I love hearing about the life journeys of women who do well in life and support others along the way. I am delighted to share an interview with Nicki Bannerman from The Influential Women Podcast. She wears many hats as a journo, a PR, a parent and a podcast host presenter and producer! Her inspirational women podcast talks self-care, book reviews, fashion, women’s lifestyle, business, seasonal, blogging and more.
Tell us a little about your childhood and teenager years
Interestingly thinking back about my childhood it was always really about creative writing and Saturday drama school and competitions for speech and drama. I always had a strong yearning to write and join journalism college and really wanted to work at the BBC but even though I went to Grammar School I wasn’t overly academic so I didn’t make the right grades – I was more of a creative thinker and entrepreneurial and communication and talking was always more important to me.
What was your first job? What did you learn from this?
I had a whole host of jobs from the young age of 13 – I loved selling and interacting with people (and their emotions!) from working in a florist seeing happy to sad occasions to door to door selling anything and everything from eggs to make up, showers to newspapers and crafts I loved making money young – it taught me about interacting with people and developing independence.
When I was around 15 I read a feature in a women’s magazine on celebrities lives that totally fascinated me enough to pick up the phone to contact the company to express my admiration. I spoke to the Boss of this massive PR agency who invited me to come to the office for a chat but I sadly never followed it up. (I’m not sure why I didn’t but I suppose it taught me I had the confidence but possibly lacked enough to follow it through or maybe doubted myself afterwards and thought he didn’t mean it and then I spent an entire career evolving into that type of work by chance which then made it happen decades later).
My first real career was joining a music publishing record company in production and marketing and I got to go into the recording studios with the stars and radio DJs and to PR parties from around the age of 20 and I then was inspired to want to learn more about advertising, marketing, PR, consumer psychology and more so I went to night school for quite a while. I got into an advertising agency subsequently and was hooked and went on to train in marketing at several colleges including a post Grad and then to work for incredible entertainment brands in film, tv and music industry all over the world. I again still enjoyed the recording studios and producing voice over ads or tv commercials or music recordings with other voices and industry experts and travelling.
What led to you setting up your business?
After an enjoyable career in marketing and PR (and after two amazing children) I retrained as a second career in broadcast in the radio and audio industry (as they became teenagers and started going to secondary school). I loved being in the recording studio again and started reading the news and being a roving reporter and producing shows and I felt like it was something I should always have done. So I volunteered everywhere to host radio and podcasts and trained on every course possible from interviewing skills to technical production and editing until I ultimately trained with the BBC and became a podcast producer for their own charity to help women in broadcast. I was finally where I had yearned to be as a 16 year old working with the bigwigs at the BBC and subsequently met so many talented and inspiring women on the Board that it made me want to start my own show so I co-founded The Influential Women Podcast.
It started as a passion project and with the support of incredible BBC women such as Jane Garvey being my first willing podcast interview and other kind women that help lift you up in the industry so the project was born and I teamed up with another producer who I had met in the industry with Heart FM. The Influential Women Podcast has evolved now into a business with incredible listenership growth, inspiring guests, and PR and brands approaching us and I think we were ahead of the curve with representing women and talking about difficult taboo subjects and smashing stigmas. I had worked for a London radio station and interviewed Ruby Wax on mental health and her books before health was openly discussed some 6/7 years ago.
What are your services?
I am primarily passionate about audio and host presenting and working on wellness and health and supporting and empowering women and female brands and brands I am passionate to work with. My work and products/services covers audio and producing podcasts for company websites and social media or on media platforms such as Spotify, google and apple podcasts. I also produce live audience events and theme the stage events for brands such as ‘women in broadcast’ or ‘women in sport’ or working with charities and great male talent for music events and hosting their pop up radio interviews. As a PR I am also a publicist for brands needing publicity or themed events and I love doing voice overs and storytelling on audio.
I have 3 aspects to my work now which I love but have diversified my roles since meeting so many successful and capable influential women.
I am firstly a marketer/publicist handling projects and producing (e.g. helping the Radio Academy on stage with women’s live stage panels with BBC radio presenters). I have produced live stage events for health tech companies with Olympic athletes for Women in Sport forums and live broadcasts and am now supporting youths with student life, health and wellness as this is a huge passion of mine too.
Secondly I am the host presenter, co-founder and co-producer of The Influential Women Podcast which has been described as ‘achingly human’ and it smashes stigmas on overcoming adversity and thriving and surviving. These women have literally changed my life and I hope will change others lives – they have come back stronger from PTSD, epilepsy, grief, depression, mental toughness, anxiety and mental health, domestic and narcissistic abuse and have found purpose, passion, projects and awards, launched books, building sports legacies and changing lives. They are largely advocates, campaigners, broadcasters, celebrities and community changers who make such a difference to themselves, their communities and then help and heal others by sharing their journey.
