Post Production: Unmistakable Creative
So, normally, Srini, you have probably a week or two to think about how that just went before you listen to it again. How long do you usually give it before you--
Well, so one of the interesting things was for probably the better part of even four or five years, I did all of my own editing. And I think that was a real blessing because it forced me to go back and listen to everything multiple times. I listened once when I was editing, obviously once when I did the interview, once or twice when we aired it. So I always think about where I missed a thread that I might have not caught, and I wonder at moments, is there a question somebody in the audience would've wanted me to ask? And then there are moments where I'm like, I should've asked this question. And then I'll hear myself ask that question. So I'm like, okay, I got it. So usually probably no more than a couple of days. I mean, now that we have somebody who edits for us, although, unfortunately, he's leaving us, but usually by th...
e times it airs, I'll go back and listen to it. Yeah, I mean, usually about a week or two after is the first time I hear it, depending on how far the gap is. But with Danielle, there's never a doubt in my mind that she'll be a huge hit with our audience 'cause she always is. And it's always kind of like you don't even think about whether this is gonna be good. You just kind of know the comments are gonna roll in in droves. I think that what I'm always after is I think that if you can make somebody feel something, not just your guest, but if you can make your guest feel something, you're gonna make your listener feel something. I think if you evoke an emotional response in a guest, you're gonna evoke an emotional response in your audience as well.
How do you feel like that interview went? You've interviewed Danielle a couple of times.
Oh, I thought it was great. I'm totally happy with it. I think it's, I like conversations like that because, as you noticed, there wasn't really much of a plan. You couldn't necessarily tell where I was gonna go with it, but I also know that we covered some deep and rich territory. And I think often when people finish listening to an Unmistakable Creative interview, they're left with more questions than they are answers. But that's a good thing in my mind because you could take five people who'll listen to that interview and they're all gonna have very different responses and outcomes to it because of the way that it's structured. So we have parents who homeschool their children using our content. We have therapists who counsel their patients. I mean, there's all sorts of ways that people have used it. We have a nonprofit in Utah who trains retired Special Forces guys how to transition to civilian careers. They use our content as part of their curriculum. And so, part of the reason I never pigeonhole myself is because I like outcomes like that. I think that that's far more expansive than saying, oh, you know, what was the ROI on my listening to one hour talking to Danielle. I think that's a really bad way to measure the value of a conversation.
So let's shift gears a little bit. Let's talk about the process from this point. We just captured that audio. How does it get from here all the way to on iTunes somebody downloading your Podcast?
Yeah, so, for us, we started using Zencastr, because we had a listener who tweeted us saying, dude, your content is far too good for your audio to be this bad, and I was like, okay, well, that's like a compliment and an insult in one thing. You know, it's like, I need to fix this ASAP. And all my fixes were looking really expensive until I realized that Zencastr solved all of those problems. Noise reduction was gone, I have an editor, so, you know, we do an album cover for every single guest that is on Unmistakable Creative, so what we'll do is we'll hit our artist and we'll say, she gets about a week lead time usually and I give her the covers for next week on Tuesday, and then she illustrates the ones for the coming week.
Has she been with you since the beginning?
So we went through a few different artists. We had one that really, I mean, she was the one who came up with the concept of the album cover. She was one of our listeners, she was a really talented cartoonist, and what ended up, the first time we asked her we're like hey, I'm kind of sick of using head shots, do you wanna take a stab at something? And what she came back with was one of those album covers. This was before we were Unmistakable Creative, and we were like, wow, okay. And so that became the signature sort of thing, and you know, the goal was that when something rolled through your Facebook newsfeed you instantly knew it was from us just based on the look and feel and that aesthetic, and so that just became normal. Fortunately that, we realized it was really dangerous and kind of a liability to have somebody who had that much power over us in that particular role and we realized that a lot of people could draw faces, and it didn't work out with the first artist, but so we realized, okay, we can put somebody in that place, just because mainly they're drawing faces. They are, you know, doing some of the artistic interpretation, but we wanted to make sure that that person was somebody that we could replace, because, not to be cruel, but because it would be a huge liability if we couldn't replace that person, given that it's such an integral part of our brand. But then if you look at the logo itself, Mars Dorian does a lot of our other stuff. So any time we need something super edgy, it's always Mars. We can't really replace him, and we can't afford to keep him on staff full time, so we just do special projects with him. So that's kind of the process for that. Then the podcast gets uploaded to Google Drive, if there are ads and all that. So I have a running editorial calendar that is in Airtable that has all the dates that are scheduled for interviews and all the air dates for the interviews, as well as who the advertisers are. So I'll upload the ad reads to there, and then my editor will grab it, he'll write a description, he'll then upload it, and then people get to listen to it when it airs.
