Kellogg Magazine | Features


Two fresh offerings from Kellogg Insight — one rebranded podcast and one audio miniseries — will bring you ideas you can implement at work tomorrow

The staff behind Kellogg Insight are no neophytes when it comes to turning complex research into practical workplace takeaways. It's something they do every month when they work with faculty to take often-technical analyses and ideas and make them accessible to a broad business audience.

But, according to editor-in-chief Jessica Love, there was one particular area where they felt they had the biggest opportunity to do more: the Insight podcast. So they are very excited to share that listeners can find a rebranded version of that podcast, now entitled "The Insightful Leader." There's also an audio miniseries in the works.

"We looked at our current podcast and realized we could make it better for our listeners, and potentially reach new listeners, if we gave it a clearer focus and stronger identity," says Love.

Jake J. Smith, an Insight research editor who took the lead in rebranding the podcast, agrees: "We were already giving you tips you could use for your career, and translating the research in a way that could benefit leaders. But we wanted to be clearer with people about what we were going to deliver to them."

Professor Thomas Hubbard, faculty director for Insight, saw the potential value in this strategy. "We've had a lot of success in generating interest among alumni and beyond in Kellogg faculty's research and ideas through Insight articles, and have been looking to leverage this success through other media as well," he says.

To further explore what their listeners wanted and expected, the editors conducted qualitative research, including setting up a hotline through which listeners could provide feedback. The responses they got allowed them to confirm two promising facts: First, that a large proportion of their listenership comprised Kellogg alumni and others with a similarly high base-level understanding of business-related topics. And second, that listeners were thirsty for evidence-backed tips they could bring to their careers immediately. 

"Getting that feedback from our audience helped to clarify for us that this is what we wanted to double-down on," says Love. "One of the biggest challenges that a brand always has is trying to figure out whether they want to build on an existing strategy or find a new strategy."

But rebranding efforts can get complex, especially for brands (Insight) within other brands (Kellogg) within yet other brands (Northwestern University.) The team needed a strategy for their whole portfolio.

So Love, Smith, and the rest of the editors at Insight looked to Kellogg faculty for advice. They tapped into the pool of renowned experts such as Professor Tim Calkins and Professor Alice Tybout, who recently co-edited Kellogg on Branding in a Hyper-Connected World.

The team carefully considered their audience and homed in on the mission that each episode of "The Insightful Leader" should accomplish.

"One goal is to give people a good idea of what they're going to get out of every episode," says Smith. "Before we had more of a magazine style with maybe 2-3 faculty voices on a handful of topics. Now we're trying to deliver a more focused product. It's going to be one streamlined topic, and it's going to be very clear in the first couple of minutes how you can apply it."

So far, they're hitting the mark. In the inaugural episode of "The Insightful Leader," Leigh Thompson discusses the value of embarrassment for the sake of creativity. From the get-go, listeners learn that what Thompson refers to as "brag sessions," which call out good work among colleagues, can lead to self-censorship among staff for fear of appearing foolish. In another episode, Adam Waytz removes some of the misconceptions about the value of data collected by artificial intelligence and provides listeners with three guidelines for balancing the strengths of people and technology.

Listeners can also download lessons from Craig Wortmann on being bold and Brian Uzzi and Ben Jones on who actually takes the fall when teams mess up. Nicola Bianchi focuses on management training, Megan Kashner explains how leaders in any sector can achieve social impact, and Kieu-Trang Nguyen covers the role of trust in fostering innovation.

Episodes clock in at fewer than 15 minutes, giving managers their desired information in a digestible format. But this convenient format created a new challenge for the Insight staff. As Love puts it, "Our faculty have such a huge breadth and depth of knowledge. It's hard to capture that in a single 12-minute podcast or 1,200-word article." 

Enter: "Unpacked," the miniseries they will introduce later in 2020. This series, which the team hopes will be an annual event, will dive deep into a single question, presenting the research and ideas of a cohort of faculty members. The first season will dig into a topic that the Insight team has recently thought a lot about: what it takes to build a brand that stands out. Throughout five episodes, Calkins and Tybout join Professors Mohanbir Sawhney, Julie Hennessy and Paul Earle, along with Professor Emeritus Bobby Calder, to share insights on cutting through the clutter in an increasingly brand-saturated world.

Listeners to the miniseries will hear Kellogg faculty apply these branding tenets to the experiences of real companies big and small. But they will also hear some of the advice that the Insight team received during their own rebranding efforts.

Though the lessons are intended to be applicable to all managers, to Love and Smith, listening to both podcasts is a no-brainer for Kellogg alumni who already have such a strong tie to the school and its faculty.

"It's one thing to read about our faculty in the newspaper or in our monthly publication. It's another thing entirely to get to listen to them in their own words," says Love. "Podcasting is a hugely intimate medium, and it can really help you feel more connected to the Kellogg community."

Subscribe to "The Insightful Leader" wherever you get your podcasts, or Listen through the Kellogg Insight website