The Influential Women Podcast started as a passion project and has become a business and I love talking to these women all over the world (and men love it too!). I can even do interviews online now but still love meeting them face to face. My co-producer is young and award-winning and we work as a great team with constant ideas and we are now proud to be on Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Comcast and numerous other channels and in March on International Womens Day (8th March) will be our 3rd anniversary. We launched at the Women of the World Festival in London in 2017 and have been approached by women all over the world as guests and listeners – and even hosted Jude Kelly (founder of the WOW festival one year later!). I have talked to inspiring actresses like Michelle Collins, sports gurus such as Judy Murray and writers such as Nicci French and Deborah Moggach and to broadcasters such as Desert Island Discs former host the incredible Kirsty Young and Women’s Hour BBC Radio 4’s Jane Garvey. We are planning now to collaborate with corporate sponsors and partners passionate about health and wellness to advertise with us and supporting empowering women with their brand and to ultimately take the podcasts to live audience events when we get the next stage of funding.
Lastly I am also a voice over and London storyteller and love telling the stories of London through downloadable walking tours on VoiceMap – you can literally download it straight to your smartphone as I walk and talk to you and with you (for individuals or group tours). The VIP politics, history and Royal tour starts at London embankment tube and takes you along the River Thames sharing the audio history of polar bears in the Thames and inspiration for books and movies as you visit Westminster, Trafalgar Square and head to the splendour of Buckingham Palace. I would love to talk to groups and hotels next about offering this to their students, visitors and tourists.
What makes your business special?
I handle podcasting, publicity and production so I can theme or create ideas and include audio within the brand needs or produce live stage audience events or host podcasts for their message on websites or social media primarily focussed around health and wellness.
I think our Influential Women podcast is special because although it represents women’s voices and lives and although there are a huge amount of books, movies and podcasts popping up all over the place – ours shares real-life stories of smashing adversity and thriving and surviving which I think is pretty unique. It shares the life, work, mantras and talents and who influences these real women but it has an underlying important theme of something huge they have been affected by and how they have come back from it. It isn’t just news about their product or life as a celebrity it is like having a chat with a friend about how do you cope with that awful thing and gosh what would you say to others going through stuff? We have had incredible 5 star iTunes reviews and listeners telling us we have made them happier or motivated in their day which makes us happy. We have just launched a Patreon site if others want to invest in us to make more programmes and give them extra snippets behind the scenes and a Facebook group we have started as we want our listeners to talk to us more and start live Facebook streams for them and be more interactive. We have 3 years back catalogue to binge on too!
I think that everybody has something they are passionate or curious about doing – so I would say just follow your goals and dreams and let go of your fears. If you are doing what sits with your own personal values I believe you can be authentic and more human as you share emotions with others and dedicate the time you have to what you love. This modern age is so electronically connected and yet on a human level more unhappy, disconnected and not present than ever before. Attention spans are so short and even when you are with those you care about you may not be mentally or emotionally connected with other distractions and overwhelm. This podcast overshares real-life stories to bridge that gap and treat your ears – or bluetooth into your car – I love listening to other podcasts in the car and I even read that in America it is massive at the dentist. You can even buy headphones to swim underwater listening to podcasts and ours is around 30 minutes for your commute!
And I really don’t think it is even necessarily about the money – it is what lifts you up and makes your spirit soar as a person and this can filter into all aspects of your life. It is extraordinary about who comes into your life at the right time when you are open to adapting what you do and I have seen this in my own life with the incredible women I have met.
I love businesses into health and wellness and helping women who may be lacking in self-esteem and confidence or battling something huge in their life such as bereavement or divorce or illness that the podcast could give them the mental toughness and resilience to get through their day and make a difference.
What tip would you give to someone who wants to set up a business but lacks self-belief?
Gosh I think that is most people. I would say just believe and enjoy the journey. None of us have really a clue what we are doing or what the future holds so just enjoy this moment and if you don’t like it change it. I think human beings are very afraid of change and maybe stay just a bit too long in the uncomfortable places for the wrong reasons – take a leap of faith. I have changed my life phenomenally in the last few years but learnt so much on my journey and met some incredible people and listened to their stories changes your mindset.
If you try to follow your heart and head and do something you believe in but then if you can have a safety net. So many people I have interviewed have come back from failure or business dramas or kept going in the face of adversity or had incredible resilience to make something happen. It is so much more competitive out there now so you have to keep going and stay positive and dig deep and something will change.
But these women have taught me that you can have multiple jobs or projects and that’s ok so I now believe it is best to have 3 aspects – a job that pays the bills that you may or may not like but that’s your safety net, a project you are passionate about that you would do for free and one day may turn into a business and something to pay you while you sleep that has been created so the money or orders come in 24/7 and then you have all your bases covered.
It is only when you look back at your teens and passions and you realise it was all mapped out. I even became that journalist in my 40s and had my own magazine pages so I did finally fulfil my two dreams as a teen – it took a while but it did personally and helped me to do what I am loving doing now.
How do you ensure you look after yourself properly? What do you do for self-care?
