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Podcasting in charities: what you need to know

14 December 2018

We’ve been podcasting at CharityComms for over seven months now with five episodes in the bag. We made the decision to do it in-house and we’ve learned a lot. Podcasting is having a revival so it’s no wonder more and more charities want to explore the channel.

We’ve also been contacted by loads of people who want to start podcasting in charities, which is wonderful to see. As podcast devotees, we can’t get enough of them and can’t wait to see what charities create.

Every experience will be different but here are some of the things we’d like to pass on having started one ourselves.

Purpose, audience and outcomes

It’s easy to get caught up in the technology, wondering who should host and how long the jingle should be, but really, having a clear purpose (why), a contained audience (who) and desired outcomes (what and how) will help guide the project.

It will also help you decide whether a podcast is right for you, which is crucial. We spent two years developing the concept and researching the idea at CharityComms before publishing an episode, spending as much time a possible talking to podcasters, shadowing podcast recordings and attending events. The length of time doesn’t matter but getting to the heart of whether this is a channel your audience wants to hear this content on, and how podcasting suits the content, is critical.

Finding your voice and rhythm

As communicators we spend a lot of time thinking about visual identity, but very rarely do we focus on our ‘sound’. This becomes acutely obvious when you start a podcast.

We went back to our brand values and the things our members said they like about us. We’ve been described as friendly, approachable and “professional not slick”. We borrow from our written tone of voice, which is “informal, yet informed”. If you have a video lead in your organisation, they might be able to help you with this.

For jingles, we went with royalty-free stock content. The risk is that this might be used on other podcasts; it could be on a podcast that’s very different to your content, evoking certain emotions in your listeners. But the benefit is it’s really simple.

Alternatively, you might know someone in your network who could create a jingle for the podcast in exchange for a regular shout out. Get creative. You may want to also consider transitions and added sound elements which help tell the story of your podcast, such as applause, doors opening, mood loops and phone dial tones.

The kit and setup

Although there’s isn’t a whole lot of kit required, you get what you put in and a bit of investment matters. For our first episode, we used a low budget USB mic, something knocking about in the back of the CharityComms cupboards. It was ok, but sound quality was the recurring sore point when people gave us feedback. Since then, we’ve upgraded to some lightweight gear and its really paid off. If you can’t afford to spend any money for decent mics and a sound recorder, or book some studio time, podcasting might not be for you.

We had two options – do it in-house with our own kit or go to a studio. We’ve opted for using our own kit; the benefit is we’re very nimble. We basically need a quiet room but otherwise we could podcast from anywhere. We’re able to record all the talks from our conferences and even go to the offices of our interviewees. This episode from the NSPCC was recorded in one of their meeting rooms.

But it means the sound quality is lower as we’re never in a soundproofed room. The episodes need more editing than studio quality. The benefit of a studio is that you don’t need to think about kit and just focus on content. You pay to rent the equipment, and in some studios, a sound technician will support you. However, if a guest cancels last minute, you might have to bear the cost.

Sushi owns the kit personally and lends it to CharityComms. She estimates she’s invested around £800 to get started. If you’d like more detail on the kit used, you can find it here. Robyn edits the episodes on Adobe Audition CC but the first three episodes of the podcast are edited with the free audio editor, Audacity. Google and community groups are invaluable when editing; we’ve collected a bank of saved articles and support websites to consult.

Marketing and promotion

The work to build your podcast episodes is very labour intensive. Just like any project, there can be a temptation to publish and leave. Podcasts need a marketing plan. Here are some things to consider.

  • Post in the network spaces your audience exist in – we cross-promote in Facebook Groups and Slack channels, as well as asking our influencers to share
  • Cross promote where possible – are there podcasts you can guest on and bring them on in exchange?
  • Pull out teaser content – this can be staggered to build up to a release date and help extend the life of your podcast. We use Wavve to create soundbites that animate for social.

The stuff no one tells you

Uploading to the Apple podcast app. We knew the majority of our podcast listens would come from the Apple podcast app just by analysing the Google Analytics Mobile Device data of our website. Most hosting platforms (we use Audioboom) will help you syndicate to Apple podcast. Apple has a couple of stipulations:

  • You might need a Mac to set up an Apple account. In our tiny team, we don’t have any Macs but thankfully one of our members was able to help us out.
  • To comply with Apple podcast logo requirements, your logo must be a JPEG or PNG file, must be in the RGB color space and must be between 1400 x 1400 pixels and 3000 x 3000 pixels at 72 DPI. Find out more about podcast cover art.

Editing takes time – be prepared. If you’re editing yourself, make sure you mark out a significant amount of time – then double it. Don’t forget to factor in time for someone to proof your content, just like you would for written content. And never underestimate how helpful Google and Youtube are for teaching yourself.

Podcast analytics are really basic. Unlike sophisticated video analytics, with view through rate and drop-off, podcast analytics basically allow you to track listen, location and demographic info. In 2017, Apple Podcast launched a beta podcast analytics service featuring more sophisticated metrics like total time listened and time per device.

Accept some costs. Even if you manage to keep costs down, like borrowing kit or getting pro bono studio time, you still need to host your podcast online. Consider reserving some budget so you’re not caught short.

Try it out with a test

Give it a go. Start recording yourself speak, start writing down some ideas, or commit to a pilot. Some people have told us they’re having an ideation day to develop a concept and test a pilot. Some people created a short series to try it out and see what they think.

Keep getting in touch – we’re always up for a coffee or phone call. We took two years to develop the podcast before launching our first episode, spending a lot of our time talking to anyone who would about it. These conversations were valuable to making it what it is today.

Additional resources

If you haven’t already, join the Podcasters’ Support Group on Facebook run by The Allusionist podcast host Helen Austwick Zaltzman.

If you’re using Audacity to edit, the Audacity to Podcast blog and podcast (a podcast about podcasting, so meta) is a fantastic resource to troubleshoot many issues. Sushi also used this blog extensively before making purchases for kit.

The CharityComms Podcast

Listen on AudioBoom from your desktop or download from Spotify or from the podcast app on your iPhone. 

Banner photo: Israel Palacio on Unsplash

Susheila Juggapah

senior digital supporter retention officer, Scope

Sushi joined Scope in October 2018 to support retention of Scope's monthly subscription product, Mindful Monsters, an exciting way for families to explore mindfulness. She previously worked at CharityComms and continues to host the CharityComms podcast with Robyn. Sushi has worked with various charities and non-profits for the past eight years, specialising in digital communications and supporter journeys.

Robyn Lewes

communications assistant, The Health Foundation

Robyn joined The Health Foundation in 2019 after spending three years at CharityComms. Before Robyn came on board with CharityComms, she studied an MA in gender studies at SOAS. Outside of working hours, Robyn volunteers with the Schools Consent Project, working on its social media channels.