Episode 68

Pushing the Limits of Audio Experiences

with Michelle Khouri

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In this episode, Adam and Carlton are joined by Michelle Khouri, the founder and CEO of FRQNCY Media. Michelle shares her unique twist on marketing, audio production, and objectives to empower it all.

Highlights from the conversation:

  • FRQNCY Media’s unique marketing twist (5:16)
  • Michelle’s unique relationship with audio (6:33)
  • Defining “audio experiences” (12:11)
  • Defining “post-capitalist” (20:09)
  • Objectives that change how we approach content (28:46)
  • The overarching audio strategy (32:59)
  • What Michelle’s proudest of (43:01)

 

Keep up with Michelle:

 

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Transcription

Transcription generated by Otter.ai

Adam Vazquez 0:06
Welcome back into Content Is for Closers, another great episode for you today with Michelle Khouri from FRQNCY Media. Carlton, you heard the conversation with Michelle. What stuck out to you?

Carlton Riffel 0:17
Yeah, it’s a good episode. It definitely went in different places than your normal interview Adam. And I think he did a good job, just kind of talking through it. And both you guys being open and honest. And that’s really the steam of her company is they bring, they try to bring a different attitude and just making money. And three, that I think they do a great job. And they’ve done a lot of award-winning stuff as well with audio. So they’re there in the audio space. They are producers have kind of a unique approach to just their business in general. So yeah, it was something that stuck out.

Adam Vazquez 0:54
This was one of my favorite interviews, to be honest, because Michelle is in our space, as you mentioned, works with a bunch of very reputable brands, very reputable brands, Coca-Cola being among them. And this is the first interview I think we’ve done on the show—which is something we need to fix—where she and I have a pretty stark difference of opinion strategically, and how we view the business landscape and how we view sort of just the world from a business perspective. And we got into that, I don’t want to give too much of it away. But we got into that. And it was one of the most fun conversations that we’ve had on the show because we were able to just say, here’s what you think I disagree with you. But I’m curious about it. And, and she was very gracious. And I thought eloquent and explaining her point of view. And at the end of the day, I still think we have some differences, but I understand where she’s coming from. And it’s funny that I actually I think we agree on more than then we disagree on it just viewing you know, viewing the lens slightly differently is pretty interesting.

Carlton Riffel 2:01
Yeah, that’s good. She said her company’s mission is to heal, enlighten, and uplift. And I think she Yeah, she really lives that as far as trying not be super judgmental for people that that may have a different opinion on some of those things, but really, at the end of the day, trying to uplift and encourage where she can.

Adam Vazquez 2:20
Yeah, that’s the other thing I really took away is, I think we mean heard are too transactional, and to tactically focus with some of our objectives. And I think that the quality of her storytelling is can is inherently better at times because she has those objectives you just listed as the primary thing, and those might sound soft to some of our listeners, like what, like what is A? How do you inspire and lime or whatever I want leads? I think that’s a common thing. But Michelle discussed that, and the end product actually brings you closer to what you want, because you’re not focusing on it.

Carlton Riffel 2:58
Yeah, we’ve talked about this before different times, like what does it look like to just bring an amazing product to, you know, to your, because at the end of the day, like there are going to be goals, they’re going to be objectives, but if you just wow, people, it’s amazing what that can do, regardless of your business objectives. Yeah. And you know, I think that’s kind of where that tension is because when Brahms we think about what it takes to create something that’s super impressive or super amazing. And there’s a little bit of a disconnect, sometimes what we think it’s worth or what we think it’s, you know, it’s going to cost to do that. And I think she said that they’ve set their business up in a way so that there are several processes to kind of ensure that without, you know, everyone just killing themselves.

Adam Vazquez 3:41
Yep, yep. Yeah, so if we haven’t teased it enough, it’s a very unique, interesting episode. It’s one of my favorites we’ve done on this show. And without further ado, let’s get to it with Michelle Khouri from FRQNCY Media.

Intro 3:56
Put that content down. Content. The close is over. What’s your name? Content. That’s my name. You know why, mister? Because you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight. I drove an $80,000 BMW. That’s my name. Content Is for Closers.

Adam Vazquez 4:18
Alright, welcome back to Content Is for Closers. We have a very special episode with Michelle Khouri here. Michelle, thank you so much for joining us here on the show.

Michelle Khouri 4:25
Thank you. I’m excited to be here.

Adam Vazquez 4:28
I’m excited to have a Riverside veteran who can appreciate the differences between the countdown from sticks and the countdown from five. Like that’s a huge, huge deal in my world. I’m sure you feel the same way.

