BY JUDITHE REGISTRE
FOUNDER and PODCAst HOST
If you’re familiar with podcasts, you know how moving they can be. You know they can draw you in—not only hold your attention and keep you coming back for more, but they can actually make you a part of the conversation, a part of something bigger. Podcasts are special in this way—they don’t just inform or entertain, they engage.
This podcast pull is well-documented and recognized by major media organizations. Exploring long-form narrative through podcasting is such a proven valuable investment for growth that NPR, a leader in audio content creation via both radio and podcasting, has has seen growth of podcasting year on year by 38 percent. The ability of podcasting to connect with people has proven so relevant that long established media legacy organizations are starting to invest in podcasting, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, among others.
These developments are important for us at Inclusivus, where our main goal is to ensure that communities write and shape their own stores of progress and change. We want to make sure that stories and narratives of social good changemakers (especially for historically excluded communities) are centered and amplified, and we want to be able to communicate these stories, disseminate them widely, and make sure that they have an impact. For this, podcasts are the perfect tool.
Why podcasts are growing in popularity
So what is it about podcasts? What is it that makes them so appealing to so many people, and therefore so valuable to so many companies, organizations, and industry leaders? The answer is three-fold:
- They’re personal
There are few things as poignant as hearing someone’s voice. Sounds are powerful and can literally touch us. Hearing someone speak creates a personal connection to that person—you understand them in an entirely new way.
Podcasts bring this connection into our everyday lives. Listening to podcasts, you hear the voices of people you otherwise might never know, and you come to feel like you truly understand the person on the other side. That understanding is the foundation of empathy, which is a key step toward social change.
- They’re substantive
It’s no secret that many traditional news sources are struggling lately, especially given how technology has transformed content creation and dissemination. Traditional news sources are failing for a number of reasons, the combination of which amounts—among other things—to an inability to hold readers’ interest and trust.
Still, our desire for good news or trustworthy content is as strong as ever, as is our desire for social connection. As readers and consumers of information, we look to the media not only to better our understanding of the world, but for ideas on how to live and act positively within it as citizens. This kind of information needs to come from sources that we trust and relate to.
Podcasts are those sources. Podcasts are not just interesting or entertaining, they are substantive forms of engagement. We have been entertained enough with clickbait headlines—what we need now is in-depth, substantive engagement to make informed decisions as active citizens.
- They’re accessible on demand
The majority of podcast listeners are mobile—meaning they’re listening on the go. As long as you have a smartphone on you, you have access to podcasts. You can listen in your car, on your walk to work, or while you cook. They are available any time, any day.
Social change requires a large audience that whose engagement is ongoing, not momentary. This means that we don’t just need a lot of content, we need content that has a wide reach and can be communicated anywhere. With their huge distribution and accessibility on demand, podcasts are perfect for this.
Podcasts are an incredible tool. Unfortunately, many of us in the social justice field are failing to take advantage of them. This is a huge oversight on our part. It’s time for us in the social justice sphere to jump in and start using podcasts to their full potential. At this time of global political upheaval, the moment is not only relevant—the need is pertinent.
Podcast potential: It’s all about engagement
We live in a time where content creation is queen (or king). But for people working for social change, content creation alone is not enough. There is plenty of information out there already, but content availability does not equal accessibility or engagement.
In the social justice field, our business is to inspire. We need to affect people’s ideas, move hearts, inform minds, and excite new ideas that will lead people to sustained engagement for social good. People need to feel included in building a new understanding and co-creating a more just and equitable society.
So how do we do that? How do we inspire people in a way that will lead to sustained action and engagement through podcasting?
We tell stories.
Podcasts, with their inherent intimacy that pulls you in and includes you without imposing on you, are the perfect way to tell the stories that will get into people’s hearts and minds to start conversations that lead to sustained action. Stories can lead to understanding, respect, and appreciation for our shared humanity.
On The Get InPowered Podcast, we feature raw and relevant stories from women and men who are affecting change in their communities, communities that are often looked at as “marginalized” or distressed (or historically, politically or economically excluded). As these men and women share their stories, they (re)claim the narratives of their communities and shine lights on the tremendous amount of creativity, energy, innovation, and leadership that sit within them. These men and women prove that you do best when you advocate for yourself.
The stories that we feature on The Get InPowered Podcast will spark ideas that listeners will remember and mull over for days. These ideas could become conversations among friends and family members, and those conversations have the potential to influence behaviors. These ideas, these conversations, these changing behaviors—these could ignite new personal passions, and personal passions are the grounds for sustained activism.
What does this mean for social change?
Social change is heavy lifting—we need all the help we can get. And listening to a podcast, unlike reading a magazine or newspaper article, is a relatively low-effort activity with high quality content, which means listeners can save their energy to take action to try something new. (Like starting a movement or simply engaging in our community as good citizens!)
Podcasts bring you the voices and the stories of people you might otherwise never hear and enable connections you might otherwise never experience. Over the course of just one episode of one podcast, you experience countless moments of connection, inspiration, and appreciation. And in those moments, the person on the other side of the line goes from being a nameless, faceless stranger to somebody you feel you know and connect to, somebody who’s right there beside you. In these moments, you go from being a passive bystander to an engaged actor. These are the moments that spark connection that could lead to social change.
The Get InPowered Podcast fosters community through our shared stories and humanity. We understand that effective and sustainable social movements happen in your everyday actions, engagement and over time. We bring you stories and ideas that are transforming communities and the people behind them, so that you can find an inspiration for the change you seek in the world as you find your power, your voice.
For the kind of inclusive change that the world needs, traditional media has not proven effective. The Get InPowered Podcast, on the other hand, has the potential to make up for traditional media’s shortcomings and have a significant, long-term impact. This is important for any and all of us who are committed to serving communities as they write and tell their own stories. But this will require investments to grow a cross-industry and cross-sector podcast audience committed to social justice.
It is well past time for the social development sector to start paying attention to podcasts and investing in their potential to influence social movements. If used properly, podcasts can reinforce our shared humanity by using stories to amplify critical issues that will help advance humanity forward.