What Value Does Your Personal Brand Promise? [Podcast]

Tom Peters quote on personal branding
Personal branding as a marketing concept has been around for quite a while, but a recent conversation got me wondering whether the concept was well understood, especially by those of us who do not come from a marketing or advertising background.

I recalled that I’d published a blog post, on another site than this, some years ago and when I looked it up I found that it was about 8 years ago and in it I expressed some ambivalence about the concept, as the subject line suggests – Just How Valuable is Personal Branding?

I decided I needed to look into the topic again and form a more up to date view.

In the process I realized that personal branding is among other considerations a valuable concept for leaders wanting to better understand and leveraging the power of social media. I also realized I had moved over time from ambivalent to fan of the concept.

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The concept of branding has an interesting linguistic history, the word “brand” coming from Old Teutonic and Old English (vb brinnan to burn), through the mark made (“usu. as a sign of infamy”) by a hot iron, then as a sign of quality (e.g. trade mark). One phrase (unattributed) I like, from 1602, is “to impress indelibly on one’s memory” (The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, On Historical Principals, Third Edition, Revised …).

Now, thanks to the advertising and marketing industries, “brand” has come to be seen as, to use the jargon, a promise of value, for anything from breakfast cereal to ocean cruises.

As far as I can tell, the first published explanation of personal branding is the 1997 Fast Company article by Tom Peters, “The Brand Called You” with the longish sub-title “Big companies understand the importance of brands. Today, in the Age of the Individual, you have to be your own brand. Here’s what it takes to be the CEO of Me Inc.”

The article, although somewhat flowery and grandiose in style, merits a close read by anyone wanting to get a sense of what personal branding is about and its potential. It concludes:

It’s this simple: You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else.

An Almost Complete Definition of Personal Branding

At what looks like about 9 years ago, personal branding expert Dan Schawbel and others collaborated to create, on a wiki set up for the purpose, what was confidently (and slightly oddly) labeled “A Real Definition of Personal Branding”. It’s actually quite good and from my reading it covers the terrain quite well, for the most part.

Personal branding describes the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility, advance their careers, and build self-confidence.

To that I would add something along the lines of “and contribute positively to the success of the corporate brand.”

A Checklist

This checklist draws on various blog posts and articles on personal branding and topics in the checklist are either the same as or similar to those in the slightly longer list of items under “Building Your Personal Brand” in the downloadable cheat sheet from Personal Branding for Dummies (2nd edition) by Susan Crichton.

  1. Needs
  2. Values
  3. Strengths
  4. Interests
  5. Mission
  6. Vision
  7. Personality
  8. Experience/education
  9. What others say
  10. Who you serve

Target market and ideal customer

As for any branding exercise, getting a very clear idea and picture of our target market and ideal customer is a very important exercise also for personal branding.

Value Proposition

To be confident of being able to stand out from the crowd of competitors, we need to have a very clear and easily explained value proposition.

Marketers talk about the Unique Value Proposition (UVP) of a brand. If you hesitate on “unique”, I suggest going for “distinct” or “standout”.

This is your “brand promise”.

Your Brand Online

Too many business leaders, including partners in professional services companies, let themselves and their companies down by not optimizing their presence(s) online, especially on social media.

We need to check thoroughly how we are presenting ourselves, our personal brands, on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and so on.

Get the mechanics, the basics, right. Images, content, etc and being consistent with those across platforms.

Be selective about social platforms – prioritize those where your ideal customers are.

A static presence is not enough.

A threefold tip for effective personal branding online – my “3 Be’s”:

  • Be interested
  • Be helpful
  • Be engaged

For professional services leaders – consider establishing yourself as a thought leader.

The Goal – a Tribe of Advocates

The goal of our personal branding endeavours will be to create a tribe of advocates for our personal brand.

That way we get leverage and our marketing is geared more to inbound marketing and social selling.

In the words of that 17th century phrase about branding, we need to “impress indelibly” on the memory of those advocates who we are and and the value promise of our personal brand. So we are “top of mind” for them and they can confidently and happily refer others to us.

