Muay Thai enthusiast, podcaster, and passionate about emerging online and social trends, this creative thinker and compelling influencer with over 30 years of progressive responsibility at tactical and strategic levels, is consistently a top performer with a demonstrable record of insightful leadership, planning, broad collaboration, and timely cost-effective execution.
What happens when you use a network of hot and cold water pipes, bury them underground, and then use them to efficiently heat and cool buildings – or even whole communities? You get something called district energy. In this episode, Jeff Westeinde, President of Zibi Canada and Founding partner of the THEIA Partnership, shares his passion for environmental sustainability, designing communities to support One Planet Living, and leveraging age-old systems like district energy as a means of achieving a zero carbon footprint. Related Content & Links: Hydro Ottawa – Zibi Canada – Linkedin - Jeff Westeinde: --------------------------- Transcript Dan Seguin  00:02 Hey, everyone, welcome back. This is the ThinkEnergy podcast. What happens when you use a network of hot and cold water pipes, bury them underground and then use them to efficiently heat and cool buildings - even whole communities, you get something called 'district energy'. And it's not a new concept. A quick search will reveal that its origins can be traced back to the second century BC to the invention of the hypocaust heating systems that powered the hot water bath of the ancient Roman Empire. Famously a hot water distribution system in Chaudes-Aigues, in France, is regarded as the first real district heating system. It used geothermal energy to provide heat for about 30 houses in the 14th century, and the US Naval Academy in Annapolis began steam district heating in 1853. If you're like me, maybe you're wondering why modern civilization did not continue to use this efficient and environmentally sustainable technology more. There are some European countries such as Denmark, where district energy is mandated, but for the most part, it is largely gone the way of ancient Rome and public bathing. The latter is not such a bad thing in my mind, with more and more socially conscious citizens around the globe, district energy is once again seeing a surge in popularity and becoming a preferred method, thanks to its lower and energy efficient operating costs, reduced supply disruptions, and environmentally sound methods of heating and cooling buildings, municipalities and property owners are intrigued by this ancient alternative energy technology. So, here's today's big question: Is the world ready to embrace district energy as a viable means to power our communities? Is the nation's capital ready to have the first one planet zero carbon community district energy system in the country? Well, my guest today is the founding partner of the THEIA partnership. One of Canada's most sustainable real estate development companies, as well as the president of Zibi Canada, which aims to be Canada's most sustainable development project. He's also an active investor and entrepreneur in both environmental, clean tech and real estate sector with active investments in solar energy, site remediation, and the beneficial reuse of waste. Dear listeners, please welcome Jeff Westeinde. Jeff, can we start by you telling us a bit about your background, the Zibi project and what drives your passion to build sustainable communities? Jeff Westeinde  04:02 Well, so I guess my background, I always say I'm an entrepreneur. I'm an engineer by training, but entrepreneur by practice. So I've, I've had one, what I call real job in my career, I worked for a company for a little over a year, it quickly became apparent that I was unemployable. So I had to start my own business. And I've always been in the environmental sector. So I started I started my career as an environmental contractor cleaning up industrial messes and some of the wastes of the past. And as part of that, I would watch our clients the way they were cleaning up properties, and then what they would do to redevelop them. And I was pursuing trying to, you know, clean up the environment, make the planet a better place. And yet, so the practices we were using, were actually making it worse. We're trucking contaminated soils. You know, the time I lived in BC, we're picking up soil, putting it in a dump truck and hauling it across the Rocky Mountains into a landfill in Alberta. And nobody can tell me that's good for the environment. So very good. quickly decided that we shouldn't say very quickly but decided while I continue to move up the food chain, and start to buy contaminated properties and start to develop places and communities. And because we were purchasing contaminated properties, the commitment that we had was, let's do better than we've done before. So let's push the envelope about how can we live in a sustainable way? How can we ensure that what we're building today doesn't cause the problems that we're cleaning up on the very site for developing so that's maybe a bit of a background as to you know, why how I got into this and in my passion around, you know, leaving, like, I don't know if you're ever in the wilderness, but there's a rule, leave the campsite better than you found it. And I think that rule, that should be a planet wide rule, and it's historically as you know, as not being so. Dan Seguin  05:51 Okay, Jeff, you're on the record saying that the way we build communities does not support health, happiness or the environment. What do you mean by that? And how does Zibi differentiate? Jeff Westeinde  06:07 So, I might even be so bold as to say that, I would argue that most of our planning, especially in North America, is actually shortening the lifespan of our own citizens. And that's because we're so car reliant. We're so socially isolated in the way that we build. So think about a typical suburb. In a typical suburb, if you want to get up and, you know, go get a coffee, buy some milk, bring your kids to school, the very first thing you do is go hop in your car and drive. And that that leads to, you know, the stats that can predict the rate of diabetes, the rate of obesity, the rate of all sorts of other chronic diseases by the postal code you live in, was shocking. So, this car centric suburban lifestyle is not good for you. So that's the health side of it. The happiness side of it, I'll just point to one stat. And that's that you can use, there are statistics that say you can determine the level of happiness of somebody by how many of their neighbors they know by first name. Well, when you live in the suburbs, you know, you might know 2, 3, 4 neighbors, or those people whose kids are your age, or those guys you play hockey with, but you don't have the unexpected collisions as you're walking to the coffee shop or as you're bringing your kids to school. So again, that urban sprawl arguably leads to a lot of source of social isolation. And if something happens to an older person, you fall, you break a leg, even as a young person and you're inside your house. Similarly, you're not looking out your window and seeing people and waving at them and those types of things. So how we build our communities, I think is really important for health, happiness and obviously for environmental sustainability. And what we're doing at Zibi is making sure that you will not be car centric, that you do have these collisions with your neighbors. As you're walking around the neighborhood. We actually have social programming that, you know, we have snowshoe nights and that when Cirque du Soleil comes, we have a night that is just for the residents of Zibi that come, you know those kinds of things to make sure you feel like a part of that community. Dan Seguin  08:28  How did you discover the one planet system? What can you tell us about it and your goal to build the first one in Canada? Jeff Westeinde  08:38 Well, so we'll talk about how we discovered it first, and that's good. Myself and my business partners were behind the very first LEED Platinum buildings in Canada. So we built the first LEED Platinum building in BC, Alberta, Ontario, and in the country as a whole and the LEED Platinum building we built in Alberta - I was visiting one day A couple years after we'd built it, and LEED Platinum is literally the Platinum standard, the most sustainable in the lead system. And I watched one of the residents of his LEED Platinum condominium building drive a Hummer SUV into the parking garage, and said, you know, it's great that our building is sustainable, but we really have an impact and how the users are using the building and how they're, how they're living their lives. So we started scouring the planet, literally to say, Well, is there a system that would really impact not only how we build our buildings and how they operate at a point in time, but how do we engage the people, the users that are using those places? So one planet, we get rated on things like health and happiness and social engagement, along with all the other architectural and engineering features of a community. And the way one planet works: very simple. The name says it all we have to live as if we only have one planet. Most people when I say that look at me and sort of go, but we only do have one planet. And we need to remind them that if you live like a typical Canadian, you're using four planets of resources to sustain your unsustainable lifestyle, and Americans using five planets, Europeans using three planets, and all we're doing is stealing from future generations, and the developing world to sustain our unsustainable lifestyles. So one planet really is all about both environmental sustainability, like technical sustainability and social sustainability, with one planet worth of resources, and it's a very holistic program. Very audacious goals, we're going to talk about zero carbon. So as you know, Zibi is in the nation’s capital in Ottawa and Gatineau. You know, we are we are today we're going to be at plus 34 degrees. Six months from now we'll be at minus 34 degrees Celsius and to be zero carbon in this environment. It's the Holy Grail. So achieving one planet is not an easy thing to do very audacious. But that's where we said, No, that's the bar we need to hit, we need to again, leave our campsite better than we came to it. Dan Seguin  11:13 I was fascinated that this method, 'district energy' dates back, like I think is 3000 or 4000 years to the time of the Roman Empire. What are some of the key benefits of the energy system you're implementing in your community? And why has it taken this long for folks to embrace it with it's being around for so long? Jeff Westeinde  11:40 Well, like most technological breakthroughs, it is not the technology itself or even the concept itself that gets in the way, its people. So regulators, you know, if you look at how our grid works, say in Ontario, you cannot run a district electrical system. I can't, I couldn't produce energy and give it to my neighbor. Because we have a regulatory body that says you can't do it. And there are good reasons for that it was around safety and security and all those types of things. But we've ended up with all of these barriers, that that would prohibit the transportation and sale of energy. And, you know, I talked about electricity. But what's very interesting at Zibi - our district energy system is just hot and cold water. And there are no regulations currently in Ontario and Quebec, around moving hot and cold water. So that allowed us to start a district energy system. Answer so yeah. Again, the reason I would say you don't see more of them is the regulatory hurdles to implement the district energy system are enormous. However, the benefits are huge. And I'll use a very, you know, high level example that if you were to have a, you know, a Shopify data center, a good Canadian company, unlike Amazon, as a for instance. That is in constant cooling. So it's rejecting heating all the time. Right? And beside it, you have the Nordic spa, another great company that always needs heating, but needs to therefore be rejecting cooling. When you put those two side by side, and they're swapping energy back and forth. So your load is so much less. That's the concept of District energy is that by sharing and you know, a commercial building has different loads than a residential building has different loads than a retail building. By sharing those loads, they have different peaks, either for peak shades, you'd be you have less capital expenditure and you're more efficient. Why is it taking so long? It drives me crazy, but I really do think it's regulation is the key item why. Dan Seguin  13:52 Aside from regulation, what have been the challenges you encountered bringing this technology to market in Canada? The sight of your one planet community alone, straddling Ontario and Quebec, is really unique. Tell us about the challenges and how your passion has gotten you through. Jeff Westeinde  14:12 Yeah, I'm not sure how long this podcast is, but I could talk for a week about the challenges. Yeah, as you talked about, we do span the provincial border between Ontario and Quebec. You know, we jokingly say, both sides have a different word for everything. Because one speaks French one speaks English. Even the rule of law is different to one side of the other the legal system. So, you know, we need to repeat everything twice when we do this, but what I'll tell you is, I would say that the way that we've overcome what are just an enormous amount of challenges, I won't even get into what they all are, but it was it was crazy. Boy, when we overcome it was we shared our vision. And actually, I would say was our community's vision of saying, this is where our region started. Arguably, this is where, you know, the roots of our country started was on this site. And when we when we purchased the property was a fenced off locked off contaminated former industrial site that nobody had seen unless you worked at domtar. For probably 100 years, people didn't realize there's a waterfall in the middle of the city. What the community talked about in the vision that we had was no, we need to do something truly world class like something that people would come to our region and say Quebecers Ontarians, Canadians, look at the communities and the places that they create. And with that vision of being world class, we were fortunate that that politicians in the region, federal, municipal and provincial, all endorsed out the community endorse it. So when we started to bump up against bureaucracy and regulations, we were able to remind everybody that our commitment or contract to all of our stakeholders was, we're going to do some world class. Now world class, meaning different, and bureaucracies and regulations exist to enforce the same. So we were able to say, listen, you've got to empower, talk to the politicians, you've got to empower the bureaucrats who are paid to make sure that everybody does everything the same, to say, No, we've got to look at this one differently. We're not looking to do anything unsafe or unreasonable. But there's a better way and we've got to find it. And it was really that vision of world class and the endorsement that we got from all of the public stakeholders who said, yeah, we want to be world class. We don't want to just build another suburb of the City of Ottawa or Gatineau. Dan Seguin  16:47 Now through a marketing lens, how did you position this alternative energy system that provides heating and cooling to your communities' new housing projects? What was the value proposition for prospective buyers and investors. Jeff Westeinde  17:03 I think the key one, one of the lessons we've learned about sustainability and building sustainable buildings and building sustainable communities, is, most consumers don't, you know, while it's a nice to have being sustainable, it's not something that they're making a purchasing decision around. That's changing. I think more and more people are starting to look at that, but historically hasn't been important. So the key to sustainability is, we need to, we're going to allow you to be much more environmentally sustainable, socially sustainable, without any impact to your lifestyle. So when it comes to district heating and cooling, we said, listen, we're going to deliver you zero carbon district heating and cooling at the same market cost as a carbon based system, and you won't know. If you know you're going to turn your heat on, it's going to get hot, you're going to turn up your cooling on it's going to get cool, and you're not going to pay any more of the market. So that was that batten marketing. I mean, that's a no brainer to everybody that Okay, hold on, I get the exact same as I would get in a carbon based system but I'm zero carbon or more sustainable. That's a pretty easy sell at that point. Dan Seguin  18:11 Okay, now I'd like to explore design aspects. District energy equipment inside a building occupies about one fifth of the area of conventional systems that boilers and chillers take up. I'm assuming this provides more flexibility in designing your buildings and community. By eliminating traditional HVAC systems, what building design options did this enable you to expand on? Jeff Westeinde  18:44 There's some easy ones like if you think about rooftop patios, as a for instance, you know, if you have a rooftop patio beside a big chiller that's making a bunch of noise is not a great rooftop. So by  being able to eliminate that equipment. You know, our rooftop patios are much nicer. But really as a place maker, as a developer, the key aspect for us was if you know if you take all of that mechanical and electrical distribution space, and you end up with instead real estate that you can use, it's another added benefit to saying that that district energy makes financial sense or can make financial sense. It wasn't easy to unlock that but can make financial sense. So, so yeah, it obviously the less constraints you have on a building, the more flexibility you have and district is one tool for that for sure. Dan Seguin  19:45 Now, wondering if you could zero in on the energy distribution system that harnesses excess heat from the Kruger paper mill on the Ottawa River and the temporary thermal plant that was or is built to serve residents businesses in your community. Jeff Westeinde  20:02 Sure, yeah. So are, you know, like talking about the benefits, or sorry, the rationale behind district that if you have different energy cycles between neighboring buildings, you can share that energy. Our district energy system is actually based on that very same principle that Kruger operates a tissue mill, directly across from Parliament Hill. They, it's a very efficient, very successful mill. But as part of that process, they bring in millions of litres of water a day, heated up to over 40 degrees Celsius. Use it several times in their papermaking process, but then discharge it into the Ottawa River at about 30 degrees Celsius, anywhere from 25 to 30. So what we're doing is saying listen, you're discharging the millions of liters of hot water into the Ottawa River. Why don't we strip that heat so then what we're doing is we're taking it from 25 to 30 degrees down to seven to 10 degrees and discharging out into the Ottawa. River in our heating system or in the heating season. So that's the concept behind it's very rudimentary engineering, it's strictly heat transfer between water. So, so pretty straightforward from that point of view. What the temporary plane that you speak about is our district energy system. That backbone heating system at Kruger is not yet built that's getting built this season. However, we have users in our buildings right now. So, we have temporary plants that are providing that but the infrastructure for the district the pipes in the streets and hot and cold water system is there. So those temporary plants are going to operate for about another year, after which will be on our permanent system. Dan Seguin  21:44 In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy resilience. Is it fair to say that district energy deliver economies of scale in areas with high population? What are some of the short and long term benefits for the owner and end user alike? And how do these