A recommendation from a satisfied customer has always been the best advertising a company can have. People just trust other people more than they trust the claims of the companies selling a product. Dana Michell, a media pro who began her career in television news, has built her media company, Salt & Lime Media, into a marketing partner of many of the world’s largest brands by telling the genuine stories of real people.
Diversity is a key part of the Salt & Lime strategy, from the people they cast in their productions to the teams that produce the content. We emailed some questions to Michell to ask about Salt & Lime and its approach to storytelling. Here is what she has to say.
Based on your LinkedIn profile, you have had a roundabout career journey to your current role at Salt & Lime. Can you tell us about it?
I have been working in media production, journalism, research, casting and talent management now for over 20 years and so by the time I decided to pull all those skills together to create my own real people casting & self made content curation agency, it looked like it was just an overnight idea. But in all honesty, it was 20 years in the making and there was now way I would have had the confidence or the variety of skills and networks worldwide to pull it off any earlier.
How does your background as a TV journalist and then a reality TV show producer shape your work at Salt & Lime?
In my mind TV news and non-scripted TV formats are both “Reality TV”. A TV reporter’s job is to tell you the story of what happened. But a Reality TV Producer is often helping set up the story and is there to experience the story, then sticks around to find out how the person in the story felt while it was happening.
To me, I love Reality TV more because I get to expand on the WHO, WHAT, WHERE formula in News. Reality TV is HOW, WHAT, WHERE, WHY, HOW DID IT MAKE YOU FEEL, WHAT NEXT…and maybe a little but of WHAT THE HECK JUST HAPPENED to ensure the viewers are all tuning in after the break! 🙂
Salt & Lime casts and produces thousands of real people worldwide every year for big networks and brands like Netflix, Fox, Facebook, Lenor. What goes into conceiving and producing campaigns or media productions like these? How many people and different skill sets are needed?
Salt & Lime’s task is to find the real life stories of real people (not actors or models). We also source existing content or help real people curate their own content for use in future posts or productions. Most of the time we use old school journalism techniques – like reading newspapers, reading social media pages and just reach out and talk to people! Once we feel like we have a story, we pitch it to the Director or the Producer or a Creative team behind the concept and at some point, we will introduce them to get down to the nitty-gritty of a shoot. Salt & Lime might at this point, step away from the production as we leave that in the hands of Cinematographers and Commercial experts, or we might help the real person make their own content at home. We never know for sure until the story is green lit. But, regardless of where the story ends, we are always holding our new real people cast’s hands the whole way. You have us from hello to broadcast and everything in between.
You’re an entrepreneur as well as a wife and the mother of two. What insight does that give you about that seemingly mythical work/life balance we’ve all been talking about in recent years?
Balance is NOT the word I would use to describe the constant juggle of work and kids. It’s more about finding the best coping strategies to deal with the ever changing IMBALANCE.
For me, I try to break up my day into sections for different things i.e. two hours on client communications, two hours on my US and LATAM team, one hour on my Asia team, one hour on my EU team, one hr for lunch/exercise/coffee and two hours on my kids!
I also firmly believe in humor to get you through and making sure your staff, clients and cast GET YOU as a human first and foremost. If I rock up to a video call with a shirt covered in kid spaghetti that I haven’t had time to change, I make a joke about it. I think people know that I am, above anything, genuine. And I’d say being my authentic self in all situations with all types of people has been a blessing a lot more than it’s been a curse.
I can tell you now straight up: If we have to do a Zoom call during bath time, well guess what, it is highly likely there are going to be naked kids running through the back of the shot flicking each other with towels. It is what it is.
Diversity is something else that corporations have been talking about, if not doing anything much about, for a long while now but it appears diversity is genuinely valued at Salt & Lime. What are the advantages for the company?
I truly believe the absolute BEST thing about Salt & Lime is the diversity of the team. I don’t know why any CEO wouldn’t want a company built around fresh ideas, different thoughts, unique visions, authentic creative concepts, interesting staff and colleagues with diverse backgrounds, cultures, experiences, opinions. It blows my mind why anyone would want an office full of clones. That sounds terribly boring and a terrible way to do business in a global environment. To me, there is zero downside to being diverse and inclusive in business – especially a business like mine that is all about real people stories and curating content for global media networks. If you want a global audience, you have to be globally minded from the ground up and in everything you do with your cast, crew and company culture.
What’s the origin story on the name Salt & Lime?
I am proud to say it all started over a margarita. I was on a mom’s night out and my business advisor warned me I had to decide on a name NOW or miss out on getting the business set up in time for a Netflix show I was producing. At that exact moment the bartender also asked me how I like my margaritas and I said “Salt and Lime”. My business advisor said “That’s an awesome business name!” and I said “no, wait, what..why – yes it is! DONE!”
But I think as time has gone by, Salt & Lime really represents what we are – a good time, full of fun, friendly, seasoned production people.