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Building Change Management Leadership: Jennifer Frahm [Podcast]

Jennifer FrahmJennifer Frahm is a highly experienced change manager, communications professional, coach and facilitator. She has held a range of roles, across a number of industries, in change management, marketing and communications. She has a PhD in Management from the Queensland University of Technology. Jennifer participated recently in the by-invitation event Dent the Future, in Sun Valley.

More about Jennifer

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Change Management and Leadership

Is the CEO always and everywhere the person to lead organizational change?

A lot in the academic literature about this. Broadly, if the change is of a visionary nature, or strategic or cultural, then it’s the CEO’s responsibility to lead: if of a more operational/incremental nature, then line managers.

Jennifer takes the pragmatic view that it doesn’t really matter who is leading as long as someone is doing it.

The notion of the CEO leading all change is somewhat unrealistic. In reality, we don’t have “change to be led”, we have multiple changes, ongoing, concurrent.

Think about what it means to be leading change in the contemporary distributed leadership context.

“Leadership is inherent within all of us.”

And a small detour into discussing military leadership. Reference for more on this: David Marquet, former US Navy nuclear submarine commander and author of Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders.

Dent the Future

This annual gathering in Sun Valley is by invitation and is about “the magic and science of visionary leadership and ground-breaking success”, “a creative retreat dedicated to demystifying great leadership and success”.

Great networking

The networking opportunity is extraordinary. The people you are networking with are so diverse, so clever, and so creative, that was just phenomenal. And the organizers do the most amazing job of creating a container for conversation.

Some speakers who made Jennifer think differently

Amy Webb, author, futurist and Founder of the Future Today Institute

Nonny Della Peña, Co-Founder of the Emblematic Group and nominated by Fast Company as “One of the Thirteen People Who Made the World More Creative”

Gavin Andresen, Chief Scientist at the Bitcoin Foundation

Buicks, Slack and Ketchum restaurants

Hear about a unique dining + conversation experience

Leadership and Social Media

How much is social media seen by business leaders as being an essential element of strategy and how much as an optional extra?

We’ve come a long way but not there yet.

More takeup of Twitter by business leaders.

Services used in-house, such as Yammer, Jive, Chatter have provided a training ground in social media for leaders, who get comfortable and then might start to explore more public platforms. Still some who are too risk-averse to try.

“Really incremental”

Some good examples now with politicians: President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Victoria (Australia) Premier Daniel Andrews – “an axis of social”.

Political leaders showing the way for business leaders?

What Keeps Business Leaders Awake at Night?

Great answer – you have to listen (at 18 mins 6 secs) as I can’t do it justice in these notes.

Then some very practical thoughts about the implications of the question. Again, best to listen.

Leading Multi-generational Teams

Has everything changed with Millennials/Gen Y?

What’s changed: expectations of organizational life and management.

What’s not changed: the act of managing your workforce.

The same need to understand expectations and align those with what the organization has to offer.

More about Jennifer and Contact Details

Besides consulting and contracting, Jennifer runs “Conversations of Change” retreats and offers Executive Coaching for those leading change. She has published two e-books, The Transformation Treasure Trove: Series I & II. She is also an accomplished practitioner and coach in the social media space.

Jennifer operates at the forefront of change management and communication, globally and has been listed in Change Source’s the Top 20 Change Visionaries You Need to Know and is a Solo Change Agent with the Change Agents World Wide network.

Jennifer is currently writing a book for executives and managers, Navigating Change. To know more about that, download her e-books from the website; she will in that way get your email address and keep you posted about the new book.

She enjoys particularly working with “tier 2” companies (up to 10,000 employees) and is always keen to hear from companies at that level.

To contact Jennifer

Twitter: @jenfrahm
Web: Conversations of Change – http://conversationsofchange.com.au
Facebook: Conversations of Change page

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Timeless Expectations of Good Leadership: Peter Ivett [Podcast]

Peter Ivett, Director, ViventePeter Ivett, a director of Viventé, has over thirty five years experience across a number of key facets of business, including sales, marketing, advertising and communication, organisational development, and strategic planning.

