by: Barbara DeMarco-Barrett
Tell us about the genesis of your show, Get Notified.
Ever since I came to UCI, I was always a fan of KUCI as a college radio station. It was a goal of mine to get a show, but I went a few years without really figuring out how to do it. Innocently walking on Ring Road, I got politely harassed by some KUCI volunteers advertising the DJ class in order to get a show. I stopped. We talked. And the rest was history.
Sometimes all it takes to scratch off bucket list items is an opportunity that presents itself and grabbing it without much thought. I took the training class without having a clear idea of what my show would be about, but I was for sure going to have a talk show and not a music show. I love music, but I'm the guy who never remembers the name of the band or the musicians. I prefer to just have someone else make the decision of what we're listening to so I can just relax and enjoy it.
I was recently promoted to a new position at UCI within the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (OVPTL) where I now have the opportunity to help run social media and marketing strategy for 25 programs on campus. In talking with executive directors, program managers, and student workers, one thing was very clear: there were a lot of questions about social media. Listening to those people whom it was my job to help, it naturally made sense to focus my KUCI talk show around the topic of social media. A friend suggested the name “Get Notified” because I was complaining about all the notifications that I was getting on my phone at the time.
Up until the last few years, I really haven't had much of a digital footprint, and believe it or not, I didn't have a Facebook. I tweeted four times back in 2008 and then thought it was lame. Flash forward and now I live and breathe social media, recently got verified on Facebook, and Twitter became my favorite social media platform.
The genesis of the show is to learn about best practices so that I can help share those best practices with programs at the university as well as individuals in the community. Through my network and deep ties to entrepreneurship in Orange County and Los Angeles, it's been exciting to bring on experts who know way more than I do about social media, growth hacking, digital strategy, and helpful hacks. Bringing these individuals to the KUCI platform has been super exciting, entertaining, and educational. Each week, I look forward to my own show because I learn new things that I can then turn around and use for my social media as well as help advise programs, units, and departments on campus.
How does your show connect with your job here at UCI?
I was originally hired to run the entrepreneurship program here at UCI, which was called the Blackstone LaunchPad initially. Starting my entrepreneurial path at age 13 with one of the first Christmas light hanging businesses in town, I've had a colorful path filled with my own companies that have been successful and some that have failed miserably.
Taking notes along the way, the life experience brought me to UCI where I was able to help mentor thousands of UCI entrepreneurs, whom we now refer to as Antrepreneurs. It was and still is an exciting time for entrepreneurship at UCI, and the Blackstone Launchpad, now the Antrepreneur Center, was right in the middle of it all. In fact, we treated ourselves as our own startup; every day, we created awareness and reached out to students letting them know they had a free resource and support system to feel confident in starting their own companies while still in college.
Social media played a big part in helping to grow the ANTrepreneur Center. As a new program, after only 18 months, we gained a 78 percent recognition on campus, grew a solid social media following, built a mailing list of over 15,000 people, and helped close to 1,800 students start their own companies here at UCI! Historically, this type of growth just doesn't happen on campus with a brand new program. However, we treated the program like a startup and leveraged creative online and offline tactics to gain traction with undergraduates. Because we were considered the “launch pad,” we took it literally and got a trampoline. Yes, an actual trampoline. And when students would start their new companies or come up with new ideas, we would make them jump on the trampoline, to physically launch. We would catch this launch moment midair using a rapid shutter on my Android, and created what I now call a human hashtag.
When Snapchat started to see popularity on campus, we were the first department to sign up and to promote our account. We built a six-foot Snapchat ghost and had students walk around Ring Road getting people to follow and snap this new mascot. We also constructed a six-foot paper airplane that we threw off the top of the Student Center only to get reprimanded by the authorities that be. We took this in stride, apologized, and built another, larger paper airplane that a person could actually fit into, and they, along with our Snapchat ghost, are regulars on Ring Road.
The success we found with the Antrepreneur Center definitely gained attention across campus, not only from undergrads but from administrators as well. I'll never forget when I got called in to meet with my boss's boss, and I was almost convinced that I was being fired. The meeting was sprung up on me at the end of the day, and not much information was given about why we were meeting. “Maybe all of my asking for forgiveness versus permission had caught up to me,” I thought to myself as I walked to the meeting.
To my surprise and gratitude, I was not getting fired. Instead, I was being promoted.
At the time, according to the new strategic plan set by our new chancellor Howard Gillman, there was to be a new Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning. This new office was created to oversee all units under the Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE), Division of Teaching and Learning (DTL), and the Division of Summer Session
When I asked what the plan was for my new position, I got a big smile from across the desk that said that's what we were hoping you could help us out with. Apparently, the traction and attention we received at the ANTrepreneur Center from leveraging social media and creative marketing efforts was well-received by UCI, and this new Office of the Vice Provost brought me on board to oversee social media strategy for their programs.
