Part 2 – BTS of Deluxe’s Emmy-Nominated Brand Reality Series – Amanda Brinkman, Deluxe Corp. – Ep 47

TUNE IN: Apple Podcasts l Spotify

Part 2 – Deluxe Corp. Chief Brand and Communications Officer, Amanda Brinkman, shares more about the brand’s Emmy-nominated reality series: Small Business Revolution. What’s next, learnings and measurement.

THIS EPISODE AT-A-GLANCE

  • Sneak peak into the new season of Small Business Revolution
  • Necessary elements to create a winning storytelling series
  • Offers advice when searching for brand stories
  • What business results does this offer Deluxe?
  • Strategies Amanda is considering in the years ahead
  • The insider strategy with co-hosting a television series
  • How to connect with Amanda

Full Podcast Transcription

Amanda Brinkman:
Even when you just think about consumption or distribution on platforms, like it’s a huge coup that it’s on Hulu and Prime Video. Because from a strategy perspective, from a reach perspective, instead of competing for the same eyeballs and the same small business audiences in traditional paid media that our competitors are, we are on a platform where businesses are actively choosing to spend at 30 minutes at a time per episode spend that time with us.

Sarah Panus:
Hi, my name is Sarah Panus. I have spent the last two decades driving digital content for billion dollar brands. Now I help content marketers build winning brand storytelling strategies and reduce feelings of overwhelm and confusion. Join me as we discuss strategy, creativity, confidence, and building a better connection with your audience. Think of this as a creative content marketing jam session mixed with chicken soup for the soul. This is the Marketing With Empathy Podcast. 

Sarah Panus:
All right, welcome back to part two of my conversation with Amanda Brinkman, the chief brand and communications officer at Deluxe Corporation. If you have haven’t yet listened to part one, do it – stop listen to it right now and then come back here. Amanda and I looked back at the making of her Emmy worthy brand video series called Small Business Revolution at Deluxe Corporation. And if you, um, like I said, haven’t listened, go there right now. Um, and if you have already listened to it, you’re in the right place. Don’t go anywhere. In this episode, Amanda and I are gonna look ahead and discuss learnings, measurement and future implications. So as a reminder, Amanda is the creator, producer, and host of the Emmy-nominated reality series Small Business Revolution – showcasing her love for small towns and entrepreneurship by spearheading efforts to revitalize entire communities and provide makeovers to small businesses across America. So, hey Amanda! What is, you know, your new season of Small Business Revolution just launched – what’s this season gonna be about? 

Sneak peak into the new Season of small business revolution

Amanda Brinkman:
So, uh, in the past five seasons, uh, we’ve actually always focused on a different small town. So we’ve had a whole nomination process and voting process, and we’ve worked with some incredible, uh, smaller communities across the US and just showing how important their small businesses are, uh, to their towns. But we’re based in Minneapolis and St. Paul. So we actually decided to bring the Small Business Revolution home to Minneapolis and St. Paul and instead of just focusing on one main street, as we have in past seasons, we’re actually focusing on six different neighborhoods across the Twin Cities and we’re featuring all black owned businesses and entrepreneurs this season.

Sarah Panus:
Oh my gosh. Six different neighborhoods, that is ambitious, right? So it was a lot more work or did it just net out to be the same, but just spread out six different areas?

Amanda Brinkman:
It, It did. It definitely changed the working model of how we typically do it, but we did a lot of community listening right at the beginning. As soon as I felt compelled that we, we bring this back home and the team was on board and Deluxe was on board, I just started with a lot of community listening just to make sure, you know. We, the tonality of the show has always been really positive and uplifting and you see the ripple effect within the communities, but, you know, Minneapolis and St. Paul has been kind of in the spotlight. Um, for a lot of things over the past 14 months. And so, um, or two years now, um, and it’s, it was just really important that we get this work, right. So the six neighborhoods that we picked was informed by community listing, and it was also very important that we work with community leaders within each of those neighborhoods who really know the entrepreneurs, uh, within those neighborhoods. 

