Social Media

The Power of Podcasting
By JOE SANFELIPPO/School Administrator, November 2018

IT’S LIKE CLOCKWORK. Certain songs come on the radio when I’m in the car, evoking an immediate response. I go from mild-mannered superintendent to on-stage rock ’n’ roll star. It doesn’t matter who is in the car — they all get a concert. When Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” hits the airwaves, look out. For four minutes and 11 seconds, I am part of the band.

Audio is an incredibly powerful way to tell stories. The great storytellers rule the world. For hundreds of years, people have gathered to listen to the stories of the past. We want to listen to compelling tales, and when we can feel the emotion in narrative, we are moved and connected.

When I am not listening to stories being told through song, I turn to audiobooks and podcasts as my go-to information sources. They allow me to connect to new ideas, but in a way that taps into the emotion of the learning. People in demanding work roles don’t have the time to listen to a complete audiobook. This is where my entrée into the world of podcasts has been so valuable.

Starting Points
As school system leaders, we come to realize a few things about the communities we serve. First and foremost, everyone and everything are battling for our attention. Clearly, I am a strong advocate for social media, but it has changed the game when it comes to the immediacy of information.

Second, we must find a way to meet people where they live, both face to face and virtually. According to the Census Bureau, the average adult worker spends 25.4 minutes commuting daily. We also do dishes, go for walks, clean the house and ride bikes for exercise. All are times when we can’t completely concentrate on reading a blog post, magazine article or social media feed, but we can listen to a story. Podcasting can be the platform that keeps us connected.

For those unfamiliar with this medium, I offer a few starting suggestions.

» The why before the what.
Comedian Michael Jr. states “when you know your why, your what has more impact because you are walking in or toward your purpose.” Knowing the why of the podcast helps you develop what you want to put in each episode. Revisit the why as part of your intro or podcast description so people have a reason for listening.

» Don’t be perfect. Be consistent.
I often hear people say they don’t want to start a podcast because they don’t have everything perfect. The intro music, the opening script, the catchy exit — all the factors holding the individual back from putting something out there. News flash! The story trumps the intro every time. Find great stories, record them and send them to the world. The people you serve don’t need you to be perfect. They need you to be real. This helps.

» Don’t get hung up on the platforms.
You seem to be waiting for the perfect podcasting platform. Yet it’s not about the tool. It’s about the process of getting the word of your school district to the world outside. Find people in your organization who are doing great things and celebrate them publicly. If you need a platform, check out Podbean, Anchor and Spreaker. All are fine. It really comes down to personal preference.

» Keep it under 10 minutes.
You say you don’t have time to make a podcast. Try this: Visit a classroom with your phone (with advance notice to the teacher, of course). Turn on the voice recorder and say, “Welcome to (enter school name)!” Ask a few students what they are doing, why they are doing it and if they enjoy it. Exit by saying, “Just another great story from our kids at (enter school name).”

That’s it — you’ve completed your first podcast. If you did that in any of the above platforms, all you need to do is push UPLOAD, and the words of the kids are there for parents and community members to hear.

Story Demand
Parents and community members want your stories. They want to know what students are learning. They want some content between rocking out to 1980s’ hair bands. The words of the kids in your schools can be a great way to keep them connected.

JOE SANFELIPPO is superintendent of the Fall Creek School District in Fall Creek, Wis. Twitter: @Joe_Sanfelippo