podcasts I rely on for career inspiration

I couldn't be happier that podcasts are having more than just a moment in the sun. If it wasn't for a buddy of mine, I wouldn't have summoned the patience to pop in the earbuds and just listen.

My gateway was, like many, This American Life's Serial. From there, I fell victim to the reckless imaginations of Welcome to Night Vale, The Bright Sessions, and Limetown. All three are excellent examples of fictional (in Nightvale's case, hopefully very fictional) narratives that can take place entirely in your own mind.

I prefer more whimsical podcasts when I am folding clothes, pulling weeds, (adult!) coloring, or any other type of chore that only requires my motor skills and almost zero decision making. But for moments where there's more forward momentum, like walking the dogs or getting ready in the morning, I turn to the following career/learning/professional development podcasts for daily revelations: 

Mentoring Moments

This podcast definitely seeped enough into my everyday consciousness. For example, the segment  "I'm Done With That" reminds listeners to escape behaviors that can hold them back. This podcast helps you ditch everything from constant, unnecessary apologizing to self-imposed perfectionism. Denise Restauri invites dynamic, successful women to her kitchen table to share their story, answer tough questions, and positively vibe off each other. My favorite episodes:

Love Your Work

A major theme of Love Your Work is in the title. David Kadavy combines telling interviews with some of the most creative people out there with his own experience and journey to love his work. Kadavy is also prolific on Medium, where his thoughts are more candid, but like his podcast, there are some real gems that challenge how you think about work, productivity, and focus. Those are three things we're confronted with each day, and any new take is definitely appreciated. I'd recommend to start here:

Heroine's Journey

What I like about Heroine is how unafraid Majo Molfino is to relate personal experiences to professional life. I have always believed they are respectfully intertwined. Majo crafts each guest story with a beginning we all understand, our childhood. From there, each heroine featured explains her triumphs and setbacks, with a common thread throughout her years being her passion. Needless to say after each episode, I am deeply moved and motivated.

The one question that helped me be more positive

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There is a misconception that being positive equates to experiencing less discomfort, annoyance, or confusion. Or at least that is what I thought for a long time. If I just be positive, I won't encounter problems.

Totally, and obviously, untrue. Choosing to operate in the positive changes one thing: how you experience problems. Blind positivity is just another way to avoid something like making a decision, or facing a conflict head on. It prolongs rumination, the enemy of action.

One of the best books I have ever read on positivity isn't even a super enlightened self-help book. It's a book on communication, specifically work  communication. Rob Kendall's Workstorming is an essential read for anyone who has to work with other human beings. Read: almost everyone.

I'm going to paraphrase a bit. In one of his examples of how two personas came to misunderstand each other, there is an an assumption that all is lost because there is a sudden lack of something and it has caused an insurmountable issue. A shift in focus, a positive shift in focus occurs and flips it all on its head:

Ask what is needed, instead of what is missing. 

This incredible change in emphasis doesn't change the original problem, whatever it may be, but instead takes it to a place where more options are possible. Isn't that what positivity unlocks? A sense of possibility?

At work, milestones need to be hit. ROI, KPI -- these yardsticks are meant to ask one question: is what we are doing, day in and day out, worth it? With that type of pressure, people can react in all different ways, especially when the deliverables are on them. As Kendall mentions, action orientated people will ask "what" needs to get done. While big picture thinkers might ask "how" it needs to get done.

I've asked both ways. When I'm understaffed and in a bit of a crunch, I'll divert to my ultra-direct, "ankle biter" ways that have made me the organized, content-churning-metric-obsessed planner that I am. Asking "what do we not have? What is missing?" implies we are already in a deficit, and while that might be a fact, it is not a death sentence.

Language is the most powerful tool anyone can use. Shifting an ask, in any type of situation, to "what is needed?", launches you into the positive. Maybe not golden calligraphy strewn over flowers or an entrepreneur's headshot positive, but still, positive.

Umbrella branding lessons from the mouse

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Disney is good at a lot of things One is, obviously, staying power. From decorating my nursery, to now my LinkedIn feed, I'm an obvious, life-long fan.

I've been reading a lot about umbrella branding and how it can impact brand equity, future positioning, and yes, staying power. Disney is one powerhouse of an example, with everything from entertainment, tourism, to professional development in their family of brands. They all offer unique services/products/information, but the level of service and quality is implied to be uniform with all other touch points we've had with its parent brand.

For example: fans might not actively think about how interchangeable yet distinct DisneyStyle is from OhMyDisney.

Both of these Instagram feeds have the same content library at their disposal, but how they deliver it is so different. I am bait for both channels.

DisneyStyle is the answer to online lifestyle brands a la Hello Giggles, with blog-like articles on things like live-action Belle's wardrobe being both stylish and sustainable. Early to late twenties millennial women (again, I'm admitting I'm bait) understand the larger conversation surrounding ethical fashion and have very likely seen the 1991 version of Beauty and the Beast around 400x times. 

From there, OhMyDisney (Disney's answer to media powerhouse Buzzfeed), can provide me with some nostalgic fashion tips from the animated version. Same content, different approach. Traffic and affinity increased? Check and check. 

Some conclusions in my umbrella branding/family of brands research from Mickey's example:

  • Know what key platforms speak directly to consumer experiences throughout their lifetime. "Lifetime" can mean literally in Disney's case, or through the lens of a beloved consumer product, like a condiment (Heinz) or facial tissue (Kleenex). 
     