These are great questions, I actually swim 3 times a week – I love it and it is my ‘me-time’ and I find it so relaxing and miss it if I don’t go. I can enter the pool stressed or frustrated but I always come out calm and invigorated – I would recommend it. I am also doing the ‘New Year New You’ that the whole world does in January but I have cut down on sugar and gluten it makes me sleep better and feel less groggy.
I also love Pilates when I have time and I learnt Reiki I and II when I lived in Australia that I use to meditate from time to time which is really relaxing and healing or occasional Tai Chi. I would love to take up yoga one day or Kung Fu like the Buddhist nuns do daily and are so strong mentally and physically.
Who supported you as you set up your business?
My first business was in PR with my own consultancy and I set up after I took a voluntary redundancy fund that helped me have the money to invest in stationery, computers and technology back in the day. I was supported by film contacts that I knew in the film industry who went on to become my first Clients so that was exciting and scary at the same time.
My second business in audio I trained part-time whilst freelancing as a writer and in PR but the podcast was set up at a low cost with minimal outlay for initial equipment and amazing free or low cost online courses and multiple interviews to reduce train fares. And someone once told me it is hours in the flying seat like pilots so I am building my experience with every interview and podcast that I host present or produce.
What things would you like to see change about the position of women in society?
To be respected and judged on merit for who they are not what they are.
To be more admired as women and sometimes as mothers who juggle so many things in their lives yet still want to keep their own identities, to be more represented on Boards in Companies and inclusive, diverse companies that thrive more with team input and to be taught from youths upwards to support women more and for women to support other women and men to for us all to support and encourage and teach other. In Iceland for example the stereotypes are incredible from a young age – they teach boys to be gentle and girls to be strong and the world would look very different if adults could be much kinder to each other and change these stereotypes.
The work Greta Thunberg is doing as a young woman encouraging adults, influencers, stakeholders to listen to her and cutting through to think differently about the planet is incredible and yet she gets criticism at such a young age and the work Michelle Obama does for women, and marriage and raising kids and fundraising is fantastic and influencing society to think differently about women. I love and admire pioneering, brave, talented inspiring women – we can all learn something from each other – it’s such a gift.
If you could recommend ONE book to women what would it be and why?
I heard the podcast with Dr Rangan Chatterjee the other day who said that his new book ‘Feel Better in 5’ about if everyone spent 5 minutes a day on their body, 5 mins on their mind and 5 minutes on their heart (as in emotional health) then there would be less mental health problems or stress and it has been proven in behavioural science to tag on a new healthy habit and health hack to an existing daily habit like making a coffee or cleaning your teeth then it will change. I need to get this book. I have already been inspired to do a kitchen workout while I boil the kettle and do squats or dancing daily now! It has been proven in behavioural science and it sounds fascinating – I am always curious to learn more interesting things and try something new. I have even reached out to him on Insta – he is so fascinating.
Another was Ruby Wax with her book Frazzled and on her tour she said the same – try and do leg raises in the elevator (lift) was her suggestion for health hacks which made us laugh.
If you could recommend ONE website (to women, what would it be and why?
Wow I think Divorced Girl Smiling was a great tonic for me last year so that was one that may help inspire and heal a lot of other women out there! And The Pool was such an incredible innovative site – I met the two owners Lauren Laverne the broadcaster I have previously interviewed and Sam Baker the writer and media guru – they were a dynamic duo with such a great concept of timed news depending upon what you were doing at specific times of day – with news feeds based on how much time you had to read the content it was a brilliant concept with great brands, sponsors, articles, features – it was heartbreaking to see it close – I think it was ahead of it’s time. Those women are incredibly brave and talented and done so much for other women.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thank you hugely for including me on your fabulous blog – I think everyone feels like they are on thin ice from time to time – doing something risky or facing change may have consequences they fear well they probably just aren’t being honest either to themselves or others if they don’t admit it. And I really feel as though unless we have experienced something personally ourselves whatever it is – then we can’t really actually know how others feel. Everyone is quick to criticise and judge others particularly in this fast paced social media world but not really ever thinking of the consequences or damage or feelings of others or how much better praise and positivity and kindness feels. I have got rid of negative forces in my life – there are givers and takers or radiators and drains and we don’t need to waste our time or energy with ones that deplete us. So if someone is bringing you down – talk to others who may lift you back up and think about making a small change.
Be kind to yourself and remember that light always follows darkness just as the sun follows the rain so if you need to go back to bed, to be alone, to laugh or cry, or wallow in self-pity or ruminate or eat cake or moan until you drive yourself or others nuts then don’t feel guilty ‘just be’ because as someone said to me once we are human beings not human doings. And life would not be life if it didn’t have light and shade but really – if you have food on the table, a roof over your head and no serious health issue and someone who cares for you then you are luckier than most so write down your gratitude list! Embrace life!
And if you get a spare 30 minutes to uplift yourself and hear an incredible achingly human real-life story then please download The Influential Women Podcast on your usual podcast platforms. And if you would love to sponsor or collaborate with us please get in touch.