Making the (Network) Dream Work with Molly Sloan
Making the (Network) Dream Work with Molly Sloan
Today, we’re sitting down with Molly Sloan, Senior Manager of Marketing Communications at Drift. Part of Molly’s job (yes it’s only PART of her job) is managing the Hypergrowth Podcast Network. A network of 4, soon to be 5 active podcasts, that she manages on a day-to-day basis. I’m just going to let that sink in for a minute.
FIVE podcasts. Most of us know how much work goes into creating a podcast and we only manage one. Imagine being responsible for managing 5 shows, and not just any shows, but shows for DRIFT. That’s no small feat.
Molly took us inside the Drift network and inside what a normal day in the life is like for her. One thing that was clear to her from the start, was that in order to be successful (and sane) in her role, she needed to create a great process for herself and her hosts, and then trust in that process. It takes a lot of teamwork to make such a large network of shows work, and Molly utilizes the strengths of her team to keep the podcast process running smoothly.
This episode is chock full of amazing tidbits and advice, so let’s not waste another minute.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Let's play a game. When I say a word, try to think of a podcast that comes to mind, okay? Let's go. Product, marketing, operations, growth, conversational marketing. Chances are, at least one Drift podcast came to mind. And maybe if you're an Uber Drift fan like myself, you might have thought of a Drift podcast for each of those words. Why? Because Drift has done an amazing job of building out the Hypergrowth Podcast Network to include an amazing show with an amazing host that covers each of these topics. But have you ever thought of the work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure each of these podcasts goes on without a hitch? I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and co founder of Casted, the only marketing platform built for branded podcasts. Today, we're sitting down with Molly Sloan, senior manager of marketing communications at Drift. Part of Molly's job, yes, it's only part of her job, is managing the hyper- growth podcast network, a network that currently is made up of four, but soon to be five active podcasts that she manages on a day to day basis. I'm going to let that sink in for just a minute. Five active podcasts. Most of us know how much work goes into creating just one podcast. Imagine being responsible for five, and not just any shows, but shows for Drift. That's no small feat. Molly took us inside the Drift network, and inside what a normal day in the life is like for her. One thing that was clear to her from the start was that, in order to be successful and sane in her role, she needs to create a great process for herself and her hosts, and then trust that process. And it takes a lot of teamwork to make such a network of shows work, and Molly utilizes the strengths of her team to keep the podcast process running smoothly. This episode is chock full of amazing tidbits and advice, so let's not waste another minute.
Molly Sloan: I am Molly Sloan, I am the senior manager of marketing communications at Drift, and instead of managing just one podcast, I manage a whole network of podcasts. So at Drift, we have four and soon to be five active podcasts. And so my role here is to manage all the podcasts on a day to day basis and make sure they're going out on time, that the content is fresh, and just working with our hosts to get everything off the ground and into the airwaves.
Lindsay Tjepkema: No small feat. Yeah, so I'm so glad you're here. We're going to talk about some of the hippest and coolest podcasts that are out there right now at Drift, which you're behind them. So I am interested in how you're doing it, which is a very big question. So let's talk about kind of how it came to be that Drift has so many podcasts. Let's start there.
