had the same feedback, but his was tailored to him, of course. That was really helpful for us. Wait, I forgot your original question even. What was your original question? I was going somewhere. I really, I was going somewhere.

Brett Johnson:
Your plan for frequency.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Oh, plan for frequency.

Brett Johnson:
Right, or the lack of, either way.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Or the lack of. One of the things that he recommended to us was to tape more frequently, tape more frequently, but also divide some of these up. We might be interviewing somebody, and it might be a longer podcast, but create some natural breaks in there where we can separate it out over like, let's say five days. Now we don't do that. It's probably still a good idea. I think our podcasts, they're pretty short. It's not This American Life long, like an hour, which is one of my favorites, but I would say we wind up 10, 20 minutes somewhere in that range, depending on how it goes. I don't know, he seemed to think shorter was better, but I'm not sure how I feel about that, honestly. But otherwise, it's a matter of how busy are we? When can we get people scheduled? But things happen. My electricity went out about an hour before I was supposed to podcast recently. I had to reschedule somebody on out.

Brett Johnson:
Oh, now. Wow, okay, yeah.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah, so, you know, there are just some things that happen. People are really good about not canceling or, you know, that kind of thing, they really are. It is somewhat rare, but it just depends on how quickly we can get people scheduled in. I need time in the office. I will tell you, I cannot tape back to back to back to back podcasts. I'm gassed.

Brett Johnson:
It fries you.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
It does.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah, because you want to be respectful of your guest, and really be on it, but your mind can wander, and you're not as fresh as the first one compared to the fourth one.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
That's right.

Brett Johnson:
And, especially, even if it is 20 minutes. And you know what? A 20-minute interview is not a 20-minute interview.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
No, it's not.

Brett Johnson:
You're on the phone with them 5 to 10 minutes prior, just loosening them "in the green room".

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yes.

Brett Johnson:
And then getting into, and then years always post, you're probably going to talk a little bit afterwards, too.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Then, afterwards, I need to tape my intro and outro, so I need time to kind of reflect, brings together, you know, that kind of thing.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah, I think the infrequency is fine. I think the content holds its own. I think you walked into it, right? You and Joel walked into it, right, in regards to investing in yourself. And this isn't a shameless plug to work with a consultant or anybody.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Sure.

Brett Johnson:
But if you're putting money into this, you will get it accomplished. You know there's going to be a bill coming from your hosting platform, the person editing, whoever is involved, even your web designer. You know you're paying people to do certain things for you, it's like, "Oh, why are we paying this, and we're not doing it?"

Carole Dorn-Bell:
That's right.

Brett Johnson:
That's probably in the back of your mind. That works for me. If I'm paying for something, it's like, you know what, "I've got to do this. I'm going to do this," because I enjoy doing it anyway, just get it on the schedule.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
When we pay for things, we value them more.

Brett Johnson:
Right.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I mean, it just is.

Brett Johnson:
I think that in itself is a lesson. If you're going to do it and you do everything, but say, "Hey, we'll do it, but we'll do it for free," you're not going to get it done. You really aren't.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Every once in a while, we have the conversation, should we continue with this? And I'm always yes. I like it. I feel like it's off of my regular kind of work that I do, so it diverges from that a little bit, and it's fun and it's interesting, but we always come back to yes with it.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I mean, yeah, it's a little bit of time, but it's worth it.

Brett Johnson:
Right. Well, especially, for the quick feedback you're getting on everything. You're enjoying it, and you're getting these stories that are just (inaudible) like that's cool, and no one else is showcasing it. Nobody else is talking about it. It's giving them exposure outside of their small community. That could be a prime example for any community around the country of these things going on. It's great, yeah. Social media strategy. At the beginning, what were you thinking about doing? And social media, I'm talking about platforms, whether it be Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Has that evolved? What was targeted? What do you do with supporting, you know, getting the word out?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
With the We Love Schools Podcast specifically?

Brett Johnson:
Yeah, and is it tied in with the business in some fashion, or is it even separate? What were the discussions with that?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
We did have some discussion about that, and it is linked off of our Allerton Hill webpage, but it's not very prominent. Within our podcast, we push the We Love Schools website. We don't push our Allerton Hill, and so people go directly there. Twitter, all the social media, it's We Love Schools oriented. It's not toward our firm either. And again, maybe we're making a mistake there, but I don't think so. It feels right for us.

