If you’ve taken a glance at the title of today’s podcast, you’ll notice something slightly different -- the lack of a guest. No illustrious mind, no illuminating marketer. Instead, it’s my name -- and today, I’ll be telling, albeit briefly, my own story. After all, you may have wondered at one point or another -- what’s this guy doing this for? Why did he choose this path? And for goodness sake, why’s he doing it full time? All good questions. And perhaps I’ll boil it down to one which I’ll address in this abbreviated episode: why am I here?
So if you’ll allow me, let’s dive into a slightly different version of Authentic Avenue.
FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW:
Alright, I think we can probably do without the fanfare. After all, I don’t purport to have the import of those CMOs and founders with whom I typically share this precious time. And what’s more, I tend to believe that my authentic story carries none of the flourish or the flash that many of the Fortune 500 names I have the pleasure of featuring do. This one’s just me; just Adam. I haven’t even fully scripted this episode -- because I think I speak best when it’s in the moment and slightly off the cuff. Now, that said, I won’t ramble -- I’ll keep this relatively organized and, as mentioned up top, abbreviated compared to the half hours you’re accustomed to hearing on this show.
As a result of that organization, I want to cover three points today which I think illustrate my story in this lens well, and which I think will help you understand where I’d like to take this venture. First, I’d like to briefly explain why I chose this format at all, why the heck I’m even on a podcast in the first place. Second, I’ll go briefly into why this specific topic, brand authenticity, is so interesting and important to me. And finally I’ll explain what I’m looking forward to as Authentic Avenue moves through 2021. It’s my hope that by the end, you see more than Adam Conner the host; you see Adam Conner the person (and maybe, partner -- but not until the very end).
So, let’s begin. Why am I on the mic? Why did I land on a podcast? Well, truth be told, it was a product of being naïve. You see, I have a history of acting and public speaking -- I began doing the latter competitively at the age of 11. And even though I couldn’t make a career out of that specific talent (though a Toastmasters world championship is on the bucket list), I thought maybe I could do it on the stage or screen. My senior year of college presented a choice -- move to Hollywood as an actor with a manager lined up, or take the safe route. I, like so many others, avoided the risk and went into software sales. I don’t regret it at all -- any good businessperson needs those skills -- but it wasn’t where the passion was. Not to mention, going into sales as a Harvard graduate was seen as a failure at the time; it might still be, I don’t know. But at the time if you weren’t doing consulting, i-banking, working on a campaign, doing a startup, that sort of thing, it was like...what the hell were you doing? (Speaking of that competitive public speaking talent, this is actually something I talked about when I was chosen to speak during Harvard graduation week.)
Of course, this wasn’t the naïve part of the story -- I enjoyed that first job and learned from some pretty impressive brand-builders. The naïve part was thinking that I could scratch that artistic itch with my whole heart on the side. I knew I wouldn’t be able to act on stage, work in film, or really even become a niche YouTuber whilst working against an annual quota -- but in the fall of 2016 I looked at the audio medium and thought, “huh. Seems like less work. I don’t even need to show my face. I just speak and publish, right? I mean, how hard could that be?”
Very hard, as it turns out. I remember post-producing my first podcast’s trailer -- it took two whole work nights to get the piece together into a 3-minute segment I thought worthy of judgment. Despite the input, I enjoyed the output enough to explore further. It was a humble start -- my first interview guests included high school friends, the coach at my gym, plenty of people from Harvard who had done the more impressive things I supposedly hadn’t. But regardless of the status, I was always able to craft the story -- a great equalizer of sorts, considering speaking was actually an area where I could go pound for pound with anyone.
That show ran for about 90 episodes and petered out in the spring of 2018, which was when I started to realize that I hadn’t exactly written the Great American Novel -- or podcast, as the case may be -- my first time around. Soon after that I left the sales job (the company had been acquired and was being absorbed) and ventured into startup land in an attempt to change the world. This time, the business itself was around storytelling -- specifically technology to help brands elevate consumer voice at scale through content experiences. Think white-labeled Snapchat lenses operated within brand environments and properties for use by customers instead of a social network for use by anyone. (God, they would have killed me for explaining it like that.)
