Shaleen Desai is like a caped crusader for content. This SVP of Adult Animation is super focused on solid stories and shares how he is bringing super heroes and more to animation…and beyond. In his career of 20+ years and counting in Hollywood, Desai has been with Letterman, Viacom/CMT, Fox 21 and gone from working with Jason Bateman at Aggregate to Warner Bros. on “Batman” and other IP. Overall, whether it’s animated or audio his focus is making sure Warner Brothers Animation products will resonate anywhere as just good storytelling!
While Insider Interviews listeners heard from Desai in Epi 33 – which was taken from his NATPE ContentCast panel about crossover IP — in this episode 36 Desai gets the chance to go more in-depth around how Warner Bros. Animation and Blue Ribbon Content work with the overall organization to tap top talent — from development to writers to the stars behind the mics. For example, when you hear those words, “I’m
Batman” in a forthcoming scripted podcast it might be spoken seriously by Winston Duke on Spotify… or by a campier Jeffrey Wright in a version called Batman the Audio Adventures on HBO Max. [Since this recording earlier in September it was announced that The Audio Adventures will launch on 9/18 — which is (who knew?!) “Batman Day“!] And of course, there’s always animation, with Batman, Caped Crusader headed to Cartoon Network and HBO Max soon.
But Desai is focused on more than super heroes. He’s also developing new approaches to content, dabbling in AI and more short digital films and podcasts through Blue Ribbon, and always working to just identify the next good story that can live, well, anywhere!
Want to know exactly how the pandemic shifted content consumption of more adult animation?
How do they pick which story might live as a cartoon or a podcast?
Will it land on Adult Swim or HBO Max …or even Spotify or Freeform?
Will Desai hire E.B. for voice work!? And why DO E.B.’s doormen call her “Batgirl”?
Learn all this and more from this Hollywood vet and the voiceover wannabe host of this episode.
Today’s episode could be a lesson plan about B2B Marketing because my guest, Ruth Stevens, has been teaching business to business marketing at NYU, Columbia, and B-schools around the world. And that’s in between being one of the foremost consultants in the space. So, Stevens calls BS on certain approaches to B2B we all better sit up and listen. Hear about the “fails” AND the best practices for what makes customers sit up and listen, too!
Stevens went right from business school herself to TimeWarner’s Book of the Month division, “thinking that I was joining one of the great book marketing companies in the world. I learned I was actually in one of the great direct marketing companies in the world.” After seven years of getting schooled in DM she mastered B2B first at Ziff Davis then IBM, simultaneously writing columns as well as teaching others at night.
In one example of her “no BS advice” articles, which appear everywhere from Biznology.com to HBR.org, Stevens says, “Don’t Be a Jerk on LinkedIn”, and advises sellers everywhere not to jump to the pitch. (“Building relationships on social media is hard. People get lazy and go straight to being the seller, and skip the personal establishment part. They’re also just sorely tempted by how easy it is to just make a mass pitch using LinkedIn Sales Navigator.”)
And, heed Stevens when she notes:
Today the ability of the salesperson to guide a purchase in their direction, but also to understand more deeply the needs of the buyer, has been eroded. So the marketer needs to step in and provide the educational content. This has driven the huge rise of B2B content marketing to allow that researcher better understanding of how to solve a problem or how your solution can be helpful, and to guide them toward calling you.
Companies’ approach to client retention is also in need of schooling:
Another area where I see B2B companies failing, or sub-optimizing, is retention marketing and it just drives me crazy because this is where the bulk of profits arise. Most companies organize it to be the responsibility of someone called ‘account management’, which is an important function, but marketing is not being asked to support it.
Stevens feels for the challenges faced by marketers and sellers these days in getting to know or reach know the buyer and ever-expanding buying groups — especially in enterprise purchasing:
Marketers need to try to replicate that old relationship building aspect by identifying the members of the buying circle and either find out through outbound calling, for example, or social listening, or infer what their agendas are, because each member of the buying circle usually has a different agenda, different need. And then try to serve those needs on a one-to-one basis. And despite all of our wonderful MarTech and data, it’s really hard to do.
