“The most important thing is to know your audience because once you are familiar with their pain points and what they desperately need to know from you, then you can start to put together a podcast that will bring value to people.”Serena Gay, BA European Studies, 1983
Serena Gay (BA European Studies, 1983) is a BBC-trained journalist turned entrepreneur, podcast maker and producer who is the founder and CEO of Made4U Podcasts. Her company launches and produces podcasts for businesses and entrepreneurs looking to reach new customers. In 2020, Serena also became a member of the University of Hull alumni Entrepreneur Network. We wanted to find out a little bit more about Serena’s career, her approach to supporting other entrepreneurs, and what being part of the Hull community means to her.
If you are interested in starting a podcast, don’t miss Serena’s very own ‘Podcast Launch Pad’ with short episodes full of advice on where to get started. You can find it on any of the usual podcast directories or directly from her website (link below), and if you have any questions it is where you’ll find the answer.
“Essentially a lot of people just really don’t know where to start,” says Serena, when discussing the Facebook group she set up to support female business owners interested in starting their own podcasts. “What equipment should you buy? How do you interview people? How long should it be? What should the content be? I find that I am helping people to address those questions. Just today someone asked me if you need to have interviewees sign a legal agreement.”
Serena’s background, her areas of expertise and the knowledge that she had built up were perfect for reinventing herself as a podcaster and entrepreneur when she returned to the UK after many years living and working in Berlin.
“I started off my career in the 1980s working in the Turkish capital, Ankara, in magazine journalism and current affairs. Then I came back to this country and took a course in radio journalism and from there I went to the BBC, working in local radio first and then the World Service. In my late twenties I got married and moved to Berlin. I ended up working for Deutsche Welle (or DW), the equivalent of the BBC’s World Service. I worked as a presenter and in production on the English news service and I was in that role for about 18 years. Alongside this, my husband and I also ran a family tourism business in Berlin, so I gained a lot of business skills. But when we relocated to the UK, I found it impossible to get a job in broadcasting. I think that my experience was just a little bit odd, and that being a middle-aged woman had a lot to do with it.”
With her wealth of experience Serena was able to adapt quickly and find new ways of utilising her skills.
“I reinvented myself as a voice-over artist, but soon found it was deadly boring. Then I looked at the podcasting industry in the USA which had yet to take off in the UK. I realised my business skills and broadcasting experience were ideal to become a podcast producer – and I’ve never been afraid to put myself out there as my Hull University contemporaries may remember! So, for the last two years I’ve been madly turning myself into a podcasting specialist”
That expertise has been developed through working with a range of clients on a variety of different projects. Some of that work has enabled her to make a real difference for those who need it.
“I’ve enjoyed working with mainly London-based clients but what I’m really getting a lot out of is working with the Centre of Excellence in Child Trauma. COECT exists to help advise the (adoptive and foster) parents of children who experienced early life trauma. Many of these children have had horrendous experiences and display lots of challenging behaviour. COECT helps the new parents of these children understand what is going on and teaches them therapeutic parenting so that the children can grow up and develop in a supportive and safe environment. I produce and host the podcast called “The Therapeutic Parenting Podcast” for them. It’s been a huge success and we’re close to 15,000 downloads after just a few weeks which is amazing when you are catering for such a niche audience. I find it intensely rewarding, it feels like important work, helping people to address a serious problem.”
Supporting others is a common theme for Serena, who combines entrepreneurialism with a real desire to help others to increase their reach and tell their stories. One of her new initiatives is a Facebook group to support women business owners who want to set up their own business focussed podcast.
“The onset of the pandemic meant that with my newish business everything ground to a halt. I looked at how I could pirouette (not pivot – everyone uses that word!) and adapt to the challenges of the market. One way of doing this was to teach others how to make their own podcasts. One of my problems was that I didn’t have a list of the right kind of contacts for this new venture. I needed to build an email list. So, I decided to create a Facebook group to help me reach out to the right people who want to launch their own business podcast but who can’t necessarily afford to take on a private consultant to do it all for them. My niche is women, especially older businesswomen. I set this up in November and there are just 200 members at the moment. I’ll be making efforts to grow the group, but it is small and friendly. And it’s great to see people in the group support and help each other.”
Another resource that Serena has started to build and make available is her new podcast, aimed at providing advice to those looking to start a podcast of their own. ‘Podcast Launch Pad’ is available on all good podcast directories like Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify.
“Each episode is between 6-8 minutes long and is a burst of information to do with how to start off your own podcast. It fits neatly in with the Facebook group because it is servicing a similar market and providing information and help, but it is in podcast form, so anyone can listen to it on any of the podcast platforms. I personally love the fact that every episode is so short because it is so concentrated and useful.”
Serena is also a member of the recently launched Hull Alumni Entrepreneur Network, where she can connect with like-minded alumni, expand her network, and get involved with initiatives to support current students at the University.
“I want to widen my reach and the network seemed a great place to start with the alumni from my own University. I also feel that I need to evangelise about podcasting. I want people to realise the value of podcasting as a marketing tool for business so a forum like this for me is invaluable. But also, I had a great time at Hull and have very fond memories of my time there. It’s good to pay back if you can with a little know how and provide information to those who want it.”
If you would like to connect with the Entrepreneur Network and fellow alumni such as Serena or find out more about how you can get involved, please email David Simpson on firstname.lastname@example.org