Outerview Episode 19 – Bernadette Jiwa

This week I talk to best-selling author and marketer Bernadette Jiwa about her latest book ‘Hunch’.

Bernadette is a recognised global authority on the role of story in business, innovation and marketing and the author of five best-selling books on marketing and brand storytelling. She advises, consults and speaks to entrepreneurs and business leaders who want to build meaningful brands.

In this episode we talk about empathy and curiosity. The genius trap and where breakthrough ideas come from. Is the Internet ruining how we gain insights? Why we don’t observe anymore and are we just too plugged in to the internet? Practising intuition and how to be more curious.

If you’ve missed any of the past episodes you can see the archive here

The USB key is the new scrapbook

While Dropbox (or whatever cloud service you use to save your files) is now the go to place to store old word documents, ideas and doodles, it was just a few years ago a trusty USB key or a concrete block of a external hard drive was the only way of keeping your files archived and safe.

Only yesterday while rooting in a wardrobe did I find an old USB Key marked ‘Ideas 07-10’. Instantly it felt like finding an old scrapbook in an attic. Plugging it into my macbook I was greeted with a ton of old photos, random text files and a scattering of MP3 tunes. One file that my attention was immediately attracted to was a folder entitled ‘IDEAS and BITS’. In I clicked and there was whole host of radio/tv/online ideas that I had either produced or left to ferment like a bottle of fine wine (or potentially a bad batch of home brewed beer). Great memories from my days of setting up the programming of iRadio and later during the 3 years of producing the “Breakfast with Hector’ radio show.

Some ideas good, some ideas not so good.

I thought though I would share with you a small selection of the ones I think grabbed attention and cut through. Hopefully it might spark some ideas and encourage you to go searching for the USB you think you’ve left in a drawer somewhere.

The iRadio Naked Bus

This was by far the strangest charity competition i’ve ever run but ended up being incredibly successful making all the national news outlets. We used rising fuel prices (this was in 2007) as the premise for people to ditch the car and take public transport naked all in the name of charity.

The station invited listeners to participate in the “Naked Bus Challenge”, whereby they were collected from their homes and driven to work naked. The bus delivered one person per day to their place of work.

The completion element was simple: whoever raised the most money would be named the Naked Bus champion winning a load of prizes. The promotion was very visual with a fully wrapped bus driving through every town in the staton franchise area. It drove huge awareness which in turn put the ratings through the roof. This was before Twitter, Instagram and Facebook really took off. A huge hit on BEBO 🙂

The Birth Notices

Believe it or not in Ireland the ‘Death Notices’ is one of the most listened to radio segments on local radio. Basically one person reading out funeral arrangements for about 10 minutes straight. It’s usually the biggest time block success for local stations that drives huge listenership. My idea was to do the opposite and broadcast the ‘Birth Notices’ once a week to welcome brand new listeners to the station I was working for. We created specially branded baby bibs and the segment was inundated with families trying to get on the slot.

Here’s some audio

Granny Gran Prix

How can you not love a daredevil Granny?

The premise was simple – Could we find the fastest granny in Ireland? To make sure the show did not encourage or glorify speeding, the show requested that any granny applying was doing so in the knowledge that they needed proper professional help to make them a better driver, and ‘Breakfast with Hector’ would give them the vehicle (pardon the pun) to do so!

The shows host invited callers to share their granny stories which provided some fantastic on-air moments. From hundreds of nominations, we selected our Top 10 Grannies including the previous year’s champion and brought them to Ireland’s top racing track Mondello Park to compete in an intensive time trial race! The promotion proved to be a huge success particularly with families looking to nominate their grannies!!

2nd Chance Debs

Very simple mechanic. A chance to relive or have your debs/prom for the first time. People won tickets by sharing their horror debs stories. Worked brilliant on air and the night itself as you will see below was incredibly fun.

Obama FM

Ah yes jumping on any Irish roots connection story….. From the original press release below.

