Terminal Value

Building a Brand through Podcasting with Alex Sanfilippo

Doug Utberg

Business Growth Authority | Technology Strategy & Resourcing | Cost Optimization Expert | Business Process Architect | Financial Strategist | Founder - Terminal Value Podcast

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I’m here to talk with Alex just about the podcast medium and podcasting for brand building. And this is of course a chance for Alex to promote his brand as well because he is the founder of pod match which of course is a podcasting basically a matchmaking service to find podcast authors and podcast guests. So I think the you know of course I’m going to give Alex a chance to promote his brand because that’s a part of what we all do when we run podcasts. But really just want to have open conversation just about the meaning of the podcast medium and really what it’s doing to media. And I thought Alex in our pre you know our pre-interview chat one of the things he said that I thought was really really profound is that a lot of people are really just looking for kind of feeling like there’s somebody to be around because you know we’re all kind of stuck by ourselves so with this with the rolling lockdown. So I live in Oregon which is in which has kind of never really gotten out of the idea that nobody’s allowed to go anywhere. And of course right anybody who’s on the west coast it probably feels the same what number of other states have loosened up a bit but, yeah. Is this something I can only assume. This is something you’ve been noticing that a lot of people are just really feeling like they need to have some kind of voice in their life.

Yeah. Interestingly enough. First off I’m so glad to be here Doug. Thanks, thanks for having me.

No problem.

And I did notice initially when all lockdown happened. I know this is not like a CoVid podcast or anything like that but I noticed there’s about a 20 percent drop in podcast listenership and it wasn’t just mine. I actually checked with some of the hosting providers. I have some relationships with the people that own them and they said in general was a big dip and they didn’t think it was going to come back very quick and it jumped back really fast. And it’s because the initial shock of wow I can’t leave my home anymore or you know maybe being a little bit dramatic. There but like it was a lot harder to get out and see people. People realize that oh no I need to hear other people like I’m alone most of the day or I’m just around the few people that I live with right. I need an outside voice and we saw podcasting come back with a vengeance. I mean within just a couple months by July it was the heaviest it had ever been. So it’s just a couple months that it dropped down and then went back up and I’ve actually found that the podcasts are doing the best Doug or interview podcast like this.


Because people are hearing a conversation that maybe they used to hear at a restaurant or in a coffee shop. It was like they were just a round conversation and the truth is we all know this. But

people need people and so podcasting has been a really cool medium that’s like okay I need to still do something today.

I’m working but I want to feel like I’m part of a conversation. So they’ll find something they relate to something that really makes them feel at home and they’ll just throw that podcast on let it run in the background and I think that’s why it’s such a cool medium. I mean yeah there’s some video in it as well but a lot of it you can just play a podcast on audio and that’s just a really cool thing for people and it’s been a great service to the world in this last year.

Well and that’s one of the things that kind of wonders. I wonder what the behavioral aspects have been like because of course for me I used to listen to podcasts most when I was commuting. And of course now I’m not commuting anymore because I come into my office and


That’s, that that takes me about all of 30 seconds and so you know that, that me yeah I think that the way people interact with podcasts has got to be a little different now. But I think that the point you made I think is really profound which is just that you know having you listening to a conversation. I think is something that a lot of people miss because you know when especially even if you have a family. Like I have my wife and we have two kids we also have two cats, two dogs and eight chickens.

Oh wow.

But the conversations get you know the conversations get very repetitive. I talk with my kids about their homework


A lot. And so but yeah I think that diversity of conversation is really something that a lot of people are missing.