Brett Johnson:
Then it's right.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Right? A lot of it is feel, like if it feels kind of icky, you know, but we have somebody that does run that for us. Now I will, on my work Twitter, I try and post pictures of work, right, so I'll post a picture, usually, and tag different people that I'm interviewing, and tag of course @schoolspodcast, and they will retweet, you know, so like, "Interviewing so-and-so today about blah, blah, blah. Stay tuned," kind of thing, so at least I'm keeping it out there in a different way. And, of course, I find that they retweet it, so it's the planting of the seeds again. It just brings a lot of goodwill.

Brett Johnson:
Especially when you're finding a topic that they're very proud of that they want to talk about. Obviously, that's why they want to be on the podcast is to toot their own horn, perfectly legit, it's fine, because they're looking for avenues to talk about stuff that they're doing. It's great. It's like, "Oh, hey, she's going to interview us. This is a self-plug that doesn't sound like we're talking about ourselves. Someone else is interviewing us about this."

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yes, I think that's part of the power for them. I mean usually I find that, maybe, they've been able to talk about something at a school board meeting which, if you've ever been to a school board meeting, not many people go, so it's a little bit like if a tree falls in a forest, did it really happen? There's just not the audience, and it's not the best venue, frankly, for something like that to really get it out. Or they might put something in their newsletter, or put something out internally, and I think there's that, yes, absolutely do that, for one, for any that are considering that, but it has a different level of validation when you're on, when you've been asked, you know, maybe by a school's podcast or podcast to be interviewed, that, wow, this is maybe something pretty special, and I think they see that.

Brett Johnson:
Sure. Getting into the, kind of the nuts and bolts, I guess. I gave you these questions ahead of time. You're probably going, "Why does he want to know about that? Do I remember how that happened?" I only bring it up because there are so many options of a hosting platform where you can go to host, whether it's Blubrry, Spreaker, whatever the case might be. You chose Libsyn early on. Do you remember or recall why Libsyn? I only bring it up because there are some really great options out there, or there's some pieces to Libsyn that you thought were attractive compared to others?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
No.

Brett Johnson:
Okay.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I have no idea.

Brett Johnson:
Okay, that's fine. It could have been the choice of your editor, and (inaudible) at that.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah. I think it was the magic that occurred, but I mean, that is definitely.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
If you say switch, we will switch. We trust you unequivocally.

Brett Johnson:
Until Libsyn says and does things wrong, I say keep going with it because it's not necessarily a hassle to switch to another podcast platform. If you don't have to, why? You know, until you realize that their numbers really aren't true or their support's really bad and something happened. Just like anything else in life, if you're just dissatisfied with, it really comes down to support. It really does. If something happens, and the support's not there, then you start thinking about it.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah, we've never had an issue at all. But yeah, I wasn't part those … it's part of the magic that occurred outside of anything.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah. I've got a few go-tos. I've used four or five different ones. (inaudible) I'm interested just to see if the platforms are like. So, for me, this was my first foray into Libsyn, to know what that platform's like. Again, everybody's the same ultimately. It's just the user experience.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I'm a tinkerer like that too. I like to see like, "Oh, what's that like? What's that do?"

Brett Johnson:
What's that look like? What's that do? What doesn't that do you? I think there are some platforms that do better than others specific to what you need. For example, Spreaker, you can go live and live stream on Spreaker. They're the only platform that you can do that, so it's kind of a live radio online, when it comes down to it. If that's not your gig, and you're not interested in doing it, you're not really paying for that option, but okay, that's not really a platform I have to go to if that's never really in the game plan.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah.

Brett Johnson:
I've used that platform quite a bit for live stream for different events and a nonprofit that I work with as well too. Works perfectly. It's just dog and pony show stuff, honestly, you know, but it's different access and those we interviewed thought it was kinda cool.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Oh, I bet. It's intimidating going live.

