From Greenpeace’s famous Rainbow Warrior ship, to beekeeping, to Narwhals and the use of neonicotinoids, Greenpeace Canada’s first four podcasts have covered a range of environmental and human interest issues.
The podcasts — which are 12-18 minutes long and also spliced into segments as shorter clips — sound highly professional with strong audio, relatable storytelling and humor. Since its start in August the team produces one podcast each month.
It may be surprising to know that behind the scenes, the podcasts are created in a make-shift studio with executive producer and host Mary Ambrose putting a towel over her head to help with the sound. MobLab caught up with Mary and co-producer Andrew Norton to discover some insights from their podcast journey.
Promoting Environmental Literacy
Given the variety of campaigns Greenpeace is working on — from avoiding tuna that is not sustainability-sourced and international campaigns like detoxifying fashion — there is a lot of content that can be shared.
Through the podcasts, Mary says they aim to introduce Greenpeace campaigns and concerns for the environment in a soft and gentle manner.
“Greenpeace has a very tough image, and we are proud of that. We aren’t afraid to do things, we take stands, we make risks and that’s great, but there’s a whole bunch of people (who) have a mis-perception about Greenpeace that that’s all,” says Mary, who works in media relations and public relations at Greenpeace Canada and is an award-winning broadcaster.
Mary notes the podcasts focus on “things people are already thinking about and give them the environmental part of it. We are trying to promote not only a different face of Greenpeace but also environmental literacy.”
Through sharing the information, the hope is people know they can do something and be comfortable talking about the environmental issues.
“We are hoping people will come to Greenpeace who haven’t already. Greenpeace is trying to mobilise people, change has got to come very quickly . . . we have to get a lot more people concerned about this,” she says, noting it is particularly important in Canada where the current government has been stripping environmental assessment laws.
“There’s a little something for everyone in Greenpeace so we are hoping to bring some of that to a wider group of people.”
Benefits of Audio
When people think about multimedia, photos often come to mind, but audio is much more cost-effective to make — and nimble, says Mary.
“(With audio) you don’t need to be in the place — you don’t need to be on the site of the disaster to talk about the disaster — and that really helps,” she adds.
As traditional media is “collapsing before our eyes” there is a need to think of ways to get content into different kinds of places.
“I do think it is a multimedia world and people are still listening,” says Mary.
Podcasts can be easily downloaded onto a mobile phone and listened to while taking a dog for a walk, for example.
Andrew, Greenpeace multimedia producer and archivist co-producer, echoes that among the benefits of podcasts is the low entry cost compared to other multimedia projects, noting people can easily be trained how to use a microphone and recorder enabling a focus on storytelling rather than fancy technical skills.
A mic and recorder is easy to toss in your bag and bring with you, Andrew adds, noting he recently did an interview on the bow of the Rainbow Warrior while en route to Victoria at the spur of the moment.
“We’ve talked to people docked on Greenpeace ships across the globe and subjects from around the world with a monthly budget of about half the cost of producing a short video. That’s a lot of storytelling for our buck,” he says.
It is tricky to figure out who of the hundreds of podcast listeners are Greenpeace supporters, says Mary.
“That’s the question — are we getting new people in? That would be the fond hope,” says Mary.
Listeners can access the podcasts through SoundCloud, Stitcher and iTunes. SoundCloud automatically updates the podcast feed into the other two platforms. The podcasts are distributed via Greenpeace Canada’s e-newsletters, which reaches 120,000 of its supporters, as well as posted on its website and promoted via its social media channels.
The SoundCloud community is a great way to get the podcast out to people, says Andrew, noting Greenpeace Canada was recently added to their “who to follow” section. In a few months, Greenpeace Canada has attracted more than 200,000 SoundCloud followers, meaning when they post a new piece it shows up in the followers’ feeds. There has been more than 14,200 listens on SoundCloud to date. On iTunes, Greenpeace Canada’s podcasts has 132 subscribers.
Mary notes they have had a very positive response to the podcasts within Greenpeace, and the project was shared at the recent Skillshare event where people responded enthusiastically.
The most important element of putting together a podcast are the stories, says Andrew.
“If you have something entertaining and engaging, people can overlook technical flaws. Conversely, you can have the best gear, but if no one wants to listen, what’s the point?
- Podcasts are a low-cost project compared to other multimedia, like video
- Having someone who understands radio and audio is key
- There is potential to reach new audiences
- People often listen to podcasts on their mobiles
- The story is the most important element, creating something entertaining and engaging
“You really need to put your audience first and don’t take their attention for granted. Keep things simple and make sure people want to keep listening,” he says.
Mary says they try to keep as much sound as possible and limit to “brainiac” talk, keeping a human and friendly tone.
For other Greenpeace offices or organizations interested to enter the podcast sphere, Mary and Andrew offer tips for how to get started. They agree the easiest option, though potentially most expensive, is hiring a freelance audio producer to consult and create the podcast.
“The hard part about duplicating this is that you really have to have people who have radio experience or some kind of audio experience,” says Mary, noting this is beyond technical experience.
Greenpeace Canada usually hires one person per episode to do a sound piece. Many radio reporters around the world are looking for work and accessible.
“There are plenty of audio freelancers who would love to help with a project like this. They can consult with the communications and campaign staff and head up the project — mapping out stories as well as managing the technical end — editing, recording, etcetera,” notes Andrew.
Mary says it is unfair and too difficult to ask people without experience in radio to try and create something themselves.
Websites such as The Association of Independents in Radio have community boards of radio freelancers that can be tapped into.
A crucial part of their success, in terms of bang for buck, is Andrew’s experience with technology, says Mary.
Editing audio is similar to editing video, says Andrew, so people who have experience with video editing can easily be retrained to edit audio. Even people with little editing experience can pick it up, he notes.
So what gadgets are needed to start producing podcasts? A mic, headphones, a recorder, and audio editing software, which (excluding the computer to edit on) can be purchased for less than $600, says Andrew.
Greenpeace Canada uses the following gear:
- Electrovoice RE50 mic
- Sony M10 recorder
- furry mic attachment to cut down wind noise
- “Hindenburg” audio editing software
- Voxguard audio sound baffle (optional, helps to cut down on echoey noise)
Mary says they are “still pretty stoked” about the podcast project, noting the tricky part is finding the human face of often deeply scientific subjects. She hopes to put the podcasts on other radio stations, noting there is a “real thirst for understanding.”
Another idea she has presented is adding a 10-second audio clip to the bottom of press releases that private radio could use. It’s a simple idea, she says, that could mean the stories get into places they wouldn’t otherwise.
“As traditional media is collapsing before our eyes we have to think of ways in which we can get into different kinds of places and different kinds of things,” says Mary.
Stay Connected: @GreenpeaceCA
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