In April 2021 I was invited to be a guest on a podcast, Inspiring Tech Leaders with Dave Roberts, and I found the experience humbling (to be asked), exhilarating (to participate) and gratifying (to be published, on Spotify no less!). Having been listed as the #1 Technology Leader in the UK in the 2020 CIO 100 I wasn’t a stranger to getting involved in panel discussions, video interviews, articles and presentations but the format of a podcast was a little different in that it was perpetually available to a wider audience rather than being linked to a specific event or moment in time.
Lessons from the altMBA
I completed Seth Godin’s altMBA in May 2021, an incredibly intensive, deep dive into business, marketing, storytelling, empathy and self-discovery, read more in my article here https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/i-found-perfect-mba-me-danny-attias/
During the altMBA I thought it would be ‘fun’ to start up my own podcast and this is where my story begins. I had certainly taken for granted all the work Dave had put in behind the scenes to come up with his concept, brand and build, let alone the effort required to maintain a weekly release cadence. I was in for a rude awakening.
The altMBA focuses on a number of different aspects, many of which I could weave into this journey, from shipping projects quickly, focusing on who it’s for, what’s it for and doing the hard part first so I gave myself just one month to go from initial idea to launch. Creating something from nothing was going to be a creative challenge for me, I tend to be more functional that artistic and taking something rough and making it brilliant was much better suited to my wheelhouse.
Undertaking a creative challenge like this I knew I must not succumb to ‘resistance’, a concept coined by the novelist Steve Pressfield in his book The War of Art. Resistance is the universal force that is focussed on keeping things how they are, an aversion to change. It comes in many forms and in my case it was guaranteed to come from the intrigue and instant gratification in diving into the technical aspects of creating a podcast which would distract me from the hard work of really defining the core concept.
In order to move quickly and avoid going down rabbit holes I set myself a target of preparing, in just one evening, a one page summary covering the purpose of the podcast, an overview of who it’s for, what change I am trying to enable in the people who listen to it, a working title, working description and a list of actions that I would need to get done before I could launch. This served a few purposes, to write out the whole recipe before getting bogged down in one or two ingredients and to create a sense of social accountability. I then shared this plan with my altMBA alumni who were by this point incredibly well versed in reviewing such things and providing insightful feedback. The commitment was established and I was now committed to seeing this through, not just because I said I would do it, but also because I wanted to.
Preparing a podcast
If you want to push a podcast live there are very few things you really need, other than the audio file, a name, a description and cover art. Finding guests, structuring a conversation and recording it didn’t worry me, neither did the technical aspects of audio editing, publishing and other enhancements such as blending intro music, creating a transcript or publishing a website. With well over 1 million active podcasts now listed on iTunes I knew the marketplace of tools to make those bits pretty easy (for a few dollars) was going to reduce most of the friction from that side of things.
In fact I distilled the process into 12 key components, from who’s it for and what’s it for to the music and cover art and created The Podcast Planning Canvas for anyone to use.
What I didn’t count on was how incredibly hard it was going to be for me to come up with a name, a description and cover art. This needed me to explore my rarely tapped creative side. What was it actually going to be about, well I knew what it wasn’t going to be about, technology, I talk about technology day in day out, as such I have plenty of opportunity to find plenty of platforms for digital discourse. So what was important to me, what did I want to explore more deeply, what did I want to share with my audience, to be?
What’s it all about
Social purpose is important to me, it is no coincidence that I have spent the last five years leading the digital transformation for a leading UK medical charity. As more social enterprises are being established and a greater number of commercial entities are signing up to become BCorps there is an encouraging trend of organisations, their staff and customers wanting to be a positive contributor to society and be more fair.
Whilst it is important that people look after themselves and their families we are part of a global society that cannot function sustainably if everyone is in it for themselves. The importance of diversity, inclusion, social mobility as well as caring for the planet we are so dependent on can no longer be an afterthought, way down the priority list after self-gratification, convenience, personal wealth and ambition.
I wanted to have and share conversations with people who are prioritising these important aspects and exploring their journeys of how they came to be that way, what were the key moments in their life story to make them this way?
And how does it all begin, with that moment of sonder, when you realise that everyone has a life as rich and conflicted as your own.
That realisation can help grow your empathy to people beyond your immediate family and friends. As it grows to the point you want to have a positive influence, use your position, influence and resources to make a difference for others, a difference to lives beyond your field of view, to add richness to stories you are not a part of, and would never hear about. Those are the inspiring stories I want to share, that’s Sondership – Inspiring Stories from People with Purpose.
