In 2015, our team started a series of audio conversations with our friends in the industries we serve. Those conversations continue, as StoryConnect: The Podcast celebrates its 200th episode this fall.
“What we’ve seen over and over again in our 200 episodes is that communicators and marketers at rural telcos and electric co-ops are doing some really exciting and innovative things,” says StoryConnect: The Podcast host Andy Johns. “This podcast is a fun and engaging way to share their creative ideas with other folks in their same shoes around the country.”
Podcasting is a sure bet today, with some 80 million Americans (28% of the U.S. population age 12 and up) listening to podcasts on a weekly basis. But six years ago podcasting was a novel medium, particularly in our industries. We launched StoryConnect: The Podcast with the goal to create the best podcast for marketing and communications professionals in the electric utility and broadband industries. It wasn’t a high bar, because we were the only podcast serving that market.
Sharing Inspiration, Building Community
Our first episode, published in January 2016, featured my interview with Laura Withers, vice president of strategic communications for NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, discussing gig internet providers.
I recorded the first few episodes, then Andy eventually became the regular host. The podcasts are now also produced by Sarah Wootten and edited by Lucas Smith. Those two are the unheralded folks working in the background making us look and sound good.
The discussions we’ve had with utility communicators are wide-ranging, covering:
Guests share how they addressed communications challenges, including:
- Rate Structure Changes
- Gig Launches
- Wi-Fi Realities
- Metered Broadband
- Time-of-use Billing
- Electric Meter Conversions
Focusing on National Trends, Challenges
Along the way, leaders at telcos and electric co-ops shared ideas for tackling national needs such as partnerships to bring broadband to the unserved. We discussed the role of advocacy with Sue Kelly, former CEO of the American Public Power Association.
Our 2021 miniseries, Journey—Exploring the Customer Experience, showcases the good work broadband marketers are doing to pave the way for new subscribers.
Teaming up with the Tennessee Broadband Association’s Lead Tennessee Radio, we shared stories from broadband providers responding to the pandemic. A special episode of StoryConnect: The Podcast explained the free COVID-19 Resource Kit we launched in March 2020. During the months since, our guests shared how their utilities responded to the pandemic, including looks at virtual and drive-thru annual meetings and managing remote workforces.
One of the more exciting developments of StoryConnect: The Podcast is the partnerships we formed to take the podcast on the road. We’ve set up a mobile recording unit at conferences from South Carolina to Kentucky to Oregon, recording episodes with speakers and industry leaders to extend the value for conference attendees and our listeners.
Our podcast partners include: NTCA, Calix, the Fiber Broadband Association(FBA), NWPPA and several state associations. We’ve also recorded more than half a dozen episodes live on stage at our StoryConnect conference.
“At a conference where we’re recording live, I think it drives the point home for folks that the thought leaders and experts in our industry are all right there,” Andy says. “It adds a lot to the atmosphere to see us recording.”
Last year StoryConnect spun off a sister podcast — Rural Broadband Today — where we interview the heads of groups such as the Federal Communications Commission, National Rural Health Association, NTCA, FBA, TVPPA, the Foundation for Rural Service, Rural Health Association of Tennessee and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.
Telling Your Story
If you’ve joined us as a guest, or just enjoy tuning in, we appreciate everyone who’s been a part of the show. Whether you listen while driving, exercising, mowing or at the office, I hope you’ve learned something or been inspired by the great ideas our guests share.
As we encourage you to do at the end of each episode: “Keep telling your story.” We’re excited to keep telling your story for another 200 episodes of StoryConnect: The Podcast.