Branden Harvey is a storyteller focused on the good in the world. He's the host of the podcast Sounds Good, the creator of the Goodnewspaper, a printed newspaper full of good news, and has built an online community of more than 250,000 world changers! We're thrilled to feature Branden on the blog, and share his journey of spreading joy and light in the world. Read on to discover how he got his start, advice for aspiring podcasters, how he stays positive, and more!
Hi Branden! Please tell us about yourself.
Hi! I'm a humanitarian photographer turned accidental Snapchat influencer turned newspaper publisher. (Random, I know) I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and currently live in beautiful Nashville, Tennessee. Most of all, I spend my time telling stories of the good in the world.
Your Instagram bio describes you as a "storyteller focused on the good in the world". That's so refreshing! How do choose to focus on the good every day?
As a humanitarian photographer, I had the unique privilege of traveling to countries around the world and documenting people and organizations solving the world's greatest problems in innovative and impactful ways. There's this quote from Fred Rogers where he says, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'" And so I spend my time doing just what Fred Rogers described: Looking for the helpers. It's not an easy thing to do. I think so many of us have felt a creeping sense of either apathy or cynicism in recent years — but I'm convinced it's important to stay aware of the reasons we all have to be hopeful. And I've been encouraged to see that when we pay attention to the good in the world — the helpers — it inspires each of us to join in and become the good in the world ourselves.
Why did you decide to start podcasting? How do you decide who to feature on your podcast?
When I first moved to Nashville I was approached by a media company, telling me they wanted me to host a podcast. I was a huge fan of podcasts and thought this might be a good fit. When I first started the show, I had a list of 15 people that I deeply admired and thought would be a perfect fit for the podcast — people who are rejecting cynicism and using their lives to make a difference. I was so nervous I'd be out of people after that. Now we've found that there are too many amazing people in the world (a great problem to have), and we focus on finding guests who our listeners may be familiar with and excited to hear from, or guests who have a unique story that we know will connect deeply with our listeners.
What were some lessons you learned when you first started your podcast? What's your favorite thing about podcasting now?
I love that I get to bring out my sense of genuine curiosity. Our best episodes are the episodes where I show up with real questions that I'm excited to dive into.
You founded The Goodnewspaper & The Goodnewsletter. What prompted you to start those publications and what kind of content do you share?
In a moment of feeling overwhelmed with the division, pain, and injustice in the world, I thought back to that Fred Rogers quote and I thought back to the many occasions I'd traveled to new countries to document people creating solutions to problems. I wondered if there might be a unique way to communicate stories of the good in the world. I was already trying to do this on social media, sharing photos and stories of people I met through my travels on Instagram. And while I'd grown a pretty significant community of like-minded world-changers — I wondered what we could do outside of the world of social media. So first came a newsletter — the Goodnewsletter — which was designed to fill a dark, annoying place (our email inboxes) with something hopeful. Our list of subscribers grew really quickly and again I wondered what else we could do. I thought the name "Goodnewspaper" was cute and funny, and it got me thinking about actually creating a newspaper filled with good news. I brought together a few talented friends and together we launched the Goodnewspaper on Kickstarter. I was so incredibly nervous, but I guess I didn't have to stay nervous for long because within 52 hours we were fully funded and by the end of our campaign we had more than doubled our initial campaign goal.
Your Instagram is fantastic! What are your top 3 tips for developing and maintaining an authentic Instagram presence?
- I work hard to tell the full truth in my captions. Life is made up of highs, lows, and (mostly) middles. While Instagram is a platform built for the high moments of life (and I don't think that's inherently wrong) — I've found that we all connect more so to each others struggles. We learn more from others' failures than their successes, their weaknesses than their strengths. And so in addition to sharing the cool moments from my life, I also try to tell the stories of the struggles I'm having, the mistakes I've made, and the things I'm learning the hard way. These might not look curated on the feed, they might not get as many likes or impressions — but for the people that read them, I hope they're more connective and help us all feel less alone.
- I try to never re-take a Story more than once. When my face is on camera and I'm talking, if I fumble over a word or a sentence, I just leave it like that. That's how we talk in conversation in-person — why would I change that for a conversation online? Otherwise everything feels way too polished.
- Read your comments and reply to as many as you can. Spending time remembering that real humans are spending a moment of their precious life sharing words with you is a gamechanger. Talk back, offer words of encouragement or thanks, and pay the gesture forward.
What advice would you give aspiring podcasters and world changers?
Follow your curiosities. Whatever is striking your interest right now, lean into it. The world needs more people who come to life — so if there's something that's really making you feel something, lean into that. If there's a cause or injustice in the world that's really important to you — maybe it makes you especially angry or empathetic — find a way to use your unique talents and abilities to play a role in creating a solution. If there's an ideas that you can't get out of your head, share that idea with the world — talk about it, learn more from others, and turn it into something that can help people. We all have the ability to make a unique difference in the world.