Differentiate yourself in both style and focus of content. Understand who you actually want to have as your listeners and deliver programs and episodes that pique their interest. Develop your niche and engage your audience as colleagues and equals that share your interest and aim to leave them with something new they’ve learned.
As part of my series of interviews about “How to Become the Center of Influence in Podcasting”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Catherine Grace O’Connell. Catherine is an Ageism Positivist, the Chief Executive Catalyst of Forever Fierce Media, and the Founder of The Forever Fierce Revolution. She is the host of the Mastering Modern Midlife Talk Show/Podcast and the creative behind the lifestyle blog, CatherineGraceO.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about why or how you got started as a podcaster?
A lifetime of trauma and abuse had taken my Voice. Lyme Disease nearly took my life. In 2015, I began a comeback that, to my great surprise, healed my body and created a fire that helped me find my Voice. As I began using social media, I found that women over 50 were expected to be invisible, and seen as no longer relevant. However, I had never felt more confident, empowered, and relevant in my entire life! I decided to make shifting the paradigm and perception of women at Midlife & Beyond my mission. I had the idea to launch a social service campaign called The Fierce 50 which went viral and began attracting national brands. One of the women in the campaign had been on The Today Show for 14 years. She had a radio show in LA and asked me to join as her Co-host. Not long after, I took over production of the show and turned it into a video talk show/podcast. In 5 months time, listenership doubled and crossed the million download mark. The show became the voice of my global community to empower women at Midlife, The Forever Fierce Revolution. The show became Forever Fierce which I hosted myself in an all video format that’s also available as an audio podcast. To be more focused on women in the 35+ demographic in 2019, the show has been rebranded to Mastering Modern Midlife and we are currently finishing the editing on the first tranche of shows.
I was quite fortunate that my very first interview was with Hannah Storm of ESPN. She’s the number one female sports journalist in the world and I learned a tremendous amount from the interview. Hannah shared her personal process when preparing for an interview which I took to heart. She would do extensive research and over prepare for every interview by learning everything she could about her guests. She would then toss the notes and run the interviews in a very “present moment” conversation with her guests so she could roll with just about anything that came up. I’ve found that to be a very effective approach. My favorite part of the interview is the research. I love learning the human story. I’ve been fortunate to interview a lot of celebrities and you find that we are all the same. There’s always a story behind the story, a “Heroine’s journey.” Another wonderful memory was having the opportunity to inteview Loreen Arbus who’s father started ABC. Loreen was the first female Head of Programming for a network, a feat she accomplished twice for Showtime and Lifetime. During our interview, she told me what a gift I had. Her PR team followed up with a note from her saying it was the best interview she had ever experienced. She’s now part of my team as an adviser and personal mentor. You never know where life will take you. You just have to do it and not be afraid to ask for things that are way beyond your wildest dreams. Dreams do come true. It’s when hard work and preparation come together to create your own luck!
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
One of the most incredible stories was hearing from a woman I featured on my show, Tricia Cusden, the Founder of Look Fabulous Forever. Tricia reinvented herself as an entrepreneur after retirement and launched her own makeup line in her mid 60’s. A woman in Switzerland was searching for podcasts for Midlife women on iTunes and found my show with Tricia. She was so intrigued that she reached out to Tricia and ended up investing in her company. She purchased over 10 percent of the company! Tricia is now 70 and came back on the show last year during her visit to LA. She even starred in a digital campaign Forever Fierce Media produced for a major national brand, featuring real women from 50 to 70, during her visit. That was an exciting first for her. Tricia’s company is now flourishing and I’ve become friends with the investor who’s now a member of my community.
Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well, it really wasn’t my mistake, but it was a great fear I always had! We used to shoot the show in front of a green screen at the LA Talk Radio Studio and if you wore green in your outfit, you would “disappear” on the show! The woman who had the time-slot before my show was just getting ready to go on live, when she realized that she had a green blouse on. Luckily, we were similar in size and we ended up literally stripping down in studio with 2 minutes before air time and switching outfits! As she mentioned on air, she was grateful that someone would actually give her the shirt off their back!
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
I began podcasting in late spring of 2016. It’s been 3 years and we have produced over 75 shows in that time. We have also moved from the LA Talk Radio studios to a home studio where we self produce a full video talk show/podcast that’s modeled after Oprah Winfrey’s long form style interviews. My business partner and photographer is also my producer. Like me, he’s completely self taught in his mid 50’s. He taught himself how to operate 3 cameras, a sound system and edit and compile the shows. There are no limits when you’re Fierce and determined at Midlife! It’s been a constantly evolving journey. I’m always working to improve. I love watching interviews with Oprah and Brene Brown. They are such rockstars in the Midlife space and are continually inspiring and empowering women to let go of old beliefs and stories that are holding them back from their full potential.
