Like most comms folks, you’ve probably been thinking about a new way to engage and reach new audiences. If you read Angela de Burger’s previous article about podcasting, you know how you can use podcasting to forward your mission.

It seems simple enough. You’re going to record yourself or an interview and post it for the world to hear. Like anything done well, it’s not that simple. Here’s a five-step process to get you ready:

  1. Prepare your podcasting strategy
  2. Select your equipment
  3. Plan and record each episode
  4. Edit and produce
  5. Publish and promote
A 5-step process to make #podcasting work for your #nonprofit Click To Tweet

How to make podcasting work for your nonprofit

1. Prepare your podcasting strategy

You need to be strategic. When Diabetes Canada‘s Communications Manager Krista Lamb decided to produce a podcast, she knew it had to fit into their overall communications strategy. Storytelling was already part of their strategy. She knew the organization was open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Lamb knew that she had to put together a plan, outline how it would work, what resources she needed to allocate (which always means not doing something else), and what they could accomplish with minimal extra cost.

Like any long-term complex project, podcasting takes hard work. The Diabetes podcast took a long time to get started, from researching, getting the right equipment, getting people on board, doing the interviews and work, trialling the first 3 episodes. She launched her podcast in August after getting things started in January. Lamb says it was quite a process to get it to where it is now.

Which is why she also says it’s important to be passionate about podcasting. You might feel the itch to podcast like many did to blog not so long ago. Without having a strategy in place, you don’t want your podcast to end up like that early and now ignored blog, collecting virtual tumbleweeds.

Much has changed, in terms of technology, since the early days of podcasting. According to Wayne MacPhail, journalist, consultant and Director of Emerging Media for (and co-founder of the rabble podcast network), when he looked into podcasting 10 years ago, it was tricky to do. Like early web development, there weren’t any online tools for podcast production; it required hand coding. It was a geek thing, not accessible to the average person.

Now, that phone you carry around may be all the technology you need to get started in podcasting. What hasn’t changed is that you need to be strategic.

Your audience, as always, is key

MacPhail says that one of the benefits of podcasting is how personal it feels to listen to. Most people listen to podcasts with headphones. It’s much more personal, no one else is hearing it. The best podcasters speak to an audience of one. They speak to you.

As a podcaster, you need to know who you’re speaking to, and why. For example, MacPhail currently produces a podcast for Ducks Unlimited Canada with a goal of reaching a broader audience. The organization has a solid base of rural, hunter conservationists, but strategically needs to have urban millennials care about wetlands and habitat. In order to do that, Ducks Unlimited needs to come up with stories that would be of interest not just to existing audiences, but also fun stories of interest to those millennials.

As a #nonprofit podcaster, you need to know who you're speaking to, and why #NPMC Click To Tweet

That was also one of the Lamb’s goals. She researched other podcasts about Diabetes to find her niche. Diabetes Canada puts out a great deal of content, through social media, information and their campaigns. While they were targetting new audiences, it was also important for the podcast to complement their existing communications channels. As Lamb says, you need to leverage your existing engaged base and integrate them into your podcast outreach. Even if your goal is to reach new audiences, your current audience will likely be interested in what you’re talking about.

You’ve got your strategy. Time to record, right?

Well. Not yet. Time to choose the type of podcast you’re going to produce, as well as equipment. Our previous article helps you choose the type. Let’s focus on equipment.

2. Select your equipment

There is a range of technology possibilities for podcasting, which impact and are impacted by your approach. No matter what, you want a good microphone. It can be something that plugs into a laptop, or tablet or phone.

When it comes to technology, you may find, as Lamb did, that what you start with may not be where you end up. Based on some research and good reviews, she started with a directional mic and laptop, recording on to Audacity on her Windows laptop. But the quality ended up being hit or miss. Now she’s using a lapel mic connected to her smartphone, which is working.

MacPhail says his iPhone records excellent quality in-person interviews. The Rode SC6 Dual TRRS Input and Headphone Output for Smartphones, and 2 lapel mics gives him a perfect two-person set up, for both audio and video. If he’s recording a Skype conversation, he uses Call Recorder.

There are many ways you can produce your podcast. See the resource links at the bottom of this article for more information and advice.