That’s also why events (especially virtual events) have taken on an even larger role — as a place researchers can get their questions answered. So, Stevens points out, we need to be even more active at business events than before, and to create our own opportunities, webinars and meetings to build those now more elusive business and sales relationships.
The trick there, as with everywhere, as you’ll hear in this episode, is how one shows up at those events or in that content. No pants on a Zoom aside, business presence still needs panache and empathy.
You’ll hear many tips and lessons from “Professor Stevens” in this episode, including:
How creative still needs to be about education, but in a context that captures attention and builds trust.
How and why we stumble when we try to apply traditional consumer creative strategies to B2B and risk sounding “tinny or irrelevant” — but why storytelling is still a “watchword” for B2B.
Why it’s wrong for the brand power to be measured by if it helps the salesperson get a meeting: “Asking marketers to base their entire value proposition to the firm on sales results unfairly puts the sales piece of the puzzle into the marketer’s metrics kit. If the marketers are handing good quality leads and generating interest and a perception of value in the marketplace, and the sales team can’t close the deal, then marketing shouldn’t be taking the hit for that… We need other metrics to help marketers understand what they’re delivering and help management.”
And, since Stevens also wrote the book on data-driven marketing (literally) she suggests looking at such metrics as cost per lead, or cost for qualified lead. While lead-to-sales conversion rate shouldn’t be marketing’s, “we need an awareness metric. Or maybe a trust metric, that can credit marketing with all of the earlier pre-lead stuff.”
Why the goal of B2B marketing is to communicate that “We are experts in the problem that you have, and you can trust us to help you solve the problem”, but needs to get that across without saying as much and still creating an emotional connection even though you’re buying for business purposes.”
Hey, her words, not mine, but: “this is why the B2B agency function exists in the world because they know what they’re doing and they can come up with messaging strategies that grab attention and deliver the message and in a way that makes sense to the business buyer.”
Finally, as I’m also Editor of The Continuum, a publication about brand and demand marketing, I had to ask if there’s a difference in awareness and performance marketing for B2B vs. B2C. The professorial answer?
“No, it’s the same concept: you need brand and demand for both B2B and B2C, but down on the ground, we’re talking about a very different buying process: B2B is more complicated. It’s longer. It involves more individuals, all of whom have to be engaged with and influenced… such as when it comes to raw materials, professional services, technology, and other business process oriented purchasing, which typically involve a large number of people. So the whole sales and marketing function needs to support that.”
Please find and follow Ruth Stevens for B2B help without the BS:
Jennifer Grimson was brand new to the podcast space when I met her two years ago at the last in-person Podcast Movement event. Fast forward and she became my spontaneous guest for Epi 34 of Insider Interviews discussing her approach to marketing the now successful Micro-Empires Podcastabout her path to rebuilding wealth. And, since podcasting adds such a personal touch, she gives us insights about her very personal story from filing for Chapter 13 twice to being having million-dollar + in assets.
Grimson explains how she taught herself to rebuild her wealth AND how to build a podcast starting at any point in your life. “I’m living proof of that story…I lost everything. No home, no job, no car, no money, no place to live, and two children to raise. That happened to me twice…and the second time I was 41 years old.”
Her A-Ha Moment:
“I realized that if I wanted security and to build wealth, it wasn’t just going to be through one thing,” Grimson explained. “I was going to have to create little pockets, which I call ’empires’. And once I got started I was able to create $1.4 million in income producing assets in four years.”
Moving Past the Shame
“The podcast came about because people kept asking me about how I’d done that; of course I’d kept my story a secret because I was so ashamed of it, like a lot of people who share my story. I wanted to share what I had done, but more importantly, sharing those tools and real steps for anybody to take, whether it’s their mindset or literally taking steps to build wealth.”
