FYB 102 | Using Your Personal Life

 

Using your personal life in producing content is far from revolutionary, but it can be difficult. There are so many things to consider: your family, friends, work, among a host of other things. Besides being a style expert with experience in fashion, beauty and lifestyle, Jessie Artigue co-hosts the podcast Marriage Is Funny to help encourage modern couples across the world. Pulling on her experience with her podcast together with Tracy Hazzard, Jessie guides you towards finding your sweet spot in terms of mining your personal life as material for the content you create. Let the content you create reflect the real you.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Podcasting Your Funny Marriage: Creating Content Using Your Personal Life With Jessie Artigue

This interview has been rescheduled and rescheduled and we finally got our calendars together and I’m excited about it because I finally get to talk to someone who’s co-hosting with her husband. As all of you know, I have that experience too. I’m glad it’s not my viewpoint. I get to talk to somebody else who has that too. I’m excited to talk to Jessie Artigue and sometimes known as Gerard and Jessie Pepper because that’s how they go on their show. Their show is Marriage is Funny and it is funny. I’m going to say it’s sarcastically funny. There are lots to learn there. There are lots of interesting things and we’re going to deep dive into why they started it and what they’ve learned from it. We’re going to say, “Did Jessie get something extra special out of it?” Let’s see what’s happening there.

She’s a style expert. She’s an on-air host with a few years of experience in fashion, beauty and lifestyle industries. She’s got a great Instagram. You should check that out. She’s excited about the podcast that she co-hosts with her husband, Marriage is Funny, and they have it as their mission to encourage modern couples across the world. She is also the Creator of Season Everyday. It’s an ecofriendly silk dress that can be worn as multiple garments and is ethically sewn right here in the US. She’s a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur with an impressive portfolio of digital media clients but considers her role as a short-term foster mom the most fulfilling part of her work. Jessie, welcome to the show. I’m glad we finally made this happen between the two of us.

It’s exciting to talk to you, Tracy. Thank you so much for having me.

You started blogging first before you started social media, right? 

Yes, it was way back when, before it was much of a thing. To be honest, I’m one of the OG bloggers. I don’t do it much anymore, but it was a huge part of my entrepreneurial journey and one that’s allowed me to get a feel for what this online world is going to be doing and I’m thankful for it. That’s how I got my start.

It opened your eyes when you started in that place as to what still works. There are many surprising things that I learned as a blogger that still works now. What are some of those things that you still do?

What jumps out at me first when I hear you say that is the ability to move quickly. Honestly, as space moves quickly, it feels like the growth of the online world and online business and digital media the growth has been picking up with exponential speed. Way back when I started, which would have been 2008 when I started my blog. I remember that back then, first of all, Twitter didn’t even exist. There’s no Instagram, Facebook was around but it was used differently. It was a space for people to share their ideas, their thoughts, their projects, whatever it was that they wanted to. One of the things that I’ve learned the most since then is the ability to pivot is going to throw you forward with the progressive motion. That is something that I’ve continued to implement. I should say the various brands underneath the umbrella of Style & Pepper. That’s one of those things where I learned it early and it has been ingrained in me and even though I don’t technically blog as much anymore except for fun. That particular practice has still stayed at the forefront of my entrepreneurial journey.

In 2015, you pivoted and started a podcast. What made you interested? What made you think about podcasting? That’s about the same time we started maybe a couple of months earlier, but it was right around that time.

I remember when we started, we were feeling like we were on the late end. Do you know what I mean?

I do know what you mean. I was like, “I feel like I’m behind.”

People like you would go before us. To be honest with you, we started our show because my husband and I both were avid podcast listeners. Fun fact about me. I majored in Broadcast Journalism. I had a college radio show all four years of university at my school that I went to. I’ve always been into media. Since I was eleven years old, I thought I was going to be on camera in some form or at least writing as a journalist.

I thought I’d be a journalist and then I went to art school. It changed. 

Things like that can change, but there are certain parts of us that when we express or pursue what we want to do, those little things that were inklings when we were younger sometimes do carry a common thread throughout our careers.

It happens that you’re driven to these things that you’re attracted to. The day that they offered me my Inc. column, my dad said to me, “You always wanted to be a writer. Why aren’t you taking it?” I was like, “You’re right. That’s why I’m going to take it. That’s why I’m going to do this,” even though it’s outside of my work, in my normal realm of things.

The digital space moves very quickly. Click To Tweet

Some would argue that writing is an art form in and of itself and all of these things can sometimes cross and weave themselves together. I’ve always been a media junkie. We were both avid podcast listeners at the time that we started our show. We launched on the week of Memorial Day in 2015 and we decided to start a show a year before that.

It took you that long to do it.