3. Plan and record each episode

Prepping your interviewees is essential. MacPhail says for shorter interviews, take the time to let your interviewee know how it will all roll out and storyboard it for them and you. You want to have a shape to the conversation, and build the interview towards that. The more you prepare, the easier post-production will be. As well, if your interviewees can prepare a bit they’ll feel more comfortable, and come across more naturally.

For most interviews, it helps to warm up your interviewees. Start recording as you chat with them. Once they’re comfortable, start the formal interview.

Picking questions is important, so be selective about them.You need to be clear and focused on what the story is about, and move the conversation around that narrative. If you’re recording remotely, try to have your interviewee use a landline, or headphones and mic on Skype, in a room free of noise and distraction.

Lamb says a conversation approach works best. In her case, she decided to make the interviews short, 15-20 minutes. The experts she interviews don’t have a lot of time. But there’s really no right length. Some of the most popular and highly rated podcasts are over an hour long. Go where the conversation takes you and worry about time in your next step.

4. Edit and produce

Editing is incredibly important. You want your podcast to be as clean, compelling and easy to listen to as possible.

Editing has become easier as podcasting technology has evolved. Lamb uses Audacity, free Windows recording and editing software. When editing on his Mac, MacPhail uses Hindenburg Journalist. On his iPad, MacPhail edits with Ferrite, offering a one-tool podcasting studio right on his tablet.

When it comes to editing a podcast, you need to decide how produced it should sound. MacPhail says that with higher end corporate podcasting and the success of Serial there is an expectation that podcasts will have higher quality production values than in the past.

How produced your podcast will sound will depend a lot on your time, resources and expertise. MacPhail says the editing process can take an hour or 4 hours depending on the interview, how it rolls out and what level of production you’re aspiring to. A 20-minute piece may be distilled from a 40-minute conversation.  Or it can all also go really well and you won’t have to edit much at all.

Regardless, MacPhail suggests that with current expectations, there needs to be some level of production value in your podcast. Even if that’s just intro music, unique episode introductions, background music, clear story introductions or a call to action at the end, the more you prepare, the higher the quality of your podcast will be.

5. Publish and promote

If you made it this far, you’re ready to publish your podcast! There are a variety of podcast hosting services out there. They generally charge a monthly fee, but are recommended if you’re looking for stable podcast hosting. Lamb uses Blubrry. MacPhail uses Libsyn for the podcast he’s producing for Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Once you’ve published your podcast you need to make sure people can find it. You’ll definitely want your podcast listed on iTunes and Google Play.

Then, your podcast needs to become part of your overall marketing and outreach strategy. What happens in your podcast doesn’t need to stay in your podcast. The audio you’ve just painstakingly produced is content, like any other. Re-use that content in other places on your site. Extract key ideas into a blog post. Use an audio snippet in another article. Like any content you’ve spent time creating, look at your podcast beyond a one-time post. See how you can continue to give it life, refer back to it, and pull out useful themes elsewhere in your communication channels.

Bonus section. In-house or contract out?

There are pros and cons of producing your podcast in-versus out-of-house. Lamb says that she’s really glad they decided to produce in-house. But, she also recognizes that she has a web and tech team to rely on to fill in gaps in her technical knowledge. You may not have the same resources in your nonprofit. According to MacPhail, the advantages of hiring externally are:

  • Turnkey solution – you provide the sources and/or story ideas (in consultation with the producer) and the producer handles everything else.
  • Takes the pressure off internal staff to produce a daily/weekly podcast and learn production, interviewing skills, etc.
  • You don’t need to invest in podcasting gear (although it’s not that expensive)
  • Higher level production values, such as multiple guests, soundscapes, and equipment, such as a production studio can get costly if you do it yourself.

The disadvantages are:

  • Like any external contracting, you need to allocate budget
  • Staff won’t learn new rich media skills
  • You’re beholden to an outside producer
  • Approval processes can take longer because you’re dealing with an external supplier

Does your nonprofit have a podcast? Let us know in the comments!

Resources and further reading:

A 5-step process to make #podcasting work for your #nonprofit Click To Tweet
Marco Campana
Marco has worked in some form of nonprofit communications (frontline client service, website content, digital/social media strategy, technology use in client service), mainly in the immigrant/refugee settlement sector, for the past 20 years. He's very interested in broad nonprofit communications, especially how social media and digital strategy can be used to enhance our work, impact and influence.
Marco Campana
Marco Campana