“I think the first lesson is you don’t abandon yourself, which is such a powerful thing. Think about it: I treat my friends and family better than I treat myself. I don’t say things to other people that I say inside my head. And I think that’s true all around. So finding a way, whether you believe it or not, whether you think you deserve it or not, of believing in yourself. … I just had to put blinders on and move forward … It’s not actually rocket science. It might be hard. But it’s not difficult to understand.”
After Grimson explained her three lessons of coming from nothing to financial resolution — assess, ask, act — she went on to explain how learning to be a podcaster — or learning ANYTHING — is to dive in.
“You’re going to jump in a pool with a bunch of people that are Olympic swimmers. And you’re going to be in there with your floaties on just trying to keep your head above water, but there’re two things that are going to happen: Number one, you cannot be in that environment and not learn. And number two, the experts are not going to let you drown. That’s true about wealthy. That’s true about everybody here at Podcast Movement. People who are successful, 99.9% of the time want to help.”
On Creating and Marketing a Podcast?
Grimson did not have a media background: “I didn’t even know how to plug in the microphone. I still struggle with that portion of it. But I’ve never really worried about that because there are those Olympic swimmers you can call. I’m never going to be the best at that. What I have to offer is my experience. So that’s what I wanted to focus on. What I learned was that despite the fact that there’s a million podcasts very few of them are actually successful and that they take work. They’re not easy. You have to commit and be really thoughtful about who you’re talking to.”
That is about the best lesson one can learn when diving in to podcasting.
Does her story have a happy ending? You bet. Right down to her pro-hockey husband, Stu. But it’s all because Grimson, who is fiercely independent, candid, and determined, keeps on swimming. Take a listen. We’ll surface all kinds of tips and inspiration. And like she says, please leave a review for Insider Interviews!
I had the good fortune of being asked by NATPE – the global trade association focused on the business of content, to help produce the first ever conference in the media/marketing industry dedicated to the topic of iterating IP from podcasting to TV and back again.
What the heck does that mean? Well, it’s basically around how TV shows are turning into podcasts to find new audiences and podcasting content has turned into TV shows and films. Think Homeland, Dirty John, even Dirty Diana! So of course I made myself one of the moderators (oh, and a did a little co-hosting with actor Amy Hill (“Magnum, P.I.”)).
This conference streams free on July 14,2021. If you missed the full four hour event you’ll want to join NATPE and to play that – and their myriad other conference about the content business, on demand. The good news is that at least you can hear some of THIS panel right here. The bad news? The audio is lifted right off of the conference recording. So some of the quality of the sound might not be perfect, but the quality of the content is excellent.
With that, hear why I called this a panel of over-achievers who will wow you with their accomplishments, and their insights.
Lantigua-Williams: I am the founder of Lantigua-Williams & Co. We’re an independent podcast and film studio, and we adopted the slogan erasing the margins earlier this year, after three years of thinking about what it is that we want to do in the world. And that seemed to fit. We try to tell stories that make it really complicated to put things and people in boxes.
Washington: My name is Glynn Washington. I am the host of Snap Judgment and Snap Judgement Studios. We created the shows Spooked, Heaven’s Gate and Snap Judgement.
Wilson: I’m Steve Wilson. I’m chief strategy officer at QCode Media. We specialize in making original scripted fiction podcasts. We’re really trying to tell new stories, with amazing creators and see them become the next wave of content that we all love in the world.
Desai: I’m Shaleen Desai the senior vice president of Animation at Warner Brothers Animation. I also oversee our company’s scripted podcasts initiative for Warner Media.
Moss: Steve, you spent 15 years at Apple, you’re a font of knowledge. I think that you’re probably putting that to good use at QCode, which is a relatively newer to the industry. So, I wanted to start with you so that you’d give us some building blocks. What inspired you to join QCode and skip retiring with the ‘gold Apple watch’?
Wilson: Well, I certainly did enjoy my time at Apple, working with partners in the content space. I did editorial and partner relations and marketing for apple podcasts for some time. In working with partners, always envisioned myself, going to the publisher side, having the opportunity to, not just be on the platform side, but really work with original stories and amazing partners. Got to work with everyone in the podcast industry, some incredible people, including the panelists here. And, as I looked across the industry, I was fascinated by what QCode was doing.