Michelle Khouri 4:41
Oh, yeah. Riverside is our everything. We are not endorsed by them.

Adam Vazquez 4:48
Right. No free ads, no free shout-outs, but it’s true. A lot of us use it. And Michelle, I’ve given a little bit of background. We’ve talked a little bit about context, given some context of the audiences to you, but I would love to hear from you. What is it? How do you describe what you all do with your company FRQNCY Media? And you have a very unique twist when it comes to your approach to market that I’d love to hear from you on.

Michelle Khouri 5:13
Yeah, it sounds pretty humdrum on surface level. We’re a podcast production company. But if you look at our website, you’ll see that it says podcast production and audio innovation. And that’s not a buzzword, it’s meant to be indicative of our approach to audio. So we haven’t just made podcasts. In fact, we’ve made audio experiences for brands. And it’s also to hold us accountable to constantly play with sound and play with audio. So we do production for major brands. Think into it. TurboTax, Jane Goodall Institute, Diane Von Furstenberg, Coca Cola, etc. And that requires, well, I guess it doesn’t require a certain finesse, but we bring a certain finesse. And we’re so much obsessors over sound and the power of sound that we’re constantly asking ourselves on behalf of our clients, like, what can we do differently? And how can we flex the power of audio for that audience to help them heal, enlighten or uplift. And so that’s our niche is our mission.

Adam Vazquez 6:23
And I want to get more into what you know, some of those audio experiences look like, especially with some of the branded things look like. But first, I think we talked a little bit beforehand, a unique thing about you. And I’m criticizing myself here. Criticize is the wrong word. But so many of us in the podcast industry, I’ve come to it from something else. We were advertisers, we were radio, people, whatever. And so podcasting is the next natural thing, from a pragmatism standpoint. You have this very unique relationship, I would say with sound and with audio. Tell us a little bit about that.

Michelle Khouri 6:58
Yeah, and definitely nothing to criticize there. That’s what I consider one of the most beautiful aspects of podcasting is that accessibility and how it can draw in so many different people from so many different backgrounds. And I am similar in a way it’s just that I’ve been devoted to sound since I was little, and it but—

Adam Vazquez 7:23
No, I love that.

Michelle Khouri 7:24
And for me, I would venture to guess that a lot of people, even if they had a roundabout journey into podcasting could say something similar. And it means something very different. But for me, it was growing up, when I was very young, I was in musical theater, and I was a singer. So I was a trained singer. And I was studying operatic singing. And I was studying musical theater singing sort of like, multidisciplinary. And I just loved it. I was super annoying as a child because all I did all day was sing, and act and dance around. And it’s still who I am to this. I haven’t changed much, Adam. I still sing every day. But that was for me a connection to audio and the way it made me feel. And it took me into different worlds. Particularly at that time, it was through musical theater that did that, for me, like my fair lady was one of my favorite sound of music, Phantom of the Opera. And then later on when I decided to leave the theater and not pursue that as like a lifelong career, thank the Lord. very toxic environment. I went into the music industry, which I didn’t say I left toxic environments. I just said that I left one. And so I went into the music industry and I decided to combine my love of business with my love of sound. And I had a very brief stint in the music industry, as in the artists and repertoire department of Interscope Records. That was super cool. It was my dream come true. But it also showed me a lot of the flaws of the established Sonic industries. I ended up leaving that and took what I call a detour, but a very intentional detour through corporate America in marketing departments. And I pretty much abandoned sound at that point. And it always pulled me back. I remember even when I was working in corporate jobs and hating it, I would look for literally receptionist jobs at recording studios because to this day, my favorite place in the world is recording studio. Don’t feel happier unless I’m in a recording studio. So I was like I don’t know we’ll just go work for like a tiny shop with like velvet couches. That sounds amazing. And I never did it just didn’t feel right. And so I eventually became a magazine editor. That was the last job I had before I decided to quit out quit and jump out on my own. And that’s when I started my podcast. And I went independent. And I just started my podcast. And it was a way for me to continue telling stories and running interviews. I was as a magazine editor. But for me, I just felt drawn back to sound. And it was as if this there was this like tiny little spark that was always sort of half-lit in me, that I didn’t realize was because it was when I started cultured podcast and did it all on my own. And I was not great at it. To this day will never be an audio editor. But I was doing it on my own. And that’s when you know, this little ember that had been there became a wildfire. And I was just like, Oh, holy moly. Like, audio doesn’t just mean singing. And it doesn’t just mean music. It means story. Anything I want to make it.

