“I am most passionate about every living thing having a chance to thrive.”
As part of my series of interviews about “How to Become the Center of Influence Through Podcasting”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sisters Amy and Nancy Harrington have been inspired by the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp campaign and decided to use their skills as celebrity interviewers to work to tell a different kind of story. Where many podcasters reserve their airtime for the elite, Amy and Nancy are talking to amazing women you probably haven’t heard of, who are making a huge difference by following their passions. From the founder of a successful ice cream company to a volcano scientist running for office to an artist who makes sculptures using melted down nuclear weapons, Amy and Nancy shine a light on the positive stories of women on The Passionistas Project Podcast.
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?
NANCY: After years of interviewing people in the entertainment world, we had been thinking about starting a podcast but couldn’t home in on a theme that excited us. While we loved the world of pop culture, we wanted to do something with a little more meaning.
In late 2017, we found ourselves inspired by the courageous women who were coming forward and sharing their stories as part of the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp campaign. Hollywood and other sectors were speaking up about the lack of female-focused projects and the Women’s March protested inequity. We knew then that we needed to develop a project for the advancement of women, one that would focus on the women who were living their best lives and defining success on their own terms. And so, The Passionistas Project was born.
Our mission is to reach women who are embarking on new journeys in their lives or need some support in following their bliss. Our interviews document strong, independent women, who are following their passions and inspire other women to do the same. We have much to learn by listening to each other’s unique stories.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
AMY: The most interesting thing that has happened since we started the podcast is the unbelievable amount of support and camaraderie we have found with the women we interview. Conducting an interview can be a very intimate experience. The women we talk to reveal their most authentic selves and share their deepest passions. We are creating a movement with The Passionistas Project, we are finding that we are forging real and long-lasting relationships with the women we are interviewing. Many of them have become part of our bigger support network and we have drawn personal inspiration from each and every guest.
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?
NANCY: When we record our interviews we each wear a lavalier microphone that we clip to the front of our shirt or jacket. This way we have clean audio of our individual voices to edit into the final podcast. We recently set up to record a Skype interview and, as always, set up our own lavs. It was a spring day with fluctuating temperatures. As clouds rolled in and out, we found ourselves running hot and cold while we counted down for the interview to begin. A hot spell set in right before we were due to dial up our guest and one of us (okay, it was Amy) took off her sweater to avoid being overheated for our chat. About 30 minutes into the interview, as things started to cool down again, Amy put her sweater back on and only then realized her mic had been on the back of her chair for the first half of the conversation. Luckily, it’s easy to just re-record our questions later and drop them in. Lesson learned — always triple check that your mic is in a place where it can pick up your sound and always record back-up audio.
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
AMY: We launched The Passionistas Project Podcast in March of 2017. We’ve aired 32 episodes on a bi-weekly basis.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the core of our discussion. 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 Influencers, Nancy and Amy Harrington of The Passionistas Project Podcast shares the best ways to:
1) Book Great Guests: Nancy and Amy Harrington of The Passionistas Project Podcast Nancy — When we launched The Passionistas Project we decided to ask each woman we interviewed to nominate someone else that they felt would make a great guest on our show. As a result, we’ve been able to discover incredible women who are following passions. When we walked in to interview Global Women’s Empowerment Network founder Tess Cacciatore, her nominee was sitting in her living room. As a result we got to talk with Tess about the very important works she’s doing regarding human trafficking with GWEN and with Lin Evola, an artist who sculpts Peace Angels out of melted down nuclear weapons and handguns.
2) Increase Listeners: Amy — We have built our following largely through social media outreach. We find that by telling compelling stories that offer inspirational value, that the women in our target audience are drawn to the content. Also, we have increased our exposure by promoting news and upcoming events of our guests. At the end of the day, our podcast is about all of us. We are interconnected. So we are spreading the word about their projects and drawing in new listeners. Whenever we see some exciting bit of news from one of our guests, we share their post on social media. These #PromoteAPassionistas spotlights have included highlighting the work that Erica Wright is spearheading — her homeless charity in Atlanta called UFirst.
3) Produce Like a Pro: Nancy — We have a background in video production for live red carpet events for the Television Academy, but when it came time to starting our own podcast, we had a major learning curve in the technical aspects of the process. Our best tip is to always record back-up audio of your guest and if you are doing the interview via Skype, have them record on their end as well.