factor into the government carbon reduction targets? Jeff Westeinde  22:12 Well, yeah, so the short term is if you can be more efficient, so if you have dense populations with different energy cycles, so different peaks and whatnot, as we talked about earlier, you need to spend less capital because you're peaking is at a lower level. And you're sharing energy between so that your overall initial energy utilization from the grid or from the gas system is lower because you're sharing more so overall that drives efficiency. And at the end of the day efficiency then drives lower greenhouse gas emissions and ideally, lower and more stable costs because your energy inputs are a lower percentage of the overall district. So say in our case, you if we're harnessing heat from Kruger, there are no escalation in the cost of that heat. It is waste industrial heat that otherwise wouldn't go anywhere. Whereas if we're connected to the Ontario grid, as you know, you know, costs have escalated very significantly. So that energy input if that is our key input, our energy costs are going to be higher. So we're fortunate that again, the combination of we sit in Ontario and in Quebec, so we have two different electrical and two different gas grids. We have waste heat and our cooling is going to come largely from the Ottawa River. So we have low cost inputs with waste heat and Ottawa River cooling. And we have four different grids we can tap into for alternative and for other energy if need be. So that then allows us to control our costs. So again, just an example of how you can drive efficiency and provide more price stability, while at the same time reducing emissions. Dan Seguin  24:00 Okay. Do alternative energy sources like district energy reduce exposure to fluctuating energy prices? How are the rates/cost determined for residents? Are they comparable to current rates? And are they stable? Jeff Westeinde  24:19 Yeah, so, yes, not all district energy systems are the same. Obviously, it depends on what those inputs are. But in the case of the Zibi community utility, our district energy system, but then our key inputs are that waste industrial heat and cooling base from the Ottawa River, both of which obviously have are stable. There's there is no Yeah, well, I shouldn't say we have some commercial transactions that go on without but not like the grid that allows us to decrease our reliance on the grid for other inputs. So to answer the question on rates, yes, our rates are comparable to market. And we've actually indexed them to the price of Quebec hydroelectricity. And for anyone that understands electrical grids, I would suggest that in North America, Quebec is likely the most stable grid in all of North America. I would say that it is a national utility for the province of Quebec. And I would say, you know, all Canadians are very proud of our healthcare and if they ever tried to take it away, there'd be riots in the streets. I would suggest that if anybody tried to raise electrical rates in Quebec, similar to what's happened Ontario, there would be even bigger riots in the streets. So, you know, we are expecting that will allow us to provide really stable pricing over the long term to our, to our customers. Dan Seguin  25:47 Now, how important was it to find a strategic partner like Hydro Ottawa that had more than 100 years of experience and a strong track record to create safe and reliable utility infrastructure, Jeff Westeinde  26:03 The partnership with hydro auto was critical. And again, consumer acceptance of that of the district energy system. You know, if you think about reliability if you're a consumer at Zibi, and you said, Okay, well what happens if my heating or cooling goes off? Who do I call if I see, well, you know, I am Jeff and here's my cell phone, you know, call me up at the cottage and I'll see if I can help you. That's not exactly reassuring. When you say 'Well, you call Hydro Ottawa" and they will is not who I would normally, you know, they, they're, they're, you know, the relative reliability stats of Hydro Ottawa better than me, but it's 99.999 something percent uptime, you know, 24 hour response, etc., etc. So, being able to bring that credibility of a utility operator to our district was absolutely critical for overall consumer acceptance and I would even say regulatory acceptance. You know, when we started talking about listen we're going to be moving hot and cold water in the you know energy in the form of hot and cold water around the around our community all municipal officials provincially "Okay, let you know if they did you have experience with this?" when we say well, Hydro Ottawa is our partner, it is an automatic acceptance of all know, okay, you guys are credible we understand let's carry on. So don't having Hydro Ottawa as a partner has been truly exceptional for us to be able to pioneer this, Dan Seguin  27:29 Jeff, in addition to district energy, what else is he planning to feature in terms of other advanced technology and innovation to achieve zero carbon living for the residents and tenants on site? Jeff Westeinde  27:46 Yeah, again, I know your podcast is not that long so I could talk forever about this, but I'll give you some key examples. So you know, again, trying to decrease reliance on carbon based transportation systems. So you know, the personal vehicle. You know, having car sharing, having excellent access to transit, when you're looking at other things that have a carbon footprint, how we build our buildings, the components that go into our buildings, the materials that go into our buildings, some are very carbon intensive. So again, we're targeting those that aren't carbon intensive. Even things like if you look at logistics, you know, when you buy a head of lettuce at the at the grocery store, the carbon it took to get that lettuce to the grocery store is embedded in that very product. So having urban agriculture, you'll see urban gardens, we've got a couple on site now. So all sorts of areas where anywhere where we can target things that are that use carbon to get delivered to or to, as part of the system that we're in. We're looking at incrementally changing all of those things. And those increments when they add up, turn into some big numbers. So that's really our focus. Dan Seguin  29:06 Jeff, how about we close off with some rapid fire questions? Are you ready to go? What is your favorite word? Jeff Westeinde  29:15 Serendipity. Yeah, I love serendipity. Because good things happen when you're not paying attention. Dan Seguin  29:20 What is one thing you can't live without? Jeff Westeinde  29:24 That's an easy one. My wife. I could be dead without that woman! Dan Seguin  29:30 What is something that challenges you? Jeff Westeinde  29:33 The word "No." I'm not good at taking the word 'No', it's how Zibi exists. Dan Seguin  29:38 If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Jeff Westeinde  29:41 I'd love to be a shapeshifter, be able to get inside different systems, different beings and understand how and why they work. I have endless curiosity. So I think being a shapeshifter would be amazing. Dan Seguin  29:53 If you had to turn back time and talk to your 18 year old self, what would you tell them? Jeff Westeinde  29:59 First, I would say smarten up and stop doing dumb things. But no, I think the one thing I would say is listen, relax. You know, something that has come to ring true with me, the Roman philosopher Seneca said, you know, "luck happens when opportunity meets preparedness". And I've been very fortunate to be lucky. But there's only one thing I can control in there. I can't control luck, I can't control opportunity. All I can do is control preparedness. So get prepared and just relax, pay attention, good things will happen. Dan Seguin  30:31 And lastly, what do you currently find most interesting in your sector? Jeff Westeinde  30:36 I love the fact that public health - so right now, you know, as you know, we're in the middle of a covid pandemic - public health is leading that across our country. But here in Ottawa, it's Vera Etches, I love the fact that our public health officials are starting to be included in our urban planning policies. So in Ottawa, Vera Etches participated in that. So remember I said earlier, you know, the way we plan is shortening the lifespan of our citizens. Public health starting to get involved in that. I'm really hoping that there will be an influence where they'll say, "if we planned communities this way, then here are the health benefits of it. If we do it that way, here's the health benefits." That's not currently happening. So I find that really exciting.  Well, Jeff, we've reached the end of another episode of The ThinkEnergy podcast, last question for you. How can our listeners learn more about you and Zibi? How can they better connect? So, you know, we've been talking mostly about the Zibi project, which is one of the many things I do you know, if you go to, then you can find more about Zibi and if you look to anybody that wants to connect they're very good at getting people to me. I'm not much of a social media person, I do have a LinkedIn profile. I don't use it very often. But you can find me on LinkedIn and I'm good at responding to messages there as well. Dan Seguin  32:09 Again, thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you have a lot of fun. Jeff Westeinde  32:13 Well, this was fun, Dan, and thank you for your interest in Zibi and one planet. That's fantastic. Dan Seguin  32:20 Thank you for joining us today. I truly hope you enjoyed this episode of The ThinkEnergy podcast. For past episodes, make sure you visit our website Lastly, if you found value in this podcast, be sure to subscribe. Cheers, everyone.
Compared to conventional methods of energy generation, like fossil fuels, greenhouse gases emitted from renewables are little-to-none; making them the cleanest, most viable solution to prevent environmental degradation. In this episode, we invite Brandy Giannetta, Senior Director at Canadian Renewable Energy Association, to discuss renewable energy and the realistic strategies for increasing its supply to permanently replace the remaining carbon-intensive energy sources in Canada. Related Content & Links: Websites: Canadian Renewable Energy Association Linkedin: Transcript: Dan Seguin  00:02 Hey, everyone. I'm Dan Seguin from hydro Ottawa. And I'll be hosting the think energy podcast. Are you looking to better understand the fast changing world of energy? Join me every two weeks and get a unique perspective from industry leaders as we deep dive and discuss some of the coolest trends, emerging technologies, and latest innovations that drive the energy sector. So stay tuned as we explore some traditional and some quirky facets of this industry.  Hey, everyone, welcome back. This is the ThinkEnergy podcast. We've all heard the saying 'it's not easy being green'. But when it comes through renewable generation, is that true? With all the scientific evidence out there, being a climate change denier is becoming more and more synonymous with being a flat-earther. It's clear that humans have been polluting our atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other global warming emissions. NASA, the World Health Organization and the United Nations say we have to change the way we live, work and play. As we face our own extinction, what is the answer? Do we have the courage to be green? Are we okay with it not being easy. That brings us to renewable energy. How easy or difficult is it? How does it improve our health, environment and economy? Where is Canada at? And are we on track to becoming a global climate leader? Are we leveraging renewable energy within the electricity system. And do we have enough new renewable capacity to power our energy needs compared to conventional methods of generation like fossil fuels, greenhouse gases emitted from renewables our little to none, making them the cleanest, most viable solution to prevent environmental degradation. Renewable sources of electricity have powered Canada for more than a century. According to Natural Resources Canada, renewable energy sources currently provide about 17% of Canada's total primary energy supply, with wind and solar as the fastest growing in the country. So here's today's big question. What is a realistic strategy to increasing the supply of renewable energy so that we can permanently replace the remaining carbon intensive energy sources in Canada. And what would the global impact be? Joining me today is Brandy Giannetta. From the Canadian Renewable Energy Association, Brandy is a regional director responsible for promoting, communicating and advocating for adoption of the associations policies, with political representatives, members of government, media, and other key stakeholders and decision makers. Brandy, welcome to the show. Maybe start us off by talking about the Canadian Renewable Energy Association. its mandate and why it's important for Canada. Brandy Giannetta  03:46 Sure thing! Well the Canadian Renewable Energy Association: We are a national Industry Association is we we see ourselves as the voice for wind energy, solar energy and energy storage solutions, here in Canada with the goal of powering Canada's energy future. So our association really works to create the conditions for modern energy solutions vis-à-vis stakeholder advocacy, public engagement at several different levels. So we are a multi Technology Industry Association and we are new. We are looking again to provide that unified voice for renewable energy as well as energy storage across Canada. So we're the product of uniting what was the Canadian Wind Energy Association with what was the Canadian solar industry association so CANWEA and CANSIA our well-known names as having had decades of advocacy in Canada on behalf of the wind sector in the solar sector in Canada. And now we're one new expanded Industry Association, so very exciting, which also now includes, of course, energy storage. So that's in recognition of that pivotal role that energy storage is going to play alongside those renewable technologies as we look to transform Canada's energy mix. Dan Seguin  04:59 What is the Canadian Renewable Energy Association's role in transforming Canada's energy mix? Brandy Giannetta  05:08 Right? So Well, our new joint venture as one's association is really going to enable our members as well as the association itself to secure what we think is going to be a larger piece of the fat future energy pie that could normally have been achieved as single technologies or single entities. So our technologies having common interests in common characteristics will with respect to that policy, energy policy, you know, climate policy, different markets and regulatory frameworks throughout Canada, and really advocating within those commonalities to support the deployment of all of the technologies or solutions. So I didn't mention in the front that we have over 300 members within our association that represent that full scope of the sector. So we're really uniquely positioned to do that as an industry association, but I see some really sort of specific aspects of how we will do that. In what our strategy will entail. And I alluded to a little bit around the advocacy side, providing access to credible and timely information, and industry engagement. So that's an internal process, as well as an F front facing sort of public facing engagement role that will play. So as a national Industry Association, as I mentioned, we will be active at the federal level from an advocacy perspective, but will we're also present in multiple jurisdictions across Canada. So we advocate for policies that focus on that transition to a clean economy, but it's powered by renewable energy solutions. So that's really the key there. What are what are one of the things we'll be working toward is to create new opportunities, but also to remove the existing barriers that are stopping us from realizing those, those solutions and ultimately, that will enhance the deployment of our technologies throughout the country, and what we really consider to be safe and sustainable, environmentally friendly manner, but also a big part of that advocacy side and credible information and front facing side of what we do will be to increase public awareness of our technologies as they stand. But also, most importantly, the benefits that they provide that they're already providing to communities throughout Canada. And across the future, the potential to do even more. So federally, we have, you know, number one priority is to make sure that we're well positioned to contribute to economic recovery, particularly in a COVID situation that we're in right now. But also as a unified voice for the renewable side and energy storage, we're going to really try to help navigate Canada to an emissions reduction targets, we're going to create good jobs, we're going to stimulate the economy, you know, we're going to be present in urban centers and rural centers and indigenous communities. So we have so much value to offer. And as a collective effort, we're really going to try to influence those public policies that are really energy focused and economic stimulus focus to be able to do that. And we can do it because they'll probably say this a lot. We're a really scalable set of resources and when you put us all together, we're really well suited to power that transition. Dan Seguin  08:03 How is your association positioned to deliver clean, low cost, reliable, flexible, and scalable solutions for Canada's energy needs? Brandy Giannetta  08:14 Well, I'm glad you said it first, because I think I'll be repeating myself a lot, because that's the key. We're low cost, we're reliable. You know, we offer flexible, scalable solutions. So we have a headquarters in Ottawa, we're nationally, you know, present. But we also have people in the key regions across Canada from east to west and centrally and connect in Toronto. And we definitely look to influence regionally regional policies as well as national policies. And we definitely have a public facing communication side where we're advocating for energy solutions that will leverage the value proposition that renewables and energy storage provide together. So we're going to have what I talked about a little earlier with that internal forum for dialogue for our members that enables us to really collaborate provided opportunities for the stewardship of our technologies but also the growth of the industry across Canada and Canadian economies. So renewable energy and energy storage, as I noted, have a really important and central role to play as we transform our Canadian energy mix. And we see electricity markets adapting to these transformational demands to not only decarbonize, but as a result, electrify new sectors with clean electricity resources. So that reality has really been a huge driver in that tremendous new market opportunity for renewable energy and energy storage together. As we sort of get more comfortable with what that transition looks like and what it entails, our electricity system here in Canada is really going to need increased, actually, I would say significantly increased amounts of renewable energy, energy storage and at the utility scale. So our grids need to be powered by clean supply of renewables backed up by energy storage, and we need to make sure that they remain affordable, reliable, flexible, and scalable, as you noted, so that's going to mean, you know, large utility scale deployment of renewables and energy storage, but also a significant uptake and sort of mobilization of those behind the meter application. So distributed energy resources, for example. And putting that new collaborative framework in place like we've done at our association, is going to fully be able to allow us to fully leverage that opportunity. Dan Seguin  10:23 Let me ask you this. Is the renewable energy industry primed to enter a new phase of growth driven largely by increasing customer demand and cost competitiveness? Are you seeing a culture shift? Brandy Giannetta  10:38 Definitely, yes, there has been and it's, it's, I would say, Now more than ever, that we are realizing that culture shift and we're starting to see things materialize as a result of that shift. So