UK's first real local authority podcast


I’m very excited as today’s a big day: we’re launching the first real podcast from a local authority in the UK.

Since I’ve been working at Medway Council I’ve been convinced that social media has a real role to play in helping public sector organisations reach audiences that they have traditionally struggled to connect with.

The Mixit Podcast from Medway Council is the first social media project that my team has launched.

Mixit is the brand Medway Council uses for communicating with young people in the area. Mixit started life as two pages in the council’s residents magazine, Medway Matters – the core principle behind the brand was that it was written by young people for young people

There’s a lot of research showing people trust messages from “people like me” more than they do from institutions, so I’ve always been keen that the council’s role with Mixit was to facilitate young people communicating with other young people, rather than the council communicating directly with young people.

In May this year we launched the Mixit website, which recognises that the web is probably a more relevant channel for the 14 to 19 year old age range that we’re targetting.

The new podcast is an important part of establishing new communications channels with young people – a relatively inaccessible niche for the council. It’s intended to be a mix of news, features and music from the thriving Medway young people’s music scene. The first show is now live, and we’re hoping to produce one a month over the next six months.

The podcast is presented and produced by members of the council’s youth service, with content guidance and project management from the council’s communications team. It’s part of a six month trial to measure how we can use podcasting to engage young people, and is the first of several social media projects that I’m aiming to deliver for Medway Council over the coming months.

On the technical side the podcast sits on a bespoke blogging platform built by the council’s ICT team, the audio files are hosted by Podcast FM, and it uses Feedburner to distribute and track the RSS feeds. Moderated comments are enabled, and trackbacks should work too.

If you’re wondering why I’m calling it the first real local authority podcast – that’s because there are other local authorities in the UK doing something called podcasting, but it’s really just an automated voice reading their web content – not real podcasting. Here are a couple of examples from Stockport and Lincolnshire.

For me real podcasting means producing regular audio programmes with live presenter content, and encouraging a two-way dialogue and relationship with listeners (I have ranted before on this very topic!).

Any feedback or thoughts about the trial would be much valued – it’s an exciting time for me as I really think what we’re doing is pushing the boundaries of public sector communications in the UK.