One Year In: A Reflection

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Today, I take a few minutes to have a chat between you and me. No guest, no music. Just a chat about how this first year of Authentic Avenue (both the pod and the business) has been, and what's to come.

Full write-up of this pod can be found below.


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FULL WRITE-UP (not 100% complete because I riffed a little):

Hi. It’s Adam. I’m doing this episode to share thanks, and to commemorate a small milestone of mine, which is one year of Authentic Avenue, the podcast, but also because we’re more or less at one year of Authentic Avenue, the business.

These episodes I do are rarely self-serving, in fact today is episode #73, and I’ve only done one other where I talk about myself or any of what I have going on behind the scenes. My mission so far has been to tell the best stories of others possible. But today I am going to revert, just because we’re on the precipice of year #2, and because I’ve been thinking a little differently about where I’d like to take things. So, today, I want to do a few things:

  1. Introduce myself, for the passing listener,

  2. Talk about where I’ve been through this first year, and what I’ve learned both on the media side as well as the entrepreneurial side, and

  3. Talk a little bit about how I envision the future of this project, based on what I’ve witnessed to date.

First things first: for those of you who don’t really know me, or maybe tuned in to one episode here or there, I know there’s a lot of you like that. here’s a brief introduction:

My name is Adam Conner. I’ve been producing podcasts for the last five years, the last three of which have been in the business world, predominantly with Chief Marketing Officers and like-minded leaders. I also talk to founders and CEOs, niche experts, et cetera. That journey has taken this craft for me from a personal pursuit to a profession and, now, to a pouring of persistence and passion into a potion and seeing who wants to drink with me. That final alliterative chapter is where I’ve put all my life’s effort over the past year. And so, when you take a sip of content I produce whether it’s a Fortune 100 Chief Marketing Officer or a founder focused on sustainability or a fresh college grad killing it in the world of consulting for Gen Z, you get a taste of my life. I’m thrilled to be able to share that with you because, frankly, most of my time is spent staring at sound waves behind a microphone trying to get a mock graduate degree in brand-building.

I have to note here that, whilst getting this weekly audio education in which I’m both the student and the author of the syllabus, that I’m also running a business alongside this. My life is not just these podcasts that you see on most Mondays. It is a production business whereby I am helping organizations achieve any number of business goals through a thought leadership approach. And I’ll talk a little bit about that later on. So also know that, when you listen to these end products, though they don’t directly subsidize my life’s work, they are a great endorsement of it, and for that I am desperately grateful. Truly, I mean that.

In fact, I say it in that way to combine two emotional forces which are frequently at odds when starting your own business: gratitude, which emanates from the privilege I’ve had to speak to these leaders and the benefit of tapping into their audience, essentially become a remora for a day, literally riding along for LinkedIn likes -- and desperation, which is inextricably linked to the entrepreneurial journey which Reid Hoffman has often described as jumping off a cliff and assembling a plane on the way down.

I jumped one year ago. And every week (or day, really), I am desperate for a wing in the form of a win.

So that’s where I am today: a pilot with a podcast looking for a little lift.

Now that I’m a year into it, I thought to also take a moment here to talk briefly about what that experience means when I’m not speaking figuratively, as I actually have learned a few tangible things, both about myself and the market for media. Hopefully it resonates with you too.

I’ll start with podcasts specifically just because it’s now where I’ve built most of my credibility, at least in a business context:

Unless you are a celebrity, or come into the medium as an individual with a large, pre-existing social following, it is going to be very hard to see success in the podcasting game IF your key metric is downloads or listens, or to “go viral,” or to build a mass audience quickly. And you’d think that this is obvious, but the majority of the businesses I talk to, when they hear the word “podcast,” they think of Rogan’s $100 million deal with Spotify, they think about NPR, they think about Barstool, and they think they can...maybe not replicate that, but get close. It’s weird as a business podcaster to say this, but that is bullshit -- and unless you rethink what this medium is and how you can use it, you will never see success from it.

If you are a business, especially if you’re a startup, or you’re in enterprise B2B solutions, podcasts are not a consumer audience magnet. Rather, they are the best thought leadership vehicle that an organization can have. Whether it be to humanize executives, whether it be to share progress towards key social or investment goals, whether it be to get in front of dream prospects for future business -- the podcast medium is an incredibly underutilized method to build out your own thought leadership -- to stand out in an industry crowd by literally writing and producing your own narrative. I’d go as far as to say that the long-form conversational nature of the traditional podcast construct is ripe for disruption and derivative dissemination. A 30-minute interview with anybody should be dozens of pieces of content, it should not be one-and-done. So let’s say that you’re that healthcare startup desperate to get your name out there in front of the right people. A podcast could be the key to solving your prospect pipeline and your content calendar at the same time.

Of course this isn’t the only answer, there are plenty of other ways to build a brand. I’m just one guy with a microphone shouting the benefits of the very medium I communicate through. But it’s a massive opportunity which is worth the same vigor of effort that other growth vehicles enjoy.

Alright, off the pedestal. Here’s what I’ve learned from an entrepreneurial perspective. And the first thing, I’ve probably just proven out.

If you’re going to go into business for yourself, you need to be your loudest advocate. There is no more “if you build it, they will come” in this world, at least in my opinion. You’re owed nothing. You earn everything. And so you need to be churning out content, leaving comments, pitching yourself, constantly.

The second thing is that you’ll need to wear a lot of hats in your venture, and the sales hat is no exception. You think you know about how many businesses you need to pitch to make yourself a decent living? Multiply it by 10. Seriously. You may have something great, and you may be closing so much business that you think, “my god, 10x more outreach on top of what I do would be overwhelming.” But what I needed most in my first year, and what I’m betting you’ll need as well, is the maximum possible number of shots on goal -- chances to prove yourself, your business, your offering, your price point, all that. So wear that sales hat and get used to not taking it off. By the way, that extends to business where you do so well that you need to find new ways to scale efficiently and effectively. That sales hat that you think you can take off because you just hired a sales person? Nah, put it back on, now you gotta fund raise.