I came in to manage relationships with enterprise level clients who had come on board...officially. But even though it was work technically on the other side of the signatures I’d been chasing previously, I couldn’t help but think about the development side...and how my content background might help. So I made a simple pitch to our founder & CEO -- I asked her to trust me, and to test the construction of a podcast as a means of building thought leadership and learning more from our partners both present and potential. I thought it would be quite something if I could tell the story of some of the best storytellers out there in the business world.
That test turned into about 120 episodes of another podcast which was called Authentic Influence, and which featured some of the biggest brands in the world over its nearly two-years-long life between October of 2018 and August of 2020. I was hooked -- I was finding myself in the room with the absolute most important names in marketing and, on special occasion, found those names coming to me with their stories. Alongside that, I saw that the business of telling the story of storytellers was booming. In January 2019, Nadine Dietz of CMO Moves fame was acquired by Adweek and she became their Chief Community Officer. In April 2019, Gallery Media Group (part of Gary Vaynerchuk’s VaynerX) got into the mix via the CMO Podcast with Jim Stengel, former CMO of P&G. And in March 2020, Pete Krainik’s CMO Club got acquired by Salesforce. I admired all these people greatly and hoped to someday reach their level of success.
(Fun fact, for the listeners who have stuck with me until this point, and thanks for doing so -- I even reached out to everyone I mentioned to try and learn from them directly and offer any insight I could during this time. I was either ignored, blocked on LinkedIn, or turned away as a vendor -- which really crushed me, I was actually deeply hurt by that. I won’t reveal the exact who’s who, but I was left confused. I was like, we’re all producing podcasts with CMOs, and you all have decades of experience on me -- am I a threat or something? Anyway, I’ll leave it, but that little detail really pissed me off.)
I was flying high with my craft -- the test had paid off. And then...2020. Everyone has their own sentence for what befell them in 2020, whether it be professional or personal. For me, the biggest blow was to my job -- the startup I was a part of collapsed abruptly in August (I remember because I’d just published episode 123, and for whatever reason that stuck in my head). And, with it, the podcast ended unceremoniously. I didn’t own the published material and so I couldn’t develop on it any longer. It just stopped dead in its tracks. That hurt nearly as much as being spurned by my role models in the space.
There was one silver lining. Sure, my content was gone. Sure, the safe paved path which I’d chosen upon graduation had forked and reduced to gravel. But as it diverged, a few of the skills I’d been compounding converged:
I could run an interview just about as well as anyone out there -- my opinion,
As a startup employee, I was prepared for the worst and learning how to be scrappy all the while, and
I now had two chapters of experience in building a business for someone else.
You might know where this is going, but the trail forward actually was quite clear -- I couldn’t let the craft go. I still had a story to tell, I still felt compelled to share the stories of others. And brands across the country and the world were going through their own 2020 moments. I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to document what I was observing. Sure, I had no personal audience. And sure, I hadn’t been acquired by a blue-chip name. But if not me, who?
So, I said what Leo DiCaprio said as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf Of Wall Street: I’m not leaving. (You know, without the whole drugs and making-a-million-dollars-a-week stuff.) I started Authentic Avenue. A superhighway of stories, all about the journeys brands were taking to their personal truths, through the eyes of their leaders. The shtick being, as you know by now, that each of those journeys ultimately take a turn down Authentic Avenue, similar to how every high-end fashion brand may want to end up on 5th Avenue, or how every great American brand in the 60s wanted their ads made on Madison Avenue.
That’s the “today” and everything relevant leading to it. Now I sit here in a room in my apartment (occasionally a coat closet) and I tell stories for a living. I have a podcast by the same name which serves to feature the perspectives of the most brilliant brand minds in existence. I feel, weirdly enough because I talk to the top, that I’m starting from the bottom. And, you know what, it gives me hope. Because it’s my authentic story.