This promotion happened in January of 2016, and I'm very proud of the work that my team here at the OVPTL Communications has been able to accomplish. I believe in working smarter not harder, and in dealing with so many different programs, we have worked towards creating valuable resources, video training, in-person workshops, and support systems that help to empower the programs that we're working with. I don't see my new position as deciding what people should do for their social media strategy; instead, I like to listen first about their goals and what they want to accomplish as a program. And based on their specific goals, our team helps to put together a plan and work with them to teach staff and student workers how to develop and implement a strategy that's in line with their goals.
I love the concept of one to many, and that is why we created our Social Media Brunches
which brings together all of the social media workers from across campus into one room for two hours each month to talk about three main topics of social media best practices. As I was developing ways to have a significant impact on the large number of programs I was now responsible for helping, the idea of having a radio show based on social media was, as my mom often says, “a no-brainer. ”
With thumbs up from my boss (Thanks, Iain!), I launched my talk show, “Get notified,” and we have been rocking and rolling ever since. The feedback we received has been great, and I feel as if our audience at UCI and in the community is growing with each episode. We take each show and turn them into a podcast which can be shared on social media, helping to further the reach of our guests insight and knowledge that they shared on the show. As of now, Get Notified ties in very closely with my job at UCI, and I love it. Many of the topics that we discuss are relevant programs on campus, as well as for students who are interested in growing their online presence.
The topic of social media is so exciting to me because it is always changing and a moving target. What is happening today will change tomorrow, and I believe this is what makes social media a great topic for a radio show. Selfishly, every week I learn how to improve my social media skills, and that helps me at my job at UCI, as well as helping me to build my personal brand and my company InfluenceTree.
When did you first learn of the station?
A little backstory on my history of music. When I grew up, I never bought CDs because I thought they were too expensive. Although I did save up and spend $12 on Supertramp’s album, Breakfast in America (and I still have the CD today). I was more into using the radio because the radio made decisions for me. But when the radio decided to play commercials on every channel I would decide to take matters into my own hands and listen to public radio.
As such, I've always been a fan of public radio. I remember a few years before coming to UCI, when trying to manually dial in KCRW which is 89.9 FM, and I stumbled upon 88.9 FM on accident. At first I figured it was KCRW but quickly realized it was not. Finding out that it was KUCI sparked my interest, and I proceeded to press and hold the radio button in my car to add it to the memory dashboard.
As a side note, I am not particularly biased to any type of music (except for Country, which I dislike voraciously).
What do you listen to when you listen to the radio?
I don't listen to country. Did I mention yet that I don't like country music? Cuz I don't. Not that I don't like the cowboys or westerns or anything like that, I just don't like country music.
Back in the day, I was all about 93.1 FM, all rock and roll oldies. I used to pride myself on knowing every single song like it was Name That Tune. As I grew older, I levitated towards bands like Sublime and the Wu-Tang Clan. Yes, I was that guy driving in my raised Blazer rocking out to and rapping along with the Wu-Tang Clan. And when the CD would play out, I'd throw in 40 Ounces to Freedom and sing along with Sublime to my best ability.
So to recap, when I was younger and couldn't afford CDs, I listened to the radio. Then because of my Christmas light hanging business in middle school, I made some money and started to buy CDs. But then when all my CDs were scratched, and a thing called MP3s became the thing, I moved away from CDs and converted back to the radio. Classically, I've enjoyed KROQ to Power to KISS to whatever station wasn't playing commercials at the time that I would be needing music.
I choose music like I order my dinners. I don't like to order my dinner. I like to have someone else order for me. In business and life I make so many decisions on a daily basis that making a decision for music is not something I want to do. With food, I'll eat about anything. And for music, I listen to just about everything, except for country music.
What's been the biggest surprise since starting here at KUCI?
Hands down the biggest surprise since starting here at KUCI is the sheer volume of DJs and talk show hosts that it takes to put on 24 hours of programming. It's pretty much a small army of people who are super passionate about music and independent radio. The people are as diverse as the shows and the music selection, which is refreshing and inspiring. There's something that happens when you walk into the double-wide filled to the wall with records, CDs, and I'm sure some 8 tracks somewhere. It's like the ultimate safe zone of creative expression and independent voices. I think the format of free flow, free speech radio brings a certain type of people together that at the core get along very well. I haven't met a DJ or talk show host I haven't liked. The only person I can see myself having beef with would be a DJ that plays only country music, but even then, I'm sure we would eventually get along.