“A regional radio station in the midlands will change its name to Obama FM tomorrow when it broadcasts from the Irish ancestral home of US president elect Barack Obama. i105-107 FM will broadcast all day from Moneygall in Co Offaly on the eve of the historic inauguration. We just thought we should do something to celebrate Bar­ack Obama’s Irish roots. It will be such a historical occasion, we had to mark it some way,” said Alan Swan, i105-107 FM programme director.

We ended up winning Irish radio Innovator of the Year at the Irish Radio Advertising Awards 2010 and a ton of national & international press. It cost very little and delivered massively for the fledgling station.

‘Ireland’s Biggest Simultaneous Aerobics Class’

Limerick gym instructor Richie Clifford was the break out star of TV Show ‘The Gym’ on RTE Television. Following an on-air call with Richie, The Hector Breakfast Show decided to plan ‘Ireland’s Biggest Simultaneous Aerobics Class’.

The idea was to try and convince as many gyms, schools, and offices to switch on the breakfast show at 8am and join in on a live aerobics class from one of Ireland’s biggest sports arenas at the University of Limerick. Yes… an aerobics class on the radio did sound like a ridiculous idea but somehow it captured the imagination of our listeners and caused huge talk-ability.

Over 600 listeners took part in a live outside broadcast while the show received enormous social media feedback and national press. You could do this idea again and pursue beating the record of the longest ever aerobics class which stands at 39 hours 20 minutes.

Tommy and Hector Podcast

One of the highlights of being the content director at iRadio was launching the Tommy and Hector show. Way too much fun. I look about 10 in the video below.

Photo by Álvaro Serrano

My 5 favourite podcasts over the last 12 months

Podcasts suffer from the same issue as Netflix. You spend more time looking for something to watch on it then actually watching something full stop. Whatever podcast platform you use the same issue pops up, so much choice and not enough curation. Have to say one site that has helped me greatly in discovering new shows is Podcast Chart. Beautiful clean interface, easily accessible download links  and one of the best curated lists of podcasts online. I’ve been listening to a ton of podcasts over the past 12 months, here’s my favourite 5 over that period, each description taken from Podcastchart.com Happy listening!

How I Built This

How I Built This is a podcast about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built. Each episode is a narrative journey marked by triumphs, failures, serendipity and insight — told by the founders of some of the world’s best known companies and brands. If you’ve ever built something from nothing, something you really care about — or even just dream about this is for you. How I Built This is hosted by Guy Raz.


S-Town is the most recent podcast from Serial and This American Life, hosted by Brian Reed, about a man named John who despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks Brian to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But when someone else ends up dead, the search for the truth leads to a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life. The audio below is an in-depth interview with it’s creator Brian Reed.

Inside VR & AR

Inside VR & AR is a deep dive into virtual and augmented reality, with the latest news, fascinating guests, product launches, and lots more. Technology titan Robert Scoble hosts this action-packed podcast, and your definitive guide to VR & AR.

Song Exploder

Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Each episode features an artist discussing a song of theirs, breaking down the sounds and ideas that went into the writing and recording. Hosted and produced by Hrishikesh Hirway.

The Tim Ferriss Show  

Tim Ferriss is a self-experimenter and bestselling author, best known for The 4-Hour Workweek, which has been translated into 40+ languages. Newsweek calls him “the world’s best human guinea pig,” and The New York Times calls him “a cross between Jack Welch and a Buddhist monk.” In this show, he deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, chess, pro sports, etc.), digging deep to find the tools, tactics, and tricks that listeners can use.

If you’re looking to create your own podcast I wrote a post on this last year.

Post Photo by Álvaro Serrano

You can't please them all

You can’t please them all. Here’s a way to stop trying

You can’t please them all. You’ve poured your heart into creating something. The response is pretty good but one negative comment has popped up and now it’s all you can focus on. You start to question your work, you ask “Why don’t they like it?” and completely ignore the positive reaction to what you have achieved. Sound familiar? It’s a common problem for content creators and something that I used to constantly struggle with. Trying to please everyone. That was until I heard the story of how tv viewers reacted to Neil Armstrong walking on the moon in 1969.