Brett Johnson:
It is, a little bit, but we always say, "Hey, it's being recorded at the same time. We'll edit for those that, the bigger audience that probably will be listening afterwards, so with the live, don't worry about it. Don't worry about it too much," so it gets out of their minds, so that's fine. Now, you mentioned early, your recording space is your home, home office and such. Let's talk about the equipment that you literally have there at the house.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
So it's a beautiful microphone. It even is pretty to look at. I mean that. I'm rather attached to the whole setup. It's on this easel kind of thing or this arm that I just swing over, and I have my laptop set up and, you know, I'm a planner, so I don't like to leave anything to the last minute. So, before I interview, I get on, I don't know, about 10 minutes ahead of time just to make sure everything's plugged in properly because sometimes your brain shorts out and, with anybody. And wait, where does this plug in and how? I want to make sure that … every once in a while that happens, but I want to make sure that everything is set up correctly.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I've got the right call-in number that I have for somebody, and that I'm good to go, but it's so incredibly simple. It runs off of you know, I call through Skype. It's all through my computer, taped through, I think it's Call Recorder. After I'm done, I upload to you. Now I once made the mistake of, I knew somebody that I was interviewing. We were just having a catch-up session about how the kids and things like that, so I turned the Call Recorder off, forgot, and started interviewing. Now, I just leave it on because I just don't want to leave anything to chance, and I felt like such a bozo.

Brett Johnson:
It won't be the first or last time to do it. As you've noticed me, I'm eyeballing the recording. Every once in a while, I'm making sure it's still red, it's still going on because every system has ghosts in the machine, and whether even you did hit record and it stops like, oh, computer glitch. Great. Okay, and you got to start over wherever you started.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yes.

Brett Johnson:
It happens to everybody. Or run out of space on the computer, that it doesn't record anymore. Yeah, it's happened with a couple of podcasters I work with. They went through a great recording session. In fact, it was specific to Lawyer Talk here that I work with, and halfway in, Steve goes to the computer and looks at it goes, "Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no," and about halfway through, it stopped.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
And you cannot recreate that magic.

Brett Johnson:
You can't. That was the problem. You can't recreate it. They did to a certain point, but they were all going, "No! Did that piece? Oh, no, no," because it was such a great conversation. I happened to be out in the reception area listening in, and it was a good session. They were having a blast, so you just … you can't, you, and then you got to try to, "Okay, where did it stop? Did we talk about that already?" So it's really hard to recreate, other than just from the very beginning, and it loses its luster when you have to do that. It's kind of tough. It's doable, but it's tough.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
It does. It's like having somebody come in mid conversation and say, "What were you guys talking about?" You know, it was so involved, just forget it, like, you know?

Brett Johnson:
You wouldn't get it.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Just forget it.

Brett Johnson:
Just forget it, exactly.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
We're moving on.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah, right, right. Some realities to a podcast recording, especially, over the long haul. I mean, there are bumps in the road. Obviously, our relationship started with a bump in the road.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Not on your part or not on our part.

Brett Johnson:
Because of something happened that we got together and started working together.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yes.

Brett Johnson:
Let's talk about some of those bumps in the road. You've had now, how many years recording? There are things that are going to happen. Change of people. We won't ever go there again with that type of conversation. Think of some things because I think it's a good example of it's not all smooth sailing, but you overcome it and keep moving on.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
You know, I think bumps in the road? Every once in a while, I have somebody that I interview that's been passed on to me as somebody that really would have a lot to say or a great topic and, honestly, it's a flat interview, and I feel it. I can feel it, like, either I … One of the things I care about as somebody who's doing the interviewing is, I want to establish that rapport early on with that person. Like I said, I often don't know these people that I'm interviewing, but sometimes the interview's just really flat. Or we might start out in the green room, as you noted so appropriately, having this great conversation, and then we get to the recording of it and they're flat, and it's "What happened?"

Carole Dorn-Bell:
That's rare, but it's deflating. It's just the deflating feeling because, as a host, I'm trying to poke and things like this, and to get this going again, get the mojo going, so I think that's one. I care about having, you know, we talked about the frequency, I do want a regular kind of drumbeat of podcasts being released out there and sometimes that's hard. It's really hard around the holidays with people's schedules, and so we find we have to work far in advance come the holidays. We're not always very good about that, but I think for me, the biggest thing … I feel like with the evolution that we've had, we've worked through the bumps in the road through that to make for a better podcast by taping the intro and outro separately outside of the podcast, the main podcast taping.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
We've worked through different things like that or improved kind of the way we're taping the podcast with our delivery. You know, one of the recommendations that I thought was really astute was that our podcast, whoever did our audit, I can't remember who, but he mentioned refer to listeners, listeners. You know, for our listeners, you know, say that kind of thing, tell them about "bah, bah, bah", and so I started doing that. I'm not always very good about doing that, and you don't want to overdo it, but it's those kinds of things that have been very helpful. I think the hardest for me is when that rapport falls flat, and sometimes it does, or I'm going to be just dead honest here, sometimes the topic is really boring to me.

