Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash
July 10, 2024

How can my nonprofit benefit from launching a podcast?

Marcus dePaula

Farra Trompeter, co-director, is joined by Marcus dePaula, audio engineer, podcast producer, and consultant, as they explore what an organization needs to launch a podcast as a part of its nonprofit communications strategy. They discuss factors organizations should consider before starting a podcast series and tips for how to manage podcasts once you get started.


Farra Trompeter: Welcome to the Smart Communications Podcast. This is Farra Trompeter, co-director and worker-owner at Big Duck. In today’s episode, we’re gonna ask the question, how can my nonprofit benefit from launching a podcast? If you have been a fan of this podcast and listened to episodes, well, you’ve actually interacted with our guest before. Marcus dePaula, he /him is an audio engineer, podcast producer, and consultant who started his career in the music industry in Nashville, Tennessee, and more recently has been working with nonprofit organizations, entrepreneurs, and independent creators, including a podcast he co-hosts with his amazing partner, Jenn-Hanson dePaula, called Book Marketing Simplified. He works with folks who need help with their audio and video production needs, and he has been producing The Smart Communications Podcast since 2018. Marcus was also on an episode of our podcast before: number 52, How do you make your events and recordings sound good? We’ve also been collaborating with Marcus and Education First to produce another podcast series called The Power of SEL. The Power of SEL is a series of five episodes that explores social and emotional learning, otherwise known as SEL, and how it relates to well-being and academic achievement. Marcus, welcome back to the show.

Marcus dePaula: Thank you, Farra. It is so great to actually be on mic with you after hearing your voice and just editing it on my own all the time.

Farra Trompeter: That’s right. For many, many episodes. Well, Marcus, podcasts have clearly become one of the popular ways in which organizations can communicate with their audiences and supporters online, and I know that we sometimes get asked this question, so I’d love to ask you it: what should a nonprofit consider when they’re deciding whether or not a podcast is worth investing their time and, of course, limited resources into?

Marcus dePaula: Absolutely, and for the vast majority of people that I talk to about podcasts, the first question is always, what microphone should I get? And for me, that’s the last of four factors that I actually consider when trying to help someone launch their podcast. And the first one is actually the people, the human beings, and their voices. So making sure that you have not just a host who would be good on mic and be a good leader of the conversations, but also the team members that can, you know, help coordinate and all that stuff, which we’ll get into in a little bit. The second point is the content, knowing who you actually want to talk to, what their unique problems are or what stories they need to hear, all that stuff. So that’s the second point; content. Then the third would be the time factor. What kind of bandwidth do you and your team have to not just launch a podcast, but to sustain it long term, if that’s your plan, to use it as an ongoing communications piece, which I highly recommend if you can. And then the fourth and final thing is the tools, and that’s what microphone, what software, and all that good stuff.

Farra Trompeter: Maybe we’ll even touch on that ’cause we know people are always asking those questions. Yes. It’s funny, I feel like as you were rattling off your four tips and you talked about that first being the people in their voices, I’m just thinking, Hey, you’ve got a great voice for podcast. Or no, I should say that again. Hey, you’ve got a great face for podcasts. That’s what we’re trying to say. So thanks for that feedback.

Marcus dePaula: Well, and that’s the interesting thing, is now podcasting is getting into the video space, which we won’t really touch on a ton in this episode, but yeah, you need to have a good face for podcasting now.

Farra Trompeter: That’s right. Well, good face, good voice, all of it. Now, in our work with our clients and participants in our workshops, we often talk about the importance of knowing your audience and having a clear understanding of what they want or need to hear from your communications with them, right? The fine art of being audience-centric and really connecting to the motivations and the preferences of who we’re trying to build relationships with. And I’m wondering for you, how can an organization connect what they know about their audience motivations, values, preferences, to a podcast as it relates to the content, the topics, and the format?

Marcus dePaula: Yeah, I definitely think podcasting is one of the most powerful communications tools that we have available to us because there’s something very intimate about being in someone’s ears and in their head. And also the power of the human voice, the sound of the human voice, conveying the concepts and stories and personal details to connect with those humans on the other end of that podcast. So I like to think of the podcast I work on as speaking to just one single listener at a time, as if it were a conversation between two or three people. You know, if you have a guest that you’re interviewing. So if we try to be as conversational as we can in our podcast instead of presentational or performative, and if we focus on those issues and topics that we know our ideal listeners are interested in hearing more about, they will feel like they are participating in that conversation instead of just listening to the sounds of our voices.

Marcus dePaula: And a lot of people you know, listen to podcasts as like background noise, and that’s not what we want when we’re putting all this effort into trying to connect with our followers and supporters. So my questions are: will you be able to keep your listeners engaged by entertaining, informing, and/ or inspiring them in each episode? And then will your podcast be worth the time that they choose to spend with you on your podcast? Because we all have so many choices of how to spend our time now. And then, if you don’t have good answers to those questions, would it actually be better for you to pursue being a recurring guest on someone else’s podcast instead of launching your own?