Adam Vazquez 10:53
Yeah, I’ll have to send you at some point in our first episode to swap origin story horrors. Bad editing. I mean, we had an onboard camera mic, not even a mic, one for two people were standing in a room with I mean, it’s just like, I relate so hard. Yeah. It’s crazy. But it is interesting because, as you said, there’s this Emperor, I think for a lot of us, whether it comes through music, whether it comes through, for me, it’s you know, verbal processing and wanting to be like a broadcast or something like that. And part of this medium that we love has opened up all of those things. For those of us who maybe didn’t go the traditional route, or didn’t go the follow every stepping stone to get to where it initially we thought we’re gonna head. So I think it’s really cool world that way. And so now you’re running FRQNCY. And you sort of alluded to the fact that you do more than just editing, you are designing audio experiences. I’m familiar with that terminology a little bit through the kind of like the voice industry with the smart homes and all that sort of thing. We dabbled a little bit in that. But is that what you’re referring to? Help us understand what audio experiences mean to you.

Michelle Khouri 12:09
Yeah, so an audio experience can really take any shape. I think that audio is largely still untapped in terms of innovation. One of the things that I really want to make is the first maybe, unless I’m missing something, audio, AR podcast experience. And that takes a huge leap of faith on behalf of a client. But I have these like visions of being able to transport people across time and space with visuals combined with audio in a way where the visuals and the audio can exist separately, but also really can be married and a really strong way. So imagine audio coming into your environment in a more immersive way. That can be smart speakers that can be going to on location and event like an expo or conference and becoming immersed in only sound that brings you into another world. So imagine like a black box room where it is sonically treated in a 360-degree way and all of a sudden you feel completely immersed. I remember growing up I was so terrified of it. And now I know why because sound is my thing. There was a ride or experience at Universal Orlando and I hope people will remember this your alien. Do you remember that?

Adam Vazquez 13:39
I wasn’t scared of that ride.

Michelle Khouri 13:41
I screamed until they let me out. I was like 10 minutes in and I was like, Nope, none Anna and they had to escort me out. True story. And I’m Colombian I still don’t understand why we want to like act afraid and like we’re gonna die. I’m like, that’s a real threat across the world guys. Anyway, I digress. The point is alien was so scary and so impactful because they were using 360-degree audio paired with tactile mechanisms like bro it blowing air blowing wind into your ear when it was like yelling in your ear. So for me, it can mean a billion different things. And I just think that we need to step outside all of us can do the exercise of like, okay, there are no rules. No one can say no. What can audio do in my environment? How do I bring for us we work with brands? So how do we bring this brand’s ethos mission goals into the world through interesting ways that perhaps we hadn’t thought were possible before?

Adam Vazquez 14:47
I think there was also if I remember right like a moisture component to that right as well as third thing yelled at you or something and it last year. Yeah, it was terrifying. Definitely he’s talking about those unique audio experiences. And that’s such a great example. Because that’s such a visceral, like, I can feel that right again, right now. What? Are there any examples you can share where you’ve been able to develop something? Maybe not to the extent of alien, but something like that? Because one of the things that I get is when we’re talking to companies is like, Well, yeah, you know, a great audio experience, or a great podcast, or great entertainment show that makes sense for a consumer-facing brand. But for an intuit or for whoever, you know, maybe I guess they are a consumer-facing brand. But you know what I mean, maybe it’s more difficult. How do you overcome that? Or how do you work through that a little bit.

Michelle Khouri 15:40
We mostly work with consumer-facing brands. And it is a challenge, though, and this is why we haven’t been able to flex in the ways that we wanted to is because as a business model, I’m really focused on client service we’re focusing on it’s work for hire, we are making a thing for you. Fundamentally, it feels very partnered, it feels very intimate between us and our clients, we become friends, we become collaborators. But fundamentally, we’re making you a thing, and you own that thing. And in order for us to get blessings, honestly, we’ve had to spend the last four years since I founded FRQNCY on just educating This is what audio can do. This is why you should spend big bucks on audio. And so it’s taken us a while. But we’re finally at a place where we’ve won several awards at this point. We have put work out in the confines, let’s call it because we’re talking about broad audio innovation. So now, we have put out work that breaks norms and is innovative within the guardrails of just podcasting, just stereo sound. And we’ve had to do that because to sell something larger, we were working on a unnamed. I won’t name the client, but we were working on a really major brand. And we had this concept of using 360-degree audio and immersing people in a very commonly told story. And we had to think like how do we tell the story again, without telling the story again, like, how do we bring people there, and we realized people could never imagine it. Because the story is so ingrained in our minds, it’s hard for us to understand, we become desensitized to it. We’re like, okay, big warp, a man landed on the moon, I’m giving you an open another example. But like, what if you were the person landing on the moon? And what if you could hear the sound of the surface of the moon under your feet. And it was recorded in such a way that you could, it was literally the distance of your ears to your feet. And all of a sudden, you could hear wind blow, which I think happens. Maybe I should pick Earth crunch when you stop. So you know, we wanted to bring that to life in a very immersive way that was still going to be a podcast and it just they put the kibosh on that in the last minute because they got scared. Yeah, so that was almost four years ago. So we’ve really I realized that that point, we got to do that we got to put the work in to just make something simple, exceptional. And then we can start convincing folks that we can with them up the game.