Here’s the real story. Gerard and I had a rough patch in our marriage the year prior, 2014. We got married young. We were 22 when we got married, 21 when we got engaged. We had moved around a little bit. We experienced some circumstantially difficult things early on in our relationship that we weathered fairly well in terms of our marriage. That was good in a way. Around year seven, which was when we decided to start the show, it was almost like there was a wall in life. It created a little bit of a vacuum and then we started to grow apart. We were both pursuing our careers fully, spending a lot of time apart. We didn’t have a lot of friends that were in common at the time because of our moves and our jobs. Things were getting rough and it was to the point where we would get in arguments. Sometimes the arguments would end in either one of us saying, “Did we make a horrible mistake in choosing each other? Are we supposed to split up and go our separate ways?” That’s a rough place to be as many people could probably understand or relate to.

I remember one of the things that we immediately decided was that we needed mediation. At the time, we weren’t in therapy together, but we both value the idea of having an outside perspective. A lot of our close friends, because we’ve moved around in grad school and that life stage, a lot of people are transient in away. We lived in New York City at the time and not near any of our close friends. I said, “Why don’t we record our conversation and send it to Rick and Joanna or Liz and Ben or Tim and Sean or whoever and say, ‘Can you tell us who’s winning? Who has this all wrong and is confused? Who’s the person that is making some sense?’” He joked and said, “That sounds like a great idea for a podcast.” I legitimately thought he was serious and was like, “It is. Let’s do it.” It took me a year to convince him.

I come across it often here as I interview podcasters in the Center of Influence, I would say about 80% of them are not podcast listeners. I can tell the difference by listening to their show. 

That’s fascinating to me.

It shocked me because I was a serious podcast listener. My husband or partner wasn’t. He was not a big podcast listener until we started to enter the genre. You’re picking up shows left and right and you’re trying to get better. It’s a little bit different but it wasn’t before and I was. That was a bit, but you can tell the difference in the show. You can tell how to approach. I can sometimes tell who coached them. You’ll see a pattern going on in a bunch of shows. 

You can tell who they listened to in a lot of cases.

Your show has that somewhat, I’m going to call it the broadcasting edge, which you see in certain shows or you hear in certain shows. That’s where you have an interesting beginning and where you’re taking little excerpts and clips of the two of you talking and then you have a little bit more formal intro and then you go into the show from that point forward. It’s this enticing little tease and insight because it does jump you in the middle of the conversation. I’m sure that was a stylistic choice, but did you base that on some other shows that you’ve found that you liked at the time? Did you base this on your idea of what a good show should be?

Truthfully, first of all, I’m flattered that you noticed because I don’t necessarily get to talk about podcasting with fellow podcasters all that often. It sounds like such a geeky thing, but I love it. I love the medium so much, but I can’t think of any other shows that I listen to that do that as well. We love the cold open. Gerard and I are big comedy fans. We love the art of comedy. We love comedy theory. We write stand-up sets together, perform them separately usually. We love that whole world. There are a handful of not necessarily podcasts, but I would say there are different, stylistic characteristics that we’ve picked up from other forms of media. I don’t mean to flatter myself in this way necessarily, but it reminds me of certain TV shows, where you flip it on and what it does first is you see scenes from last week. They’ll catch you up. I’m thinking of This Is Us as one of the ones that always do it.

In a way, it’s necessary with you because a lot probably happens between weeks of episodes. Between the week of episodes, your marriage is progressing and yet we’re vicariously watching this. 

It’s funny, a lot of people say, “You have a show about marriage? What gives you permission or the expertise to have a show about marriage?” What we usually say is, “The show’s not as much about marriage as it is about our lives. It almost listens like a reality show. In a way, we talk about the world around us from the context of being a married couple.” There ends up being components that apply and relate to what it’s like to be a married couple, but we’re not picking apart the different tips and tricks always. Occasionally, we’ll get into that but otherwise we’re trying to figure out how to be married healthily, in a proactive way, in a resilient way. I do like to have fun though with the editing. Oftentimes that first lead-in, the cold open is usually a joke or an outtake I’ll say. The other thing I like to do in terms of giving snippets, during our intro music, I’ll give snippets of that particular episode, audio clips overlaid on top of that. The reason I do that too is that it’s a lot more intro. It gives the listener a glimpse of what the episode is about in a more interesting way than us saying, “In today’s episode you’ll hear,” which is not a bad thing. I love that and any of the shows I listen about business.

You want them to tell you what it’s going to be about, so you know you’re in the right place. 

For ours, if we told you what it was going to be about, it would be a major spoiler.

FYB 102 | Using Your Personal Life

Using Your Personal Life: Those little inklings you had when you were younger sometimes do carry a common thread all the way throughout your career.

 

It took you a year to convince Gerard to do this. I have to say that there are probably a lot of aspiring podcasters out there reading this going, “I’ve been thinking about having a show about my kids or about my recovery, something that’s private and personal.” What were some of his objections and how did you overcome them? Maybe some of our readers need to overcome them in their minds. 

