How Evelien Kong’s Transition From TV Producer To Reppin’s Podcast Host Highlights The Growing Preference For Podcasts Over Traditional Media

TBF Evelien Kong | Reppin Podcast

 

What do you get when you take a seasoned traditional media professional and put her on a podcasting studio as host? With Reppin, what you get is an engaging show that is unscripted yet so well-produced at the same time. That might sound contradictory, but that’s made possible by its host’s commitment to edit her episodes, not to create soundbites, but to move the story along. That is what sets Evelien Kong uniquely brings to the podcasting world. A lot of times, we see more artificial models getting imposed on podcasting when professional producers step in. But Evelien puts a premium on authentic conversations. She doesn’t do scripts. Instead, she takes a deep dive into what makes her guests tick and draws out lessons from them that she then ties into a theme that underlies all of her episodes. In this episode of The Binge Factor, Evelien tells Tracy how she became the passionate industry podcaster that she is, how she changed the model of how her show works, and the lessons she learned along the journey. Tag along and enjoy what might be one of the best interviews we’ve ever had on the show!

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How Evelien Kong’s Transition From TV Producer To Reppin’s Podcast Host Highlights The Growing Preference For Podcasts Over Traditional Media

I have Evelien Kong. Her show, Reppin, is so well-produced. It’s no surprise. She’s a TV producer. Often, when I get media people who come to me and get pushed through, it’s not that their shows aren’t well-produced, it’s that they don’t get podcasting at the end of the day. What I can hear clearly from her show is that Evelien gets it deeply.

I’m so excited to have her on the show to talk about what the difference is in this model and why so many don’t get that disconnect and understand that podcasting is a different media type than radio, TV, or movies. It’s different. She’s got our challenges, and she’s going to talk about them. I love that I can bring you this perspective because it’s been something that’s intrigued me. You know how I get. I get excited when I can interview someone who’s helping me learn some more and getting me insights into a different part of the industry. That’s what Evelien’s doing.

Evelien created Reppin to share the raw, unfiltered conversations she has with your favorite stars with a mission to present representation in a way that goes beyond race, gender, and orientation. I have been fascinated by the show. There’s something so interesting about the way she interviews. There’s something so wonderful about the way she pulls out conversations and the way things flow in the show. You are going to want to read the show. Plus, I’m going to point out, as we do this interview, some areas that you are going to want to check out that are cool and interesting. Let’s go straight to the interview with Evelien Kong of Reppin.

About Reppin Podcast Host Evelien Kong

TBF Evelien Kong | Reppin PodcastEvelien Kong is battle tested, veteran TV producer and director who recently created and hosts the heavy hitting podcast, Reppin. With more than 25 years of experience in Hollywood, she’s produced award-winning documentaries with MTV, crafted digital content with Law and Order SVU, and worked with heavyweights like Mick Jagger, Miley Cyrus, Jimmy Fallon, Kerry Washington, and JJ Abrams all the way to President Biden. Inspired by her experiences from behind the scenes, Evelien created Reppin, to share the raw, unfiltered conversations she has with your favorite stars with a mission to present representation in a way that goes beyond race, gender, or orientation.

 

Evelien Kong on Social: Instagram | Youtube

 

Evelien, I am so excited to have a TV producer who has come to podcasting. I heard you say on one of your episodes as you were talking about your thoughts about how difficult it is to get people in your industry to understand podcasting. That’s a challenge. Tell us a little bit about the difference between TV and podcasts. You have 70-something episodes under your belt as we are recording this.

First and foremost, thank you so much for having me. I’m so happy to hang out with another female boss. I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you so much. I have spent most of my career in television. The difference between podcasting and television is not at all different and completely different at the same time. If that makes any sense at all, bear with me. In terms of content and creating content, that passion and process are more or less very similar. In terms of getting other publicists, talent reps, or other people to understand the value of podcasting, it does take a little bit of work.

There’s a deluge of outlets, places, and platforms that you need to support and hit. Podcasting is on that, but they are still looked at as very indie. It’s an indie genre. Since there is a proliferation of celebrities, it has opened a lot of doors, but not necessarily for indie podcasters that are not established celebrities, if that makes any sense.

There’s this difficult model of explaining the value to even add an industry level. Maybe I want to be associated with this celebrity, but that’s still a branding choice. It’s not a value choice, which is still crazy.

I’m sure you have also felt this challenge as well. There’s a lot of legwork when creating any creative endeavor, whether it is a TV show, a film, or a podcast. This was a lot more work than I even anticipated. I will wholeheartedly admit I underestimated the amount of time and effort that a podcast takes. I will speak for myself because I am very much a stickler for details. I’m sure you are too, to hit a certain barometer and a certain quality. It takes a lot of work.