Amanda Brinkman:
Um, we, you know, we always love to show what a different businesses can make on their communities and this particular season, and, and these community leaders, you know, know who those businesses are. They know who the ones are, who are not necessarily civic leaders or have a specific title, but they’re those entrepreneurs that are really leading their community and actively involved. And so, uh, the community leadership was really important part of it this year. And so it’s, it’s six different neighborhoods, three are in Minneapolis and three are in St. Paul. And, uh, and then we featured one business from each of those neighborhoods as well. And, uh, for us it’s just, so it’s just so rewarding to show what a difference economic empowerment can make. And when you invest in black owned businesses, the ripple effect that that can have, uh, not just for their family and for, for them personally, and creating generational wealth, but also the ripple effect it can have within a neighborhood and a community. Um, and how vital small business really are toward neighborhoods, which has always been, you know, the mission of this work.  

Sarah Panus:
Absolutely. Oh, I can’t wait to watch, this sounds exciting. So now that you have six seasons under your belt, what do you see as like necessary elements to create a winning storytelling series that would be good advice for my listeners?

Necessary elements to create a winning storytelling series

Amanda Brinkman:
It’s really about listening and really understanding what aspect of a story and what aspect. You know, people, human beings have this incredible need to not feel alone in their emotions or in their feelings or in their struggles. We, we have this nature, I think it’s why we’re seeing, you know, different things like political divides and things like that. People like to be around other people who agree with them because that affirmation is reassuring. And so I think when you’re thinking about storytelling, it’s about really, you can tell so many different aspects of, of, of a person’s story of an entrepreneur’s story of a, um, of a man or a woman’s story. But it’s, it’s really about figuring out, you know, what really matters to your audience and what aspects of that can help create both empathy and, and understanding of that person’s journey. But can also be something that resonates, uh, and engages the audience, uh, so that they’re inspired by that story as well, either inspired to action, inspired to empathy, inspired to, you know, being a self-starter around something. And so I think it’s just really about going back to those kind of core human fundamentals of, of this need for affirmation and really understanding how a story can inspire. 

COMMERCIAL BREAK

What if I told you I have a solution to improve your existing team’s brand storytelling skills without having to add new headcount, how to work with who you have to make your team killer teammates and employees, a solution to advance your careers by teaching you how to humanize your brand for stronger results faster, a way to prove to your internal audience that what you do matters to grow your budget, helping you with simplified messaging so you can get ahead without overthinking. Today’s episode of Marketing With Empathy is brought to you by just such a solution. The Brand Storytelling Academy. Brand Storytelling Academy is the signature program I designed to help B2C and nonprofit brands level up their internal team’s story marketing prowess. Giving you the confidence and brand storytelling skills and frameworks you need to advance in your career and focus on what matters to seven X new and repeat engagement through empathy and data-driven storytelling plans. Storytelling drives business results – it does. I spent 20 years working inside corporate and agencies, leading various forms of content strategy for a billion dollar brands helping drive leading ROI through storytelling. Using my learnings and my signature EFD method, I personally help train you and your team in the Brand Storytelling Academy. I’m offering your brand a way to make more money through a storytelling mastermind for five months. It’s virtual, you can sign up for a fraction of what a cost to hire an actual person on the team and you can have up to four people from your company join me. Think of it like a college certification program for your team but you’ll get all the knowledge a lot quicker. Plus your classmates are your colleagues – plus marketing pros from up to three other brands. So you get to hear and learn from each other week to week in addition to hearing from me and guest experts. Curious? Fill out the application to learn more @kindredspeak.com/apply and we’ll chat to see if you’re a good fit. As a bonus just for applying, I’ll give you a free 30 minute consultation call with me too – no strings attached. Go to kindredspeak.com/apply. That’s kindredspeak.com/apply. 

Offers advice when searching for brand stories

Sarah Panus:
In my experience, casting the right people is often like the biggest hurdle. Like once you find them and you find that story, then it’s just a matter of production. So what advice do you have to help other brands find great heart centered stories from people who will also be good on camera? Because you guys have done a really nice job with that. 

Amanda Brinkman:
Oh, thank you. Yeah, we’ve literally, we’ve tried to take a really soft and authentic approach to the casting, and it’s always funny cuz people use the word casting a lot. As one would, that would be the term for it. And it’s so funny, we just have never used that term when we think about selecting the businesses, because we truly try to make it. You know, we interview the businesses. There’s always every year, there’s a, a different way business can apply and then we meet with them and we narrow it down. We go to visit their businesses. We then bring them in for interviews and we’re really asking just as many questions about their business needs to see if their transformation will be inspired and educational to other businesses. We’re asking to your point, just as many questions about kind of their personal story to see if something will resonate. 