Farra Trompeter: That’s an interesting question. Like, one way to start getting into podcasting is actually to start by trying to be in someone else’s podcast and get the feel for it before you launch into starting your own. That’s a that’s a good tip. I appreciate your thinking again about the audiences. And we often say in communications and marketing, you have to answer that question, what’s in it for me? And as much as we know we have great content to put out in our organizations, if we can’t connect it to something that’s going to be worth people spending their time tuning in for their interest, the podcast is only gonna go so far.

Marcus dePaula: Absolutely.

Farra Trompeter: Well, let’s say an organization is checking all the boxes and it seems like creating a podcast would be a great way to communicate with their community. What kind of people power, human resources, time does it take for an organization? What do they need to budget for? Not just for getting the podcast launched, but actually for sustaining it in the long term?

Marcus dePaula: Great podcasts always start with a great host. So that voice needs to be someone in the organization who can lead the creative planning of choosing topics and guests, as well as having those skills that are needed to lead engaging conversations that draw people in and keeping the guests on topic on top of that. And that person is typically someone higher up in an organization. And we all know that senior leaders in organizations typically have very limited time. So on top of considering how much time you need from that host, you also need to consider the team members who will be handling all the technical details for each episode ranging from scheduling, file management, audio and video editing, copywriting episode description, and notes to publishing on your website, to the graphics for social media promotion. It’s a lot more than people expect. And just like any communication campaign, it usually requires more than one person, especially when none of your team members have experience producing a podcast.

Marcus dePaula: The more time your team can spend upfront developing your process and planning each episode, the more time you’ll save in the long run. So as far as timing, I usually like to have two to three months for actually launching a podcast, when I have that luxury. At least one hour, at least one hour to plan and then communicate with guests like getting the scheduling done and all that stuff, and then planning the topics. One hour, usually, for recording each episode, and that’s even for the quick episodes like we have on The Smart Communications podcasts that then only end up being about 20 minutes. And then it usually takes me about half a day to edit a 20-minute episode. But it’s good to budget a full day for a person to edit, especially if the recording actually wasn’t that great. And then another full day probably to get the copy, graphics and then get it published online. And that’s again, just for a 20-minute interview. If you’re, you’re doing a longer narrative podcast that requires a script and editing down hours of recordings into a single 30-minute episode, I would actually multiply that by 10.

Farra Trompeter: Right? And I think as we’ve seen, we’ve worked together both on our podcast, which is typically me or someone else at Big Duck interviewing, one or two, periodically, three people, but usually it’s a conversation like the one we’re having today. We’ve also worked with The Power of SEL, and I know you’ve worked with other podcasts that are then more storytelling documentary-style podcasts, like The Power of SEL, where we actually have several guests that are interviewed separately and then spliced together to tell a narrative. And we’ve seen, obviously, that takes a lot more time. But again, those types of podcasts create a very special format for storytelling and may make sense. So thinking about the time it takes, not just to plan it, but also to put it together, to do it, and then to promote it. So there’s several steps involved.

Farra Trompeter: Now let’s get to that famous question, Marcus. What about the recording equipment? What tools, what software do people need? How much should they plan on spending? If they’re really serious about creating a podcast that actually sounds good? What are the costs again for that equipment and maybe even for a producer? Or can the organization do it in-house? What’s your sense on this?

Marcus dePaula: It definitely depends on the type of show you’re doing, whether you’re doing remote interviews, like what we do on The Smart Communications Podcast, or whether you have a studio, which actually Big Duck used to have as well, back when we started off, and you’re having two or three people in the room together. And then on top of that, if you want to add video and all that stuff, which just makes the equipment cost skyrocket after that because video stuff is expensive. As far as the software, there are free options that we’ll link to in the episode notes, but the less money you spend on the tools, in my experience, it ends up costing you more time in post-production. And the other part of it is having good tools makes the whole experience more enjoyable and more efficient. One of the struggles I have with a lot of my clients is getting them to actually invest upfront in the tools that are going to save them time in the long run.

Marcus dePaula: Now, the mic that you have is the one that I recommend as the best-sounding mic for the money, which is the Samson Q2U, Samson Q2U, not Samsung. And you can usually find it for around $60. And if you add headphones and then a good stand or boom arm, you can look at spending, at minimum, $100. And that’s for, like, a remote interview situation. Then if you’re doing a studio like what you guys used to have at Big Duck, you need to budget at least $2,500, probably more than that. And I have a page that will link to in the episode notes of the equipment that I recommend on each level there. And then as far as the software, like I said before, there are free options. A lot of the podcasting studios use Pro Tools, that is like a yearly subscription of hundreds of dollars and then you have to have somebody that knows how to run it, and it’s likely that there’s not gonna be anyone on your team that is capable of using that professional-level of software. So, then you hire someone like me. The industry standard rate for editing, I think starts around $80 an hour, if I’m not sure. But Airmedia has a list of the standard rates for all of the aspects of audio production. And then if you want to add video to that, you need to multiply it by 10 again.

