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  • Writer's pictureMaheen Awan

The Student Focus - A Podcast Series

One thing I never thought I’d do in my life is starting a Podcast series. Come on, what possibly do I have to say that holds any substance? Even if I do, who’s going to listen to me rant on for 30-ish minutes? Also, I can’t be the only one who thinks their voice sounds weird on audio? Though, it ended up being something I had to face, thanks to - yes, you guessed it - an assignment brief given to my class. My professors really believe in testing our potential. Still love you B & S!

The good thing is that this is a group project, so I wasn’t alone in this boat. My friends, Nat and Mags, who also happen to be my group mates for this assignment, also had similar feelings about the whole thing. It is honestly the perfect group – each of us holds interest in a niche creative field, so we were all bringing a unique twist to the project. Mags is your all-rounder designer, Nat is your go-to girl for advertising, and I try my best with brand strategy/management. It's also a good-sized group. We have our fair share of disagreements but we tend to bounce back from those as we all have immense respect for each other's unique viewpoint on different topics we discuss.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions...

It seemed a bit overwhelming at first when I thought about all the whos, whats, hows, and whens of it. We had a lot to discuss and figure out. We decided to hop on a Zoom call and share our fears and ideas. At first, we thought to focus our podcast on the creative field. Each of us would do one episode focusing on our strong suit – offering our insights and visions about it. Though, as we all dug deeper into research, and improved our understanding of podcasts we decided to go another route.

This was for two reasons:

  1. We wanted to target the current undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well students in high school, looking for honest brutal feedback about the creative industry and the in and outs of academics.

  2. We aren't experts in our respective chosen fields - so why claim to be?

What we are experts (self-proclaimed) in, though, is how this education system works, how we got here, and the current job-hunting process. So, this time we locked our decision regarding creating a podcast about “the journey of a student”, so it’s all about our creative journeys so far, the education system we’re in, the job market and job hunting, etc. You get the gist.

We also had quite a few rounds of discussions over the name. We came up with 30 something names for the Podcast before finally landing on 'The Student Focus'. Some potential names were: interUp, diScope, ProblemPad, Student Alt and the list goes on. Oh, and how can I forget 'Okay, Brian...' (oh so lovingly named after our Professor).

Have a look at the Miro board Mags was kind enough to create for us. It has all our ideas, research, individual notes, feedback, and mood boards for branding. Whatever you can think of - it's there. This made all our subsequent meetings productive, as we could conveniently have a look at it before the meeting in case we forgot something - eliminating the need for a recap - saving precious Zoom call time.

Pilot Episode!!

Now, we have our podcast theme and the name. What next? Of course, test recording our first episode to see what we're made of. How to structure our episode though? Do we do a structured pre-planned and approved list of questions and answers? Or do we set a general theme and just have a more conversation-like flow? How about a mix of both? The verdict - A mix would be the ideal case, as it better complimented our agreed-upon friendly and honest tone for the podcast.

Recording in the middle of a pandemic did definitely pose a few issues. We were in a lockdown, with the campus closed - that meant meeting up wasn't an option. Also, another tiny issue was that we were in different countries when we were planning to record our first episode, and unfortunately, none of us has teleporting abilities. Obviously then Zoom it was. What if the internet is slow and there is a delay in sound? How do we give each other cues as to who needs to speak when so that we don't talk over each other? What about annoying background noise? These were BIG hurdles, but we decided to give the pilot episode a go nonetheless and hope for the best. Luckily, it went almost flawlessly. The internet connection was at the top of its game. We didn't have issues coming up with unscripted content. We didn't speak over each other. We laughed, we cried, we fought, we hyped each other up. It was great. People should contact us for Podcasting tips. We're low-key experts at it now.

God also sent us an angel in the form of Nat, who knows how to edit audio. Boy, she did a great job (if you don't think the same, then please learn to be kinder). Here's the pilot + podcast intro, guys:

Podcast Recording Pilot + Intro
Download ZIP • 28.98MB

My take on the recording: I sound DEAD, but Mags and Nat killed it. I feel like the whole thing could be livelier. If that makes sense? For me, something is missing. Nothing we can't fix in the coming episodes though.

While Nat was in charge of the audio, Mags and I took upon the brand identity concepts. This, my friends, is what you call sharing responsibility.

Here's my work on the concept. I wanted something colourful, that catches the eye. Personally, I think, I can work on improving these. I'm my own worst critic.

We even had a Pinterest board to shortlist our vibe and look for the podcast brand identity.

Thoughts At The Backend:

Before this, I wasn’t really a podcast listener. I had only ever religiously listened to Debbie Millman’s Podcast ‘Design Matters’ – As a branding student, obviously, I had to keep up with the branding guru. My gripe with podcasts is that they’re too long, and mostly not engaging enough to hold my attention. So, when given the brief, this is what I worried about the most. How to grab and keep the listener's attention? This was my first topic research regarding podcasts know-hows. Now let’s get into it.

How to catch a listener’s attention?

According to Improve Podcast, “Listener Engagement is an art of capturing attention, delivering value, and making sure your audience sticks until the end of the episode. Highly engaged listeners will be exposed to all the key messages from your podcast.”

  • What is our key message? Well, our podcast's aim is to help current students navigate the academic and job-seeking life with ease, all the while reassuring them they're not alone.

  • What is our value? Be Authentic, Be Honest, Be Friendly, Be Respectful!

  • How do we capture attention and make sure it sticks? Well, I jokingly captioned our podcast 'Rants of An Ever Frustrated Trio', but in all honestly that's the reality for most students out there. We're all stressed and worried about exams, submissions, grades, internships, jobs, salary, what life holds ahead...

The list goes on. I've only scratched the surface. I believe if our listeners resonate with what we're discussing in our podcast then they will surely stick around, even if the episode is 30 minutes long - maybe even recommend us to their friends.

In a world of 30 second Instagram reels and a pool of unwanted opinions, it is really difficult to make sure people actually stay and listen to what one has to say, but I think Mags, Nat, and I are on the right path so far. This is all I've got for now, keep coming back for more blogs on my podcast journey. Bye!

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