I’ve been in the business of bank consulting since the 6th grade. Really. My father started a consulting business literally out of our home after years of being an actual banker. It was there that I worked with him, my mother and sister, and lots of great associates over years with the firm – they were the ones who ingrained (in me) a deep caring for community bankers and their concerns. Later on, around the same time that I graduated law school and passed the bar, “compliance” was becoming a bank (uh, examiner) concern. So, I started doing compliance audits for several local banks, which led to so many other related assignments and travels I lost count of!   I was very fortunate to have formed relationships with so many great bankers and advisors over the years!

I went on to join the CPA firm of Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund not long after my father passed. Saltmarsh has had a great reputation for over 70 years, and a disproportionately large base of community bank and credit union clients.  I like to spend time in the field, but, I mostly support Saltmarsh’s team of financial institution consultants who do internal audits, compliance reviews and other consulting – day in and out – helping banks and credit unions operate safely, soundly and in compliance with so many regulatory requirements.  And, sometimes we even have some fun.

More importantly, my passion for social media in the industry started three years ago. I was asked to teach a class on social media compliance for a local banker association and learned the basic “hows” and “whys” from my awesome sister – who runs her own marketing agency. I’ve reached the conclusion that there is a TON of potential for this great industry to use social media, which, let’s be honest, could use better PR in the eyes of the general public, the regulators, and certainly the next generation of customers.   But, the typical banker (or CPA, auditor, or attorney for that matter!) isn’t born wearing the tool belt for success in social media.  So, that is why John Siracusa, the BANK ON IT Podcast, and the #BankSocial conference speak directly to my heart…

I had the chance to talk one-on-one with John, to ask him some questions that burned within me….and here’s how it went:

“Describe how it feels……to come from seeing just a few downloads of your podcast in the beginning, to seeing the large numbers of downloads now and especially seeing the huge group of conference attendees at #BankSocial on April 6-7 in Newark, NJ?”

The truth is – I really love what I do and will continue to do it regardless of success or not.  I am truly amazed and awe inspired by how many people in banking and social media support our brand, many of which are my heroes and inspire me to wake up every morning and get to work.  I mean amazing people like Jill Castilla, Jay Baer, Chris Lorence, and Rudy Pereira.  All genuine and generous people.  I’m truly honored that the banking industry allowed me to create a brand that they love and use daily, from the BANK ON IT Podcast to the Conference itself. My promise is that I will continue to innovate and improve the lives of our partners and audience.  We started off with about 12 downloads per episode to now being in the thousands, many of which are over 10k. It’s amazing.

“You set out to do the one thing you could be the best at, and I think we all agree that is your podcasting. What are the top 5 lessons you’ve learned along the way about podcasting?”

I’ve learned hundreds. But My  Top 5 are …

1. Podcasting saved my marriage.  How?  My wife was of sick of me talking her ear off every day especially every Tuesday morning on her way to work.

2. People want to help, genuinely.  Early on, I had all of 12 downloads of each of my shows. Yet, I never had a hard time finding amazing guests.  It is true that some of the most successful people are also some of the most genuinely generous people, they taught me that.  Now there are also a lot of jerks as well.  If you’re influential help someone in need out, it will make you a better person and obtain success at the same time.

3.  Listen to your audience by trying dozens of new things and getting their feedback. Yes, you must innovate and sometimes the concept of the innovation must be touchable since sometimes theories of an innovation may not make any sense whatsoever. Think of it this way. I could explain in my words how great shows like the Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead are, yet, watching them instead is so much better. Experiencing them is everything and asking for, listening to and taking action off of feedback can make innovation ultimately better.

4.  Invest in the right team, because you’re going to stink at many things within your job. There is nothing more difficult and stressful than coming to realization that you have weaknesses and eventually realizing what your weaknesses are, and how much it’ll costs to balance out that weakness by finding a resource other than yourself to fill that gap. You will have a massive gap in many areas, everyone does, mine is that I’m not a talented editor. I hired a team of editors for my podcast early on because I made a commitment that I would release a new episode every Tuesday morning and I would not be able to keep that commitment if I had to edit hours of shows myself. Most endeavors fail because there are critical components of it that aren’t being addressed which will cause an inevitable system wide failure.  Focus on filling that gap and instead of “fixing” your weakness.