I’m persistent. What ended up being the clincher, the initial motivation was a little bit selfish. We immediately were able to see how that would provide a certain accountability that we needed. Beyond that, I’m a verbal processor, Gerard not so much, which you quickly will be able to listen. He’s a trooper. He’s gotten a lot more comfortable with that. It’s funny, verbal processors don’t always need the person listening also to be a verbal processor. I couldn’t care less if he is or isn’t. At the same time, we recognized that it would be healthy for starters. A positive thing for us on its own to begin to have these heartfelt conversations or what we call them as knee to knee conversations. When we first started recording, we set this one little tiny microphone we’d put in between us. We’d have to sit close because the microphone was multi-directional and we had to turn the gain way down so it didn’t pick up the echos and all these things. We call them these knee to knee conversations. I don’t know if I’m answering your question, but one of the things that gave us the guts to keep going is when we started, we launched with three episodes and almost immediately we started to hear from people. We first put it out there to our family and friends because that’s a good way to start.

That’s what everybody does when they send out their podcast.

How are people going to find it? Granted this space was a lot less crowded back then. We made it to New and Noteworthy right away and all these fun things. It’s impossible to do that practically, not impossible, but you know what I’m saying. One of the things that kept us going was very quickly, we had people reach out to us and say, “I thought I was the only one that had ever experienced. I thought I was alone.” That’s what we thought too. It wasn’t like we were saying, “We know a lot about this whole marriage thing. We should talk about it on the mic and then put it out there so that people know they’re not alone.” No. We were like, “This is hard. We don’t even know if it’s going to work out but we are committed to each other. We’re scrappy and creative and are trying almost to make an excuse to spend time together again as it were.

That’s what the brilliant thing from having been married is. We were talking about this, we’re recording this and it’s my anniversary. Tom and I will have been married for 28 years. We got married one month after I turned 21, so we’ve been married since we were young too. Thinking about all of that, there comes the point at which you do spend much time. I used to travel for my job and we spent so much time apart and it puts a strain on your marriage. Finding a way to make sure that you have committed time together, doing something that you then have fun and enjoy doing. That’s important to put in. You created a space for you guys to find something you enjoy together. The process of podcasting for some people can be therapeutic in and of itself.

I do agree. That’s what happened for us and I’ve seen it happen for other podcasters as well. That’s one of the things that can be beautiful about the medium is the connection that it allows with the listener. It can be powerful, but then also the ability to commit to something whether it be personal development, business-related, parenting or whatever it ends up being that you’re talking about. It could even be home or hobby-related, gardening, cooking or whatever. It allows you to not only dig deep, go in-depth into the subject matter. It’s a great way to build your brand, it’s a great way to have an excuse to do lots of research. Those are all good things.

I suspect there was still though that little bit of fear of we’re putting ourselves far out there, people are going to get in our business, we’re going to get a lot of hate mail, nasty intrusiveness. There had to be some of that. I interviewed Belle Robertson, who that’s not her real name because she’s a super coach. The privacy and all of that, she switched that all up and kept it private from that space. There’s not a picture of her on the internet either, it’s at the back of her head. It’s an interesting way for her to approach that. What were the conversations about, “This could get ugly in some ways? Are we going to handle that? What are we going to do about it?” 

First of all, we’re fortunate. We’ve only gotten two nasty email review-type situations and both of them have been what we deemed important enough to address on the air. Addressing things head-on if you do end up, I jumped ahead there. We’ve addressed both of them head-on because we felt the people while they did them in a mean, immature, unfortunate way. They brought up valid points that we thought, “It’s possible other people are thinking the same thing, let’s address it.” That’s one thing. The other thing in terms of privacy, when we first started, Gerard was concerned about what effect, if any, this may have on his career? He works in corporate finance and at the time, he was working for a large publicly-traded company and doing things that were fairly high security. Things that he wouldn’t necessarily even come home and talk to me about. He has since switched industries a little bit. He’s still in corporate finance, but he’s a consultant. He works for a huge corporate firm and they love the fact that he has a podcast. He never talks about who his company is. He keeps that private.

All that to say, we started out having that Gerard and Jessie Pepper pseudonym and that gave him the amount of privacy that he felt like he wanted or secrecy. I don’t know what you’d call it. Prior as we already discussed, I had been a blogger for a while, I was comfortable sharing online and it was less scary to me. One of the other things that I would suggest if someone is maybe on the fence because of this specific reason, put guidelines in place for yourself. It’s having bumpers in a bowling alley.

These are our rails. We’re not going to deviate from them.

