Published: 22 June 2018

Podcast power: how charities can make the most of the resurgence

These days, you’d be forgiven for assuming video is the only type of content which can truly captivate an audience.

After all, we are surrounded by video all the time on social media through a dazzling array of clips, GIFs and
Boomerangs. But it’s important not to overlook audio as a platform. Despite its much-anticipated decline, radio remains the great survivor of traditional media.

According to Rajar, 90% of adults in the UK listen to live radio with millennials the fastest growing group downloading podcasts. Figures show 18% of 9 to 14-year-olds listen to podcasts each week, on average for 41 minutes.

Podcasting has long been a way for people to creatively tell stories, as the barrier to entry is low and it’s a good way to find targeted audiences. Traditional media is investing heavily in podcasts and advertising in the UK market is growing rapidly.

Towards the end of last year, I started producing podcasts for Haven House Children’s Hospice. It’s something which few hospices do but I believe podcasts are a simple and valuable way to enhance storytelling. Our core audience consists of young mums who live locally to the hospice in North-East London and West Essex. They lead busy lives looking after their children and may not always have time to read in-depth articles and long newsletters. Podcasts form part of our wider communications strategy to make it easier to reach younger audiences with content that is short and engaging.

The great strength of audio has always been the ability to put an interviewee quickly at ease through the simplicity of the production process. It’s a case of finding somewhere quiet, pressing record, and having a conversation. The focus is solely on the voice and few things are more powerful than the human voice.

For staff and service users who are not familiar with media interviews, podcasts are also a great way to build confidence. There are times when it’s simply not feasible to film an interview. When I worked in journalism, I was always struck by how many times people felt able to share sensitive and powerful stories for radio but not television.

Podcasts come in all shapes and lengths, but I like to keep mine to around five minutes and follow the format of a radio ‘package’; a pre-recorded interview topped and tailed with an intro and outro. All you need is a broadcast quality audio recorder, which you can buy for under £100, and basic editing software (I use Audacity which is free to download).

One of the first podcasts I recorded was with a young fundraiser who has helped raised more than £111,000 for Haven House in the seven years since her older sister died from an inoperable brain tumour. Childhood bereavement is not a subject that hospices often talk about in their PR and to hear a young person speak candidly about what it’s like to lose a sibling was powerful and thought-provoking.

The results so far from our podcasts have been really encouraging. In total they have been listened to more than 300 times and the feedback from our families and staff has been really encouraging. Staff who were previously hesitant of being recorded are now feeling inspired to talk about their roles and participate in wider media activities.

With podcasts, it’s possible to replicate the quality, tone, and intimacy of radio with just a basic level of editing and minimal resources. There are plenty of free licensing websites where you can download music and sound effects to enhance your audio. So why not get creative and make 2018 the year your charity starts producing podcasts?

You can listen to our podcasts here.


More like this:

Love podcasts? Check out the CharityComms podcast, available on AudioBoom from your desktop or download from Spotify or from the podcast app on your iPhone.

Hear more about podcasting from Scott at our small charities communications conference this July

Image: The Haven House


Scott Roberts, PR, communications and celebrity manager, Haven House Children's Hospice

Scott Roberts is a former broadcast journalist who works in PR and communications for the charity sector. He joined Haven House Children’s Hospice in September 2015 and was previously at Terrence Higgins Trust.