 

TBF Evelien Kong | Reppin Podcast

 

Going further in terms of the differences, it is a difficult challenge to explain the value of first appearing on a podcast and then appearing on a podcast that is not established by a well-known name like Conan O’Brien or Joe Rogan. There’s much more headway. To cut through all of that noise and then also try to explain to the reps and their teams what the show is and why it’s important to speak to this particular outlet is always a challenge, even on television. Even on television with huge names, studios, and networks that I have worked with, that is still something that is the Tough Mudder of production.

It is a difficult challenge to explain the value of first appearing on a podcast and then appearing on a podcast that is not established by a well-known name like Conan O'Brien or Joe Rogan. Click To Tweet

That’s such a good way to put it. I love that you said that because it is like a slog. We go through this barrier.

You are rolling around the mud and you are like, “Now, it’s this. Now what?” It’s exhausting. You are like, “I have to climb on this and then struggle through this, and go under here.” That’s what production is. With podcasting, it is that and more. That is because you have to prove the value of not only your platform and the content, but depending on what your show is, and in my case, I do a lot of people from entertainment. I have to prove that I’m worth their caliber of talent to be able to duke it out for that notoriety, so to speak. That’s not necessarily bad. The good thing though is I don’t have to deal with hair and makeup or the glam team, which is great. When I work in television, that’s a whole other layer that I need to consider because that does take time. You want to be able to give everyone the time and the space they need to do their job.

When I first started my first show, I did it because we didn’t want to do videos so I didn’t have to have my hair. It was because the video wasn’t casual back several years ago. YouTube videos were highly crafted. It wasn’t livestream casual. It was a different model. That’s why we chose podcasting. It was simply the, “I’m not having my hair done every time we need to record. It’s not happening.”

Since you mentioned this, that was also one of the reasons that drew me to podcasting as well. I don’t need to deal with hair, makeup, and all of the lighting. It’s so much. It takes a lot more time than anyone thinks. This might not be a popular opinion, but the pandemic equaled the playing field in many ways because there was no other way to communicate. There was no other way to ingest and consume content. This was what it was, and this is much more acceptable and palatable.

My husband is Head of Podetize with me, Tom Hazzard. He yells at the TV. He cannot take it when these remote reporters don’t even have a microphone. You and I both know this microphone that we are using is not expensive. You could buy an $80 one. Would you get a microphone and stop using your AirPods? It’s awful. He yells at them.

They are the enemy of all podcasters.

Thank you for saying that too. Let’s talk a little bit about your production model. There’s so much in podcasting that is completely done off the cuff. It’s casual with no editing and all of that. Yours is edited and highly produced. You have a bigger burden than others because you are a producer. The people whom you are trying to ask on your show have higher expectations. You have a bigger burden than I do. It’s there. What do you do in that production process that maybe is similar to TV or different?

First of all, God bless you for pointing that out because so many of my friends were like, “Put it on. It’s fine. People are going to be fine with jump cuts.” I’m like, “I’m not going to be fine with that because my name is going on it.” At the end of the day, you are right. I can’t put it out there because people know my track record and pattern. I can’t say I have been in television for years and not put something out that looks halfway decent. To your point, the bane of my existence is bad audio, too. This is what I have learned in production. A bad picture is more forgiving.

Bad audio is insufferable. A bad picture is more forgiving. Click To Tweet

Especially on a mobile device, right?

Yes. Bad audio is insufferable. I do not ever skip out on doing homework for my podcast. I research and read as much as I possibly can. I’m sure you do too. You look at everything and prep. You get a better handle. I can’t say you can understand because that’s the whole point of these conversations. It’s to understand one another a little bit better.

My production technique or process is very similar to television. I am a stickler for prep and research. I never cut corners there. I spend a lot of time doing that. What I generally do and there are a million and billion ways to do this but this is my method to my madness is that I jot down and sketch out very roughly some general areas that I would like to hit. I don’t write exact questions because I feel like then I get too tripped up on wording things or trying to remember the exact question.

I have all that information marinating. When you do so much research, inevitably, whether you like it or not, it’s in your brain. I go in and have an idea of the general direction, but I’m also very open to throwing it out the window, going with the flow, and feeling it out. At the end of the day, authenticity and an actual conversation are much more engaging and interesting than reading questions.

At the end of the day, an actual, authentic conversation is much more engaging and interesting than reading questions. Click To Tweet

If we get those reps and all those other people to understand the value of that and the connection to the celebrity and the guests on your show, that’s where the value of podcasting is. That doesn’t happen in other places.

