A message as important as sobriety should be delivered with passion and honesty. In this interesting episode, Tracy Hazzard interviews unique Center of Influence, Belle Robertson. Belle is a writer, host of Sober Insights, and sober coach at Tired of Thinking About Drinking. Aiming to deliver her message to the right audience in the most honest way possible, she shows us how she drives traffic to her website and podcast through her unconventional podcasting. Learn why she chooses not to have guests and ads, how she connects with her clients, and how she monetizes her podcast.
Listen to the podcast here:
Unconventional Podcasting Advice With Belle Robertson
I have a different podcaster to profile and I’m super excited to bring her to you because I’m always looking for something that’s outside the box. It’s something that defies all of the guru advice out there because I want you to have some different views about how you can bring your show to success, how you can bring a different viewpoint in it, how you can make it a little bit more you. This person has completely done that. Belle Robertson is a writer and sober coach with the website, Tired of Thinking About Drinking. It’s a blog originally. She’s written a book about how to quit drinking and has worked one-on-one as a sober coach with over 3,000 individual sober pen pals.
She has such an interesting show. It’s called Sober Insights, but she also has One Minute Messages. They are actually two shows in one. She’s done well over 600 episodes if you count them both. She has a subscriber list of almost 25,000, and she emails them 2 to 4 times a day, which is very different than anyone else I’ve ever heard. She’s helped thousands of people and still earn a living with the freemium model, which is unusual for coaches as you all know. What I enjoyed about this conversation with her and you are going to find it, is that there are many unusual things she chose to do from the beginning and she chooses to do ongoing.
There’s a lot of work in what she does. It’s absolutely imperative that she spends this time thinking through, “What’s going to work with my audience?” She talks about that in the episode. Read because there are some interesting things going on there. Before we start, I want to mention one unique thing. We’re speaking to Belle Robertson, but that’s not her real name. Her show is anonymous. She’s anonymous. This is a pen name. It’s her podcast host name because being anonymous in her industry is extremely important.
She is a sober coach for judges, psychiatrists, people who couldn’t normally go to AA and they need anonymity. She goes so far as to provide anonymity through her payment processing even so she doesn’t have to know their name as well. It’s absolutely interesting that she’s developed an entire model with this and anonymous integrity built in place as well. While we are speaking to Belle Robertson, that is her anonymous name. I want you to know that, but I have to tell you throughout the whole thing, she’s Belle. She becomes that person she is, it’s who that is deep inside, even if that’s not her real name. I’m so excited to bring you a different center of influence, Belle Robertson.
Belle, thank you so much for joining me.
I’m happy to be here.
You are residing in Paris. I’m over here in California, but I’m going to say our clarity of call sounds amazing and I love that about podcasting.
I live here, I have a good microphone set up and I’ve been interviewed on the BBC, so I have decent quality stuff. I also record my own podcast from here. I’m glad it works.
It works well and that’s what I want everybody to hear. It does not matter where in the world you’re talking to people from. I wanted to point that out right away. You have an interesting and different model of show and that’s why I’m glad to bring you here on the show because that it is a daunting task to run a show in the topic area that you are. Your show is obviously in addiction recovery and specifically drinking. Your show is called Sober Insights. We find that many shows that are in that self-help area of addiction recovery and other things where it might be something very private to the person who’s reading that there are more issues growing a show. You seem to come up with some very interesting and unusual ways to do that. I’m excited to talk to you about that. Did you find that when you first started out that you couldn’t get people to share this show?
When I first started, I made it paid right off the bat for my existing subscribers. I had a mailing list of 2,000 people and I was sending out daily emails. This is something also that’s a bit unusual. If you have an audience that pays attention to what you’re doing and you’re providing useful information to them, you can email them twice a day. I can email them three times a day and during Thanksgiving or if something’s going on, particularly when there’s a presidential election and the results are coming in, or anything else that might be triggering, I’ll send out 5 or 6 a day. It’s tiny ones, little one paragraph. “It’s okay, you’re fine. Pay attention,” and that thing. What I did was I wanted to talk to people. I want it. Honestly when you said I was interesting and unusual, I’m going to be both of those.
I love that. That’s why you’re here obviously. That is so interesting. You started out a listed 2,000 but you have a well-over 20,000 list right now.
