How Oregon’s DEQ Enhanced Its Communication Strategy with a Podcast
Every day, people are inundated with communications from every direction and from a variety of sources. As reaching constituents becomes more challenging, government agencies are finding creative ways to break through the messaging clutter. Using innovative communication methods which support more traditional methods, such as email and press releases, is proving effective in reaching community members with targeted messages.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) launched a podcast called GreenState with this goal in mind. Going far beyond a press release, GreenState dives deep into environmental topics of interest to Oregonians and allows agency staff the opportunity to show what they can do as storytellers. As Oregon DEQ Public Affairs Specialist Dylan Darling explains,
“There are so many people at the agency and [the podcast] was a way to give them a voice.”
This innovative work resulted in the Oregon DEQ receiving the 2022 Granicus Digital Government Difference Maker Award. DEQ staff wanted to present information to residents in a unique, engaging way while providing a vehicle for sharing the human stories of the agency. Oregon DEQ Public Affairs Specialist Lauren Wirtis noted,
“It’s nice to be able to say something [to residents] other than ‘Go to our website.’”
GreenState began in the summer of 2021 as the state was facing a particularly difficult wildfire season. DEQ started the podcast with a three-part series called “Where There’s Smoke,” which looked at the past, present and future of smoke in Oregon. When the podcast began, DEQ had not established traditional listenership goals; rather, the agency sought to inform the public and reach them where they are. Ideally, Darling and Wirtis hoped, people could tune into the 30-minute episodes while driving or performing chores around the house.
As with any effective communications strategy, the podcast was integrated into the DEQ’s overall messaging plans. DEQ promotes the podcast using Granicus’ product govDelivery and estimates about 1,700 subscribers have come through that channel. GreenState is highlighted on the agency’s website home page and is promoted on DEQ’s social media channels. Additionally, the podcast’s show notes are published on the agency’s blog, titled “Air, Land, and Water,” following each episode’s release. Among the more creative integration methods included cross-collaboration with local radio and using QR codes to promote the podcast at large community events.
The podcast has also become an effective way to support other agency communications, such as specific program pages. Wirtis notes, “For a long time, we’ve had these program pages that have become ‘catch-all’ pages and are difficult to absorb.” Though these pages are dense, they contain valuable program information, and the podcast serves as a vehicle to bring residents there for more information.
GreenState currently averages about 250 listeners per episode and the audience continues to grow. As it gains more traction and becomes a more popular resource in the community, Darling and Wirtis are hopeful that the podcast will help shape the perception of Oregon’s DEQ as an agency that handles so much more than just vehicle emissions tests.
Bringing the DEQ podcast to life has been a successful effort thanks to the hard work of Darling and Wirtis. As Wirtis puts it,
“[The podcast] is a nice capsule of your work and it’s very gratifying to put it out and have people listen to it. I didn’t know it would be so fulfilling to put things out into the world like that.”
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