Peter has a broad range of managerial and leadership experience across a number of industry sectors. He has worked extensively throughout Australia and Asia.

More about Peter

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About Leadership

I kicked off this conversation with Peter by quoting the tagline on his Skype account and inviting him to comment:

Leadership is the ability to engage the hearts and minds of people in such a way as to cause them to take positive action.

Peter talked about some outstanding leaders and qualities he has observed about their leadership.

Are Leaders Born or Made?

Some people have hardwired instincts to step up and lead. If there, that needs to be nurtured.

Create a pipeline of experience, for them to grow their ability.

Thanks Peter for the reference to the work of Nigel Nicholson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the London Business School, on evolutionary psychology. (I looked him up after the conversation with Peter and found Nicholson’s article – How Hardwired is Human Behavior? – which includes some interesting and quite nuanced observations about leadership.

Leading Today’s Multigenerational Workforce

There has been a lot said and written about the Millennials/Gen Y being quite different from pervious generations in their approach and expectations and thus, so it is inferred, needing a different kind of leadership.

Peter begs to differ.

He’s been working a lot recently with Millennials/Gen Ys and finds they want the same things he wanted when he was starting out in the workforce. They want:

  • a good leader – who sets very clear directions
  • autonomy – the freedom to operate and “figure it out”
  • to know what they are doing is actually making a difference, has some significance and can be seen to be connected to where the company is going
  • opportunity to learn and gain experience


How Special is Digital Disruption Anyway?

There’s always been disruption, with jobs destroyed and new jobs created.

The electric typewriter brought the death of the typing pool.

“There’s always been two guys tinkering in a garage somewhere.” Think Wilbur and Orville Wright

“Most people are watching their competition. That’s OK. But I would be saying, look beyond the horizon. Because experience suggests that disruption comes from somewhere you’re not looking.”

Examples – Sony & the MP3, the Swiss watch industry and digital watches (which they conceived but did not think would work in the market).

What to do if you are worried about disruption?

Do some scenario planning. (And some practical advice about how to go about doing that.)

What Keeps Business Leaders Awake at Night?

IT decisions

Challenge is that a) you are committing a lot of money up front and b) you won’t really know for a couple of years whether your decision was the right one.


Culture = “the behaviors that as leaders we encourage, discourage, or tolerate”.

“Culture is not a balance sheet item, but it sure affects the bottom line.”

People align much more closely behind the culture of your organization than they do behind strategy.

The leadership challenge is to build a culture where people want to come to work, a place where people can build their strengths and skills.


More about Peter

Peter has been consulting for the past twenty years with a particular focus on organisation development including:

  • Business Strategy
  • Culture Measurement and Development
  • Communication and Organisational Change
  • Executive Leadership Coaching

Peter’s clients include Westpac, NBNCo, NSW Department of Industry, Baycorp, Salmat, Audit Office of NSW, Vellex Transport, Salmat, Sandhurst Fine Foods, Standards Australia and Deakin Prime

Contacting Peter/Viventé

The Viventé website is very informative, about Peter and his colleagues, about the company, what it does and how you can make contact. If you or your company is looking for such services as Viventé provides, there is an invitation to get in touch with them for an exploratory, no-obligation conversation.

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Star Trek and Future Leadership: Yuval Hertzog [Podcast]

Yuval Hertzog in suitYuval Hertzog is a Techno-Philosopher, Cyber-Futurist, Strategist, Passionate entrepreneur and Extreme sports addict, Possibly a cyborg!

Starting at a tender primary school age, Yuval was one of those wiz-kids who got along with technology really well. He launched his first software venture in high-school, and was recruited later by the authorities thanks to some previous unspecified “mischiefs”: was part of the team that invented VoIP, built and sold several businesses around the world and is now part of a like-minded geeks’ collective at Nubis, working to terraform humanity through innovative technology. Read more about Yuval.