To extend that and I’m so glad you said that as well because you can and people do go on millions of outlets out there that say, “Watch my show. This is my clip. It’s on at this time.” The long-lasting legs are when someone watches it or listens to a show and genuinely likes the person that they are hearing. They are invested in this person and understand them a little bit more or you root for this person. There’s a longer-term gain when you establish a relationship and a connection. That’s the value. You get a lot more and much longer bang for your buck for lack of a better metaphor.

Too much ends up on a cutting floor on TV.

I feel like when you get to know someone and like them, it goes a lot further than somebody coming onto a show and saying, “I’m on this show. I’m doing this. It’s fun. It’s going to be on this time.” You are like, “That sounds interesting,” and then you forget. When you have an opportunity to establish more of a rapport through the outlets that are available and you are saying something more substantial and inspiring, it’s more lasting. That’s a real value in terms of podcasting especially. I love that. Television does not offer that and podcasting does.

I’m not an industry insider. As an observer and a consumer of all kinds of media types that TV always seems to be pushing its agenda. The show has its agenda and its direction whereas I feel that a lot of podcast shows have a general set. Yours is Reppin. It’s talking about how you represent yourself and how you represent your communities, the missions, and the things that you have in your background. You have that view of it but that’s an underlying theme in it. It’s the vehicle to get somebody to click on the show. The rest of it is going to happen naturally. That’s what the beauty of podcasting is. It’s that naturalness.

I agree. This might be an unpopular opinion. There are a lot of times that people, and I’m not saying that this is specific in podcasting but just in media in general, get into it for self-fulfilling reasons. There are some podcasters like yourself, and hopefully, I can include myself on this list, where it is about genuinely having a connection and a conversation.

There are many podcasters out there that do it. There are many outlets that do it, but it’s a lot to weed out in these oceans of shows and platforms out there. I’m looping in podcasts with television, magazines, and all the stuff that’s out there. A lot of outlets have their agenda. They have their marching orders to get. I do think that there are some wonderful outlets out there that also allow the space to be able to have a connection. Those are the ones that are so amazing and well worth the effort to find.

They are harder to find and that’s part of the problem. I call it the iHeart model because they specifically say that they do this. They are out there stating it, so I might as well call it that. It’s a pretty common thing. I was watching the Lucy and Desi documentary and some other things. They did it, too. It’s like we have this advertiser and now we need a show for it. That’s how it’s built.

iHeart does have an extremely high failure rate in shows that don’t make it past season one because it doesn’t fit the model. The advertiser says, “That’s not what I intended.” Even though it might be a great show if it got to continue, it doesn’t have that opportunity because it’s got the burden of that advertising model. The indie podcasters or those of us on that independent model have the advantage because we don’t have that burden. We can create a show that feels right for us and right for our audience.

Amen to all of that. Here’s the other thing that I love about podcasting after doing television for so many years. There are many layers that I have to go through. There are notes upon notes because each person has their opinion. Some are better than others. These are all opinions. My podcast was like succeed or fail. It’s completely on me. It’s far more nimble because there aren’t that many layers. I’m the creative control of it. There are plus and minuses to every other situation.

Going to your point also in terms of having specific outlets with very specific points, not to get political, but there are news outlets that are imposing specific points of view. This is happening on both sides. It doesn’t make a difference what side you are on. It doesn’t matter. The cautionary tale here is for the audiences to slow down, question the source, and also look at the source’s history and patterns.

Also, ask yourself. Are they spoon-feeding you something? Are they allowing you to make your own decisions and choices? What’s happening there? It is very challenging for you and me to do it. It’s challenging for audiences to find the shows and do due diligence. It’s a lot all the way around. I’m grateful when I’m able to have conversations like this with you who also is so aware of it and is having open-ended platforms and genuine conversations.

I want to point out that one of the things that you say about your show is that it is unscripted. Coming from the TV side, that’s a clear distinction that needed to be made by you because there are TV producer shows that are very scripted. I tell my audiences all the time I can tell the difference. I can tell because I listen to so many podcasts. It’s part of my job here. I know when a show is scripted from the moment it starts.

What are your dead giveaways?

My dead giveaway is the pace. There are people who have great-paced voices, but the pace of reading is so different from that. There’s no energy fluctuation over time. The dead giveaway for me is I can speed it up and instantly know. When you speed it up, it has this level of there are none of the pauses in between, so you don’t have what you would consider a dramatic pause or thought. You don’t have any of that happening. It’s consistent. It doesn’t modulate like you would expect emotional levels to happen. It doesn’t do it. You instantly know it’s a scripted show. I will slow it down and listen to it and I will go, “You can tell she’s reading it,” or, “He’s reading it.” That’s not a good thing.