Amanda Brinkman:
And I think we’ve just the project has just, just kind of been blessed from the beginning. It’s either the way we’re asking the questions or it’s just, uh, the serendipity of it all. But you know, we, we usually are able to get to the heart of, of what aspect of that business sort of story will resonate with others and be inspiring. And so at the, but at the same time, like we’ve also said we could have picked any of the business that, you know, each year we get like 200 businesses that apply. Every small business story is inspiring for a different reason. So I think it was one of those no lose situations. Like I think we’ve always, we love all the businesses that we’ve selected over the course of the work. You know, nearly 40 businesses that have been featured on the show, but I don’t think if we could have gone wrong, if we would’ve picked a different one of theem that had applied either.  

Sarah Panus:
Uh, that’s, that’s great. It’s really, it is, it’s very authentic in how it comes across. Okay, so now I wanna talk results. I know in the first part of our discussion, you shared all the amazing like media coverage and 10 billion I think you said impressions so far counting. There’s a, there’s a lot of results with the company. But can you talk a little bit more about what business results that it, the show is helping to drive for Deluxe? 

What business results does this offer deluxe?

Amanda Brinkman:
Yeah, it’s really hard to measure. I’ll be very honest about that so it, well, cause it, even when you just think about consumption or distribution on platforms, like it’s a huge coup that it’s on Hulu and Prime Video. Because from a strategy perspective, from a reach perspective, instead of competing for the same eyeballs and the same small business audiences in traditional paid media that our competitors are, we are on a platform where businesses are actively choosing to spend 30 minutes at a time per episode, they’re actively choosing to watch it. It isn’t something that’s interrupting what they wanna be doing. It is the thing they want to be doing and the thing that they’re watching. And so the power of that is almost immeasurable. And so, but by very nature of that, it’s, I, you can’t, uh, cross over measurement from an OTT platform to a website, for example, or to an 800 number. 

Amanda Brinkman:
So we can ask people, you know, how did you hear about Deluxe? Maybe they’ll say SPR, and we get that a lot but you know, I mean, you, you literally, can’t kind of track it all the way from one of those platforms to that then, you know, incentivize them to, to go online. There are some cookies and different things that we can do that are related to if people have interacted with the banner or a trailer online or things like that. We use a, a lot social, uh, in our, uh, paid amplification of the show. So we can try and measure things like that. But from an actual episode view to a website purchase is, is a pretty hard, uh, funnel to, to measure. So I, I have tried to manage expectations around that from the very beginning. Um, uh, but, and then there’s other things we do from a brand awareness perspective and we measure awareness of products and services and overall brand awareness and things like that. 

Amandra Brinkman:
So we’ve certainly seen that move, um, in the right directions for, uh, the right categories, uh, over time. But it, it is, I don’t have have a magic answer. It isn’t, this kind of work is really hard to measure. And that’s the hardest part. I think, we talked about this in the first episode, but I think that’s why more brands don’t make bold bets. They can see it when, when I share this case, like that makes so much sense, but how would, how would I ever sell that at my company? Cuz we can’t measure it in the same way.

Sarah Panus:
Yes, yes. Which is why I think it’s so important to share these stories with each other because we can look at like, “Hey look at what Deluxe is doing, it worked really well”. I’ve talked with so many other brands on this podcast about how impactful brand storytelling has been, which is why I’m so passionate cause I’ve seen it drive top ROI for brands even. Um, there’s so much, there’s just so much potential of how we can keep leaning into this old format of like storytelling, like you’ve said before, right? Where it’s storytelling is as old as time of how we’ve communicated. We just need to get back into that and to lean into that connection point with folks which will drive action, which is beautiful. 

Amanda Brinkman:
Well, and we just to trust our guts, like it makes sense. Like if it makes sense to us that these stories will resonate or that doing something good will resonate, let’s just take that bet again. We’ve become too metrics oriented. And as marketers, we have to be the bold ones. We, if we don’t push for doing this kind of work, I can assure you, the other departments are not gonna push for us to do this work. So if we’re not advocating for it, no one’s gonna come asking this of us. And as, as the marketing function, we are the heart of the organization, we understand we’re the closest to the customers in terms of insight and feedback and understanding, um, who they are. And so we need to be the ones driving, you know, kind of that narrative around what matters to them and how we can participate in their lives beyond selling them things. 