Adam Vazquez 18:33
It’s so true. We had a similar pitch for a city was a midsize city outside of Atlanta. And we were pitching for their for kind of like to be their digital AOR. But the thrust of it was, we’re going to design this very unique audio experience. And then all of the, you know, kind of preliminary conversations. It was clear everybody got really excited about that. Like that was the differentiator that was gonna push us over boba. But when it came time to be like, Okay, this is what it’s going to cost. This is what it’s going to produce this. And, you know, it wasn’t even. I think one more tweet, you said it wasn’t that crazy, to be honest. But the stories that people had to become accustomed to telling themselves about how they relate to their local government, or the trash pickup schedule, or whatever it was going to be that we were going to be able to create those experiences. They had told that told themselves a certain story, that box that in and so there is no need for something new. And to your point, I think that we’ll see more and more of those “novel” things that we’ve been working on, but they just they haven’t been able to come through yet. I mean, else that you have done effectively, you said, you know, you’re a unique agency when it comes to that when it comes to audio innovation. The thing that really caught my attention is this post-capitalist terminology that you have. I told you I’m completely ignorant when it comes to this, but I haven’t seen those words put together when it comes to our industry much. Educate me. Tell me what’s going on there.

Michelle Khouri 20:05
Awesome. I love the curiosity and I am by no means an expert. In fact, there’s no actual definition of post-capitalism. It’s anything that you do outside the confines of capitalism, that embrace it the way that I define it, because why would you be post-capitalist and like, a monarch? comes after capitalism now that we’ve like, done all these experiments in economy and social structure, and it’s not working. It’s not working. You can’t look around, you know, I had, I had someone the other day, say, humans are so sophisticated. And I was like, Are we have murdered our planet. It’s not smart. We’re not sophisticated. We’re the ones in the orchestra going. We have not done well in our symphony. You know, we’re playing a guitar solo while everyone’s like, this is Vivaldi. So post-capitalism is what happens when we envision a future economy and social structures that value the planet, human beings and the wellness of human beings and put people and the planet over profit. And that can sound buzzy, but if you really look at it, that’s pretty radical. And what’s hard is that these systems are oppressive systems, the systems we live in capitalism, white supremacy, the patriarchy, they’re oppressive systems that an oppressive system only knows how to oppress. So white people are oppressed, just like well, not just like, but white people are also oppressed. Men are oppressed in a patriarchy, y’all are not taught to emote. Y’all are not taught to process, how you feel, and to just express yourself in all of your bigness, just like women aren’t. And it’s not quite as even obviously, women are much more oppressed and X, Y, Z. That’s not what this conversation is about. This conversation is a granular look at how can we reinvent? How can we create a new mo a new status quo. And that, obviously can look like 1,000 different things, which is why there isn’t one definition of post-capitalism.

Adam Vazquez 22:21
When I first saw some of it, I was like, in my mind—and if this is just ignorance—post-capitalism, I was like, Oh, so it’s anti-capitalist. And I Yeah, but then I saw Koch as a client, right, like, or whatever. She can’t be completely, you know, but I think what you’re saying is harnessing the power of business, harnessing what is inherently somewhat capitalistic for a better outcome than that maybe what we’re seeing.