It’s 25,000 but it’s six years later. I’m seven years without a drink but after about a year is when I started the podcast. I had a blog, I had people following me. I had daily emails and I wanted to create some audios, but I was nervous that nobody would read them because what I did was turn on the recording. The way it started was it was Labor Day weekend and I stayed up sending out the email that says, “You’re fine, it’s fine.” I wanted to see it. I recorded a little seven-minute message that said, “If everybody else is drinking on Labor Day weekend, it doesn’t mean that you need to, you’re doing what’s best for you.” What happened after that, the feedback I got was, “You were talking right to me. You’re talking directly to me.” Of course, they were familiar with my writing, they knew how I sounded at least by writing but then when they heard my voice, when they read my stuff, they can hear me, like in replay my voice. I thought, “I want to do this more often, 2, 3 times a week.” I charged them for it because I didn’t want to invest a whole lot of time in creating content that would have no market. It’s exactly what you said. I didn’t want to create it, put it up and have seven people come.
That’s so fantastic that you had the confidence to try that, which most people don’t. It is a confidence thing. It’s like, “I don’t know if it’s of any value, so I’m not going to try this.” Immediately you said, “I’m going to assess a value to this.”
What I did was if you were a subscriber for a month, you’ve got access to all of those audios and then if you join next month, you only get the ones that are released from the date when you join so that the people aren’t penalized for having been signed up for 2 months or 3 months already. You can’t sign up and get access to the entire back catalog. You can get access to some. What happened then was at the end of the month, random people would email me and say, “Did you do a podcast about relapse? Can I get that one?” I started to sell them individually. I have a list of archive podcasts and also for people who don’t know me.
That’s how it started. The idea of this but then of course, what happens when you do this work? When you work one-on-one with people, you get questions all the time. You hear the same question ten times and then you think, “I’m going to do a podcast about Having a Prickly Personality and Being Resistant to Help. I’m going to do a podcast about How to Have a Sober Christmas” That one seems a little bit more self-explanatory. I did a podcast called Liquid Poo, which is basically saying, “I hope I can drink and keep all of my overdrinking contained in this one little room. I won’t let it affect my life. I won’t let it affect anything. I want to overdrink right here.” I compared that to liquid poo, which then spreads over your whole house. You can’t contain liquid poop. That kind of audio gets people’s attention.
Something like that, I’ll send it out for free to everybody because they all need to hear it. Sometimes what I do too is I put it up on my blog and say it’s available for 24 hours. Go read. If there’s no deadline, nobody reads. If there’s no deadline, nobody goes. I did it like that for a couple of years, maybe two years. I thought I would take a little clip out of one of the podcasts, a little one-minute section and send that out as a teaser. They love the one-minute messages way disproportionately to love to be my case, what I thought was the value was completely not correct. If there’s a lesson in that, it’s that your audience will tell you what they want and you can’t decide for them.
I recorded ten one-minute messages and I sent them out ten days in a row. I made them free. Anybody could get them. They were on my site and they were on Apple podcasts, iTunes. On the iTunes version I said, “Come back to my site to get the rest of them.” In my own list, I sent them up directly but the one-minute messages turned out to be this amazing opportunity for people to get to know me with no commitment and no overwhelm. It’s a one-minute message about Labor Day or about vacationing or what do you say when the waiter comes to the table and says, “What can I get you to drink?” What I didn’t expect was that anybody would sit down and listen to them back-to-back, which is what then turned out to happen. People would email me.
I hate to use the word, but binge listening.
They read to 50 one-minute messages back-to-back and there’s music underneath them. They’re really cheesy in my opinion. It’s little inspirational things that still have my tone of voice and my sense of humor. They love them. I still get emails all the time. I did one about Julie from The Love Boat. You are not Julie from The Love Boat. You’re not required to or need to. “More than anybody else’s happiness, you’re in charge of you.”
This is interesting because you also are discovering along the way people will read, the way they’re consuming content. You’re discovering that at the same time that you were discovering what works for you. What is also very interesting about the way is that you started out with a blog, you were a blogger first. You had Tired of Thinking About Drinking was the name of your blog and you shifted into being a podcaster is the genesis of how that happened. What have you carried with you that has been successful with what you learned in blogging that you keep doing?The thing about emails is the heart to search. The thing about Instagram is it's hard to search. Click To Tweet
I still have the blog and I post some of the daily emails. I’ll take some of the things that I share by daily email and post them back on the blog. The thing about emails is the heart to search. The thing about Instagram is it’s hard to search. Everybody’s on Instagram, I get it and I do share things on Instagram. You can’t search it. You can’t go back and look at what my day seven was like. To see what your day seven is like to see if it sucks. You can’t look at what’s my date. I started the blog because I was sober blogging. I was a blogger who documented my journey to save myself. It wasn’t intended to be helpful to anybody. That came completely by accident. People will say this, any good business idea is the one where it happens organically where you create something and people actually like it rather than you walking around saying, “Buy my stuff.”