Amanda Brinkman:
Cuz I don’t think brands are talking about this quite a bit now. And I love that, but we’re not seeing as many brands take action on it, which is this concept of, you know, like doing good in the world. And it’s, I think SPR is a great example of like, this is good for business and it is good for small businesses. I don’t think every brand has to be alleviating poverty or solving the world water crisis or, you know, but there is something that your brand can make a difference in that’s gonna matter to your customers, that makes sense for the kind of business that you’re in. And when you can find that and then weave it in to your brand message, it’s just really powerful. I mean, we’re just standing behind giant megaphones as companies and brands. We’re spending money talking about something and we can choose whether or not that’s just about us and selling things or if there’s a way to advocate for something bigger alongside that.

Sarah Panus:
Oh, I totally agree. I, um, I often say brands are the new editor in chief. There’s so much, we have the budget, we have the team, we have the will, right? Like, so there’s just so much opportunity as brands to be these publishers out there that are doing, I love that doing well and doing good. Okay, so I consider the work you’re doing at Deluxe as gold standard, honestly, in the brand storytelling space. So of course I’m curious. Are there any other strategies or formats that you’re, you’d like to consider more in the years ahead? 

Strategies amanda is considering in the years ahead

Amanda Brinkman:
I love, you and I were talking about this earlier. Like podcasts are really powerful. I think podcasts can be really effective for content capture because, uh, when you’re capturing a podcast, you can actually be knocking on four different content categories. So you can be recording the actual podcast. If you record it by video, you can create video clips of it or just a long format. Some people prefer to watch two people talking and not just listen so you can create, you know, parallel content that way you can create great social clips from it by having different quotes and pulling different things out much like what you do with your work. You do a great job with, with your podcast. Like it provides this opportunity to create all of these different assets just from one content capture. And the investment in podcasting is, is just lower than some of the other content captures. So I think podcasting is really, really interesting. I think the challenge is that there’s just so many podcast. How do you stand out? And, but that’s the challenge in every other category too, right?  

Sarah Panus:
Yeah, and the other beautiful thing with podcasting for brands too, it’s just like you’re unscripted series where people are voluntarily tuning in to listen and watch for half an hour or more. It’s the same thing with a podcast. You know, people are voluntarily saying they’re gonna listen. And it’s a really great way to know, kind of understand the personality behind the brand. Like what do you stand for? What do you believe in? And that’ll come through in like the format and the discussions and the dialogue that you have. So I love that for podcasts and there’s just so much opportunity even down to sales work. Um, there’s so much with podcasting. So I’m, I’m with you on that one. I, I, I love podcasting. I think it’s a huge opportunity for brands as well. Okay, so before we wrap up. Is there anything else I should ask you about, but I haven’t yet? I know we’ve covered a lot.

The insider strategy with co-hosting a television series

Amanda Brinkman:
Oh, I don’t know. That’s a good question. Um, I think people are always curious about kind of the co-host strategy of it. So in the first two seasons, my co-host or people ask a lot, like, why are you switched co-hosts throughout the years? So in the first two seasons of the show, uh, my co-host was Robert Herjavec from Shark Tank. And that’s because right out of the gate and he was fantastic, but, uh, right outta the gate, it was really important for us that people, when they see the show photography or they hear about show that they associate it with the entrepreneurial space. And so, you know, Shark Tank is one of the highest rated entrepreneurial shows, um, entrepreneurs watch it, you know, disproportionately. And so we felt like by having that recognizable face from Shark Tank that would help people read this show as for entrepreneurs right, right away. 

Amanda Brinkman:
But then, that we were really giving the entrepreneurial crowd that was working and then we thought let’s continue to expand our audience. And let’s, you know, really resonate with people who love just great makeover shows. And, um, and every year we were trying to do something a little bit different creatively too. So every year evolved things just a little bit or changed something. And so in moving into season three, we decided to make a co-host switch. Um, and we switched to Ty Pennington, who a lot of people recognized from Extreme Home Makeover or like when I was in college, he was very popular in treating spaces. And so he read kind of the makeover show piece and then for season six and he was fantastic too. And so he, he really helped with the physical renovations, Robert focused more on the finances, Ty focused more on the physical renovations. 

