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How Red Hat Created a Shorty-Nominated Podcast About Open Source Technology

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As an open-source solutions provider, Red Hat’s main area of expertise — open source software solutions — might seem a little dry or ambiguous to the average person. To tech-savvy engineers and developers, however, they’re the gold standard for all things open source and technology.

Red Hat wanted to find an entertaining and innovative way to engage and grow their audience while also shaping the narrative around complex tech topics — a seemingly tall order. Their content team wanted to figure out how they could strike a balance between “entertaining” and “complex,” and after doing some research and brainstorming, they settled on the perfect middle-ground with their highly produced, narrative-style podcast, Command Line Heroes.

Not only did they manage to make the topic of open source technology entertaining, they were also able to build a loyal following for their show. To date, Command Line Heroes has run for four seasons, has attracted 75,000 subscribers, and was even nominated for two Shorty Awards in 2019.

Read on to learn how Laura Hamlyn, Red Hat’s Senior Director of Global Content, and her team worked together to tell captivating stories on this award-winning podcast.

In 2017, Red Hat had their largest product launch of the year coming up for their new operating system, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but they didn’t want to just follow the standard product marketing playbook. Instead, they wanted to do something cool and different, something big — they wanted to launch a show. But before they could start coming up with a concept and writing their first script, they needed to figure out which medium was the best fit.

“We did a lot of research into which mediums would make sense for a technology company. You don’t want to assume that a certain medium is going to work because you want to create within it,” says Hamlyn. “We worked with a third-party company to find the watering holes for our prospects — where are they getting their information and where do they go to find it? The research ended up telling us that there was a gap in podcasting for technology companies.”

“You don’t want to assume that a certain medium is going to work just because you want to create within it.”

Red Hat was ecstatic about producing a podcast. But it wasn’t just because they had always wanted to create one. A huge reason why they wanted to launch a podcast was that they knew telling highly produced audio stories could differentiate them from most podcasts in the tech industry. This was an opportunity to really stand out from the crowd.

“We were podcast fans, so we had always wanted to make one, but we had never created one at Red Hat. It was new to us, and when we were looking at the shows that we really liked, we noticed that they all told really good stories,” says Hamlyn. “So the ability to tell cool stories through the medium and the fact that most tech podcasts are just two guys talking about something made us realize that we needed to make one.”

After deciding to create a podcast, Red Hat started building their podcast dream team.

Brent Simoneaux, Senior Manager of Content Marketing and Story Development, took the lead as Program Manager. He runs the day-to-day show management and collaborates closely with Pacific Content, the agency of record chosen to manage podcast production.

On the editorial side of things is Casey Stegman, Associate Creative Director of Copywriting, owns the show concept and story. He’s the podcast’s editorial director, comes up with the central theme for each season, and does all the research to plan each episode.

The production team also leans heavily on other internal groups — user experience, graphic design, account management, and more — to source ideas and inspiration for episodes.

Unlike bloggers, who can use keyword research or analytics to inform their content, podcasters don’t have as many data-driven tools to rely on. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; one of the most common ways to source ideas for a show is arguably the most effective — interviewing your audience.

“I think a lot of what we do can be really dry, especially if you’re thinking about the B2C world, podcasts in general, and all the interesting stuff that they cover. But I think the way that we approached Command Line Heroes was influenced by the fact that our program manager, Brent Simoneaux, is also a researcher,” says Hamlyn. “He actually received his PhD in rhetoric, so he went into this role with a researching mindset. For the creative process, his influence was ’let’s listen first’, which we did a lot of at customer events.”

At one of these customer events, Red Hat set up a booth called Comics and Coffee, where they offered beverages and snacks along with the services of caricature artists. At the booth, Red Hat representatives would ask people what they were interested in and what they thought was cool. By the end of the event, they had countless hours of transcripts from which they could extract interesting ideas and comments.

But out of all the questions they asked, Hamlyn considers “Does an operating system matter?” the most transformative one.

“Asking ‘does an operating system matter?’ is a very provocative way to get creative because that’s the product we make. It also raises some tension and drama. The best, most compelling stories have drama. Everybody knows that,” says Hamlyn. “But as a marketer, it’s really hard to infuse drama in your content because you’re conditioned to always say, ’our product is great, there will be nothing ever wrong with it, it’s perfect.’ The reality is that you need to add a little drama to your story so you can identify a hero.”

“The best, most compelling stories have drama — you need to add a little drama to your story so you can identify a hero.”