What are the main takeaways or lessons you want your listeners to walk away with?
The main takeaway is that I’m not special. I’m just like you. If I can do this, anyone can. I was a woman without a voice for most of my life. I had a background of abuse and trauma. I also had an inner world filled with disempowering beliefs. I allowed this to hold me back. I’ve been on a deeply inspirational path for over 25 years with a Masters in Spiritual Psychology. The most important world is our inner world, our thoughts, our belief systems. Change begins from within. Our culture isn’t kind to older women. My mission is to shift the perception of women at Midlife & Beyond to one that is vibrant, relevant, and empowered. Shifting perceptions and paradigms begins with ourselves. The Forever Fierce Revolution is a revolution that starts inside of a woman and ripples outward. Age isn’t an impediment unless we believe it is. I had no idea how to do any of the things I’m doing today. I’ve launched 5 businesses in my mid 50’s. I’ve taught myself everything along the way, learning from my mistakes. Anything is possible. The key is going for it. All women deserve to have a voice, a seat at the table, and to share their wisdom. The longer we live, the more wisdom and life experience under our belt. Wisdom has value. It’s priceless.
You are a very successful podcaster. Can you share with our readers the five things you need to know to create an extremely successful podcast?
Podcaster Influencer, Catherine Grace O’Connell of the Mastering Modern Midlife Talk Podcast shares the best ways to:
1. Book Great Guests — A twofold answer: Booking great guests that everyone would know is a great guest (like Hannah Storm) means you have to ask! Believe in yourself, aim high and ask for the interview! Understand you will get a lot of “No’s” or non-responses and do not take it personally. Politely thank the No’s for their time and circle back at another time and ask again! The second part is understanding that a “great guest” becomes a function of the skill and attention of the interviewer. Over-research your guests and constantly strive to improve your technique. I truly feel that I can help anyone become a “great guest!”
2. Increase Listeners — Differentiate yourself in both style and focus of content. Understand who you actually want to have as your listeners and deliver programs and episodes that pique their interest. Develop your niche and engage your audience as colleagues and equals that share your interest and aim to leave them with something new they’ve learned. I always try to have my guest give the audience three pieces of advice for listeners as takeaways to think about. The biggest surprise for me was how many younger listeners I’ve attracted. The message is timeless and ageless.
3. Produce it In a Professional Way — Much more difficult for me in that my show is all video. We took over the production and now self produce because we want to control the quality. It’s time intensive but you will always find a trade off between time and cost. Hopefully, someone like Amazon or Netflix will step in and take that off our hands! If you have an audio podcast, the means for professional output are easily set up in your own home if you have the technical aptitude. If you don’t, seek out a production facility that meets both your budget and provides professional output.
4. Encourage Engagement — First and foremost, learn how to help your guest tell a story that intrigues your audience. As a host, you are the guide to bring out the interesting facets of your guest. Create platforms that synergize with your show. I use all my social media accounts to help create a dialogue and awareness around a guest and show. I also created a Facebook Group that now has over 6K actively engaged Midlife & Beyond women that both are supported by, and support … Mastering Modern Midlife! The best? It’s all through word of mouth alone!
5. Monetize Your Show— Realize that monetization is the very last thing that will appear for a good show. If you’ve diligently done 1–4 above, your odds are much greater that you will successfully monetize your show. Monetization is a function of distribution. If you create a show that interests people, you will develop a listenership and that will lead to effective distribution and then monetization can occur.
From your vantage point what are some of the reasons why a person should consider creating a podcast series?
You have a message. You have a story to tell or you thoroughly enjoy helping others tell their story. You must have passion about your subject matter. For me personally, as a Midlife woman, it’s more important than ever for older women to be seen as productive members of society and to share their voice and their wisdom. We live in a culture that’s very focused on youth. The more we disappear…the more we disappear. It’s more important than ever for us to band together and create a strong presence. We need the voice of older women in our culture. There is so much to learn from women who have evolved and overcome the immense challenges and obstacles we face in life. Where would we be without the voices of Oprah, Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed and many more? There is power in numbers. There is power in the collective. We are stronger together. We are stronger as a society when we empower older women to share their voices. Younger generations need powerful role models in older women to look up to and guide the way.
