Blog- Starting a Podcast Series

Podcasts are an increasingly popular way for people to get to grips with a topic in informal settings- commuting, walking the dog or during a long drive. Before starting work at Public Health Wales I was already hooked on the flexible listening of a few high quality titles- 'Radio Lab', 'Only Human' and 'Inside Science' to name a few. 

I'm not the only one- podcasts have been something the team at Public Health Network Cymru have received numerous requests for over the past year or so. My role is about improving communication channels between policy makers, practitioners and researchers so this felt like something exciting to get involved with.

We pulled together a small team (of three) but I found it daunting knowing where to start with the first ever podcast as there seemed to be so much to consider- structure, content, recording, editing and a platform to publish on. Finding interesting people to ask for interviews was easy- fitting into their schedules was the hard part! I learnt that reaching out to people who are passionate about their work and have stories to tell is the best way to create engaging content and that it can be a networking opportunity too- even if the people you contact say no at the time, at least you'll be 'on the radar' and the situation might change in the future.

Having someone who knows about recording and editing proved incredibly helpful but it's not impossible to learn from scratch. Two members of the PHNC team (Sarah and Sorin) are quite knowledgeable about audio through their interests outside of work so they ordered the microphone (we chose one from Yeti) and did the sound checks for interviews on location. Initially, I wanted to create a 30-40min episode like the ones I'm used to hearing on established platforms but it soon became apparent that the level of time and effort that goes into creating an episode of that quality wasn't achievable for a first timer- I'd come in with an impossibly high bar through listening to professional podcasts on a regular basis. 

Sending over the key questions before we arrived helped interviewees to feel prepared so that they weren't caught off guard- a common concern of people in roles with responsibility for key health messages. We also found that assuring people that they could listen to the edited version and provide feedback helped. After all, the aim is to promote accurate messages and increase understanding of public health issues.

I hadn’t previously used audio editing software and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to learn Adobe Audition through watching a few YouTube videos. Having to listen to the sound of your voice takes some getting used to and I edited a lot of 'ums' along the way but after a few hours, the episode was ready. We have recently released our first podcast with others waiting to be published over consecutive weeks. The speed at which the projects and people involved have changed has taught us not to record too far in advance as episodes risk becoming out of date quickly. For example, we interviewed a team at the 'Communities First' initiative not long before they found out their project funding was being discontinued.

My advice to anyone looking to start up a podcast series is to focus on what will be interesting to the listeners, invest in a quality microphone and block out sufficient time for editing and promoting so that you can showcase the final product that you’ve invested effort into.