Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
As another Auddy blog notes, podcasting is exploding. In 2021, 1 billion people listened to a podcast on a monthly basis .
Combine this statistic with the fact that more than 70%  of people listen to podcasts because they want to learn something new and it shouldn’t be surprising that many educational institutions are delving into this medium. Podcasting allows schools and universities to showcase their expertise to the outside world by posting content on public-facing platforms such as Apple Podcasts.
But there is another best practice for you to consider: private podcasts.
Why go private?
Private podcasts provide great opportunity for educational institutions to strengthen their communication with – and to garner material and financial support from – their most important closer communities and candidate pools, as well as to provide members of those communities a mechanism to develop their own successful programmes.
A private podcasting platform offers you a versatile, easily manageable and secure environment to do this, and also to develop your institution’s audio strategy. Perhaps an audio strategy is in fact what your institution is lacking, and a private podcasting platform allows you to create and implement one in a manner that is both innovative and which learns from already proven best podcasting practices.
Furthermore, because it is ‘private’, it offers a safe home for sensitive, targeted content. It also allows authorised team members comprehensive visibility into how and when content is being accessed, and by whom.
Let’s look at 6 different ways that your school or university could really harness a private podcast. You may have other ideas than those summarised here – and we would love to hear about them from you!
1. Communication with existing students and faculty
Taking the place of (or supplementing) an already in place periodic email or a post to an internal website or social media account, a cross-institution platform can deliver podcasts – on a regular schedule and/or on an ad hoc basis – that include content that is applicable to all students, faculty and other staff, or just to specific groups.
Depending on your preferences, content could consist of:
- Regular updates from administration teams, management, or governing bodies
- Information on upcoming events
- Celebration of athletic or academic success
- Original or curated material, such as content to encourage mental or physical wellbeing
You may then want to offer selections of this content to specific groups. For example, staff in individual faculties, students on certain courses, members of a smaller tutorial, or lab partner groups. Whoever your audience may be, you can give them access to the content via a private app, or perhaps within your institution’s intranet. Either way, you will be in control, and each of your listeners will have the opportunity to be notified about, access, and listen to only the podcasts which are applicable and relevant to them.
2. Supplemental or preparatory learning
Podcasts published on your private podcasting platform by faculty teams can provide students with invaluable content to supplement what they receive in a lecture or other direct delivery session. For example:
- Podcasts offering especially-created content that draws on and extends the material that was offered already during a class, lecture, workshop or lab – or which assigns and explains in-depth follow-up work that students are required to do
- A curated set of already existing podcasts could provide additional content and depth. These could have been made by others from within your institution or gathered from external sources (from literally anywhere else in the public podcasting ecosystem or perhaps from narrower sources such as podcasts available only via a specialist subscription held by the faculty or your wider establishment).
Similarly, your platform could offer podcasts intended to assist students’ preparation for a specific course or even a specific class session. For example:
- ‘What to Expect’ material, offering general background and context to prep students
- ‘Must listen’ content to be listened to before the class – to give students material and incentive to arrive at the class carrying ideas or already-prepared questions.
In either case, the thought and effort that went into creating and/or assembling this subject-specific content need not be lost after one single use. Podcasts can be ‘hidden’ and then, when applicable, made visible again.
Also, these podcasts can, where this may be helpful, support any remote or virtual learning.
3. Communication with former students and faculty
Alumni are some of the most important people in a university’s life – because of their financial and other material support, as well as the positive ‘case studies’ they create.
Many members of this group are already dedicated fans of your establishment, much as people are fans of professional sports teams, artists and brands. So, doesn’t it make sense to follow the already proven success of an increasing number of teams, artists and brands by offering your fans well-considered and attractive ‘value-added’ assets that are designed to further increase their loyalty and support? That could mean, for example:
- A regularly scheduled news update – to keep them engaged with what is going on
- Access to – or updates about – specific research programmes and awards
- Profiles of specific students or faculty – intended to show progress made as a result of alumni contributions
- Opportunities for individual alumni to ‘speak back’ to their institution and the current student and faculty population – via interviews, moderated panels or even specially commissioned podcasts that showcase their current work or expertise
You could also garner revenue by providing premium content to key audience groups via subscriptions or behind a paywall – and of course you could gain kudos for providing access to it at no cost for your most significant donors and supporters. For your alumni, perhaps this could mean exclusive podcast ‘events’ featuring prominent invited guests, important faculty members and others.