It’s important though that you have recognized that searchability as the key criteria because what I see again and again is that same thing. The ones who started out as bloggers or were digital marketers and understood that search criteria and the way people were utilizing content did better coming into podcasting from the beginning. They actually are more successful at the beginning of it. Whether or not they keep it up or they abandon it, that determines their long-term success. Our platform and everyone that we worked with and do it are a key portion of it, but most of them didn’t start as bloggers to begin with. We’ve added it as a component later because they were finding that they weren’t having the success they expected as a podcaster. We bring that component in later. It’s a little bit backward, but you’ve hit on one of the keys to success. It is when I’m a reader and I’m in desperate need and you have a program that is all about that deep need that happens at 2:00 in the morning, whenever it occurs, that I need to be able to search and find the information that I need at that most.
On my blog, I will do a mixture of text and long audio and short audio and photos and some of the things that I post on Instagram, some of the little images they end up there as well, but also in the daily emails. The daily emails are a more direct way that I contact people daily. I’ve even been able to take a series of daily emails, put them together in a booklet and sell it. I wrote something that took six separate long emails to write. It was about the voice in your head that thinks that drinking is a good idea that I call Wolfie, which is another whole story. It’s a voice in your head that says, “Drink now, what about now? Where’s the waitress? I could have another one. It’s only Tuesday. I could probably have two more.” It’s all that noise, all that thinking about drinking. I wrote six emails in a row saying, “Here’s Wolfie, here’s how you identify it. Here’s what the voice says. Here’s how you know, here’s what you do to get it to stop.”
At the end of the seven days, I said, “Emails are hard to keep track of. What do you think about me taking this and putting it into a PDF, a Kindle single, a print booklet?” I got hundreds of emails saying yes because again, I’m not going to do it if there’s no interest. I go into my Page Leo software and I lay it all out and I uploaded my very first Amazon Kindle single. It’s the number one bestseller in sobriety that day. This is still using the emails that everybody got for free. I record an audio of each of the six days and released those to the podcast subscribers and make them available for sale separately.
You’re pointing out something that is misunderstood in this marketplace that we think, “We’re giving all this content away for free,” but there are other opportunities that are much more convenient as you pointed out to people that are much more useful to them. That they are more than willing to pay for and consume in that way because they need it in these other formats too in order to be able to utilize it fully. They’ve been given that tastes for free and they’re happy with who you are and what you do and what you’re going to bring to them and now they want more.
There’s something else that we didn’t say about me, which is that 80% of what I do is free.
That was what I was going to be bringing up next. That most of what you’re giving out there is free but remember it’s all over the place as you pointed out.
It’s on media. It’s on a podcast. It’s on your daily emails and there are emails directly with one pen pal. If I emailed one pen pal and there’s a nugget about how she dealt with her husband’s overdrinking in relationship to her own sobriety, then I’ll pull that out and share it with the whole list. If it’s a really good one, I’ll put it on the blog and then sometimes I’ll go back to the blog and find my day fourteen and then I’ll share. If I have nothing to share, I go back to the blog and pull out, here’s what day fourteen looks like. It’s terrible. Here’s what day 40 looks like. It looks better.
This sounds like a whole lot of work. This is what I get from a lot of people out there who are thinking about starting a podcast. They thought, “This will be easy.” What you’re describing sounds like deep thought to everything you’re pulling out, everything that you’re looking at. You’re concentrating on it. You’re thinking about what’s in the best interest of all of those subscribers of yours who find you so valuable and who needs you. You must always be thinking about what’s in their best interest?
For sure but they tell me, when you have a large list and you make a mistake, they tell you. If you’re narcissistic or self-centered, they’ll tell you at quickly. I generally get corrected by my audience when I do something dumb and some of the mistakes that I’ve made like not having good quality audio when I’m recording outside. It was like, “I don’t have a portable microphone and it’s too windy,” that thing.
You got the clicking thing going on and they have a fit about it. I totally get it. We hear that all the time.