ultimately, the needs and the wants of Canadian consumers have evolved but they're continuing to evolve. So you know, energy technologies: these aren't the only thing. It's markets that are innovating. The costs are coming down, as we all know, to a significantly affordable level. Business models as a result are also changing, not just here in Canada, but globally. So it's a global trend. It's not unique to Canada, we are well poised to follow those global trends and capitalize on the learnings and advancements of technology as well as the market and business structures that have evolved as well. So renewable energy and energy storage as solutions. Focused approaches are really increasingly contributing to those electricity grids and energy systems at a large scale, which in that what that means is that we're enhancing the reliability aspect and offerings, the flexibility of the technologies. And because we're super scalable, as I told you, I'll talk about that a lot, because it's certainly an attractive aspect of the advocacy side. The scalability of our energy production and use in Canada and abroad is really a factor there because we can do it at whatever scale needed for whatever system You know, is being sought. So a consciousness about the environment continues to grow alongside that. So we got energy policy and economic stimulus, but we also have environmental policy and the drivers for decarbonisation, and electrification of the sectors that aren't traditionally powered by electricity, like cars and transportation like but a large scale as well as buildings are really increasing the demand for energy solutions that are non-emitting affordable, scalable, flexible, and all of those great things. And that's something that obviously our industries can provide. So our vision really, ultimately is to ensure that renewable energy being solar and wind and energy storage on top of that are playing that central role as we transform the mix so that we can continue to provide those solutions across the board. Dan Seguin  12:43 Randy, do you believe that renewables like wind and solar can help deliver the Clean Power jobs needed for sustainable economic delivery? Brandy Giannetta  12:55 For sure, I mean, the calls for an economic recovery right now that are grind Clean Energy and Climate Action are increasingly growing and becoming more prevalent across the across the globe. We've got the International Energy Agency, for example, who called this a historic opportunity, you know, despite the fact that we're in a global pandemic, and there are many crises to manage. We're taking our cues from the International Energy Agency as a proper agency seeking, you know, recognition that we have an opportunity upon us that is historic and in its nature, the International Monetary Fund as well has its leadership has come out to say that we must do everything within our power to make it a green recovery. So right here in Canada, we in particular, are signatories to a public letter, which has asked Canadian governments to pursue a resilient recovery to the COVID situation in particular. So we've got hundreds of signatories representing over a you know, I think over 2000 now, Canadian companies that are right here, you know, headquarters here in Canada that have signed that letter seeking campaign. In order to pursue federal and provincial governments to commit to a clean recovery and resilience plan, so the the renewable energy sector as well as energy storage industries, we're making a case for those policies, energy policies, economic stimulus, packaging, recovery policies that are, you know, threefold, we need to make sure that they're economically timely and long lasting, so right time, right place, and that they are sustainable, making sure that they're environmentally sound. So there needs to be that environmental sustainability attached to those policies. And then eminently feasible, they have to be practical, realistic and actually implementable with a proven success here in Canada or elsewhere. So that we can capitalize on that and truly, you know, make that history that the International Energy Agency has referred to. So our federal government stimulus and recovery efforts in particular, I think our focus right now for us because we think that those efforts can create jobs, they can spur clean tech innovation. They will encourage economic diversification across many sectors, not just the energy sector, but also ultimately we're going to cut carbon pollution while doing that and why not because that illness causing you know, air pollution is something that we can tackle at the same time while we grow our economy. And really what we're looking to do is make Canada more resilient country, and we want to do it on the back of our energy sector. So we really believe that's important. And we do believe that those initiatives taken in support of economic recovery also allow us to address all those significant other challenges like climate change. So it's really important that we invest in wind energy and solar energy and in energy storage at appropriate scales and in appropriate locations, so that we can deliver the jobs, the economic benefits, making sure that today we're realizing those benefits, and then building out that longer term infrastructure that's sustainable, it's going to provide a really strong foundation for a lot more investment down the road. And again, jobs economic activities going to all spur as we as we build out those little as of tomorrow, Dan Seguin  16:01 so climate adaptation and resilience stand out as rapidly emerging areas of employment as a result of climate change impacts, what types of careers are in demand? And at what rate are jobs in clean energy sector growing? Brandy Giannetta  16:20 That's a great question because you know, the numbers are there. So we know the stats, and we can say it all those figures. And I'll talk a little bit about that. But the jobs are exciting. And there's no limit to the types of jobs one of the greatest stats that I love. And I check it out every year as the annual numbers come out of the US in particular is the wind turbine technicians and solar technicians that has continuously year over year over the past several years, ranked as one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States. So that's really exciting because that resonates here in Canada as well as we build out our industry. In fact, we did a wind energy supply chain study in Alberta, a few years back and it really detailed the breakdown of the jobs required just for a wind farm in particular And it was varied from the very, you know, technical and professional engineering requirements, geotechnical type requirements siting and negotiation of land agreements, and the regulatory advocacy work as well as environmental side of that. There's also, you know, the broader procurement construction side and you know, transportation logistics, you know, setting up a crane and having that that broader service industry attached to the evolution of the sector. So it's really a significant cross section of very technical and professional quality career type positions, research driven things from environmental sustainability, and then the, you know, the heavy lifting of the transportation and construction side of things. So there's a lot of, we're seeing offshoots of service jobs as well. And one of the large one of the aspects of the solar side, especially behind the meter, and that large uptake of solar installations behind the meter has created a lot of opportunities is very labor intensive. And we're seeing from the solar industry, significant numbers on manufacturing, sales, distribution and wholesale careers. We've got the installation community as well across Canada growing at an exponential rate, operations and maintenance will remain a significant portion of a sophisticated workforce. And then as I said, that offshoot service industry that supplies the services to those things. So as you can see, it's not a shortlist of jobs. It is, is a varied and like I said, extensive list of job opportunities that will continue to evolve and grow. Now, if you want to talk about statistics, the rate that it's growing at, we have already over 300,000 people employed in the clean energy sector in Canada. So that number has continued to grow by close to 5% every year, and it's slated to continue to do so which just to give you some perspective is about a third faster than Canada's economy as a whole and its growth rate, which is just under 4%. So by 2030, the projections that we're relying on today show us that there will be over a half a million Canadians employed and gainful full time lucrative careers in the clean energy sector, across the country. And that's going to be, you know, thanks in part to continued commitment to climate policies, to programs that are supporting robust clean economy type stimulus, and that growth rate will continue to evolve as a result. So it's very good news, Dan Seguin  19:21 Brandy, in a world where distributed energy resources are increasingly valued. I'd love to hear your views on both the wind and solar value proposition as compelling options and how customers can more actively manage their demand. Brandy Giannetta  19:39 Right? Well, I have to go back to the old you know, the the reference to scalability, wind energy, solar energy, even energy storage - extremely scalable. What that means, as I as I noted earlier, is that these technologies, you know, they're well positioned to transform our energy system, but they can provide solutions at a micro level or a macro level. So at the micro level, distributed energy resources can be deployed in a number of ways to empower the customers that are seeking those technologies. And then of course, then scaled according to a very unique set of needs as defined by the customers themselves. And they're affordable. So more and more energy customers of all types, as I think I said this already, or they're seeking, you know, clean, affordable, safe, all of those all of those buzzwords and properties and principled approaches to pursuing these technologies as solutions. And ultimately, they're less and less focused on a single technology to provide it. Is it smart? Does it make sense does it fit all those boxes being checked, you know, whether that's wind, solar or storage at the scale that's required. That's really that's the value of that as a solution of these technologies as a solution option, and they're multifaceted. So I think that really there's definitely clear public desire, obviously for clean and affordable as we've noted many times, but those solutions behind the meter, so smaller scale applications, Like rooftop solar panels, personalized home energy storage systems, things like that are going to continue to evolve and provide those solutions at other larger rate. And the innovation behind those distributed energy resources is really what's, you know, allowing us to be poised to meet the demands of today's customers, but we evolve those offerings for the future needs and wants as well. So that transition again, clean, renewable sources, is very important. And the impact for the consumer and ultimately, our economy and environment are what's really driving the value proposition there. Dan Seguin  21:33 As solar and wind power come closest to meeting three key energy consumer priorities—cost-effectiveness, decarbonization, and reliability—what role will they play with microgrids and self-sufficiency? Brandy Giannetta  21:50 Oh, great question. Again, all those buzzwords but important ones right. They're really principled realities and, you know, criteria that we're aiming towards So the successful and enhanced uptake of micro grids and self-sufficiency will be motivated as long as we continue to meet those principles and those criteria. So remember flexible, scalable, and portable. So we've got a micro level, you know, distributed energy resource, and we can deploy it in a number of ways. So I talked a little bit about in the previous question about, you know, based on what the customer's needs and wants are. So, you know, some really, you know, tangible examples of that are converting remote communities that aren't grid connected, so they have no wires and no transmission access. And they've been running on diesel generators for decades for generations really. And we're going to convert those to sustainable micro grids, we're going to use solar panels, we're going to use industrial size storage, whether that's batteries or otherwise, and maybe even a wind turbine or two, if it makes sense. You do it to scale. And now you've got a remote community that's self-generating, you know, non-emitting, and it's quite independent. And that's, that's a success story in and of itself. Distributed energy resources, can really promote increased energy self-sufficiency. And through other examples that are a little simpler even like deployment of rooftop solar in neighborhoods, you know, we're going to use it to heat your house your water instead of the electrical or gas hot water heater, maybe you're using it to heat your pool. So you're not running you know, another gas line or gas system in your urban areas, but also providing electricity more broadly like bigger installations on hospitals and colleges and universities and schools like that municipal buildings, all of those are all you know, fall into the bucket of distributed energy resources which promote self-sufficiency and ultimately, renewable energy powered things like charging stations for electrical vehicles is enhanced. You know, I would say ultimately, self-sufficiency, proper and enhanced reliability go hand in hand because you can couple that with energy efficiency, electric vehicles, charging as well as discharging and smart grids and even certain demand response measures. So the list goes on and on. You know, we can unpack them but though it's quite, I would say quite lucrative. And again, it all comes back to the fact that scales scalability. Dan Seguin  24:09 Brandy, can you help me understand what the role of storage plays in the deployment and advancement of renewable energy? Brandy Giannetta  24:17 Oh, sure. Well, on a larger scale like utility side, the technologies renewables can be deployed in complimentary ways to supply and support our broader electricity grids. Or they can be used as a co-located or hybrid resource with facilities like wind projects, wind farms and solar projects. Adding energy storage in order to firm that utility scale offering of energy to the grid, so firm power, or capacity, if you will, but by working together, the renewables and energy storage present a broader and more diverse range of not just firm energy offerings, but for customer seeking other things that diversity in tech technology provides scale grid services and other products for lack of a better word to the grid operator. And then ultimately, if you're looking at a smaller scale to the customer, as standalone efforts to enhance the needs that they have identified, sometimes that's offsetting their peak demand use and other aspects and applicability of the energy storage component can be used that way. So, the scale varies large scale utility grid offering to smaller scale behind the meter solutions is a really energy storage in particular, as a technology has a central role to play in that in that transformation to be able to make those solutions tangible and affordable and implementable. Dan Seguin  25:48 Now for the million dollar question, how is Canada faring as a global climate leader? In your opinion, what is the low hanging fruit and what has the potential to have the biggest impact to the industry and maybe the world? Brandy Giannetta  26:06 Well, sure, Canada is in a great position already, because we are starting from a spot of having strong renewable and non-emitting electricity base. So there remains also a massive untapped potential for wind, solar and hydro resources to continue to be developed. And so I would say that we're as one of the best countries or countries best position to eliminate our fossil fuel use any electricity generation in particular. And then the abundance of our resources means that we're then also well positioned to support significant increase in non-emitting or renewable electricity supply to power those other fossil fuel intensive industries, like I mentioned earlier transportation and buildings. So we do need to move away from fossil fuels for those other industries as well. And we can do it on the back of the electricity sector in Canada, as it currently stands, but we can also evolve that significantly because we already have the resources. And I think the number is associated with deep decarbonisation and vision that we need to increase our electricity production by two or three times to reach our sort of net zero GHG emission targets. And we already, like I said, have all of those resources available to us to do that. So it's a matter of the will and, you know, transitioning to that, as a global leader, we can really, I think, step ahead of the crowd and shine. Dan Seguin  27:26 What is exciting you about the renewable energy industry right now? Brandy Giannetta  27:33 Well, we're on the right side of history, we always have been but now more than ever, I think the stars are really aligning, you know, we've got decreasing costs, our customer demand and knowledge is growing at a rate. I don't know that any of us could have predicted a few you know, a decade ago, that emissions free zero marginal cost fuel, it's never going to go away. It’s here to stay. It’s scalable, it's flexible, and it’s decentralized. All of those buzzwords, which we can unpack any single one of them. That's exciting. But really put them all together. And I don't know, how exciting is that? Like, I don't know if I'm if I'm making the assumption, but I think it speaks for itself, like we are in a really good place right now, for all those reasons, and we need to be excited about it. Dan Seguin  28:15 Here's my last question, Brandy. What keeps you up at night? Brandy Giannetta  28:21 Well, you know, I think governments across Canada, you know, they need to take the politics out of the energy sector. And the decision making processes really need to be based on fair and transparent competition. You know, we've all, you know, leveling that playing field for us all and taking the politics out of it, because that decision making process really needs to be aimed at providing the best solution to clearly define problems without the politics and that's not to say there's not a role for governments and energy policy. There certainly is, but sound policy, stable investment signals, those things need to outweigh the politics in order to realize that, you know, progress and innovation it’s so ripe for the picking. And I think our good friend Geddy Lee, a Canadian icon, says it best when he said "progress has no patience, but something's got to give." So those are the things that I stay up at night thinking about. Dan Seguin  29:11 Brandy, we've reached the end of another episode of the thick energy podcast. How can our listeners learn more about you and your association? How can they connect? Brandy Giannetta  29:23 Well, like I said, we are new. So we've got a brand new shiny website up and running. It's We're active on Twitter and LinkedIn, mostly, we've got Facebook and maybe a couple of other social channels. But we're going to continue to be evolving those sites over the summer in both English and French, which is very exciting and very important to us as a national Industry Association to be fully bilingual. So I would say that your best efforts reach out vis-à-vis our website. We're a small but mighty team, and so we're listed there and you can contact us centrally through the website is probably your best bet. Dan Seguin  29:57 Again. Thank you so much for joining me today, I hope you had a lot of fun. Brandy Giannetta  30:02 I sure did. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I really appreciate it. Dan Seguin  30:07 Thank you for joining us today. I truly hope you enjoyed this episode of The ThinkEnergy podcast. For past episodes, make sure you visit our website Lastly, if you found value in this podcast, be sure to subscribe. Cheers, everyone.
