“How to Become the Center of Influence Through Shifting into Podcasting” with Joe Mechlinski of the Shift Happens Podcast
As part of my series of interviews about “How to Become the Center of Influence Through Podcasting” I had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Mechlinski. Joe is a New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and social entrepreneur who believes that an engaged workforce is the key to unlocking human potential. Joe has a deep-rooted passion for helping build engaged mission-driven cultures and challenging business leaders to think strategically about how they attract, develop, and retain the best talent to grow, regardless. He is also the host of two trending podcasts, Shift Happens , and Inevitable: The Future of Work.
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Can you tell us the “backstory” about why or how you got started as a podcaster?
My podcast started with a dare. Two years ago, over Thanksgiving dinner, my family was casually talking about our favorite podcasts, and my brother-in-law challenged me to start my own.
I was immediately skeptical. To me, podcasts were just a tool to learn or get through my commute, and hosting was reserved for journalists or celebrities. And what would I even talk about?
I instantly thought about my company SHIFT, which helps employees become more engaged at work. With ten years in business, we’ve determined nearly 70 percent of the workforce is disengaged. This negativity is crushing workplace morale and hindering performance. It’s a growing epidemic we all relate too but choose to ignore. A podcast started to seem like the perfect way to address this problem and motivate employees.
So, I took on his challenge. In February 2018, my team and I launched Shift Happens, a series of one-on-one interviews with powerful leaders with incredible stories of triumph. It caught on like wildfire.
Nearly 50 guests have shared how work and life have shaped their entrepreneurial success stories. After earning solid five-star reviews on iTunes, we grabbed the attention of Amy Dufrane, CEO of Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI). We wanted to bring the same energy to the world of human resources and provide leaders with enriching content about the evolving workplace. We collaborated in March 2019 to launch Inevitable: The Future of Work, to investigate human resource’s effect on people, processes and profitability.
Within the past year, podcasting has become one of the best parts of my job. It’s pushed me to become a better leader, both professionally and personally. Between two podcasts, dozens of guests, and thousands of subscribers, I still can’t believe this all started with a dare.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
Before launching Shift Happens, my team essentially flew the plane before it was built. We got the recording equipment and secured a guest list before even naming the podcast. Despite our uncertain start, we found success quicker than anticipated. The response was unbelievable, and we gained nearly 20K downloads within our first year.
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?
One of the first episodes we recorded for Shift Happens was a long-form interview with a good friend of mine. My team was still learning and getting used to the equipment, much of which we no longer even use (but hindsight is 20/20). It was a great conversation, but there was a slight problem… we never hit record.
My biggest takeaway from this mistake was that equipment comes before conversation. If this was our first official episode, this setback could have stopped us from attracting more guests and producing more episodes.
Ever since this happened, my team and I developed a solid process to secure every single technical element. We always check to make sure we have a back-up recording, quality sound on both microphones, and strong internet connection. I’m not saying we get it perfect every time, but this process has proven to be successful and has helped us focus more on improving our show content.
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
In February 2018, I launched the first episode of Shift Happens with Dan Pink, #1 New York Times bestselling author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Since our premiere, we’ve launched more than 57 episodes to date.
Later that year, I invited Amy Dufrane, CEO of HRCI, to be my 35th guest on Shift Happens. We realized we shared a common interest to help HR professionals navigate and adapt to evolving workplace trends.
After a few conversations, we decided to collaborate on a podcast, Inevitable: The Future of Work. We launched in March 2019, have produced 17 episodes so far, and have reached nearly 7K downloads.
What are the main takeaways or lessons do you want your listeners to walk away with?
For every single episode of Shift Happens or Inevitable: The Future of Work, I want my listeners to leave with a curious mind and new perspective.
For Shift Happens, I’ve been lucky to have remarkable, unconventional guests such as a comedian, a daring CIA agent, a reformed drug kingpin, and even a revolutionary 2020 presidential candidate. All my guests have found great success, backed by a story of tragedy or triumph. I want my listeners to discover how they can relate to each story.
I hope these conversations are provoking and inspire audience members to eliminate unhealthy habits, focus on their personal and professional relationships, and move past struggles to find success.
For Inevitable: The Future of Work, both Amy and I want HR professionals to feel empowered. We want listeners to take our advice to create inclusive cultures, understand how technology can be used to enhance the workplace, design robust employee benefit programs, keep up with legal HR practices for modern times, and retain valuable talent. These skills will not only help those in human resources but will provide a positive impact on leaders and their employees, too.
Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine article about Joe Mechlinski!
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1) Book Great Guests. Before you book your first guest, you need a compelling host. Whether it’s you, someone else, or a combination of the two, select a host that your target audience will connect with and enjoy listening to. Being a natural conversationalist is helpful here, as listeners prefer hosts who provide structure, ask good questions, offer enriching content, are candid and genuine, and can lead a discussion that doesn’t sound scripted.