Let me begin to close by describing where I’d like this podcast, and Authentic Avenue, to go in 2021:
From a podcast perspective:
Of course that will continue on -- it’s the lifeblood of what I do. But I do anticipate, in time, shifting to a schedule of once-weekly external features focusing just as much on the marketing as the moment in time, and once-weekly, much shorter personal perspectives.
What will be new, if I can pull it off, will be (2 or 3, if possible) “live” Authentic Avenue summits, where I bring in guests conference-style over a day or two to be broadcast for listeners in real-time, and then archived in the podcast for repeated reference.
I’d also like to do a bit more writing than I have before. Again, I think this will be accompanied by audio and will live between LinkedIn and my website, authenticavenuemedia.com.
And finally, though it might sound a little weird, I want to feature more brands which I actually, proactively want to talk to. I find that I say yes a lot -- and counterintuitively, I’ve found that that can bristle against the craft when I stretch by taking every single interview out there. This change might not be obvious to you the listener at first, but I’m hopeful that over time it will reflect a refreshed enthusiasm for the guest which they deserve from me.
From an Authentic Avenue Media perspective (which is something I have not talked about to this point, at least not publicly), there are two major developments which I plan to build upon:
I’m working on a slate of other podcasts concurrently with this one. These are to be produced under the Authentic Avenue Media umbrella and will not necessarily feature my voice (some will), but will carry the same purpose as my own -- to serve as an avenue to authentic expression. I can’t announce these yet because they are still in pre-production, but I’m incredibly excited about them and will share more about them as that information becomes available.
And secondly: I had mentioned that I’m doing this for a living and would like the chance to partner with you, the listener. I’ve produced podcasts with the leaders of about 160 of the most interesting brands out there to this point, and strongly believe that the medium of podcasting is still woefully underutilized in the business world, which is an opportunity I can be directly impactful in pursuing with you.
Many times when brands think about podcasts, they’re considered from the perspective of sponsorships and as tactics. The truth is that there’s so much more to it that businesses can be doing:
Podcasts can be used for brand development, or "self-PR" to enrich a business and the value offering it provides to consumers and beyond.
They can house regularly updated perspectives from senior leadership giving a closer look at them as people as well as operators, which is especially helpful in remote environments or with organizations where not everyone gets facetime with their leaders on a regular basis.
They can serve as a way to give the proper attention to causes and CSR initiatives that matter alongside the day-to-day bustle of work, attention that might otherwise be cast aside during a seminar or “lunch-and-learn.”
They can serve as a business development tool which can return multiples over other, more traditional sales/partnership tactics by immediately delivering value prior to the first real business conversation -- engagement which will always beat a cold call.
They can even be a creative way to document the ongoing process of an acquisition or integration in plain speech to employees on both sides of the transaction.
Each of these, and others that are for sure out there, are potential avenues for which this type of content enables that authentic feel -- and I’ve made it my mission to help others get there.
So now to you the listener, as I sign off from this slightly different episode of the podcast today: thank you for joining me on this journey so far. I hope these conversations are impactful to you. And I similarly hope that I can help illuminate the paths of other organizations from within.
You already know, if you listen to this podcast, that you can find me on LinkedIn, Authentic Avenue and Adam Conner. But this time, I’d ask you to write me: my email is email@example.com. I want to hear from you directly, I want to know if this content is helpful (or perhaps, even better, if it’s NOT). I want to know if I can help in any way. Above anything, I just want to hear your voice as you have heard mine -- even if just to say hello.
And finally, I’ll stick to the old ways and round out by saying that until I get real again with you, thanks for taking a walk with me down Authentic Avenue, and see you next week.
FOLLOW AUTHENTIC AVENUE, AND ADAM, ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
LinkedIn (Authentic Avenue): https://www.linkedin.com/company/68049428/
LinkedIn (Adam Conner): https://www.linkedin.com/in/adamjconner/
Adam is also on TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@authenticadam
Email Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more at https://authenticavenuemedia.com/.
Theme Song: Extreme Energy (Music Today 80) Composed & Produced by Anwar Amr Video Link: https://youtu.be/8ZZbAkKNx7s