The next step of Red Hat’s creative process is fleshing out the big ideas they’ve heard during the year and turning audience data into insights that can inform the show. To complete this step of the process, Red Hat spends an entire workweek with Pacific Content and the show’s host, Saron Yitbarek — and that’s usually when most of the show’s obstacles crop up.

One of the most pressing problems that Red Hat faces during their creative process is staying rooted in audience feedback. Fortunately, a second pair of eyes from Pacific Content always seems to steer them in the right direction and remind them that their ideas need to be data-driven.

“We try to be very careful not to assume what our audience wants to hear from us,” says Hamlyn. “I remember the last time we went into planning, Dan Misener, Pacific Content’s Head of Strategy and Audience Development, stopped us at one point and asked if any of the ideas we were talking about were based on the data we gathered. We knew we liked the ideas, so he told us to consider that before we moved forward.”

Crafting a relevant and relatable show is also a hurdle that Red Hat has to constantly jump over, especially in the open source technology space. But as creative, story-driven marketers, they always manage to find a way to sharpen a dull topic. More specifically, by weaving in compelling, well-known themes like the Apple-Windows OS wars into their show.

“When you listen to the first season of Command Line Heroes, we started with the OS wars. Then we talked about the operating systems everyone uses,” says Hamlyn. “We try to talk about Apple and Windows and things that are really relevant to people. And even if they don’t understand what a command line is, they at least understand what an operating system is.”

Soon after, though, Red Hat came to discover that relevant and relatable wasn’t enough to build a loyal, passionate audience. To do that, they needed to stick to their core identity and rally their true believers, which also produced a pleasant byproduct for them — mountains of audience feedback.

“With the OS wars, we went really broad. But then we decided to narrow down to programming languages to focus more on hardware. We got back to our nerdy roots because, honestly, you don’t want a broad audience that just comes and goes,” says Hamlyn. “You want that core audience that is really going to love your work, inform it, and basically tell you, ’here, this is what I want to hear.’”

“We got back to our nerdy roots because, honestly, you don’t want a broad audience that just comes and goes. You want that core audience that is really going to love your work.”

The first of its kind, The Shorty Awards honor the best in social media and digital, attracting millions of streamers to its annual event. Past winners include Taylor Swift, J.K. Rowling, and Malala Yousafzai. And, in 2019, Command Line Heroes was nominated for Best Branded Podcast, was a finalist for Best in Technology, and won the audience honor for Best in Technology.

“The Shorty Awards were great because it proved that our audience liked the show and it’s popular. A lot of people have to like it for you to win the award,” says Hamlyn. “So, to me, it was partly surprising because we knew we made a good show. But we didn’t know how many fans we had. We knew how many listeners we had, but we didn’t really know how much they loved the show. I think the Shorty Award just validated that we were able to make the topic interesting.”

Command Line Heroes has not only developed a passionate following, but it has also produced the results that every CMO would love to see. To date, the podcast has:

  • 2,000,000 total downloads
  • 644,000 unique listeners
  • Downloads in over 200 countries
  • A 90% average episode completion rate
  • An average time spent listening of 23 minutes

In addition to these performance indicators, Red Hat also keeps tabs on the marketing metrics that measure the things that are more important than just content performance. Namely, brand identification and brand affinity.

“A big benefit for Red Hat, beyond the fact that there’s a lot of people listening to the show for a long period of time, is that 96% of listeners identify Red Hat as the creator of Command Line Heroes,” says Hamlyn. “This is what Pacific Content always emphasizes. The show is very lightly branded, so our jaws dropped when we found that out, because we don’t talk about Red Hat much at all, which was a big risk for us. That was a huge metric to show management — it proves that our brand is actually breaking through.”

“A big benefit for us, beyond the fact that there’s a lot of people listening to the show for a long period of time, is that 96% of listeners identify Red Hat as the creator of Command Line Heroes.”

Red Hat also saw a 21% lift in people’s opinion of Red Hat before and after listening to the show. Additionally, they discovered that 80% to 90% of listeners either liked or loved the podcast. Talk about brand affinity!

Command Line Heroes has garnered so much interest outside of the company that many of their offices around the globe want to localize the podcast. Hamlyn and her team have just started to experiment with the initiative.

“Our Latin American team is actually considering hiring actors and voice actors to perform the podcast. We’re looking at all kinds of localization efforts,” says Hamlyn. “And after going to Podcast Movement this past year in L.A., I will say localizing an English podcast is very uncharted territory, but we’re still trying to figure out how to do it.”