If you ever thought about starting your own podcast or wanted to learn more about the process, this episode is for you. With years of experience in the podcasting industry, Rhys Waters and Jonathan Burns – co-founders and producers of Podstarter – have seen it all, including ups, downs, successes & failures. They believe that success can be found by any podcaster through a healthy balance of passion, consistency, and a genuine connectedness with their target audience. Tune in to learn the ingredients of a great podcast. Related Content & Links:   LinkedIn: Transcript: Dan Seguin  0:02  Hey, everyone, I'm Dan Séguin from Hydro Ottawa. This is the ThinkEnergy podcast. Changing times have led to the implementation of numerous new technologies in business. One of the most fascinating is this, what you're doing right now listening To a podcast. First, thank you for listening. I'm grateful that every two weeks you tune into our show. As the world becomes busier and channels more cluttered, podcasting is becoming increasingly popular. According to Forbes, there are 62 million Americans listening to podcasts every week. But why? With more than 850,000 active podcasts available, the variety of topics is limited only by your imagination. podcasts have been around for a decade and a half. But in the last five years, we've witnessed a renaissance thanks to smartphones, podcast apps, and voice activated speakers. They're easier than ever to access. Hydro Ottawa opted to invest in podcasting because they are convenient, very portable and easy to use with tremendous listener retention rates. In addition, they provide a repeat touch point for audiences. podcasts have a unique way of making technology disappear. You simply listen to your device. There's no tapping, swiping or clicking. In this way, podcasting reduces the friction and noise associated with traditional digital advertising, allowing us to speak directly to you and find a connection. Maybe you're listening to this while you're doing the dishes, driving exercising. With podcasts, our hands are free to multitask. A recent study showed while 49% of podcast listening happens in the home 22% happens while driving 11% at work and 8% while exercising. If you ever thought about starting your own podcast or wanted to learn more about the process, this episode is for you. It's relatively easy to begin with little overhead or broadcasting experience. You can actually start recording a podcast with just your iPhone or a pair of headphones or ear buds. So here's today's big question. How can podcasting effectively build relationships and trust and become an efficient way to make positive connections with people simply using the power of voice? To help us better understand the strategies and process behind podcasting? We've invited the cofounders of pod starter on today's show. They share a vision of helping people in companies make great podcasts and guide them on how to tell compelling stories. They've built global audiences and have worked with broadcasters like the BBC, their company He's responsible for more than half a million podcast downloads. Dear listeners, please welcome Jonathan Burns and Rhys Waters. gents. First things first. Tell us about your company podstarter. And what drew you to podcasting?   Rhys Waters  4:22  I personally started in podcasting back in about 2015. Back in the UK, I was working on some radio projects for the BBC. And we kind of got roped into releasing some radio shows, as podcasts and it kind of spiraled from there. My background is in film. So it was kind of a really exciting new creative place to just play with audio and tell stories and, and kind of grow in in that environment. So since then, yeah, I've just been having fun with it, seeing what challenges you can overcome in terms of recording in real world locations and studio spaces and then having those kind of conversations That you can't necessarily have in other realms that podcasting really allows you to, to take advantage of.   Jonathan Burns  5:08  Yeah, for myself, there's a couple of reasons of why podcasting really sort of drew me to it. My background has been creating content anywhere from online training videos to building augmented reality, virtual reality experiences, sort of content that has impact or connects with an audience in a unique way. And having met Rhys a few years back, we started having conversations around podcasting and how accessible It is to be able to communicate and craft stories. And the company pod starter sort of evolved out of that notion of A) it's accessible, but B) a lot of people are doing it, not necessarily doing it well, but there's an opportunity to be an expert at it. And we launched really as a sort of a consulting company, to help people learn how to do it and then then Off you go, but it's morphed and evolved into full podcast production to Creative Services to micro content to everything sort of wrapped around that podcast cycle.   Dan Seguin  6:03  Here's a question for you both didn't Video killed the radio star in the age of TikTok YouTube and social media podcasts feel a bit like a throwback to the days of radio? Why the surge in popularity?   Rhys Waters  6:19  I really like to talk about NPR in the US because they are the biggest podcasting network in in the world. And they started out as a radio station that was really a radio kind of producer that was struggling, you know, and NPR was people. There were lots of articles. If you go back 10 years see and you know, MPR is dying, and it's being defunded. No one's listening. And then they essentially just shared the same content they've been making for decades, on a different platform in a more accessible way that people wanted to listen on. And people instantly connected with it in a new way and the audience is younger than ever. They're, they're a behemoth in terms of the podcast. influence. So I think that the explosion comes from the fact that audio is a very accessible and powerful tool to use to market and communicate. And podcasting just clicked as a new platform that people could do it that people could share those ideas on, and really have an opportunity to do it in an affordable, regular and authentic way. So I think, I think it was just it was just a distribution problem. And that's been fixed now.   I take a different approach. Rhys laughs at me on this because I put the marketers head on. And I and I think about the notion of radio or audio not being as good as another platform. I think of it as from a marketing standpoint, if you pick just one platform and run with it, you're dead in the water. You need to understand the strengths of each of these different platforms and what they're trying to achieve. podcasting is is really unique, and I think that the decline of radio where it used to be on mass and the IBM and Nielsen ratings start to say that the traditional, you know, the jazz station had a, you know, sort of a macro audience not really finite. podcasting is so unique in its ability to be so hyper focused on one particular topic. It is niche as decent can be. So I like that as a platform to be able to say I could communicate any type of particular message to whatever particular audience and that gets back to your idea of, you know, what makes a successful podcast? Is it? Is it mass appeal? Is it mass reach? Is it talking to an audience of one? Is it a personal journey, or a personal journey, a journal rather. So trying to figure out what you're using a podcast for? Like all platforms, they have a place and a space.   Dan Seguin  8:42  How easy is it for someone to get started in podcasting? Do you have to be a celebrity because I'm clearly not, or have a big name brand to launch a podcast?   Jonathan Burns  8:56  It's a funny question. It gets back to the success what is your key performance indicator, what's that measurement of what you're trying to achieve? And, and I look at the successful podcasts that are getting millions and millions of downloads. And sometimes I scratched my head. And I wonder how they navigated through the clutter. Fame certainly helps from a volume standpoint, but you've got other things that are done by the quality of the content. I look at the daily the daily is always in the top 10 and talks about breaking news. And it's a it's a news aggregator that talks about specific stories of things that are going on. It does its job really well. And so it's not driven by fame and fortune. It's about the content more than anything else.   Rhys Waters  9:44  I mean, there's a whole industry that has sprung up overnight around how can podcasters reach bigger audiences there's endless discussions on forums about how can I get more downloads How can I you know, appear on higher rankings In Apple, and up till about three months ago, I was I was of the cynical mindset of thinking that unless you're part of a big network or you've got a friend on the inside to be able to be on the front page of Apple was impossible. But the last two months, I've been on a bit of a roller coaster journey with a new project where we had zero brand recognition, zero, celebrity power, zero social media following and it's now become a show that is on the front page of apple in Canada and is in the top 50 shows and the top 10 for genre. And that has just come out of nowhere. And that was purely following the guidelines that Apple provide by offering something different to an audience that didn't have access to that to that show. So it is possible to break through even if you don't have all those, all those big people in your corner back in you and helping you launch in the first place.   Dan Seguin  10:56  Could someone expand on what makes a podcast great. Can you provide an example of a podcast doing it right?   Jonathan Burns  11:05  Well, I was just I wanted to build more on your point that recently we just talked about which was the the surprise success of one of the podcasts that we've been working on. And, and it's like anybody who says I can give you a viral video, don't believe that. It's, there are formulas and things that you think might make it popular. But finding that success is sometimes elusive. But as Rhys was just talking about in one of his examples there was it you don't necessarily need to know somebody in placement. You don't need to be a part of a network. You don't need to fit those traditional structures, you can still find success without it. But understanding that the success needs to be sort of anchored or sorry, the podcast needs to be anchored in some key principles of good production value, good quality, interesting topics. well spoken people. A variety of those elements that make all podcasts good, making sure you've got those fundamentals and foundations, I think is crucial in this day and age, you can't launch with a with a, you know, just your Apple phone in the basement, roughly getting up to market. It maybe you can get but it'll be a it'll be a stretch.   Rhys Waters  12:21  I think I think for me the secret of most of the great podcasts that have really risen and built a huge audience is that they have a genuine connection with their audience, they have a genuine connection with the people who want that content and they really look after them and serve them the kind of ideas and entertainment and thoughts that that people really be missing that they haven't got in maybe more mainstream channels. So I think there's that those shows that are really elevated to the ones that find that audience. Look after the And then just improve what they give them and how they give it to them over time. And an example for me in terms of broadcast podcasts that are doing a really good job I am obsessed with business wars, which is a wonderful production. And it's it's an example of, of just really good storytelling, very high production value act in sound design scripting, and packaged in  a way that just is it's easy to consume. You can binge Listen, each episode is like 30 minutes long. But the The reason I like it is that they tell the stories that you haven't heard about, about great business rivalries like Puma versus Adidas or Chevy versus Ford. And what they do is really bring to life those behind the scenes deals and bought boardroom kind of battles and vendettas that people have. And so they've reframing a business topic in a completely new way. And that's what really engages Me too. And to me is an example of of a great podcast is going well, what can we do in the podcast realm that we can't do everywhere else? And then really running with it.   Dan Seguin  14:13  Rhys, Jonathan, let's talk discoverability with over 850,000 active podcasts out there, what are the best strategies to be discovered? How does one go about promoting podcasts and grow a listenership?   Jonathan Burns  14:31  I guess as the marketer, I may want to tackle this one. And it's a it's a tough, tough question. I don't know if you've actually watched anybody scroll through their Instagram feed. They've been talking about the attention span of people getting shorter and shorter and shorter. You look at your four second ad spots, all of this kind of stuff. And we've been talking about sort of the brand promise making sure that things are aligned and what the deliverables going to be. And that means anything from the thumbnail the image that people first see to the title For a search, but also for a relevance of the conversation, to everything from show notes to the first tone, and music of the podcast needs to all be sort of aligned. So that if you're able to get the discoverability, from an image to a write up to, to the title of the podcast, and getting into the space will get you from interest to subscriber. But that's only on on the podcast platforms, we are huge fans of saying, Let's leverage other platforms, other communities to be able to drive traffic back to the actual podcast. And that means micro content, small bits, small cut small pieces of for example, this interview this conversation to put onto say LinkedIn for that audience to be able to say I'm interested in that topic or that conversation or that one liner, and it becomes an audio clip or a sentence from a video standpoint or a visual standpoint, even from the transcripts of the show to actually then generate a blog post, to be able to use this content in a variety of different ways in different mediums. It's not all about getting found On on Spotify, for example, it might be how do I get found on my Instagram channel and using those to build those communities so that people inevitably move back and forth across those platforms across those channels to get engaged with the conversation that you're having?   Rhys Waters  16:16  Yeah, from my point of view, I kind of when you look when you look at an audience or when you have a conversation with an audience, the  interesting thing is the statistics really show that there are two things that are really driving recommendations. Sorry that there are two things that are really driving the people to new shows and to discover new shows. And that is firstly, recommendations and secondly topic. So a lot of the statistics will see recommendations from friends from family from from co workers who have a similar interest in in those kinds of shows are in podcasting. And the only way to get that is by making a really good show that people are willing to go out on a limb to recommend which isn't easy. There's no easy way to make a great podcast. But that is one of the most powerful ways to do it. And secondly, in terms of topic, talking about a topic that you're passionate about that you have something interesting to say. And then would help with discoverability. And like some people, I've seen some stats where, you know, people search in a podcast platform by that topic, because they want to learn about that topic. So making sure that you describe the episodes and you have good show notes. And all of that information is is kind of built in so that you are discoverable through that topic, but then also engaging with audiences and and forums and groups online that are centered around those topics too. Often sharing a podcast on on a Facebook group, for instance, is really relevant to that group can drive a lot of traffic back to your to your podcast too.   Dan Seguin  17:56  so promoting a podcast takes time and growth. Depends on consistently producing engaging content. What's a realistic goal for a podcaster to aim for in terms of percentage of growth? To know if they are successful? Is it about that? Or are there other indicators of success?   Rhys Waters  18:20  in terms of setting a goal for new podcasters for growth and success? I think that the the key indicator of success is what you define it to be in the first place. If you want to be the next Joe Rogan then chances are you're going to be disappointed for the next 10 years. But I'd be you might not be you might you might be the next Joe Rogan. But realistically, if if you're still talking about something with passion, and you're getting response from people and you know that people care about what you're talking about and enjoying the conversations you're having, to me that would be a measure of success. If you're talking and somebody listening, then that is as it is in its purest form. That is what podcasting is about. And for me, personally, you having fun, you know, a lot of people start podcasts as a passion project, you start having fun and it becomes a real labor, then it's not going that's not a successful podcast that becomes a burden on you where you feel indebted to constantly put out this put out this content. So when you are planning, how often Am I going to release this show? You know, how long should the show be? People should think about that how would the quality will be affected by the quantity so if you're really chasing stories or angles or interviews for a weekly show, and really struggling to find voices, you know, your podcast is not in a good place, you're not doing the excited, interesting things that you set out to do, where you want this to have a balance between a regular a regular show that is growing an audience and having the impact you want. But you also want to make sure that you maintain that that level of quality and excitement with every show that you put out which there's a balancing act between Giving people something as rapidly as possible, but also making sure that what you do put out is something that you're satisfied and something, you know, your listeners will be satisfied with too.   