Nowadays it seems as if everyone is trying to jump on the podcast bandwagon. Are there people to whom you would advise to avoid podcasting and instead focus on another medium?
We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. The most important thing we can do is to be honest with ourselves. What is your strength? If you’re an introvert, podcasting may not be for you. There are other ways to share your voice such as becoming an author. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to creating a successful podcast. You are creating a persona, a very public persona, that involves everything from understanding how to use social media, how to market and monetize the podcast, how to ask find and book great guests, the most effective ways to research, etc. The greatest podcasters know their “Why.” They have a mission, a passion and a purpose that’s aligned with their audience. It’s a natural process of attraction when you are sharing an authentic message and voice. I would highly recommend becoming very clear on who you are, what your message and mission is and why this would matter to the audience you wish to reach. And, of course, practice, practice, practice! Don’t be afraid to fail, at times, because you will. We learn from our failures more than our successes. Much like the world of “influence,” the podcasting world is very saturated. You have to find a way to stand out, to carve a unique path with a purpose. One important question to ask yourself is, “How will my voice and my podcast make a difference?” Know yourself first.
How has your position as a podcast host and a person of high authority, impacted your business, sales, and/or increased your opportunities? Can you share a story with us?
It’s opened doors I didn’t know were possible. I just returned from a trip to NYC where Loreen Arbus invited me to a Gala she hosted with some of the most inspiring women in media. She has been a huge supporter of mine. If I hadn’t started my podcast, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity for her PR Team to find me and bring her on my show. That’s only one of many, many connections that also include one-on-ones with Christie Heffner, Oprah Collaborator Cheryl Richardson, and Head of Facebook Groups and former President of Change.org Jen Dulski who will also be the keynote speaker at our annual FierceCon LA confernce in October. One of the greatest experiences was receiving a call from one of the top morning shows. They asked me to come to NYC to meet with them. I spent about an hour and a half with a couple of their producers. I thought they were interested in my being featured in a segment. I was shocked and flattered when they told me they were looking at me to be a regular morning show collaborator.
What makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or the content itself?
My guests are chosen because of their stories and their message. The goal is to enlighten the listeners and make them think for themselves. After my interview (which was really a Masterclass) with Hannah Storm, I vowed that I wanted every guest to feel as if they’d just given the strongest interview of their life! Research, research, research! It makes me feel comfortable and let’s my guest know they are in caring hands and thoughtful hands.
Where can our readers find you on Social Media?
Is there a specific high-value guest (obviously still living) that you would love to interview on your show, and why? He or she might just see this when we tag them!
Top of my list is Oprah! I’m from Chicago. I remember an interview with Oprah and one of my role models of all time, Maya Angelou. Maya was talking to Oprah about her legacy. She shared that Oprah would never know her true legacy and all the lives she has touched. I am one of those lives. Much like Oprah, I was sexually abused by a close family member when I was young. It silenced my voice but also set me on a deeply spiritual path. Oprah was a huge inspiration, a guiding light for me that continues to this day.
Of course, Brene Brown. She is my hero and my ultimate role model when it comes to being vulnerable. I was taught to be silent. I was taught to be invisible. I’ve watched her Ted Talk 100 times. I believe the greatest responsibility in being a leader is creating more leaders. The women within my volunteer team have created a movement within Forever Fierce, Shields Down. This movement helps us to create a sacred space for women to open their hearts and share their personal stories and journeys. “Shields Down” is woven into the essence of my brand and my event, FierceCon. We have an editorial team that runs our community newsletter, The Spark. We have a bi-weekly special edition called “Shields Down” where a member of the community lets her shield drop, her heart open and shares a deeply, personal and vulnerable story to give other women permission to do the same. When we show who we truly are, other women can see their own strength and courage in us, through us. She has changed my life and those of thousands of women in my community.
And, an outlier would be Joe Rogan. In 2014, when I was near death from Lyme Disease, my son had me listen to one of his podcasts which happened to be about Lyme. I was mesmerized and inspired by the authenticity of his show. That show actually boosted my confidence to beat Lyme and find my Voice. Having Joe Rogan on my show would take me full circle! When I made the decision to leave an extremely unhealthy marriage, my doctor encouraged me to begin Krav Maga, it’s an Israeli Martial Arts. I remember the first time I whipped a gigantic man on his back by simply learning to grab his ear and manipulate his energy. I kept apologizing. He looked at me and told me never to apologize. I haven’t looked back!