Briefing Notes: podcast masterclass with British Red Cross
Speakers: Jude, Annie and Zaina
Jude explained that the podcast was the result of an existing relationship between the British Red Cross and the We are VOICES network, an independent organisation. The podcast was timed to coincide the BRC ‘every refugee matters’ campaign and to support advocacy around the new Borders Bill.
Jude pitched the idea to her colleagues. She had produced media content with the VOICES network but this was different, as refugees and asylum seekers would be the editorial leads. She got the go ahead with funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery and put together the team of around a dozen refugees who were working as ambassadors for the VOICES network. A freelance audio producer, Bridey, was hired.
They began by running a series of workshops for the refugees, training them in podcast production. They listen to a lot of other podcasts, searched out resources, practised with audio diaries etc and then started to talk about the content. It was agreed that each episode would be themed and constructed around a key moment – the heart of the story. There would be no overarching narrative.
Annie explained that the refugees themselves decided the issues that they wanted to talk about. They had several goals for the podcast. They wanted to change perceptions of asylum seekers – they came to the UK out of necessity, not choice. The theme for the series was ‘joy and happiness.’ They wanted the podcasts to feel celebratory.
Zaina explained how they looked for small details to tell stories – she wants a tennis partner but it’s hard because she keeps being forced to move.
The themes they explored included loneliness, journeys, family life, accommodation, everyday life, borders and mental health.
The producers wanted to create a team spirit where there was mutual trust and everyone felt able to share their stories.
The podcasts were aimed at an audience that wanted to know more about the plight of refugees and what their daily lives were like. Their research indicated that many people were supportive but did not have much idea of the actual experience of refugees arriving in the UK. The series has been successful with more than 4,000 downloads and many listeners have signed the BRC ‘every refuges matters’ pledge. The link to the pledge campaign has been important as it gave the podcast team access to comms support and the ability to share clips from the podcasts across social media. The podcasts were not a separate activity but integrated with a wider campaign.
There were some challenges in getting internal sign off for each episode but overall it was much easier than Jude expected. She had to avoid being party political or naming individual politicians as the BRC has to remain politically neutral but they were allowed to broadcast the views and experience of the refugees themselves, however critical of the system they were.
The three speakers shared some of the key lessons that they had learnt in making the podcasts.
Annie said that she had learnt the importance of listening skills, resilience, trust in the team and the process, to be open minded, mindful of yourself and others.
Zaina said that for here the key was collaboration at every stage and to hold onto her passion. Passion was important than having the right skillset.
Jude said that the key lessons for her were bringing a co-production ethos into every element of the production, creating openness, building trust, be ready to change your plans and to go off piste. Working with other BRC teams was a particular challenge as they did not share the co-production ethos.
Dear Lifesaver podcast
The masterclass was followed by a networking session. We invited the presenters of Islamic Relief’s new podcast, Dear Lifesaver, to share their experience. Sara and Nabilah explained how the podcast came about, and spoke about the format and target audience. The initial aim was to engage their Muslim supporters with key development issues. They wanted to take the audience on a journey of learning and to go on that journey themselves. The aim was to choose a simple format which was comfortable and accessible, with Sara and Nabilah interview one guest in each episode and then reflecting on some of the key themes that arose from the interview. They may experiment with other formats in later episodes.