Red Hat’s video team has also ventured into a different type of binge-worthy content — a video series. In May 2020, they released two video series, What Happens When You Hit Enter and Technically Speaking, which dive into technical topics with Red Hat experts and are considered extensions of some of the interviews conducted on Command Line Heroes.

Back on the podcasting front, though, Red Hat has decided to stay focused on Command Line Heroes. And after learning about the show’s story, one can only assume it’s for a good reason.

“We’re definitely doubling down on Command Line Heroes. We have season five in the works right now, and then we also have a complementary video series,” says Hamlyn. “We’ve had some thoughts about other podcasts, but, right now, we’re solely focused on Command Line Heroes.”

Too often, marketers use the “my industry is boring” excuse for not crafting compelling content. But after learning about Red Hat’s story, we feel more inspired than ever to think outside of the box and create content that truly connects with an audience — no matter the industry.

If a show about arguably one of the most technical topics in tech — open source code — can earn two Shorty nominations, your show can too.



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Video Marketing

7 Fashion-Forward Video Series to Keep Your Eye On

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Who said videos about fashion were only made for the big screen? The Devil Wears Prada might be a pretty high standard to live up to, but in reality, tons of brands are already making innovative shows and video series to help move their businesses forward.

In fact, we recently stumbled upon four fashion-focused brands that are all creating entertaining, binge-worthy video series, that even Meryl Streep herself might be interested in watching. Businesses like Vans, Refinery29, Marc Jacobs, and Foot Locker stood out to us as top-dogs in the branded content space because their shows are so clearly focused on attracting a niche audience, which is a key part of executing an effective brand affinity marketing strategy. Plus, they’re just plain fun to watch!

Who doesn’t love a good surf video? Have you ever wondered what it really means to be a “sneakerhead”? Take a look at what these creative brands put out into the world and get some insights into what you can do at your business to make an awesome series yourself!

We bet you know someone in your life who owns a fresh pair of Vans. But if you’re not familiar with the brand, Vans is the original action sports footwear, apparel, and accessories brand promoting creative self-expression in youth culture across action sports, art, music and street culture.

Vans decided to showcase those company values with a video series called Weird Waves, which follows the gnarly journey of Dylan Graves as he introduces viewers to “the weirder side of surf culture and the characters who chomp weird waves.” In two seasons, he links up with people from the underground side of the surf scene to ride everything from waves in wintery Great Lakes to waves formed by falling ice in Alaska. This show is no joke — things get weird!

To successfully showcase what their brand stands for, Vans identified the perfect brand ambassador to be the host for an engaging binge-worthy series. While not everyone can relate to riding waves in unthinkable places like Dylan Graves and his friends, viewers can be entertained and identify with how Vans is a champion of creative self-expression.

In a more fashion-focused realm, Refinery29 is an online media and entertainment hub that appeals to young women who may be interested in style, health, careers, technology, and a whole lot more. To pique the interests of their target audience, they’ve created an award-winning video series called Style Out There exploring “the connections between clothing, community, and culture across the world.”

Style Out There features hosts Asha Leo and Connie Wang as they travel the world to learn more about “the ways clothing has given women a way to speak out, look within, and identify the forces that limit their potential.” In season one, watch Leo dig into Decora style in Tokyo and how it goes against the mainstream, or jump ahead to season three and learn about Afrofuturist fashion with Wang and why it’s more than just a costume for black women.

For someone interested in style, this series goes deeper than the outward appearance of an outfit or accessory. It shows the significance of fashion for people to express themselves around the world.

Now, if you’ve ever wondered what the inner workings of a high fashion label look like days before a runway show, check out Marc Jacobs’ The Making of RUNWAY.

This six-part series follows Marc himself, Joseph Carter, Creative Director of Runway, as well as many of the faces working to run the ship five days before Marc Jacobs’ February 13, 2019 show. From fittings and design meetings to set and music planning, they show you what it takes to make a fashion show a success.

Marc Jacobs is a world-renown brand, but the way they shot their behind-the-scenes footage could be pulled off by any company big or small. Whether you’re aspiring to work for Marc Jacobs or a fan of the brand, this simple series gives you an authentic look at the people, the work, and the creativity that makes Marc Jacobs what it is.

In the fashion industry, Patagonia is famous not only for leading the fight against climate change but also for spearheading the binge-worthy content movement with their visually stunning and thought-provoking documentary series.

To promote their signature line of work-friendly attire, they blended their passion for the environment with the art of storytelling to craft a video series called Workwear.