They are also, depending on the message, very forgiving about an echo or about me doing it. I’ve turned on my phone voice memo and recorded on an airplane because the kid in front of me was doing something that reminded me of something that I could relate to sobriety. I turned it on. There are a couple of reasons for me that it’s not hard. Number one, I don’t have guests so I don’t have to schedule anybody and there is no time zone stuff. I turn it on when I feel like recording and I promise them 1 to 2 new audios a week, but I don’t have a schedule because to me, as soon as it’s Tuesday, Friday, I don’t want to do it. That’s me personally. I’m very drawn to doing it exactly when I feel like it and I seem to be feeling like it enough that I don’t have to force myself. When I get really behind, I’ll go to a Facebook Live from six months ago and pull the audio from that and make that a podcast.
That’s really smart. Let’s repurpose. That’s an interesting thing. There are many gurus and advisers out there who tell people, “You have to be on schedule. You have to be consistent and constant. It has to come out every Tuesday morning,” whatever that is. There is something to be said for that in certain marketplaces. There’s another, which is what I think you’ve hit on, is that those people who are subscribing to you, when you need them, they need you. That’s important. When you’re ready to reach out to them, it’s because they needed you. You have an energetic thing going on. A passion about it going on and it would be much better for them to wait for you to be in the moment than it would be you felt forced to be recording.
I’ve explained it to them too because when you’re self-employed, you get to make these decisions. To some extent, I’m modeling the fact that if I know what my own work style is and I have the opportunity to cater to that, then this is what I’m going to do. I’m self-employed. I have the ability to set my own schedule, which is to not have a schedule. I feel better that way. I’m more productive. That’s just me but when I explain it like that, nobody gives me a hard time because they’re still getting what I promised, which is 1 to 2 new audios a week. I don’t say two. I say 1 to 2 but sometimes it’s only one. Sometimes there will be nine days between them and then you’ll get three in a row. I don’t want them clinging to Tuesday morning at 6:00 because it becomes mechanical and people also record six months out and then it’s not topical.
In Paris, there’s an event happening that would make a good podcast to do with catastrophizing and the way the media presents difficult situations. When the big church was on fire in the summer, I turned on Facebook Live and recorded for an hour what the news was, what the truth was and how to process this information. Not to assume that it’s all bad, to make it topical. It’s like if something’s happening with the President of the United States and it’s triggering my group, then I want to record a podcast.
That’s also another thing, most of the podcast gurus out there don’t create something that is set in time, that isn’t evergreen. In your particular case, it’s absolutely a necessity to be set in time because it’s the most helpful thing I need in this moment.
Here’s the thing about authenticity in any of the mental health coaching stuff. If you cue up your podcast to go out every Tuesday morning at 6:00 and there has been an earthquake the day before and your podcast comes out and it’s talking about how to make homemade lemonade as a replacement for champagne, you’ve missed it and you’ve missed your group and you’ve delivered garbage. You had missed the opportunity to turn on the microphone and say, “I’m here in my pajamas. I’m recording this right now because,” and then send it out. The other thing that I do is I use Mixlr, which is an online broadcast radio station, basically where you can turn on the microphone and broadcast live. I can send out an email to my whole list and say, “I’m going to be online in fifteen minutes.” They’ll all come over and then I’ll record a podcast but with an audience, they can’t speak, but I know they’re there and they can chat and send emails. I can get 60, 70, 100, 400 people depending on how far in advance I advertise it.
We do that something similar, but it’s more scheduled only because of the way that we do our topics. We do something similar. One of our podcasts is the Marketing Monday Mixer. On Mondays, I’m live on Facebook for a half hour and we’re talking about whatever the marketing topic of the week is. It’s usually related to something like algorithm shifts, something that happens so it’s timelier and it allows us to have an audience at that point and have feedback. Before I put it up as a podcast, if I need to add another couple of minutes to it, we’ll do it. It’s valuable for you to have that audience sitting there for you. There’s an energy in that too. It’s better because of that.
They submit questions. I’ve done an event, for example, my own soberversary. My anniversary of being sober is July 1st and a few years ago, I did a live show on July 1st because it was on a weekend. It was three hours long. I turned on the recording and I made it live and I recorded five podcasts back-to-back. If you were there listening live, you not only got to listen to it for free, but you got to participate and submit questions but then if you missed it or you had to walk out or your kid was crying, you get the recording later. I then turned that into live events where I now go to London, sell tickets, put 30 people in a room and record a podcast in front of them. If it goes an hour and a half, I can record three episodes back-to-back live with people laughing like a radio show basically.
