We had the good fortune of connecting with Lee Schneider and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lee, putting aside the decision to work for yourself, what other decisions were critical to your success?
Before I started Red Cup Agency, I was a producer at various television networks. The thing about being a TV producer is that you have to do a lot of things well. You need to write well. You need to be organized. You need to be good with people. You need to know about storytelling. You become good at travel, at packing for trips, at taking notes, and picking up on knowledge quickly. Basically, everything, because you have to. Now, as great as it is to know how to do “everything,” the way indie businesses work is by doing one thing well. Not “everything.” I came from networks, and networks are “full service.” We did it all. But to become known as a creative agency, you need a leading edge. You need something that is your go-to. The big decision for me was going all in for podcast production. It was scary at first, and I did it gradually for a few years. I offered production services, like I do now, but also some booking services, some public relations, some digital publishing, and social media marketing on the side. That, I found, didn’t work so well. It’s hard to be a dabbler. You get good at something when you are all in, and the clients want to work with a dedicated professional, not a dabbler. It was easier to focus on doing one thing well. It has paid off.
What should our readers know about your business?
In the world of podcast production, I’m unusual because I am both an audio nerd / tech geek and an abstract, creative thinker. who writes science fiction novels and stories when I’m not editing podcasts. There are terrific agencies in town who will edit your podcast for you, but when you ask for marketing direction, they might just shrug. There are other agencies who have amazing creative ideas, but if you want to execute on those ideas, you must look elsewhere. As a podcast producer running a small agency, I can have both. The tech and the creative. It wasn’t always that way. I started my career at big networks where things moved slowly. ABC, NBC, Discovery, A&E, Court TV, TLC, and the Food Network have incredible resources and reach. If you want a helicopter to film something, you need only ask. If you want to interview someone in New London, Connecticut, or London, England, the crew is standing by for you. On the other hand, innovation wasn’t always valued there. The networks are the big dogs. You have to do it their way. As the founder of a creative agency, I’ve made my mistakes but at least they were my own. I’ve been able to explore different kinds of clients, offering different kinds of services, until I was able to iterate my way to what works. And I’m still changing. Podcasting brings out the best in me and my clients because it’s not complicated. Sure, there are lots of technical things to fret about, especially now that we are doing our recording in home studios. Compared to a network television show, however, a podcast is about the value of a human connection. At its most basic level, it’s one person speaking with another with nothing getting in the way. Starting there makes it fun. Adding complexity, like tricky topics, sound effects, music, marketing, all of that enriches something that is basically good. When I was producing television, I developed a reputation for explaining complicated things. I did the science stories, the engineering stories, the thorny court cases. I’ve been able to bring all those “explainer” skills to podcasting and have a lot more fun along the way.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
So many people have shaped my direction with Red Cup Agency, but if I had to call out one group, it would be the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. Red Cup was pretty new when I joined the Chamber, but meeting with local business owners, like Eric Schmidt of Meridian Health Clinic, really changed things for me. They were willing to take a chance on a new business like mine, and I became a client of their business often enough. Personal face time in meetings is special, especially now when meetings in person are rare, but Red Cup has always been an online business. The Internet is a confusing place, not well-mapped, always changing. One book that really made the online world clearer for me, and less daunting, was Seth Godin’s Tribes. It helped me see the Web as a collection of neighborhoods. Finally, let’s get into love. My wife, Tabby Biddle, has always kept me true to my vision and I have often leaned on her courage. Our close life partnership really makes it all worthwhile.
Other: http://futurex.fm http://universalstoryengine.com http://500words.substack.com