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“Increasing listeners is all about getting the links to the episodes shared.” with Jason Hartman & Geralyn Breig

Increasing listeners is all about getting the links to the episodes shared. We aggressively leverage social channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) from our own accounts and from our Seller network. We also share on our blogs, our emails to our customer file, and in the media center clickable from our homepage as well as encourage our […]

Increasing listeners is all about getting the links to the episodes shared. We aggressively leverage social channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) from our own accounts and from our Seller network. We also share on our blogs, our emails to our customer file, and in the media center clickable from our homepage as well as encourage our guests to include it in their own website media/press centers.


As part of my series of interviews about “5 things you need to know to create a very successful podcast”, I had the pleasure of interviewingGeralyn Breig.

Geralyn Breig is Founder and CEO of AnytownUSA.com, the first e-commerce marketplace for American-made goods, which she launched in 2018. She also hosts and produces the podcast The American Made Marketplace. As a senior executive with Fortune 500 companies, Geralyn ran operations on 5 continents for leading consumer products and specialty retail brands. Today she serves on the Boards of 1800Flowers.com Inc., Hanes Brands Inc., and Welch Foods Inc


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit of your “personal backstory? What is your background and what eventually brought you to this particular career path?

Ifell into business as a career because my college roommate’s homework looked more fun than mine. I was supposed to be a lawyer like all good second-generation immigrant children are taught to be (doctor, lawyer, engineer). The most fun I had during my career was creating and executing strategies to grow businesses. I’ve had the privilege of working on great teams with great brands and growing them from $300 million to $ 3 billion! My biggest accomplishment in the eyes of my children was turning Goldfish® crackers from a fancy cocktail party snack into a kids’ brand, including getting the smile stamped onto the fish! Post the great recession, companies got conservative, and it was harder to have an impact inside a corporation. A start-up gives you the excitement of growing a business every day.

Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?

Well, you put these things “out there” into the world, and then you wonder “is anyone listening?” So it was exciting the first time an artisan/maker in Baltimore contacted us to say he had listened to all of our episodes with his wife on a cross-country drive and now wanted to join our platform https://anytownusa.com/. Validation is something we all need. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t being totally honest!

Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaways you learned from that?

We have professional equipment and a professional producer, but we record in my home. Like everyone else, my home phone is plagued with “robo” and scam calls these days. Early on, we forgot to turn the landline phones off and they kept going off with offers to clean our windows, threats regarding my Social Security, and people offering to fix the virus in a Windows computer I don’t own. We were kept busy running around the house grabbing all the extensions and hiding them in drawers until we had them all silenced. Next time, we unplugged everything and have our phone-in guests do the same now.

How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?

Our first episode dropped in November 2018. We have 50 episodes that have aired to-date and four more recorded and awaiting editing. Our producer is currently working around-the-clock in NYC dealing with news and COVID-19 lockdown preparation in NYC so our fresh episodes have been delayed. Otherwise, we drop a new episode every Friday, taking brief breaks for summer and Christmas vacations.

What are the main takeaways, lessons or messages that you want your listeners to walk away with after listening to your show?

Our purpose is to enable artisans/makers and manufacturers who are making goods in the USA to get a spotlight on their craft, their goods, and their personal story. Our goal with each episode is to have listeners learn about a unique gift or item made in USA that they hadn’t known about before, to go behind the scenes with the maker and learn how things are made and where they come from, and to also learn what things they had thought were made in the USA are not in fact made here. It’s not a lecture. We tell stories and play an interactive game; we laugh a lot.

In your opinion 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 your content?

Content, content, content — — we are binge-able because no two stories are the same. We have over 250 makers and growing on AnytownUSA.com so we have 250 unique stories to tell right now. They are from-the-heart personal stories of breast cancer survivors, immigrants, eager art school graduates, veterans, third-generation family businesses, and more. They each tell their story, as well as the story of how their item is made. With less than 5% of the goods we buy are made in the USA today, these stories are rare and no one but us is telling them. It’s the makers/guests who are special. I am a better producer than a host. I’m good at researching and inserting fun facts into the story to make the episode extra informative, and I prep everyone well so the episodes move quickly and are easy to listen to.

Doing something on a consistent basis is not easy. Podcasting every work-day, or even every week can be monotonous. What would you recommend to others about how to maintain discipline and consistency? What would you recommend to others about how to avoid burnout?

The struggle is real! We record our podcasts, so we will record 7 at a time. That makes for a huge prep/fact-finding/run-of-show outline job upfront, and a huge edit job afterword. But then we have seven “in the bank” and can rest up before the next bunch. Our team is made up of extraordinarily busy people. At the same time, we have a passion for telling the stories of these local makers and supporting them and their communities. So we committed upfront to avoid “podfading.” (Industry veterans report that many podcasts “pod fade” by their 7th episode, meaning they cease production.)

What resources do you get your inspiration for materials from?

Selling on AnytownUSA.com is by invitation only. That is part of how we verify that only goods made in the USA that are compliant with FTC rules are sold on the site. Each Seller who applies tells their story and details their process. Once accepted into the community, they upload a “shop” that tells their story and provides videos and photos as well. People are incredibly creative and their stories amaze me every day.

Ok fantastic. Let’s now shift to the main questions of our discussion. Is there someone in the podcasting world who you think is a great model for how to run a really fantastic podcast?

