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Emily Lewis and Lea Alcantara

Emily Lewis and Lea Alcantara

Podcasting has always been popular, but there seems to be a new resurgence among digital agencies. But what are the keys to success in podcasting? And the pitfalls to avoid? Lea Alcantara and Emily Lewis share the experience of reaching 100 episodes of their very popular CTRL+CLICK CAST show. They share how they got started, stay motivated and discuss the highs and lows of a long-running podcast. 


Carl Smith:
Hey everybody, and welcome back to the Bureau Briefing. It's Carl and with me today, I have two really amazing people from Bright Umbrella. We have, I'm going for it. I'm just going to tell you right now I'm going for it. We have Emily Lewis and we have Lea Alcantara.

Lea Alcantara:
No. No. You did it wrong. 

Carl Smith:
No, no. Don't tell me. I'm going to keep going. Okay, Can, like a can.

Lea Alcantara:
Yes.

Carl Smith:
Tara. Terra. 

Lea Alcantara:
Al-can-tera. 

Carl Smith:
Al-can-tera. I can't do it without an accent though.

Lea Alcantara:
It's okay.

Carl Smith:
So welcome to what is going to be a fun episode. I asked Emily and Lea to be on the show today because they have got a podcast that has been going on and maintained a high level of quality for a long time. I know a lot of people in our community are starting out new podcast, and they told me before the show that they're coming up on their hundredth episode. I can't say hundredth. I'm done. We're over. Hundredth episode, so congratulations on that and welcome to the show.

Emily Lewis:
Thank you. Thanks for having us. 

Lea Alcantara:
Thank you.

Carl Smith:
You are most welcome. And I'll be going to school later to learn how to say Lea's last name. I don't know why I've got the mental block. I want to find out, I've been doing podcasting for a while, very inconsistently, both in terms of the quality and the way that we release episodes. How did you decide that you were going to do Control Clickcast and how did you stick with it?

Lea Alcantara:
So should I answer that?

Emily Lewis:
Yeah. Lea's more, Lea's the origin story, really. She's the beginning and middle.

Lea Alcantara:
I mean the long story short was a few years ago, Ryan Ireland ...

Emily Lewis:
Six years ago.

Lea Alcantara:
Yeah.

Carl Smith:
Ryan.

Lea Alcantara:
Let's forget that because that makes me feel old. A few years ago, Ryan Ireland and Daniel Benjamin asked me to be a guest on one of their shows. It was the Expression Engine Podcast. I guess they liked what I had to say, so they asked me, so they asked me to be a guest a few more times, and then eventually, both Dan and Ryan decided they wanted to move away from the show, but they still found value in the show itself and they didn't just want to end it. They asked me if I wanted to take over the show. 

Carl Smith:
Oh wow. 

Lea Alcantara:
Yeah. Then so I was like, yeah, that sounds great, but now I need a cohost, and so I was thinking long and hard over, you know who I wanted to have on with me for on a regular basis and I asked people in the community to give me some suggestions, but at the end of the day, I already had Emily in mind because I've always admired her work from afar. Online, we met a couple of times at conferences like South by Southwest and things like that. 

Then I did end up asking her to be my cohost and it worked out. Like we just, once we started working on the show, we, our values aligned. Our work ethic aligned. When you were kind of asking about how long has this been going and how did you guys keep it going is that we've always taken working together very seriously and taken the podcast very seriously. Like it's our own project and client. Because we had that perspective that this is our client, then we scheduled it in like we would do a client project. 

We reviewed it like we did a client project. Then after 100 episodes of Expression Engine podcast, we decided, okay we actually wanted to broaden our perspective a little bit more and talk about other CMS's as well as other pieces of the technology as some of our listeners might, well some of your listeners might not know, Emily is a whiz at front-end development and she wanted to talk a little bit, whole episodes about front-end dev. Me, as a designer, I wanted to have whole episodes where it was just design. After 100 episodes of the EE podcast, we rebranded to what is now known as Control Clickcast.

Emily Lewis:
We're coming up on 107 ...

Carl Smith:
Do you still have that backlog of Expression Engine shows?

Lea Alcantara:
Yeah it's still in the archive of controlclickcast.com. 

Carl Smith:
Okay. I had no idea that's how the two of you sort of met, or started working together. Now you work together full-time, right?

Emily Lewis:
Yeah. We're partners in Bright Umbrella.