You don’t have to think about it as much at the moment. One of the things that we have in place, we’ve fudged it a few times. I’ll tell you the role and then I’ll give more of the explanation. One of the roles that we have in place is if there’s an issue that we’re working through and have not come to a resolution on, we don’t talk about it on the air. Personally for privacy sake, partially because we don’t ever want to use our life as fodder in a way that feels like it’s almost if you were on a reality show, you wouldn’t want the producers to take advantage of your real-life struggles. We’ll talk about things in retrospect quite often and we’re comfortable with that. If it’s something we’re still working through, we table it until we at least have enough distance to where the perspective is going to be helpful and not confusing or ugly or we’re not going to be tearing each other apart. That said, every once in a while, it will make sense to reference something that we are still working on. We’re never recording live.

You can always edit it out. 

We can always edit it out or sometimes we’ll be talking like this recording and I’ll say, “Do you mind if I bring up the thing about?” He’ll either say yes or no and then we continue accordingly. Choose your adventure situation.

Tom and I record across the table from each other and we’ll have this hand signal to each other. We’ll raise a finger and then we’ll say, “Should we mention this? Okay good.” We’d go back and say, “Editors, pickup now.” We have editors. We do that. That is the same method you can do when you have it. When something comes to your mind but you’re concerned, rather than diving into it and having the other person uncomfortable say, “Is this okay? If it is, let’s go for it.” 

Different podcasts contain unique stylistic characteristics picked up from other media. Click To Tweet

Let me say too, that’s interesting because I got a text message from a dear friend and she listens to our show and she also knows us in real life. We’ve hung out with her and her partner. She knows that Gerard and I are forthcoming about our relationship. If you’re sitting with us at the dinner table and we’re open about a lot of that stuff. She is used to having us be like that. We talk a lot about how positively that has impacted our relationship. We talk about it a lot, about how being vulnerable with other couples and other people that we do life with. Opening up about the things that he and I are experiencing as a married couple has brought about much healing and growth and all the wonderful things. She was asking me in this text, “What do you do if either you feel like you want to bring something up at the dinner table, dinner party moment or if your partner brings something up in the dinner party moment and you’re not comfortable with it? What do you do when that happens?” I was like, “Just ask.” If you feel like you want to bring something up in front of your friends, just say, “Is it okay if I ask them about X, Y, Z?” Work that into your normal day-to-day life. I would say as anyone who’s pursuing a healthy relationship, it’s a respectful way to go about building friendships as a couple. That’s one of the things that we’ve learned from recording about our life together on the microphone.

You did a whole episode on why you didn’t have kids, which I suspect was one of those comments that were intrusive that you were getting like, “When are you going to have kids? Why you haven’t had kids yet?” You did the whole episode on it, which I thought was great because you’re addressing it right up front and you’re like, “Guys, layoff. This is not your marriage, it’s ours. We get to choose.” I thought that was an interesting way to right upfront address it. I’m assuming that was one of those subjects that you were feeling that people were intruding in a somewhat consistent way. Did you find the response to that episode work out well for you? Did it stave off some of the comments and it changed the course of the sentiments that were going on in your comments?

Yeah, I would say it’s done two things. One, it’s allowed us to for instance, if someone finds our show and listens to the 1 or 2 most recent and then any subsequent going forward. They happened to notice that we don’t have kids and they get curious. They ask, which we do not mind talking about it. We do not mind being asked about it. What’s nice is I can say like, “You should go back and listen to episode 44,” or whatever it was, “We’ve talked about it a couple of times.”

I can’t remember the numbers to our show either.

“There’s one where my brother interviewed us. Was that the one you listened to?” That’s the main one that I point people to because my brother, besides Gerard, is my best friend, but he’s also one of Gerard’s best friends as well. We have this interesting trio dynamic. He lived with us when we lived in New York City and we have a great relationship with him. We were like, “Who better to ask us these things than someone who already knows this well.” He interviews us and we point people to that episode if they still have questions and they haven’t listened to that one yet. We’ve talked about it a few times since then because of our approach to “parenting” is fairly unique. We’ve talked about it a few more times to clarify some things and how that’s taken shape in our lives.

The second thing I was going to say that it’s done is yet again, many people have come out of the woodwork to say, “We’ve chosen not to have kids also.” We had no idea that it could feel like such an intentional life decision and less of like, “They can’t or they’re selfish or they haven’t gotten around to it,” or whatever. Any of the reasons other people would assign to your own life decisions, the number of people that have said, “Us too.” It has been not that we necessarily need more people on the no kids team. That’s not what it’s about. In a way, it is nice to know that others are hearing us talk about it and realizing that like, “It’s maybe not that weird or it can be another normal way to build a family or build a life.” That’s been wonderful. That’s been a fun and gratifying part about talking about it on the air.

Everybody’s going and saying, “Didn’t Tracy say at the end of your bio that you are a short-term foster mom?” It’s a fulfilling role for you. Tell us a little bit about that. 