5. It’s vital to have clarity on what you want to accomplish, what is the goal? The only way to be great at anything requires that you measure what your doing and comparing it to something. There is no other way to measure the difference between being penny wise and pound foolish or vice-versa, unless you’re measuring your choices against a very important, long term goal. Once you understand the destination you can then plan out and map your route. Understanding this can help you truly understand the function on compliance and how it fits within the big picture.  Remaining compliant should be the goal, but in order to win you must be and understand it. So question everything while planning, but for crying out loud, take action. You will never in a million years have the ability to perfectly map out every tiny detail and there will be challenges you could never anticipate that you will inevitably face. If you feel stuck, get busy and take action!

“Thanks to you – and many of the folks you’ve had as guests on your show – the industry is starting to incorporate social media as a business strategy. I’ve heard some of my clients say they are not going to use social media, because their prospects/potential customers are not using it.  I feel their pain. Many of MY prospects (bank and credit union executives and compliance officers) are also not on social media, certainly not during business hours since their IT policies often prohibit it. What would you say to them?”

Nothing happens unless someone takes action.  Yes, its true, your current clients are probably not using social media to make business decisions, because the prospects that do, will choose a brand that is using social media.  So there are thousands of opportunities that are sitting behind a door that you don’t have the key to and that is purely your choice.  So, please continue to wait and see because it leaves unimaginable opportunities for people and brands who are taking action.  For people who want to take action yet don’t know how to, lead, do something!  Don’t just sit there shrugging your shoulders, get up and make a difference regardless of the environment that surrounds you. You will never have all the answers, human beings learn by falling off their bikes and soaking up that pain and never allowing that particular fall to happen again, luckily we are no longer living in caves where a mistake makes you a wild animal’s dinner.  You can always find a new job or endeavor if you’re still alive. Bankers across the United States are in the process of realizing this and have begun to seek out resources that can help them win in social media, which is why my podcast downloads have increased with every new episode.

“You obviously also have a blog.  In terms of content distribution, how do you decide whether a particular topic should be delivered as a blog, podcast, or video, or combinations of these, or another format altogether?”

In the beginning, when we had no data I studied other truly great brands that had reached the level I wanted our brand to get to, so it was mostly best guesses and intuition.  Now we study analytics to almost military precision since we have enough data to analyze, many brands analyze way too little of a data set or make right decisions off of the wrong type of data.  Most brands starting out should look at getting started like riding a bike for the first time.  Look for a mentor, make some decisions and when you’re good at the basics, start more advanced tactics.  How we make decisions on distribution today depends on lots of testing and experience.  We are still improving on this daily since it’s a science and an art simultaneously.

“Like a great visual, I think having a cool and catchy name for a blog or podcast — overall, and episode-by-episode — is an important part of getting attention. What do you think makes a great name and, how did you come up with the “Bank On It” name for your podcast?”

No matter how catchy an image or name is the truth remains — most content, regardless of how great it is, goes mostly unnoticed since the world we currently live in, is in content creation overdrive.   Having a positive, forward thinking goal helps make these decisions easier.  I’ll tell you why, social media works best when there is an ultimate goal the brand is focused on accomplishing.  Sometimes getting attention needs a much bigger investment than just an eye catching visual (i.e. Creating custom shirts). Visuals and creative names start to naturally happen when involved in a sky’s the limit goal/result oriented environment, I cannot emphasize the importance of this.  You must come up with and execute on big ideas consistently, focus is vital, especially when you are a small team.  I created the name Bank On It to remind me everyday day my commitment to the banking industry,

 “Thank you John, for your wonderful responses. It’s been a pleasure!”

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