Podcasts, the next generation of talk radio. They provide short, focused stories that you can listen to anytime on a variety of platforms. When I first started engaging Sheila Mullowney and Susan Farley, I wasn't sure what was so special about their podcasts. After all, people record podcasts all the time.
But imagine if those podcasts could help you in your work within the Department of the Navy. Yes- your work!
Sheila and Susan work on communications products for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, Rhode Island, and are always looking for ways to get the workforce to engage with their stories. A colleague suggested that they give podcasts a try. They had the equipment and an audience; now all they had to do was find people to interview. They decided to just do it!
Sheila and Susan take turns interviewing and producing the podcasts. The podcasts generally are hosted internally, but they recently received approval to host episodes cleared for public release on SoundCloud, a music and podcast streaming platform that lets you listen to millions of songs from around the world (or to upload your own).
As Sheila remarked, "If it’s good enough for Admiral Richardson (the last Chief of Naval Operations, who used SoundCloud for his official podcast), it's good enough for us!" When Sheila and Susan were looking to launch the podcast, they looked at the cost and time to produce videos and compared it to the return on investment from a podcast interview. In addition to interviewing guests, they have used the audio from video footage of high-level all-hands presentations and leadership remarks for special episodes of the podcast.
The excitement in Sheila and Susan's voices shot up as they told me about their first podcast. It was released March 29th, 2019, and took a couple of days to record and produce. Pretty fast compared to a video! After all, it had to be low cost, quick, and something that would be of interest to the local workforce: a pilot of sorts. Their first guest was a local, Mark Dalton, a computer scientist at NUWC Newport Division, who spoke about machine learning, a popular subject in the Department of the Navy.
It quickly caught on and the podcast was a success. Soon, more senior guests like Vice Admiral Tom Moore (COMNAVSEA) were sitting across the table at the mic. Vice Admiral Moore was so impressed with the work of the team that he sent out an All Hands email about it. Sheila said this attention "helped give us legitimacy. If he will do it, why won’t your director do it? That’s what we kept asking."
When the producers named the podcast "One Team" because it serves all the Naval Surface and Undersea Warfare Center Divisions, the podcast was just another idea, another way to communicate strategic information to the workforce. In addition to experts on technology for "Distro D" episodes, they found less technical subjects and guests that allowed them to host "Distro A" podcasts publicly.
David Sanders, Director of Public Affairs & Congressional Affairs at NUWC Headquarters, told us, "Podcasting offers a great opportunity for the NAVSEA Warfare Centers to demonstrate the 'One Team' sensibility. It's already proven to be a relatively fast, easy, and effective tool to capture messages from leadership and communicate them quickly throughout the organization and beyond. The response from the workforce has been really positive."
Now the One Team Podcast has produced over 20 episodes, with three publicly released on SoundCloud and with guests that range from local experts to Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Research, Development and Acquisition, HON James "Hondo" Geurts.
In the spirit of agility, a quality that is becoming more critical at the Warfare Centers, the team became mobile and interviewed their guests at events rather than trying to get them into the studio. This increased their chances of getting otherwise hard-to-schedule guests like Mr. Geurts or Vice Admiral Moore.
Mr. Geurts was a keynote speaker at the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance's Defense Innovation Days in Newport, Rhode Island, and the team interviewed him at the event about his new NavalX initiative, Warfare Center agility, and his favorite phrase, "pivot speed." Podcasts like this one help the Warfare Centers bring leadership and experts closer to the workforce.
They also have recorded podcasts on the fly at events such as the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX) at NUWC Newport Division and the NAVSEA High Velocity Learning Summit earlier this year.