Amanda Brinkman:
And then for season six, uh, my co-host was Baron Davis, um, who is a former MBA all star-turned entrepreneur. He does so much stuff in the entrepreneurial space to invest in businesses as well as runs a lot of businesses himself. And he just had such a heart for not just the mission behind the work this year, but certainly the particular entrepreneurs, um, that we were selecting. And he, uh, was really personally just invested in, in helping these entrepreneurs. It was really beautiful. So we’ve really lucked out with three different great co-hosts and, um, it has helped, you know, kind of get, uh, you know, some of that earned media attention, but what’s been really beautiful is that they’ve all been, you know, once they’ve been involved, they were really moved by just how authentic this work really was. And they were just wonderful to work with. 

Sarah Panus:
Mm, beautiful. Well, thank you for that extra insight that that’s, it’s interesting to hear. Like yeah, the why and the how, and kind of the thought process that went into that. Okay. So tell us again then like, how can people connect with you and, and how can they find the Small Business Revolution shell? 

Amanda Brinkman:
Uh, they can find it on Hulu or Prime Video. Um, and if you don’t have one of those OTT platforms, it streams online as well. Um, and it’s at smallbusinessrevolution.org 

Sarah Panus:
Beautiful. And then what about you, Amanda, how can people find you online?  

How to connect with Amanda

Amanda Brinkman:
Um, oh, I’m uh, very active in social media. So my handle is @amandakbrinkman. The K is important. So @amandakbrinkman, uh, and my favorite platform is probably Instagram, but I’m on Twitter and Facebook, uh, with a public page as well. 

Sarah Panus:
Oh, perfect. Well, thank you so much. We did it. We got all of our questions in and this awesome rack and two part series. Thank you so much, Amanda, for hopping on with me to talk through all of your incredible insights and success. 

Amanda Brinkman:
Thank you for having me.

Sarah Panus:
Of course. Well, everyone, I hope you enjoyed this two part interview with Amanda Brinkman from Deluxe Corporation. I will put all the links that we just talked about for the show and Amanda’s channels in my show notes so you can check that out in case you’re driving right now and don’t have a chance to write it down. No problem, I got you covered. And remember if you’re a content marketer that’s looking for brand storytelling, creative inspiration, and tips and support head on over to my website at kindredspeak.com to sign up for my weekly brand storytelling newsletter. Until next time, kindred speakers.

Closing RemarkS

Hi fives for finishing another episode. When faced with an obstacle, you’re the type of person who gets better instead of bitter. I hope you feel creatively inspired and invite you to check back often for more goodness from me and my guest. If you want more actionable advice and inspiration head over to kindredspeak.com for show notes, all discount codes from today’s episode, and to sign up for my newsletter. Subscribe now to the Marketing With Empathy Podcast on Apple podcast, Spotify and wherever else you get your podcast. And if you’d be so kind, will you please leave me a review. This helps my podcast get noticed by others. Keep smiling.

More focused and aligned brand storytelling marketing strategy is right around the corner

If you’re looking for a quick brand storytelling framework template to plug and play, I’ve got your back. I created this affordable PowerPoint template, with the above five essentials, to help you easily and quickly create your own brand storytelling framework. All you have to do is follow the prompts, update with your brand’s info, and bam—you have your own brand storytelling framework to follow and use for team alignment. LEARN MORE

ABOUT SARAH PANUS

Sarah Panus is a brand storytelling marketing strategist, Minnesota mom, and owner of Kindred Speak, LLC, a remote consultancy that helps corporations attract upper-funnel leads that drive bottom-funnel results through storytelling.  Her mission is to add value to the world by humanizing brand+consumer connections. Her online courses teach content professionals inside corporations think like Editorial Directors for their brand to drive stronger results while enjoying their jobs more.  She’s spent the last 20 years helping brands including Sleep Number, Starbucks, Nestle Waters, Christos Bridal, Game Crazy, Cone Inc, and others, speak a kindred language with their audiences, driving brand advocacy and millions in revenue and brand engagements. Learn more at www.kindredspeak.com. Follow Sarah on Instagram and LinkedIn.