Yeah. I found that a lot of us like you’re saying like the conversation we don’t mean for it to. It’s just that when you’re always around the same group it kind of goes in the same direction right. And I think that people even in the corporate world whether you have your people back in the office or wherever they’re at. Letting them listen to podcasts or even encouraging that sharing ones that you like is maybe like a corporate leader and sharing it with people like in your organization helps them really it gets their brain moving in a way that maybe it’s not because they’re not having those opportunities anymore. It’s a really fascinating thing I’m not a doctor or a scientist but I bet I’d be willing to bet if somebody did some study on this. You’d find that people that are listening to podcasts even in their corporate lives it’s probably helping them really engage with the work more than anything else right now because again if they’re working from home or maybe they’re just struggling their jobs


Because they feel like they haven’t seen the light of day in forever. This type of thing is really helping them again getting that brain juice like flowing and moving so that you’re able to actually do something.


And again, I’m not a doctor. I just said the words brain juice so you know I’m not one.

It’s that well and one of the things that I have definitely noticed about podcasting of course it’s you know as a medium it’s just exploded. And but yeah you really do get some colorful personalities on a number of podcasts.

Oh! Yeah.

You know, I think you know now. You definitely have some flashes in the pan. You have a lot there’s a lot of 5 10 15 episode podcasts that just die after a little while. But there’s, there’s a lot of them that have been going for a bit. And you know it’s you know there’s really no friction to getting an audience other than people just really figuring out who you are. And so you know just basically on your experience. How have people been most successful in you know using a podcast ability the kind of their personal brand or like a company brand? Because I’m thinking about this you know, you say like for example you know you know say that I’m an executive with a you know say with a community organization and I’m trying to outreach or build a community brand or get people to know who we are or try to get you know to outreach so that people know hey we’re here to help. You know this is a rough time for a lot of people and a lot of people need some help and you know we’re here to help you. Podcasting feels like a really great way to do that you know and I just love you since you’re, since you’re so ingrained in. I’d love to get your input on what are some of the best ways of especially mission-driven organizations. How they can use this medium to really help fulfill their mission?

Yeah Doug, this is a really good question. It’s not discussed enough because I think that many organizations and people are like oh I just want to start a podcast and we all say it because we see a lot of them. Here’s the thing like top line podcasts we’re about to. I think we’re getting close to 1.9 million podcasts but here’s the thing if you actually dive into those stats and look at how many of them are active it’s under 700,000 and then if you look at how many more active with under with more than 10 episodes it’s under 400,000. So yes top line it’s like yeah a lot of people have podcasts we were like oh everyone has a podcast now but, here’s the thing if you look at the ones that are active they’re actually beating even 10 episodes it’s only 400,000 and the rate of people listening to podcasts just finally passed 50 percent in the United States for people under the age of 55. So 50 percent of the United States that are under that age are listening to podcasts on a monthly basis. The level of listenership is growing faster. The number of podcasts are getting started not the number of podcasts that are staying. So podcasting is still like I think for me, I still call it in its infancy. It’s early stages, there’s plenty of room in this industry but the reason people stop is because they didn’t have a clear vision from the start.


So if you’re, if you’re a corporation you’re like oh I want to do a podcast. You need to get crystal clear on what it’s going to do. It can’t be your company’s news, it can’t be your HR department talking, It can’t be stuff having the industry you have to pick one thing and figure out, okay. What really are the people that I want to listen to this going to benefit from? What’s ideal? And for me personally, if you have an organization with more than 30 people in it doing some sort of daily podcast for people just in that organization is really cool. And there’s a lot of service providers out there that I even know and that’s what they specialize in. They will make a podcast for you so all you have to do is record and then send it out to people. And if you tell people when they’re walking to the office or while they’re clocking in listen to it for five minutes and do that in some sort of conversational way maybe like two of the the c-level people in the organization or two of the company leaders or just interviewing employees that type of thing is really cool. And I think way under utilized right now. But I think it’s really smart as long as again you figure out who it’s really going to be for and why you’re doing it and it can’t be a bunch of things. It’s got to be the one most important thing.

Well and I’m going to date myself when I say this but one of the first podcasts that I started listening to was actually grammar girl. And the episodes were only about three or four minutes long. They were really short but they just you know, they were just punchy, had one topic, explore that topic and then it was done. And you know because of course the thing too is that you know, if you’re on you know say you’re going out for a run and you’re going to be out for an hour or so and you just put a series on you can catch up on like 40 episodes.