Next, seek out guests who are relatable, experts in their field, and willing to share their stories. Your guests don’t have to be famous, but they have to offer value to your listeners — even if it’s just an incredible story.
A key part of booking guests is ensuring a smooth process before and after the interview. They need to trust that your podcast is reputable and feel comfortable to share their story. When a guest has a good experience, it can lead to stellar guest recommendations. There’s also a good chance they will promote it to their own network, which leads to even more connections.
To find guests, my team and I tapped my immediate network including friends, colleagues and local business leaders. From those sources, we were referred to even more guests. Between Shift Happens and Inevitable: The Future of Work, this process helped me secure industry leaders like: Mario Armstrong, Emmy award winner; Tucker Max, New York Times bestselling author; Emily Fletcher, founder of Ziva Meditation; Angela Duckworth, co-founder and CEO of The Character Lab; and Dave Ulrich, an HR expert ranked as the #1 management guru by Businessweek. As our audience continues to grow, business leaders are actually reaching out to us to be a guest!
2) Increase Listeners. Instead of trying to attract a large number of followers, focus your attention and marketing efforts towards your target audience. When you draft your podcast and episode descriptions, pretend you are writing to your ideal audience member. The titles and summaries should be compelling, concise and clear.
To promote your episodes, you can run targeted advertisements on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. When you are just starting out, this is a great tool to gather a large following. The most powerful form of advertising is by word of mouth, so encourage your guests to recommend it to their network.
Once you have a solid following, analyze your podcast data on a weekly basis. Based on the data, figure out which episodes are the most popular among your listeners and produce more that have similar content.
To keep subscribers, make sure to be consistent with your releases. That way, audience members have something to look forward to on a weekly or monthly basis. This method also ensures that you don’t go too long without releasing an episode.
For Shift Happens, I used my personal network to help get the word out. I promoted the podcast to my friends and family, and our marketing team helped contact stakeholders throughout our three businesses. We keep our consistency by releasing a new episode every Tuesday.
3) Produce in a Professional Way. Clean, professional recordings should be your priority. You could have an A-list celebrity, but if they aren’t heard clearly, it isn’t worth it. Although you can never ensure complete control over sound quality, listen to make sure it is clear enough for your audience to capture the story. Just remember, great content beats flawless recording quality every time.
Before you record, invest in proper equipment and personnel to record, edit, and produce your podcast. Once you record and edit your sound, select the right distribution channels to ensure a wide range of accessibility.
For both podcasts, we use high-quality microphones, and instruct our out-of-town guests to interview in a certain setting with strong WiFi. We also ask that they set aside time on their calendar to ensure they will not be interrupted.
4) Encourage Engagement. The more engaged your audience and guests, the more likely you will grow your subscribers.
The best way to keep an audience engaged is by building a relationship with them. Always ask for honest reviews and guest recommendations. Be consistent with news updates and offer exclusive content like resources, giveaways, or perks that are only available to your listeners and subscribers. If you share advice on the show, encourage listeners to write in their questions and read them on air.
For your guest experience, make sure to keep in contact with them before and after their episode airs. Since your guests are an essential part of your podcast, make sure to thank them with a gift or personal note. Help them promote and cut down on time by sending sample social posts to share their episode with their network.
For Shift Happens, we conduct polls on our social media platforms to see what our audience likes to listen to the most. We also encourage feedback, whether it be good or bad. To add an extra incentive to leave a review, we highlight them on our Instagram stories. For every guest we give them a special feature on our social media platforms, making it easy for them to reshare.
For Inevitable: The Future of Work, we take engagement a step further. Listeners in the human resources field are eligible for HRCI recertification credits for listening to each episode in full.
5) Monetize. Your top responsibility when launching a podcast is to make sure your personal or company brand remains consistent, honest, appealing and memorable. Determine your core values and mission, and everything else will fall into place.
This strategy will help you identify your niche topic, the focal point of your podcast. Speak to a topic that is relevant and aimed at disrupting your selected industry. Ideally, cover ideas and have conversations that no other podcast addresses. Your podcast should leave your guests and audience inspired to bring about positive change.
Once you form your brand, make sure every piece of content reflects your core messaging. Select colors and photos that are eye-catching and align with your brand identity. Make sure all copy is appealing to your audience, friendly and reflects your tone.
For Shift Happens, I knew our strategy had to align with SHIFT’s innovative brand and my personal beliefs. My guests are the best reflection of my brand, and I’m proud they match my passion for professional and personal development. For promotion, we’ve tested colors, design, and content to see what works best to connect with the right audience.
For Inevitable: The Future of Work, we use bright colors, futuristic imagery, and always highlight top workplace trends to emphasize our theme of workplace innovation.
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 Joe Mechlinski!