Five Things DOE Learned from Making a Podcast

The Energy Department launched Direct Current, our first podcast, on May 9. The first episode—all about rooftop solar, as well as the history of our agency—has been well-received so far by press, stakeholders, and the general public.

The Department of Energy's splash screen for their Direct Current podcast series.

One review stuck out. Headlined “From out of nowhere, the U.S. Energy Department launches a great podcast,” it underscored that most people might not realize how much work and planning actually went into creating our first 25-minute episode.

Here are five key takeaways from creating and launching our podcast:

  1. Set a goal launch date, but don’t set it in stone. Our launch date was pushed back because of some technical difficulties, but just having a date in mind really set a fire under us. We got moving on recording, clipping and editing the episode, and it was fully finished by our original launch date, giving us extra time to work on future episodes.
  2. Find a quiet recording space. We work in an open office, so recording at our desks was out of the question. We have a small conference room that worked for recording phone calls, but didn’t work well for recording narration, as people were always walking by and making background noise. Luckily, the Energy Department has a video recording studio in the basement. We reserved time in the studio for recording. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better than anything we would’ve been able to do in our office space.
  3. Everything will take longer than you expect. Give yourself extra time… and then more time on top of that. With our other roles and responsibilities, it took us almost a year to get the podcast off the ground. We had to figure out what to call the podcast, how long it would be, how frequently we’d release episode, what topics to cover, who would host, where the file would live, how we would roll it out, and many other things all while keeping up with our other obligations. Even just audio transcription and clipping took longer than expected, so give yourself plenty of lead time.
  4. Pitch your podcast. We wanted to make sure people actually heard what we had produced. So we got our press staff invested early. They helped us pitch the first episode to multiple news outlets. We had stories written about the podcast in The Verge, CityLab and Engadget, to name a few. Needless to say, without that pitching, the podcast would not have gotten nearly as much reach as it did. Social media is great, and we’ll continue to use it. But traditional media is still very powerful.
  5. Plan episodes ahead. Now that the podcast has launched, “When is the next episode coming out?” and “What’s the next episode about?” is all we hear. It’s really important to have a plan beyond the first episode and to be working on multiple episodes at once so you don’t fall behind.

Check out Episode 1.5, a teaser of all that’s in store this season! And don’t forget to subscribe via iTunes or your favorite podcatcher.

Allison Lantero is a Digital Content Specialist and co-host of Direct Current at the Department of Energy in Washington D.C. She can be reached via email.