Molly Sloan: I guess I have to start with, every company has their own kind of core set of principles. And for Drift, we have seven or eight that we really live by, but one of the big ones that stands out is to be a curious learning machine. And that is something that is embodied by our CEO, David Cansell. He is a voracious reader, he consumes a lot of different media, including podcasts. And I think really how Drift got involved in podcasts was he wanted to get involved in the game pretty early on, so in 2016, I think, David and Dave Gerhardt, our former VP of marketing here launched the Seeking Wisdom podcast, which is our first ever show here. And it was sharing different books, they were reading mental models, people that they looked up to, people like Warren buffet and Charlie Munger, just lessons from the greats like David Ogilvy, and just sharing those types of learnings and lessons and applying them to our modern world. And the show really, really took off. It was kind of cool. And as someone who, I started working at Drift in, oh my goodness, 2019. So in 2017 and 2018, I was really starting to become a big listener of the Seeking Wisdom podcast and I was just loving the content they were putting out. And there's nothing like a podcast to really form a connection with someone you've never met, it's such an intimate channel because you're with someone during all the moments of their day. They could be just getting up in the morning and commuting to work, they could be doing dishes after dinner and that type of thing. And so I think David recognized that and wanted to be a part of it. And as we grew our following with Seeking Wisdom, we saw a need for more shows. And so we decided," Why only have one show when there's a lot of different people that we can speak to, and we have so many different talented people here at Drift who are really passionate and really smart, and have a lot to share with their respective audiences." So that's where build our podcast that is led by Maggie Crowley, and that's for product managers and people who are really interested in that whole product space. We have Matt Bellatti, who is our Growth star. He does all things growth and has really unique guests in his own right to talk about growth hacking, growth marketing, growth principles, growth in design. He talks about everything under the sun, so we hit a show is named Growth. And then another one of our shows is Operations by Shawn Lane, and that's all about the operations world. I feel like we do a very good job naming our shows to make them as self- explanatory as possible. And people have asked us," Drift is a more sales and marketing kind of company, why would you have a show strictly dedicated for product managers, or towards ops pros?" And for us, we're like," Our roles have never been more closely tied, and we all rely on each other in this new world and for Drift, where the new wave businesses buy from businesses." So we have to work in new ways, and that means working more closely with product folks, and working for marketers and salespeople, to work more closely with our product teams, and work more closely with operations and really understand the ins and outs. And so for us, it always made sense to us to have those kinds of shows. And then of course, we also have our show Conversational Marketing, which is under the category that we created as a company. We wrote a book on it last year, and so that obviously is a big natural fit for us. But I think the need to have a network, as opposed to just one show really evolved over time. And we just recognize as a company, we're growing, we have a lot to share, and people were listening and wanting to keep on listening to the things we had to share, so we kept doing it.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I love it. So what are your thoughts on, if someone says," Should we have a network of podcasts? Should we do five shows?" Do you feel like it's for everyone? How do you make that decision? How would you impart wisdom on that?
Molly Sloan: That's a really interesting question. In Drift, and I think the answer is if there's a fit, yes, let's do it and let's figure out how to do it well, but to do it quickly and not try and overthink it. But for another company, I understand that things don't work the same way that they do inside the Drift wall. So I would say first, understand your audience, and if there's a need for another show, so if you're a sales company and you have a sales podcast, but you want to try and tap into operations folks, maybe float out an idea by one of your company's influencers to see if there's actually interest in that type of content, because you can create a show and a whole season full of episodes of different guests, and testing out 20 minute episodes versus 45 minute episodes, and solo takes versus interviews. But if your audience isn't there, then it's kind of for nothing. So I would definitely recommend to do that gut check first, and to do a little research to make sure that you'll be spending your time well, because I think people just think that you can spin up a podcast and it'll take care of itself. And you can definitely get a podcast off the pretty quickly, especially today with all the different technology available, but again, if no one's listening to it, then you're kind of doing it for nothing.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Okay. So that said, you've got all these shows, you mentioned books. How does this all fit together? Where do these shows fit within your overall marketing strategy, and what other pieces are there to the puzzle?
Molly Sloan: I think for us, the way that I would say podcasts really fit into our overall strategy is that from kind of day one when our company was really young, and I think we're still pretty young, but we're maturing with every new year. But I think we have really gone all in on podcasts from the beginning, and I think that's just something that's true to our marketing DNA. We're always going to be testing new things, but for us, podcasts are just a really great way to connect with our audience, and connect with a lot of different people. So for us, I think, I also run Drift's blogs, so I know not every blog post we put out is going to resonate with someone, but I know that if someone is subscribing to our operations podcast, that they'll be interested in the operations content because they self selected and they said," Send this to my Apple theater, to my Spotify. And every other week I want to hear what you're saying," as opposed to them seeing someone in their network, like a Drift blog post. They probably might not click on it. They might, that would be awesome for me and my blog traffic goals, but I think that podcasts are a way of people really demonstrating that they're interested in your content. And so for us, it'll always have a role in our strategy because we want to give the content to the people that want our content, and I think podcasts have been a really successful way to do that, and a really personal way.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. And you can feel it and what you're doing, and I think that that goes to going back to why you have a network, you really are personalizing that content to some of the different audiences that you do indeed have. You're not trying to do a one size fits all.
