Expert view: The perils of poor podcasting

In the past year, many organisations have taken the podcasting plunge - Christian Aid, the RSPB, Medecins Sans Frontieres, St John Ambulance and Cancer Research UK, to name only a few.

The arrival of podcasts in the sector has been trumpeted in press releases and the trade press. As someone who is working hard to encourage organisations to think about getting their messages across through audio and other new media platforms, I should be excited.

Instead, I have found myself picking up the phone and suggesting that some organisations completely rethink their podcasts. Some of the audio content I've been listening to across the sector is simply not good enough.

I would go further by saying that bad audio is probably doing organisations more harm than good.

I've heard podcasts with technical quality that is terrible, material that is too long and, most seriously, content that is simply dull. In many cases, I have simply clicked off after a minute.

Like most people, I am extremely busy, and after a bad podcast experience I will think twice about listening again to content sent by the organisation in question. Imagine if I were one of its donors.

So is anyone actually listening? At my presentations, I usually start by asking: "Who knows what a podcast is?" Many individuals put up their hands. I then ask how many people have listened to podcasts. A few raised hands go down. I then ask how many people have listened to any audio content or podcasts produced within or about the sector. All the remaining hands go down.

So, if no one is listening, but there is great interest in the potential for the sector to become podcast-savvy, how can we start creating and cultivating original, innovative and sustainable content?

Here is some basic advice to get us moving forward. Listen to other organisations' content to get an idea of different formats and styles. Be critical: do podcasts convey the messages of the organisations responsible for them?

Give your service users a voice: the fact is that we have fantastic stories within our organisations, so use them. Be yourself: don't compare yourself to the BBC or other broadcasters out there.

Involve your supporters and your staff by getting their ideas and their feedback. Encourage them to record content, because this will make your podcasts sustainable

Finally, keep your podcasts short and to the point: content is king, so if you don't think your content is strong, don't create a podcast.

- Jude Habib is creative director of sounddelivery, a not-for-profit training and communications company.

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