Christine O’Donnell spent years sharing other people’s stories on television, bringing to light tragedies and heartwarming tales alike.
In the past few years, she’s shifted to a new and quickly growing medium: podcasting.
The Saratoga Springs resident launched Bright Sighted Podcasting five years ago, helping people conceptualize, write, produce and launch their podcasts.
“Audiences are craving more. They want good storytelling. They want good journalism, and podcasts give them that in the way they want to receive it,” O’Donnell said.
Becoming a reporter was a longtime dream for O’Donnell, and growing up she admired local journalists Elisa Streeter and Steve Caporizzo. A few years into her career, she landed a job at WTEN News 10 working with both reporters.
“It was awesome and surreal. I loved working there,” O’Donnell said.
She eventually moved on to work at news stations in Los Angeles and Boston. But she began to feel burned out by the unforgiving pace and the magnitude of the tragedies she often covered.
“Every day I was on the job was the worst day of someone else’s life. I’m bearing witness to their trauma, day in and day out,” O’Donnell said. “You work so hard to get these stories and then to connect with someone in a way where they feel comfortable sharing with you. And then you get these amazing sound bites. Then it’s on to the next and on to the next and on to the next.”
Finally, after a decade in the business, O’Donnell said she was fired after one of her social media posts was taken out of context by a blogger. It was a tough time, but not long after that she found her next chapter: She was hired by a marketing company at which she worked with physician and “The Plant Paradox” author Dr. Steven Gundry to launch his health/wellness podcast.
“I found myself helping someone else produce their podcast and own their own voice,” O’Donnell said. “I realized I can use all of those skills that I had developed over my 10 years working very hard in TV news to do something considerably more entrepreneurial, and hopefully build something that will matter to people.”
So she took a leap and left the marketing job to run Bright Sighted Podcasting full time. Switching from being mainly a storyteller to a storyteller and entrepreneur was challenging at first.
“I find it’s been easy for me to be seduced by a story instead of by whether or not someone can pay me to produce the show, because I tend to just want to tell the story so badly,” O’Donnell said.
She’s had a handful of mentors to help with that, including business owners from the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce’s small business assistance program.
“I thankfully had some wonderful mentors who have helped me along the way,” O’Donnell said.
It’s helped, too, that the podcasting community is growing.
“The collaboration within the podcasting space is amazing. There are so many podcasters who worked so hard to help each other,” O’Donnell said. “It’s been a really refreshing space to grow in as an entrepreneur.”
Just a few years in, Bright Sighted’s work has already been recognized by industry awards show the Signal Awards.
“Moving Past Murder,” which is hosted by Collier Landry, recently won Listener’s Choice and Silver awards. Landry was just 11 years old when his father, Dr. John F. Boyle Jr., murdered his mother Noreen and buried her body in their basement. Each week, he discusses the repercussions of his mother’s murder while looking at similar true crime stories, speaking to other trauma survivors and talking about what it takes to move past it all.
O’Donnell is also working “A Fiber Life,” a podcast that follows a couple’s journey into raising exotic animals called guanacos, getting back to nature and making things by hand.
“How We Can Heal” is another on Bright Sighted’s docket, hosted by licensed psychotherapist Lisa Danylchuk. It explores healing, wellness and trauma recovery.
Many of the other podcasts O’Donnell works on have to deal with trauma in some way. But there’s almost always a positive component to the shows.
“There are a lot of people who are looking for connection. … I think after the pandemic we all collectively experienced some trauma that we weren’t expecting, and these are positive shows that will hopefully make people feel a little bit better,” O’Donnell said.
She’s collaborated with many budding podcasters over the years. When coming up with a podcast idea, she usually starts by asking the simple but important question: Why?
“Why are you doing this? What is the point of this? I want to make sure that we honor their why, and that’s going to help me figure out how they’re going to best communicate with their audience,” O’Donnell said.
From there, they discuss the host’s expertise and what the audience might want from the podcast. Then they discuss possible formats and building audience engagement.
“Then we come up with a plan for production and launching and promotion, and execute on it,” O’Donnell said.
Each host’s needs are slightly different. With Landry’s show, O’Donnell helped with the format.
“He is very smart and a very great storyteller all on his own, but … it takes a while to figure out the right format that’s going to actually resonate with your audience, and how to take your message and turn it into something that people will listen to your show and then leave either thinking about or feeling good about, or there’s something that’s going to make them want to come back,” O’Donnell said.
Bright Sighted is now shifting toward becoming a podcasting network in which the company has ownership of its podcasts and can sell advertising space within the shows. The latter could prove quite effective, as according to Edison Research, 54% of the people who listen to a podcast are more likely to buy a product they’ve heard about in that podcast than from any other medium.
“Because people form such close connections with the hosts of these shows, they feel like they get them, they trust them, they know them. So when they go and recommend a product, they’re just 54% more likely to buy it,” O’Donnell said.
The small team behind Bright Sighted is led by O’Donnell, who works from a studio in her Saratoga home, where she lives with her husband and their two children. While the company is growing, it remains focused on storytelling.
“We craft podcasts about the resilience of humanity with the age-old art of storytelling. Podcasting may seem new to so many people, but it’s really just bringing back the art of storytelling in a way that people have done for centuries,” O’Donnell said.
For information, visit brightsighted.com.