Molly Sloan: Yeah, actually, that really does ring true because each of our hosts bring their own flair, and their own personality, and their own stamp on the show. And I truly see the shows as their shows, like I will be helping out in the background, but they're responsible for booking their own guests and determining the topics for each week, and really shaping the future of their show. I'll definitely help out from a strategic standpoint, and helping that different ideas, but they're in the driver's seat. And I think that really gives them the power to bring their authentic self to the show and enter the microphone when they're recording every other week. And to be able to make those types of connections with our guests, as opposed to having me being a middleman, trying to coordinate an interview with someone. And then, when they meet for the first time, it's when they're recording the podcast. That does work sometimes, because I think that's how a lot of different companies do it. But for us, we're really about making authentic connections and bringing your authentic self to what you do. And I think for our hosts, that just carries through into their shows.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Couldn't agree more. So you started to talk about where you fit, and what your process looks like, and who is involved. And I kind of have the upper hand, because I know what you've put into creating processes. Tell me what managing all these shows looks like for you, for your role. How in the world does that all come together?
Molly Sloan: I definitely got a crash course in podcasts when I came to Drift. So like I mentioned, I started at Drift in January, 2019, and had never touched a corporate podcast. I had my favorites that I would listen to. I listened to Seeking Wisdom before working at Drift, and I obviously had my short list of other podcasts that I really liked, but I had never been on the other side of it trying to manage the production. So luckily, I inherited a really great program from Gail Axelrod, who is the director of brand marketing here at Drift. And she kind of took me under her wing for my first month or so. I started out with Seeking Wisdom, so I started out with the biggest one.
Lindsay Tjepkema: No pressure.
Molly Sloan: Yeah, no pressure. But then, over the next month I really was able to take on the rest of the shows. At that time, I think we had a total of six shows. So again, no small feat, but for someone who had never done podcasting, I think what really worked for me was just jumping in and doing it. And when I had questions, I was trying to ask them and not being afraid if I was like asking something that was super obvious, or if it was just actually a real problem that we needed to address. So I think my first step would be actually learning how to do it. And then once the training wheels came off, I think I was really able to sink into a groove with the role. And we've actually, in the past year, have really made a lot of great improvements to an already great program.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Walk me through, kind of in a step- by- step, the basics of how a show comes together. So everything from booking the guests, and I know you said that the host is kind of responsible for that, and then also like then somebody records, and then where does it go for production? And then how do you take it from there?
Molly Sloan: So how podcasts work here at Drift, and I'll just use one show as an example, but there's a lot. And so in a perfect world, this is how it would go. And I'm not picking Maggie, but I'm just saying Build is one of my favorite shows, so I'm going to use this as an example. So Maggie is the host of Build, which is our podcast directed towards product professionals. Very awesome show. And so, how it would work is Maggie gets an idea for an episode, say she wants to interview a product professional at XYZ company. She'll take care of pitching that person and finding the right connections. And obviously, if I somehow know that person or have a connection to that company, I would help out, or anyone here would, but Maggie takes care of that type of outreach. She then will schedule time with them to have a prep call, and so in that, she'll come up with a few questions saying," Hey speaker," or I'll say," Hey Lindsey, I have done this research on your background. I think these three topics would be really amazing if we could talk about, and really beneficial to the listeners, and they've told me that this is something they want to hear. But I also want you to have a say in how this goes. So is there anything top of mind for you, or anything you're particularly passionate about?" They'll hash that all out in a 15 or 20 minute prep call. It also helps them meet each other, so they're familiar when they get on the phone to record the actual episode. And so that could happen, the prep call could happen a couple of days before, it could happen a week or so before, just depending on schedules. So that all happens, and then from there Maggie records the episode, and one thing that is awesome about what we've rolled out now this past year at Drift is more of a self service model. So instead of Maggie kind of going through me and working through a lot of different technology and basically meeting the middleman, we cut me out, which is awesome. I designed-
Lindsay Tjepkema: Hooray.
Molly Sloan: Hooray. I designed it this way, which is great. But now a Maggie can go straight into our mixing platform, upload her audio, and any cuts or edits she might have, any special audio requests that, if she wants the trailer to play extra long. Any requests under the sun, she's able to request it with the podcast that she just recorded herself fresh in her mind, whereas the way it used to look was I would be trying to piece together something that happened a week ago and put together these puzzle pieces, whereas Maggie can just go in and do it right away while it's still fresh. And then the mixing platform, I think they have maybe a three day SLA to get us a complete mix back. And then Maggie, again, self service, can take that completed mix when she listens to it, and make sure that it's good to go, she'll upload it to our lovely new platform, Casted. And that's where we're hosting all of our podcasts now. And so she'll be able to upload it and update the title, update the description, and ask people for not a five star review, a six star review, that's a very-
Lindsay Tjepkema: Always, always.