Carl Smith:
That's amazing. That's such a great story. 

Emily Lewis:
Yeah, it's probably I think one of the better stories in the sense that we go to really test each other out before we became partners. We were actively working on things that had to test everything that you have to test in a business partnership.

Carl Smith:
Well and you were taking a show ... Dan Benjamin obviously is the master of podcasts. I mentioned when we were talking before, that I don't listen to podcasts. One of the few podcasts I listened to was his podcast podcast, which I can't remember the name right now. But it was one of those where I was just like I want to do this better and I knew that he'd be able to. So you had a built-in start of quality and consistency and wow, that's just great. 

Lea Alcantara:
I think that's also always been important to us. If we were going to do this, we weren't going to half-ass it and so we wanted to make sure that not only were we making the commitment to quality of content, interesting topics and guests but that we were also trying to produce really high-quality audio. We were very committed to providing transcripts from the very beginning, to make our content as accessible as possible. Those were our standards and we haven't, we hold ourselves to it every time. 

Carl Smith:
Well for those of us playing catch up, thanks for the pressure because we needed it. We actually ... I did an episode with Robert Jolly on accessibility, and we didn't have a transcript. I know. We had one within eight hours of going live because one of the people following the podcast needed us to have the transcript.

Emily Lewis:
Right. 

Carl Smith:
Shot a very nice message on Twitter and said, "Hey fellas, this is kind of wrong." Luckily I had heard of rev.com, which I don't know if you guys are using a service or how you do it, but Rev was like amazing. I went out there and something like eight hours, six hours later, had a perfect transcript and put it up there and now we do it every time. I've actually been going through the backlog of Bureau Briefings, the bureau's podcasts and starting to put in the transcripts for the previous ones, because you know, we have so much time. That's how we like to spend it. Have you ever had an episode where you got called out for something? You have to have after all of these?

Emily Lewis:
I mean I think we've heard comments. I don't remember if it was like on Slack or something where someone was like oh I just can't stand listening to them. But here's the thing. I was part of that, Slack, so I called them out back. They were like, Oh, ah, err.

Carl Smith:
Well hello.

Emily Lewis:
That we laugh too much.

Lea Alcantara:
Yeah.

Emily Lewis:
I just feel sorry for that person.

Carl Smith:
Really?

Lea Alcantara:
They don't want laughter in their life.

Emily Lewis:
No I can't think of anything ...

Lea Alcantara:
Where they're like I can't believe you said that and you're sharing misinformation, no.

Emily Lewis:
Which is kind of amazing, if you think about it, in our industry and that we're both women. 

Carl Smith:
And that you're talking about development type stuff, front-end development. You're talking about design. These are topics that have never had heated discussions. 

Lea Alcantara:
We don't have comments on our site, so that may be part of it. 

Carl Smith:
That could help.

Emily Lewis:
We don't allow like anyone to post anything to the site.

Lea Alcantara:
Right. And I mean we do have like obviously some people comment on Twitter. A few things, but they've been mostly positive. Even when people have disagreed, no one's ever been, "You guys should go away," or harassment or anything like that. It's just been like, "Oh, I don't necessarily agree with this but I'm going to share your show because I still enjoyed it." It's like, oh okay. Awesome.

Carl Smith:
Well there you. At least that's showing that you're getting positive discussion going and people thinking even if they don't agree they're open to the ideas. That's really great. 

Emily Lewis:
I think we benefit from the reality of, Lea and I have been in this industry a really long time. Our opinions aren't just like, oh I just figured that out. We've had time to really test our opinions and test the things that we put out there and I think both of us also tend to be very open about how much we learn every day with every new project and every new guest that we have on the show. It doesn't ever feel like we know everything and we're just throwing that at people.

Carl Smith:
As you come up on 100 episodes, there have to be a few that stand out for you, right? 

Lea Alcantara:
Yes.

Emily Lewis:
Yes.

Lea Alcantara:
In fact, we just had homework to pick them for our 100th episode because we're going to do like, a little like reflect back on favorite episodes and what stood out and have clips from them. I'm pulling the document up right now.

Emily Lewis:
I'm doing the exact same thing.