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Yuval commenced his study of leadership while still in primary school. As a very geeky youngster he was “hell bent on breaking down the formula of being a popular kid”. He learned and applied some valuable lessons and by the tenth grade had cracked the code.

Military Leadership Training

Then he had the privilege of attending one of the most demanding leadership trainings in the world, the Israeli military officers’ course, where as “one of the most nonconformist military soldiers ever” he questioned everything he was taught and every military standard.

In that way he learned more lessons about leadership, above all “the absolute necessity of self-conviction, making a decision based on only 5% of information, knowing that the chances you are wrong are exactly 50% but still convincing everybody around you that this decision is absolute and the only correct way to go forward”.

His most valuable lesson about leadership

“The only kind of wrong decision you make is the one you make knowing it’s wrong from the start.”

Are Leaders Born or Made?

An acquired skill but some are born with a talent for that skill. Leadership can be taught and learnt, even self-taught.

But there is a more important question, about whether leadership is unequivocally a good thing and whether it it is always needed. A good tool but not necessarily the right tool for every situation. And “is the hierarchical structure the best one to get the best outcome still?”

And an interesting challenging statement that raised broader issues touching on religious belief, that Yuval and I agreed we would need to have a longer conversation about at another time.

Leaders He Admires

Captain Jean-Luc Picard - Patrick StewartOne leader he admires is a fictional creation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, a character designed by a team to be the epitome of leadership.

Two individuals he learnt most from about leadership are his parents and their respective examples of outstanding leadership in highly responsible, highly demanding situations.

Then there are “the true leaders of this world”, kindergarten teachers. Learning from them, he was helped considerably in the corporate world and its board rooms.

“Surprisingly enough, most of the forces at play in those two places, kindergarten and board room, are frightfully similar.”

Australia and Innovation

Australia has no shortage of talent, but:

  • there is complacency
  • there are other countries more focused and effective in nurturing innovation

It is necessary to change Australia’s built-in hesitation about risk.

Risk is a necessity Australia has to adopt to drive innovation.

What Keeps Business Leaders Awake at Night?

What keeps Yuval awake at night is exciting new ideas, new technology, things he and his team can do, so he wants it to be tomorrow already.

Anxiety, which no doubt keeps many leaders awake at night, is “a terrible thing to foster”. Most people think it is ok if it’s for the greater good but don’t consider the long-term harm to the individual and others, including family and colleagues.

“You have to enjoy the ride.”

Leadership and the Future

“The fundamental problem that I find with the concept of leadership is that if everyone had it, it would be useless. And the future of humanity is all about sharing – or bust.”

About Nubis

A collective of field-talented individuals who are:

  • enthusiastic about technology
  • engaged in developing the future of disruptive technology in many aspects
  • bringing technologies of the future into today
  • Consulting, plus developing their own innovative, disruptive technology

Contact them through their website Contact page

More about Yuval

Yuval is also an avid extreme sports enthusiast, with various catamaran sailing titles under his belt. He also loves skydiving, snowboarding, scubadiving, martial arts and lately been focusing on big air and big waves kitesurfing on Australia’s Gold Coast. In his remaining non-existent part time, he also loves to dabble in science-philosophy, cognitive psychology and cosmology.

In the past few years, Yuval has also volunteered in helping young entrepreneurs build their business and promoting innovative cultural change in the Australian market.

Image credits:

Yuval Hertzog kite surfing – supplied by owner
Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek, (Patrick Stewart) via Wikimedia Commons Derek Springer from Los Angeles, CA, USA

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Clueless in Germany and Social Media Literacy for Leaders: Update

Historic Rathaus Meppen Germany

(This post is an update of my podcast post of last week. The text is the same. The change is that the audio file has now been fixed – fortunately a listener phoned in to alert me to the fact that what should have been a podcast of just over 26 minutes had been truncated and there were only 4 minutes 30 seconds. So if you listened and were confused, my apologies. I will be taking extra care to ensure there is no repeat of this problem. Des)

Years ago I spend half a year living and working in a small town in Germany – Meppen, Ems, (pop. then about 27,000_ – where I spoke only limited German and it seemed just about everyone I met in the town spoke absolutely no English – überhaupt kein englisch. It was very limiting and more than once I regretted not having spent more time and paid more attention learning German before I arrived there. The limitation was accentuated by the fact that I was there to teach English and my employers required me to speak English all the time.