We have a whole episode about this also. If people want more, I will touch on it quickly. They can go and check that out. We volunteer with an organization called Safe Families. It’s a national organization that started in Chicago. We’re part of their Orange County/LA/San Diego. It’s the tri-county areas down here in Southern California. It’s been amazing. Our host family for parents who otherwise their children would likely be put into long-term foster care. They need either respite care because they’ve got a medical emergency or they have to have surgery or they’re disabled in some way or in some cases they’re homeless. Essentially what happens is once you’re approved, you’ll get a text message. Anytime there’s a need, which to be honest, these days, especially in the winter, I could look and count. I would say I’d probably get between 5 and 10 texts a day with needs. It gives us the age, the gender, usually the length of time and sometimes a quick snippet about what the situation is. We call the number of our social workers.

I can share this with you. We’re going to end up having three-month-old twin girls. It’s a family of four kids. The mom’s looking for work, has no one else nearby. They do a nice job of making sure that the families who utilize this program are treating their kids well in the first place. They’re screened for things like addiction problems. They’re basically allowed to use this program or this service as someone who’s trying to get their life back on track. Otherwise, if she left her four kids at home, going out in search of a job or God forbid left them in the car, they would be taken away. The police would come. They would be taken away. She’s probably perfectly fit to be a mother. She just needs a little bit of a hand.

That’s fantastic. I love that you’re doing this. My brother and sister-in-law are foster parents and they were approved 1.5 years ago. They already had three sets of kids come through their households at that time. I have to tell you that it breaks my heart when they come through, but at the same time, there’s such a need. Good for you that you found a program that fits you and something that you can get back into.

One of the things I love about this program is that we don’t get our hearts broken at all because when we’re giving the kids back, they’re going back to their parents. It’s happy.

I’m glad you found a program that fits you in. That’s what I was saying. I was like, “I see that there’s such a need.” While I have kids on my own and I would love to do that, the reality is that it would break my heart every time in the system. You found a niche where you’re needed and then it doesn’t have to have that full heartbreak all the time. There is a privacy concern there as well which you guys are uniquely suited to because you’re used to not mentioning names and you’re used to not mentioning that. This is the thing, we’ll get an invite to one of the foster kids’ birthdays because it happens to be while they’re still caring for them. It’s all this private information, there are no pictures involved. It’s like foster daughter one is turning two. We don’t use names in any invitations and emails or anything like that to try to keep the security and safety up for them. You guys are used to that in your system. You already have that somewhat built-in that you’re keeping privacy going. 

It’s worked out well.

How do you avoid it? I’m sure you had a lot of people going to you, “What are you going to do with this podcast thing? Are you going to turn it into business? Do you want to take some sponsors?” How do you address that for yourself? This is a personal thing in some way, shape or form. How do you make it feel like you didn’t capitalize on that?

FYB 102 | Using Your Personal Life

Using Your Personal Life: If you’re on the fence about doing podcasting because you’re not comfortable sharing online, you can start by setting guidelines for yourself.

 

In many cases, we’ve had opportunities come about and it has brought up this feeling of like, “If we say yes to this, is that yucky? Does this feel weird in some way?” We’ve monetized our show a handful of different ways. It’s been around for a few years. We’ve gotten to experiments. This is what I was referencing with that whole being able to pivot quickly and being comfortable with that both as a business owner and an online personality. We’ve had traditional sponsorships. We’ve had more of an advertorial sponsorship situation available. We’ve done partnerships with large scale brands where we’ve created exclusive content for them.

One of my favorite things that we’ve done is we host. There have been some years where it’s twice a year, right now it’s once a year vacation for our listeners. We take everybody down to Mexico and we rent a big house right on the beach. It has a full staff and it’s all-inclusive and it ends up being such a fun opportunity to connect, rest and play with other like-minded couples. It’s honestly one of my favorite things in the world. We also are doing a big summit coming up. Here in Long Beach, it’s a much larger scale event. The Mexico vacation, which we call The Great Love Getaway, is much more vacation vibe. This summit is a more brilliant meeting of the minds. We’ve got speakers, we’ve got activities and we’ve got workshops. It’s going to be much more enrichment-focused. This is a departure for us. We’ve never done anything like this before. We’ve done workshops all over the country. We do speaking opportunities quite often as well all over the country. That’s been another way, but it’s interesting. Gerard has his full-time job. This is I would say maybe a third of what I spend my time doing in terms of my career and then I’ve got other projects on the side as well. Luckily, we haven’t needed to eat a ton of cash out of it.

It wasn’t an urgent need.

It’s nice when it pays for itself and that was the goal from the beginning is at least make it pay for itself. If it goes beyond, that would be great too. We’ve had people say like, “What do you make a course or do something like that?” The only two other things that I would say have worked out well for us. One is we do offer mentorship for other couples. Since we’re the Peppers, we call it a little Pep Talk. Sign up to talk with us. That’s been fun. Gerard has his Master’s of Divinity. He studied Pastoral Care and Counseling for his grad school program. He’s got that background. I’ve got my mindset coaching that I do. It pairs well. I am working on a book, but that’s not meant to be any money-making endeavor. It’s because like you, I am a writer at heart and that idea got to go somewhere.