I believe that a key to what’s going on in your show that is so wonderful is you are going with it. You are going with your insider understanding and the direction that you’d like it to take. I’m so glad to hear you don’t have prep questions. I imagine on TV, that happens a lot when you have a celebrity who’s doing the questioning. You expect that there’s probably a producer behind that doing all the prep. You can hear it. It comes across. They have got cue cards. You don’t do that and I can tell.

Thank you for that. This is my method to my madness. There are a billion ways to do it, and a lot of people do it successfully. My way is not certainly the right way. It’s the way I’m comfortable with it. I have been in enough situations where you can be super organized and super planned out. I am very prepared. I don’t walk into any shoot cold, not knowing the material, or not knowing whom I’m speaking with or at least what they look like and the content needs. Ninety-five percent of the time, it never goes as planned. You need to go, “That’s done.”

You are like, “I didn’t expect them to say that. Now, I’ve got to go there.”

You’ve got to know how to redirect it. I have had some interesting and colorful well-known personalities that I have worked with that are not always easy, not very cooperative sometimes, or cranky pants. Either way, you need to be able to think on your feet. If you know the material and your research, you go back to it. You cannot go into something cold. There are a lot of times that I will watch other shows, podcasts, or interviews. You can see the person doesn’t even know the character’s name and is glancing off to remember their names.

I get spacing out here and there because that happens. It happens to all of us. I have called people by their show names by accident. If you know the material, it shows. Whatever happens, the inevitable craziness or chaos, you are in control because you know what you need and you know the content. That’s so critical. I don’t script anything in my show.

TBF Evelien Kong | Reppin Podcast
Reppin Podcast: Whatever happens, the inevitable craziness or chaos, you’re in control because you know what you need and you know the content. That’s so critical.

 

I love that you don’t do that. You were talking about this. It’s why you are doing this. That’s important, especially when you have to put so much effort in. It is a lot of work. There has to be some type of what I call the return on investment. We talk to a lot of marketing and business podcasters here, but you got to have a return on investment for your time. It’s something that you are getting back from it. What is the more logical thing that you are getting back from it? What’s this unexpected thing that you found that you were like, “I love podcasting because of this.”

I’m going to answer your second question first about what was surprising about podcasting. What I didn’t anticipate when I started this show was how much recognition, acknowledgment, understanding, and perspective it would bring to my upbringing and experiences as an Asian-American woman and as a daughter of an immigrant. It made me realize that I was missing a huge part of my community. I have a lot of great people in my life, which I’m very grateful for, but I didn’t have a lot of Asian people in my life that I could relate. Only through these conversations has it slowly dawned on me that this was something that I was starved for.

I can give you many instances. I don’t know if I have ever shared this publicly. I grew up in one of the boroughs of New York. I was one of the very few Asian kids. They were mostly Italian. Long story short, I had gotten COVID like everybody else. I was texting with someone who was a guest on my show and we became friends, Yvonne Chapman from Kung Fu. She is an amazing actress who plays Zhilan. I said, “I got COVID.” She texted me and says, “Do you want me to send you some jook?” which is congee. It might not seem like a big thing and it was incredibly kind, but it blew my head off. It was the first time in my entire life, and I’m a fully grown woman that a contemporary or friend said to me, “Do you want me to send you this?”

Jook is congee, which is equivalent to American chicken soup. It is something that Chinese people and Asian-American people eat for breakfast. It is a comfort food. It makes you feel better. It’s full of protein. It was the first time that I had a friend innately understand that was something to do and that wasn’t weird. I didn’t have to explain it to someone. She offered it. It blew my head off because I realized, “I have never had that in my life. She understands me without me having to explain it.

Did you meet through the show?

Yes. We did not know each other before, and we have become friends. She’s a wonderful human being and truly world-class. That was the time when I was realizing I was missing all this community. If I say I’m going for dim sum, it’s a novelty thing. It’s a special thing for me and some American friends, but if we were going for Asian food, she gets it.

There have been other significant conversations I realized with actor Mike Bow who is on Kung Fu and The Company You Keep. He was talking about how he realized, and he was able to unpack it which I wasn’t able to. Anything that he saw Asians were being portrayed as undesirable social outcasts. When he said that, it was like a lightning bolt hit me in the head.

I am older than him, so I even had less representation than he did growing up. I didn’t realize that that image had been imprinted on my identity. I very much identify as a dork and an outlier. Dating in my day and age was impossible because I was the only Asian person. I felt like an undesirable awkward person. Only then was I able to make that connection? It’s helped my understanding of my own experiences in ways that I didn’t expect.

