Following podcast success, Collaboratory launches Podcasting Toolkit

January 30, 2020
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) first weekly podcast, 22.33, has become the most prolific, most listened to Department of State podcast.  Launched in January 2019, 22.33’s weekly episodes highlight international exchange participants’ life-changing stories and showcase the transformative effect exchanges can have.  The podcast has also become an educational tool by exposing students to new cultures, foreign adventures, and ECA’s work.  The ECA Collaboratory—22.33’s creator and producer—has created a Podcasting Toolkit to help other Department of State offices, overseas missions, and the public produce their own successful podcasts.
 
Podcasts: A Better Way to Tell our Story
 
Podcasting is exploding around the world. Apple, just one of many podcast platforms, recently announced its billionth podcast download. And the number of podcast listeners is rapidly increasing, with the most growth coming from the United States. Podcasts allow producers to tailor material for desired audiences, and many people are drawn to this more personal and immersive way to communicate,
 
In creating 22.33, the Collaboratory set out to prove two concepts about podcasting: 1) a small team with minimal equipment can create a high-quality product; and 2) the podcast could sound fresh and authentic, despite being a U.S. Government (USG) product. The goal was to reach the general public with meaningful stories from ECA exchanges with a personal approach. Even the name was chosen to be memorable without screaming “USG!” (22.33 is named for Title 22, Chapter 33 of the U.S. Code, the statute that created ECA.)
 
The Collaboratory is meeting its goals - in 2019, 22.33 was downloaded by people in 170 countries. Balancing episodes between programs, regions, themes, and genders, 22.33 has found a dedicated and growing following, and a five-star rating on Apple podcasts. Since the podcast captures authentic, human stories by ECA exchange participants, listeners can understand the power and the potential impact of exchange programs. The Collaboratory chose to use storytelling methodology to shape each episode’s narrative since humans are wired to receive and comprehend information best through stories. Stories help create connections on a deeper level than facts, promote greater empathy, and are more memorable. Showcasing the breadth of ECA exchanges, potential material for 22.33 is inexhaustible.
 
Podcast-related live events are becoming an important part of the form. 22.33 conducted its inaugural live podcast during the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP)’s Women, Peace, and Security Program, the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants (FLTA) mid-year conference, and the Global Ties’ National Meetings honoring IVLP’s 80th Anniversary.
 
22.33 as an Educational Tool
 
Every episode of 22.33 comes with a written transcript and is archived on our webpage. Most episodes are evergreen—as participants’ stories remain powerful, whether from 2019 or 1989—so the archive is a constantly refreshing source of content.
 
Combined with episode transcripts, ECA’s Regional English Language Officers (RELOs), English Language Fellows (ELFs), and Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) are using 22.33 for listening comprehension, vocabulary, and enrichment activities. Working with the Collaboratory, ECA’s American Spaces Office is producing discussion guides for specific episodes to promote conversation and critical thinking around American culture and priority themes. A U.S. exchange program alumnus is using 22.33 to teach his classes, training future teachers with specific lesson plans incorporating two 22.33 episodes and tying them directly to statewide education standards. And an upcoming issue of Childhood Education: Innovations magazine will showcase 22.33’s educational potential to younger learners and education, government, and NGO workers in 40 countries.
 
Paying it Forward: The Podcasting Toolkit
 
Having proven podcasting can be done effectively, even by a small team of audio amateurs, the Collaboratory is sharing its experience through a podcasting toolkit. Using 22.33 as an example, the toolkit outlines tips and ideas to consider when planning and designing a podcast, choosing equipment, recording, interviewing, editing, marketing, distributing, and promoting a podcast. Readers will also find tips on sourcing free music and a large list of additional reading and resources.