And third, probably closely related to the second, is a mantra which I learned from my first boss, my first real mentor in the business world, John. And it has held true through selling newspaper ads to selling million dollar software to convincing Fortune 100 executives to talk to me, to getting clients. And that mantra is: Make It Happen. This is more than just a mandate, it’s a mentality. It’s a 15-part decree, if you asked John. But it’s just a necessity more than anything. Like I said before, nothing is given; all is earned. You want to earn six figures, a million dollars, get 20 clients, whatever it is? Make it happen. Put in the work. And by the way, be prepared for the occasional derailment of work-life balance and, regrettably, even mental health, because you’re ultimately competing with a hundred other people who will work harder than you, do more than you, if you let them. Now I understand even saying can trigger a spiral, and it is something you have to actively manage -- so I guess I’m really saying: don’t get complacent. If you get told no, cherish it. Find ways around future no’s. If the extra hour is going to lead to something incrementally better, put it in.

That’s what I’ve discovered to be helpful to me over the past year -- and so, yes, take it with a grain of salt, because it’s my story. I’m the one on this microphone, and I speak for myself. But I think those elements are crucial.

Actually they’re defining where I’d like to take Authentic Avenue over the next year, and so I’ll round out today by talking a little bit about that.

Regarding this podcast, what you’re hearing right now. I’d like to put it into video form, number one. Because I think it’s just time to add that layer. I think it adds a more engaging element to the conversation, no matter how rich that conversation is.

And I’d like to begin to drift from the primarily Chief Marketing Officer seat that I’ve held onto for so long. And that’s because, as strange as it’s gonna sound...I wasn’t getting the quality of conversation that I wanted from that seat. It is undoubtedly, in part, due to my abilities as an interviewer, which I think are improving daily. It’s also in part due to the fact that...a lot of the stories and answers to questions I’ve asked on this show have felt really rehearsed, like overly media trained. I get it, you have to play the game a little bit. A lot of these executives represent publicly traded companies, which means that any media appearance they do carries a great deal of liability, a great deal of risk, especially if they are, in many cases, the Chief Storyteller for the business. I’m, in that case, just another outlet for that standard story to be told. Especially considering how relatively new to the game as I am, despite my niche focus, despite the fact that I’ve done this a few hundred times -- I just haven’t managed to get beyond the surface with many of the interviews I’ve done, let’s say in the last six months. And I don’t want this to sound like I’m guest-blaming or anything like that -- I think there’s a perfectly rational explanation for it, which is: in 2020, if you could get an interview, it was amidst this incredible collective vulnerability that allowed for anyone, regardless of stature, to be a screen away. It was actually great for the audio medium because that’s what podcasts have been for 20 years. Once things in the US started getting back to some level of normalcy, you saw two things happen: 1) more traditional ad and marketing campaigns came back, and 2) talent brands saw an unforeseen strain which what’s been called The Great Resignation (I think LinkedIn does a better job in calling it The Great Reshuffle). In my opinion, these two trends, while impacting different audiences for a brand (their consumers and their employees), actually had a similar, compounding effect on the amount of openness which somebody might have on a topic like brand “authenticity.” The focus has been on getting back to the way things were, which I guess is the good old days of 2019. And as a result, I just think some of these conversations at the top have lost a little bit of luster.

So I want to start spreading out -- I think Chief Impact Officers are incredibly interesting, I think founders are fantastic. I’d like to get more in the heads of creators and those who I perceive to be closer to the cultural zeitgeist. And generally, I just want to further showcase those who are unafraid of speaking bluntly to a fault. That’s what I really like.

(By the way this is where I’m supposed to say: please write me on LinkedIn or email me, my address is, to tell me what you want to hear.)

So that’s first. Secondly, I’d like to build out this “podcast as a pillar” methodology which I teased earlier in this little chat -- the idea that the traditional long-form construct of the podcast medium should be disrupted beyond its one-and-done nature and should be proliferated far beyond its word and across content calendars. So what that means is: I might not have a podcast every week. I’m going to focus on getting more value for my guests and for myself with the content that I already have.

As I also teased, my plan is to bring this methodology to a few concrete business objectives for organizations which are NOT “build a big consumer audience.” As I said before, I think that’s an inefficient use of resources. Namely, I think this thought leadership vehicle should be used for other objectives, and I’d like to start with sales channels and humanizing executives as the first two.

Thirdly, I want to document this experience of running this business a little more openly. I don’t know that it’ll go as far as a LinkedIn vlog, or something like that, but I’ve never seen, really, the story of someone building a business from next to nothing to something in a medium I find easily accessible. So I want to find a solution for that.

And finally, a stretch goal which isn’t exactly central to my business but which I think could be really interesting: I’d like to write a one-word dictionary. After all, I focus on this word “authenticity” so much. I think I ought to build out an addressable catalogue of consumable perspective on the word. And hopefully, I get some honest answers, nothing too buttoned up.

So that’s it, basically. I’ll close with something I said right at the top of all of this. If you’ve listened to any of my episodes, even one -- and especially if you’ve made it to the end of this one, I genuinely, deeply, desperately, appreciate you. You keep me sane and feeling like I provide value to people. You make me feel worth it. So thank you, a million times over thank you.

And we’ll see what happens in this next year! And maybe I’ll come back with another update in a year’s time.

For now, thanks for taking this walk with me down Authentic Avenue.