In terms of return on investment, the reason why I’m doing it is, frankly, I’m scared shitless. The world is a very complicated and terrifying place. I don’t think anyone is listening to learn. Everyone is listening to respond. People are moving at the speed of light. For many reasons, it’s a hard world to survive in. We need to stop, slow down, and look at what we are putting as a priority and putting value.

You cannot go by things that you see on TikTok or Instagram as fact. That is the stuff that’s superficial. Much like skin color, race, and orientation down to the celebrity, it’s still superficial. You don’t know these people. You think you do, but you don’t. It’s time to look at one another and say, “Do you exemplify the values that you think you hold?”

 

 

That’s so interesting that you are saying that because that’s the complaint that people have about podcasting. It’s not an immediate response. There’s no commenting going on. It doesn’t work like that. It’s a little bit more of a passive media type than any other. Yet, you chose that one as the vehicle for this message and this mission that you have that is needed.

It is a lot worse than I thought. I wish I had this conversation with you before.

That’s what a lot of my clients say. You are not the first person who’s like, “Why didn’t I know this beforehand? It’s so much work.”

If I didn’t care about it so much, I would throw it up there, but I can’t do it that way. Podcasting takes time. It takes investment also on the other end in terms of audiences. I don’t want to ever take someone else’s time for granted. That’s why I edit it down. I don’t spend time talking about my soup, my pizza, or my weekend. That’s fine for some shows. It’s right for some shows.

For me, if you are listening to it, it’s going to be 100% down to the best nuggets. We are going to get right down to business. I’m a New Yorker and a producer. I want to get from A to B. I want to get the most from my time and the most from my money. I want to make sure I deliver that to my audience as well and I hope I am.

You are. Every time on this show, I psychoanalyze the podcast and podcast host who’s on my show. I give them what I believe their binge factor is. It was hard to do this for your show. It’s not because it doesn’t have a binge factor. It’s not that at all. It’s that you shifted your show. It was late in 2022 you started to shift your show and created this new model.

I decided to do it mainly on this new model section because this is where you are going moving forward. That’s worth commenting on. That’s also something that I do see. Sometimes, people try something new and then they discover, “This doesn’t work for me anymore. I’m ready to move on.” I’m going to comment on it from that direction.

What I see as the binge factor in your show is that this isn’t a short conversation. This isn’t that superficial level. It comes across in every choice that you make on the show from whom you are going to have on to how you edit it, to you deciding to break it into pieces and maybe doing lessons learned afterward. You decide that this opportunity to deep dive into what makes this person tick and how that is coming across is such an interesting model to do. However, when you choose to do it with celebrities or actors, that’s an even harder choice to make because how can you be sure that they are not still acting for you?

It requires this time commitment that you have given it and this in-depth conversation, and then continuing that forward. It’s some smart choices that you have made. What I love even more and what makes it binge-able is the fact that when you do the lessons learned or you have a conversation with someone, you are tying your episodes together. You are creating a thread through them that works.

You did this in our interview where you are referencing Yvonne Chapman, Mike Bow, and the things that you have gathered and learned. When you do that, it makes me listen to your entire show all the way through from the beginning. Once I binge on you, I’m your friend too. I get to know you over time without you having to give me all of you, tell me your story, spill that all, and give me what you had for lunch. You don’t have to do that because I have grown to love you through the show.

I thank you for all of that. Here’s a little sneaky-peaky. I will be evolving that a little bit more. I’m going to be doing a lot more of the learned lessons through social media and YouTube because of many reasons. One is I’m happy to tell you, and this is another little sneak peek that I have enough episodes for 2023 banked. The lineup that I have is incredibly diverse and very powerful. There are a couple of episodes coming up that are going to be tough but critically important.

I will share this with you. I haven’t shared this with anybody else on any other show. I have a special two-parter coming up, and it’s going to be with Sara Kruzan. Sara Kruzan made headlines because she was a child survivor of sex trafficking. It is a devastating and painful story, but here’s the thing. At the end of the day, when you listen to the atrocities that she’s had to suffer, do you know what she’s doing? She’s advocating for others. There’s a law in her name to protect children from abused homes from facing life sentences.

In short, when she was young, the world and society failed her at every turn. In a world where she knew no kindness, no love, no security, and no help, she is providing all of those things for everyone else. To me, even though it is a painful and devastating episode, and there is a disclaimer at the front, it is a story about remarkable persistence, heart, and goodness. I have met with Sara many times. She is a lovely, light, funny, articulate, and sweet woman.

I don’t know about you, but I get pissed off and cranky when I get stuck in traffic from road rage. It puts things in perspective. It reminds me personally what a person can do if they choose to and what a person can live with and manage. We have all gone through difficult things in varying degrees and in our ways. I’m not going to say they don’t leave us scarred and battered, but in multiple instances, people have shown me that you can move forward with them. That’s the takeaway.

