Put It in a Podcast
Topics: Principal Leadership
I started podcasting about 10 years ago as an elementary principal, and it has become easier and more relevant in the years since. The sheer number of platforms that you can use to listen to podcast content is staggering: Spotify, Apple, Google, Overcast, and Breaker, just to name a few.
Who should have a podcast? Principals, teachers, communications directors, superintendents, parent groups, coaches—anyone with an idea that they’re passionate about. A podcast can help get the word out about upcoming social events, parent conferences, fundraisers, construction, at-home strategies, and anything else you wish to communicate.
My team started out by reading what used to be in the printed newsletter aloud in podcast form, and the school community loved it. Our school was named John Swett Elementary, so we named our podcast JSE Radio, and the name stuck.
You can start with a few simple steps:
- Develop content. Start writing a script for your new show. Each week, copy and paste a basic outline to keep your ideas organized and your message dialed in. Create sections for an introduction, guest interviews, updates from the school, good news of the week, upcoming events, and a wrap-up. Keep your first episode short—just a few minutes. Its purpose might be to introduce the new show to your community and include a version of the announcements you might give over the school loudspeaker. Tweak them to make sense for a listening audience, and hit record. The students and the parents in your school are that audience, and one of the best things you can do is to involve students in creating the podcast. You can organize it, then put production in the hands of the kids and let them take charge.
- Set up an account to host your podcast. There are quite a few websites and apps that can host your podcast, and I’ve used a few of them. Anchor.fm is my favorite so far; it allows you host your podcast and distribute it to all of the places where people listen. It’s free and easy to use, and you can record episodes in advance and schedule them to release when you’re ready. Other good options include Buzzsprout, Libsyn, and Podbean. Platform features vary, but most free versions offer all of the basics a beginner needs to host and publish a podcast. Try one out and see if it suits your needs.
- Record, record, record. I podcasted for years with only an iPhone headset, and my recommendation is to not purchase a microphone right away—it just isn’t necessary to get started. If you decide you can benefit from a more professional setup, Blue and other companies offer affordable USB microphones. The worst thing you can do is start a podcast, record a few episodes, and then let things slide. The more consistent you are about releasing episodes, the more consistent your audience will be about listening.
- Share your podcast. Once you plan and record episodes, share them with your community. You can email direct links, share the latest on social media, create QR codes for kids to take home to their families for direct access, or record an announcement telling people how to tune in. You can also ask your audience to share the podcast with others they think might want to listen.
Once you release the first episode, you’ll be thinking about what you said, how you prepared, the intonation in your voice, and the background music. Most importantly, you will be thinking about your next episode and what you’ll do differently. To hone your style and messaging:
Don’t overthink it. Your 15th podcast episode is going to be different, better, and more evolved than your first three. But you can’t get to episode 15 if you don’t start with episode 1.
Try different models. Your first podcast might feature only your voice, but you might try interviewing a guest on the next. Part of the process is seeing what works and what your audience enjoys and shares, so don’t worry about changing things up a little.
Listen to other podcasts. Be a student of the medium. While it’s important to be the authentic you, it’s also important to learn from others so you can hone and evolve your message.
Smile. People can’t see you when they’re listening to a podcast, of course, but if you remind yourself to smile as you’re talking to convey enthusiasm while recording. Smile, laugh, and be yourself, and the listeners will feel that mojo through their headphones.
Once your show is up and running, tag me on social media (@MrAdamWelcome). I’d love to hear what you have to say—and if you think someone you know would benefit from this article, please share it with them. Good luck—I know you can do it!
Adam Welcome is a fellow in NAESP’s Center for Innovative Leadership. He has been a teacher, principal, and director of innovation and technology for a large school district in the Bay Area of California.