Carl Smith:
Gene and I did that when we hit our 10th episode because we knew that would be about as far as we went for Bizcraft. I think we had some of the most embarrassing things or some of the most, I guess sad things happen. When we interviewed Simon Synek, he had to call in on his phone. The quality was so bad. It was just horrible. Anytime we had somebody that felt like it was going to be a big name like, wow, that's going to be amazing, they were either in a bad mood or we had horrible technology. Like Simon Synek was awesome. He was like a five-year-old. Where are you from? That sounds amazing. Do you have a cat? Just like, but yeah, that was crazy for me. Did you pull them up?

Emily Lewis:
Yeah, although you know frankly I don't feel like we have any super funny stories. We've had a couple podcasts that weren't the best, but I don't think listeners thought that. I think it was just our experience with it. In terms of the ones that I picked for the top three, they're really the ones that like, when I was done talking to the guest, it was just like God I feel amazing.

Lea Alcantara:
Yeah. Yeah.

Emily Lewis: I feel inspired. I feel like I could go create and that I have people who understand me and think like me and yeah. I think the first one on my list for those is the one that we did with Sherry and Reuben Johnson who are the Flyduo. They're a web agency out of Atlanta.

Carl Smith:
Yeah.

Emily Lewis:
We talked to them about their brand and how they've kind of really focused on their unique niche identity and how they're using that to drive growth in their agency, versus diving into a sector. 

Carl Smith:
Yeah. But really, really great people.

Emily Lewis:
Oh so great. It was, at the end of the episode, not only did I feel like I walked away with some really thoughtful ideas about how to think about Bright Umbrella's brand and how we think about new clients, but I also felt like I just wanted to go have dinner with them.

Lea Alcantara:
Oh totally.

Emily Lewis:
I just wanted to go hang out and that we would have a great time, that they'd get along great with Jason. That kind of stuff. 

Carl Smith:
That's great. Lea, what about you?

Lea Alcantara:
So mine's going to be less fun, but still good. I would have to say this probably changed our business. It's practical pricing with Brad Weaver. 

Carl Smith:
Wow.

Lea Alcantara:
Yeah, so we had ... I met Brad in Atlanta, or no, actually here in [inaudible 00:13:56]

Carl Smith:
It's all Atlanta for you guys. 

Lea Alcantara:
Well I actually met him at a Converge, when he was speaking at Converge and he was doing a pricing talk. After his talk, I pulled him aside. I was like, "Man that was a great talk," and blah, blah, blah and then he offered very generously to chat with me and Emily about our business and pricing and what it all meant and it resonated so much with us that we just took all his advice and applied it and wow, it worked.

Carl Smith:
Whoa.

Lea Alcantara:
Then because it helped us so much, we're like we need him on our show. We need this in our industry because I definitely think pricing your services properly is a challenge for many in our sector, especially because people feel like weirdly intimidated. They're not from a business background so they don't know the exact tools. The other thing I liked about this episode and just generally this particular topic is that it's called Practical Pricing. I feel like whenever people give advice about pricing services, it always seems so general as in "raise your rates," or value yourself as if you already don't know that your services have any sort of value or as if you don't know that raising your rates is probably a good idea. Nobody has actually spoken about the how's, like how does that happen. 

Beyond just like, "throw it in a spreadsheet." It's like, that makes no sense. I felt like what Brad did was bring the practical part into pricing where it's like let's put this in context of a design business and actually have it resonate so that when you're plugging in the numbers it doesn't feel arbitrary. Emily and I are smart women. We've done our research. We priced our services based on arbitrary things before, but it never made sense. It always felt like I'm just randomly putting numbers in a spreadsheet and it didn't make any sense. Until we spoke to Brad, who broke down specifically what, what we should be looking at and how, that was when the, the magic basically started to happen and when we started to apply that and actually demand what we were worth from our clients, that wow people are actually willing to pay it.

Carl Smith:
So when you said that, you just killed me a little bit because you categorized two-thirds of every talk I ever gave. Raise your rates. Respect yourself. The third one was quit your job. I was dying. Somebody actually on Twitter once put, oh I'm trying to remember it now. It was, "Be good to yourself. Love everyone and tell your boss to go to hell." Every Carl Smith talk ever. I was just like, what? Did I do that? Then I found out later there were some of my friends who had shops who wouldn't let their employees come to see me speak, they were so convinced they would quit. That's amazing about Brad and about that episode. I haven't seen Brad in a while. I know he moved from Atlanta. We had him on the Briefing. That episode hadn't gone out yet. It was on writing a book.

Lea Alcantara:
Right. Yup.