Unfortunately for me, I always point to the back behind me because my credenza is back there, I have three books sitting back there that still haven’t gotten through a final edit because once I write it, that’s it like, “I’m good, I got it out, I’m done.” I didn’t need to publish it. 

Who knows, that might be the same thing? The only reason I even started writing this particular book that’s related to Marriage is Funny is that we had someone reach out with interest and essentially depending on how you do it, they get all the rights to the content. I started writing an outline and I was like, “This is mine.” Even if I end up finishing it and it ends up sitting in my drawer, I’ll probably be okay with it unless someone wants to give it a flip through.

I’m sure your listeners will be interested. Every time I do one of these, we’ve got to touch on some tips from you. How about some lessons from your experience? It could be as a blogger as well as a podcast and a social media influencer because you’ve had that as well. About some of the best ways and you don’t book great guests, but why don’t we talk about it in terms of getting great ideas, great topics. 

One of the ways that we come up with our topics for our show and it’s interesting, it’s shifted a little bit. Season eight was our latest season and we take breaks in between. Season eight, we did interviews. Season seven I believe was also unique in that we only would talk about one topic per episode from the beginning and then up until then through season six. What we would do is we would each come up with a topic in our head and not tell the other person what it was going to be. At the beginning of the show, we say, “What do you want to talk about?” The other person says, “We’re going to talk about,” and then we both say that the same time. We’re surprising each other with the actual topic. The goal and we don’t say this, but if you’re interested in comedy or if you’ve ever taken an improv class or if you like improv, it’s almost like an improv game where one of my favorite episodes, we talked about rollerblades and budgeting in the same show. Neither one of us knew either person was going to say those topics. The goal was we talk about one first and then we find a way to segue it into the other one and you’re like, “How would those two possibly even be?”

That’s an improv thing. I haven’t seen it done yet. 

We’re trying to work it into the other one. In the end, the goal is to then tie both up in a bow and almost address or create a way that the two are linked. The reason we do that is that we’ve always wanted these to be unscripted. The only thing we script out, which you’d be able to tell by reading this is our intro. That’s a way to remember to say all the announcements and type things we want to say. Those topic ideas, we keep a private list. He and I do on our phones essentially throughout life. It’s funny what’s happened more and more as we get into it, that means what we’re coming up on five years, which is crazy to me.

Doesn’t it seem crazy? 

That is mind-blowing. What happens is for instance, I’ll tell you this is an exclusive. I got rear-ended in the grocery store parking lot. Nothing happened to our car, thankfully. It was gentle, we’re both going two miles an hour. The story that happened after that was funny and interesting. What’s funny and interesting about the fact that I’m even bringing this up is that I got home and want to be like, “You’ll never believe what happened to me.” I didn’t because I’m like, “That’s going to make such a good podcast episode.” I’ll save it for a show. We joke about that. Something will happen or we’ll come up with an idea or a thought or tweet or story or whatever and we’ll save it for the show. A professional marriage counselor would say like, “Maybe that’s not healthy,” but it works for us.

It keeps everything surprising and funny. That can’t be bad.

If I tell him once, then the second time I tell him it’s going to be more anticlimactic. It’s like, “I’ve heard this story.”

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Tom can never do that. He would have to tell me. He would never be able to hold back. He couldn’t keep it a secret. He wouldn’t be able to do it. I love that. That’s great. You have a process for getting topics going. How did you decide then which guests you were going to bring on during that season? 

One of the things we looked at was what the areas are. This is where we fudge that guideline. We wanted to talk to people who had expertise in areas that we legitimately want to be better at. For instance, we talked to 2 or 3 of the couples are existing dear friends of ours and then 2 or 3 of the couples are people that we have met but we don’t necessarily do life with. Maybe our long-distance acquaintances as it happens a lot of times in the online world. We were like, “One of the things we want to get better at is budgeting. Let’s talk to a couple who are dear friends of ours here in Long Beach that paid off $238,000 of debt in seven years. We want to be better at our sexual intimacy. Let’s talk to a couple who that’s what they do. They coach other couples through that same pursuit.” We talked to a couple who are well-known marriage experts about how to work through a healthy conflict.

It sounds like you followed your curiosity.

