How the American Camp Association Created its Podcast

It’s no secret that podcasts are rising in popularity. Here’s how the American Camp Association created its CampWire podcast as an extension of the content it’s already producing.

Seventy-three million people listen to podcasts each month, while 48 million listen to them weekly, according to some recent data. And from 2017 to 2018, the number of Americans who were familiar with the term podcasting has climbed from 60 to 64 percent.

Seeing these trends and being a podcast listener himself during his hourlong commutes to and from work, Sam Hirt, the communications data specialist at the American Camp Association wondered if there was an opportunity for ACA to launch one. The association ended up with CampWire, which Hirt said cultivates the conversation about what camp is and how great it is—and that’s an extension of what the ACA is already doing with its other content.

But because he’d never produced a podcast before, Hirt had to learn everything from scratch.

Here are a few tips he learned along the way while getting CampWire up and running:

First Things First

For associations considering podcasts, a couple of questions should form the foundation: Who is the association’s audience, and what do they care about? For ACA, it’s mainly camp directors, and they’re concerned about successfully running their camps.

For example, Hirt said that about a year ago, CampWire ran an episode on marketing. “Just being at different ACA events, I’ve noticed that something a lot of camps struggle with is marketing because they’re not marketers—they’re camp directors—and they’re wearing all kinds of hats every day. That’s what a camp director does, so that episode was really useful for people.”

In fact, finding the topics for each podcast can be one of the most time-consuming parts of the process. In brainstorming ideas, Hirt asks himself: “What do [listeners] want to hear about? Can we talk for 40 minutes to an hour about it? And who is going to be the right voice for it?”

He also tries to dovetail the ideas with other timely content that ACA is pushing out in its magazine and blogposts. For instance, CampWire’s most recent episode—and by far its most listened to episode—was on staff training, and it was released at the end of May, when a lot of camps were right in the middle of doing just that.

The Technical Side

Getting started doesn’t cost a lot, Hirt said, but it does require a little technical insight. For instance, a quiet room to record is key. ACA, which operates on Windows-based computers, uses Audacity, a free, open-source audio software, to record and edit its podcast. For those with Macs, Hirt recommends using GarageBand.

In producing the very first episode, which was a preview of ACA’s annual conference, Hirt quickly found out that you can’t just quickly record a conversation, edit it, and then tweet it. “It has to host somewhere, and in order for it to be a link on your site, it has to be hosted on a podcast-type site, for instance like SoundCloud or PodBean,” he said.

And since many of the ACA’s staff works remotely, Hirt was already very familiar with using technology like Zoom for video and audio conferencing. And that’s what he uses to conduct interviews for the podcast, but he said headsets are integral to a good sound.

By trial and error, Hirt also learned the importance of releasing podcast episodes on a regular schedule. While ACA initially released episodes somewhat sporadically, since the new year, it decided to release them on the last Tuesday of each month, and it has seen its listenership dramatically rise month to month. “I don’t think people are on the edge of their seats waiting for it, but I think that people do think, ‘Oh, yeah, the podcast is out again,’” Hirt said.

What have you found useful in running your association podcast? Please leave your comments below.

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Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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