Before I began podcasting, I was a podcast listener. I knew what made me stay/subscribe and what made me get bored or frustrated and turn a podcast off. My first podcast as a listener was Serial, (big surprise) which is incredibly well produced. I listened to a bunch of top-ranked podcasts to get ideas before creating the structure of our podcast. In the end, my major role model was The West Wing Weekly with Josh Malina and Hrishikesh Hirway. They “taught me” that you could do a good show with guests phoning-in versus being in-studio, and even with the hosts in two locations if you had the right equipment and producer. I am so grateful and just love those guys. It’s too bad they will never know it!

What are the ingredients that make that podcast so successful? If you could break that down into a blueprint, what would that blueprint look like?

For me, the success of The West Wing Weekly is about things both big and small. Of course, the television show, The West Wing, was a huge hit and an icon that is binge-watched to this day. Not only is one of the podcast co-hosts a celebrity, but he is also able to bring on his celebrity friends and individuals who served as script consultants. So content — — they’ve got it for sure. The show is interactive as well. They invite, receive, and respond to listener comments. The structure is clear: Set up the episode, co-host thoughts/banter, bring in a guest, and wrap up. But it’s the little things too. We learned from the way they introduce sponsorships in an entertaining way, and to sign off the show with a catchphrase that includes the hosts AND the guest.

You are a very successful podcaster yourself. Can you share with our readers the five things you need to know to create an extremely successful podcast? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)

  1. Have the right equipment and space with good sound quality. That’s table stakes. One time we were recording during a Nor’easter and the electricity kept going out and my generator kept kicking on. Not something that I would recommend. It makes the recording super glitchy.
  2. Plan out each show to avoid a rambling, incoherent off-topic mess. I type up a “run-of-show” document for everyone beforehand and while we improvise and are spontaneous, it keeps the flow interesting and moving along. We had one guest who was lovely in prep, but just froze and gave one-word answers to every question — -painful. It was great to have the document and our “fun fact” sheet with us to turn to.
  3. Develop good content. Unless you are a celebrity or have a staff of many professional fact-finders/checkers, you are your own producer, so produce like a pro. No one wants to listen to the ramblings of just-some-guy. I’ve often stayed up until 2 am the night before a recording day just to make sure our content documents were ready and distributed to each guest so they would be prepared.
  4. Do something interactive that engages the audience. We play a multiple-choice type of game every episode, and if the guest wins (three out of five correct answers) we donate to one of our three company charities (Feeding AmericaThe National Park Foundation, and The Navy Seal Foundation). Big secret- — everyone wins! Only one time did a guest blank on all five questions. It was sort of a shocker and kind of embarrassing, but through the miracle of editing and re-takes, they ended up “winning.”
  5. Let the listeners learn about you. We totally rag on our producer, Brian, during each broadcast, which is funny because he is so, so serious and he is supposed to be a behind the scenes “player.” And we talk about our husbands and kids when relevant, to support the stories, but also to let listeners get invested in us and want to stay with us. Just be careful what you share; my husband had serious ground rules for this.

Can you share some insight from your experience about the best ways to: 1) book great guests; 2) increase listeners; 3) produce it in a professional way; 4) encourage engagement; and 5) the best way to monetize it? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)

Great guests have a great story and a passion for telling it. Our head of Seller Support, Christine, speaks to our AnytownUSA.com Sellers every day. She knows them best. She is our “booking agent.”

Increasing listeners is all about getting the links to the episodes shared. We aggressively leverage social channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) from our own accounts and from our Seller network. We also share on our blogs, our emails to our customer file, and in the media center clickable from our homepage as well as encourage our guests to include it in their own website media/press centers.

We are able to produce it in a professional way because I was lucky to have an amazing brother-in-law who is a professional producer for network news. He chose our equipment (professional results at the lowest cost), runs the recording session, and does the editing and uploading. I do the rest, which as already mentioned involves a ton of prep work to create supplemental content (fun facts, interactive game) for each episode.

Engagement is encouraged in every episode, modeling on how the West Wing Weekly guys do it — — asking for follows and comments on all channels.

It’s still (still!) early days for us on monetizing our podcast. For right now, the podcast helps drive traffic to AnytownUSA.com, and sales for our guests/makers on the site. Longer-term, we’d love to find mission synergistic sponsors like USAAWeatherTech, UPS, or New Balance, for example.

For someone looking to start their own podcast, which equipment would you recommend that they start with?

Here’s what we use. It works out well:

Production:
Zoom H5 Digital Recorder — $280
2 x Audio Technica AT8010 Condenser Microphones — $170 each
2 x Desktop Microphone Stands — $20 each
2 x XLR Male to Female Microphone Cable — $6 each
AA Batteries — $20
SD Card — $15
iPhone headphones (I already had these)

Post-Production:
Final Cut Pro X (Editing software) — $300
Music Track — $50
Gameshow Tracks — $50

Ok. We are almost done. 🙂 Because of your position and work, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We’d like to get everyone thinking to “shop made-in-USA first,” before you jump to buy an import. When you shop at a local store filled with imports, you keep 67 cents in a community. But when you buy from a maker in the USA, you keep the whole $1 in a community. One guest called it “the circle economy.” Every successful local business employs local helpers, accountants, photographers, etc. You’re sharing the economic benefit within the community.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://anytownusa.com/blogs/podcasts

https://www.instagram.com/anytown_usa_

Thank you so much for sharing your time and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.

Thank you for this opportunity. I really enjoyed it!

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