Right, yeah.


Super accomplished right, Doug. You’re like wow look at me 40 episodes.

You know, just got knowledge all over the place but yeah. I mean and now of course I don’t even know if grammar girl is still going. But yeah that was one of the early, early podcasts.

I think it is because this is super weird but I actually just stumbled upon that podcast today for the first time ever. And I remember thinking I was like that’s a funny name. Literally today like that happened an hour ago. So I believe it is still out there. Just a small world, that’s crazy.

Yeah, yeah that is, that is Tracy. I’ll also see if Adam Curry is still doing the no agenda show. I mean, I don’t know, yeah he is the pod father so.


But yeah that’s really interesting. I mean because yeah I think I didn’t even really think about the context of a podcast from internal communications. Because yeah If you have like say a five minute daily that won’t take very long to do. You can just basically do it unscripted, you don’t have to edit it very much, it can be audio only, you can just you can really easily encode it just set it up for download. Yeah that’s, that’d be that’d be outstanding. I mean and I think it’s especially good for companies say well they’re going through the growth stage.


Because right. And when your company is really small and you’re say less than 10 people. Everybody really knows everybody but once you get higher more than about 30 or so you’re gonna start getting some pockets where people don’t know what each other’s doing. And then once you get over about 50 or 100 then you know the chance that everybody’s going to know what’s going on is going to be zero. And so you know

it’s always impossible with larger organizations to keep everybody aligned. But if you can at least make sure that everybody knows kind of the one or two most important things that are happening just on a daily basis or say like a few times a week basis it’s a really easy medium for doing something like that.

I mean goodness you know podcasts host providers or if if you don’t have a lot of requirements it is not expensive at all.

No it’s not.

To get a podcast hosted.

Yeah you know it’s something you just mentioned there is when you get to that level of let’s just say more than 40 people it gets real tough to have like a personal touch with everybody. If you’re high up in the organization or if you’re not no matter where you are you’re not going to know everybody even at that level. And there’s this, there’s a saying that I talk about a lot whenever I talk about culture but it’s “what’s talked about in the halls is more important than what’s written on the walls.” So we have a mission statement, we have a culture code right all that stuff sits on a wall but if it’s not what people talk about the halls that’s a problem and I find an internal podcast or even just a podcast you say hey company everyone listen to this.

It gives everyone something to talk about as long as it’s on par with the culture that you want to set that’s going to get it talked about in the hallways which is really going to be the culture that gets developed.

So, I know this is kind of like an interesting point here that many people haven’t thought about but I think it’s actually a pretty important one.

Yeah, oh no that’s a really important one. Well yeah definitely an important point. Yeah we’re the conversations is kind of going a little different than I’d expected.


Well because the thing that I like about the interview format is that you know it’s not scripted. In fact, the way that I personally prefer to do interviews is to intentionally have them not scripted.


Because I think there’s only really one rule of podcasting and that’s to be interesting to your target audience. And of course, target audience for this podcast is going to be you know executives or you know executive or business-minded people for companies and nonprofits. So it’s it’s kind of more of a B2B type of podcast. You know,


You know not gonna be you know you know what farts and giggles and things like that.


But you know, but still you know that’s the idea is to be interesting. And the cardinal sin of podcasting is to be boring and so the one of the things at least that I like about a lot of podcasts is that sometimes they sort of go in you know kind of tangential directions. Now if they ramble too much, which I’m in danger of doing right now. But if they get boring, but sometimes those interesting directions are kind of what kept me coming back because I’m like okay. I’m not entirely sure which direction this is to go but there’s usually one or two nuggets you can pull out of just about every conversation especially with an interview format that could. But a lot of times you can you know put into practice or can just kind of store in the back of your brain. I don’t know have you experienced something similar?