Jonathan Burns  20:09  I actually want to steal Rhys's story. He presented this or talked about this a few months back at a conference and I really liked the story because we were talking around. If it's just about audience acquisition, it's to finite a goal, you're either gonna hit it or miss it. And it is too difficult to be able to say in two months, I'm going to have a quarter of a million listeners. So understanding what those objectives are, are very important. Rhys was working on a podcast that found phenomenal success great fan engagement, they were in the merchandise and live events. And the BBC had said you know what, we wanted this podcast and put it on the broadcast. We actually want to make it into a TV spot as well. And it more often it evolved As they're going along and seeing these levels of success, it moved their benchmark, their goals shifted, and all of a sudden it was, can't wait to be on TV. And it failed miserably from a TV standpoint, I shouldn't say that Rhys, it didn't fail - It didn't exceed our high expectations.   It didn't have the same level of success when it transferred from one platform to the next. There's my political response. But But as he was wrapping up this story, talking about the evolution of this podcast, there was some writers that were some comments from fans that were writing in to say things like, the comedy was so fantastic. I was having a down day in my car, I laughed so hard I soiled myself. Stroked the ego of a comedian to say really, I'm in this not for the dollar, but I'm in it for the psychological rewards that I get from doing a good thing or a good product. And it shifted around that. And so part of our dialogue on setting key performance indicators and specific goals is to understand really why you're doing this. If it is for purely monetization, not thought or thought leadership or whatever your structure is, know that when you start out because inevitably, if you're not doing it with a with a balanced measure of passion, and enthusiasm, you're gonna die out, you're not going to be able to achieve whatever you're doing. There's been some great podcasters that had found success from an audience acquisition standpoint that eventually said, I didn't like doing what I was doing. I didn't like the person that I was, I'm exhausted. And inevitably, regardless of that, that success from an audience standpoint, couldn't sustain what they were doing. So our recommendation always is understand why you're doing it. Understand what those goals are, and making sure that you keep that in the back of your mind are always a part of that big picture.   Dan Seguin  22:57  I've read that content is king, but distribution is Queen and she wears the pants. I couldn't agree with that more. What advice can you give on cross channel promotion? And how can social media channels grow your show? Where should podcasters focus their time and marketing effort?   Rhys Waters  23:20  And I think that one of the most important things with a podcast is to not just upload to an RSS feed and sit and wait, I think that there's still a huge percentage of the population that that doesn't really engage with podcasts and doesn't have the podcast app on the phone. Even if it's pre installed, they might have never even opened it. So there's a real missed opportunity. And often, when podcasting first came out, there was the whole conversation of saying, Have you heard my podcast? What's the podcast? Here, download this app. You know, there were there were barriers and several stages to get through to get someone to engage with it. But when you have something like a platform like YouTube, where you can do a video version of your podcast, whether it's just whether it's actually filming yourself record or whether it's just a logo or whether it's an animated version, whatever you can do. And that is a platform that everybody uses is one of the biggest search engines, you know, in the world. So making sure you put your podcast in places where people will find it, even if they're not into podcasting, is is so important. So not thinking about it in a way where it's exclusive to people who like podcasts, it's exclusive to people who are regular kind of power listeners, make sure that you you meet people where they're comfortable, and you give it to them in a way that they want to enjoy it.   Jonathan Burns  24:41  I couldn't agree with you more on that there. There has to be that balance between content creation and content distribution. I think I was reading somewhere that said it's almost a 5050 time split for every hour that you spend building the product you need to spend an hour promoting and distributing the product. I take a step back and think about The platforms that you need to promote on are all driven from who your audience is. And so if you understand who that listener is, and where they are, invest time and energy onto those platforms. So if you have a youthful audience that you're talking about current issues, that you want to be able to connect with them. Consider a tictok in an Instagram structure. If you're looking at an older demographic, and you're trying to understand what you're trying to communicate in a longer form, consider a Facebook structure. As Rhys mentioned, from a search standpoint, getting found is is difficult, unless you're in those communities in those spaces where your audience is. So I take the step back and say first thing is understand who you're talking to. Who is that that listener Who's that persona and plan and define a strategy around those personas.   Dan Seguin  25:51  You've covered this in your blog, that ratings and reviews are important, but given the number of podcast channels available. It's not always easy to get accurate representation of your metrics. Given that unique complexity of ways podcasts are consumed and downloaded, what is the best way to track and measure their performance?   Rhys Waters  26:19  That's the thing is there's so many aggregators that you put your show on in terms of Spotify and Apple and Google and Stitcher and pod bean and all the different places you put them, in order to pull them all together in one place is, is arduous and confusing and can be difficult. So you might have ratings and reviews on one platform that you never even see because you've never even looked at it. People tend to go to Apple as they as they go to from reviews and ratings. But there are other places where you might be building an audience you might not even be aware of, or there might be some important feedback and review you never see so I really like Chartable which is a really good tool. Where you can essentially link up lots of your key data from those platforms in one place. So he's got Spotify integration, he's got Apple integration through the iTunes Connect platform. And you can create a profile. And then you can add all these different apps and links into it. And it just puts all of your data in one place. It lets you know where you're ranking in charts globally and territories. It lets you know how often you're getting ratings and reviews, it gives you averages. And if you if you sync the data properly, it also gives you an idea of listener drop off. So who, what percentage of people are listening right to the end? What percentage of people you know, where are you losing your audience or so like one of the things that really helped me with having that platform was I could also track other shows that were maybe similar and it wouldn't give me the obviously it wouldn't give you as much detailed data about somebody else's show. You could you could check out the rankings in the charts and it'll give you a good indication of of where you are and what the downloads mean. And if you really aspire to a show you can, you can kind of see see what how they're performing and if and if what they're doing works and if it doesn't work. So I kind of find that as a really, really good central place to look at different information and to start investigating and digging in new ways that you maybe couldn't, on each individual one.   Jonathan Burns  28:22  On the flip side, pod starter is not usually looking to create the next pod star. We usually have clients that are company organizations that are saying their mandate is a little bit different, whether it's to increase the amount of thought leadership that the company is perceived as, increasing their social reach. So a lot of our clients will typically use a podcast not to grow an audience in the podcast structures but to increase traffic to the website or increase traffic to a particular page on a website or social channels. So we end up having to From an analytic standpoint, use a mash up of from Google Analytics to the hosting platforms that we're using to be able to see who's downloading and viewing the podcast. We had a client that said, for every hundred view of a podcast that we had created for them, they were having a 10 x multiplier on the website view, meaning that the actual podcast page was getting the traffic into the space, but people then weren't clicking on the podcast, they were then going somewhere else within the website. So they used us as not a lead generation but as a, an audience acquisition for the website instead of the podcast. And that gets back to why are you doing the podcast and from a business standpoint, a lot of the times it's not just building a podcast audience it's about other tactics and other strategies to be able to have dialogues with their intended customer, future prospects, etc.   Dan Seguin  29:50  Okay, so where you would fit in that funnel?   Jonathan Burns  29:51  Yeah, exactly. Right. So it for a lot of the times when you think of a podcast podcasts are great from having deep honest conversations typically unedited. there's a there's a transparentness in that dialogue. And that is sort of a top line funnel conversation about about a branding opportunity to be able to say, we have thought leadership in this particular space, listen to the people that are having this conversations, we want to be a part of that community. And if that strikes a balance between a potential customer and existing customer and it goes to loyalty or acquisition, whatever it is, from a from a sales and marketing standpoint, you're now in that community and having that dialogue. It's like when social media was first being launched, everyone was going, how am I going to use that as a business tool? And and you look at the airlines that sort of embraced it as an opportunity to use it from a customer service standpoint, to use it as a loyalty standpoint, to be able to measure people's opinions of their service in the space. podcasting has that really unique way to have these these these broad topics, these interesting conversations and being able to stamp an organization's participation within that space. It's really interesting.   Dan Seguin  31:02   Let's talk about length, format and frequency. What are some podcast production best practices? What are the key elements of a podcast that should be optimized to reach and engage?   Rhys Waters  31:20  I've read that the ideal duration is 20 minutes and the ideal release frequency is weekly. And that's based on averages and just looking at across the board what has performed best, but I don't, that is not an there's not a rule that is not a one size fits all kind of answer to that question. And I think you have to make the show that fits your conversation. So if you're doing a very quick news roundup Daily Show, you're going to be looking at five minutes if you're doing something that is a weekly show, you know, 15 to 20 minutes is a good duration to look at. I mean, but there is some shows that have had huge success and Built massive audiences that do really deep dives. There's one podcast that I've worked on and off with called astonishing legends. And they cover like mysteries and true crime and paranormal and conspiracy topics. And they do it in a very kind of high level deep research way. So one topic, they did four episodes, and it was probably about a total of eight hours of content with really detailed research. They actually have a team of researchers working on their shows. So that show is hugely successful because they take the time and an effort to really dive into a topic in a way that other shows don't necessarily have the time or energy to do so. So I think that you've really got to look at what your goals are. Wait, what is this podcast trying to do? And, and who do we really want to appeal to who do we think will listen, who is the audience that we imagined in our heads and really fitted around that because although a weekly 20 minute show Probably would get more traction. It might not be what you'll it might not meet the the goals that you've set out, it might not allow you to do what you want to do in the space.   Jonathan Burns  33:10  I guess maybe the only thing I could add to it is, is understanding what people are doing while they're listening to your podcast. And that shifts their activity. So if I'm actually doing it at work, I've got a longer period of being able to listen to the background, if I've decided to download a podcast because I have to mow the lawn once as long as it's going to take to mow the lawn or wash the dishes or whatever the chore or the activity is, if I'm driving into work, I don't want to download six or seven podcasts, I would like to actually have the longer form that suits that traffic duration, right. So it kind of understanding that niche probably has an impact  on how long people are getting to the end of it. But I think the better points, which is what Rhys talked about, which was the content itself should dictate how long it's going to be if it's quick updates from a newsworthy standpoint, five minutes or less. I got my update and I If I went, if it's a long form deep dive into a crime story, for example, it's as long as the story takes it to be. But the smart, smart podcasters also know, if they're starting to lose their audience at a particular point. I need to scale it back. I need to edit it a bit better. I need to make the story tighter. Other than all that I know exactly what Rhys - he's right.   Rhys Waters  34:25  I was driving back and forth, St. JOHN between Halifax and St. JOHN, last summer. And it's about a four hour drive and I was measuring the distance based on what I would plan my podcasts around that four hour duration. So I got a two hour podcast, I'll stop for a break. And then and then I'll put another hour and then I'll stop for a coffee and then another. So it's funny how people kind of will choose shows just based on the duration alone, depending on the context how they're listening is is something that people don't always consider, but it can be really powerful in terms of the listening experience and how people are enjoying your content.   Dan Seguin  35:00  Yeah, now I've read a staggering stat that 75% of all podcasts fall victim to pod-fading. What are some recommended strategies to avoid that creator fatigue? How do you keep it spicy.   Rhys Waters  35:17  So, I would say that if you're a podcaster, and you have suddenly built a blossoming audience and your formula works, sometimes it can be terrifying to deviate from that formula and do something different. But then there's the the equal danger of remaining the same and becoming stale and losing your audience because you've become too predictable. So you do want to innovate and develop and improve your show over time. And that is terrifying for some people. Because, obviously, you don't want to put a foot wrong. You don't want to lose your audience. But the amazing thing about podcasts is that it is a community. So what you can do is you can have a conversation with your audience with your listeners, ask them for feedback. If they care about your show and they're tuning in, they care about the creative direction of it. So you can try things out, let them know you want to try something out and let them know if they like it or not. You can, it's not, you're not just throwing stones down while waiting for something to go plop, you're having a conversation with someone and you become part of their lives. So you should use that to help you improve your show and grow. And that will keep you excited, they'll keep you interested, they'll keep you engaged, they'll keep your audience engaged, and it means that it becomes much more of a an engaging process where you don't lose that creative energy and thirst because you you can tell yourself that you I'm getting better people you know the show's developing where we're going in a direction that we never expected to and this is exciting.   Jonathan Burns  36:48  I couldn't disagree with this more. There's nothing wrong with pod fade, pod fade every good thing needs to come to an end and It all does. You can't keep it going forever. It becomes a question of whether it's exhaustion or losing focus or losing interest, losing passion, but it is going to come to an end inevitably. I go back to our earlier conversation about understanding why you're doing it. And I think that becomes part of the motivators. If you've, if you understand your your, your inspiration and your drive and the reasons for doing this, it's going to extend that and keep you honed in and focused on the those the, you know, the creative principles that make your show good. And as you get better, we're always trying to strive for perfection and we're trying to improve, and if you're engaged with the process, it's going to go as long as it's going to go. But iteration, pivoting, changing, all of that is is normal as well. And so I'm I pod fades a funny term because pod fade sort of has that notion of exhaustion. I don't want to do this anymore. I can't continue and then it becomes a betrayal to your audience. I I'm on the other side of that I think good things can naturally come to an end. And you can start something new again. So So like I said, I completely disagree with   Rhys Waters  38:11  this happens a lot.   