Farra Trompeter: That’s a lot of very helpful detail, and I’m sure people out there were taking notes. And again, if you go to, we will add additional detail and links to all of Marcus’s recommendations on the transcript on our website. Now, Marcus, I have to ask this question: when should an organization not do a podcast? I’m thinking about all those memes that say: Hey, this meeting could have been an email. Are there times when this podcast is just not the right medium?

Marcus dePaula: Well, if you listen to what we’ve talked about so far in what I recommend considering those four points of the people, the content, and who you’re talking to, the time you have available and the tools, like, obviously, if you consider all those and it sounds like too much or you don’t have those elements in place right now, then you might want to consider some other media that might be more doable for your organization. But then some other things to consider in addition to that: is the podcast actually the best way for you to communicate what you need to communicate? And sometimes it could just be a webinar, sometimes it could just be a live stream, or a shorter-term thing. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a podcast if what you have to communicate can be done in one episode. That in and of itself is not a podcast. Podcast is meant for a recurring thing, like a newsletter or something like that in audio form. And then again, thinking about your audience, maybe they prefer written content over the audio content, or maybe you need to think about video content if you can’t sustain it long term than doing those webinars or live streams that you can post on YouTube. So there’s lots of things to consider. Always thinking first about who you’re trying to reach and what you need to say.

Farra Trompeter: Exactly. And I’m thinking too, you know, you can also experiment with doing some Instagram lives, or again, creating a series of blogs or just brief webinars that you clip into mini videos to create conversations. See how that goes: that may be easier to do. You may be more familiar, everyone did a webinar, at least, in 2020 in response to the COVID pandemic, and they moved their programming online. Yeah. So we’ve all become very familiar with hosting webinars, attending webinars. You could start there, see how that’s going. And then also survey your audience: do they listen to podcasts? Are they interested in your content? Interview people. And if you find out you’ve uncovered lots of people who love podcasts, that’s great, but do they just love podcasts that are about true crimes, or are they actually interested in your content and what you have to say?

Marcus dePaula: Exactly.

Farra Trompeter: So a hundred percent always come back to: who are the people you’re trying to engage? And will they be interested in listening to what you have to say and where you have to say it. Well, Marcus, it is that time for us to wrap up, and I’m wondering if you have any final takeaways.

Marcus dePaula: There is a buzz around podcasting, and you hear a lot of people saying, everyone should have a podcast. Podcasts in and of themselves are not a silver bullet for your communication strategy or marketing strategy. They are just one of the many media that you can use to reach your audience, and it should fit naturally into the strategy that you’ve already established, hopefully with the help of Big Duck. And it should make sense for, not just your platform, but for the message and the people who are doing the communicating as leaders in your organization. And it should center around that voice, not just the voice of the host, but the voice of your organization. And while it does take a village, there does need to be good leadership leading the way, leading the conversations so that we can get better engagement from our followers.

Farra Trompeter: That’s great. I am certainly reflecting on your conversation earlier, your thoughts about who is the host or who leads that. And I think often it is someone who may be higher up in the organization, but I think in a world where we’re always questioning power and whose voices are important, I think that can be an interesting question for organizations to have: who can carry a good conversation? Who are people want to tune into? Who are the people who have the relationships and can sound natural with their interviewees? And that might be someone who’s a senior leader, but it might not be. And I think that’s an interesting thing that I know I will be reflecting on. And we are certainly trying to bring more voices in as hosts here on The Smart Communications Podcast. So, thank you for everything you had to share and thank you, of course, for the recent shout-out to connect with Big Duck on your communication strategy. I wanna return that and say, if you’re out there and you wanna connect with Marcus and all his great insights on audio and video and more, visit Marcus dePaula is also on LinkedIn and YouTube, and @meonlylouder on TikTok and Instagram. Marcus, thanks for being here.

Marcus dePaula: Thanks so much, Farra.


Podcasting equipment Marcus uses and recommends:
2024 equipment
Best $50 beginner mic

Recording services Marcus uses that are better than Zoom:
Cleanfeed (audio only)
(Marcus does not use Zoom recordings due to lower fidelity/resolution.)

Free audio recording apps:
Windows Sound Recorder
Apple QuickTime (Mac)
GarageBand (Mac)

All-in-one recording, editing, transcription, and collaboration service:

Professional audio editing software:
Adobe Audition
Logic Pro (Mac)
Pro Tools

Professional audio+video editing software:
Davinci Resolve (free)
Adobe Premiere Pro

Podcast hosting services Marcus’ clients use:
RedCircle (includes free option)
Spotify for Podcasters (popular “free” option)