Molly Sloan: Always six star reviews. And then she can also use the platform to make takeaways, just kind of really capture people's attention and get them into the episode. If for some reason the description and the title doesn't do the trick, we're hoping that takeaways might be a good way to tease people if they only have a couple minutes on hand, but we caught their attention, they can listen to it that way. And the thing I love about it is that Maggie is brilliant, but she's not a marketer. But she can still use this platform and use it really well, and use it in a way that makes sense to her, but also kind of makes sense to me and helps me hit my goals, which is getting the podcast out, but also making sure that it's on brand, that it's interesting, and that it's content that people actually want to listen to.
Lindsay Tjepkema: So tell me, you've undergone a lot of change and consolidation, and like you said, the awareness of pulling yourself out of places that you were a middleman, what has worked well with that, and what has been, I guess let's just stick with what has worked well with that and kind of double down on what you would share with people who are listening, who are kind of overwhelmed with all of the behind the scenes work that happens in a role like yours?
Molly Sloan: Well, first of all, if you're overwhelmed, I'm here for you. I've been through it and you definitely can get through it. I really resisted the idea of the self service model in the first place when I was talking about it with my manager, because I think I was afraid to throw away that Lego, to give up that kind of that control. And not because I didn't think that they could do it, I knew that they could do it, but I think I was more worried about things that I would miss, like what if there's a typo on the episode description? Because I'm an eagle eye, I love editing, that's my job here. But I was like," What if I miss that and it goes out and there's a typo?" And I think for me, one of the things I had to let go was, if there's a typo, it will go out and you can correct it. It's not the end of the world. But also, when I got over that hump, it really made me say," Okay Molly, just because you were kind of making this new engine and this new process, that doesn't mean that you're giving up control, it means you can actually define and have a big say in what that process is, and actually indicate, okay, like if someone is going to write their own title and description, to have them quickly sock it to me so that I can just do a quick QA and make sure that it's good to go." And so I think that for me has helped me give a little bit more control, and not be so worried that a typo might go out in a title, which really is not the biggest thing in the world, but I care about that. And for the hosts, I think for me being as responsive as I am to those types of messages and really helping them, they just know that I just want to make it good, and they just want to make their show really good. So we're really in this together, so there's never been any friction there. It's just, we're in this together, this is a process and there's never been any pushback of like," Oh well, why do I have to send my description to you?" It's like," Oh yeah, I obviously want to send it to you because last time you helped me come up with a killer title."
Lindsay Tjepkema: So it kind of sounds like looking for opportunities where you can take yourself out of the equation to streamline things, and kind of trust the process, create a great process and trust the process?
Molly Sloan: I think trusting the process is huge, and I think recognizing pains and being self aware enough to know that it doesn't have to be painful. So I think for me, one of the things that would take a lot of my time each week would be, I would get the audio from the host, and then I would go transcribe it. And so that would take another day. And then I would spend sometimes 30 minutes trying to wrap my head around what the heck is this episode about? Because I am a marketer, I am not a product genius. And I unfortunately don't understand all the different growth principles under the sun.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's why there are subject matter experts.
Molly Sloan: That for me, but every week I would be doing two different episodes. And so it would be this pain times two, but every other week, because we do biweekly shows. So I've never had an off week, so it was just this kind of constant battle that I would put myself through to try and figure out on my own what the show is about, as opposed to being receptive, or trying to think 10 steps ahead, or even two steps ahead to be like," Okay, well the host just recorded this episode. Wouldn't it make more sense for them to take a stab at writing the first iteration of the description, and then you could go in and edit it?" And it seems like the most simple thing, but for me, it totally changed my world. And I obviously wish I had done it sooner, but now I have, I think I'm happier because I'm not pulling my hair out, trying to understand growth marketing principles or product design things. I can look at that and kind of put my editing spin on it, but it's really up to the subject matter expert. So I think it still, again, makes the shows more authentic because it's written in the way that Maggie, Matt and Shawn kind of think about their shows, and what they thought were the highlights, as opposed to me skimming through a transcript and trying to pull out the things that I think are worth sharing
Lindsay Tjepkema: Tell me what measuring the impact of your network looks like to you? What's important to you, what do you watch, what do you want to be able to see? What does that look like for you and for Drift?