You’re doing many out of the box things, unusual things in the way that you’re doing it and it’s working for you because it’s such a right fit for your audience. It says to me that you have such sensitivity and you’re truly listening to what they’re saying to you, what they’re needing from you and you’re coming up with great ways to provide that. That is also authentically you. That you feel you can deliver because it fits you, your lifestyle and your business.
Part of that is also because I’m anonymous. When I started this, I made a deal with myself that I would be 100% me. Because I was anonymous, I could walk right up to that ledge in a way that I thought might have been more difficult if I wasn’t anonymous. It also then turns out that since 2012 when I started this, as you said about bloggers if you look at the last couple of years, authenticity has turned out to be important. If anybody was a coach, therapist, any coach, not only mental health coach, a fitness coach, if you turned it on and talked, if you turned it on and said it was hard to get up and go to the gym, people like that. If you created a live event and you had everybody calling in with their problems and you were troubleshooting them on the air, it wouldn’t matter what coach you are. You could be a marketing coach, you could be a sober coach. If you actually are open to hearing what your people want. You have to be willing to listen to what it is that they want, which is different than what you want to say.As a coach, you have to be willing to read to what it is that your people want, which is different than what you want to say. Click To Tweet
Belle, you’ve obviously made a great show. You’ve made a great website. You have a nurtured list who loves you. What have you been able to do with it? How has this helped you grow a business and have an impact?
The podcast itself has paid subscribers. There’s a free set of audios and then there’s a page set. Often people will participate only in the free stuff or they’ll participate in the free stuff until they get to know me well enough and then they’ll do some of the paid stuff. One thing about my audios is that because they’re not interviews, it’s me talking directly to you and that has a stronger impact than you might think. An audio is a pretty personal thing. You’re reading it alone with your headset. It’s not three people in a room watching television. It’s one person with a headset, is a podcast. You are talking directly to them.
If you’re doing an interview, they’re listening to you talk to someone else. They’re a bystander. If you’ve talked to them, then you can connect with them in a totally different way but it builds that relationship much more quickly. If I say right now, pretending I’m talking to my audience, “You being sober is how you take care of you. You’ve messed around with drinking before you’ve tried it, it doesn’t work for you and now you’re trying something else.” If I say that and it gets you on the right day, people will be crying and will email me and say, “That really got to me.” They’ll say, “It sounds like you’re talking directly to me,” because I am. Because of that, then all of the things that you want to do with like Facebook Lives in terms of engagement and building relationship quickly is much easier with audio because audio is important and video is not.
We use a quote here all the time about “How you think with your eyes but you feel with your ears.” It’s a quote from Malcolm Gladwell on the Stephen Colbert show at one point when he was talking about why he did a podcast instead of a new book. I always think about that you feel with your ears. It is true because they hit so much deeper into the core of who you are and what you’re thinking about it. You bypass that.
You mean, how does that build your business? It builds your relationship with your people, your free people, your many thousands of free people who may then turn into a $2 client. Who may then turn into a $3,000 client and you don’t know who they are. You deliver the best stuff you can to everybody. I encourage people to consume only the free stuff because I grew up in a family that didn’t have a ton of money. I understand what it’s like to not have a lot of money. I could put everything behind a paywall. You don’t even get the free daily emails you have to pay for everything but then how would anybody get to know you?
It’s something sensitive like sober coaching. They have to know you and they have to know that you’re not full of crap. In my case, they want to know that I’ve actually done it like quit drinking. They want to know that I’ve worked individually one-on-one with 3,000 people over the last six years. Individual not group coaching, one-on-one coaching. I’ve heard this stuff. You lied to your husband. I’ve heard that. That’s doesn’t scare me. You’re in a polyamorous marriage and you’re having trouble with your drinking, I don’t care. It’s got nothing like it did unless it impacts your drinking, I don’t care.
I love that you’ve been able to tap into that deeply. Every time we do this show, we tap into some lessons learned and obviously we are going to tap on some of them and a couple of them aren’t going to apply to you. I love that because that will give us an opportunity to talk about something a little bit different. Our lessons on your experience becoming a podcast Center of Influence is about the best ways to do these five things. The first one is to book great guests, which you’ve chosen not to. What I’d love to talk about here rather than how do you book great guests is, how do you decide you don’t want them?
