The Podcast Very Specifically Examines The Human Side Of Public Servants

Todd Lyons
Dec. 24, 2018 - "Make certain your podcast actually needs to exist."
Since 2015

►Tell us about you and your podcast

My name is Todd Lyons. In 2015 I started Toddcast -- a podcast for, and about, public servants -- one that very specifically examines the human side of public servants.

Toddcast has covered topics such as depression, telework, harassment, performance management agreements, discrimination, bullying, transgender, disabilities, grief management, addiction, suicide and conflict resolution, to name just a few. Some of those were really heavy, but there's a lot of inspiration contained within and, where appropriate, a bit of humour.


►Why & how did you start this podcast? 

As a former radio announcer and registered social worker, I found that my job as a public servant was tapping into only a portion of the skills I had to give and the kind of work I sought to do. I also felt that a disconnect existed within the public service, between each other as employees of this massive organization, but also to our own feelings as ordinary people working for the public good.
It took me a couple of months to design the show and collect material for the first two episodes.


►How'd you find the time and funding to do this podcast?

I publish new episodes monthly, writing and recording during evenings and weekends. To shorten the production cycle, I collect as much material as possible as develop several episodes at a time, releasing whichever is closest to completion.

It was initially self-funded, but listeners retro-actively covered the cost of equipment and have provided continuing assistance to purchase additional gear, web hosting, and even transcription costs.


►What do you gain from podcasting?        

I have shied away from commercial sponsorship. The listener-supported model has been very successful for me and is a good indicator that the program is meeting the needs of the audience.

Doing an independent podcast about the public service established a reputation that has allowed me to podcast full-time. I've been consulted by numerous individuals and government departments for development advice and was retained by Employment and Social Development Canada to produce “Indigenous Perspectives” a 12-part series examining what it means to be an Indigenous Public Servant. I continue to choose the topics I develop into series and am completely fulfilled by my work in a way I didn't think was possible.


►How does your podcasting process look like? 

I use open source tools as much as possible. I plan content with Kanboard, write and collect material with DokuWiki, and record, edit and mix with Audacity. Many potential guests approach me directly and others are suggested by listeners. Where possible, I make the development process collaborative in order to pack the most amount of compelling content into 20 to 30 minutes. I prefer to record face-to-face, but use phone interviews where necessary.


►How do you market your show?

I created and manage my own website, which serves as the hub for all my publishing. New material is promoted on Twitter and Linkedin, but most of the growth has been grassroots promotion from listeners.


►What advice would you share with aspiring (new) podcasters?

My advice to aspiring podcasters:

1. Make certain your podcast actually needs to exist. It has to fill some actual need in the world. If there's no void for you to fill, there no audience for you to satisfy.

2. Give your show a distinct personality. The more it has a unique and discernible character, the more it becomes something that people personally relate to and develop affection for. And you want that. You're not just releasing a recording, you are beginning a relationship with your audience.

3. Learning and feeling is the sweet spot of podcasting. It is insufficient to create something that just conveys information. It must make a connection with the listener. It must make them feel something.

4. When you write – and your introductory and connective material should be scripted – don't just explain. Describe. Evoke. Observe. Suggest. Don't necessarily conclude and don't dumb things down. Trust your audience's intelligence. Never insult it. Better to raise questions and float observations that engage the listener into undergoing the analysis themselves.

5. Once you have a developed show, release it on a defined schedule. It doesn't have to be frequent, but it has to be consistent. I've released Toddcast once a month, every month, on the Second Sunday of the month, since 2015. As a monthly release, it feels more like an event than a weekly show does. And it gives people time to digest and catch up.

6. Avoid time-sensitive content, unless that's all your shop does, in which case I'd say, “Are you really sure you should be doing a podcast?” For the amount of work it takes to do a podcast really well, the content should have a long shelf life. Every single episode of every show I have ever produced continues to accumulate listens. People binge-listen. People go back to the first episode and listen in sequential order. Why? The show has a personality, it fulfills a need, and those needs aren't time sensitive. As far as the sequence, there is none. You can listen to Toddcast in any order and it makes sense.

7. Take chances. Create something meaty. Make steak, or textured soy protein. Don't make pablum. It's wasted time and resources to make something that people don't care about. Make the thing they secretly hope for but don't expect you to deliver. Indigenous Perspectives -- my first official podcast for the government -- has some rather frank and sometimes unflattering things to say about our country and our government. While it seems strange for a government department to provide the platform that gives voice to criticism, but it was the truth. To do otherwise, would have robbed the series of its authenticity.

8. Don't get bogged down with analytics. Don't use them as the basis for judging whether or not your work is a success. Shakespeare and Beethoven were geniuses but (a) they were not the best judges of which of their creations were their greatest, and (b) For every creation of theirs that was a true masterpiece, they made dozens of others which were merely good. Or average. But imagine if they'd been devastated by negative reviews or by no reviews at all. We wouldn't have gotten the masterpieces.


►Where can we learn more about you & your podcasts?

Want to know more, or just share your thoughts on what I've said? I'd love to talk to you.

WWW: toddlyons.ca
Twitter: twitter.com/toddrlyons
Linkedin: ca.linkedin.com/in/toddrlyons

Updated: 9 months ago