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Who doesn’t love podcasts?! They’re so great. They can be funny, moving, informative and entertaining. You can play them while you drive or walk or do housework, so you don’t have to listen to your own pesky thoughts.

It’s clear why podcasts are so massively popular. Of course when something is popular, that generally means that there will be a very overcrowded market of that thing.

Hearing colleagues say “we should start a podcast!” is a regular heart-sinker for people working in charity digital.  Creating a podcast isn’t just about making some recordings, it’s also going to require that you establish a business case for it, define the audiences, create an ongoing promotion plan, develop a listener base, and much more.

A useful framework for any new content project, not just podcasts, is to work through the idea in this order:

  1. Goal: which of our strategic goals (as defined in our organisational strategy) will this help us achieve?
  2. Audience: who are the audiences that will help us achieve this goal?
  3. Channel: what channels do these audiences use? (This must be evidence based)
  4. Content: what channels will we find this audience on? Do we have evidence that they have an appetite for this topic, and that they would prefer this particular content format over another?

Test before you commit

There’s a low risk way to test if creating a podcast might be appropriate for your cause: look for existing podcasts that cover issues relevant to your cause and that have an established audience. Pitch to them, asking if one of your spokespeople can go on to talk, and see if they’ll let you share some kind of call to action.  Measure the response – does the episode get a decent number of listeners? Does it get good feedback and comments online? Do people respond to the call to action within the podcast?

If you don’t get good results, that should give you a pretty clear indication that creating a successful new podcast may require some additional thought and planning. Or that you may be best placed ‘guesting’ on podcasts that are relevant to your audience, for the time being.

Promotion of your podcast

If you decide to go ahead with a podcast for your charity, you’ll need a promotion plan.  An “if you build it, they will come” mindset is a disaster for digital content projects.  A good rule of thumb is to use the 80/20 rule, with 80% of the resources going into promotion, and 20% going into creation of the podcast.

Look at all the channels (owned, earned, paid)  that you have available for promotion, make a plan and define who will be responsible for ongoing promotion (a short burst to launch it won’t be enough), and where the budget for paid promotion will come from.

Measuring your podcast

Podcasts are not as measurable as many other digital projects, but a few metrics that you can definitely track are:

  • Unique downloads and listeners – look for tools that will track these metrics across all the different places your podcast is available (iTunes, Spotify, etc)
  • Social media engagement – use social listening tools to learn if people are talking about your podcast on social media
  • Trackable calls to actions – be sure to use unique URLs or coupon codes to distinguish podcast traffic from other channels
  • Rankings and reviews 

Karina Brisby’s podcast tips

Digital guru Karina Brisby shared her advice on the practical steps you’ll need to take when creating your podcast. Karina is Head of Digital at Versus Arthritis, has worked with a huge range of digital non-profits, and was the founder of the innovation project ShiftLabs.  Karina created the Good Digital podcast in 2016.

Planning

  • Firstly, have a really clear purpose for the podcast.  Why would someone download yours over another one and what does your organisation or you get out of doing one?
  • Planning takes much more time than you think
  • Make sure that everyone involved is on the same page in regards to the tone, formality, approach and outcomes

Content

  • Think of doing seasons of your podcast. Getting content together for one every week is daunting, but have a season of six episodes, four times a year is much easier to begin with.
  • Featured segments provide a great structure and story telling narrative and really help, if you are struggle for ideas
  • 20 – 30 mins is a good length to aim for when you first start
  • Try to be organised enough to know what you might cover in the next episode so you can promote it at the end of the previous one
  • Intro and outro music and themes for segments can really lift a podcast. There are lots of copyright free and pre-produced ones you can get from the internet, or create your own with samples in an edit tool like Garage Band.

Technical & quality control

  • Make sure that everyone can be clearly heard and always listen to your podcast before you upload it
  • It is really important that location you record in is quiet. It doesn’t have to be a recording studio, and some background noise like your office might add some ambience, but unexpected loud noises, or being able to hear other conversations in the background are distracting. Essentially, sirens  and loud motorbikes are the enemy of podcast recording.
  • Try to use as good quality microphones as you can afford, there are lots of tips online to recommend options
  • I think it is better to do your podcast yourself as you will build skills, but professional agencies can save you lots of time and make a more polished version that might be appropriate for your audience, or can train you up
  • Do a couple of test episodes and share with a test audience to get feedback on what they like, don’t like or think is missing.

Publishing & distributing

  • Soundcloud is essential: it is a great platform to host your podcast episodes, has clear instructions on how to make them discoverable in iTunes and other podcast platforms and also allows for embedding into your website easily
  • Make sure that you set it up so that your podcasts can be discovered on iTunes, Google Play and the other platforms listed below. It can be a bit of a faff, but there are lots of helpful articles
  • Embed the podcast in a blog on your site, with a list with any articles, links or reference you talk about and include key points in your podcast description
  • Use your existing channels to promote your podcast, like your email newsletter, to remind people to listen when each epsiode comes out and profile content

Podcast platforms

For distributing your podcast, you’re going to need a publishing platform that allows you to syndicate the podcast on multiple listening platforms, such as iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play, etc.  Some podcast platforms to explore:

Further reading

by Jean O’Brien and Karina Brisby