It took me about two weeks to get what I already knew inside, onto paper, to a point where I could articulate it as I have done in the paragraph above. A big thank you to Jess for helping me come up with the name, and Kate for the tagline.
My hope is that people listening to these stories will be inspired and relate to them. We shan’t be talking about lofty, seemingly unattainable goals, we will be talking about those twists and turns, from often humble beginnings, littered with trips and bumps yet always with resilience and courage to do what these wonderful people feel needs doing.
As soon as I had a name I was able to register sondership.com, .co.uk and .org as well as all social media pages and then I could get started on the cover art. Now, I am no artist so I knew I was going to have to outsource this which is why I sought out a designer on Fiverr, a remarkably convenient platform used to connect with creative freelancers all over the world. For a small fee I was able to meet a wonderful London based designer who got straight to work on creating concepts with the hope that we would land on a design in about three iterations. After a few iterations I had amassed over a dozen designs, unfortunately none of them really worked for me, so in the end, inspired by those iterations, I created my own using Canva, an easy to use platform for creating visual assets from a set of templates, and often free and the designer helped me refine my design and associated social media headers. A big thank you to my super creative sister in law Emma for seeing what I could not, that the logo needed to nestle inside the O of Sondership to complete it.
Whilst I did not allow all of the exciting technology to distract me from the hard work I did use it as a breather when my brain was too fried to concentrate on really creative output. I allowed myself 2 hours to do a full technical rehearsal. In those two hours I was able to take a rough 30 pre-interview with my first guest and pull everything together to ‘privately’ publish a test podcast with all the necessary components. The content and quality wasn’t there but that wasn’t the point, it was to make sure I had everything I needed to go live.
I was able to confirm that my toolbox would consist of:
- Buzzsprout for podcast hosting, distribution to all podcasting platforms, audiogram creation and automatic podcast website creation and maintenance…. although
- Podpage – provides a more enhanced, automated, website with the ability to add extra pages, such as this blog, a guest sign up form and integration with email marketing contact form to allow me to build a contact list to send newsletters. I recommend it so much, here's a referral: https://www.podpage.com/?via=danny
- Convertkit – for email marketing to build up a community and let them know when new episodes are released as well as other activities in the future, such as events
- Auphonic – for artificial intelligence driven mastering of the audio track including smart adaptive levelling, perfect loudness and true peak targeting, audio sweetening (filtering, noise, hiss and hum reduction) and optimisation for spoken word. Actually this function is now available as a service from Buzzsprout (for a few dollars more)
- Descript for a truly inventive, artificial intelligence powered, text driven audio editor with automatic speaker identification and transcription.
- Canva – for creating all the cover art and social media visual content
- Zoom – for recording the interviews
- Youtube audio library - Choosing music with the appropriate use rights was pretty hard but an hour with my musically gifted daughter listening to the first 5 seconds of over a hundred tracks we were able to find this great piece, Buddha by Kontekst https://soundcloud.com/kontekstmusic/buddha
- Audacity - a free technically complex tool, to remove the first few bars of my chosen track and blend it into an intro.
- Blue Yeti Nano - my trusty semi-professional microphone that I treated myself to when I was awarded the #1 CIO title as I knew I was going to be involved in a great number of on-line interviews given the pandemic.
- Tonor microphone stand extension arm and pop filter – partly to ensure the mic was in a good position and partly because it looks great on screen when recording a podcast
- Audio-Technica ATH-M30X Headphones – to use when recording so the guest’s voice doesn’t leak into my audio stream and also to have a reasonable level of quality when playing back and editing the track.
I estimate that I will need at least 3 x the length of the podcast to review, edit, quality check, publish and promote. Given a presumed podcast length of under an hour I anticipate it will take four to five hours work per episode including making arrangements with guests, pre-interview discussions and planning. I am targeting a weekly release cadence so in order to reduce the weekly pressure I will aim to get 3 – 5 interviews recorded and produced as a buffer before launching.
My hope is that Sondership will grow into a multi-channel platform for people to share their experiences and journeys related to sonder, to inspire and encourage more people to pursue their social purpose. I am even hoping to launch an event in 2022 where a growing community can come together in person to share their stories and inspire each other.
I really do hope you will tune in to listen to the trailer and subscribe on your favourite podcasting service, the first full episode will launch in early July.