Michelle Khouri 22:50
Well, I am anti-capitalist, but that doesn’t mean— Okay. So I am, I’m really excited that you caught that, because I’m rather different. In that I don’t believe in any kind of divisiveness and I don’t believe in any kind of oppression or exclusion. And I actually believe that we, as a post-capitalist enterprise have a tremendous amount of power when we enter capitalist systems and sort of, and we don’t really Trojan horse them because they know who they’re working with. I mean, it’s right on your webinar. It’s right there, you know who you’re working with. But we sort of Trojan horse, the system from the inside. And Coca-Cola is a really great example. Because what I admire about them is that they were ready. And they allowed us and I am I’m relentless. As our leader. I’m relentless. And so we really only work with those who are prepared to take on a mission like healing, enlightening and uplifting through the power of sound. And it’s a pretty symbiotic result. So Coca-Cola, you look at that we created an internal podcast for them. So it was made for their employees, we decided to allow it to be external facing so anybody can listen to it. It’s called Total refresh. But the first thing I told them was all right, if y’all want to have your senior leaders on this podcast, their highest executives of Coca-Cola North America, I’m okay with that. I’d prefer we also spotlight employee voices, but I get it. Leaders need to be heard and seen but if they need to be heard and seen, I want them as humans. And we basically were like, We’re gonna on media, train them. And we want them to show up in studio in a way that they’ve really never been encouraged to show up, which is as whole humans, we had executives in there who broke down crying who talked about their failures for the first time who like talked about what it’s like to be a mother and have children have a baby and then be offered this huge executive position and the turmoil the torment that she went through in particular that one Episode. And we’ve made it safe. So obviously, if they said anything in the recording their communications folks were in that room. And we’re like, no, no, no, we don’t, we’re not comfortable sharing that. Your show no problem. But the mere fact of the leaders showing up as humans, and OS pushing them to do that, that rose their employee engagement scores by 30 points from one survey to the next, that alone. So it’s symbiosis. It’s really good for everyone.

Adam Vazquez 25:30
Yeah. And I mean, I would say, you know, this is another thing that I think is beautiful about podcasting, because I would say, so I am pro-capitalist, right, as I would say, my family’s, you know, has had a good relationship with capitalism coming to Puerto Rico. So I would love to talk to you about this offline. But anyways, and so this format lets us have this conversation in this relationship. And even the fact that you say it boldly. It’s something I really respect because number one, it gives, this is a very different conversation than anything we’ve had on this show so far because you’re willing to say like, I believe this, and then the product, and I know you’re not doing it for that reason, but the product of what you created in that one case study has to be wholly unique as compared to anything that I’m sure Koch has done other podcasts, but has that has ever anything that they’ve ever produced before. So it’s really a unique lens and insight, have you had issues or struggles having this conversation with potential clients? Or are they pretty well embracing of the whole concept?

Michelle Khouri 26:33
I believe this for ourselves and for anyone, for everyone listening for you, for everyone, what is meant for you as yours. So you know, our slogan is be as big as you are. And that’s why I practice coming forth to you now, Adam as my complete self, with my complete beliefs, there’s nothing to be ashamed of, I think if we eradicated shame, or making ourselves smaller across the world, it would be maybe the closest we could come to true harmony with ourselves and with the planet. And so it’s about speaking truth. And in that way, when I have new business conversations, I just speak openly. I talk about how we require mutual respect in our relationships. I talk about how, you know, we’re not an agency, I don’t like that word. Because it’s a toxic culture, your company, we’re a company of people. And when you come to us, you are hiring us as your expert, your audio expert. And so what we don’t do is covet the almighty dollar and say, like, oh, we shall do whatever you say, because you’ve given us the almighty dollar you are, we’re bargaining. We’re exchanging our hard-earned passion, expertise and knowledge for the dollars that you have. Okay, so I’m very upfront about the dynamics. I mean, at the end of the day, it also sounds so harsh, all strung together in one sentence. But the bottom line is that we also like, pour our hearts and souls into our projects. We our end goal for projects is joy. And that is a very practical thing that we can talk about in a bit. If you’ve enjoyed that. All of that being said, when I’m having a new business conversation, I put that all out there. And if they’re receptive to it, if it gets them excited, if they’re like, yes, then we’re meant for each other.

Adam Vazquez 28:25
Yeah, I want to I acknowledge you and appreciate how forward you are even just with, I had to cancel our first interview because I was sick. And you were extremely gracious when on your way to write, you know, a nice note and then even today, just the energy that you bring. So I think it’s wonderful that you approach and present yourself that way. And I do want to talk about those outcomes you. You’ve talked a few times now about joy now being an objective, but then you have those three, it was a enlightenment. Can you go through the three?

Michelle Khouri 28:55
Heal, enlighten, and uplift.

