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5 Steps to Start a School Podcast

Podcasts have been around for a while, but since the pandemic, they've skyrocketed in popularity. Today, there are between 3-4 million podcasts out there, with some 28 million episodes being released every year. They're popular, and for good reasons: podcasts can be a fantastic way for schools to share stories, give updates, and build a stronger community. They're a passive way to promote your school and deliver content through another medium.

Think of it as your school's very own radio show that people can listen to anytime, anywhere.

Starting a school podcast can be exciting and a great way to connect with students, parents, and staff, and just because everyone seems to have a podcast these days, it's never too late to start producing one for your school. Let's walk through the five key steps to get your school's podcast live on air.

How to Make a Podcast for Schools

Step 1: Define Your Podcast's Purpose and Audience

Before you create a podcast, you need to figure out why you're starting this podcast and who will be listening. Is your goal to share school news, teach something new, or maybe tell stories about what's happening at your school? Knowing this will help you make a podcast that people want to listen to.

Also, think about who your audience is. Are you talking to students, parents, teachers, or maybe all of them? Understanding your audience helps you decide what kind of things you'll talk about and how you'll say them.

When picking a topic or theme for your school's podcast, you should consider questions like these to narrow down what interests you and your target audiences most.

  • Why does this topic matter?
  • Is it something you can converse about naturally?
  • Is it a subject that you can expand on to keep the podcast going?
  • Is there enough controversy around the topic to generate good conversation?
  • Do you have enough information to discuss the subject intelligently?

Podcast Ideas for Schools

To have a successful podcast, you need to know who your target audience will be and be confident in what you want to talk about. It also should be something you're passionate about (if you sound bored talking about it, your listeners will be, too).

Here are some engaging podcast topics that you can explore:

  1. School News Roundup: A weekly update on what's happening around the school – events, sports results, club activities, and more.
  2. School Leadership and Teacher Talks: Interviews with teachers discussing their subjects, teaching methods, and personal interests. This can help students and parents get to know the teachers better.
  3. Student Spotlight: Showcase student achievements, both in and out of school. This could include academic accomplishments, artistic talents, or community service initiatives.
  4. Alumni Stories: Invite past students to share their journey after graduation, how the school influenced their paths, and any advice they have for current students.
  5. Behind-the-Scenes: A look at what goes into running a school, featuring interviews with staff members like librarians, cafeteria workers, and administrative staff.
  6. Book Club: Discuss a book each month, ideally with student participation, diving into themes, characters, and takeaways. This can encourage a love of reading.
  7. Parent's Corner: Address topics relevant to parents, such as tips for supporting students at home, understanding the curriculum, or updates on educational policies.
  8. Career Guidance: Discuss different career paths, interview professionals from various fields, and provide students with insights into different job opportunities.
  9. Arts and Culture Showcase: Highlight school arts programs, including music, drama, and visual arts. Share performances, interviews with student artists, and discussions about the importance of arts in education.
podcast interview with Duncanville Superintendent

Duncanville Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Marc Smith's podcast, "Superintentional," covers a wide range of school leadership topics like building school culture, college preparedness, and support throughout the district.

Step 2: Plan Your Content

When planning your podcast's content, it's not just about picking topics. Here’s a breakdown of other key elements to plan for a successful podcast:

Episode Structure:

  • Introduction: Each episode should start with a consistent intro, maybe a catchy tune or a standard greeting.
  • Main Content: This is where you really get into your topic. Whether it’s an interview, discussion, or news update, keep it engaging and focused.
  • Conclusion: End with a summary or a teaser for the next episode. Always sign off in a way that leaves your listeners looking forward to more.

Length and Frequency:

  • Decide how long each episode should be. A good range for each podcast episode is usually 15-30 minutes.
  • Also, choose how often you’ll release episodes – weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Consistency is key to keeping your audience engaged.

Guest Planning:

  • If you plan on having guests like busy teachers, students, or alumni, schedule them in advance.
  • Prepare a list of questions or topics to discuss with them, but also leave room for spontaneous conversation.

Seasonal and Event-Based Themes:

  • Plan special episodes around school events like homecoming, sports championships, or theater productions.
  • Don't forget seasonal themes like back-to-school episodes, holiday specials, or end-of-year recaps.

Interactive Segments:

  • Consider segments that involve listener interaction, like Q&A sessions where students and parents can submit questions.
  • You could also feature student-created content or shout-outs.

Scripting vs. Improvisation:

  • Decide how much of your podcast will be scripted. Having a script or an outline can keep you on track. However, allow some room for natural conversation, especially during interviews or discussions.