Brett Johnson:
Well it can't always be home runs, that's true.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
It can't always be, but it's interesting to somebody else, so I try and keep it, but sometimes I'm like, "Whoa, golly."

Brett Johnson:
Yeah, because I'll even go through an episode, not yours, but a podcast episode that I typically will listen to on an ongoing basis, but sometimes I know they're going to have good stuff, and it's like, "You know what? Let's power through it because I know that even though the topic may not be good, they always give me something." You've gone to workshops and conferences and such and you kind of sit through something, and there's no way that you can't get something out of it. If you have to be here anyway, yes, somebody is going to get something out of it, or maybe it'll turn all of the sudden in the middle of it and it's like "Oh, wow! This did happen. Okay, good." You never know.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yes, it's persevering. But yeah, somebody does get something out of it, and I try to. But I think those are very rare. It's very rare, but I'm very cognizant as the host of I want to put on something that's interesting, and I want interesting topics for people. I want people to listen.

Brett Johnson:
Sure. Exactly, yeah. So future plans for the podcast. In your mind, maybe, you haven't told Joel yet, and this is a great forum to tell Joel, "You know, I want to do this." Just drop the bomb right now.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah, here it is. Sorry, Joel.

Brett Johnson:
This is where we're going in 2020 with it.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
That's right. I am so intrigued by the idea of using it as PD.

Brett Johnson:
That's caught my interest now, too. That you've got that feedback that what could that do? What that could be?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yes, so these superintendents recommended us as a form of PD, and especially in districts where they can't get to Columbus or to Cincinnati for PD, where they're further out. But I'm intrigued by it, and so right now I am so honored that they think of our podcast in that way. I feel this like shame, I'm not giving it more intentionality with the PD aspect, and so I guess I'd like to give it more focus from a PD aspect of it somehow. I'm not quite sure how to go about that yet because I haven't gotten my mind around that, but there's great potential there.

Brett Johnson:
Huge, yeah.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
People are busy. It's really hard to get people out for anything right now. I see it within our home school districts to get people to turn out for a meeting, and I'm living it. I think you have kids around my age.

Brett Johnson:
Yeah.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I'm sorry, around my kids age. That came out wrong. So, where, yeah, you want me to come out for a meeting about, you know, I don't know, why we need a levy. Okay. Well, I have five things this night where I'm running. I just work for my kids at night. I mean, that's my, that's you know, I have a day job and a night job and (inaudible) where do you want to fit that in? People are just busy.

Brett Johnson:
Or the agenda doesn't fit anything, where the focus is around the school my kid's going to. It's all the elementary schools and he is now and she's at a school, you know, all these scenarios that, how do you get to them?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yes, and so I think people are just busy, but they have time in the car. They have time when they're running or whatever to listen to some of their favorites, and so hopefully, that's where we fit in. Hopefully we're one of their favorites.

Brett Johnson:
Right, right. Exactly. Yeah. Let's end with some advice for a consulting firm. Let's really keep it in that realm because that's what you're doing. As we talked about earlier, you don't advertise, you really don't promote who you are, you've built the business on the legs that you do what you say you're going to do, and referrals and such. But there's a consulting firm that's interested in using this as a marketing tool, a soft sell, as it were, or just to have great conversations with the clients, you know, to build that relationship up and use it that way. All these different pieces to why do a podcast? What are some advice and maybe some key people that need to be involved in the ground level to make it solid from the get-go?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Well key people to involved from the get-go. Straight off, they're going to need somebody like you because I didn't know what equipment to buy. I didn't know how to go about this, what was involved, and how time-intensive or anything. I just had this instinct, and I was just a podcast listener, consumer myself. I think, right out of the gate, that's kind of the starting block. I think, honestly, I'm going to kind of toot our own horn.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I'm really proud of how we've gone about this and how we go about our business because we really, we prize and value relationships above all else, and so we stay true to that. I believe in everything that we do, and if you do good, people will notice, and they'll want to follow you. That's what I would say has worked for us and that would work for others is stay true to the relationships of things and good will follow. I guess it really is who we are as a firm. We care about those things. It is what we value, and it's just never led us astray. We've stayed true to that core, and it's so deep.

Brett Johnson:
Right.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
It's true.