Yeah, you know there’s a lot of podcasts that I listen to and I should say some that I used to listen to. And when I first got to podcasting, I just came across some of the higher scripted ones if you will and when I realized there was organic conversation happening I so preferred that. And I know some people that are maybe more like type A personality or more perfectionist. They kind of think of a non-structured podcast as undisciplined right, like it’s just like oh you’re just talking and seeing where it goes. But like you’re saying, if you have two like-minded individuals and you as the host if you do a good job bring on the right guest the conversation is going to go in a fairly healthy direction. And you know it’s your job to make sure that that happens of course but when you bring on the right people it seems to usually happen organically. It’s when you bring on the wrong guess that it doesn’t and I prefer the organic side of things too because real conversation is organic. I mean Doug, if you want to go to a coffee shop and I had 10 questions to ask you that conversation isn’t really going to go anywhere past you being interviewed by me. It’s like you’re getting interviewed for a job right. Organic is just so much better because it opens up to a whole new place like perfect example like I can’t wait to share this podcast episode today because I’ve never talked about this topic before. And that’s one of those things that wouldn’t happen if you already had an agenda put in place saying this is what we’re talking about today and that’s it.

And one of the things that kind of makes me think of you know I won’t you know, I won’t say who it was but you know there was a best famous best-selling author that released a book you know where basically what they did was they had a it was about having interviews with a whole bunch of really famous people. And basically they asked the exact same questions in the exact same way to a big list of people and I thought it was the most boring thing that I had ever heard. Absolutely no soul to it at all. So I returned it on audible.


They’re probably solid enough, enough units to do whatever my my few dollars don’t matter.


But I think that’s, that’s really kind of the thing that I think about the medium or that I like about the podcast medium is that there’s authenticity and especially because with mainstream media there’s no authenticity.


It’s just everything is off a script and everything is for a political agenda.

So true.

And everybody thinks on the left thinks that the media is all about pushing a right-wing political agenda but on the right thinks the media is about pushing left-wing political agenda.

It’s wisdom. Wisdom you’re sharing.

Yeah, exactly and it’s but it’s like you know people you know the irregular media is scripted and it’s about pushing an agenda. And so I think the authenticity is a real advantage and I think that it’s a you know it it’s a real way for people to gain perspectives that are not you know that are not a part of the scripted media. Incidentally, that’s actually one of the big reasons why I started my podcast is because just I think that there’s a lot of I think there’s a lot of perspectives that don’t you don’t see in the mainstream media. And that real life is a lot less polarized than it looks like on Facebook or CNN or Fox News or whatever. And you know regular people are you know much more a complex and be reasonable than we’ve all been led to believe and I kind of like to help bring that out. And so a lot of my favorite guests are actually you know people from the community especially from like say mission-driven organizations or community-based organizations


Because of course right you know everybody wants to get like the big names you can attract, a bunch of listeners but some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had have been with people who are just in the area. Who are living their lives and who are you know helping people. And you know just for me I think that’s that’s really that I think that has just has a lot more soul especially because as I’m really fond of saying reality happens locally right. You know everybody likes to think national global

That’s good.

You know but the fact of the matter is what you know whether you know who gets elected president of course it matters but like I live in Oregon whose president matters very little to Oregon.


You know, who is you know who is governor in the state legislature matters quite a bit more. Who my city, city councilors are actually matters a whole lot because they’re gonna set things like my property tax rates, You know, the public utility districts, the land use planning, all that kind of stuff. Nobody thinks that way but that’s actually the reality it just doesn’t get any headlines because every news network out there is about you know federal elections, congress, senate, bills all this other kind of stuff. But yeah I just like the idea of kind of you a more real medium that’s you know that just has that actually has some soul to it.

Yeah, I’m with you there. You know I’ve had some big guests on my podcast. I don’t necessarily focus on that it’s just happened perfect example had Seth Goat in my podcast really big name in the marketing space.


