In 2018, we started Declassified – a podcast that would change more lives than we could ever have imagined.
But why did a pest control company start a podcast that had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with pest control? Well, I’m sure by now you’ll appreciate that we aren’t just a pest control company. In fact, we’re a vison-led company.
We started Combat Pest Control with one simple belief – we had to help injured service personnel. So publicising their stories, raising awareness of their injuries and inspiring others with their tales of personal growth, was really important to us.
The initial idea was to meet a former soldier friend in a pub or café and record a conversation using our smart phone. No intro. No agenda. Just a conversation about their story.
We bought some basic microphones. But something held us back from pushing on with it. Firstly, the responsibility of telling the stories was enormous – it had to be done right. Did we have the skills to do it justice? The fear of getting it wrong held us back.
We needed help.
That help came from a chance meeting with our now good friend, James O’Brien, LBC presenter, journalist and great bloke. Des and I happened to bump into him at a Combat Stress supporters dinner in the Langham hotel. I’d been on his show several times before as a phone-in guest talking about small business, the London living wage and the difficulties facing military veterans and their families in the future.
The night passed and we exchanged twitter handles – as you do these days. I remember sending him a message saying that if he ever needed our help in any way then he could get in touch. He responded with something similar and I thought nothing of it.
A few months later, the podcast concept was still bobbing around in my head. So, I reached out and asked him for 10 minutes of his time to run over the basics.
Happily, he obliged. We met in Leicester Square after his show, one day in May. I’d been invited onto his show beforehand to discuss the issues we’d talked about. Afterwards, James; his producer, Beth Woodbridge, and me sat down for a coffee.
After I explained the idea of the podcast to them, we agreed the name needed to change (it was originally called ‘The Squadron Bar’)
Next, James gave me some sound advice on shaping the episodes:
- Get great audio
- Plan your episodes and run a thread through the story.
And, best of all, Beth had also agreed to produce the first 2 conversations.
I went away with a lot to ponder. Then Des and I came up with the podcast vision:
By declassifying stigmas and perceptions we want to open up issues around mental fitness and wellbeing, talk in depth about subjects like post traumatic growth and delve into human development on a micro level. Our longterm vision is to provide hope, guidance, support and help for individuals who are suffering from both mental and physical illness or injury.
Once we understood what we had to do, the name of our podcast was obvious – Declassified.
Its definition was perfect – to officially declare (information or documents) to be no longer secret.
Currently we have recorded 40 episodes, achieved nearly 200,000 downloads and have covered topics including: post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, suicide, child carers, tolerance and acceptance, betrayal, mass-trauma, loss, child abuse, as well as domestic violence.
The topics are hard-hitting. But there are major positives to gain hope and inspiration from. Many of our guests have spoke about post-traumatic growth – that is the ability to develop and gain strength from a traumatic experience.
How is it possible that someone as horrendous as a mass murderer can enable people to become a better more well-rounded individual now? Episode 4 with world leading psychiatrist Dr Walter Busuttil explains how post traumatic growth can make us stronger.
Plus, David Wiseman, talks about his post-traumatic growth experience in Episode 12. He is an amazing man who has been to hell and back, yet today stands as a role model to me (and many others). Please check out his episode and book (Helmand to the Himalayas).
All the guests on our Declassified podcast are members of the military community. Their stories have connected with people in ways that I could never have imagined. In some cases, even saving lives.
The podcasts prove that listening to others and understanding you are not alone is often enough for someone to commit to a positive action like contacting a doctor or approaching one of many charities that help (further information can be found here – declassifiedpodcast.com).
The Declassified podcast is a Combat Pest Control project. But it couldn’t have happened without collaboration with the following people:
- Our amazing guests – Brian Wood MC, Terry Brazier, Phil Campion, Dr Walter Busuttil, Simon Harmer, Sean Jones MC, Jordan Wylie, Alexander Khan, David Wiseman, Charlie Martell, Levison Wood, Richard Mearns, Amanda Jones, James Cameron, Paul Watson, Tony Riddle, Gulwali Passarley, Nathan Jones, Nick & Giles English, Dave Henson, Emily Mayhew, Alex Crick, Simon Wesseley Johnny Mercer, Glenn Haughton and many more.
- Steve Brennan from Bespoke Digital, who is helping us to create our wellness plan that works alongside our episodes.
- Mr Gresty who has been with us from the very start and provides all our graphics as well as designing this very book.
Both myself and Des would like to thank the one person that pulls this all together, our producer and friend, Beth Woodbridge. Her guidance, competency and skill have been key. We couldn’t have shared these stories without her.
My final thought to leave you with in this chapter is that this podcast is a great example of what interdependency can achieve. No one individual could have created this on their own. But by combining different skillsets and personalities, we managed to surpass all of our expectations and create something that has had immeasurable impact on people’s lives – Declassifying Stigmas, creating role models and changing the conversation – together.