4. Building community around innovation and research
For any research or innovation projects that your universities are involved in, it goes without saying that marketing teams will want to drive awareness of them, and to gain recognition from potential funders.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Podcasting offers an exciting medium for people to take a much deeper dive into the research process and its product (both current and historical) and to form a more intimate connection to the researchers involved. A podcast would allow you to get to know the people and their work through their own voices. It could also deliver revenues that could assist with funding future endeavours or resources – for example if you were to offer some podcasts behind a paywall, or if you were to develop a library of subject-focused research podcasts that could be accessed only via a paid subscription. Of course, these types of podcasts could be supplemented by accompanying video and additional published materials.
By doing so, you can build a community of liked-minded people around your own experts – expanding on your team’s horizons and raising their profiles. This can also introduce your institution’s talent to new audiences, such as foundations, government agencies and philanthropists whose interest could deliver additional support for the work.
5. Student to student communications
A private podcasting platform can provide a valuable environment in which your student community can share information, experiences and talent with each other – extending and enhancing the reach of clubs and societies, or providing a place for individuals or groups’ achievements to be showcased.
On top of this, it can offer an opportunity for students to learn how to develop and produce content, as well as to develop teams who can manage the podcast platform itself.
We have lots of non-academic ideas – and are sure that your students would have also. What about a history of your institution or a group (e.g. a sorority or other society) featuring past as well as present members? Or, perhaps a ‘year in the life’ of one of your key sports teams – prefacing and reporting on each match and the players involved – or a podcast offering the daily or weekly journal of a key athlete or artist from your student community? Then of course there would be an infinite opportunity for sharing around academic work – including specific projects, study guides etc. – all hosted in a secure, well-managed way.
6. Recruitment – of students and faculty
Educational institutions aren’t just focused on academic excellence but also on ensuring that they attract and then retain candidates whose profiles cover a full range of diversity and inclusion in all its aspects. Achieving this objective requires more than just stating it as an objective – it requires outreach and speaking directly to the communities who reflect that full range so that the pool from which candidates are drawn will be as rich as possible. That requires, in turn, being visible and maintaining high levels of awareness in those communities in a manner that means members of those communities view your university or school in a positive light – both in terms of its contribution and value to the community and as an attractive learning destination or ‘home’ for these people.
We believe that beautifully made, bespoke podcasts, developed with specific target audiences in mind – and made available to members of the community in a manner that makes them feel special, noticed and cared for – could differentiate your institution from others who are relying on, for example, newsletters, email campaigns, occasional recruitment fairs etc. A podcast can be much more exciting and impact-making.
For university student recruitment, you could produce a subject-specific podcast series featuring diverse voices from your current student body and faculty which are made available to, say, primary and secondary schools, organisations such as brownies/guides/cubs and scouts groups, youth sports organisations, summer programmes. Then, for faculty recruitment, other series could be offered to subject or discipline-focused associations and professional bodies whose members reflect a particular racial, gender or other identity group.
For primary and secondary school recruitment, what about providing parents and younger children access to story-telling podcasts which are effectively ‘sponsored’ by your school? These could each include a short message about your school as well as a ‘thank you for listening’ message. Or perhaps each episode could include a section where the presenter/s introduce themselves and talk about their experiences as a student or faculty member.
This type of content helps to build relationships and trust between you and the listener. It’s the type of content that signals: you belong here, you are welcome here, and you would be among friends.
Of course, this approach could also be supplemented with video content – or, even better, with live events, where audiences would become even more familiar with the owners of the voices to which they have been listening.
We have given you several different ideas (and we have many others!). But in order to decide what’s best for you and your school/university, you must clearly determine your target listening audience, your key objectives for reaching them and what value you want to offer.
There’s lots to consider when it comes to each individual podcast, from developing the optimal episode format, to identifying the perfect podcast length to keep your audience engaged, to choosing the right hosts. And making a show that sounds absolutely brilliant, of course!
To learn more about what a private podcasting platform and strategy would look like for your school or university, please feel free to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021