By Edward Stewart
One year ago, the Collaboratory—the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) innovation unit—set out to prove two concepts with a new podcast project called 22.33. The concepts that the team wanted to prove were that a small team with a minimal amount of resources could create a high-quality production and that a podcast produced by the U.S. government could still sound fresh and authentic.
The primary goal of 22.33 was to highlight how the Department of State’s international exchange programs improve foreign relations, strengthen national security, and provide a broad range of domestic benefits. Even the name was designed to be memorable; 22.33 comes from Title 22, Chapter 33 of the U.S. Code, the statute which created ECA that President John F. Kennedy signed into law in 1961.
The choice to use storytelling methodology was also part of a strategic plan. First-person audio narratives, told directly by the participants of ECA’s programs, allows the podcast to reach a broad audience. Since humans are wired to comprehend information through stories, this approach enables listeners to connect on a deeper level and makes the content more memorable.
After 12 months and more than 80 episodes, ECA’s 22.33 podcast has proven to be a resounding success. The 22.33 podcast has been downloaded more than 40,000 times and maintains a 5-star rating on Apple Podcasts. It was featured on the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy blog and has been recommended as a teaching tool in Childhood Education: Innovations magazine. Most recently, the Collaboratory production team has experimented with producing live podcasting events for ECA events, where they record an episode of 22.33 in front of a live audience.
To share the knowledge and best practices learned from creating the podcast, the Collaboratory team created a Podcasting for Public Diplomacy toolkit. This guide is designed to help Department offices and overseas posts produce their own successful podcasts. For more information about 22.33 and podcasting for public diplomacy, contact the Collaboratory at ECACollaboratory@state.gov or search #2233Stories on social media.
Edward Stewart is a strategic program designer in the Collaboratory in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.