The limitation was not just in terms of basic negotiations, such as in shops, but also in terms of my not being able to get more understanding of the people and their culture. And making mistakes in etiquette through plain lack of comprehension. I didn’t get the clues I would have otherwise picked up. It was very frustrating on social occasions.

I was effectively illiterate and to a degree incompetent in that context. An ignorant foreigner with a University degree in History and English, but minimal literacy and competence to function effectively in that society.

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Lack of Social Media Literacy and Competence

Many business leaders today are highly literate and skillful in business but functionally illiterate and incompetent when it comes to understanding and using social media.

That’s not going to cut it for long, if indeed it does now.

As discussed in earlier episodes of Let’s Talk Leadership, leaders in today’s digital environment need to exercise a style of leadership characterized by collaboration and co-creation and need to be effective network leaders. Which in turn means they need to be both literate and competent when it comes to social media.

Organizational Social Media Literacy – McKinsey Quarterly

A paper in the McKinsey Quarterly of February 2013, Six social-media skills every leader needs spells this out and provides a framework for developing what the authors call “organizational social-media literacy”.

They acknowledge the risks, describe the potential as “immense”, and argue that there is a mismatch between “the logic of participatory media and the still-reigning 20th century model of management and organizations, with its emphasis on linear processes and control”.

“We believe”, they write, “that capitalizing on the transformational power of social media while mitigating its risks calls for a new type of leader”. This new type of leader needs to excel at co-creation and collaboration, “the currencies of the social-media world.”

They provide a useful, six dimensional model of the “organizational social-media literacy” these leaders for our times need.

The Six Dimensions of Social Media Literate Leadership

Personal Level – Producer, Distributor, Recipient


  • Develop creative competence (authenticity, storytelling, & artistic vision)
  • Hone technical skills (especially video production)


  • Understand cross-platform dynamic and what causes messages to go viral
  • Build and sustain a body of social followers


  • Create resonance via selected replies/linking
  • Make sense of the noise through intelligent filtering

Strategic/Organisational Level


  • Enable and support 360-degree environment in social media usage
  • Coordinate and channel activities within span of control


  • Balance vertical accountability and horizontal collaboration
  • Leverage social media for key business functions


  • Monitor dynamics of social media industry
  • Understand cultural and behavioural impact

The McKinsey paper explains and illustrates each of these skill dimensions.

The authors see lots of upside in this, with manageable downside risk.

We are convinced that organizations that develop a critical mass of leaders who master the six dimensions of organizational media literacy will have a brighter future.

What’s your view on this and what suggestions do you have for leaders who want to accelerate their learning and skill building in social media?

Image credit: The historic Rathaus (“Town Hall”) in the main square of Meppen, where my patience, persistence and very limited German were greatly tested in endeavouring to deal with the local bureaucracy.  Picture by Allie Caulfield via flickr: CC BY 2.0)

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Collaborative Environments, Indirect Influence: Barry George [Podcast]

Barry M GeorgeI spoke with Barry M George.

Barry is a Certified Professional Coach and Advisor to Executives, Entrepreneurs and their Companies.

He’s a thought leader, author and motivational speaker on topics including organizational design, employee engagement, job fit, knowledge flow, cross generational communications, team building, human performance, work/life balance, neural linguistic programming, overcoming fear/doubt and the power of politics in business.

