By Jane Carroll Andrade
It’s not like the communications staff for the Delaware House Democratic Caucus didn’t have enough to do. But after attending the Legislative Information and Communications Staff (LINCS) association’s professional development seminar last fall, they were inspired to take on a new project.
The session on “The Power of Podcasting” prompted Digital Media Director Samuel Barry and Deputy Communications Director Jen Rini to approach their boss, Communications Director Drew Volturo, about producing their own podcast.
“I initially said no,” Volturo recalls, explaining that he was concerned about improving the services they already provide with just three people. “They tried again, and I said, ‘OK. You’re really enthusiastic and if you’re committed to seeing the project through, I support you 100%.’”
What occurred to Barry and Rini was that they really liked podcasts. And if they did, so would others.
“What Jen and I realized, especially after last year’s PDS, is that podcasting is a very different kind of medium,” Barry says. “Right now what we do is compete for someone’s five seconds of time on Facebook or Twitter. The podcast audience is smaller, but we’re competing for up to an hour of someone’s time. It opens up a whole new way of storytelling and offers a way for people to get to know their representatives better.”
The team now has nine episodes of “Whip Count” under its belt, and is very happy with the podcast's quality and all the positive feedback received from members, colleagues, lobbyists and others.
Episodes have ranged from a “Schoolhouse Rock!”-style episode—how a bill becomes a law—to highlighting the “unsung heroes” who keep the Capitol running to a range of topical issues.
Barry says he and the team spent last spring planning and “building a catalog” of episodes so they could release one per week during session. They plan to do the same prep work for next session, and learned at the PDS that consistency is important.
It’s a significant time commitment, especially if the goal is to produce a professional-quality podcast, which the group insisted on. Barry’s audio experience helped, but that’s “not anything people can’t learn.” He advises researching audio engineering and how to make people’s voices sound good, watching YouTube videos, and learning how to cut and edit. Half of Barry’s office was converted o a studio and they “didn’t spend that much”—$25 for sound-proofing tile and $40 for good microphones.
“Commit to the prep work and you’ll get comfortable with the workflow,” he says. “It’s time well spent."
Barry adds the field of communications is really dynamic.
“There so many different avenues to reach people," he says. "It’s good to try new stuff and see what works. That’s what we were looking for at the conference. We heard an interesting seminar about podcasts, and it became one of our favorite projects, one that we’re most proud of.”
Volturo agrees about the podcast project—and the value of the PDS. “This [fall] will be my fourth LINCS conference, and every year I’ve learned something new and come back with something else to bring back to my state,” he says.
Register for this year’s LINCS PDS, Oct. 23-25 in Kansas City, Mo.
Listen to “Whip Count.”
Several other state legislatures, chambers and caucuses are producing podcasts. Here are a few to check out:
Jane Carroll Andrade is a program director in NCSL’s Communications Division and liaison to the Legislative Information and Communications Staff (LINCS) association.