Dan Seguin  38:13  Okay,   Jonathan Burns  38:14  not publicly usually.   Rhys Waters  38:17  We both we both thrive off the creative energy of having different perspectives on what you what you can create in that so is a positive thing.   Dan Seguin  38:25  Speaking of digital marketing, podcasting is a great tool to add to your marketing strategy. How do podcasts impact search engine optimization?   Jonathan Burns  38:41  Actually, you're from a from a digital standpoint? Yes, I'll answer. I think we both should, because there's a lot of shifts now on on Google's algorithm looking for audio content. And trying to make sure it was one of the reasons why we transcribed most of the podcasts that we're doing because it has helps the algorithms find the topics that are being conversed. We are not experts on search engine optimization. However, we have a, you know, sort of a loose understanding of key topics and making sure keywords are distributed throughout all of your platforms. But yeah,it's a, I would stumble to answer this question accurately on how to best make your content optimized for search engines,   Rhys Waters  39:25  I guess. Fundamentally, this is an audio format, but most people find things by typing it in in a text format. So as the opportunities where you can really, you know, like Jonathan said, transcribe, and have decent show notes that really go into detail about who's on your show, what are they talking about what topics are relevant, you know, really trying to extract as much text based information from your podcast and putting it in an arena that is discoverable in those search terms, whether that's getting featured in news articles, whether that's tagged on YouTube, whether that is a section on your website or a blog post that is primarily just show notes for each podcast. That's the, you know, the making sure that that audio is translated into that text. medium is the only way to do it. But Jonathan's right in terms of search engine optimization. We're not experts in that, but the tools of transcription and sharing that is probably the best way to go down that route.   Dan Seguin  40:28  I'd love to hear your thoughts on what makes podcast so inherently personal. Is it that the experience of listening is intimate? That story creates a human connection? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one.   Rhys Waters  40:45  I think in the most basic terms of communication and storytelling, the human voice, you know, we've evolved for the human voice to be our main form of communication. That's how that's how, even when we were sitting around campfires sharing fables and stories. And, you know, it comes back to that kind of moment really where you people would share information, through stories through that medium in a way that really connects and really kind of educates people and really makes people feel so podcast is just a modern retake on on that. So it's built into us fundamentally to kind of flat to work is built in fundamentally for us to listen for us to enjoy that voice and build a relationship and really buy into what is being said. And one of the things that one of the stories I really like is the the storyteller the stories that are told by Australian Aboriginal tribes. And the stories they tell are actually maps. So if you wanted to get from one place to another, there was a story you would remember. And that story was actually gave you directions so as the hero went on, this journey might encounter a snake or A giant and it would resemble the landscape as you go. And it just shows that, you know, being able to remember a story that you've been told in that way, is such a powerful way of retaining information and learning and just absorbing what is what is being shared with you.   Jonathan Burns  42:19  Yeah, I think I mean, if I break it into two different categories, right, there's the scripted in the unscripted format. And the the scripted is usually really good at actually telling those specific stories. But I like I like the unscripted notion because it's like gathering around the campfire. And it's bringing people into those dialogues as an unscripted conversation. It's honest, you can reveal your character, your thoughts, what you're about, you don't really it's, it's exposing. People that are listening to this can make their assumptions and judgments of Daniel, myself and Rhys of the of the characters and the people that we are as we're speaking And I think I think that's the intimacy behind it. Somebody is able to participate in the conversation by being involved with it. Not necessarily having a voice on the show, but but still having a voice in some capacity. You're it's intimate I find, right. And I think of it as like that campfire invitation where people are gathered around, sharing thoughts, sharing ideas, sharing opinions, in an honest, humorous way.   Dan Seguin  43:29  Okay, are you able to share with our listeners, what podcasts you're loving right now?   Jonathan Burns  43:36  I love I listen to Masters of Scale. I've listened to it for a while. And it's from the one of the founders of LinkedIn. I like Masters of Scale, because it is the sort of the behind the scenes story of successful people before they're successful. And it and it talks about the humanity of us all. We all started in different spaces. And there's the It's the journey of your life or your career or success or a failure. And it goes into things like you know, fail fast and understanding that failure helps you grow and evolve. But I like the I like the tone of it. I like the casual approach. I like the behind the scenes look and feel. It's one of the ones that that I stick to, but also for coming from a Canadian standpoint. I put on The Debaters frequently, frequently from CBC as as a sort of a noise in the background to make me smile.   Rhys Waters  44:34  For me, I really like the insight you can get from podcasts and the conversations you can drop in on so I'm really into a show called The Art of the Cut, which is basically a podcast for video editors and people who are really nerdy about video editing and film methods. But they have some amazing guests. They have people who edited like the new Star Wars film or films like Ford versus Ferrari any any films that are, you know, released recently or big blockbuster movies, they have a really in depth conversation with the the team who edited them. And as someone who kind of geeks out on film,  it's just heaven. So that's what I really like about it. I don't know where I would hear those conversations without this medium. So it's a big recommendation. If you're as geeky as me about films.   Dan Seguin  45:25  Rhys, Jonathan, we've reached the end of another episode of The ThinkEnergy podcast. Last question for you. How can our listeners learn more about your company? about you? How can they connect?   Rhys Waters  45:42  Well, you could go to, which is our website which is the company that we founded and you can find all of our links to social media. You can get in touch with us you can read a bit about the kind of the work we do in the shows we've produced. And also I have a we also have a podcast called Podstarter. We've also have a podcast sorry, called pod starter that basically is us interviewing different podcasters, who have been on different journeys and have different stories to tell. And the idea is that we just want to look at successes, we want to look at failures, we want to look at the good and the bad. So you can listen in and learn about those experiences. And it's a real resource that we share with clients and with people we can usually find from our interviews a relevant story for for a client to to drop in and go out this is there's a lot of elements within this podcast, a story that I can learn from. And then I also have a show called Canadian politics is boring, which is a comedy show that we only started two months ago but has found an audience quite quickly and it's it's very, very silly, very fun kind of look at Canadian politics and you can find out find that on   Jonathan Burns  46:59  I was gonna say if you type in pod starter and don't find us we're not doing our job very well. So yeah, #podstarter. I think the only the only surprise is the But the search engines do, straighten that out. And then from a social standpoint, we are everywhere we need to be.   Dan Seguin  47:23  Again, thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you had a lot of fun.   Rhys Waters  47:29  Great, thank you.   Jonathan Burns  47:30  Thank you for having us. Appreciate it!   Dan Seguin  47:32  Thank you for joining us today. I truly hope you enjoyed this episode of think energy podcasts. For past episodes. Make sure you visit our website Lastly, if you found value in this podcast, be sure to subscribe. Anyway, this podcast is a wrap. Cheers, everyone.
Brands are struggling to find a new way to authentically connect to their customers and we are witnessing major communication disruptions. In an article that appeared in Adweek, Twitter said that users now trust influencers like YouTubers, almost as much as their friends. This is the age of influencer marketing. So here's today's big question. Should brands consider adding influencer marketing to their everyday marketing mix and is there a right way, and a wrong way to do it. Neal Schaffer, author of ‘The Age of Influence” gives us the scoop. Related Content & Links: Twitter feed: @NealSchaffer Amazon link to book: The Age of Influence: The Power of Influencers to Elevate Your Brand on paperback Website: Apple podcast link- Maximize Your Social Influence Podcast Transcript: Dan Seguin 0:02 Hey everyone! I'm Dan Segin from Hydro Ottawa. And I'll be hosting the ThinkEnergy podcast. PewDiePie, Dude Perfect, Hola Soy German, Whindersson Nunes, and El Rubius. While perhaps not household names to you and I, they are powerful influencers to Gen Z's audiences aged 13 to 18. In fact, these youtubers combined have 262 million subscribers, and are more influential to this generation than movie stars and politicians. It's not surprising that today's consumers are increasingly more savvy and critical of branded advertising. Gone are the days where advertising messages and propositions were trusted and taken at face value. In an online world where advertising is seen as more intrusive than valuable. Brands are struggling to find a new way to authentically connect to their customers, we are witnessing major communication disruptions. This includes declining television viewership, continued growth of social media audiences, an increase in ad blocking technology media Fasting, and a significant rise of noise clutter on all channels. It's becoming increasingly more difficult for brands, particularly energy brands to keep up with the digital landscape, as consumers take extreme measures to avoid being advertised to. With demand for attention on the rise and overwhelming product options on the market, consumers are beginning to lose sight of who they can trust. Is the energy industry facing a Kodak moment? In an article that appeared in Adweek, Twitter said that users now trust influencers like YouTubers, almost as much as their friends. This is the age of influencer marketing. So here's today's big question. Should brands consider adding influencer marketing to their everyday marketing mix and is there a right way, and a wrong way to do it. Our guest is no stranger to social media and the marketing world. He's the author of three books, teaches digital media to executives at New Jersey Business School, has a podcast called maximize your social influence, orchestrates digital transformation for leading businesses and is fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. Dear listeners, please welcome Neal Schaffer. Hey Neil, how would you define influencer marketing? And can you give us some examples of brands doing it well? Neal Schaffer 3:48 Thanks Daniel. So influencer marketing is something that I think a lot of people are mystifying or they're mis educated on or they've been misinformed about. You know, when I look at influencer marketing, I look at Who has online influence? Who has digital influence? So, yes, celebrities have digital influence. But there's a lot of other people that I've influenced because there's so many of us that use social media that build communities, in the hundreds in the thousands in the 10s of thousands, but even those people that have communities in the thousands are still able to influence others, right. And even in the influencer marketing industry, where they have gone smaller and smaller, you know, with each year we they used to talk about macro influencers, then mid tier influencers, and then micro influencers, which are people that have between, you know, 50 to maybe 500,000 followers. And then over the last year or two, we talked about nano influencers, people with one to 10,000 followers. And if you think about, you know, I don't know about Canada, I'm assuming it's pretty similar demographic wise, but in the United States, the majority of the workforce are millennials. So these are digital natives that have been doing social media since it began. And they've built up communities over time, right. And so when you start to look around you realize that there's a lot of people that already know like and trust us that already may have some influence. These might be employees, these might be your customers, your followers online people that mentioned your brand online that have some brand affinity for you. So, you know, when when so many people immediate influences become so democratized anybody can really have influence. And that's where I tell, you know, the companies that I work with, don't just look at number of followers, but also look at that brand affinity and your chances of success of working with nano influencers that actually are your customers are going to be much greater than working with a celebrity who just sees working with you as a one time transaction, you really want to develop long term relationships. So, you know, there is as far as brands, I mean, there are so many consumer brands that are doing influencer marketing, it's crazy. In fact, Estee Lauder is an example of a brand that they announced that 75% of their marketing budget is going to influencer marketing. There's one brand that I like to bring up as sort of a case study they're called Rose Field and they are a watch company. So they, you know, there's a bunch of these, like watch brands that, that you've never heard of them, but all of a sudden they pop up on Instagram, and everyone's talking about them. And now they're a huge company. So they're actually, I believe they're originally a Dutch company, they also have a headquarters in New York City. And they basically have created really the ideal type of program that I talked about in the age of influence, which is really, you know, the build a long term program of people that already know like, and trust you. So how do they build the program? Well, they went into their email list, they went into their customer, you know, database, and they looked at their followers, and just by doing this exercise, they found Wow, there's a lot of people of influence that that already know, like, and trust us and from there, you know, some of them were better content creators, so let's use those to do you know, those people, maybe we work more on the content side. Some were really great, you know, amplifiers, they weren't the best content creators are aligned with a brand but they create a lot of great conversations, they can amplify. And then there are others that might refer us to other members. And they made it open anyone and everyone, I mean, anyone can apply. And from that program, they've just developed a tremendous amount of benefits, you know, increases all around the board in terms of KPIs, and all they've given to everyone that's joined is either exclusive access to, you know, products before they go on sale, or basically shop points that they can shop for free. So there's no monetary transaction. And when I tell this to people blows them away, there's so used to this, pay someone $100 or $1,000, on Instagram, and we don't know where that money's going, or if they're, if the influence is real, or so there's a lot of different ways of doing it. And, you know, I tell brands, you know, really think holistically about who has influence. It's not just the celebrities, there's a lot more influence a lot more people with influence out there. And if we go back to the model that, you know, more than almost 20 years ago, this model that says the top 1% of online users or content creators, you then have 9% that are sort of engagers/commenters, and they have 90% that are lurkers? Well the top 1% of any social network is a lot of people. I mean, if LinkedIn is 500 million users, that's 5 million people that you can engage with, right? If Instagram has 1 billion that's still you know, 10 million people. So there's a lot of people out there don't just think celebrities really think holistically and find people that you can align with and collaborate with for mutual benefit. Dan Seguin 8:23 What was the driving force behind your book on influencer marketing? Neal Schaffer 8:28 So I you know, in classic sort of, you know, content marketing or marketing we want to serve our customer. We want to serve our community. And it's interesting because with Coronavirus, this is my advice for every company. How can you serve your community? If you can't serve them physically? How do you serve them virtually, there are restaurants here in Orange County, California where I live that you know, you can order like a box family meal and they'll include facemask. They'll include toilet paper, right? It's one way of serving their community, even above and beyond your own product. So with that in mind you exist you know business exists to serve society, this actually a quote from an executive