You have to be able to open your mouth and speak, which I didn’t know I could do until I started doing this. I was always a writer. I have a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. I was always a writer. I wrote blogs and I wrote emails. I didn’t know I could open my mouth and speak. You have to be able to open your mouth and talk about a subject with anecdotes and come back to the main topic and be compelling. Part of the way I find that’s easy to do is with a little bit of humor and to talk directly to people. Also, you have to be a bit of a storyteller. You have to be able to tell the story about liquid poo and have it not be revolting, but have it mean something or to tell the story about How to be Sober for Christmas and not just have it be top ten things. Number one, bring your own drink. Number two, go in your own car. That’s not a podcast.
No, it’s not but as a writer coming out of it, it’s much of our writing that’s out there and articles are like that. That’s where everything’s falling flat. I love that you’ve chosen to go this much more personal, deep connection route and really be true about what you want to convey to people. It’s coming across because it’s what they need to hear as well. I love that you’ve chosen not to do guests. It’s a very successful strategy for many people that they overlook and they don’t do it.
It’s way easier. I use it as a differentiator where I say to people, “I’m the one who talks directly to you.” They’ll say, “I’ve tried the other sober audios. There are always 2 or 3 women talking and they’re talking about stuff that’s not relevant to me.” If I talk directly to you, I have to make it relevant to you. It’s not just what I want to talk about is what they want to hear.
Most people choose to do guesting strategy because they opt into what the gurus are telling them and they say, “You need that in order to increase your listeners because you’ve got to borrow other people’s audiences.” That’s our number two thing. What are some of the best ways to increase listeners because now you don’t have this crutch of the guesting?
Send out lots of stuff for free directly to your large email list that you’ve maintained all along as your primary contact with people is email.
How do you grow that list for yourself? What are some ways that you do that?
Most of the people who sign up for my free daily emails have typed my name into Google and typed my name or typed Tired of Thinking About Drinking. The online world for sober support is relatively small. If you’re part of one forum, someone will mention me. If you’re part of something else, someone will mention me. Some of my pen pals who are successfully sober have gone off to write books about being sober and mentioned me in them that I was their coach when they started. You’ll read that book and come back to me.
For example, I publish on Medium, I publish on the blog, I do the free stuff. They’re on the Apple podcast. Also, I will be a guest on anybody’s podcast. I’ve been guest number seventeen. I’ve been certainly a guest where my audience is larger than the interviewer. I would say most of the time. I’ve done Christian men podcasts about how to be a better father and husband and if you want to talk about that directly, we’ll talk about quitting drinking. I’ve done Iconic Mom Podcasts. How do you be your best you when you’re a mom with three kids? The message is similar. I don’t say no to podcasts. I even had one of my own subscribers start a podcast in wanting to interview me and I said, “Yes.” The reason I do that is because they may have a fraction of an audience. It may become famous later and then someone will go back, especially to early catalog and episode seventeen is actually great because nobody goes back to episode 241 and they go back to the beginning and listen.
This is what I tell people all the time. I’m so glad you said that, Belle. Many people are like, “This podcast might not be any good. I don’t want to be one of the first few episodes.” I was like, “It’s a risk, yes. If it’s good in any way, shape or form, you are going to be one of the most listened to episodes ever.”
I take the audio from their Apple podcast stream and I download the MP3 and then I reupload it to my list and I say, “I was on a podcast.” It becomes an episode of my podcast that I was interviewed by the BBC on the radio, Back to Manhood or Thrive Global.
I’m actually about to do an episode on that for everyone. It’s going to be coming up in probably following this episode. I’ll try to make sure that they come out in the same week. I’m doing one about creating a “best of series” and what are some ways to do that. It does sound self-serving, but at the same time, it gives people such deep aspects to you that they wouldn’t hear on your show normally.
If you’ve done a lot of content, your audience will tell you that you’re the best one. In fact, if you have a mailing list of any kind, you simply send out an email that says, “I’m giving away $20 worth of homemade cookies to the person who submits the top ten list.” Off you go and 100 emails come in. I wouldn’t pick my top ten because I’m not the audience.
Picking your top ten based on numbers alone isn’t always a good idea either because those may be the number ones over time or then top ten over time. Whether they’re the best ones to start with is a totally different thing. That’s absolutely it. My number three on the best ways is to produce it in a professional way. Audio is one thing, but what are some other ways that you make sure that your show is much more professionally produced?
I actually don’t focus on that too much and I’m okay with there being background noise. If I recorded at the market, I tell them where I am and why I’ve turned the microphone on. When I record at home like I am now, I have a quality microphone. I have quality headphones. I use decent Adobe software to edit it. I had a bit of music written for me at the beginning that I use like the intro music. I don’t have outro. I have intro music though in a decent quality export from your MP3 file. If you make a mistake with that, they’ll tell you. I’ve also taken the audio from a Facebook Live where I’m saying things like there’s the dog.