The company that started about two years ago by a former agent named Rob Herting. And Rob had seen time and again how Hollywood can be risk-averse, and it can be challenging, to start new stories. QCode was founded to try to build new properties and audio experiences for people that the world had never heard before.
And something I’d point out at the top is it’s interesting in all the media that we consume how, fiction plays a really big role — except for in podcasts; fiction tends to be a smaller portion of podcast consumption, and we really see there’s there being a huge opportunity to expand in that area. So, I just had to jump at the chance to join QCode.
Moss: So it’s safe to say that you are bullish on narrative audio. When you and the team are deciding on that content do you do it with an eye to the long tail? How well will it get monetized and will it, you know, play in Peoria and across other platforms?
Wilson: Well, it’s a consideration. We want to tell amazing original stories that there are audiences for that can be really niche and specific content and different verticals. We are building content that’s all different genres — sci-fi through even female erotica, like our show with Demi Moore called Dirty Diana. We think broadly about the different interest areas consumers have. And then when it comes to things like derivatives and TV and film, that’s a consideration though we are primarily focused to ensure that the podcasts that we make is going to work on its own. And we turned down projects that won’t work as a podcast. So we do think about the holistic view of the stories and the content that’s being told though.
Moss: So, it’s not just QCode developing and finding the product, but it’s also those coming to you and you’re looking at it all through that lens of first will it play as a podcast?
Wilson: A hundred percent. Some of them come in as original podcast ideas. Others came from different forms of media to begin with. So, the Left Right Game, for example, was a viral Reddit thread that we developed as a podcast, and it’s now in development, with Amazon. And, we have other projects as well, like Dirty Diana came in as a book. So sometimes the idea for the podcast actually originates in another media type and becomes a podcast and then can go be that other media type as well.
Moss: I want to do something that’s common in marketing podcasts: a little cross-promotion. I want to give props to AdLandia. It’s a great B2B podcast about the industry, (unless you think insider interviews is even better!) You were just on that episode last month and it was packed with great information — and the hosts quoted Malcolm Gladwell, who said, ‘we think with our eyes and feel with our ears.’ Is that also how QCode approaches projects?
Wilson: Yeah, I think so. Of course, Malcolm Gladwell’s is a brilliant person to quote and put things so eloquently. You know, we definitely take a lot of pride in how we put our projects together. So Q code, um, you know, really one of our pillars is rich sound design. We invest heavily in that area. We have a head of music. Is incredible, you know, classically trained pianist, a guy named Darren Johnson. He was touring with Paula Abdul and discovered by Miles Davis. Has done all kinds of work in TV and film, and he’s the one who scores, uh, our podcasts. We also partnered with Adobe on Atmos and Dolby Atmos isn’t even really supported across the industry yet on the distribution side We’ve pre produced all of our contents to really have that immersive sound because we believe that sort of elevates and takes the stories to the next level.
And we’re seeing an increase in that side too, just in the way that TV and film progressed from, you know, television sets and, you know, CTRs up through, you know, 4k HDR. We’re seeing that same increase in audio quality. And we, we make that a core part of the projects we make.
It’s been a busy couple of months for me in podcasting… so I didn’t get to podcasting! Here’s what I mean: This is a BONUS episode…actually a republication of Epi 12 featuring my interview with Juleyka Lantigua-Williams from exactly one year ago. She is a force to be reckoned with, a holder of two masters and embracer of two kids and a proud publisher of a show with 1 million downloads now. Yup, “Latina to Latina” just crossed the million listen mark this week. But there’s more you can hear in my interview with her as part of CONTENTCAST next week!
Whaat? Well, I’ve been busy with podcasting…and TV…in producing the first-ever conference about the intersection of those platforms as cross-over IP. That means a HECK of a lot of companies are turning popular podcasts into TV or film content and TV companies are expanding their shows into fan engagement podcasts. Trust me, it’s all the rage.
