Back to the Jul-Aug 2021 issue

Eden Prairie Podcast: Shifting Gears From Eyes to Ears

By Johnny Germscheid

Getschow, right, talks with resident Nibir Sarma, 2020 winner of the Jeopardy! College Championship, during a recent podcast episode. Photo courtesy City of Eden Prairie.

Most government podcasts are used for sharing information about upcoming projects or delving into hot-button issues. But when Eden Prairie City Manager Rick Getschow decided to launch his podcast in 2018, he envisioned an interview/ talk-show format featuring guests associated with Eden Prairie. “I wanted it to be person-based instead of topic-based, which is why I shifted my focus from a blog to a podcast,” says Getschow. “It’s a fun format because guests drive the discussion.”

Getting set up

As the city’s communications coordinator, I produce each episode, tapping into Audacity’s multi-track editing software using a laptop and audio interface.

Getschow challenged our communications team to set up a podcast within about a month, and I relied on YouTube, a little trial and error, and my days of recording in a garage band to get up and running.

That included purchasing equipment and a hosting subscription. The total cost was less than $500. Research indicated that we needed a catchy name and logo to create interest. Getschow’s interview style is fun, humorous, intelligent, and witty, and the podcast name and logo needed to reflect that.

Once we decided on the podcast’s name, “Real Talk with Rick,” a caricature featuring his jet-black hair and dark-framed glasses was created to capture Getschow’s personality. It was combined with vibrant colors to make the logo stand out.

Details of the show

Each podcast begins and ends with energetic music, and episodes range from 30 to 55 minutes. We adjust volume levels on the fly, but content is mostly unedited to maintain authenticity.

We typically produce two podcasts a month — one with a staff member, and another with someone with ties to the community. Getschow arranges the interviews and sends questions to the guests.

Guests in the last year have included the former city attorney, U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, various city employees, and Eden Prairie resident Nibir Sarma, who won last year’s Jeopardy! College Championship.

“Bringing on city employees is a terrific way to humanize the person who plows your street or keeps city facilities in tip-top shape,” Getschow says.

People are listening

The podcast is distributed to more than 10,000 subscribers and via social media. To expand the reach and encourage sharing, Eden Prairie communications staff tag organizations associated with podcast guests. Staff are also continually exploring and adding the podcast to emerging platforms.

“Podcasting has been an awesome way to connect with our active community of residents on-the-go because they can listen at their own pace,” says Getschow.

Hosting platform Libsyn states the average number of downloads for a U.S. podcast is 141 per episode, so the team’s goal for 2020 was increasing the average number of downloads for the second consecutive year. Real Talk with Rick averaged 150 downloads per episode in 2018 and 157 in 2019. In 2020, the average number of downloads increased to 183 per episode.

The most popular episode to date has been “COVID-19 Conversation,” a discussion with the city’s fire chief that has had more than 330 downloads.

Engaging staff and residents

The podcast has boosted staff engagement with Getschow, educated employees about other departments and divisions, and created more of a sense of family within the organization.

In addition to city employees and elected officials, the target audience for the podcast includes Eden Prairie residents and business owners. We’ve been handing out branded swag — cellphone popup stands with earbuds — at city functions for almost three years, and it’s been a hit with adults and kids alike.

Staff are also working on making the podcast more accessible to people with disabilities such as hearing impairments. Transcripts are currently available upon request and will be posted online soon.

Getshow regularly receives feedback about his podcast, and the city often sees positive comments on social media. One listener commented on Facebook, “I am moving to Eden Prairie from Minneapolis this summer, and I have been listening to your podcast over the last few months as a way to get to know the community better. I have really enjoyed the episodes so far.”

It’s been challenging to meet with guests in person regularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, but listenership has been up.

“We’re slowly working back to our regular schedule,” Getschow says. “The show must go on.”

Johnny Germscheid is communications coordinator with the City of Eden Prairie.