What I do is at the beginning of it, I say, “What you’re going to hear now is the audio from a Facebook Live. The reason I’m sharing it is because I ended up talking about this, about how to deal with difficult people who challenge the fact that you quit drinking, your best friend who says, “Come on.” What you’re going to hear now is the video. If you’d like to go see the video,” then I put the link in. “Otherwise listen to this.” You can hear ducks and I’m at the duck pond and all the dogs and everything. No one complains about that. In fact, they asked for more audios recorded at the duck pond so then I created a separate free series called Duck Ponderings.Having sponsors on your podcast can make your message unclear. Click To Tweet
I had a feeling that was what was coming, but I love it. I’m glad you went there.
I didn’t name it. One of my subscribers sent me the name. I didn’t even have the idea. Why would I think anybody wants to hear me talk at the duck pond? If you have a relationship with your list, they’ll tell you what they want and they’ll tell you when you’re wrong.
You obviously have a private topic. You do one-on-one with your clients, but one of the best ways questions that we normally get are what are some of the best ways to encourage engagement? That’s a public thing if you’re doing it over social. What are some other ways that you get them? Do you get them to email you?
Yes. I don’t do social because it’s not private. Not that this engagement. If I put up a piece of writing and I want people to comment, I’ll put it on my blog. If I put up a piece of writing and I think the emails that I’m going to get are controversial or difficult, I’ll ask them to email them to me then I will curate them, then I’ll post them. If I send them an audio, I’ll say right in the audio, “Let me know what you think,” or I’ll record an intro that says, “In this audio, you’re going to hear and what I want you to do.” Sometimes what I’ll do too is I’ll ask them for topics at the end of the audio, which will then get them to email me.
I’ve also done things like contests where I’ll send out a podcast that says, “In the next 24 hours when you listen to this, I want you to find the three-minute segment that really encapsulates the best part of this,” or “I want you to find a bumper sticker moment where there’s like a phrase that if you only picked up that one phrase.” They’re listening to the whole audio, trying to find the T-shirt moment, the bumper sticker moment. They submit them all to me. I don’t do anything with them. It’s send me your bumper sticker moment. Maybe I might use them in the promo information or I might mention it in another email a week later. People want to tell you what they think. You have to ask them.
You’ve got to give them an opportunity.
When I asked for the best three minutes segment, someone will do that and then that becomes one of my one-minute messages. Somebody who’s given me literally, “From this second to this second, that’s the best chunk of this.” I don’t have to do it. I had somebody volunteer to transcribe my audios as a gift because I do so much for free. Somebody wanted to do something in return.
The last one we go over for our best ways to, and this is so many people who want to start a podcast. This is the first thing they go to, what are some of the best ways to monetize it? You actually started out by saying, “I’m going to monetize it from day one.” You have a little bit different view on that.
If I was starting a brand-new podcast, I would probably use Apple podcasts. I would release only ten and I would put the back catalog in a paid thing like this American Life. That’s an example. You can listen to this American Life online, but if you want to download the MP3 files, you have to pay $1 or something. That’s what I would do if I wanted to monetize. The reason I’ve done that is what most people want is a large audience so that they can get sponsors. I don’t want sponsors because the messaging will not be clean. I don’t want a beer company and I don’t want to be selling my people mattresses.
You don’t want to sell out your audience first. What is small amounts of money at the end of the day? Most people don’t understand that until I’ve seen it again and again. If you made $200 a month off your show, that’s good. That scares me for selling out an audience.
If you provide good quality content to people who want it, again, it’s not you waxing poetic about the Smurfs. Nobody cares because what happens is people think they want to start a podcast. They start a podcast about Smurfs and then they try to find an audience instead of already having a sense of what somebody might like to hear. It goes back to scratch your own itch. This would have been the thing that I wanted to hear. Something that was relatively positive and upbeat, even though there were some scary and sad stories.
I had a pen pal who died from drinking and her mother emailed me to tell me. When that happened, I asked her if I could share that and her mother said yes. I shared the history with no names but the history of what had happened with this girl. It made it all more real. I ended up crying in the podcast. In the next podcast, I’ll do something like Liquid Poo where it’s an ongoing hilarious joke. They will tell me that audio flipped a switch where they went. “You’re right.” I don’t know which one of those audios. I don’t know what’s going to hit people.
