The Top 3 Reasons You Need To Pick Up ‘Your Museum Needs A Podcast’

Julia Kennedy
Oct 7, 2018 · 4 min read

“What would you say if you could speak directly to your target audience for thirty minutes without any interruption?”

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‘Your Museum Needs A Podcast: A Step-By-Step Guide to Podcasting on a Budget for Museums, History Organizations, and Cultural Nonprofits’ | Hannah Hethmon

It’s one of the first questions posed in Hannah Hethmon’s ‘Your Museum Needs A Podcast: A Step-By-Step Guide to Podcasting on a Budget for Museums, History Organizations, and Cultural Nonprofits.’ It’s something museums should consider carefully at their very core, but particularly with programming. For a lot of content, our audience is opting in, and will only stay is what you’re saying is compelling enough.

Which is exactly why taking a crack at trying to make a podcast might just be a great idea. Podcasts are huge right now and aren’t showing any signs of going away. But if you’re in the dark on where to even start, Hannah’s new book is just what you need. In it, you’ll find a ton of information, resources you can use, and all your FAQs answered. It completely demystifies the idea of needing a glamorous setup, and gives practical advice specifically for museums or cultural sites all packed in about 100 pages.

But if you still need more convincing, here are my three favorite things from ‘Your Museum Needs A Podcast.’

It’s A One Stop Shop For Everything You Need

In around 100 pages, probably all your FAQs and lingering reservations about podcasting will be answered. So much so, if you take in everything in this book and flesh out an awesome idea, it would be hard-pressed to say no as a higher-up. Included are resources featuring templates and worksheets that help streamline the process of creating a solid podcast proposal, and how to pitch it to who you need to. Therefore if you’re reading the book, and follow along with these extra resources, you’ll walk away with a solidified idea to get started on.

Some of the most useful information included big ideas like defining your audience―something that is a useful exercise for creating any type of content at your institution. As my former colleague used to say about trying to create ‘one size fits all’ programming, “you can’t start a love letter with ‘To Whom It May Concern.”

Other practical advice was about equipment needed, podcasting vocab, or even linguistic definitions so you can honestly just look so impressive to your boss.

The Institutional Hard-Pill-To-Swallow

I want you to read this quote from the book, and then read it again because it’s 100% true, and not even just for podcasting:

“This may be hard to hear, but I can say with 100% certainty that “all our visitors” is not your podcast audience. “Anyone in the world interested in history” is also not your audience. Your podcast should be created for a specific niche of listeners who cannot find what you are offering anywhere else.”

With podcasts, your audience can tune out at any time so you have to be engaging and flex your storytelling skills. That one size fits all mentality won’t get you, loyal listeners, each week, so think about using this podcast to tap into a new audience to make them dedicated die-hard fans of what your museum has to offer.

Another reason to experiment with the medium is to practice and hone those storytelling skills. There’s a reason it’s such a hot topic in cultural institutions right now because it’s one of the most effective ways to engage and re-engage your audience to make them love your space as much as you do. It also doesn’t stop there―storytelling is just effective communication, ergo sharpening those skills can also help you everywhere from on tour to marketing online.

Which reminds me of another great quote from the book, “‘If you build, they will come’ — is not a marketing strategy.” Your second hard-pill-to-swallow is to embrace marketing. You just created something awesome, go tell the world about it! The sooner institutions realize that marketing functions as digital outreach, and actively collaborate within departments, the faster you’ll be connecting and creating new fans.

Gets Those Creative Wheels Going

I didn’t go into the book looking to actually be making a podcast as a museum, but while reading the book, I couldn’t help but keep thinking about ideas I’d love to see from museums. Hannah does a great job of balancing practical advice, and a plethora of examples to get your creative wheels turning.

The examples provided are one of my favorite parts of the book, providing some of the best examples from other popular podcasts, including Hannah’s own. She also just provides some really fun jumping off points that are a little extreme, but encourage you to think big and boldly for the medium.

That being said there are some I’d love to see a museum steal and run with, particularly:

“Create an advice show where the advice is specific to your area of focus, or all the advice is what someone would get in, for example, the 18th century”

What’s the potential for podcasting at your museum? You might just have to read and find out.

This article first appeared on on 10/7/2018

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