Communications: Case studies 'are the best podcasts'

Podcasting could transform the way charities communicate with their donors and disseminate their messages, yet most are failing to harness its potential.

That was the overriding message from a talk on podcasting held at the Centre for Charity Effectiveness at City University in London last week.

A podcast is an audio clip that can be downloaded online. People can subscribe to regular podcasts in the way they might subscribe to a magazine.

A podcast can also be downloaded onto an iPod or MP3 player and listened to on the move.

Jude Habib, a media consultant who organised the event, said: "It's almost exclusively big companies that are using podcasting for their benefit. Charities have limited resources, but you can buy the basic equipment you need to make a podcast for under £250."

But mastering the technical side of podcasting is not enough, according to Habib. "If the content is no good, people won't come back. It needs to be relevant for the audience.

"Charities have some great stories but can be protective about case studies. By recording them and turning them into podcasts, they can retain control over them."

Nathalie McDermott, the managing director of On Road Media, which provides podcasting training, agreed. "Charities are not exploiting their main asset - their service users," she said. "The few attempts to produce podcasts have not been done that well. People seem to want to emulate BBC Radio 4 rather than use more raw material in which the person is the centre of the story."

Habib argued that podcasting also represents a more effective way of communicating with donors. "Charities should use podcasting to thank their donors every month and give them an update on what they have been doing," she said.

One charity that is an exception to the rule is Unicef, which started podcasting in July last year and has already had 12 million downloads.

Stephen Cassidy, head of internet broadcasting at Unicef, said: "We use podcasting for in-depth treatment of issues - by, for example, producing audio diaries - and for news-based content."

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