How'd you find your editor?
How did, in sort of like-- Upwork?
Yeah, we just posted an ad for somebody. Because we had to do this on a budget, and that's part of the, it's the harsh reality of the world we live in is that when you live in a global environment, it's basic economics, right? So you've got supply, and if there's more supply than there is demand, the price comes down, and it's a lot cheaper. And the thing is, when you're hiring people abroad, yes, it's cheap, but the thing is, for them, you're actually paying them really well in a lot of cases. What you're paying, which seems cheap here, ends up being a full time living there. We were kind of amazed when we even searched for a new artist what came back in terms of available talent, just the sheer volume of creative talent on the planet was mind-boggling. And so, you know, if you even look at our blog post, the artist who does our album covers now, she'll illustrate a lot of our articles as well if you look through media, you'll see some of that. But yeah, that's kind of the gist of it.
Okay, and as far as like, when you first started out, you said you edited everything yourself. That went for four years?
Let's see, I'm trying to think of when we started. Almost until 2016, it was a long time.
And at what point did you realize, like, oh, I can actually outsource some of this so I can focus more on the content, or more on--
I think I knew that at a certain point I was like, this is getting really time-consuming and tedious. And it's creating, like, it's cognitive bandwidth, right? You kind of realize, like, okay, I have a limited amount of cognitive bandwidth, and me doing this is taking away from the one thing I'm great at, which is the interview. When I'm doing this other stuff, it's a necessary evil, but I'm not phenomenal at it, and somebody else is probably much better at it, and could do it way faster than I could. It's just a huge headache that you don't have to deal with. But I have a friend who recently started a podcast called the Offshore Insights, and I was the first guest on the podcast, and he has a really complicated edit. I mean, it's really well-done. We're talking, like, NPR narrative journalism style, where he narrates sections of it, he adds music to it. Far more complicated than anything I do. And he asked me about outsourcing, and I said, I don't think you should outsource your editing. One, because you have a really complicated edit, but two, you're already this good. I think if you keep doing your own editing you're gonna get better and better.
Yeah, so it's based on sort of that total style of the podcast, and--
Yeah, here's the thing. Like, if you're doing something like a Gimlet-style or an NPR-style story, you absolutely have to have a crew for that. I desperately want somebody to do a podcast where instead of interviewing one person, they talk to four or five people from that person's life and create a multidimensional profile. Like, how interesting would it be if we didn't interview Danielle, but I got to talk to her mom or her dad, you know, some of her closest friends mixed in with her, but I don't have the editing skills to do that. That's like, a ridiculously complicated edit, because you'd have to actually take a coherent arc and narrative, otherwise it's just a bunch of random conversations that don't make any sense. So if you're talking about the kinds of stuff you hear on Gimlet, the kinds of stuff that Alex Bloomberg or Ira Glass does, that stuff requires a pretty, yeah. Like, a skilled crew to put together that kind of stuff.
Okay. One of the things you mentioned was sponsorship. So how, at what point in your career did sponsorship sort of come onto the table, and how did you handle that?
The sponsors are still an interesting battle for me. And we've had good advertisers, we've had bad advertisers. I think that, as Danielle pointed out, I think as long as advertising is mixed up in media we're gonna have a real problem with media creation, because anything you do in the interest of advertisers is unfortunately to some degree tainted, but at the same time, you have to make a living. And, you know, we're running a business, the podcast is a big part of it. So I think it came about three years in, we said, okay, you know what, we're decent size enough that maybe we can get some cash. And we've gotten a lot bigger, but we're in that weird phase, we're probably a real anomaly in the podcast world because we started way before everybody else did, we've grown slower than most people, and our audience is smaller than a lot of people who came after us. And so we're in that sort of in-between phase of, okay, we're at that sort of tipping point where we're just going and going, and you can kind of see it happening, 10 years' worth of work adding up and people sharing interviews. And at the same time, because of the fact that our audience is so diverse, you end up having, we can't say, hey, you know what, we're gonna put tools that are specifically for entrepreneurs as things that we wanna advertise, because we don't know that those things are gonna convert. So we've had challenges with that at times, but right around 2013, 2012, after about three years, it was like, okay, it's time, let's start bringing them in. And I try to be mindful about how we do it. I want to limit the amount of ad infiltration. In a dream world, I would not have to have any of them. You know, our listeners would all donate a dollar a month on Patreon and we would never have to talk about advertising.
