Grillers In Our Midst - Alana Christidis & The YChats Podcast
We've been running Grill The Marketer events for a year now (you really should try and make it to one if you haven't yet) so we thought it was high time we took a look at some of the amazing people that come along!
You'll be interested in their stories, how their teams work, what their marketing challenges are and how they're overcoming them.
Then when you come along you'll feel like you know them already!
This first instalment is taking a peek into the world of Alana Christidis, one of our OGs (Original Grillers - the folks who came to the first event in July 2019) and the story of how the YChats podcast was born.
The Y - Backstory & Marketing Team Structure
Her role is split into separate days. Three days in the marketing team implementing digital strategy across The Y's seventy-one (!) services and the remainder as The Y's Youth Advocate. The Youth Advocate role is to connect the voice of young people to the board and executive team to influence decisions to help youth. I love that this is a dedicated role within their organisational structure as I think it highlights The Y's commitment to actually listening - the conversation with youth often seems very one-sided.
The Y's marketing team is small and mighty (as with many youth service providers), including Marketing Communications Manager Sam Desport, Marketing & Communications Coordinator Natalie Woloszyn, and Graphic Designer Chris Bishop.
The Y has seventy-one services that are split into four main categories -
Encompassing Early Learning Centres, Out Of School Care and Family Daycare.
HQ at Leederville & Base@Belmont.
4 gyms that are open to the public.
Includes community programs like The Child & Parent Centre in South Headland, which promotes school attendance.
The Y is a social enterprise, which means they use their profitable services to fund those that aren't profit-based and all surplus earnings are reinvested into their programs. I found this fascinating, as I assumed they were like most NFP service providers and relied on donations and sponsorships.
This means The Y doesn't fundraise. And that they have very lean budgets and a strategic approach to spending.
They're also the biggest employer of young people (classed as under 30 - I checked) in the NFP sector.
The marketing strategy behind launching a podcast for The Y was simple – give young voices a place to be heard, literally.
The Y is traditionally conservative and there was a barrier to connecting with young people, so they were searching for a new, less conservative method to engage the youth audience.
So I asked Alana how it came about. She told me that the ethos of The Y is
"We believe in the power of inspired young people."
So they held a series of focus groups to determine a way to achieve this across the spectrum from thriving youth (such as those who participate in the Youth Parliament initiative) to those utilising Case Management services as they were passionate about finding a way to appeal and include the range of youth The Y caters to.
The focus group's objective was to garner what issues the youth cared about and highlighted that overall they wanted to hear from more voices like their own. There were also several issues they wanted to explore such as; mental health, drug use, domestic violence, and family violence.
The podcast was a way to amplify the voice of young people. Telling their stories, connecting with their peers to lessen feelings of isolation through the sharing of experiences.
Fortunately, The Y's Marketing Manager embraces new trends and they thought they'd give the podcast a trial run. It was decided Alana would be the podcast host due to her bubbly nature and as it aligned with her Youth Advocate role.
How Do You Even Launch A Podcast?
"How do we even start?" Alana said, "There’s only so much you can Google microphones."
"We had the strategy in place and some of the logistics but lacked ability for the technical side."
The Y's team didn’t currently have any recording skills from which to draw on to bring the podcast to life. They'd done the hard yards in the planning and strategy - but now what?
Her question to us at the first Grill The Marketer was along the lines of "How do I record and launch a podcast in two weeks!" She had a pretty tight turnaround for her launch to coincide with International Youth Day. Eek!
Luckily for Alana, our Sound Engineer, Elliot Smith (Clay's brother) was on hand at the event making sure our recording was running smoothly.
Elliot runs a sound recording studio called Sundown Studios and is an absolute audio genius. He offered to produce the first episode free and donated his time to get YChats set up for success.
How Did They Choose Their Guests?
Firstly, YChats held a social media callout and were pleasantly surprised at how many young people were keen to share their stories.
A shortlist was made where potential guests with experiences to share that contained the topics identified as of interest previously were evaluated on their ability to communicate their story in an engaging way.
Audio only content needs to be able to be delivered in a way that the listener can understand without visual cues, body languages, gestures other non-verbal expression.
Youth guests were locked in experts (who were sourced from the Youth Workers and Case Workers) added a professional guest to each episode.
Alana had a few learnings about the process she was generous enough to share with us:
It takes a lot than you think to record and produce a podcast!
Vetting talent is very important.
Episodes of YChats needed to have both an expert and a young person to be more engaging.
The YChats guest feedback has been about how great it was to share their story. It's definitely not easy to open up to the podcast host - practically just a stranger sitting in front of you - let alone know that your story is going to go onto Spotify and Apple.
Listeners to YChats have enjoyed the podcast and given great feedback; including new topics to discuss or guest suggestions, but the overall consensus is that it's adding value to the youth, and therefore helping the brand fulfill its promise - the crux of good marketing.
The Y's national marketing department have commended the WA chapter's efforts with the podcast and are now regularly sharing the YMCA WA podcast with their national audience.
So you have audience participation, guest satisfaction and stakeholder buy-in - that's a recipe for success!
Thanks to Alana for making time to chat to me about her podcast and The Y. We hope to see you at the next Grill The Marketer!