Carl Smith:
Yeah, because he had done that. I had Dan Mall on. We were talking more about his apprenticeship program, but man you want to talk about, ah has there ever been a more heated topic than value based versus time and materials versus all this stuff? It's like whoosh.

Lea Alcantara:
Yup.

Emily Lewis:
I think that, I think another thing that's good about that particular episode with Brad, I think we really emphasized that there's really no one solution. Not just like for one business. Within our own business, we price probably five different ways depending on what the project is, what the product or service is.

Lea Alcantara:
Or the client.

Emily Lewis:
Yeah. That's what actually works. Sometimes value-based works. Sometimes flat rate works. Sometimes hourly works. If you want to be successful and make a profit, you need to figure out what those sometimes are.

Carl Smith:
Yeah, and sometimes it's what you're comfortable with, right? If you're going out there to use a methodology or philosophy or anything that you're not comfortable with, it's not going to work.

Lea Alcantara:
Oh yeah, absolutely. It has to make sense to you and not be overwhelming or intimidating and pricing really can be. 

Carl Smith:
You hit on something, so that episode changed your business, right? Now I've often just gone after guests because I wanted to talk to the person.

Emily Lewis:
Right.

Carl Smith:
You know, totally selfish and it always seemed to work out. Or I would hear of a heated conversation that happened, and so I'd follow up on it. How do you go about selecting your guests?

Emily Lewis:
You know we leverage our, first and foremost we leverage our network, people who we've met at conferences or events or that we follow and pay attention to what they're sharing in the industry. In fact, we just got back ... Well not just, but this summer we were at the How Design Live Conference, and we had two people potentially three that were speakers at that conference that we met, first time, that we followed up with and they seemed like they're a great fit for the podcast, so we're going to schedule them for the podcast. Our networking is first and foremost.

Carl Smith:
That's great. 

Lea Alcantara:
Yeah, because then that means we can guarantee that there's a certain level of quality as well because, okay if I've met you, cool conversation, let's record another cool conversation.

Emily Lewis:
And we've learned that the hard way. We've had, we've had two guests that were not my favorite experiences and both of those ...

Carl Smith:
I apologize. 

Emily Lewis:
Neither of those we had met, and so that was, that was when we were like, okay, we have to make sure we have some connection with these guests that we invite before we invite them.

Lea Alcantara:
Yeah.

Carl Smith:
Gene and I used to, so when we were doing Bizcraft, and it was, I always loved that podcast a ton, and I don't know that our advice was always the best but it always from the heart. We would get together the day before the show and we wouldn't have talked for a week or two, and we would start to talk, and if something got traction, one of us would say, save it for the show. And so we would know that there was a list of things that we both wanted to talk about that we had held back on and that worked really well. I found later, both with, I'd done a podcast with [inaudible 00:20:56] for a little while, friendly fire, as well as doing The Briefing. When we meet people and we start talking, if I get really excited about something they're saying, I ask them if we can stop talking so that we can get it on the show later. 

We've had episodes, because of that we've had episodes on eating disorders, on somebody who was remote employee and had an alcohol problem, different things where they actually went to their teams and talked to them about it because there's so many things that, when you share them publicly, not only do you help so many other people, but you really help yourself. Those were always the shows that, I was always glad I didn't have a sponsor. It's like, I can just see right now, "Square Space is so happy to bring you I'm a remote alcoholic." 

Emily Lewis:
Although we laugh but that is how it should be because that is a real issue for people. Just like you're saying, you don't want to stop ... You stop a conversation so you can carry it into something you can share with other people but I think sponsors should be open to sharing those things because those are real issues. It's one of the reasons we rebranded. We didn't want to only be able to talk about Expression Engine. We wanted to talk about things like mental health or things like inclusion in the workplace. Things like that that are sensitive, hot-button topics that are also very personal. 

Carl Smith:
Yeah. Absolutely. We had Jen Derry on the show after she found out about her brain tumor. 

Lea Alcantara:
Oh wow.

Carl Smith:
The whole show was about, okay, you're an entrepreneur and now you have this major medical crisis. You're also the mother of two. How do you do that? How do you, do you just shut your business down or whatever? We had this amazing conversation and Jen is just an amazing person. It was truly one of the best episodes. I've never really gone back to look at the statistics or any kind of metrics or anything, but I know that show was a great show and I know that it helped a lot of people who were thinking, I can't get through all this, and then they're suddenly like, I can totally get through all this. I don't have that other situation going. I'm curious. When you've gone through so many episodes like you have, do you ever do a series? I think we were talking about that a little bit earlier, like putting together as series of shows.