at Walmart, believe it or not that I like to share, and with Coronavirus, we all sort of tap into that. So, because of that I am the exact same way. I'm an educator, I'm an author. I'm a consultant. I'm a speaker. So it's all about what are the needs in the market? And I really found about two to three years ago, this was a question that I kept getting a lot about, not just influencer marketing, but a lot of marketers that are saying, you know, my friend is making $1,000 every time they post on Instagram, how do I become an influencer? So this concept of digital influence, I thought there was something to it and the more research I did Daniel, the more I realized all this miseducation in that it had a lot more power than most people in businesses knew about. And that's why I decided to write the book and the book actually was a test market on a crowdfunding platform, but it did so well that I'm gonna write the book and then you know, HarperCollins leadership reaches out to me and, and the rest is history. So, and I still think you know, when we look at marketing, communications, right, you have a website you have content for search engines, right? You have you have content marketing, you have email, you have social media and I believe that sort of, you know, collaborating with others through influencer marketing, whether it's employees or customers or, or outside people becomes another sort of pillar of marketing communication that I think every company should have a budget for. So I think it's going to really have long term value. It's definitely not just a trend, but it's going to serve companies that read the book and listen to this podcast well, Dan Seguin 10:28 Neil, let me ask you this: If the goal is to plug into the communities and connect energy brands to new audiences through the voice and trusted relationships of an influencer, how do brands ensure a proper fit? Neal Schaffer 10:46 Yeah, that's a great question. And that's an area where I think a lot of brands that just chase that number of followers model, there's a relevance in a few different ways that there has to be content relevance, right. So if they are, you know, people out there that maybe once they talked about solar energy, right, so maybe you have a Solar Energy Initiative and you want to align with them. But when you do further analysis, they talked about solar energy once in their last 100 posts. And really, they don't talk about solar energy at all. It's just something that came up. So this is a mistake, you use an analytic tool, oh, they've talked about solar energy, you immediately contact them, and it's not their main thing. So that's one area where you may have misalignment is on the content side, you're working with the wrong person. And if you throw money out, I'm sure they'll take it, right. I mean, some influencers really are in it for the money, not everybody, right? Those are the ones you don't want to work with. But then there's the brand alignment. And this comes down to you know, the tone of their content that the visuals they use, and really, you know, if you can imagine if your content appeared in their feed, just from a philosophical perspective, would it be aligned with your brand. would it look right, would it look right in their feed and would it look right to you as well, but it looks like a good representation. You can't really control how it's going to look. But if it's something similar in look and feel, what's that alignment look like and this is why, Daniel, you know, marketing is sort of this one to many approach. But I believe that influencer marketing is almost we can almost call it influencer relations. And it's almost more geared towards public relations than marketing because it really is a one to one you really need to do analysis, you may find a few hundred people through a tool or through analysis, but you really got to dig deep into each one to make sure that there is alignment on those different areas that I talked about. Dan Seguin 12:37 What kind of return on investment does influencer marketing offer compared to other marketing channels? Neal Schaffer 12:45 So there's already been a lot of data that says that you know, for every dollar spent in influencer marketing, you get $7 ROI or, you know, you get double the ROI after six months compared to traditional ad spend. So if you were to do a search for influencer marketing ROI statistics. There's a lot of studies out there. So I think that obviously, there's no one Golden Rule. But there are many ways to leverage influencers. So obviously there is that brand partnership brand sponsorship sort of content sponsorship, content amplification, right? Where if you were to work with an influencer, who agreed to amplify your content, you know, what, what would that look like in terms of the engagement they get or the clicks they get compared to what you're doing? compared to like paid media, for instance, that's a really, really good way to compare it. But there's other ways of looking at it. Daniel, what if you're a smart, small brand, who nobody is talking about online? You know, part of social media is about inciting word of mouth marketing. And the easiest way to do that is to really, you know, collaborate with influencers, send them product, get them talking about your company. And that's a really high ROI just in terms of brand awareness that it's hard for you as a brand to create, if nobody knows you, because you're gonna have to create it through advertising. And that trust factor is just very, very different, right? But we can go further, well, we're creating our own visuals and our own videos. But you know, these influencers are creating really, really good looking videos really, really good looking photos doing drone footage, but, man, we just can't do it the same way that this content creator does. So, you know, why don't we instead of doing it ourselves or hiring an agency, why don't we just directly work with the influencer? So this is an area of working with content creators to actually lower your expenses sometimes and maybe get the additional benefit that they're gonna publish that on social media as well. And then you get into Well, we really want to create a community of people we can tap into to understand what people are interested in like a focus group, right? And this is another way you can leverage influencers so the ROI like anything else in in social media, I mean, there's so many different ways to measure it, but there's also these intangible benefits that, you know, invariably, you're going to get when you do it right. Dan Seguin 14:53 Can you share with us what are the most effective forms of influencer marketing? What are your thoughts on the value of sponsored content? Neal Schaffer 15:05 So sponsored content is really interesting. You know, when we talk about sponsored content, it sort of taps into that, you know, transactional relationship. You know, we create the content, you publish it, and probably we're going to pay you money or something of that sort. So, I think there's still role that sponsored content can play. But you know, it's always going to be more authentic and more trustworthy when it comes from the influencer themselves, right? And that's an ideal scenario. But we don't all have the brand affinity with every influencer, we may not have the relationships with each influencer. So that is a way to start a relationship, right? If you want to collaborate with someone, maybe spend a little money for sponsored content for distribution, so at least your content gets out to their network. There's obviously value there. And really, you know, Daniel, in the age of influence has a chapter of like, you know, the 15 different ways you can you can work with influencers, so that definitely is one. And it's one that's been around for a while. But you know, based off that what if, in addition not sponsored content, you were going to do a giveaway, and said, Hey, we're going to give you one year of free software, or we're going to give away 100 products. And then imagine that influencer, it makes him or her look good, because they are indirectly sponsoring this giveaway where they're giving away free stuff to their community, right? And then they're gonna want to promote that even more. So then you get to this win win. And then what if, hey, as part of this, we'd love if you could, you know, create another post actually reviewing the product that's part of the giveaway, would you be interested in that? And then you begin to tap into that authentic voice of that person even though you gave them the product, hey, this company, you know, sent me the product, but all my opinions are personal, their mind. And then you get into a deeper relationship that I think, you know, the more the influencer wins, the more it's in their best interest to collaborate with you and share your content. The higher the ROI is going to be right where you want to get to a point where they're where they're an advocate, they're going to talk about you without You're even having to ask. So as an initial entryway sponsored content does have a role. And if you're working with big players, obviously sponsored content has a role there. But I would only use that as an initial strategy, not the final strategy. Dan Seguin 17:14 Influence isn't necessarily tied to popularity. A large following is not necessarily a predictor of success in influencer marketing. What are your thoughts on working with influencers that are integrated and prolific on a variety of channels, as opposed to those who limit themselves to predominantly one platform or medium? Neal Schaffer 17:39 That's a really, really good question. And I think that, you know, marketing is all about getting in front of your customer. So you first got to ask yourself, where are my customers? If you are a b2b organization, you're probably not going to be focusing on tik tok, for instance, right? That's probably not where your customer is. So you definitely want to have those channels where your customers are, you definitely want to be working with influencers that have coverage on those platforms. Now what you'll find, generally speaking, it's hard to be good at every platform. The only person that can do it is Gary Vaynerchuk. And he has a staff of, I don't know, 15-20-25 people that allow him to do that. So, for individual influencers, you'll find that they usually have one strong network. You know, when we think about tik tok, we think about Charlie, this 15 year old who, who's made it big in no time, so her she's tiktok, there's Instagram people, there's YouTube people, right. And I would almost argue that, you know, find people that are really good, you know, if you could find a mix of people, that some of them are really good at one thing, some are good at another, but they have your platforms covered. I almost think that that's going to be in terms of reach a better strategy, and it's more natural, because it's impossible to be as good in all these platforms. It's just there's just not enough time in the day to be able to do that even for really really good content creators and and where people so we're, you know, we tend to be passionate, you know, Dan, I'm sure you have like a favorite social network or to I have a favorite social network or to where we tend to spend more time and they're no different. So to expect them to be good at everything. I think it's unrealistic. And I don't think it's going to serve you well at the end. Dan Seguin 19:11 Knowing that a critical component of an effective influencer marketing campaign is establishing a trusted relationship with a relevant influencer, when who's in tune with your audience's needs and desires? and whom your audience will look to when they're making purchase decisions? Is there a checklist for companies when aligning themselves with an influencer? Neal Schaffer 19:37 Here's the thing. So I consider you know, you're trying to develop relationships with a lot of people. So let's say you come from the PR world, there's 100 different you know, newspaper reporters, media relations, you want to create relationships with all these hundred people. You might do the same outreach to all of them, but not everybody responds. So I think it's less of a checklist. I mean, yes, there are things you Want to analyze to make sure they're the right fit. At the end of the day, you're going to reach out to a lot of people, and not all of them are going to convert. And what I mean by that is not not everyone's gonna respond to you. Some will respond the first time. And then sometimes you have an autoresponder that kicks in a second email and some respond to that. Some if you go on a Twitter, they're going to respond to a DM, but everybody's different. But at the end of the day, not everybody is going to respond to your request for collaboration or your outreach. So you're only going to be working with a subset to begin with those that actually responded. So from there, I mean, the only checklist is to have an open ended conversation, right? What is it? You know, first of all, how do you normally work with companies? Have you ever worked with companies what is what are the ways in which you work with them? What is your, you know? How can we help you? Oh, you know, you're looking for speaking opportunities every month we have, you know, we have monthly town halls, you know, here in Ottawa or wherever You know, we can put you on a panel next time, right? For instance, I'm just thinking out loud here. So, you know, the only checklist is to be human. And to listen, instead of saying, we, we want you, we're going to ship your product, we want you to post, you know, once on Instagram three Instagram stories all on different days of the week. And then over the weekend, we want you to post once on Facebook once in Twitter, and we're going to send you a $25 amazon gift card. And this is the mistake that so many brands make because they don't understand what are the needs of the influence of what do they want to do. And if you offer that without asking, you could never you could come to a situation where the influencer is so angry that you that you know $25 amazon gift card would be worth their time that they're never going to respond to you again. Maybe they put your email in spam filter or they block you and you're never gonna have a chance to work with that influencer. So it's always about the most important checklist item is having that open ended conversation from there. Sure. You know, what are you going to do together, make sure you Follow up. They're people too sometimes they're they're late on things. How are you doing? How can we help you? But I don't think there's one standard, you know that there's a checklist for the process that I went through, right? which ends in then publishing content, you're analyzing that content. And then over time, you know, looking into the program, who are our best performers, maybe do more with them? Maybe try to bring some new people in maybe the least performing people maybe you don't allow in next year. You know, you have these annual contract type of relationships. But there's no as you can imagine, because everybody's so different. And their needs are so different. It's really hard to have that one standard checklist I think every marketer would love to have. Dan Seguin 22:34 Why has influencer marketing grown to become one of the most powerful form of marketing, in social media? And in general? Neal Schaffer 22:45 Yes, I think there's a few trends that have driven the growth and have increased the power of influencer marketing. And once again, we take a holistic perspective, we take a step back, and we look at how you know from a digital first mentality, how to We get the word out about our company. So we have a website check. We're doing SEO check. We're doing email marketing, marketing, automation check. We're doing content marketing, and we have a blog, we're doing content, various forms, check. We're doing social media check. Well, where else you're gonna spend your money. Right? And those are the main ones. But specifically within social media, there's a problem. Because social media organically just does not does not matter anymore. It's impossible for companies to get a lot of reach organically, because social networks are truly become pay to play. So this pushes a lot of companies into using their social media budget for performance marketing or paid social, but then it's an advertisement. It's not the same. It's not organic. Some people don't trust ads, some people come to me blockout ads, right. So that is one major trend. That is pushing people from organic to paid but paid is really not the solution on the other hand, Social media was made for people, not businesses, and who do social media? Who do users relate to? They relate to people just like them. That's why all these people have become have built these big communities. They're like us, they're not celebrities. These influences not start out as celebrities, right? They started out as people like us. They're authentic, they're transparent. And it's very, very hard for brands to do that, to compete with that. They're not humans, we talk about humanizing the brand. But at the end of the day, they're not humans, humans are humans, they have an advantage. So that's the other. That's this relatability factor, you know, any brand, could it become a talker? Could it become a YouTuber? Could they didn't write, they had the opportunity, but they failed to do that because it you know, for many reasons that we can have another podcast episode just on that. But people have gained people have seized the opportunity and they have gained that influence. So you know, these are the trends even with Coronavirus, it's no different the trends are still there. And you know with social media This notion of sort of, you know, viral word of mouth marketing, if you really want to get that going, it's not going to happen through paid advertisement. And it's not going to happen through your own organic social, it's going to happen to influencers, when other people that people relate to and trust, start talking about your brand. So those are sort