Dec 08

How to Start a Podcast

If you’re searching for a new way to educate, inform, inspire and entertain your students, consider starting a podcast.

“The podcast format is a great way to share content outside of formal programs and events,” said Lauren Irwin, the coordinator for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Center for Leadership and Service. Irwin oversees production of the center’s “Get the Lead Out” podcast, which features 10-minute conversations with students about their community involvement and leadership experience. “In addition to the more active forms of programming we do, like leadership workshops, the podcast provides short bites of leadership education and exploration.”

Wondering how to begin your own podcast? Read on for some tips.

Have a Strategy

“It’s really important to have a strategy before you start,” said Jason McCann, associate director of Career Services at Harvard Law School. “Knowing what you’ll be focusing on makes it easy to build your program right away.”

McCann is in charge of the “Practice Area Podcast Series,” which explores different private sector litigation areas through interviews with law firm recruiters or practitioners.

“We realized that we had lots of competition for our live programming on these sectors, making it difficult for students to learn about so many different practice areas,” McCann said, explaining that students don’t have enough free time to attend every program they’re interested in. “Podcasts are a really innovative way to communicate with students that allows them to listen to a topic on their own time.”

Ruben Britt, assistant director of Rowan University’s Career Management Center (CMC) and host of its podcast, advised that you choose a theme by analyzing where your students need more guidance or advice. That’s how he and his team developed the focus of “Career Talk,” a monthly show featuring employment advice.

“We cover the key things students need to know,” Britt said. “Our main subjects are resumes, self-assessment, finding the right career and interviews.”

Develop a Guest List

After you pick your focus, think about who you’ll want to bring on the show. While guests aren’t necessary, they’ll help keep the podcast interesting, relevant and useful.

Britt recommended interviewing employers.

“Students love hearing from the people who make the hiring decisions,” he said.

Other “Career Talk” guests have included alumni, current students and Rowan University staff.

Meanwhile, most of the guests on the Harvard Law school podcast have been law firm employees. “They’ve been really receptive to this because it’s basically a zero-cost way of marketing their law firms to students,” McCann said.

Form Your Team

All three organizations produce their podcasts with student help. Irwin works with four graduate students, Britt works with six graduate students and McCann works with three “Peer Advisors,” who are students at the law school.

“Podcast production is a great, hands-on project for students to tackle, especially those with an interest in media or journalism,” Irwin said.

Eli Williams, a graduate student who helps develop Cal Poly’s podcast, is excited about the project.

“Our podcast highlights the many faces of leadership on campus,” said Williams, 23, and a first year student in the Counseling & Guidance master’s degree program in Education. “No interview is exactly the same, which shows students that leadership can be applied to any number of passion projects.”

When you’re developing your podcast, consider bringing in students who already work in your office or opening up applications for a podcast internship. McCann and Britt also recommend pairing with the IT or Media Services department at your school. Involving both students and other departments will help you manage the program without taking extensive time away from your other roles.

While Irwin said that the initial work that goes into starting a podcast can be fairly intense, reaching students in a new, different and flexible way is worth it.

McCann had similar thoughts.

“Podcasts really fit into our communication strategy,” he said. “We’re covering topics we know are essential, but in a different way—with audio rather than live programs or the written word. Students have a lot of things pulling at their attention, so we need to make sure we’re presenting good content in an interesting way.”

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