Brett Johnson:
Well, no, but I think it's true because I've heard other examples, too, that they wanted to create a podcast to supplement a newsletter. Okay. It didn't work because it was just a task. They heard back from their association members that, "Hey, could you do a podcast instead of the newsletter because I listen to podcasts. I'm not reading your newsletter." Well, then it became a task that they did a podcast in addition to the newsletter. Didn't work.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Do you know why?

Brett Johnson:
It should have, but they looked at it the wrong way.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
They looked at it the wrong way. I'm going to kind of sidebar a little bit. So, within communications work, there is something, it's … I don't know if the term is still relevant within, you know, how to form a website. When you look at a website, a lot of times people develop their website and they look at how do I think for my organization this should work? Well, it's geared internally toward the organization how they think the organization should work, but there's something called use cases where what are the different uses people might have for your (inaudible)? And I think that's how a lot of things … it might work for you, the organization, to promote your newsletter on there, but does that help … is that really the angle people really care about it?

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I think it's getting the angle they care about, you know, school districts are always looking, and I think that's why our topics work, is that it's from superintendents to other superintendents and other school leaders out there, and so they are seeing these cool things. Well, maybe I can do that lunch program, that really cool lunch program and replicate it. And fine, go be the hero. The great thing about education is that they have no compunction about calling each other for a great idea and saying, "Okay, what were your pitfalls? How do I make this work?" So I feel like our podcast is a conduit to making other good happen for them.

Brett Johnson:
Those that I have done so far and listen to older ones as well, too, it comes off that way, that they're not really showboating like, "Look what we're doing here. This is great stuff," it's just, "Yeah, we're doing it the best that we can. And, luckily, we got great people around us that with this project is 'I got to give kudos to her.'" I mean, over time and time again, you hear the "Kudos to her. Kudos to him." The superintendent or the main person you're really talking to is just throwing everything off of themselves. It's amazing.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah, I think there's a humility to it that, I think, makes it more receptive to people too. It creates a genuineness, a realness to it.

Brett Johnson:
I think that and, again, choosing the right topics, the right people, makes that podcast work for you. You're bringing all these great ideas together. The more and more we talk about it, I'm not surprised that somebody made that comment to you that, you know, this is really good stuff, that it's PD level type of content because it has nothing to do with Allerton, nothing.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
No, it doesn't.

Brett Johnson:
Ultimately, it does, yes, it's brought to you by.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yes, exactly.

Brett Johnson:
You know, we're helping, we're "bringing these people to the table", but beyond that, let's have the conversation, let's get you connected.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
I think we've done a good job of staying true to our firm and the genuineness that we, I think, as individuals within the firm and as a team and how we work with our clients and the people we work with, so I'm proud of it, but can we do better? Oh, yeah. We can do a lot better.

Brett Johnson:
But that's good because that means you want to continue on. You have plans in your mind about how we can make this better because this is doing what we want it to do. That's good. When the time comes that you've exhausted, you'll know it.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
That's right.

Brett Johnson:
You'll know when it's done. Well thank you for being a guest. I really appreciate it. I think this is good insight. I have not had an opportunity to talk to, you know, basically, a consulting firm, those that have business that's not advertising itself and how they went about using, and are using, this type of medium to do what they want to do but give themselves a little bit of a lift as well too, but it's not all about them. I think this has been a good showcase on how to get that accomplished.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Well thank you. I appreciate being on this side. This is good PD for me, personally, to be on this side.

Brett Johnson:
I'm glad you had fun.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Yeah, thank you for bringing to your beautiful space here.

Brett Johnson:
Sure, no problem. Thank you, again. I appreciate it.

Carole Dorn-Bell:
Thank you.

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Carole Dorn-Bell is my guest on this episode. She is a partner at Allerton Hill Consulting and a host of the podcast We Love Schools, along with consultancy partner Joel Gagne.

Allerton Hill Consulting does no advertising. So why a podcast? Especially when a podcast itself could be considered advertising?

Carole does a great job explaining why they thought of using a podcast. She also goes in depth on how they are implementing the podcast into their networking and support strategy. All the while not specifically supporting Allerton Hill Consulting.

This podcast is a great example for any business owner who is looking at podcasting but is afraid that it could come off, as she calls it, “too schmaltzy,” too much of an advertisement.

It doesn’t have to be. The We Love Schools podcast is really good example of that.

We Love Schools Podcast – Fresh Foods That Students Actually Eat

We Love Schools Podcast – The Big Blue Bus Of Washington Court House

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