4) Encourage Engagement: Amy — Since our podcast is inspirational and aspirational, we share the most uplifting sound bites from each interview through memes on social media. We use these quotes to prompt conversation among our followers and find that they respond well to the authentic and heartfelt wisdom from our interviewees. We recently posted a quote that inspired a lot of discussion from Madonna Cacciatore, the Executive Director of Christopher Street West and L.A. Pride, in which she said, “I am most passionate about every living thing having a chance to thrive.”
5) Monetize Your Show: Nancy — We host our podcast with Podbean, a site that offers a “Patron” program. It is similar to other crowdsourcing sites, where we offer rewards to listeners who give us a monthly donation. The next phase of expansion is a subscription box that we will be launching for the 2019 holiday season. As an extension of the podcast, the quarterly offering will feature products from women-owned businesses and artisans. We will include descriptions of each woman and her passion, including quotes from her interview. The box will also feature exclusive audio content from interviews relevant to the theme of the quarter. A portion of sales each quarter will go to a charity chosen by one of the women featured in the box. People can sign up for our mailing list on our website so they don’t miss any updates or the chance to order the first box before it sells out.
From your vantage point what are some of the reasons why a person should consider creating a podcast series?
AMY: I worked for years in the Hollywood system as Vice President of Post Production and Visual Effects at Warner Bros. on hundreds of feature films including “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “The Matrix.” In that world, it can take years to get a project off the ground and you need a lot of pieces to fall into place for a film to move forward. With a podcast, all you need is a few microphones, a computer and an idea to get started.
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?
NANCY: We do everything ourselves — booking interviews, researching our guest and writing questions, setting up all the production gear, shooting or recording the interview, editing the final episode and doing all of the social media marketing. It’s a lot of hard work and it’s critical to be self-motivated to keep moving forward. But we’re so passionate about what we’re doing that we love every second of it. We would tell anyone that doesn’t have that same kind of drive to make their project happen, that they might want to find another outlet besides podcasting.
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?
AMY: In addition to the podcast and subscription box, we are launching an all-female podcast network. We are hand selecting content created by women who are the perfect fit with the Passionistas Project. We are currently accepting submissions from other female podcasters for consideration.
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?
NANCY: One of the questions we ask everyone we talk to is, “What is your definition of success?” Every woman has a different answer. Some quantify it by financial prosperity, some base it on the contribution they are making to society, others define it by a sense of personal fulfillment. Our podcast focuses on unlocking the secrets that drive these women to follow their passions.
The moment we decided to create the podcast was the perfect storm that we had spent decades preparing for, building the skills that could make this project successful. Our connections with publicists gained us access to the women on our initial wish list. Our years of doing research and writing questions made the interviews second nature. Our experience with and around the equipment of the entertainment industry made the technology side attainable for us. And, most importantly, we are uniquely qualified to be sharing these stories because simply by pursuing our passion for this podcast, we are the embodiment of the women we are trying to highlight and attract.
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!
Jane Goodall is our biggest hero. First of all, we’ve always had a thing for monkeys — “Planet of the Apes,” Debbie from “Lost in Space,” Nancy even has always had pugs because she thinks they look like monkey dogs. But all that aside, Jane Goodall is just brilliant, courageous and an inspiring humanitarian. As a young girl in her twenties, she cold called Louis Leakey who wound up helping her to get a PhD at the University of Cambridge and also sent her to live alone in the wild of Tanzania with the chimps. To us she’s the ultimate Passionista.
We admire Rachel Maddow’s desire to dive deep into a story that others might only explore on a superficial level. Not only does she prove this every night on her newscast but she reinforced this passion through her podcast “Bag Man.” Her research of the scandal surrounding Vice President Spiro Agnew was so thorough that even the attorneys who had been involved in the case in the ’70s learned information that they had not known previously. We feel her work is the standard that all other podcasts, including our own, should live up to.
Writer, Producer and Director, Ava DuVernay is not just following her passions and thriving in her career, she is giving other women a platform to have their voices heard. As Executive Producer of “Queen Sugar,” Ava has hired only women to direct every episode. But she goes beyond just putting women behind the camera. According to our interviewees that work for her, she also has encouraged them to be a support team for each other, building a stronger foundation for women in the film and television industry.
And, of course, we’re always looking to find women that we haven’t discovered yet who are following unique and interesting passions. So, if you’re reading this and want to be part of what we’re doing, please contact us. Something happens when we dream together.