Podcasting: Teamwork Makes It Less Difficult Than We Thought It Would Be

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

With decades of EPA service under my belt, I’ve been a part of, and sometimes led, dozens of workgroups aimed at improving how EPA does business. Almost all bore fruit—some with longer shelf-life than others—and it’s easy for me to say that EPA is a good place to raise and lend a hand.

Our initial experience this summer producing the Mid-Atlantic region’s series of podcasts shows what a talented group can do, from scratch and on a shoestring budget. We carefully chose the name “Environment Matters” for our podcast series, knowing that “matters” is both a noun and a verb: we’re providing diverse information about the environment and, we hope in an interesting way, convincing people that what they do everyday makes a difference.

What’s a podcast? Webcontent.gov says it’s “a way of publishing MP3 audio files on the web so they can be downloaded onto computers or portable listening devices, such as iPods …. ” (Please note that they can be video, too.) A best practice to grow an audience is to publish the podcasts regularly. We started on July 25 about saving gasoline, followed on successive Fridays with a unique environmental program for students, water quality monitoring at beaches, a baseball stadium built on a brownfields site, and back-to-school advice for the green-minded. We expect to post two or three a month, and so far there’s been no shortage of topic ideas (and if there’s a little healthy competition among our environmental programs to feature their topics, good).

Back to the collaboration that’s made our quick learning possible. I know, there’s an element of show biz that must be at work here. But “Star Wars” this ain’t, so that intriguing factor can’t explain the enthusiasm and creativity that a dozen people have brought to this environmental education project. The jobs and roles of our podcast team reveal the skills needed to launch “Environment Matters”: senior management for the go-ahead and (surprisingly modest) budget; managers in public affairs and IT to energize and select people for each podcast; communications experts to write scripts, host the podcasts, and coach subject expert speakers; web developers to design and feed our multimedia website; transcribers who make the content accessible to deaf people; and one aspiring movie director with an IT day job; he and his boss are audio editing mavens. (You don’t know your colleagues’ hidden talents until you ask.) And help from our headquarters gave us some needed encouragement. Most of us have known each other for years, but our podcasting has quickly boosted our teamness. Do I sound a bit gushy, after all these years?

Two requests of you: ideas for making better podcasts, and topics you’d like us to cover.