Top tips for NGO podcasters
This month we are taking a closer look at podcasts. Many of our members have launched their own. They talk about the lessons they have learnt to Katie Tiffin, IBT’s communications and membership officer #welovepodcasts
Podcasts are special – they have a real impact on their audience compared with every other type of media. More than half of listeners say they talk to friends and family about what they have heard or research more about the podcast’s topic. Not surprisingly, many NGOs have launched their own podcasts, but there’s a real challenge – to make your podcast stand out from a very crowded market.
1. Choose your guests carefully
Guests are the essence of your podcast so choosing the right contributors is crucial. Podcasts thrive on storytelling so look for someone who has a gift for explaining, not someone who has lots of facts at their fingertips.
Think about diversity. Kate Green, who produces IIED’s Make Change Happen podcast, says they had initially planned to showcase the organisation’s researchers but realised that it was important to hear from marginalised voices and to have a panel that was balanced in terms of race and gender.
Be flexible with your guests. María Faciolince who presents Oxfam’s Power in the Pandemic podcast says that you need to be able to change your approach to meet the needs of guests from different backgrounds. One of her guests, a Rohingya refugee, did not have enough internet bandwidth to record the podcast so they had to use WhatsApp voice notes instead.
Finding guests who connect with your target audience is important. Greg Armfield from WWF wanted to use the Call of the Wild podcast to connect with a younger audience so they decided to include guests not typically associated with environmental issues.
2. Prepare your guests so they know what to expect
Some producers meet their guests first whilst others opt for a more spontaneous conversation.
Kate prefers to have a meeting to check everyone’s tech is working, chat about the podcast’s format and the topics it will cover and ensure that guests feel comfortable and confident.
Katerina Bezgachina, from Habitat for Humanity, says that when they did the first series of their Home Sapiens podcast they sent guests a list of questions in advance. This sometimes led to jargon-heavy answers so now they plan to take a more relaxed approach, just letting guests know the topic but no list of questions.
3. Be creative about how you connect with your target audience
Understanding who you’re trying to reach with your podcast and researching your target audience is of course essential. Greg from WWF found out that the fastest growing podcast audience in the UK is people aged 16 – 24. WWF tends to engage with a slightly older demographic so they decided to use their Call of the Wild podcast to connect with this younger audience.
Similarly, Oxfam’s Power in the Pandemic team thought their podcast would resonate with a younger audience. María Faciolince recognised that a lot of this potential audience would be on Instagram so she created an account linked to the podcast to draw in listeners from outside their network.
4. Don’t forget sound quality
With many podcasts being made by organisations with professional recording equipment podcast listeners now expect high quality sound.
Abigail Watson, who co-presents Saferworld’s Warpod, says their podcast initially lost a lot of listeners due to poor sound quality, so they invested in new headphones, a microphone and switched to recording in a room with less echo. These changes have made a big difference to the listening experience.
5. Keep measuring your audience impact
Unlike other forms of media, audience size alone isn’t always the best indicator of success as podcasts tend to attract smaller but more dedicated audiences.
Abigail says they try to ‘keep tabs on who is listening and how much they are enjoying or learning from it’. Anchor, the platform used to upload their podcast, is helpful for statistics such as audience age and where they are based.
Analysing audience data is not the only way to measure your podcast’s success. Abigail says the Warpod team reach out to people via email to find out if they are listening and what they think of the podcast. Katerina from Habitat for Humanity says that when new episodes were released they noticed that they gained new social media followers which indicated that the podcast was achieving their aim of connecting with an audience outside their usual network.
6. Experiment with different ways of marketing
There are more than 2 million podcasts available on the Apple Index so effective marketing is important so that listeners can find your podcast.
Kate says they created a Twitter account for IIED’s Make Change Happen podcast so their listeners had a separate space to access information on the podcast without it getting lost in IIED’s organisational accounts.
María from Oxfam says the Instagram account they created for the podcast is useful for sharing multimedia content related to it, but it’s not essential and can lead to a lot of extra work.
Promoting your podcast doesn’t have to revolve around social media. IIED’s podcast was promoted in the organisation’s newsletters and specially-created email footers, which they noticed did generate extra traffic.
7. Make your podcast accessible to a range of audiences
Podcasts present obvious accessibility issues which can limit their reach particularly for deaf audiences. Providing a transcript of each episode is an important first step. Kate from IIED says they upload each podcast episode to YouTube with a full transcript in the description. To improve accessibility each episode of Oxfam’s Power in the Pandemic podcast is also turned into a blog which covers the highlights.
Looking for more advice on starting a podcast? IBT members can access our report Podcasts: Where next? which covers insights into the podcast landscape and creating a podcast from podcasting experts and our members.