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How to Build an Audience, With Lee Schneider

Today, we bring you a veteran creative producer -- learning from his father who was a television executive back when the few networks reigned supreme, Lee Schneider has intense insights from his career in journalism, writing, documentary production, and entrepreneurship. You can find him at his Digital Fundraising School, and he's doing a GiveGetWin deal focused on key insights for creative producers on making high-quality content, building an audience, and earning a living from your art and passion.

How To Build An Audience, insights from Lee Schneider as told to Sebastian Marshall

I started in words even though I was writing for picture. I was a newspaper reporter and writer for TV shows… on TV, I wrote the introductions, intros, and outros.

I wrote for a newspaper in Texas and for A&E. This started teaching me the relationship between words and pictures. I went to writing for local television and Good Morning America. I learned how to write fast and how to write in a big noisy room, and how to write for picture. This is a key thing, the relationship between pictures and words. They get stronger as they relate, words and pictures, and sounds.

That led me to working for news magazines like Dateline NBC and a magazine for Fox, Frontpage. I was producing stories in the 8-10 minute range, and telling a story in that range of time is a very different animal than telling a story in 20 seconds like you would for a news broadcast. That led to longer form stuff; after Dateline NBC, I did Biography for A&E and started my own company doing hour-long documentaries for the Learning Channel, History Channel, and others.

The periphery of inner peace

On True East

The best part of my last job was the press trips to Europe. I worked for a B2B magazine in a grim part of England and drove two hours a day for the privilege, but every month or two I’d get to trade the insular world of the office and its native cocky bald men for drinking with interesting people in German hotels.

I always had a great time chatting with PR girls, meeting whoever was representing the companies and finding out more about what they were up to because that’s why I actually became a journalist, not to sit and rewrite press releases in a dark room while the sales team and the big boss tried to out-bloke each other. Yeah, it was one of those banter and beer type places. I had a theory that all it would take was a missed deadline, a stressful late night and too many pints at lunch and some switch would flick and a few of the more confrontational male staff would actually end up fucking each other.

Munich was sort of a local European hub for the industry so companies and the journalists covering their activities would always congregate there for product announcements and events. Therefore, during my eight months at the magazine I couldn’t seem to get away from the Fatherland – the one time I had a holiday I even ended up at Oktoberfest. I used to joke that I’d been to Germany almost as many times as my Grandad had between 1939 and 1945.

One of my favourite trips was when a PR agency had a mini conference to tease what their clients would be announcing at an upcoming big industry event. The news was pretty inconsequential, but the agency wanted to show off their plumage so a few other journalists and I were treated to a luxurious hotel stay and a meal at a two Michelin starred restaurant.

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