  • Only employ umbrella branding when you are sure all brands can deliver the same outcome. One cannot compensate for the other in customer service or product delivery. Your corporate logo should be an invite to experience your family of brands, and with that comes a promise. 
     
  • Operating under one brand implies some efficiencies. Launching new products and services might be smoother, and ad campaigns can start to borrow from one another. Operations is probably easier. But, taking too much similarity for granted could lead to small confusions that add up. For example, what is this brand's customer journey versus it's sibling? Do they get subscribed to the same newsletter or drip program? Noticing where and why they differentiate remidns you that you're working with a family of brands.

Twitter IS Networking

The following post is coming from a person who admits they are terrible at face to face networking. I've tried it, I hated it. It doesn't come as naturally to me as it does anyone who manages not to get the condensation from their drink all over their clothes. Yes, I spill it too. I also don't really drink it. That's a post for another day. 

Much to the surprise of anyone on my work team or inner circle, I identify as an introvert. "But you're so excitable! And loud!" Yeah, with you. And about ten other people total. Aren't you lucky?

I've read countless accounts of how to get better at networking from those with perspectives similar to mine. One day, I'll commit to getting better at it as fervently as I do any other skill, but until then, social media is the next best thing, and it's helped me. Here's how and why:

It's more personal than you think.

I think collecting business cards or collateral, or a flurry of phone calls or voicemails can amount to the same amount of impersonal noise as a recently refreshed social timeline. I'm not talking about understanding the difference between what communication methods are more effective and when to use one over the other, I'm talking about possibility of an introduction's impact.

If I just finished an actually useful whitepaper, or finish an online course or book, the first thing I do is look for their handle. I construct the best feedback I can out of limited characters, and I send it off. 9/10 I receive a response. There's this misconception that thought leaders or content creators have this gaggle of people that guard their handles and filter their responses. That might be true, and that's actually something to not be afraid of. If you mean it, it will get through. 

It's not just for millennials. 

It's for people who want to do what social media really enables you to do: listen and share. It's the most valuable KPI/metric/whatever: someone's attention. When you follow someone on Twitter, you've earned just that. Whether you're prowling the conference room or filtering through feeds, you're looking for the same thing. I don't think the desire for that outcome varies by generation.

Act natural, get results.

I have half the amount of followers than people I follow. I can disappear for a few days. Sometimes it is literally pictures of my dogs. I don't hound the people I want to notice me, and I don't get disappointed when I don't hear back. For some high powered influencers, I think they're looking for users that understand and echo their message, and will retweet you to continue the crusade. Whenever that happens, my visibility spikes and it's easy to tell when someone is genuinely interested and follows me, and who followed me via some followbot. 

Yes, I can tell you used a followbot. Everyone can. Automating activity almost never delivers what you're looking for on social media -- valuable, actionable connection.

Relax. Follow who is important to you, let them know when they post something that created value for you. It might happen behind a screen, but the results can be the best buzzword of all: authentic. 

Richard Simmons is one of the best marketers ever

Like many, I have recently finished the podcast Missing Richard Simmons. I consumed it eagerly, like the heartfelt, voyeuristic confection it is. I don't think I am going to spoil anything when I say that the podcast failed to produce Simmons, as reports that he's staying firmly out of the public eye counter each and every buzzy article about the podcast

One thing the podcast did not ache for is raw, emotional impact. Unique, wrenching perspective into the guru's life through those close to him were enough prickle my eyes with a hot tear or two.

There was no denying that Simmons helped many, many people transform physically and improve their lives. The podcast did touch on his monumental business success all spawning from Slimmons, but I drew the following conclusions that support this headline's bold claim.

Why do I think Richard Simmons is one of the best marketers? 

He empathized.

The discussion of how empathetic Simmons was to so many people over his expansive career is mentioned several times, especially from personal accounts of his fans. He didn't have to repeatedly convince his audience that he cared about them and/or believed in their ability to lose weight.  Granted, we are talking about Richard Simmons here, and his energy is easily recognizable and totally contagious. Unfailing, even. Class after class, VHS tape after VHS tape, you knew you were about to be served a healthy dosage of motivation and It's My Party. Which brings me to my next point..

He was consistent.

Simmon's brand is charming and energetic. From a Slimmons class to Letterman, you knew what you were signing up for. Simmons understood what his unique value was, and it was sparkles and dancing and 5, 6, 7 and 8. And it worked. Being consistent afforded him to exist outside the realm of mere kitsch or one-hit spectacle, and meander closer to easy recognition and household name status. Nearly everyone knows immediate characteristics associated with Simmons, and that took dedication.

He understood his audience.

There is a reason Simmons would sweat to the oldies. It was music he grew up with, and like every 90's kid knows, nostalgia is a potent ingredient for a brand experience. It's an immediate, disarming musk that'll tumble your guard down and rush you toward its familiarity. It will get you smiling, laughing, and dancing -- perfect for Simmons. That's the immediate dopamine rush that serves a foundation for a real connection, the first step in earning an audience. 

I think there's some hesitation in recognizing anything Simmons did as marketing strategy. I fall on the side of believing he truly cared about his students and friends, but that doesn't make him any less of a genius marketer.

I also fall on the side of thinking wherever he is now and whatever he is doing is his business alone. Still, Missing Richard Simmons is worth a listen for thoughtful examination on one man (in spandex), and his positive influence on lives (and business).