“How to Become the Center of Influence Through Impactful Podcasting” with Nan McKay of the Trailblazers Impact Podcast

“How to Become the Center of Influence Through Impactful Podcasting” with Nan McKay of the Trailblazers Impact Podcast


As part of my series of interviews about “How podcasters can become a center of influence”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nan McKay of the Trailblazers Impact Podcast. She is a serial entrepreneur and 2019 California woman-business-owner of the year, who created two podcasts, TrailBlazers Impact and Peace Through Business, to link generations by sharing personal stories of women surviving historical or personal events and overcoming challenges. Living her passion for over 50 years, she constantly works toward empowering women to survive adversarial obstacles. Along with her co-host, DeeDee Strum, their podcasts spotlight ordinary women with extraordinary achievements, providing inspirational how-to-do-it guides on their website.


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Can you tell us the “backstory” about why or how you got started as a podcaster?

My son took over as CEO of the business I started in 1980, Nan McKay and Associates, and I knew there couldn’t be two people in charge, so I decided to do something else. At first, I was excited that I didn’t have to get up at 6 AM anymore and I could just leisurely do nothing over coffee. That lasted for about 2 weeks. I had been teaching an executive management five-day credentialing course I wrote, volunteered with non-profits, and traveled around the world. When I found I was going to places I had already visited, just to go, I started looking for something else to do — more of a real business. In one of my classes, someone suggested I do podcasting. My reply was, “What’s podcasting?”

Everyone expected me to podcast on housing topics, but my son sighed and said, “Mom, you’ll just tie up our best staff that I need to count on to make money.” So I had to pick a different topic. When you have worked in an industry since 1963, you feel like that’s all you know, other than starting and managing businesses. But I wanted something different, and my daughter said, “Why don’t you interview women and share their stories?”

I called a friend I’d had for many years and proposed the idea to her and asked her if she would like to join me. Even though we are apart for long periods, we always pick up right where we left off and she was thinking of writing a book of women’s stories. So we were off and running.

We started with women my age, especially women of color who had lived through the civil rights era, the Vietnam War, three assassinations, bra burnings, glass ceilings, and discrimination of all kinds.

Many of us thought with President Obama’s election that racial, gender and culture barriers were starting to crumble. Instead, there seems to be a backlash. I wanted to show, through stories, how women, particularly women of color, have succeeded in life to break through all barriers to achieve their goals. But I also realized that many older women don’t do podcasting (duh! Neither did I at the time!)

When we were selected as one of the top podcasts for women in their 20’s, I thought, “Wow! Maybe there are messages that everyone wants to hear.” Since I teach several different generations in my class and I’m fascinated with how younger generations think, I started wondering about younger TrailBlazers and expanded my podcast. My co-host DeeDee has remained true to our original principle of older women of color with amazing stories of overcoming obstacles.

Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?

I had the opportunity, through the Institute for the Economic Empowerment of Women, to podcast 20 businesswomen from Afghanistan and Rwanda. The stories of their struggles through surviving the Taliban occupation and the Rwandan genocide make our endeavors less daunting.

When one of the women I interviewed was growing up, girls were not allowed to attend school. Her father had died, and the two women lived alone which was very precarious back then because they were unprotected. Her mother wanted her to have an education and found an underground woman who would teach her. She went to the house every day, hidden under her mother’s burqa, to get some education. Finally, the ban on girls was lifted and she was able to go to school. Her mother waited outside the gate for her every day. One day she was very warm and lifted the burqa up. People saw her and “beat her with wooden things.” Today, the little girl is a businesswoman. However, security is still their biggest issue. They describe having to have a male relative walk with them if they are going outside a certain area. Their biggest fear is that the Taliban will reassert their position.

Others from Rwanda tell about coming back to their country after the genocide in 1994 and finding the government had taken over their house and killed many of their relatives. The saddest thing for many of them is that they can’t find their parents’ graves.

After listening to the stories, I feel very lucky to live in this country and not be fearful all the time.

Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine article about Nan McKay!

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Podcaster Influencer, Nan McKay of the Trailblazers Impact Podcast shares the best ways to:

a) Booking great guests. First of all, I have no shame. I will scope out anyone and everyone I see and I’m always thinking, “I wonder if they would be a good podcast guest.” I approach people everywhere — in the airport, on planes where they can’t get away from me, etc. etc. Almost everyone has an interesting story. The question is whether you can get them to tell it so someone will want to listen. I’ve found women conferences are a great source of interesting people.

b) Increase listeners. I encourage my guests to share because without anyone to listen, these great podcasts just go into the air. The credit on mining for listeners goes to the great collaborators I have who constantly find new ways to contact and entice people through social media which is definitely the hardest thing for me. Another of my collaborators is helping me through analytics.

c) Produce it in a professional way. It’s a combination of things, some of them cost quite a bit and some are free. Most importantly, you need to have people to help you. I can edit but marginally, so I hire that out for many of the episodes. Collaborators help me write the descriptions, the newsletter, the social media items and edit my website. If you want to produce at least 4 podcasts a week or more, you just can’t do everything yourself and expect total quality unless you are really good at all these things.

d) Encouraging Engagement. Most people listen when they are driving to work which means you have to engage them or they will “change the channel” and you have to stay within about 30 minutes for each episode. Think up new ways to engage them so they will remember to listen to the next episode. We do that by producing a one-minute snippet quote from the podcast guest with his/her picture and use it for social media and email. We also do a newsletter every 2 weeks to let people know what episodes are coming up so they can plan on them. We put engaging quotes on all social media platforms.

e) Best way to monetize it. I am still exploring the best way to monetize it. There are two primary ways I would consider: charging a very nominal fee to the followers (which I’m not inclined to do) and attracting sponsors. Normally, to get sponsors you have to have a big enough following measured in the number of downloads of an episode to interest sponsors in your podcast. You can establish various levels of sponsorship so that each level gets a new benefit, much like the airlines do. To date, I have funded this myself but I feel it is a worthwhile cause and I must prove myself first.

What makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or the content itself?

Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine article about Nan McKay!

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Tracy Hazzard

Tracy Hazzard is a former Authority Magazine and Inc. Magazine Columnist on disruptive innovation, and host of 5 top-ranked podcasts including: The Binge Factor and Feed Your Brand–one of CIO’s Top 26 Entrepreneur Podcasts. She is the co-founder of Podetize, the largest podcast post-production company in the U.S. As a content, product, and influence strategist for networks, corporations, marketing agencies, entrepreneurs, publications, speakers, authors & experts, Tracy influences and casts branded content with $2 Billion worth of innovation around the world. Her marketing methods and AI-integrated platform, provides businesses of all sizes a system to spread their authentic voices from video to podcast to blog, growing an engaged audience and growing valuable digital authority.
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