Nicole Kasielke, head of communication channels at the ETH Zurich, reports from the digital campus tour in San Francisco.
Our last day of the study tour started with another trip to Berkeley where we attended a podcast workshop. The program said: podcasts are the new “gold” in digital communications. Our instructor Laura Klivans used a different expression. She gave us a historical wrap-up on radio shows and said that audio actually is the “cockroach” of communications.
It was declared dead many times e.g. during the rise of TV or the invention of the internet but it is still around and it is even thriving. Storytelling by voice is a very intimate way of communications that is around since humans talk to each other. Laura gave us an overview of the different forms of popular podcasts that are around, classifying them in the categories of most to least produced. Examples for highly produced podcasts are e.g. the fictional story Homecoming or the show Radio Lab. A good example for a shorter podcast that also needs a decent amount of time producing is the series Bay Curious. On the other end of the spectrum you have shows where people just meet and talk to each other. A famous example in the United States is “WTF” with Jim Jefferies. But we did not only talk about podcasts we also produced a short one, a bathroom story. That was quite fun.
My learnings from the morning: podcasts are an interesting way of engaging people, and at least in the US it is more than a niche product. But a well produced podcast is not done fast and easy. I would even say it is more work than a video because you only rely on sound. And a good equipment is key.
In the afternoon, we went to the California Academy of Sciences. It is beautifully located in the Golden Gate Park and is an impressive Science and Natural History Museum as well as a research institution.
We met with Amie Wong, Cal Academy’s Senior Digital Marketing Manager. She gave us a very detailed insight in their social media strategy. They do not only deal with the official Cal Academy accounts but also have established sub brands like nightlife, their theme-oriented Thursday evening event for adults, or Big Picture, a photo contest. In total, they manage twenty channels. Amie told us that for monitoring they only concentrate on engagement, in her opinion reach is too superficial. She also explained us how they try to involve influencers, especially on Instagram. It was interesting to hear, that they have great success with it and that influencers which are usually paid by companies, are willing to work with them for free. Of course you have to offer them a special experience, e.g. a behind the scenes tour. In addition, Amie pointed out that they do not put any stress on them to post something about the event. So far, they have done two Instameets and during these two hours events they had nine times the engagement they usually have in a month!
So my main learnings from the afternoon: Focus on engagement and get to know your local influencers. Thanks Amie for the insightful talk!
Then finally, we reached the climax of the last day: the meeting with Claude the white alligator. We are sure he noticed us because he blinked at least twice :). I’d say a podcast about Claude will definitely find its audience.
The study tour week ended with a fabulous dinner in Stones Throw and I am sure, I also speak for my study tour colleagues when I shout out a big thank you to Julia and Perrine for organising the week. Especially a heartfelt thank you to Julia for being such a good “mom” to us.