When Serial quietly arrived onto the digital airwaves in 2014 it changed our perception of podcasts and investigative journalism. No other serialisation podcast has captured my attention quite as well as Serial did – until this year. Over the summer I was spellbound by The Teacher’s Pet – another cold case murder investigation played out by a journalist call Hedley Thomas from The Australian over several episodes.

It made me think about whether Serial created ‘value’ from a business perspective, as other media outlets and business look to recreate its success.

The first ‘brand’ I think of when I think of Serial is Sarah Koenig. Her personal profile was exported round the world through her questioning, open-minded approach to the investigation of the murder of Hae Min Lee.

Sarah gave an authentic, non-judgemental voice to all those questioned as part of the investigation. Her opening lines about memory set the tone for her entire piece:

It's really hard to account for your time, in a detailed way, I mean.

How'd you get to work last Wednesday, for instance? Drive? Walk? Bike? Was it raining? Are you sure? Did you go to any stores that day? If so, what did you buy? Who did you talk to? The entire day, name every person you talked to. It's hard.

Now imagine you have to account for a day that happened six weeks back. Because that's the situation in the story I'm working on in which a bunch of teenagers had to recall a day six weeks earlier. And it was 1999, so they had to do it without the benefit of texts or Facebook or Instagram. 

But there was also the Serial brand, and the co-producers, This American Life and WBEZ Chicago. All of these businesses benefited from a worldwide audience that now have brand name-recognition. The halo-effect of all these brands on each other, told through Sarah’s voice, is noticeable. I understand a little more about what these brands stand for, because I understand what Sarah stands for in her work.

When speaking to our clients about personal profiling for their leaders, we often get asked about what the value is for the brand. Our answer is that the value is huge! It humanises your leaders, it gives you influence among your peers, and opens doors where a nameless corporate individual wouldn’t be welcome.

Leaders in a business or brand should promote their own personal profile as part of the broader business communications strategy. After all, a businesses’ leaders are one of its most important assets, as is the case for This American Life’s Sarah Koenig and The Australian’s Hedley Thomas.

If you’re looking for support for yourself or leaders in your business for profiling, please get in touch with me on Eleanor.Sampson@hotwireglobal.com to speak our dedicated executive communications team.