I’ve blogged before of my love for the James Altucher podcast. It’s a great show with a really solid mix of conversations ranging from marketing to meditation. One of his most recent guests was the author Ryan Holiday who was on publicising his wonderful new book Perennial Seller, a book on the art of making and marketing work that lasts. During the conversation Holiday revealed an absolute gem when it comes to creating something new and coming to terms with the fact that you will never, ever please everyone.

“When the moon landing happened,” Ryan told James, “It had 93% market share. That’s incredible. “But think about it. That means 7% of the audience turned on the TV, saw Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon and said, ‘oh, this is boring. I’m going to change the channel.”

Not everyone is going to like what you do. In fact there will always be someone who HATES what you do. Unfortunately it’s human nature to focus on the negative. You might get 50 kind social comments but it’s the one negative post that you will pour all your energy into.


No really, don’t.

Next time, pause, take a deep breath and remember that image of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. A man walking on the moon in 1969. Then think about the 7% who couldn’t have cared less.

Smile. Move on. You will never please everyone, even if you are walking on the moon.


Empathy. Who are you creating content for?

When you’re creating content one of the most important skills you can have is empathy.

Can you put yourself if the shoes of your listener, customer, consumer?

World renowned, Academy Award winning composer Hans Zimmer does for every project he works on. In a recent Rolling Stone interview he revealed who he writes for. Guess what? It’s not everyone.

“And I realized that,” he says with a pause. “I have a fictitious person I write for. And she’s called Doris, and she’s from Bradford and she wears a raincoat and she has two horrible little kids that are giving her nothing but grief. And you know, the man left her a while back. And she just, in the rain, everyday, trudges to work and she works hard. … And so if she puts her hard-earned money down, we better give her an experience. And we better put everything in just like she put everything in to get there. … When I finish writing a piece. Sometimes my music editor says to me, ‘What do you think? Do you think Doris will like this one?'”

So next time ask yourself who are you creating for? Who is your Doris?

An acronym from the 1960’s is simply perfect for 2017

KISS is an acronym for “Keep it simple, stupid”, a design principle used by the U.S. Navy way back in the 1960’s. While some deem the phrase old fashioned & cheesy, in 2017 this acronym has never been more relevant. The attention of your audience is so fickle, it’s vital to simplify your ideas and in turn the content you create. You have to make it simple to grab their attention and then make the message so clear they don’t forget.

Simple is beautiful.

Views expressed do not represent the view of RTÉ.

Photo by Jeffrey Wegrzyn

For more posts on content creation & creativity follow me on twitter @alanswan or on instagram @alanswanirl

The Most Powerful Question You Can Ask During A Brainstorm

Don’t underestimate the power of ‘what if?’.

Sometimes we can stand in our own way when we refuse to let our imagination run riot. The most powerful question you can ask when creating content is ‘what if?’

When you’re working on your next idea why not ask that question multiple times. One ridiculous ‘what if?’ could lead to a ridiculously creative outcome. 

Views expressed do not represent the view of RTÉ.

Photo by Emily Morter

For more posts on content creation & creativity follow me on twitter @alanswan or on instagram @alanswanirl

Get your ideas sweat on with this simple trick

Do you have difficulty coming up with ideas? You sit down, pen in hand, blank page at the ready and then nothing. It happens to us all. But have you ever asked yourself “have I exercised my ideas muscle recently?”.

Your “ideas muscle”? What part of the body is that located? Well according to author James Altucher we all have one and we should practise using it everyday:

“It’s important to exercise the idea muscle right now. If your idea muscle atrophies, then even at your lowest point you won’t have any ideas. How long does it take this muscle to atrophy? The same as any other muscle in your body: just two weeks without having any ideas. Atrophied”

He adds.

“Take a waiter’s pad. Go to a local cafe. Maybe read an inspirational  book for ten to twenty minutes. Then start writing down ideas. What ideas? Hold on a second. The key here is, write ten ideas.”

Altucher recommends doing this EVERY day. Just 10, good or bad, silly or sad. Like going to the gym, that constant repetition builds up your muscle. In other words you need to get your ideas sweat on.