Somebody else on my podcast his name is Sho like that is literally his name. He’s from South Africa. His name is Sho.

That’s awesome.

And no one’s ever heard of him but that episode is more popular than my Seth Godin one. They’re both phenomenal episodes but, the one with Sho the guy was my roommate for like years I interviewed him like eight years after he’s my roommate. Really great guy talking about purpose, talking about like having passion in your life and things like that. Really a great interview we had some synergy that I didn’t have with Seth Godin who I’ve only talked to three times in my whole life right. And this guy I live with for years we had a really good conversation and people liked it so much because like wow it was like it was like I was sitting in the living room with the two of you. You know like it was just having a conversation. And so what you’re saying is so true. I think that we get so connected to media that we forget that outside isn’t the same. Like if you step out and talk to your neighbors it’s not the same problem.


Unless of course you’re actually focusing on that problem but if you’re just out in the world.

It’s a little bit happier than people make it seem and finding interviews that are natural organic, I think really promote that a lot.

Yeah, yeah and and I think that’s I mean you’re just of course I’m just spitballing a little bit here but I think that’s actually the the really the way to really use the podcast medium to either build your brand or build you kind of use it as a communication medium is really to focus on that authenticity. You know and really building that connection. I mean because of course you know the thing is right you know if you, if you do an advertisement for example let’s say that I put a space ad in the paper or on Facebook or something like that. It’s a one-way medium and you know I only have say I only have a little tiny space and say like you know 20 words of copy to be able to get somebody to try to click something or to call a phone number or something like that and it you know it really I think it, it forces you to have a very scripted very sterile message.


I think that you know, when you know, when you have something like a podcast right you know if you and I are having a 20-minute conversation it’s really hard to have that be fully scripted so that everything is perfect.


Unless, I pay somebody to do a whole lot of editing. I would like to say it’s because I love authenticity so much. The truth matter is well I do love authenticity. I also don’t like the idea of having to pay for all that editing.

Of course, I’m with you.

And so but I think then the thing is you know through a medium like a podcast people can really feel like they sort of get to know you a little bit and get to know your guests and you know it can it almost gets a situation where even though you haven’t met somebody you can really sort of feel like you’ve had a lot of conversations with them. And I think that’s really unique and at least to me that feels like the principal attribute that you really want to emphasize if you’re using a podcast to build your brand.

Yeah, you’re absolutely right. You know I’ll let you in a little secret here. I have two podcasts. Most people know creating a brand because it’s got a lot of public press and things like that. But I have another podcast that I rarely talk about that’s actually much bigger than creating a brand. It’s actually one of the biggest podcasts in its category. It’s a faith-based podcast it’s called good Christian podcast and I talk for 15 minutes once a month on that podcast. I record it on my iPhone no tools. I just upload it right when I’m done for my iPhone, iPhone I spend less than 30 minutes a month on it because I just posted the first month of every month. And that podcast has blown up over the years and I’ve just been doing it for such a long time but it’s me just sharing my thought for the month. And the people that are interested in it are the people that want to hear what Alex has to say for that month and it’s always blowing. I’m like wow creating a brain is such a production and like I have this crazy intro I paid someone for I get these wild guests coming on like these conversations that go for this amount of time like all this branding messaging goes into it. And then I got another podcast it’s on my iPhone and I hit upload when I’m done like two different things but again it just proves your point further. Like if people are scared to get into it but you want to be authentic just start with where you are. I mean yes focus on continuous improvement. But if you have a good message to bring to people, don’t let anything stop you. Getting into podcasting is fairly simple. I mean you can ask Doug. He can I can help you. I started throwing you on the spot there but like he can tell you what he did to get one started and the thing is it seems intimidating but when you start and you start sharing a message just changing a life it makes it totally worth it.

Well I remember it and of course I didn’t actually launch it but back in 2011 or 2012 like really early in podcasting.

That is early.