We followed our curiosity. We looked at ways in which we want to make our relationship better because it made for organic and earnest conversations with these people. The other thing we wanted to show in season eight specifically, how important it is to build a tribe of other couples that you can rely on. Friendships with these people and many others are literally what has held our marriage together. I don’t mean that we’re barely hanging on by a thread way, but we want to build and pursue. They’re essential. We want to nurture our connection and our lives and our relationship and our connection are much deeper and healthier when we do life with other people that we respect and trust. That’s what we’re trying to recreate on the mic. Showing others what it’s like to have these conversations in an honest and open way because we get that question a lot. You might be interested to know that’s one of our most frequently asked questions. It’s a two-parter. One is how to make friends as a married couple, which is easily one of the most frequently asked. As a close second and that goes hand-in-hand is how does depth come in? How do you allow for that without it feeling awkward, forced, embarrassing or any of those things? We wanted to model that. I don’t know if it fully worked because it’s always hard to know without getting it inside the head.

It’s a work in progress. You’ll keep refining it. The next thing that we have is one of our biggest questions is how do you increase readers?

If I knew, I would be lying there. For us, it’s been a lot of asking our Great Love Gang, which is what we call our people to share with their friends. When we engage with our listeners, a lot of times I will ask, “How did you hear about the show?” I would say the majority of the time they say, “My coworker told me, my aunt told me, my sister told me,” or whatever.

It is getting pass around word of mouth.

We don’t do a lot of promotion and to be honest with you, we haven’t grown as much in the last year, as we have in the few years before that. That’s been discouraging. As the space gets more crowded, people have more and more options for what content they’re consuming both within the podcasting space and outside of it. That’s always going to shift and change and that’s one of the reasons why we’re always looking ahead to what’s next. It goes back to that whole being ready to pivot thing. We don’t know how much longer we’re going to do the show. We never do. When we wrap a season, we’re always like, “No, we don’t know when we’ll be back.” One year, we took a lot of months off. We took ten months off between seasons one time. Most of the time, it’s a couple of months. It gives us a chance to live our lives and figure things out.

I’m going to stop everyone right there because this is what I do for a living here at Podetize. This is the reason why you’re not growing as much. It’s a technical reason that you’re not growing as much. You need to every 25 days put out a short piece of content so that you keep the subscriber base on an active basis. What happens if you take a break more than 30 days, iTunes stops pushing the podcast to them. That means when you produce a new episode, they have to actively go in and see that you have a new one and make and re-pull it back into their feed. You may have some that aren’t like, “When are they coming back?” They were listeners for a while and they forgot about you when you dropped down on their list because they’ve got many podcasts because who doesn’t listen to a lot of them? iTunes stops pushing it to them if it’s been 30 days or more since you published or since they’ve listened. It’s an iTunes thing. Because iTunes is probably about 60% of the listener base and subscriber base, that’s probably having an effect on the growth. One of the ways around it is to do a little 10-minute. You could record them at the end of your first season, but drop them in every 20 days, 25 days or so until you record again, until you start your new season.

We have done that occasionally and it’s not that difficult. That’s good advice and we should try to start implementing that again.

You might then keep seeing your growth path be a little more stable. 

That’s great advice. Thank you.

You’ve talked about how you produce the show yourself. What is the essential part do you think about producing it professionally for you? 

For me, a big part of it is setting deadlines that I would say reasonable, but also aspirational so that I’m staying on top of things, that I’m not killing myself in the process.

FYB 102 | Using Your Personal Life

Using Your Personal Life: It’s great to get to the point where the podcast is making money for itself, especially if you’d set it as a goal from the very beginning for sustainability.

 

You’re not like, “This is going to take three weeks to edit, I’m going to take my time?” I’m like, “I need to have it done in a week.” 

Usually, what we do is we record on either Saturday or Sunday and then I have the episode up by 12:01 AM on Wednesday.

You set yourself a short timeframe?

Yeah, I finish it Monday and Tuesday usually here and there. In terms of production, one of the things that have helped me is listening to other shows with unique formats. It keeps my understanding of the space fresh, allows me to be creative if I come across something that like, “We could try that or this.” We don’t drift a lot from our pattern or our format, but it’s smart to see what’s out there and understand what others are doing.

Stylize your show, which you’ve done. How do you encourage engagement in that community? You called it the Great Love Gang.

We have a loyal and engaged private Facebook group. I would say that’s the primary place that we engage with people. Every episode has what’s called Kindling Questions. We used to call them Trigger Questions. Gerard’s a pacifist. We’re both fairly, without wanting to get political, we’re not big fans of guns. Anyways, we changed it to Kindling Questions. There’s some fun backstory in an episode behind that. We will post those. They’re meant for listeners to be able to go and have heartfelt conversations with their partner after listening as it relates to the show.

Not necessarily within the group?

No, but we do post them one at a time in the group in case people want to share and it’s fun. One of the things I love about our Great Love Gang and the group that goes along with it is that we don’t necessarily always end up being the conversation starters. Someone was like, “I’m going to Germany soon, I’m going to be doing a lot of walking. I haven’t made a lot of big European backpacking trips, but I care about looking cute and feeling comfortable. Does anyone have shoe recommendations?” Men and women came out of the woodwork. It’s 90 comments long or maybe not 90, but it was a long thread of suggestions.

