The Redesigning Wellness Podcast

019: Starting a Passion Conversation around Wellness with Geno Church, Passion Pirate


As I open the interview with a joke about the last time I saw Geno and his wife, Geno ends up opening up about a recent diagnosis with Type 2 Diabetes. Geno’s fear of going to the doctor and potentially finding out if something was wrong with him kept him putting off a check up. When he was hanging out with folks at this year’s Wellness Underground workshop, they convinced him to make an appointment, which he did.

Geno talks about how his diagnosis rocked his world and reveals the judgement and stigma that comes along with diabetes. He also talks about how it affects his work life – from the food celebrations to travel.

Around the 13 minute mark we start talking about Marketing.

Geno explains the difference between Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) and traditional Marketing. Ultimately, they start with people not tactics or campaigns. He still remembers when he was in school and a professor told him this:

“Great work requires a story. Whoever tells their story best wins.”

Geno talks about the importance of employers paying attention to their employees being brand ambassadors and how you should empower them to have a conversation on your behalf.

At Brains on Fire, they believe they’re a pirate ship. He explains why and tells us about how they encourage a democratic process and healthy conflict. Geno tells us how even the youngest workers have a voice and how they inspired a remote work day.

In Geno’s book “The Passion Conversation” talks about the 3 motivations that drive people to talk about businesses or causes. Geno uses his diabetes diagnosis to walk me through these 3 motivation or conversation triggers.

  1. Functional: the nuts and bolts or how we interpret the world. For a disease state it could be health indicators or symptoms (blurry vision, weight loss, etc.) .
  2. Emotional: about what we love and hate; the conversations that take place around emotions of diagnosis. These are mostly face to face conversations (personal or private).
  3. Social: going public or on social media (i.e. with his blood sugar reading)

How can you bind groups of employees together as a tribe and to help them fight their fight together? Signs that you are starting to create a word of mouth wellness movement:

  • constructive criticism (we don’t often follow up on this)
  • positive comments
  • suggestions
  • hearing a secondhand story
  • everyday leadership

Geno’s advice to getting employees involved in their health and that every employee has their own story or journey.

Parting advice “Don’t be just a brand. Take a stand.”


When Breath Turns to Air – coming soon

Geno’s bio:

Geno Church is the Word of Mouth Inspiration Officer at Brains on Fire. Brains on Fire is a tribe of passionate humans and creative rebels who get out of bed each day on a mission: to help their clients become stories people want to be a part of.

Geno shines at uncovering the DNA of sustainable word of mouth movement. He’s a highly sought-after speaker, is widely quoted in blogs and co-author of two books, “Brains On Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable Word of Mouth Movements,” and “The Passion Conversation: Understanding, Sparking and Sustaining Word of Mouth Marketing.”

When he’s not busy strategizing or speaking ‘round the world, you’ll find Geno cheering on the field at Furman Games, cruising in the Mini Cooper and spending time with his wife Jenn and dog, Kingston.