Student-Led Podcast Strategies Build Member Participation

Association podcasts that involve student volunteers can help fellow students gain important insights into their industry. But since students juggle volunteering with other responsibilities, how can you keep them engaged in the podcast process? One group found that focusing on storytelling and staying flexible can help.

During the pandemic, the New York Chapter of the American College of Physicians’ medical student committee approached staff with a podcast idea.

“They wanted a platform to learn about career opportunities,” said Amanada Allen, NYACP’s manager of communications and district relations. “They wanted to hear stories about how their peers decided to follow their career path, what they liked about the career, and what a day in the life is like.”

The chapter was excited to bring the podcast idea to life and offer a new type of content to members.

“We wanted to offer something that wasn’t another webinar,” Allen said. “This was during COVID, so our members were already spending a lot of time on Zoom. This was a different way to utilize the technology and hear important stories.”

Launched in 2021, the Physician Spotlight Podcast features student members interviewing established NYACP members about career opportunities in internal medicine. According to Allen, the podcast has been a success for NYACP with 1,800 downloads for its 23 episodes (an average of 78 downloads per episode) and 169 downloads for the top episode.

For other associations considering member-created podcasts, here are some lessons NYACP has learned from its own development process.  

Podcast Participation Pointers

Though member volunteers who participate in an association podcast are invested in its success, they likely don’t have the same time to dedicate to the project that staff would.

For example, while NYACP developed its initial podcast schedule during the pandemic when people were spending a lot more time at home, the association found that members had less time for the podcast as things returned to normal. As a result, NYACP adjusted the podcast’s schedule to better align with member schedules to ensure everything stayed consistent.

“Your members are working on the podcast in their extra time, which means you need to be thoughtful when working with them,” Allen said. “If your members initially plan to do a monthly podcast, but you know they don’t have that kind of time, suggest they do six episodes that come out every other month.”

In addition, you may find that members don’t have podcast experience and may get flustered or nervous. Through her work on Physician Spotlight Podcast, Allen has found that focusing on storytelling and having a conversation can help put both the volunteer host and interviewee at ease.

“We typically have an unseasoned host and guest who are nervous,” she said. “Asking questions that you truly want to know the answers to and answering questions about something that you experienced personally can bring the stress levels down.”

Association Recruitment Tactics

Soon after launching the podcast, NYACP recognized it would need to recruit new member volunteers each year since some of its student members would graduate and no longer be able to participate.

“When we introduce the podcast to new student members, we tell them that it’s an opportunity to help fellow students and themselves get answers to their burning questions, make connections, and interview someone they hold in high esteem,” Allen said.

Another recruitment technique Allen recommends is to stay alert for opportunities to suggest a new podcast idea. For example, NYACP had a student who couldn’t make an event but wanted to connect with a speaker to discuss their practice area.

“When I connected them, I asked if both would consider doing the podcast,” Allen said. “It would support sharing the information with others and help to break the ice. The student hadn’t indicated she was interested in doing them but was the first student of the year to complete one.”

Though creating a student-member-led podcast has its challenges, Allen has found it to be valuable for the organization and members.

“Students to get to hear real stories from respected physicians in the field and gain new ideas about directions for their future career paths,” she said. “For the association, the podcast is another platform to promote the organization and provides content that you can use and repurpose in many different ways.”

[Vanessa Nunes/ISTOCK]

Hannah Carvalho

By Hannah Carvalho

Hannah Carvalho is Senior Editor at Associations Now. MORE

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