It’s probably going to be different for different people. That’s the wonderful thing you’ve given them such variety as you’ve done many episodes. The last thing before we go, I always ask, is there any piece of advice for someone who wants to start a podcast especially one in a sensitive subject area? You would be great as an advisor of someone who got started in something that you weren’t an expert in when you first started writing your blog, for instance, if it’s something you’re especially building expertise in.
I would take advice from your potential audience. If you have any mailing list, any blog, any forum or you’re a part of a group, ask people what they’d like to have answered and then answer them and then let those people know that you’ve created the Q&A. You can interview your own subscribers as well. I have done that. When you don’t have a guest, you interview your own subscribers, get them on and do live coaching or live Q&A with people. Have them submit it by audio. I’ve done that too where they submit the audio question and I dub in that little audio and then I answer it live. You can do it with those, submitting it by email. If you have something to sell yourself, any product, small or large, or you sell the back catalog of the audios, then that can be the way that you monetize the podcast.
If you have a book and you’re selling your book, if you mentioned the book at the end or it’s somehow gets worked in, or even if because they love you, they know you wrote a book. I do one-on-one coaching, which is at the higher end of what I do. I sell $2 PDFs of collected emails and that’s at the lower end of what I do. I’ll mention anything in between there. There are lots of times I mention nothing. If they’re reading to your stuff back-to-back, they hear enough ads, they know who you are. If you want to be the person that they think of when they want the solution to this problem. You want to be front of mind. How do you be front of mind? Authentic, not selling the mattresses. This is my opinion about the mattresses.
If you could make $30,000 a month and you had sponsors where you sold mattresses, fine. Most of us aren’t going to have $30,000 a month in sponsorship money and it’s going to come with so many strings and obligations that I wouldn’t want it because then they’re going to ask for, how many episodes a week? They’re going to ask for a bunch of other constraints that I perhaps don’t want to offer, but also then I get to use that as my differentiator. I get to say, “I’m the one with no ads.”
You have such differentiation and in everything that you do, Belle, which is why you are binge listenable. This is the only good thing to binge on. That’s what makes you unique. I am glad you came on the show. Give us an insight into how these things came about and what you’ve done with them and how you’ve served your audience in such a great way.
I appreciate it. Thank you. It’s actually been an interesting back and forth, I was worried it was going to be boring, but this was interesting.
I’m so glad too, Belle. Thank you again. It has been great.
I hope you found that as enlightening as I did. Belle Robertson has done some unusual things with Sober Insights with Tired of Not Drinking, her blog post originally. She’s got an unusual model that we all need to take a look at. I would check out her website and definitely listen to her show. Check out the way that it’s structured and start thinking deeply about this connection between your show and what you’re doing online. What are you doing via email? How are you providing feedback to your audience? Her insights into all of that is deep that we all need to look at it the way that we’ve structured our show and saying, “Is this serving us and our audience in the best way possible to create a conduit for healing, for impact, for whatever it is that the goal of our show is to begin with?”
She’s got me thinking about all different ways we might structure our show in the future as well. I hope you enjoyed this. Belle mentioned this, if you have a show and you’d like to have her on it, reach out. We should take her up on it. She’s been guesting on shows. She’s happy too because if she can reach any segment of that audience and help them out with how she serves, she wants to do that. Let’s take her up on that. If you’ve got a show, even a startup show, she said she’d be willing to go on that as well.
Reach out to FeedYourBrand.co and there will be all great connections straight to Belle Robertson, straight to her website, straight to her podcast, Sober Insights. We’ll make sure that you guys get connected up and you can have her on your show as well. If you have anyone interesting, anyone who’s doing some great things, if you are becoming a Center of Influence in podcasting and you want to reach out to me and not only be featured on the show, Feed Your Brand, but also get featured in our Authority Magazine and BuzzFeed roll-ups that are going on as well. I’d love for you to reach out to us too and you can do that anywhere on the website. You can also do that on social media and reach out to me there at Feed Your Brand. Thanks again for reading. This has been Tracy Hazzard on Feed Your Brand.
- Tired of Thinking About Drinking
- Sober Insights
- One Minute Messages
About Belle Robertson
Belle Robertson is a writer and sober coach, with a website: Tired of Thinking About Drinking.
She has written a book about how to quit drinking, and has worked one-one-one as a sober coach with 3,054 individual sober penpals (as of today!).
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