In 2012, after ten years in radio, this producer and journalist defected to public sector comms… but is now about to fire up his reel-to-reel recorder one more time to launch an all-new comms and pr podcast.
by Adrian Stirrup
In May this year, a podcast series called S-Town went live and the world went mad for it. It got 40 million – yes, 40 MILLION – downloads in just four weeks. In the podcast world, S-Town’s popularity is a thing of wonder and awe, and to everyone else, it’s a testament to the growing popularity of the medium.
If you’re not ‘into’ podcasts, they’re pre-recorded audio files that can be created by anyone and uploaded onto the internet. Listeners can stream the file from their computer, phone or tablet, or download it to listen to later. If you like a podcast, you can subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.
If you haven’t guessed… I. Love. Podcasts. My phone is currently subscribed to 55 of them, and I devour them to help me through my epic commute every day (two hours each way! Thanks, London property prices). And I’m not alone in listening while commuting. The most recent figures from RAJAR/IpsosMori (December 2016) showed that the peak listening time is between 8.15 and 8.30am, Monday to Friday.
Why do I love podcasts? Their beauty is elegantly simple. Because they are so easy to create, there is a podcast for *everything*: films, TV, music, history, motivation, feminism, comedy, poetry, Brexit (for and against), true crime, drama, health, religion, sport, tech – and this is barely scratching the surface.
So I’m doing a podcast about communications. For you lot.
At the recent London Podcast Festival, I went to a seminar on How To Be A Podcast Producer. The presenter, Ben Green, is a podcast producer of many years and his enthusiasm was utterly infectious. I floated out of there.
I’ll share some of his Golden Rules of Podcasts (which, having written them down, could pretty much be golden rules for working in comms):
1. Don’t be bland
2. Learn from your mistakes and feedback
3. Create content that fascinates you
4. Be unique
5. Be brutal with your editing
6. Make sure you have a blend of voices and viewpoints
7. Interact with your audience
8. There are no rules!
And it’s the ‘no rules’ rule that I love about podcasts and the challenge that lies ahead. I’ve never done this before, it might kill me and it might be absolute shit but I’ve got a creative itch I need to scratch.
One of the things I was most passionate about when I was a radio journalist and producer was sculpting and moulding voices, music, background noise and sound effects into a coherent and engaging story. And stories, as we all know, are at the heart of our jobs as communicators.
And I miss using pure audio as a creative way to tell powerful stories. In my day job as internal comms officer at Brent Council, I don’t often get the chance to – here’s that metaphor again – scratch that itch. Or at least not yet. I would absolutely LOVE to try work-based podcasts as a new internal comms channel but I have to be realistic and, for now, realise there are more pressing issues between 9am and 5pm.
So what’s the podcast going to be about? There will hopefully be interesting discussions, talking points and interviews with people in the know, tapping into their knowledge and skills. I want it to be engaging, useful and fun. It’s been drilled into me that evaluation is king, so you must tell me if it’s none of those things!
And I’m not doing it alone, you’ll be relieved to hear. Darren Caveney (of this comms2point0 parish) has gamely agreed to be my co-host, and we’ll be on the lookout for more co-hosts and contributors in the coming weeks and months.
The name of the podcast is under wraps for now and we hope to have the pilot episode ready in… let’s just say the coming weeks.
Thanks to the lovely people at LGcommunications, we’ll be recording a few interviews at their Academy event in Leeds on 18-19 October. Please do pop over and say hello (on or off tape), and it’d be great to speak to you if you want to get involved. Or email me.
In the meantime, I’d really appreciate it if you could complete my quick survey about podcasts – whether you listen to them or not.
And please, when the pilot episode does ‘drop’, do download it. I’d love to give S-Town a run for its money.
And if you’ve got a creative itch lurking around… go on, give it a scratch.
Adrian Stirrup is internal communications lead at Brent Council
image via Mennonite Church