In this seven-part video series, you’ll meet farmers, eco-friendly automotive technicians, conservationists, fishermen, and more to learn what drives them to work so hard day in and day out and how they protect the environment while doing so.

Even though Workwear is meant to promote Patagonia’s line of work clothing, they don’t draw any direct attention to their products.

Instead, Patagonia focuses on the real reason each person in the video series chooses to make an honest living. And with over 2.5 million views on YouTube, they’ve reached and resonated with plenty of people who share the same “why” when it comes to their work.

Lululemon is an athletic apparel retailer with strong roots in yoga, running, and any other activity that makes you break a sweat and feel great. However, when they think about their marketing, they make sure not to just focus on the physical aspects of these activities. They also make sure to highlight the mental and emotional side of physical fitness.

To celebrate the International Day of Yoga, for example, Lululemon released a video series called Yoga Changed My Life to tell the stories of three people who used the power of yoga to overcome a traumatic experience.

From conquering teenage homelessness to a near-death experience due to a complication from Crohn’s disease, you’ll learn how powerful yoga can be for the mind, body, and soul.

Most athletic apparel retailers try to generate demand for their products by emphasizing the physical benefits of exercise, but Lululemon understands that truly resonating with an audience requires a message much more inspiring than that. You can’t just strive to look good — you also need to feel good.

Nike’s I Am Giannis tells the origin story of Giannis Antetokounmpo, a forward for the Milwaukee Bucks and one of the best basketball players in the NBA.

Giannis is known for having a strong work ethic and bulldog mentality that rivals the game’s most iconic players’. And after watching this five-part video series, you’ll quickly understand how his humble beginnings in Athens, Greece have fueled his fire to reach the upper echelon of the basketball world.

You can’t help but smile as you watch Giannis’s story unfold. From getting selected in the first round of the 2013 NBA draft to attracting thousands of Greek and Nigerian fans to each of his games to designing his own signature Nike shoe — the story is both uplifting and inspirational.

As marketers, we recognize that Nike knows how to tell a compelling story, especially with just a few words. But by venturing into long-form storytelling and spinning a narrative about one person’s life over 20 minutes of video content, they might have just told their best story yet.

After seeing the ideas these brands have come up with, we hope you’re feeling inspired to start creating a video series of your own! Start by figuring out what makes your brand unique and what your current audiences like about you. The next concept for the perfect video series could be right under your nose!

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5 Food and Beverage Video Series That’ll Make You Hungry for More Content

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Do you remember the iconic “how many licks” Tootsie Pops commercials from the 70s? What about the heartwarming snowman that thawed after eating a satisfying bowl of Campbell’s soup?

Many food and beverage brands are famous for their clever and memorable advertisements.

However, only a handful have taken their creativity to the next level and crafted full-scale video series that rival the very TV shows they place their ads with.

We’ve rounded up five of the best video series in the food and beverage world so you can draw inspiration for your next project. Read on to cook up some delicious ideas for your next show!

As the most popular energy drink in the world, Red Bull naturally gears its brand toward pro athletes who participate in extreme sports. One of the ways the company connects with this cohort is by crafting thrilling video series about the world’s most extreme athletes. From a video series about wingsuit fliers to one about the top athletes in their respective extreme sport, you can get your daily dose of adrenaline from a single episode.

But out of all of Red Bull’s video series, the arguably most compelling one is about the athletes who have overcome near-impossible odds to ascend to the heights of their extreme sport. It’s called The Way of the Wildcard.

In this wild video series, you’ll hear from a two-time cancer survivor who holds two world records in cycling, a former prisoner turned Iron Man triathlete, working-class brothers who won a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics in rowing, and many more impressive athletes.

All of the stories in The Way of the Wildcard are naturally chock-full of conflict, which grips audiences from start to finish. And by showing audiences how these athletes achieved their dreams with the odds stacked against them, it inspires viewers to do the same.

Growing up, a day out with your friends during the summer usually included a swim at the pool, a bonfire, and a can of soda. Was there anything more carefree?

Coca-Cola wanted to tap into this nostalgia to forge a closer bond with their audience. Their bold idea? A video series called One Last Summer, which follows a group of incoming college freshmen as they enjoy their last summer together.

Throughout the four-part series, you’ll learn all about this friend group’s future plans, watch them cross off their summer bucket list, and navigate the complexities of their high school romances.