Adam Vazquez 28:58
Okay, so again, those are entirely different than most, I would say, production, pseudo-marketing-related objectives. So how did you come up with those? Or how do you solve for those as opposed to lead generation, awareness, click— some of the more traditional types of things that that we were accustomed to?

Michelle Khouri 29:20
I believe in the halo effect. And so I think that when you’re centering your listener and what you can do to help them have a better life, either through healing, which is crucial to all of us. We all need it. We are all I think doing it in our different ways and if we can further that for you, that’s awesome. Enlightenment, either through practical education that will help you with your career— the same way you’re doing now, Adam, so check tech. Or through enlightenment that’s more spiritual. That’s helping you see others’ perspectives or expanding your horizons. And uplifting, either through something as obvious as comedy—because we all need a little break just to chuckle. We all just need a laugh—through joy, or through a story that really fills your heart. So those three things are the things that I think can really help our listeners. If we can accomplish one of those, awesome. Two, amazing. Three, exceptional with one. But that’s our rubric.

Adam Vazquez 30:27
That’s a challenge to me, I think we can get caught in the traditional metrics and, and then, like, deviate a little bit occasionally to say, like, okay, let’s educate or entertain. And those are like, you know, pseudo related to what you’re talking about. But having those actual human elements. I mean, I think from a production standpoint, will make you create the best output, the best product yet and the deer point, the other effects that come with it. That’s really interesting.

Michelle Khouri 30:54
That’s intentionality. So to me, one of the things that’s going to lead to because we also look at metrics, and listen, I spent 12 years in marketing, I know full well that a brand needs to be able to measure outcomes. So we’re not, we’re not trying to skip that step. We’re just trying to start with a more intentional one. And that leads the halo effect of focusing on your listeners, well being and trying to bring them something that will help their lives leads to higher brand loyalty, higher brand affinity, more and more word of mouth because people like you have to listen to more than this. It’s something special. You know, and I mentioned more than this. That’s one that we made for Vox creative and straight talk wireless. We made it for a cell company, a pay-as-you-go cell company, we’ve won two awards for best-branded podcasts from Ad Week and Digi day. And you think we were setting out to do anything other than tell the richest, most lush, delicious human stories of enlightenment, uplifting, that’s healing.

Adam Vazquez 31:58
Yeah, congratulations, first of all. No, I think it’s beautiful. And it does extend past it. Like I said, it’s a challenge to a lot of the things a lot of creators who are probably listening to this can get stuck in the how do I convert? And what you’re talking about is taking that broader longer look, and then letting that drive the same metrics that you’re interested in. But going at it from a human perspective, I know that with all and by the way, remember at the beginning, I said, you have this Dapps and it’s different your relationships differently. And you’re like, No, no, no, it’s been like this. I got 30 minutes of evidence. Now people know now what I was referring to. So anyway, all of that kind of leads then into now you’re moving forward, and you have some new things that you’re creating and producing. I know you have this kind of unique twist on the content strategy around podcasting in general, especially for some of the brands that you’re working with. Tell us about that.

Michelle Khouri 32:51
Yeah, so I will circle I’ll take a couple steps back in order to move forward. And it’s that I would say that one of the most unique aspects of our production company as an audio production company is because we want to accomplish those things—and there’s like healing, enlightening and uplifting—and we have such a focus on making sure those happen. We actually have a multifaceted team. So we have a strategy department. We have a production team, we that production department includes both production and post-production. And then we also have the marketing team. And all together, that’s how we bring it full circle. And that’s how we spend our strategy team spends a ton of time on finding the research, digging through data, but then also ideating from a mission-driven perspective to create the exact right show for you. And then the production team comes in to make that vision a reality. And the marketing team comes in to extract the KPIs, measure the analytics, you know, run the promotion, the earned media campaigns, and get really nitty-gritty with the marketing. And so you can kind of see how, by separating those departments, we’ve empowered each team to really hone in and have their own mission to drive forward. So that’s actually how we bring it together and how what may sound on the surface as very lofty. Like, okay, heal, enlighten, uplift. It’s like yes, but we do a ton of research for it, we pull the data for it, we look at comparative landscapes, we do hands-on projects.

Adam Vazquez 34:32
I feel like all that detail allows you to have a focus that’s broader than just the basic thing. It’s adept and advanced.