Emily Lewis:
Yeah, so this year we decided we wanted to do a series. This is actually one of the first things we did to try and get the podcast to align a little bit with Bright Umbrella's marketing goals.

Carl Smith:
Oh wow.

Emily Lewis:
We've never created content for our clients. We've always created content for our peers. But we wanted something that would potentially appeal to our clients, that we could either use in communicating with them or marketing our services or selling our services. We decided to do a series about demystifying the web for clients. Essentially how to talk about web design, web development, content management, tech terms in ways that clients can relate to so that they not only value us and our services but value the products we create for them. 

Carl Smith:
Well, again, I'm just going to keep using the same word. That sounds amazing. I want to give you some serious kudos for your website, for the way that you've always presented Bright Umbrella. I remember when you rebranded to Bright Umbrella. It's, this always sounds like such a crappy compliment, but it feels bigger. It's one of those things. It feels super established. It feels like accessible. It feels like you could create just about anything that you needed to. So to be able to shift the podcast in that direction so that it's now, you're going to demystify it like you said. You're going to make clients feel more comfortable, prospects feel more comfortable. Good for you.

Lea Alcantara:
Well and it also ...

Carl Smith:
Anybody else listening? They're not going to do it. None of the people listening are going to do it. They're going to say they're going to do it.

Lea Alcantara:
Well what's interesting about that is, even though Emily said, yes it's focused on clients and speaking to your clients, obviously there's value for our main audience which are peers for listening to these. We can help elevate a little bit, the industry, on how we speak to clients and get them to understand each other better because sometimes I do feel like a lot of the issues that occur in projects is just, it's miscommunication but specific miscommunication. Again, one of the things that we like to do at Control Clickcast is let's move beyond the generalizations and speak specific items that we can actually tackle. 

People can say we have problems speaking to our clients which is a general industry issue and you can just talk in general about that, but Emily and I wanted to speak in specifics over like, okay here's where potentially speaking about information architecture actually breaks down and then they get confused. Some clients, we as web designers, developers, take for granted terms like sitemap. You know? Or even CMS. Those types of things, they may not get right away. Or worse, they pretend they get it, which is actually worse because then you think you're all in accord and everybody's happy and then you get an awkward conversation later in the project simply because they were too intimidated to tell you, I don't understand.

Carl Smith:
Yeah. With nGen, we ended up creating, after our 100th project we put together this client guide. The client guide was all about the places where we knew the mistakes would be. I was telling the team, I was like, "Look there's only one constant in all 100 projects. That's us. Every client doesn't come in here and make those mistakes. We somehow guide them to these mistakes," and one of the things we found was we needed to have a glossary. We created a glossary that was part of our intranet kind of thing. We would share it with clients and say these are what these words mean to us. Do they mean something different to you? If they did, we would find a different way to talk about it because we didn't want the confusion.

The other thing, and I've gotten praised and also slammed for this, but we would be in meetings and there would be times where we would be talking through the proposal and there would always be one section that clients couldn't remember, right? I would put on a red nose, a red clown nose and then I would read through that section, right? I would say, once you give us approval on this, and we move forward if you ask us to change it's going to cost a lot of money. They would be like, well why did you put on the clown nose? Because in three months when I say this, you're going to say you don't remember but I'll say, "Do you remember when I put on the red clown nose?" They'll say yes. I'll say, well this is what I said.

Lea Alcantara:
Right.

Carl Smith:
Even at a point, we put these little red dots by it, right? It's just like trying to find a way to, first of all, make it non-intimidating, to break it down, make it kind of fun, but also just to say, the core of trust is feeling comfortable, right? It's feeling like things are familiar. So when we go in there, and we start talking about, even UX, right? We can't even agree what that means.

Emily Lewis:
Yeah.

Carl Smith:
That's great. Well, I look forward to listening to that. I've enjoyed Control Clickcast and congratulations on coming upon 100 episodes. That's just impressive. 

Lea Alcantara:
Thank you.

Emily Lewis:
Thanks. We worked hard.

Carl Smith:
Thanks for being on the show today. And for everybody listening, we'll be back next week and we'll talk to you then.

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