As part of our thought leadership work, we were looking to develop a framework for what we were then calling “digital engagement systems” - essentially platforms that would allow CCOs to manage their organization’s relationships and interactions with all of its stakeholders. I’d set out to find examples of these to inform our work. Though evidence of a system was hard to find, we did find examples of CCOs doing pioneering work in digital engagement. Our business podcast was born.
Our the New CCO podcast was born to let prolific communicators tell those stories in their own words, to an audience that is busy with demanding jobs. Over time, we broadened the podcast to explore how the role of the CCO itself has been changing and why it matters, with a combination of member interviews and content from our conferences.
In September of 2018, in a small meeting room in the basement of a hotel in Washington, D.C., I sat down for an interview with Linda Rutherford, the CCO at Southwest Airlines. Not long before, one of its flights suffered a blown engine that resulted in the death of a passenger. We wanted to explore how a CCO confronts that kind of crisis.
What resulted was a powerful story that went beyond the mechanics of crisis communications. It was about how a beloved company reacted to a tragic event in a way that befitted, if not expressed, its brand. It was about how company culture inspired its people to go above and beyond despite being emotionally shaken. Ultimately, it was about the indispensable role of the CCO in a very difficult, human moment.
The story itself was riveting. But what made it special was the work that our partners at Rivet - especially the ridiculously talented Jesse Betend - did to tell that story.
That episode revealed to me the incredible power of a story well told, and of a podcast to tell one. I got chills as I listened to it. It crystallized for me, all at once, that our podcast was more than another channel for “content.” It’s an expression of our brand, an enabler of our purpose to help CCOs transform their businesses for the better, and a service to our mission to strengthen the enterprise leadership role of the CCO.
We’re now wrapping up our fourth year. Reflecting on that time, I humbly share three lessons:
1. Good podcasting is journalism, and journalism is way harder than the pros make it look. Interviewing is an art and a skill. I’ve gotten excellent coaching from the team at Rivet about how to ask questions and draw out not just the details of a story but its meaning. This takes practice. One thing I’ve tried is to think about other conversations as podcast interviews. It’s made me a much more curious listener - which I find is the hallmark of a good journalist.
2. Consider the brand and the audience. What’s become clear over the years is that my job isn’t simply to ask questions. I’m the voice of the brand and of the listener. Our brand is about revealing fresh perspectives, inviting diversity of thought and being passionate about the increasingly powerful role of communications. My voice tries to capture that brand identity. At the same time, I’m constantly trying to place myself in a listener’s head as I interview. What questions would they be asking?
3. Determine how you’ll evaluate success. This one seems obvious but it’s been disheartening how deficient podcast analytics can be. We can’t know how many of our listeners are members, or even communicators. We don’t know how many subscribers we have. These shortcomings can make it difficult to demonstrate the value a podcast can have. Though we do track listenership, we’ve begun to explore ways to tell the story ourselves, capturing the value of our podcast as a brand asset.
Rivet can help your team start your podcast. Get in touch with them.