We've all gone through difficult things in varying degrees and in our own ways. They may leave us scarred and battered, but we can move forward with them. Click To Tweet

It’s not to say that you are not forever changed. It’s not to say you are not beaten up and sometimes, you feel like shit. You can still move forward positively. You can still give back. All of the lessons that Sara has shared are not exclusive to someone who’s gone through trafficking. It’s about being able to pick yourself up and keep going. That’s invaluable.

That’s what is so great about what you are talking about here. It’s that when you do your lessons learned, it’s this application to you. The audience is getting to know you in that process, and I’m also starting to see the path where I could apply that to me. You are almost giving me a roadmap at the same time as a listener, and that’s important.

I applaud this idea of you putting that more on social because there’s not enough of that on social. There are these sound bites of like, “This is my hack. I’m so inspired,” but what, why, and how? It’s all missing there. I do like the idea of it because that will lead to listeners who then say, “I hear that and I need that. I’m going to go listen, and I’m going to get that.” That’s a good roadmap for podcast listener growth in general, which is an important part.

After 100 episodes, I stopped asking this question because I was like, “100 times and it’s the same thing.” I would ask people, “How are you growing your listeners?” They would say, “This is the thing I’m not good at,” or, “This is the bane of my existence in podcasting.” Everyone’s struggling with that. It doesn’t matter how qualified or how great of a show they have. They all feel like that’s the struggle. I was like, “I need to not ask the question that way anymore because it’s not worth it.” This is the question that we do need to ask. When things weren’t working and it required a shift for you, what was that signal? I don’t think we listen to that often enough.

Honestly, I’m still going through growing pains and evolution. After so many years in production, you don’t ever hit that cruising altitude necessarily. It might work in some genres, but I don’t believe that it works in production. Sometimes, when you hit that cruising altitude and cruising, you need to figure it out.

Maybe that’s the danger sign when you are starting to cruise.

It’s like growing as a person. It’s like you are reading. Your example of people who are scripting their podcasts or are not so prepared, you can hear it. There’s no ebb and flow. Everything’s a heartbeat. You either hear it’s real and you feel it or you don’t. I’m going to put this on my lessons learned and my insights on some more social media. I’m going to be pivoting that a little bit, but if it doesn’t work, then it might go away.

TBF Evelien Kong | Reppin Podcast
Reppin Podcast: When people are scripting their podcasts or are not so prepared, you can hear it. There’s no ebb and flow. Everything’s a heartbeat. You either hear it’s real and you feel it or you don’t.

 

I will be very honest with you, and I have said this before. I am not comfortable being the host. I am not comfortable being in public. I have had numerous conversations with my friends and Marley, who is my amazing publicist, and I have spent most of my career avoiding the Internet. There wasn’t a photo of me. There wasn’t anything of me. It was nothing.

I technically look at a show as well because this is what we do. I have an audit process. It’s this model of looking at the show. The choice not to put your name as the host of the show becomes evident. This is one of the questions I was going to ask you maybe off-air, but it was a choice.

If you listen to any one of my episodes in the first season, and that’s twelve episodes, I never said my name.

I did notice that. Even still, you rarely say your last name. You say your first name.

The conversations are casual and intimate. I want to keep it that way. I want to keep it casual because that’s what these conversations should be. They don’t always have to be heavy-handed. I’m not comfortable being in front at all, but I do understand it’s part of the job at this point. After doing so many decades in television where I am behind the scenes, that’s an area I’m very comfortable in.

I did not start this show to be in front or to be talented. I’m quite uncomfortable speaking about myself. I’m bored, too. This show is about spotlighting people you think you know and what we can learn from them. It’s trying to provoke thought and for people to look at where we each can learn more and examine or reflect on where we put value in our priorities. I don’t know why anybody would want to listen to me. I’m quite private and quite shy, so this is a new thing for me.

This is the part that may be coming from the media background that didn’t prepare you in quite this way. A host doesn’t have to be a host in our traditional mindset in media. You embody that well. This is the same thing. My job isn’t to be a hostess. It’s not that, “I’m here to make you look good.” I’m here to experience the story with you and guide you. The host is the wrong name for it. We need a new name like a podcast guide or something. It needs a new name. It could be a Sherpa. Who knows? It doesn’t fit the model of the way a lot of podcasts run, yours especially, I know the way that mine runs. It doesn’t fit that. That’s why we almost need this. We have to break that mindset for ourselves to figure out what this role that we are taking on is.