(More about Barry in the section Barry M George Bio, below)

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We discussed:

  • how CEOs see and respond to digital disruption
  • a key to a great coaching relationship
  • Millennials and the new workplace environment
  • indirect influence and why it is important
  • how CEOs can deal with pressure to deliver short term shareholder value

Digital Disruption as Opportunity for Growth

How do CEOs see digital disruption – challenge, threat, or opportunity? And how can coaches help?

“One of the key elements of a great coaching relationship is the ability of the coach and their client to really be open and honest with each other and to create an environment in which the client has the opportunity to look at the world from a different perspective, a fresh awareness from what they do in their daily lives.”

“Digital disruption is oftentimes an excuse by a leader to cover their own inability to think outside of where they are, the way things have been and to look at new processes and look at what their clients are needing now – or what they required last week or last  year.”

It’s a difficult shift for leaders, but a necessary one.

Millennials (Gen Y) and the New Age-Diverse Workforce

The technology industry is filled with Millennials and San Francisco is the “millennial capital of the world”.

The first time in history we have had five generations in the one workplace.

Previous generations, on reaching a mature 35-40, have had more similarities with the generation preceding them than differences. Millennials are the first generation that are so different from previous generations, in so many ways.

Millennial generation “thinks from its heart not its wallet”. Considering their parents’ experience – the 9/11 attacks, the 2008 global financial collapse – “they’ve seen that hard work, with a focus on money, gets you nothing”.

They admire philanthropists, want to work for companies that give back.

“They are collaborators and transparent.”

Indirect Influence

The new collaborative workplace environment is based on the need for indirect influence.

Indirect influence is where you as the leader let me share my knowledge with you, not just sharing your knowledge with me. It’s where leaders respect the values of their team and are interested in their unique thoughts and feelings.

What Keeps Business Leaders Awake at Night?

The waste of time and lack of productivity in their business from the 18% of time research shows employees spend trying to figure out what their managers want them to do.

(And listen for the first humorous but telling answer to the question – priceless!)

CEOs under Pressure for Shareholder Value, with Risk to Long Term Goals

No simple answer.

Have to demonstrate both operational excellence and commitment to long term goals.

Hold people accountable and develop a coaching culture in the company, that demonstrates an understanding that the company’s people are valued assets.

Millennials need to be shown how their efforts plug into the creation of long term value for the company, not just short term profitability.

Barry M George Bio

Barry M George Is a Certified Professional Coach and Advisor to Executives, Entrepreneurs and their Companies. Barry is a thought leader, author and motivational speaker on topics including organizational design, employee engagement, job fit, knowledge flow, cross generational communications, team building, human performance, work/life balance, neural linguistic programming, overcoming fear/doubt and the power of politics in business.

Barry graduated in 2013 with honors from the University of Texas earning a Master’s in Organizational Behavior. That same year Barry became a certified coach passing all requirements of both the International Coach Federation and the Association of Coaches. Finally, in 2014 he earned analyst credentials from TTI Success Insights for their full range of personality assessment instruments.

Previously, Barry spent 30 years as a senior executive for technology companies from the US, Taiwan and Germany including start-ups, acquisitions, IPOs and Global 100 companies starting with his own multimillion dollar company as Founder and CEO at 26.

Dedicated to moving the coaching industry into the 21st Century, Barry designed the first comprehensive development portal for coaches and their clients. The www.SocraticCoach.com platform empowers coaches, accelerates growth of start-ups and supports global corporate standards with localize delivery in 90 languages in 140 countries.

As Founder/CEO of Impact Coaching+Advising Barry has built a global network of certified professional coaches utilizing the Socratic Coach platform. From global corporations to entrepreneurs and individuals who want to invest in a highly desirable future. The combination of innovative technology and highly trained coaches provoke and partner with clients for maximum performance, balance and authentic happiness.


Barry George on LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/barrymgeorge

Barry’s company Impact Ventures: http://impactventures.com – and see Contact tab

Book mentioned by Barry: You Raised Us – Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams Laureen Rikleen

Book mentioned by Des: Lethal Generosity: Contextual Technology and the Competitive Edge – Shel Israel

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