Do they trust the community? That’s such a compliment right there.

Yes, it makes us happy. We had our suggestions too like I weighed in, Gerard had thoughts. Some branch-off conversations happened. People get to know each other and a lot of people come to our events regularly and start to get familiar with each other. It’s been a wonderful group of people that’s popped up. That’s probably my favorite part. Aside from the fact that it saved the show, saved our marriage, I would say the friendships that have come about because it has been easily a close second.

We talked a little bit about this. This is the last one on the list of things, but we talked about monetization. Which one felt the best way for you? Which one felt the most authentic and the one that you’d like to do more of?

Live events are easily my favorite. In terms of scalability, they’re not necessarily the most lucrative. I would say for us, they provide a healthy and fun mixture of something that we love to do, which is performing and connecting with people in real life, in terms of without relation to a stage or any platform. Mixed with the fact that in a lot of those cases, we’ve got a client who has a need and a specific goal in mind. We’re able to help them either by providing entertainment or providing a learning experience. We’ve been the headliner at a large theater, we’ve been preached at churches, we’ve spoken at college campuses. It depends on what the situation is. I would say that’s been my favorite. I would lump our events into that too. The ones that we host are far less lucrative in terms of an actual profit generator because we’re also having to pay the cost of throwing the event. It gets a little funny with paying ourselves versus paying for all the expenses, which is why we love being hired to do things like that. I don’t mind having ads on our show. I don’t want to call it a necessary evil because it’s not evil, but it’s one of those things. It’s advertising. Media is always going to have it as a part of the content.

It could be an interruption. It’s for some people. The last thing that I like to do before I close with everyone is to identify their bingeable factors. I like to say what I think of your bingeable factors because it was more likely not what you expect it to be. Having listened to a lot of shows and having identified them, your bingeable factor is interesting. It’s opposite from the others. It’s one of those things where you talk on a topic and I want to find out if it’s going to come up again, if there’s been a further resolution? Sometimes it could be a negative thing. I’m vicariously wondering if it’s going to destroy you, that would be bad but it can be that. You’re still interested. I’m still going to the next one wanting to find out. Wanting to see the threads through it. You don’t do it not in an obvious way like, “We’re touching back and we’re mentioning what happened.” It’s organically happening. I have to listen to the whole episode to find that out. That’s the interesting bingeable factor that you’ve created. That’s an unusual one, I have to tell people. Everyone out there, I want you to read because Jessie and Gerard Pepper have come up with a great model that is interesting in how they created their bingeable factor.

I had never thought about that, but I see what you’re saying. I’m flattered because you’re making it sound like we did it on purpose and we most certainly didn’t know.

You didn’t. It’s organic. It happened. 

I get what you’re saying and honestly, it makes a lot of sense. There are a few shows that I want to know what happens next, so I’ve got to come back or how does this play out totally?

It’s not a gimmick. It’s real. It’s part of it. 

I do often say that it listens. When people tell me that they jumped around, first of all, I get that you’re not going to probably go back and listen to 100 episodes in one sitting or whatever. I do oftentimes recommend, I say that they listen. It’s almost like a narrative format. You get the backstory. We talk about things almost assuming that you’ve listened to at least some past episodes. We don’t give the back story in every episode most of the time.

That’s what I think is why it’s an organic thing and you can tell. Thank you for being on the show. I appreciate it. Marriage is Funny comes out on Wednesdays. They do seasons, you’ve got to catch them, but there are eight seasons, you can go binge-listen to some eight seasons and catch up on all of that, Gerard and Jessie Pepper. Jessie Artigue, thank you for being on the show. You’ve been an inspiration and giving quite a different viewpoint on podcasting. I appreciate that. 

Thank you, Tracy. It’s been a pleasure.

You can catch Feed Your Brand Center of Influence every Wednesday on Feed Your Brand. You can go to FeedYourBrand.co as well as catch us on social media, @Feed Your Brand. We’d love for you to suggest out your favorite podcasters and I’ll go chase them down and bring them on the show. Thanks for reading. This is Tracy Hazzard.

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About Jessie Artigue

FYB 102 | Using Your Personal LifeJessie Artigue is a style expert & on-air host with over 10 years of experience in the fashion, beauty & lifestyle industries. She’s currently most excited about the podcast that she co-hosts with her husband called Marriage is Funny and they have made it their mission to encourage modern couples across the world.

Jessie is also the creator of Season Everyday: An eco-friendly silk dress that can be worn as multiple garments and is ethically sewn right here in the US. She’s a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur with an impressive portfolio of digital media clients, but considers her role as a short-term foster mom the most fulfilling part of her work. http://www.meetthepeppers.com/

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