“How to Become the Center of Influence Through Podcasting Failure” with Sophie Morrison of the Epic/Fail Podcast
As part of my series of interviews about “How to Become the Center of Influence Through Podcasting”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sophie Morrison. Sophie is a best-selling author, host of Epic/Fail podcast, speaker, and real estate consultant. Her content highlights ways entrepreneurs can leverage their differences and find opportunities in failure. She is the facilitator for Women Leading Women, a group coaching program for women committed to having it all. She recent launched Zero to Platform, a program that helps entrepreneurs zero in on their niche and build a platform around it in 6 weeks.
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Can you tell us the “backstory” about why or how you got started as a podcaster?
I started podcasting because of two sets of messages. The first set of messages came from people who’d read my book, Brain Judo, and wanted advice or more content, which made me realize I wanted and needed to be producing more content. However, I wasn’t sure which medium I’d use for that content or what my exact niche would be.
The second set came from people who were negatively comparing themselves to me. I reflected on the kinds of content I was currently putting out into the world and realized I was only sharing my highlight reel but not any of the gritty stuff in between like the gambles that didn’t pay off, moments of self-doubt, or decisions that had bigger impacts than I expected. Then I realized that there wasn’t much content anywhere highlighting failure or furthermore, the opportunities in failure, and knew I wanted “leveraging failure” to be my niche.
Failure gets a bad rap but for good reasons. The best and worst decisions I’ve ever made are the same ones. I was always a really “good” kid growing up. I was in all honors classes, on sports and scholastic teams, took leadership roles in my high school, and had a job since I was 15. I was absolutely set on going to law school and had my life all mapped out. When I left for college, I quickly went off the deep end. Within three months of getting to college I was using drugs, had been charged with a felony, was failing out of school, and had overdosed.
I knew I needed a different environment so I moved to Chicago and tried my hand in direct sales. I saw a completely different model of success than I’d seen before. The adults I knew growing up all had lots of impressive degrees and accolades so I thought that was the only path to success. When I messed it all up, I started to believe that my life was ruined, but seeing the world of direct sales and entrepreneurship showed me there were infinite paths to success if I could become intentional with my habits, clear on my goals, and consistent in my work ethic.
I wrote Brain Judo because it is the book I wish I had at 18. Success is not binary, it’s a prism, and each little cut in a prism adds color to the light on the other side of it.
A lot of great stories, lessons, and fortuitous coincidences stem from failure, so I’m happy to provide a platform through Epic/Fail podcast where people can share ways they’ve found those opportunities in unexpected places.
I chose podcasting as my medium, specifically, because it was the best way to highlight other peoples’ stories and with the most authenticity. Recordings allow you to capture raw reactions and the emotion in people’s voices, which really added an exciting dimension to my content.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
I’m used to working hard to go after speaking opportunities and connections with people I want in my network. Since I started podcasting, some of those same opportunities and connections have been coming to me and with a lot more ease. There was one podcast I’d been trying to get on as a guest for almost a year to no avail. After I launched Epic/Fail, the host reached out to me asking if he could be a guest on my podcast, which was a neat little plot twist. I told him there was a three year waiting list. (Just kidding — I’m looking forward to having him on and to being a guest on his in the next few months!)
Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The first guest I interviewed was the number one salesperson at a 40,000 employee, global software company and had a size-able online presence as well. Since he lived across the country, we did the interview via Zoom. I was a little nervous but the interview lasted two hours and went better than I could have imagined! At the very end I asked, “Before we wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to add?” He said, “Well, I do have one question. I didn’t see the ‘recording’ symbol on. Did you remember to hit ‘record’?”
I did not, in fact, remember to hit “record”. The cool part of hosting a podcast about failure is that experiences like that are just food for more great content. I think the lesson in this story is that no matter where you are in the process, it’s always important to make sure you take care of the basics.
My guest graciously agreed to a redo and who knows — maybe the new episode we record will be even better than the first!
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
I just started my podcast this year. I think what’s given it traction so quickly was having a strong launch team, which was a step I learned the importance of when I published Brain Judo.
What are the main takeaways or lessons you want your listeners to walk away with?
There are a few takeaways I want Epic/Fail listeners to walk away with:
The first is that failure is a normal, even valuable part of any process. Intellectually I think we all know that, but in practice it’s easy to forget. When people encounter failure, most look at it as a signal to give up. I think that happens when we compare our starting points to people who are at the top of their game. Someone told me not to compare my “step one” with someone else’s “step twenty”, but that’s easier said than done when all you know about someone is their “step twenty”. By having people who are at the top of their game share their early challenges, I hope listeners will come to include failure in their expectations of whatever it is they are going after and can learn from the “step ones” of people who’ve created success.
The second key takeaway is that opportunities are only opportunities when you’re able to recognize them as such. I hope that listeners walk away with actionable tools for approaching failure with an abundance mindset.
Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine article about Sophie Morrison!
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1) Book Great Guests. There are 4 top things to keep in mind when booking great guests:
a. Be respectfully present. Create a follow up plan that is consistent without being irritating.
b. Try a window. The “door” will seldom be open on the first try so get creative in your outreach…and have fun with it! There was a speaker I tried getting in touch with in half a dozen ways with no luck. On attempt #7 over a four month period I decided to switch it up and sent him a custom bobble head of himself with a card. Within hours of the package delivery he called me.
However, if you’re looking for something a little more cost effective and a little less creepy, sending a BombBomb video (a custom video message in lieu of an email) will accomplish the same thing. Customizing your outreach shows the person you’re trying to reach that you want them, specifically, and that they are not one of a thousand other people receiving a copy/paste email from you. High profile people need to say “no” to most things, so putting some extra personal thought and detail into your outreach will help your request stand out from the masses.
c. The other key to standing out from the masses is to lead from a place of service. Explain how being on your podcast would add value to the guest, personally. It is important to do your homework on what the guest may value first in order to do this step properly.
d. Be organized. Send general questions and a calendar invite to your guests ahead of time. The calendar invite is especially important so that you can make sure you’re on the same page with time commitment. I once forgot to discuss time commitment with a guest and had planned an hour interview with her. However, after about 20 minutes she told me she had a hard stop, which made me realize how unprofessional it was of me to assume she’d just stay and chat as long as my own schedule permitted. Your guests are busy — respect their time!
2) Increase Listeners. Increasing your listener base starts with understanding your listeners. Stay in touch with their desires and pain points and make sure your content is responding to both in entertaining and useful ways.
3) Produce in a Professional Way. Test your sound before each interview! I cannot stress that enough. When I conduct interviews remotely via Zoom I always record a test call before my guest hops on to make sure Zoom, my mic, and the saving-to-cloud function are all working. I always test my mics for in person interviews, too. Other people use my recording studio so I always make sure the controls are set properly before we begin. There’s nothing worse than listening to an episode you’ve just recorded only to find you’re echoing throughout (not that I’ve ever done that…).
4) Encourage Engagement. The best way I’ve found to increase engagement is to create community. Having your listeners engage with each other creates emotional connection and more value added. That is another reason it is so important to make your niche really clear. Listeners need to qualify themselves into or out of the community based how much they identify with your podcast’s niche.
5) Monetize. My podcast has been a funnel the other branches of my business. For example, my coaching course helps entrepreneurs with personal branding and clients have found me through my podcast.
What makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or the content itself?
Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine article about Sophie Morrison!