Consistent Themes or Series:

  • Think about having recurring themes or a series. For example, a monthly teacher interview or a weekly student achievement spotlight. This helps in building a loyal listener base who tune in for specific segments.

Novi Community School District Superintendent Ben Mainka hosts the Courageous Curiosity Podcast, which features interviews with students, staff, and community stakeholders. Each 30-minute episode tackles a central question, and while the podcast first airs on YouTube in video format, it’s also on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Overcast.

Step 3: Gather Your Equipment and Software

Once you know the topic/theme of your podcast channel, you need to gather the necessary equipment and software needed to start recording.

To make a podcast, you need some tools, but the good news is that you don't have to spend much money. You'll need a microphone, headphones, and a computer with recording software.

There are lots of options that won't break the bank, and many schools use Zoom recordings for their simplicity. Remember, while fancy equipment can help, the most important part is the content of your podcast.

Getting good sound quality is crucial for your podcast, but you don't need to be a tech expert to achieve this. Here are some straightforward tips for recording high-quality audio:

Choose the Right Microphone:

  • A good microphone is key. You don't need a high-end one, but avoid using your computer's built-in microphone, as it picks up a lot of background noise.
  • USB microphones are a good choice for beginners. They're affordable and easy to use.

Use Headphones:

  • Wearing headphones while recording helps you catch any sound issues like echoes or background noise right away.

Find a Quiet Space:

  • Record in a quiet, closed room to reduce echoes and background noise.
  • Soft furnishings like carpets, curtains, and couches can help absorb sound and reduce echo.

Proper Microphone Placement:

  • Keep the microphone about a fist's distance from your mouth. This helps capture clear sound without the popping noise from 'p's and 't's.
  • Speak directly into the microphone, but not too close to avoid distortion.

Test Your Settings:

Before recording your full episode, do a quick test recording. Listen for any issues like volume levels or unwanted noises.

  • Adjust your microphone placement or room setup if needed.

Using Zoom for Recording School Podcasts

Zoom can be a handy tool for recording your podcast, especially if you're interviewing guests remotely.

  • Sound Settings: In Zoom, check 'Enable Original Sound' in the audio settings. This setting helps maintain better audio quality.
  • Recording Locally: When using Zoom, record the session locally on your computer rather than in the cloud for better sound quality.
  • Separate Audio Tracks: Use Zoom's feature to record separate audio tracks for each participant. This makes it easier to edit later.
  • Stable Internet Connection: Ensure a good internet connection to avoid interruptions or poor audio quality during the recording.
  • Post-Recording Editing: After recording, you may still need to edit the audio to balance sound levels or remove any awkward pauses.

Step 4: Record and Edit Your Episodes

Once you have everything, it's time to start recording. Find a quiet place without background noise. Speak clearly and try to sound friendly and excited about what you're talking about.

After recording, you might need to trim your podcast with some editing software. This means cutting out parts where you maybe messed up or paused for too long. Editing helps make your podcast sound smooth and professional.

Step 5: Publish and Promote Your Podcast

After your podcast is ready, you need to share it with the world. You can put it on podcast platforms like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This way, people can find and listen to your podcast easily.

Remember to tell people about it! Share it on your school's website, social media, and newsletters. As a form of content, it's important that you get into the habit of promoting it, sharing it, and repurposing it for the future. The more you talk about your podcast, the more listeners you'll attract.

When you upload your podcast, it is important to include an appropriate title related to what the podcast show is about, tags/keywords that best relate to the content of the show, and a brief description. You will also want to create original artwork for your show that displays on streaming services.

Screenshot of St Andrew's podcast

One way to promote it is on your website. For example, Baylor School and St. Andrew's School have created website pages dedicated to their Podcasts, where you can access an archive of great content. On both websites, you can filter by the type of content you are looking for, personalizing the user experience.

Screen of Baylor School podcast

One effective way to drive traffic to your podcasts is to blog about each episode when it launches. This way, you can easily share across your social networks. You can do this with ease using Finalsite Posts.

Expand your promotion to social media as a way to engage with your followers, grow listenership, and offer a new piece of content on your platforms - and while you're at it, creating a branded hashtag for the podcast channel could be an added bonus to track engagement and how often followers are talking about your podcast!

Key Takeaway

Podcasts offer schools a unique way to tell their stories, update their community, and strengthen connections. Whether sharing news, teaching something interesting, or telling stories about school life, they're a great way to share a unique voice and message for your school. And even though it might feel like everyone has a podcast these days, there's always room for one more — especially one that speaks directly to your school community with content that matters to them.

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