Each episode of One Last Summer focuses on a single character. This approach allows you to get to know them personally, understand the dynamic of their friend group, and understand why it’ll be bittersweet for them to split up when it’s time to go off to college.

One Last Summer is sure to transport you back to your most carefree days as a teenager — and it might even persuade you to crack open a Coke while you’re at it.

When you think of Cadbury, you most likely think of rich, creamy chocolate. And when you think of chocolate, you might reminisce on the good old days when your mom or dad would slip you a piece of chocolate after dinner.

That’s why Cadbury decided to create Families Reunited, a video series that aims to reconnect parents with their teenage children by giving parents a crash course on their children’s passions.

In this two-part video series of 20-minute episodes, you’ll watch a dad learn how to pop a wheelie on a BMX bike just like his son. Then, you’ll watch a mom learn how to conquer the ice and figure skate with her son. At the end of each episode, the parent ultimately proves to their kid that they’re not as different as they think. Even better, they can also spend time bonding over a shared passion.

Almost every parent goes through a rough patch with their kids, especially when they’re teenagers. But Families Reunited lets parents who have drifted from their kids know that they’re not alone. It also inspires them to truly understand their kids before they try to rekindle their relationships with them.

Known for their fun, playful brand identity, Taco Bell stuck to their guns when they released The Taco Bell Show. It’s a game show that features celebrities — including Drake Bell and Spencer Pratt — known and loved by Taco Bell’s young target audience.

On the show, the host and the guest celebrity play Taco Bell-inspired games, like “Diablo Dare.” It’s Truth or Dare, but instead of doing a dare, participants have to drench a tortilla chip in diablo sauce and eat it. What a creative way to plug two of their products into one game — kudos, Taco Bell!

The Taco Bell Show draws you in from the beginning by immediately informing you what it’s all about — a game show with celebrities. It then keeps you glued to your screen by having the celebrities play fun, creative games. If you ask us, that’s definitely a recipe for binge-worthy content success.

Another brand that leans on humor and lightheartedness, Kentucky Fried Chicken released a series of satirical Shark Tank-esque pitches for outlandish business ideas called KFC Innovations Lab. These ideas include Colonel on Ice, a bow tie that also serves as a GPS locator, and a walking cane that doubles as a remote control for your TV.

All of these pitches relate to KFC’s founder Colonel Sanders in a creative way, which makes the video series one of the funniest in the food and beverage industry. After watching it, you’ll laugh so hard that you’ll work up an appetite, and KFC hopes it’ll be for some of their famous fried chicken.

Crafting a creative and compelling video series is just like cooking. It’ll be hard. It’ll get messy. And there’s a chance you might burn the dish to a crisp. But, hopefully, with these examples, you can put together a recipe for a video series that will please your audience’s palate.

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Announcing “Built to Last”: An Audio Conference from Buffer and Wistia

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If you’ve watched an episode of Brandwagon or tuned into our Change the Channel event last year, then you know there’s nothing we love more than talking to people about what it takes to build a great brand. And now, we’re super excited to continue that conversation with Buffer, a social media management platform, throughout Built to Last — a free audio-conference for brand builders.

Taking place on August 19 and 20, this first-of-its-kind conference will feature guests (including our very own Chris Savage!) from companies that are invested in building stronger brands and creating compelling content in all forms. If you’re looking to learn how to foster organic growth, take marketing risks, or develop an audience of engaged advocates — this conference is for you.

Attending a marketing conference once meant spending an entire day in a windowless ballroom or glued to your computer screen for hours on end. By leveraging the power of podcasts, our conference sessions will be available for your listening pleasure no matter what you’re up to.

Wait a minute — what does an “audio-conference” really mean?

We’re taking the concept of an in-person conference and delivering it as a podcast. Built to Last attendees will receive access to a private podcast feed where we’ll release seven episodes over the two-day conference. Each episode will feature lessons and insights to help you craft memorable content and campaigns that create devoted audiences.

By signing up to attend this conference, you’ll get access to the content in real-time or on-demand (with show notes!). We encourage listening while making a meal, getting some fresh air, or moving your body. In other words — you do you!

Beyond the podcast episodes, we’re encouraging attendees to join our private community to network with each other, participate in facilitated discussions, and interact with select speakers live. Simply sign up to attend Build to Last and you’ll be invited to join — simple as pie.

We hope you’ll join us for this interactive podcast experience. If you’re as pumped as we are, then head on over to the Buffer site to register, see the full list of speakers, and get all the conference details. Oh, and be sure to charge those headphones so you’re ready to rock ’n roll!

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