Just like the variety of people who come in and out on a 24-hour basis to keep the radio waves at 200 megahertz live and poppin’, I've never been in a single place that has had so much music on the walls. Literally on the walls. There are thousands of records and thousands of CDs of just about every type of music some of which you didn't even know existed. I've always liked records, but I never had a record player. I’ve found a new interest in vinyl; however I do admit that I still haven't listened to very many of them. I do have interest in vinyl cover art. It's like a trip back in time, you can graze along the vinyls with an index finger like you're the gladiator walking through a field of wheat. I do this sometimes and then randomly select one. It is always fun to see what bands decided to put on the front of their albums. To me this is entertaining and inspiring.
I will admit that I think I'm a better rapper than I am, and someday maybe I'll use vinyls to spin some sick beats and come up with some GingerMC raps to rival the Wu-Tang Clan.
What do you love most about your show?
What I love most about my show are the people I talk with. Sure, I like to talk, but I really enjoy to listen and learn. The fact that it is a live show, broadcasted on air to the Orange County Community via 88.9 FM and the world via live stream, it puts an exciting amount of pressure during the show. It's the type of pressure that is scary for some people, but exciting for me. I have hosted many podcasts, I've been interviewed on many podcasts, but there's nothing like good old-fashioned live radio. It's organic, it's real, it's authentic, and often times does not go the way you thought it would or the way you hope it will. But that challenge is one that I take very seriously as a DJ. I feel like I am a conductor on the airwaves to make sure that my guests are comfortable, enjoy themselves, and are able to deliver high-value information to my listeners.
During the show I like to keep things light-hearted, and I'm always making stuff up on the spot. I joke with some of my friends that I have no idea what I'm going to say until I say it, and then I hear myself say it, and I think to myself, did I really say that? I love the improvisational aspect of free flow format that I use to run my show. When my guests ask what the topics will be or what they should talk about, I say not to worry, we'll figure it out during the show. It usually elicits an awkward silence if we're talking on the phone and a stare if we're talking in person.
I think most of my guests trust that it will be okay because I am being genuine in that we will figure it out and I will lead the conversation to get high value information out of them while still making it fun. I even believe that if it goes horribly wrong, it can still go wrong in the right way, and that makes it real for my listeners. I do not have a set script that I follow, I do not write questions ahead of time for my interviews. I shoot from the hip and that's about as close as I come to being a cowboy.
Any of your shows stick out as being the favorite so far and why?
I have a few favorite shows. One show that comes to mind is when I was able to fit five people in studio, had two people on the line, and towards the end of the show we were joined by a cat. Yes, a real cat who actually had its own Instagram with more followers than myself (this was a humbling moment in my career as a social media expert). The talk was on female empowerment and this topic is very close to my heart. I am a big feminist and love to support women in their efforts to gain equality in the workplace, start their own companies, earn equal pay for equal work, and break through glass ceilings. With so many people on the air, you would think it would get out of control, but it all worked out.
Another show favorite of mine was with UCI Professor Valerie Shepherd, who hands down is one of the most inspirational people I've had on my show. A certified laugh yoga instructor who recently suffered a severe stroke, she had nothing but good vibes and powerful tips for people to lead healthy and happy lives.
One time I had a guest pretend to be Arnold Schwarzenegger, and then was successful in getting someone to call into the radio, who ended up being a prank caller, pretending to be Arnold Schwarzenegger themselves. I went with the whole thing and aside from trying to contain my laughter, somehow we managed to pull out valuable content from the conversation, and everyone learned about schnitzels.
Earlier in the year, I was flown to Portugal to speak at the 30th anniversary of their entrepreneurship program, and bonded with the other speakers who were at the event. I was able to bring them all online for a very special show Individuals from California, New York, and Portugal. Having people from around the world on the phone at the same time, sharing in the same conversation, is as cool as it gets. Shout out to Leo Bottary, Rahfael Gordon, and Miguel Diaz for making such an inspirational conversation happen on my show.
Who is your dream guest?
This is a great question, and I am going to pretend like I heard you say who are your dream guests. In no particular order these are the individuals that I will have on my show soon (one thing I've learned is that thoughts become words and words become realities so the trick to making things happen is to think good thoughts and use words that assumes they are going to happen).
I repeat, I will have the following individuals on my show:
This is the favorite question that you’ve asked so far, because I realized that I need to actually email all these people to ask them to be on my show. Thanks for the reminder.
I've heard your show. You've got to be one of the most positive people I've come across in recent months. Have you always been this way?
Well I'm glad that you listen to my show, that means a lot to me. I appreciate all of my listeners. As for my positive attitude, it hasn't always been that way. As a kid, I had freckles. In fact, a lot more freckles than I have now. And I had a lot more haters, too. Specifically I think because of my freckles. Well that and the fact that I enjoyed school and was somewhat of a nerd. The combination of freckles and nerd equaled getting bullied quite often and for quite a long time.