Want to hear it from the experts? Then register for free and catch this huge conference created by NATPE, the global content trade association, on July 14th, 2021: https://natpe.com/contentcast. Just look at the SPEAKERS tab! See what I mean? From Kevin Pollak to Glynn Washington…the heads of SiriusXM to Tegna to iHeartMedia to Triton Digital to…well, you get the picture. Did I mention I also corralled my friend Amy Hill into hosting?(And yes, you heard us chat around a year ago on my other podcast, “It’s Quite A Living!” Keep your friends close….)
So, that’s why this is Epi 12 REDUX. What Juleyka had to say a year ago is still important and appropriate today…only the numbers have changed. (But there are also twice as many podcasts published now as there were then! Yup, we also have Edison Research and Nielsen sharing info at ContentCast.
Thanks for listening…and learning… and I hope I see you at ContentCast!
In 2020, Danielle Wiley was included in the revered “Top 50” list by Talking Influence. And the agency she founded, Sway Group was selected by Chief Marketer as one of just three influencer agencies of the “2020 Chief Marketer 200”. So it’s a safe bet that she has something to say about #influencermarketing. And that’s what she did, in Epi 32 of Insider Interviews.
I’d had the chance to experience Wiley’s thoughts last year when she contributed to The Continuum, a publication about brand + demand marketing, which I’m privileged to edit. In that article she explained how to look at the KPIs of influencer marketing a little bit differently, and the varied ways to determine impact and engagement. We touched on that in this conversation, but a 30-minute conversation gives you a chance to understand much more — not just about this food writer turned marketer, but things like how cause-marketing is another essential ingredient in influencing consumers. And these days, Sway has evolved to embrace that (and she shared case study examples) as well as digital advertising, both programmatic and paid social, and built what was a natural extension: a content studio.
One of my favorite discoveries about Wiley (aside from learning about our common roots working at Food Network in the early days!) was that she was a baker and a cheesemonger at one point. I believe that takes the cake for eclectic pasts among my podcast guests. Her culinary chops have served her well, though, as she can name several brands in or around the category as clients, including Igloo, Coleman, and Domino’s.
If that didn’t get you hungry to hear more, here’s what else we discussed:
Wiley’s evolution from a baker and blogger to early stage expert in social media to our common ground in marketing chefs like Emeril as “c-hunks”!
Her observation of the power of engagement with popular bloggers — and the infusion of trust vs. the singular appeal of celebrity
In its infancy influencers were treated more like journalists. Brands were just sending them product and expecting that they would get reviews out of it. That worked …for a short period of time. …Then they realized ‘if we’re just sending them a box of Mac & Cheese, we can’t have control over messaging…’. And we started paying them.
How the transition from providing product to bloggers to hiring them necessitated greater trust and authenticity in the influencer, and the path to creative content was laid
How Sway itself evolved away from the “Hollywood agent” business model to be able to scale and replicate requests — whether for moms of bedwetters or people who picnic with pizza
How brands solve for the demand for content tonnage across multiple channels — which sparked the birth of a content studio
Why the most important step in the strategic brief is a deep dive into the brand’s KPIs — impressions? engagement?
The big thing to remember is that as you increase in following the engagement rate goes down dramatically.
What’s a micro or a nano influencer and why does it matter — and the various forms of sponsorship. (Hint: Feel free to sponsor THIS podcast just by buying me a coffee!)
The shift from wanting to steer clear of influencers with a point of view, to actively seeking that out — and how the GenZ demand for brand purpose has influenced how brands use influencers!
Wiley explained the two initiatives Sway worked on for Stonyfield Farms, for example – tapping eco-conscious influencers and creating a cause-related corporate initiative
We took a deeper dive into pro-social initiatives and examples, and the confluence of content channels. (Of course I mentioned the conference I’m producing about the intersection of television and podcasting for example!) And that led to a chat about why Wiley’s family gets a little annoyed about her heavy podcast consumption habit!