Former Home Depot Exec Turns To Podcasting

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(By Ryan Wrecker) I wonder how many broadcasters shy away from podcasting because of self-doubt. Connecting with an audience is kind of like tending to a garden: You need to put in the work before you can reap the benefits and your garden blossoms.

In the same way, your talent will realize you feed the things you want to grow — but it’s all for nothing if we first fail to plant the seed. A great coach knows that if we teach talent to be just a clone of something that’s already successful, we’re creating a false, self-defeating atmosphere in which nothing can grow.

Maybe the same is true of podcasting. If podcasting is just a clone of our own radio programs, can it really be effective? It’s still our content — but is it really worth repeating ourselves?

“We told stories to motivate half a million employees to love the culture and our customers,” said former Home Depot CCO Brad Shaw, who now hosts Crazy Good Turns, a nonprofit podcast that tells stories of the people who do amazing things for others. He says, “As we were creating our first pilot and working through some format thoughts on how we were going to structure it, we all came quickly to the conclusion that because it’s such a subjective medium, we really shouldn’t worry about what everyone else was doing and we should just do what we want to do.”

If your idea of a great podcast is digitally cloning your station, you’ll miss out on the spectrum of creativity this medium can bring. Just like radio, successful podcasts take great pride in the messages they create — but that often means breaking away from strictly curated on-air content. Among the ways podcasters are creating fresh content: staying active on social media, posting photos and videos behind the scenes, and presenting their creation through eye-appealing artwork.

“If you just get to the crux of what Makes it compelling and emotional, it will inspire people,” says Shaw. “And that same level of simplicity is critical with a leader.” He adds that Crazy Good Turns co-creator Frank Blake is a great role model for that. Blake is a former CEO of Home Depot, and Shaw recognizes that the traits of a strong leader can translate into being a good storyteller. “He would always strip away the complexity and get to the root of what we wanted to communicate,” Shaw says, “just really get to the point we want to make.”

The traits for good storytelling are already inside your talent. You just need to find ways to make them grow.

At this moment I’m sitting at a desk, thinking about you reading this very line. I’m thinking about the many times someone broke through the barriers of time and space to make me feel something — the things that caused me to pause and reflect on a moment in my life. The times where those things seemed more than just a coincidence, as if they were written not on paper, but inside me. Great storytelling will do that, no matter who or where you are. It’s what radio can do better than any other medium, and it’s why we fell in love with it.

Whatever caused you to fall in love with radio is happening all over again with millennials — but their first audio love is podcasting, and I think it’s because so many great storytellers have adopted the medium as their own. If we expect the
hearts of a digital generation to open back up to audio, it’s going to have to be by means of a medium like podcasting.

I would encourage you to think about your mission statement as broadcasters. If it’s written in a way that marginalizes or excludes the digital audience, you need to rethink your mission.

And remember, your path in a digital world is not linear. Think about playing the Plinko game on The Price Is Right. Once you let go of the disc, it will shift and change directions many times before ultimately landing on something of great value — or on nothing at all.

Ryan hosts Overnight America on KMOX in St. Louis. Follow on Twitter @
RyanWrecker or e-mail [email protected].

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