Yeah, you know. What I did was yeah I downloaded audacity and I started trying to put together about five or ten monologue episodes. And the problem with the monologue episode is that it’s really hard to listen to yourself talk for that long.


And interesting for that long on any topic.


It’s so hard to be interesting when you’re when there’s only one person talking. And I think you know that was my big hang up of course I ran out of time and blah blah blah blah. And time went by and I’m like all right I got to do it now and so then I started in 2020 because I was like well I’m not going anywhere anyway so.

Right. Why is he to bring on guess though this is cool that you have this.

Yeah. Well exactly and you know I just I feel like the interview style format just as much you know is i think it’s a much more real medium and.

It is.

You get you know just gives people a lot more to you know just helps that with that relatability.

Yeah. you’re absolutely right.

Yeah although one of the other things I try to do for my listeners is to not consume too much of their time. So let’s let’s finish up with the last few thoughts and then we’ll wish everybody a wonderful day.

I love it man let’s do it.

Okay, well so I think yeah just my last couple thoughts and then just give me a couple of yours is yeah. I just think it’s really important to be authentic. I think you know both if you’re using a podcast to build your brand and just, just in your regular life you know there’s just so much fakeness out there that I think that you know that just really be bringing your authentic self to bear. I think it, especially in the current environment, is gonna give you a pretty big advantage. Think for quite a while I don’t think that’s going away just because it’s like you know when people try to be too scripted. I think it’s only a matter of time before they get found out. You know now of course, you know that doesn’t mean you have to be unnecessarily brash but you know at the very least you know just, just be real. I don’t know Alex, you know kind of yeah give me a couple of thoughts to finish off with.

Yeah you know I’m gonna, I’m gonna pay you back off of that because I really like the direction that you took this whole episode. This was super fun to be part of and for me I think about an article that I wrote just a couple weeks ago and it’s, it’s done very well it got shared around a lot and I just, I literally titled it please stop trying to change the world which a lot of people probably clicked because they’re like what the heck is wrong with this guy. My whole point was to

stop trying to change the world because so many of us were like I’m gonna launch a podcast or a blog or a YouTube channel or this product of the service and it’s gonna change the world. It’s gonna revolutionize things.

That’s honorable but it’s really pointless because nothing is for everybody if you have something for everybody it’s actually for nobody. So my advice anyone who’s one to get into podcasting any other sort of value adding content providing whatever creative way you want to do it.

Do it for one person and this is something I live by. It’s written on the whiteboards behind me that you can’t see but it literally says the words “do for one what you wish you could do for all’.

When I launched my show, I thought about the one person who I believed really needed it and I believe that Doug’s the same way he’s talking authentic authentic on authenticity and he’s trying to be

And that’s not editing out by the way. I’m leaving that in.

Keep it in there. He’s adding value to people’s lives. Think about the one person. So I want to remind people that if you think about the masses. It’ll scare you from ever launching if you think about the one person who needs it today you’re gonna go out there and help that person. So again, I just repeat that do for one what you wish you could do for all. Get out there and serve the person who needs you the most, whose message that you have that could really provide a solution to them and I think that’s just how we really make a difference in this world.

I think so and I don’t know that I can. I don’t know that I can, that I can add on to that so I’m just gonna understand. I really appreciate your time today Alex and I hope that you and everybody else has a wonderful day.

Thanks so much Doug. I’m really honored to be here today.


So following up on that conversation with Alex. I think podcasting is an amazing medium and if you’ve been waiting for the right time to start a podcast I think now is that right time. You know it’s especially in the wake of the CoVid pandemic. The podcasting medium just has that authenticity that the mainstream media is really lacking and is really a way for people to connect and get those independent voices out there. And I think that’s actually a really critical part of having a just a, just sustaining a society where there really is a free interchange of ideas. I think the mainstream media has just become so focused on just singular thought streams that podcasting is all really almost the only way the independent voices get out. So I would love to encourage you to go out and make your voice heard and I hope you just have a wonderful day and a great rest of the week.

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