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5 Steps to Start A School Podcast
Stephanie Griffin

Close to 112 million Americans have listened to a podcast, and close to 42 million of them listen on a weekly basis. Upon discovering such popularity around podcasts early in 2016, Finalsite's Marketing and Communications Manager Hadley Rosen created FinalsiteFM. Since then, the channel has established four shows with nearly 30 podcast episodes to date and thousands of returning listeners. As the newest member of the FinalsiteFM production team, I've enjoyed working with the Finalsite staff on these different shows that each cover important topics affecting schools today in their own unique way. Then it dawned on me - anyone can really start a podcast, even a school, and some are already setting the bar high.

FinalsiteFM Network Page

Lucky for you, it's never too late to start a podcast. If you're considering starting a podcast show for the new school year, here are five easy steps to follow:

Step 1: Create the Topic Of Your Podcast

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).

Think of your podcast show as a tree: your roots are your passion and theme; your trunk is the show itself; and the branches are the different topics that will be hosted on that show.

CDS Stories Podcast

A great example of a school with a successful podcast strategy is Covenant Day School. Their podcast channel focuses on the school's community. Each episode highlights a different perspective of the school behind the scenes by its own teachers, students, parents, and others in the community.

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

  • 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?

Each FinalsiteFM show focuses on something different for schools! Hear the latest on our podcasting network.

Listen Now

Step 2: Determine the Right Equipment You Will Need

Once you know the topic/theme of your podcast channel, you need to gather the necessary equipment and software needed to start recording. From experience, having a good quality microphone, pair of headphones, sound mixer, and recorder are the most important (along with the necessary cables to connect every device into the mixer).

Microphone/Headphone Bundles

If your school does not have a designated room or studio to record podcasts, start out with an IK Multimedia iPhone/iPod Podcasting Bundle, which includes a microphone, stand, and pair of headphones. You should order a set for each person participating in the podcast if possible (so 2 at minimum). This equipment is easy to transport and record podcasts remotely.

If you do have the space to set up a podcast studio, go for the Rode Procaster Studio Kit along with the Two-Section Broadcast Arm to mount the microphone and stands to a table in the studio. Again, you should order a set for each person participating in the podcast

Sound Mixer

Regardless if your podcast will be recorded on the go or in a studio, you will need a sound mixer. I recommend the Behringer XENYX 802 8-Channel Compact Audio Mixer that we use for FinalsiteFM, as it is very user-friendly for all skill levels. This is where you will connect all of your equipment using cables.

Recorder

To record the audio of your podcast to upload into your computer after, the Tascam DR-05 Portable Handheld Digital Audio Recorder is a user-friendly recorder where you can upload your podcast recording files with ease on your computer through a USB cable. We also use this for FinalsiteFM.

Cables

To connect all your equipment to the sound mixer, cables are a necessity. We recommend these Hosa Technology Stereo cable that will connect into your recorder, and the Kopul Studio Elite cables that will connect into your microphones.

Tartan Talk Podcast

Risa Engel, Director of Marketing and Communications at Stuart Country Day School, recently shared how FinalsiteFM influenced the start to their school podcast, TartanTalk.

"We started podcasting last year after I attended a session at 2016 FinalsiteU on podcasting led by Hadley Rosen and Tim McDonough. We had been thinking about doing a podcast before, but didn't really know where to start," said Risa. "Hadley shared the list of equipment Finalsite had purchased. We pretty much purchased the same equipment, set up in a music room, and invited our first guest. Last year we recorded four podcasts."

Step 3: Find The Best Software To Record and Edit Your Podcast

Once you have the equipment you'll need, it's time to install the necessary software you will use to record and edit the podcasts.

Many schools, as well as Finalsite at one point, use the free program Audacity to upload and edit the podcast audio. Since joining the production team, I've edited all podcasts in Adobe Audition, from Adobe Creative Cloud Suite, as it's easy to mix multiple tracks into one file and makes editing a breeze.

If you end up needing to record your podcast on-the-go or end up needing to recording a podcast over the phone with individuals remotely, we have also heard of many podcasts being recorded using programs like Skype and Go-To-Meeting that will pick up the sound from a computer or phone. Keep in mind, the audio quality may not be as best as it would be with a microphone in-person, but the sound quality of these programs do work well enough to have your podcast sound great, even if it's recorded remotely.

Step 4: Publish Your Podcast Live

Congratulations on recording your first podcast! If you're looking for a program to upload the podcast and connect automatically to iTunes, I recommend Libsyn, the same website we use for FinalsiteFM. The cost to use the site per podcast channel is just $5 a month, so if you only have one show for your entire school, it will be $60 a year.

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. For example, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School has its podcast channel branded nicely on iTunes with this artwork and description.

MV Stories Podcast

Once you publish the podcast through your podcasting streaming service, there's one more step to publish the podcast on iTunes. You'll need to create an account with iTunes Connect and connect your podcast show to your account. We were able to connect iTunes with Libsyn through these easy steps.

Other schools like Covenant Day School strictly use Soundcloud because it's free to use and easy to upload your podcast audio as well. Once you upload a podcast on Soundcloud, you're able to share automatically on most social networks, or retrieve an embed code if you'd like to upload it onto your website.

Step 5: Promote & Repurpose as a Piece of Content

A podcast is a great piece of content that you can share across your website, social media, email newsletters, and more. It's another way to showcase your students, faculty, staff, parents, and community, in a way that some of your competitor schools may not be doing yet.

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.

One way to promote it is on your website. For example, Baylor School and St. Andrew's School that 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.

St. Andrew's School Podcast Page

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! For instance, I always use the hashtag #FinalsiteFM when promoting our podcasts for Finalsite.

For Stuart Country Day School, podcasts have now become part of their overall content marketing strategy. "Our podcast, TartanTalk, is mission driven - it's designed to give parents access to advice and insight into raising confident young women leaders," said Risa. "We try to re-purpose podcast content in magazine articles, blogs, and news items on the website. It's been a great investment of time and resources for us. My advice to other schools is to just take the plunge. Read a blog post or watch a YouTube instructional video. It's not that complicated. Once you get the first one under your belt, you'll be excited to do the next."

Find inspiration from the schools mentioned in this blog:

Covenant Day School

Stuart Country Day School

St. Andrew's School

Baylor School

Now you're ready to start a podcast! Let us know if you start one this school year and we may feature you in an upcoming blog! Email us at marketing@finalsite.com.


Content Mapping Toolkit
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie Griffin

Stephanie brings a fresh new marketing perspective with her background in social media, communications, and radio broadcasting. She is a co-producer for the FinalsiteFM podcast network and is passionate about helping schools stay ahead of their marketing goals by tracking new trends and developments. She is also a practicing singer/songwriter and loves to expand her creativity in DIY projects.


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