of the trends that push influencer marketing. That's why you have a lot of brands and Instagram just don't even publish their own content. It's 100%, UGC, or user generated content, in recognition of that fact they can't compete, and this content is probably going to outperform. So when you take that concept and you apply it to everything you do in marketing, you begin to see the power that influencers can bring. Neal, Dan Seguin 25:40 is it fair to say that conventional marketing approaches don't stand much of a chance against the benefit content marketing provides? Where should energy brands be focusing their attention in terms of influencer marketing? Any recommendations and thoughts on leveraging user generated content from influencers and repurposing that content? Neal Schaffer 26:07 Yeah, so actually, you know, Daniel, it brings up something that I've yet to bring up. But one of my early clients was actually one of the utilities companies out here in California. And and so I had, I had a chance to work with their team. And they originally reached out to me, because they were looking for a consultant that dealt with social media crisis communications. And what I taught them was that the best way to manage crises is to do it proactively is to build goodwill. And do it. And this is actually they ended up having a major crisis A few years ago, but before that, they didn't even have a crisis they wanted to prepare for, right. So by proactively building goodwill with your community, you're now building an army of people that will support you. Right? Hopefully, when, when it's not a matter of if when things happen, because things in the utilities there's always going to be these things right. So then we start to look at Well, you know, who are the who are influencers, we're not talking about influence I look at who is active in social media as a content creator, locally. And for utilities companies, it's gonna come down to the region where you live, who are the local influencers, some of them may talk about food. Some of them may talk about passion, some of them may talk about local tourism, but there's these lifestyle categories that you can choose from where you can find people, right to collaborate with. Now, when I work with this utilities company, I realized at least the laws the United States are, if you share content from other sources, you're indirectly sponsoring them and there are regulations regarding that. So that's what makes leveraging user generated content for public utilities a little bit tricky. Now, this was several years ago. I don't know if the regulations have changed, right? So you at the end of the day, may not be able to leverage their content, your platform, but it doesn't mean you can't create a relationship with them, where maybe you interview them. Then it is your content. And probably interviews are something where you're not sponsoring them. you're reaching out, you're reaching out, you know, every maybe one day a week, you have a live stream featuring a local influencer, man, you know, if a public utility company was to reach out to an influencer, saying we'd like to feature you on our channel, can you imagine how exotic most people would be the exposure they get? So this is what I tell brands. And you know, I've talked about brands very generally here, but it applies to utilities as well. There are a lot of things that you can offer influencers as part of a collaboration outside of money. And if you offer money, it may get tricky because of the same regulations. For instance, do you have an audio studio? Do you have a video studio? You could rent that out? Hey, you know, I know you create a lot of videos, we have a video studio, you know, just whenever you want to use it, let us know we'll let you use it. I mean, that that is a unique benefit that you can offer, or if you ever need a meeting room. I mean, these are these are little things, especially utilities because you have to Big infrastructure that you can offer. And you do, you know, it's funny, this utility reached out to me because they had a small business event and where they you know, part of utilities, you have a b2c, but you have the b2b right? So for the b2b, they do these small business events, let us help educate you on you know, accounting, finance, sales, marketing, and so I was one of the speakers. So this is another area in which obviously, if you do events where you can reach out to, to influencers. So, there's a lot of different ways to do it. And I don't know why if I was a utility company, you know, in your I would be proactively doing this because that is really going to relate yourself to the community, then the people in your community see you as a partner, as a collaborator, that you're talking to all these people that a lot of people think are cool, right? It just indirectly it's going to shine on you, your brand, and it's going to make you I believe, a more trustworthy entity because there's seen someone from the company interview someone that I relate to I think that's a huge, powerful, really, really easy way that utility companies can can begin. Now, if the regulations allow you to leverage user generated content. That's awesome. So, you know, when I work with this utility company on content strategy, you know, obviously, there's some content that's that's education. Right? Please make sure you know, if you see a down a power line, please contact, you know, 911 there's certain things that as a public utility you need to put out there, you know, once a week, once a month, whatever it is. And then there's always at the time, hey, make sure you sign up for e-bill service, right? There are many benefits for utility companies. When people sign up online and do things electronically, it makes it much more efficient, right? So there's also these initiatives you have it, maybe you have like new rates, or public hearings, so that there's some public affairs things need to have, but what are you going to talk about every day? The other stuff are community stuff right? Now, if your surety company is very active in the community, as you probably are, there's a lot of stuff that you can be publishing about, which isn't directly related to energy per se, but it's indirectly related. Do what you're doing in the community. So with that bucket of content similarly, these are these are you know community heroes, hashtag community heroes where every week you bring in a different influencer and how they're contributing to the community and how by you know this foodie influencer has helped tons of small businesses generate you know income during COVID-19 what, you know, thank you for your service to our community. Tell us you know, what, what are some of your favorite restaurants locally? This is I mean utility company because we serve people that you should become sort of the local voice, local cultural voice of your community and influencers are the key to help you do that. Dan Seguin 31:36 How important are social listening tools as it relates to influencer marketing any recommendations? Neal Schaffer 31:44 Yes, a social listening tools have you know, the earliest type of social media for business tool was the listening tool because social media for business began with PR. If people say bad things about us we want to know right reputation management is where all this started back in 2007 / 2008. Now listening tools can still serve that purpose and you shouldn't be listening to, if people are complaining you want to, you know, you want to proactively reach out to those people. But listening tools also give us the ability to find out who's talking about us. And if people are talking about us, and you know, this is where we get back to finding people that already have brand affinity, there may be fans as a utility, everyone's your customer, but some people like your brand more than others. So instead of listening to social listening, to find the negative, you search for the positive, and you start to make a list of people, for instance, I was at a conference right before lockdown started. And it is a pharmaceutical company that actually makes something like these, these lozenges that you take that reduce the chance of your cold going on for longer than expected and someone at the CDC here recommended that you take that as part of an effort to reduce Coronavirus. So they were sold out. They were sold out for months. But the marketing director was you know, Neal, I want to how do i do leverage this situation, I said, Look, use your social listening tool to talk about who's saying positive things about you, and start to develop those relationships. Even if you can't do any advertising. Now, you can still develop relationships over the next few months, and then activate them. When you can, you know, when you do have factory capacity, you can start talking to people. Same thing with utilities companies, who is talking about who are the who are the positive people talking about you, and start to make a list, right. And then you might notice some patterns. Some of these people have a larger following than others. Some might be specialized in food or travel. And some, you know, might be mentioning you more often than others, and therefore, they have deeper brand affinity with you. So social listening tool is really great way to begin to sort of figure out what are people saying about you from a reputation management perspective from a sentiment analysis perspective, but also who, you know, might be fans out there who might have said, Oh, my gosh, I signed up to email and now I say, 5% of my bills for the next 12 months. Did you even know the service existed? Or are you know, Hey, I just want To this event sponsored by, you know, the power company, it was really cool. Have you ever heard of it? I mean, you just never know. Right? So that's where I'd use social listening tools to really, you know, you can proactively reach out to people, like I talked about there. But when people are already talking about you, it makes it really easy to join the conversation. It makes it really easy. I was gonna say, slide into the DM to begin that conversation with them with a thank you, or we're listening. And that can make I mean, they're human right, that can make a world of difference in breaking the ice and beginning that collaborative relationship. Dan Seguin 34:32 You know, step one of effective influencer marketing starts when identifying relevant influencers for our brand. Once we embark in this adventure, how do we manage those types of relationships? Do you recommend taking a campaign based approach when working with influencers? Or is it better to test the waters with only a temporary commitment to see how they resonate with our audiences? On a related topic, what should be considered for program management and metrics? What needs to be understood from executives and influencers alike? Neal Schaffer 35:16 yeah, I'd say the first step in an influencer strategy is not you know, influencer identification, it really starts with what's the objective? What are you trying to do here? So, my voice for executives is, you know, look we're going to work with, we're going to try to find people to work with. And we are going to vet them to make sure that they're aligned with our brand, we'll, we'll contact legal to make sure they're on board. If you want to review every one of these profiles before we collaborate with them. That's great. You have the right to do it. It's it's everybody's program. You know, we're just helping the company. And we are not even going to increase spend. We're just going to take we're going to divert money from paid media to fund this and we're going to to try out, and we're going to report back to you on how we did from from a KPI perspective. And these are our objectives, you know, paid social not as effective. We want to get more word of mouth and social, we want to get more mentions. We want to get more, you know, traffic to our website, we want to create more content, and they're going to help us do that. So really what are, you know, when you asked me that second question, Daniel about, you know, what are the KPIs? What are the metrics? Well, that that is not unique to influencers. This is marketing, communications in general, what are your KPIs? If it's Media Relations, it's you know, number of number of publications, you know, number of clips, whatever it is, I mean, it's no different here. It's the same KPIs that you would have for content marketing, or for paid social media, as you have working with influencers, right. So, you know, these are the things I think you need to keep in mind. And, you know, when creating this sort of program, it is very much going to be based on one to one relationship. So I think it's totally okay to say, Hey, we're just beginning a program. We Want To make a long term program, but right now we're just, we're just sort of testing the waters. And, you know, we think you'd make a great fit. And we just want to see how we might be able to work with each other. And maybe, you know, you do start a little small, we'd like a pilot run of, you know, a few or a dozen or however many. And you have them do one action, right, whether we go back to that sponsor content, whether it is an interview, whether it is content, co-creation, I mean, whatever it is, you know, one action, and from that action, what were the results? And we have to remember that there are positive KPIs, but there's also how did it help us reduce things like reduce costs, so we use an agency to record our video. Well, you know, instead of having an executive, go to our agency's Video Studio, and record a video interview that got 10 views on YouTube over the last week, we worked with an influencer and did a live stream which they shared with their fans, and we got 1000 visitors and when we archive this on YouTube, We're probably going to get a lot more than 10 views over the course of a week. And we didn't have to pay the agency money to do this, because the influencer agreed to do it for free for exposure. So you really got to look holistically, you know, executive speak the language of Excel, right? What helped us boost things, but also, was there anything to help us reduce costs? And you'll be surprised with influencers, especially with content creation, you may find that to be the case. So, you know, yes, start small. At the end of the day, you want long term relationships. So, you know, start with one activation, one campaign and then see how it goes. And you know, some you're going to invite to the next one. Others, you may say, hey, it was great working together. We have a long term approach. We don't have any, you know, openings in our program now, but we'll definitely reach out in the future when we do and leave it at that because you don't want any burnt bridges here. These people may end up you know, increasing their influence over the course of a few months and you may want to bring them back in and test them again. Right. But that's sort of the the effort. You know, it is something I think one person can do, but it's like PR You almost need to have someone that's dedicated to really managing those relationships because it is going to take time and influencers are busy people, they're not going to return your calls right away. They're working with a lot of other entities sometimes and, and you want to be top of mind, so it's going to take time invested to work well with them. Dan Seguin 39:16 Okay, what are some of the barriers and risks to working with influencers? Does it revolve around choosing who? How to engage? And the lack of control over messaging? Neal Schaffer 39:29 Well, yeah, there's definitely lack of control of messaging. And but when you think about it, Daniel, I don't think that brands are in control of their messaging. Because at the end of the day, people are going to say what they want about the brand, and they're going to share that in social anyway. So if you realize you never had control in the first place, you can try to influence people. But once again, it's coming from a brand, not a person so and people believe people like themselves way more than they believe. advertising agencies are people that work in PR and marketing. So the writing's on the wall there. you know, we have seen some influencer campaigns that ended up sort of tarnishing the brand. And a lot of the that happened because it was transactional, please make sure you copy and paste this message at exactly this time. And you have you've had some of your influences literally copy and paste the message, including that copy and paste this message bar. And then it went out the social media, right? Or, you know, thank you xX xX for drafting me, you know, in the NBA draft and they forgot to fill in the name of the team that drafted them, right. So those are full positive happen because influencers are are treated as programmable ad units, right. And it's transactional in nature. That's not what I'm recommending you do here. So when you work long term, you don't have control, but I think it is totally okay to say hey, before you publish, we just like to have a chance to review it, and maybe offer suggestions on how to improve it. And that's your quality control that is totally okay to do. Most influencers would say sure, you know, no problem. So that would give you the ability to mitigate risk, but I think The biggest way to mitigate risks is to do it up front is choosing the right influencer to work with. 
View 64 more appearances
Get appearance alerts
Subscribe to receive notifications by email whenever this creator appears as a guest on an episode.

Subscribe to receive notifications by email whenever this creator appears as a guest on an episode.

Share Profile
Are you Dano? Verify and edit this page to your liking.


Recommend This Creator

Recommendation sent

Join Podchaser to...

  • Rate podcasts and episodes
  • Follow podcasts and creators
  • Create podcast and episode lists
  • & much more

Creator Details

Dec 7th, 1962
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Episode Count
Podcast Count
Total Airtime
14 hours, 37 minutes
Podchaser Creator ID logo 685581