“when you exercise in the gym, your muscles don’t start to  build until you break a sweat. Your metabolism doesn’t improve when you run until you sweat. Your body doesn’t break down the old and build the new until it is sweating. The poisons and toxins in your body don’t leave until you sweat. The same thing happens with the idea muscle. Somewhere around idea number six, your brain starts to sweat. This means it’s building up.  Break through this. Come up with ten ideas”

Don’t worry if you can’t come up with 10, it’s all about getting the pen going. Getting those reps going. Before you know it, you’re an iron man ideas athlete.

I adore Altucher‘s writings, his honesty and outlook on life. I do this muscle tactic every day and it has helped me greatly in my creative life. His full post on the topic is here and I highly recommend his new book which is called Reinvent Yourself

Attention! It’s all about attention

A recent piece from Fast Company highlighted the work of US public radio station WNYC and how they are finding innovative ways to push the medium forward. It’s a great read.

For me though it reinforced the challenge facing radio, with one word jumping off the page.


As audience behaviour changes and becomes more fragmented, you as a broadcaster are now in the attention game, not the radio game. Listeners don’t have time for you unless you bring some value to their lives. You’re background noise.

According to Dean Cappello, WNYC’s executive vice president and chief content officer “You have to fight every moment of the day for somebody’s attention,” Cappello said. “And if you’re not doing that, they’re going to move on to something else.”

He’s right. If you don’t stand out, grab attention and be memorable, it’s over. Forget your closest FM competitor. That doesn’t matter anymore.  You’re up against Netflix, Snapchat, Spotify, You Tube, World of Warcraft & thousands of other outlets fighting for attention.

The positives? In a world of distraction you can be the curator that pulls the best from all the noise. You can be the broadcaster or podcaster that illicit those ‘Me too’ moments that really strengthen that bond between you and the listener. Look at Snapchats biggest stars, they are playing the oldest radio tricks in the book. Storytelling, entertainment and authenticity on a one to one basis. They are grabbing a big % of that attention through building a traditional relationship with the viewer.

So when preparing for your next show, think ‘Attention’. Forget the long rambling links, add some structure and get to the point. Spend that extra hour working on your prep, finding those features that will make you famous for doing. Call a random listener after your show and ask them what they thought, build those relationships. Go deep with your data, use your analytics, what streams worked best, what podcasts got the most downloads, what tested well, you’ll see pretty quickly what’s working and what’s not. How responsive are you? Can you put unique spin on a breaking story? Put aside a day for planning for your next quarter, spending those hours ripping your show apart, amplifying the really great bits and coming up with the ideas that will get you your slice of the attention. I assure you that if you do even a quarter of those things, your show will be instantly better for it.

Now, have I got your attention?

Views expressed do not represent the view of RTÉ. 

Photo: Attention! by msmornington

For a radio duo who know how to grab attention, read my recent post on Hamish & Andy


A creative lesson from my wonderful 2 year old daughter

Finding it hard to be creative? Stuck in a rut?

Yesterday I spent the afternoon blowing bubbles with my daughter. It still is one of the simplest ways of keeping my little one amused, she loves it. After much running around my daughter reached for the bottle of soapy water and proceeded to put tiny pebbles from the driveway into it. I immediately scolded her, “Serena, please don’t put pebbles in the water, you’re not meant to put stones in there”. Her face dropped and instantly I regretted telling her off. It was in that moment that I asked myself “Who was I to say whether it was right or wrong to put pebbles in the bottle?”. So I called her back and let her work away. She stayed putting pebbles in the bottle for almost 20 minutes straight, shaking the bottle furiously and laughing away. To her it made complete sense. To her it was the most natural thing in the world.

It’s easy to forget what it’s like to be a 2 year old. At that age nothing is right or wrong. You experiment and it’s in those moments you discover new fun possibilities. When we get older you worry about what people think, you fear it mightn’t work out, you sometimes get stuck in tried and trusted ways. You stop being creative.

Today why not drive to work a different route? Why not read the news from a different website than your usual source. Why not have chocolate for breakfast? The list of things you could do differently are endless, you just have to let yourself go and have some fun. These different experiences often end up helping to reignite your creative fire.

So today why not put some pebbles in a bottle. As Serena will tell you, it’s great fun.

Views expressed do not represent the view of RTÉ.