Molly Sloan: I think podcasts are notoriously really hard to measure. So for a while, I think the things that... The most important metrics will still be the most important metrics, which are number of downloads and listens and subscribers. And I think if you're starting a show, I think besides asking people to do reviews and leave you reviews so that you kind of bump up in the Apple store, I think the other really important thing to do is to encourage people to subscribe, because someone might've stumbled upon your episode and they'll listen to it and the like it, and then they'll never listened to you again, just because they forgot to subscribe. So I think that's something I'm asking all the hosts to focus on, is yes, we want people to leave reviews of course, but we also want them to subscribe and get your content every other week. So for me, that's always going to be an important metric to track and to keep an eye on, and how can we grow that? Because I think if people, again, are subscribed and they raise their hand that they want your content, then they're potentially more likely to share it, or even, they might be more likely to leave a review if they're subscribed because they will be a repeat listener. And it would be really cool to have a subscriber reach out to us and pitch us an idea, like say it's a VP of product and they heard Maggie's podcasts and they were like," Damn, she knows her stuff. I want to talk to her," and then a connection like that could be neat. Hypothetical, but I think that would be really neat. But for the baseline, the downloads are ultimately, first and foremost, my thing that I track. Obviously like to track the noise that an episode will make on social. So when a host shares their most recent episode, I always am peeping on comments and seeing what's being said. I think insights that we have on podcasts have a long way to go. It's it's hard because people have... You could listen on Apple and Spotify and Overcast and inaudible there's so many different ways to listen, and so those are all pretty fragmented in a way. And it's hard to get one view of that data, so any way that we can get a single view would be huge. I haven't really figured that out yet.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Well, we're working on it together. Honestly, the feedback that you give us makes our product better. And I know one of the things that you are a big advocate for early on, which directly led to something that we created in Casted, which I always like to talk about with our customers, when you provide great ideas and great insights, like we build it, right? That's the beauty of-
Molly Sloan: It's really cool.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. And that was the power of owning your audience, which I'm a huge advocate of, and how important it is to have a page, like a landing page and a show page that you feel good about with your brand, that you can send people to. So yes, the Apples, the Spotifys, the Googles are great for lots of reasons, but at the end of the day, you really want them to come back to your own real estate so you can own the experience. So that's been big for you too. I mean, tell me if and how and where that fits in, in your mind.
Molly Sloan: To have owning those domains is really big for us, and also having the look and feel on the previous platform you were on, it wasn't customizable and it wasn't sleek. And I think everything we put out has to be perfect, and our brand, we want it to look Drifty, and we want it to look cohesive. And I think for us, we needed to go with a platform that enabled us to do that, so that people would know they can trust that they're getting the true Drift experience when they're listening.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Okay. That said, you have had quite a year of learning and making changes, and adjusting, and tweaking, and fine tuning. What's one, or a couple of big takeaways that you would share with our listeners, based on all that you've done and learned?
Molly Sloan: Well, a big one I would say, and I feel like I keep talking about it, but it's really true. And I had nothing to do with this, so it's not really a takeaway that I influenced, but I think if you're going to be behind the scenes like I am, and running a show, or even running a couple of shows, and if you have a say in who's going to be hosting, I would highly encourage you to have that person be someone who actually wants to do the show, and actually wants to roll up their sleeves and do the work, because it'll get really hard really fast if that person is not, for lack of a better word, engaged in the process and isn't accountable to the show. I think one thing that is just so special about each of the hosts on the Hypergrowth Podcast Network is that they're all so dialed in to their shows, and they're always thinking about it, and ways to make it better. I think that's another one of the things that I've really enjoyed about Casted, is that, yes, you're building this platform, but you're not just talking to me. Each of my hosts have a direct line to the Casted team, and can share product feedback and requests for different features, or different kinds of views and share why that's important to us. And you're all really receptive to that, and have built things in response. But the advice for people would be to just get people who actually want to be a part of it, and want to be a part of it longterm, and understand that it will be work, but it will be really rewarding.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's it for today's show. Thank you so much to today's guest, and to learn more about them and see Casted in action with clips of today's show and related content, visit casted. us. Thanks so much for listening.
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