Is anybody doing that?
There are, there are, it's, unfortunately, Patreon is a very, it mirrors society. It's literally the 1%, the elite, and everybody else, who make like, less than minimum wage. Which is really unfortunate, because I think Jack and the creators of the platform are well-intentioned, but just, that's how it plays out, because that's economics, that's capitalism.
So when those sponsors, do those sponsors get ahold of you? Do you get emails from people initially, or--
We are doing a ton of outreach on our own. I think we realized at a certain point that, I mean, here's the thing. It's like selling anything, right? I mean, if all you did was wait for inbound leads, you're gonna have some limitations. So we do have a pretty aggressive outbound effort, every week we're hitting 40 to 50 people to see who might be advertisers. So we're always building a pipeline, yeah.
And do you send them, what do you send them when you--
Well, so I send them a media kit. There's a really amazing slide design tool called Beautiful.AI, which allows you to design, just, even if you go down to unmistakablecreative.com/advertising, you can see our media kit, and it's, I had been struggling for a really long time to put together a beautiful media kit. 'cause I'd see the NPR media kit, I was like, this thing is breathtaking. And then go and find Beautiful.AI, and I was like, this thing does everything that I want it to. Their, you know, their promise is that you can put together a beautiful presentation in 15 minutes. I was like, that's far-fetched. I'm like, let me see if this is true.
And it worked.
The thing that I had been trying to put together for four years, I did in 15 minutes. And you can go look at it, it's--
Where can people find that again?
It's called Beautiful.AI.
Okay, but your media kit.
Oh, unmistakablecreative.com/advertise. Or advertise, yeah, I think it's advertise. Just go to our website. But yeah, I was able to, you know, you were able to, they had icons and demographic stuff. It was probably the most, like, visually spectacular display of all the information that I could have possibly put together. So yeah, that goes out, and we have a standard pitch and we just say, hey, were you interested in advertising? And the other thing is, I do listen to other shows to see who else is advertising. And there are places where, okay, this person has never advertised on a podcast, so I'll give you an example. I reached out to Moleskine earlier this week. Some of you people who are watching this may have seen it, if you go to Youtube and you'll see, if you Google search for Unmistakable Creative and Sarah Peck, we did this animated short based on Sarah Peck's interview and it's all about her writing process, and you look at it, and you're like, this thing could be a commercial for a Moleskine notebook. It's that beautiful, the way she talked about it and the way the music, so I sent it to the CEO of Moleskine, I said, you guys should consider advertising, 'cause this is a small representation of what we can do for you guys.
Awesome. Have you heard back?
I haven't yet.
That's awesome. So a lot of people watching this, Srini, are just starting out, they're where you were 10 years ago, nine years ago. What's your, like, sort of, in conclusion of people watching this, what's an encouragement for people just starting out, getting into this? I know it's a big question, but.
That's such a hard one, because one, you live in a world of an insane amount of noise. It's so much harder to stand out than it ever was before. So we're in this interesting phase, because we've democratized creativity because the gap between creativity and technology is narrower than it's ever been. But the other thing that does is that it raises the bar significantly for your ability to stand out. So I guess the thing that I would encourage people to do is commit to mastery over metrics. Even though that's the longer route, that is the route that will ensure that you're relevant years from now as opposed to being relevant for a moment in time. I think that you're gonna see a lot of attrition in the next couple of years, I only know this from my recent book launch. When I emailed people, many of them big platforms who replied back said our podcast is on a temporary hiatus, 'cause I think the reality is beginning to set in for a lot of people that this is work, it's hard. And if you're not up for doing it, then you should really reconsider, because it might take 10 years. I mean, if you look at mastery, people, many of the people who have been guests on Creative Live, a lot of these stories are years in the making. The thing is that we don't see it until that moment in the spotlight.
That's what I would say is commitment to mastery over metrics.
Yeah, well, that's such an encouragement to anybody starting out, I think, just keep working.
Well, you control that. You control the ability to master your craft.