Michelle Khouri 34:42
Yeah, and allows us to create that that that machine that intention driver, so speaking of that machine, you know what we have become very, very good at is becoming a mission-driven, audio-loving machine. We have some of the most refined processes I think you’ll find across the industry. And I only know that because when we hire people on, they’re like, Oh, if I thought I was more advanced than I was, and then I plugged into. And well, I’ve never quite worked on production teams that are this well-oiled. And it takes everyone being on their game, open, communicative, constantly, like, so we have a ton of processes in place that allow us to create this incredible web of creativity and pragmatism, to make these things that you listen to. And you don’t even know the stuff that goes on behind the scenes, you just feel. And so in that way, what we’ve realized is there’s just way too much-untapped potential with audio. And brands are bringing on these one-off shows to reach. And I’m talking about large brands that have multiple audiences, multiple goals, maybe they have multiple product sets, or multiple brands within them, single Unilever or an Intuit. And they’re, they’re doing one podcast here, one podcast there. And they are doing the good thing, which is well, some of them are doing the right thing, which is trying to reach a niche audience. Others are saying, let’s start the big Acme co-company podcast, where they’re trying to reach 15 audience segments that have different listening habits that have different listener preferences. And that’s when we were like, Okay, it’s cool to get started with one podcast but most of these big brands really need branded podcast networks, they need audio as part of their larger strategy. And they need a team like us to, I think, I’m not going to tell them what they need. But what we offered, what we bring to the table is a team of audio experts that can plug in and become that machine, where we are figuring out how audio can plug into the larger ecosystem that you have spent so much time, so much money, so much effort building. And so the idea is that we weave into that overall fabric, this thread of audio, and in a way that is reaching all of your most important audiences, which often include your own employees, by the way, reaching all these different audiences in the way that they want to be reached in a way that actually serves them the most. And that in turn, because it’s serving them, so tailor in such a customized way also serves your goals, way more than just a one-off podcast could. So that’s the shift we’re making now is we’re starting to build branded podcast networks, for some of those really large brands. That doesn’t mean we still don’t do one-off podcast production, which can be so powerful for smaller brands, but those bigger ones, and I think this is a trend we’re going to start seeing in the future. And I hope it starts with us. We’re building the overarching audio strategy.

Adam Vazquez 38:08
Yeah, this is incredible to me as obviously a little bit of a nerd into this about this industry. This is the holy grail. I mean, when you’re talking about building out an entire strategy for company we believe in I’m sure you do that every almost every company should be a media company, and should be producing shows and channels that relate to their different stakeholders and audiences. This is the way to do it. If you’re working in one of these companies, and you’re not doing this, you’re not thinking about it. You absolutely should you should talk to Michelle HubSpot, their HubSpot podcast network is so impressive to me they have because it’s not just an you can add color to this. But it’s not just creating the HubSpot Marketing Show or whatever I mean, you can do that. But there’s also creating empowering or going out and signing talent that fits the particular audience that you’re looking for his whole model and picture that goes just past what sometimes we think of when we think of one-off, like I need to find time to record a podcast this week. There’s so much there.

Michelle Khouri 39:07
Totally. HubSpot is a great example of actually the kind of network that is really creative for a brand because they do sign on talent. And that is perfect for HubSpot. I love their model. I have a friend, Bing she has the Bing boss podcast, and Lee Thompson, who is a part of their network. And I think she was one of the early editions. And it just I remember her even telling me about the experience of signing on and they’re just really good to their creators and they know how to do it right. So speaking of post-capitalism, I care about those things. Like I just care about how the humans are treated in the process. Now for us, we create branded podcast networks of original content. So you’re working with a major national brand that has multiple brands within the one umbrella, and we’re asking ourselves, okay overarch Saying, What are your biggest goals? And who are we trying to reach? And that has resulted in us ideating. And what’s really cool and Rei does this. So well, good job, Rei. We don’t make their network. We just love it. We’re fans. But they do this so well. The best way to do it is to take a somatic approach, not exactly what you said not HubSpot, marketing, podcast, HubSpot, marketing for dogs, for cats. You know, like for us, what we realized is if we can take the somatic thread of the brand, let’s say the brand is Acme Moon CO, right? We’re talking about the moon again. And we the theme is going to the moon or they are the purveyors of the moon shuttles that are of the future. Well, we’re not just going to talk about Moon shuttles, we might talk about like deep space food innovations, we might talk about how the gist, we might have a narrative podcast that goes into the discovery of, you know, the discoveries made that led us to step foot on the moon, we might have a musical, because one of the segments might resonate with a musical, we might do a musical podcast about the moon landing, like, you know, we might do just taking that theme, and serving all of these different audience sets with different formats, different kinds of shows, so that if you were to listen to every single show on that slate, you are getting a wildly different experience. And it’s just kind of appeasing you, and all your little delights and curiosities with audio in different ways.