I wish I met you years ago when I first started. First of all, I would have learned that it’s a lot more work than you think. A lot of people get into entertainment and media for a lot of different reasons. I have certainly seen my fair share of people who want to be celebrities and be in front. I’m quite averse to it. I appreciate that you also are coming from the same school of thought. I’m down to learn, hear some stories, and hopefully remind people of the number of good people that are still out there exemplifying the values. They are showing up, fighting for it, and making the changes that we all can make and should make.

I’m so glad you said that. That’s the value of what you are bringing to this show. It’s showing, “I’d like to tackle media from a different perspective. I’d like to tackle conversations from a different perspective.” Choosing an interview show is harder than people think. An interview show has its challenges. It’s not just scheduling.

Scheduling for me is a whole lot easier because half the people I interview are dying to get their podcast publicity out there. They will show up at whatever time I tell them. It’s not as hard for me as it is for you, but that’s a challenge. Deciding how to get a conversation out of them that’s different from what you hear on talk shows is a challenge. You have built up this challenge for yourself and have tackled it with such great gusto like. That’s a very Italian thing. You said you grew up near the Italian community. It’s gusto. As my dad would say, it’s sass. That’s what you have in the way that you are tackling this show. It’s making the interview guest rise to it and showing them something new. You are showing them a new way that they can be out in the world.

I appreciate that. That’s what my hope is. I hope I’m getting that across. I don’t know. Oftentimes, you are sitting in your area doing this show. You are eyeball-deep in trying to get things right. To your point, scheduling brunch with friends is tough. Scheduling a podcast, yours even is tough. Even with this one, we needed to reschedule because we are all so busy. You have got a family. I don’t even know how you are doing that. God bless you. I’m on shoots, so my production is fluid. It is a little bit crazy.

The biggest challenge, and there are many challenges that any production faces certainly as an independent podcast, is that I am duking it out with The Tonight Show, Good Morning America, huge radio stations, and all of these. Here I come, this little thing. Even though I have been in entertainment, it doesn’t give me that much of a leg up. I understand how the industry works a little bit, but it doesn’t give me that I can pick up the phone and call them. It takes quite a bit of convincing and pitching.

I get a lot of noes, but I also get yeses. It’s an interesting dynamic. I have had, thankfully, a lot of guests say they have never done an interview like this before. This is the reason why. It’s because everybody is put in their respective boxes. It doesn’t make a difference what color you are, what gender, or what job you have. We are not going to get that far if we don’t stop and listen to one another and see one another based on our character. That’s the bottom line.

It doesn't make a difference what color you are, what gender you are, or what job you have. We're not going to get that far if we don't stop and listen to one another and see one another based on our character. Click To Tweet

I talked to Mary Beth Evans from Days of Our Lives. She’s an eight-time Emmy winner. I had a great conversation with her. I grew up watching her and fangirling. I was a huge Days of Our Lives Steve and Kayla fan, but it was a time to be able to talk to Mary Beth beyond Days of Our Lives and her immensely iconic character, Kayla Brady Johnson. It was time to understand who she was as Mary Beth and how she lives her life.

It’s amazing to see that she’s a woman that continues, despite her iconic status in the daytime and her enormous success, to give back constantly. She gives back to foster families. She gives back to many organizations she believes in. She’s always made time for that. That’s important to see because the sense of community is also lost. Everyone’s out for themselves.

Wouldn’t we be happier and more fun if we helped each other out and are doing this together? I don’t understand that. I want to have that opportunity to see one another beyond the labels that we are all put in constantly. One of the challenges is getting those notable people to see that and trust that. Trust is a big thing.

I can’t thank you enough for representing podcast hosts in a new light or in a new way. Thank you for pushing the media industry to get out of the way and letting podcasting take its form. Thank you for taking on that challenge. I am inspired by Reppin. To the audience out there, you got to go check out the show. I especially want you to listen to Evelien’s sign-off that she has her guests do. It’s well done. It builds a little great sequence in the show that she’s able to use on social media and in other places. It’s a smart tactic as well, but it sets the tone for the show. My last question for you is do you do it last or do you do it first? I love that choice for you because they have experienced the show and then they do it. It’s not at a superficial level anymore.

Let me ask you this. What would your answer be?

Thank you for asking that. I’m Tracy Hazzard and I represent the underserved voices that want to get their message out. I give them the how-to. I’m that how-to girl that says, “Here’s how you are going to break through. Here’s how you do it.” I’m going to give you that answer because I want you to succeed.

Will you come to do a behind-the-scenes with me?

I would be honored.

That’s such a great answer for you.

