Woman in Cape Town

Should your NGO make a podcast?

Podcasts have been increasing in popularity with audiences across the UK and the globe over the last few years.

There are currently 700,000 active podcasts and more charities have started using this engaging audio format to connect with their dedicated supporters.

Ten months ago, we decided to take the plunge at Bond and launched our own podcast, aptly titled the Bondcast. Sticking to our mission of bringing together the brightest thinkers in international development, our podcast is a platform for debate on crucial issues for the sector, which is core to what we do.

But is this growing content channel right for your NGO? Is it worth investing your time and resources? And how would you even get started? Here are some things for you to consider.

Who is listening and when?

Podcasts have had a surge in listeners in the UK over the last three years. According to PodNews, 12% of UK adults listen to podcasts weekly, of which 21% are 25-34 year-olds. Two-thirds are listening on a mobile phone. Around 30% of listening happens while people are driving or travelling, and 29% while working or studying.

The number of weekly podcast listeners has almost doubled in five years – from 3.2million in 2013 to 5.9million in 2018, according to Ofcom’s report. In the US, 51% of the population has listened to a podcast episode in their life and 32% in the last month.

Why do they listen?

51% of UK listeners said they consumed podcasts because they wanted to hear interesting content and 26% said it was because they wanted to learn something new, according to a RAJAR MIDAS survey. Those polled said that BBC Radio 4 and TED Talks were their favoured podcast sources.

What’s unique about podcasts?

Podcasts are a new way to bring powerful stories to life or engage with perspectives in a conversational manner. Unlike radio, podcasts can be saved, consumed and returned to whenever you like. Unlike video, podcasts can be incorporated into your daily life without requiring your undivided attention.

As Revolving Doors’ Vicki Cardwell puts it: “Using audio has enabled people with lived experience to be at the heart of the conversation rather than quoted in reports, which can remove the real person’s voice. The human touch, from all the contributors, can be powerful, bringing real warmth and humour.”

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For most people consuming podcasts, listening is an active cognitive activity and many people develop listening habits around episodes. Listeners can also subscribe to individual podcasts and receive notifications when new episodes are published.

For this reason, podcasts are particularly well suited to niche topics. As an NGO, you can build a specific audience of subscribers who enjoy your communications and come to expect compelling content from you. Podcast-hosting platforms provide you with useful data on who your podcast audience is and where they’re coming from, so you can tailor future episodes for them.

Are podcasts right for your NGO?

Starting a podcast will take you time and some money, so it’s important to determine if the format is right for your organisation and audience. Your podcast should be a strategic channel to deliver your objectives, not just another communications trend to jump on.

Ask yourself:

  1. Does your content lend itself well to an audio format? The Alzheimer’s Society turned the content in its bimonthly magazine for people living with dementia into podcasts. Save the Children gathered real life stories of displaced and dispossessed families in Syria and South Sudan, and turned them into an emotional audio drama called Anywhere but Home.
  2. What is the purpose of your podcast? Amnesty International’s In Their Own Words is a platform for activists working with the organisation to share their stories and build a connection with the organisation’s supporters while promoting their cause.
  3. Do you think your audience will be interested? Bond has a popular conference, events and blog space where different sector voices interrogate crucial issues. So it made sense that our audience would be interested our podcast. However, we’re still experimenting with where our podcast goes and what success means for us.

How to get started

If your answer is yes to all these questions and you’re ready to take on this exciting format, CharityComms has put together a very useful list on what you need to know (and what you need to spend) to launch a podcast.

The International Broadcasting Trust also has some tips on how to harness the power of podcasts without necessarily making your own.

Join the Bond Communications Group to share issues, challenges and best practice in communications in the international development sector.