Adam Vazquez 41:36
Yeah, it’s so exciting. It’s such a unique way. It’s actually not— If we were talking on a TV network, or whatever, people would automatically assume this. For some reason, when it comes to audio, we start with the lowest possible fidelity instead of taking a moonshot, I couldn’t think of another word. I’m sorry. But yeah, but I think it’s absolutely the right, the right direction. If NASA starts a network, I don’t know how they don’t sign you at this point.

Michelle Khouri 42:05
Well, we’d love to work with you NASA because I’m a huge space nerd. Huge.

Adam Vazquez 42:11
Michelle, we really appreciate you spending the time with us. Thank you for sharing your story and what you believe in the way you’re building your company loves love watching from the sidelines. One thing we’re starting to ask people, and I think you’ll definitely have an answer to this: what is something that you have made or you’ve been a part of creating, that you’re just very proud of? Could be the business, could be a project, anything or totally unrelated.

Michelle Khouri 42:35
Well, I can’t tell you about the one that is definitely the thing I’m proudest of creating. I can’t tell you about that yet. But we can maybe catch up about it when it’s a love that luckily announced. That is both the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done, and the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. But before that, FRQNCY. I know that’s an easy answer. But I am a first-generation American and Latina, I had zero Safety Net Zero network. And all I had was maybe a little bit too much chutzpah. Maybe I was a little too bold, and, and a vision, a vision of what I wanted this thing to do and be and it’s taken a ton of hard work. And being post-capitalist takes a ton of brain space and planning and the tangible side of things are like, when you are thinking about salaries. It’s not just about market value. It’s not about quality of life, it’s about thriving, how do you pay people in a way that allows them to thrive rather than just survive. And so we pay above market value depending on the market you’re looking at. And that’s hard for a startup that has no investment dollars. You know, we give ample PTO, but getting there is a huge brain exercise. And even just figuring out what resonates for us in terms of our service offerings, what doesn’t phasing things out that didn’t work, being iterative and willing to, to experiment. And be like, I don’t know if this is going to work, but we’re going to try and if it doesn’t work, we stopped doing it as long as it’s not going to cripple the business. So all of that has been a side of myself that when I set out to start FRQNCY, I had this inkling of a little tiny shimmer in my eye that was like, I think you can do this. I think you were made for this. And coming at you four years later. I know I was made for this and I have been able to do it. And it’s I wish this feeling on everyone. And this is why I push for everyone to align with their greatest truth is because there’s just no better feeling than feeling just so in alignment with the thing you were meant to do.

Adam Vazquez 44:55
Yeah, we appreciate it. Congratulations on all of that on the success of the company on your awards on making it even into this far, far. And I know that we’ll all be watching and I liked the way you teased your next big achievement. We will have to catch up again in a few months and talk about more in-depth as well.

Michelle Khouri 45:13
See, always say marketing. Always say marketing.

Adam Vazquez 45:16
If people want to keep in touch with you between now and then, what’s the best way to follow along?

Michelle Khouri 45:21
Best way is to follow along with FRQNCY Media on all the socials. And then you can find me on Twitter being fairly inactive, but still like every once in a while retweeting a thing or two, or liking a thing or two. And you can also stay up with me on LinkedIn. But I believe in work-life balance for myself, too. So I’m not out here pushing a post or seven a day because it’s just too much for me, man. Don’t hate me guys know, but I really would love to hear from you guys. And if you want to send me an email, just expressing your thoughts, please do. You can email me at hi@FRQNCY.media. If you have thoughts on post-capitalism, even if they’re like, “Girl, how does that even work though?” I would love to have that conversation.

Adam Vazquez 46:10
You just quoted me. That’s basically what I said. That was a quote from earlier.

Michelle Khouri 46:14
Wow, Adam, I just got an email from you saying.

Adam Vazquez 46:20
Well, thank you so much, Michelle, we will for sure. All that links below and we’ll catch up soon. Thank you again for joining the show.

Michelle Khouri 46:26
Thank you.

Carlton Riffel 46:28
And that’s a wrap. Thank you for listening to this episode of Content Is for Closers. We hope you find this show really helpful as you grow your business with content. Maybe you know of other people who would find this show helpful as well. How about you send them our way? If you didn’t like this show and you want to tell us that, then you can head over to contentisforclosers.com where you can send us a message, give us some feedback, ask questions, or find detailed notes for every episode. Until next time, keep creating and keep closing.