Thank you, and thank you for bringing up this part of podcasting. Often, the celebrities, the media, the producers, and the way that these shows happen don’t serve podcasting growth in general to what it can be as a great media type. It’s not progressing to the next level. It’s trying to shove radio and TV. It’s trying to shove too much into it that it doesn’t need to be.

I have to say thank you also for your community building. I believe in building a community together and having it be not only cohesive but happy and empowering the others because if one succeeds, the other succeeds. The places for authentic conversation, which is a two-way zone, are rare. I appreciate that you invest your time and your preparation because I know that you have prepared. You are not winging it and phoning it in. That is a huge testament to your character. It shows me that you don’t bullshit your way through life and that you do the things that you say you are going to do which, believe it or not, is quite rare. Thank you so much for all of that. We need a lot more of that in this world.

This is one of my favorite interviews.

Thank you. We need to go for drinks, adult beverages.

When I asked her why she was doing the show, what would be in it for her, and what was the return on investment, and this the thing that so often happens, it’s the return on investment you expect. What you expect to get out of it for your business, your mission, or whatever that might be is one thing. Often, that happens unless there’s a significant mismatch like, “I expected to have a million followers,” and that doesn’t occur. Very often, that does occur that you get what you intended and the return on investment is there.

It’s that intangible. It’s that thing that you didn’t expect to get out of it, which is what turns a podcaster into a passionate industry podcaster who wants to share their show with everyone and wants everyone to the podcast. We are contagious. Those kinds of people, Evelien Kong is one of those.

What she has gotten out of podcasting and the way that she’s seeing this opportunity for conversation, storytelling, and crafting this authenticity in a way that doesn’t happen in the media types she’s been working with is her brilliance. That’s what she’s bringing here. It’s that view of what that industry could do if they got podcasting. I’m hoping they don’t get it too soon for our jealous reasons. I hope we independent podcasters can stay valid for a while before the rest of the media gets wise to it.

I am also grateful to someone like Evelien who’s bringing this professionalism or this opportunity view and seeing creatively what she can do with it. That’s going to rise the boat for all of us. It’s going to show us the opportunity of what podcasting could become. This is an opportunity to share stories, be yourself, and get deeper than the characters you play or get deeper than the surface of your business. Going deep is a theme of what she was talking about. Everything that she does and how she produces her show is meant to do more of that.

She’s editing, but she’s not editing to get sound bites. She’s not editing to craft this conversation. She’s editing to move the story along, to move the conversation along, to keep the audience engaged, and to get the point across. She’s not editing for that other more artificial model that gets imposed on podcasting a lot of times when we see professional producers step into the industry. She’s doing it in such a different way, and I value that.

This is the great part about the show. This is my intangible. My return on investment is I learn so much from so many amazing, diverse people where I can get perspectives on things that hadn’t occurred to me. That input gets translated into how I can make better services, how I can help my podcasters, how I can help the industry move along, and what I can do with that. That input is so valuable to me that I can’t stop doing my show.

It’s so interesting because Evelien was like, “You could do this. You could do that.” She’s got these amazing, great ideas. I have this feeling we might be doing some more things together. I’m looking forward to being friends with her. That is the value of podcasting that you are not going to understand until you get started and you start recording, doing interviews, building rapport, and getting to know people on a deeper level. It’s going to change your business. It’s going to change your outlook on the world. It is going to change you at a fundamental level when you start to internalize that and figure out what you are learning along the way. It’s like all those lessons learned that Evelien is bringing into her show as well.

You are going to want to check out Reppin. There are some amazing things about how she does some of her segments. She gets them to do this close that we talked about. There are some interesting ways in which she does her intro as well where she’s giving a sound bite from what somebody says. This is where a good producer does it. It’s so valuable. You are going to hear that in the show as well.

Listen to the way she asks questions because that is so valuable. It’s going to teach you to be a better interviewer. Also, you are going to meet some interesting people. One of my favorite podcasts to listen to, and also because I’m a space geek, is Michelle Hurd from Star Trek: Picard. She comes on it. Her episode is fantastic. I love the rawness of it and the way she says things. It’s a beautiful insight into Michelle Hurd’s personality. There are a lot of episodes like that.

I’m sure you are going to find a celebrity that you are so fascinated about and want to hear the behind-the-scenes on, but also find some that you have never heard of before. Check it out because it’s going to inspire you in getting to know people’s stories. Go check out Reppin and Evelien Kong. Enjoy a great new podcast that you are going to want to subscribe to and become a fan of. Thanks, everyone, for tuning in. I will be back next time with another binge factor and another great inspiring guest who’s getting us all to become better hosts.

 

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Tracy Hazzard

Tracy Hazzard

Tracy Hazzard is an Authority Magazine columnist, former Inc. 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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