Podcasts are becoming an increasingly popular tool in higher education to reach prospective students, showcase expertise, and share knowledge. When created and implemented in a high quality and thoughtful manner, they can have a big impact.
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As the above infographic shows, podcasts offer new ways for higher education institutions to engage current and prospective students directly. The podcasting industry has grown rapidly, and with it, so has competition for listeners. Before universities jump into podcasting, it’s essential to examine how this market began, what the future may hold, and if launching a podcast is a good fit.
The Rapid Rise of Podcasts
In 2004, the creation of software that enabled iPods to download radio shows laid the foundation for podcasting, according to WorkforcePods. While on-the-go consumption of audio content gained steam over the following year, Wired has credited Apple for kick-starting the industry when the company added 3,000 shows to iTunes in 2005. Today’s podcast library dwarfs that initial offering. As The New York Times reported, there were 700,000 shows as of July 2019, with more being uploaded each month.
Data from Edison Research has shown listenership increased with content options, as about one-third of Americans age 12 or older now listen to podcasts monthly. Plus, regular listeners download or stream seven shows per week. Beyond their high engagement, this audience exhibits traits that universities should find attractive. According to Podcast Insights, many podcast fans:
- Say they learned about a product or service from podcast advertising.
- Likely cut their cable cord, making podcasts a way to reach consumers who rarely see TV spots.
- Often engage on social media and follow brands they like.
- Are drawn to content with an educational focus.
The popularity of educational podcasts is noteworthy for colleges and universities. As more people turn to this medium to learn new things, institutions have an additional avenue for engaging learners.
Reaching Students Through Podcasts
Though institutions can use podcasts to provide access to academic resources through mobile devices, Discover Pods suggested this medium also offers recruitment potential. By producing educational content that listeners find valuable, institutions can build brand awareness with a broad population of prospective students. Additionally, this medium could help schools sustain relationships with alumni, who may then return to their alma mater for continuing education courses.
What’s more, the production of university podcasts creates hands-on learning opportunities for students. By integrating podcast recording, editing, and marketing into courses, students can bolster competencies related to their major.
How to Create a Successful Higher Education Podcast in 8 Steps
Podcasts may present new ways to reach prospective students, but universities must clear many hurdles to create a successful series. The following section previews the steps educators should do to get started.
- Determine the feasibility of operating a podcast.
Educators should study whether they have the time, resources, budget, and personnel to operate a podcast that will resonate with learners. Remember: Podcasts are an episodic medium, so a feasibility analysis should consider whether a university can produce quality content consistently.
- Find a clear premise.
Successful podcasters base their shows on clearly defined concepts rather than vague ideas. Schools that want to appeal to students may focus on a prominent academic program or an issue of regional importance. If an institution wants to reach higher education professionals as a talent acquisition tool, the show could focus on thought leadership or research.
- Outline the goals and metrics.
An institution shouldn’t start a podcast because doing so is trendy. Instead, creating a show should support an over-arching strategy. To identify their intent, educators should ask themselves these questions:
- What purpose will the podcast serve?
- Who will be the audience?
- How will the show fit into the school’s mission and brand?
- How will success be measured?
- Build a team.
Although some podcasters produce shows solo, creating a show for the long haul requires a team. Though a showrunner may perform a mix of duties, other responsibilities can be divided among multiple individuals, such as story development, reporting, and producing. Students may be eager to tackle tasks related to their major, including recording, mixing, editing, promotions, and data analysis.
- Acquire equipment and recording space.
Universities with a broadcasting program may be set up to produce content immediately. Other schools will need to invest in microphones, headphones, and recording software. If a program features call-in guests, a way to capture crisp audio over the phone will be necessary.
It’s also vital to secure a recording space free from interruptions or outside noise. While a conference room or an empty office may suffice, a soundproofed studio at a campus radio station would be ideal.
- Plan and produce the show.
Now, the fun begins. Start by establishing the format, such as the typical length of episodes and a publishing schedule. It’s helpful to plan an entire season of shows upfront to ensure enough content is available. However, maintain flexibility for shifting toward topics that listeners will find appealing, such as breaking news.
Once a schedule is set, it’s time to craft the first episode, which includes selecting hosts, developing topics, and booking guests. At this time, the team will also create theme music and produce an introduction to play during every episode.
- Diversify distribution channels.
There are several hosting platforms that listeners use to download podcasts, and universities will need to offer their shows through several. While Apple Podcast and Google Play are the standard options for iPhone and Android users, many people prefer other platforms. PCMag has listed Stitcher, Spotify, Luminary, Overcast, Himalaya, Castbox, and Breaker among the best podcast apps with free plans. Note that the syndication of content to multiple platforms helps save time, so learning how to set up a podcast RSS feed for this purpose is a must.
- Market the podcast.
Publicity for the podcast should begin before the show premieres. First, create a teaser episode to attract subscribers on each hosting platform. To spur downloads as new episodes are released, universities can:
- Share episodes on social media with relevant hashtags.
- Link to the podcast from relevant university webpages.
- Promote the podcast in eblasts and email signatures.
- Develop supplemental blog posts for the topic of each episode. These posts should link to a download page and provide a transcript, which increases accessibility and bolsters search engine performance.
Podcasting is one of many emerging ways for higher education institutions to make their value proposition loud and clear to learners. We work with university partners to customize and deploy innovative strategies designed to attract, support, and retain students. Explore our services and solutions to see how we can help achieve objectives for student success and enrollment growth.
Launch the infographic for more benefits that podcasting offers to higher education institutions. For an in-depth look at higher education podcasts, download our full report, Recruiting & Retaining Adult Learners.