I was both physically and mentally attacked enough that it affected my life in a very negative way. At one point I changed schools, only to get bullied out of the new school. I was never picked for the basketball team, so my mom bought me a basketball, but no one wanted to play basketball with me. So I played soccer with myself with my basketball. I had a neighbor who would constantly harass me, bite me, and kick me. There were even kids who would follow me home off of the bus and threaten to beat me up. Living in those types of circumstances caused me and my gingerness to not be so ginger.
In fact, I was pretty angry.
One moment that sticks out in my mind is being so sad that I locked myself in my room and listened to “Don't Worry Be Happy’ on repeat, crying and not knowing what to do. True story. Kind of embarrassing thinking of it now, but at the time it was my solution for feeling better. My dad unlocked my door found me a total mess, and that's when he decided it had to stop. We'd always bonded watching John Claude Van Damme and Sylvester Stallone in war and karate movies. So he simply looked at me and said “Ryan, let's go sign you up for karate.” Those words changed my life.
I channeled my inner Ryan-san and started training the next day. With each class and each karate chop, I became more confident. I was able to stand up to those who were heckling me. This small change in pattern changed my life. Martial Arts teaches respect first and foremost, followed by all of the fun ninja skills. It's funny that the more I trained and the more deadly I became, the less I ever had a need to fight because I was able to disarm situations well before they began.
And in fact I was able to make friends and build relationships as a result of my confidence before I could even be seen as a target. I still train martial arts, and taught children martial arts for seven years. I am a big proponent of anti-bullying and have spoken across the nation on the topic. It’s very dear to my heart. Go back to being positive and having an outlook on life that is ginger. Life's too short to be negative. Life's too short to get wrapped up in all the stress. I’m the same personality on and off air, and that's a high-energy Ginger who's always looking for a positive spin on things, because that just makes life more fun.
If you get to know me, I'm always making fun of something (usually myself), and I have 100 percent reclaimed the word “ginger” and use it to describe myself, to describe my powers, and to describe my general attitude in life. I think that life is a reflection of yourself, so if you are positive you will surround yourself with positive people. There is a thing called confirmation bias which is backed by studies and basically says that your brain looks for signs of what you're thinking. For example, if you think that you're running late, you will. Your brain will look for signs and try to convince you that you are running late like the traffic is super heavy or those people are being slower than normal, and it will cause stress, and you will likely be late. If you're at the gym and you think to yourself “Man, I'm going to hurt tomorrow,” chances are you'll hurt tomorrow. But on the flip side, if you look at things in an uplifting manner with a positive outlook, your brain will start to look for and help to affirm these beliefs just the same.
I have recently been learning more about the human brain and how we can most leverage its circuitry to lead the most brilliant life possible. We all deal with stress but stress doesn't have to rule us. In fact, I recently gave a TEDx talk about stress, it was called “How to Not Get Chased by a Bear.” Often when I talk with people I mentor or coach, I notice they feel and act as though they are constantly being chased by bears. I've developed an app that helps you identify whether a bear is a real bear or an imaginary bear. Understanding certain things that are stressors in your life can help you lead a less stressful life. You will have to watch the talk to learn how the app works.
I believe that you create the world around you, and I want to live in a world that is positive, fun, full of learning, love, laughter, peace, diversity, and tolerance.
What do you hope listeners take away from your show?
I want my listeners to learn that social media is just another communication tool to help them share with the world what they want to say. I want to demystify platforms as intimidating and challenging, and instead have people look at them as exciting and empowering. I'm not one to think everyone should be on social media. In fact I think people should be more social. A lot of times I try to relate online strategy to offline components. I think there's nothing more powerful than your own voice. I believe this so much, that I launched a TEDx City Experiment to collect voices of Los Angeles. I don’t think that people understand how powerful their voice really is.
I want people to take away what makes sense to them. I understand that not every show will speak to everyone, but I'm willing to speak to everyone during every show. I hope that episodes resonate with people. By sharing my shows online, I hope that they gain traction online so that the lessons learned can be shared with more of the world. I want listeners to call in and interact with the show, ask questions, have fun with us, and participate in the learning. I do a lot of public speaking and every audience is different. I believe that it's not about the message being delivered to the audience, or about the message that I'm sharing on stage, but it's about what is gained with the connection between what I'm saying and what they're hearing. Just like speaking on stage, I look at my radio show in the same way, and what's important to me is what the audience and I share together as an experience.
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett is host of Writers on Writing, Wednesdays at 9 a.m., and a contributor to USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series (Akashic, 2013). Watch the book trailer at penonfire.com.