How to Do a Family Podcast with Your Kids (and Why)

Every hour as a parent starts to feel like a stolen moment, doesn’t it? To say “time flies” is a massive understatement as these children who were the size of my forearm are gaining inches in height and miles in maturity (or attempts at it) every single month.

Thus capturing the moments and memories is always getting more urgent. And I have one vital factor working against me: I am not a crafty mom. I don’t regularly schedule family photo sessions. I hardly ever think to use a Shutterfly discount code to order prints or even a photo book of my kids. And saving their school or personal projects? Those tend to pile up into an unwieldy stack of papers until we finally spend a whole day posting them to a memory wall downstairs.

Family photo for DCC
The last time I got a picture of all of us was for Denver ComicCon 2018.

In short, I suck at saving memories. But I’m great at digital communications, and that’s where I struck upon what has worked for my particular situation: a family podcast.

Why a Family Podcast?

This all was inspired by the Avengers movies which have been reigning in our entertainment horizons for the last decade. Our family is fully entrenched in the geekery of the MCU (that’s Marvel Cinematic Universe for those who aren’t at our level of nerddom) and, as the kids have grown older and attended movie showings with us, the debates about each movie run fast and furious the moment the end-credits scene closes out and the theater lights go up.

I noticed that each member of our family had no trouble airing our opinions about the super heroes, super villains, plot lines, comedy, and overall appeal of each movie we see together.

I also was getting perpetually harassed by my children – one in particular – about wanting to become a “YouTuber.” Any remotely digitally-savvy parent should be acquainted with the fears of allowing the full force of internet viewers and their anonymous opinions to bowl over their kiddo, and I knew that I wanted to provide a type of training curriculum for my children before the whole “YouTuber” plan would even be considered.

So… we started a podcast. It’s called UnpauseIt. Here’s why it has been a great overall experience for our family.

It teaches production value.

An audio podcast requires that you record moments, and we had to incorporate that mechanism into the normal course of our movie discussions. So I bought us a Blue Yeti microphone, positioned it in the center of our circular dining room table, sat everyone down, and began recording.

Our daughter giving her .02 about a movie.

The entire first season of our podcast (where we reviewed each Avengers movie from Iron Man through Infinity War) was a learning experience in recording. We learned that when we put a blanket on the table and under the microphone, we reduced the amount of ambient noises captured in our recordings. We also learned to never give the kids plastic water bottles for drinking, because a firm grip (and resulting plastic popping noise) clearly carried into the recording.

Dad and son discussing opinions for an early episode.

We’d let the kids listen to our podcasts once they were edited and published, and they could hear how they sounded or when they needed to speak clearly or stay on point. Additionally, we as parent-producers could hear when we should have paused for a “wiggle-break;” as the show progressed in episodes, we got better at organizing the flow so the kids could be cut loose during segments they found to be more “for the boring adults.”

It teaches leadership.

We wanted this podcast to fully include all members of the family, regardless of age. So each week, we would rotate in one of us to “drive” that week’s podcast; the driver would be the one to ask questions and decide which person responds with their opinion and in what order. They could choose the sequence of questions, plus they needed to come up with the unit of measure for when we rated each movie.

This didn’t happen without obstacles or hiccups! We’d hit days when the kid driving would start getting tired or disinterested, and we’d have to pause to either have a pep talk or discontinue the recording until we could regroup with more gusto. We parents quickly learned the best times of day to let a kid drive the podcast recording, as well as the value of letting them drive the movies they liked versus the ones they were “meh” about.

It captures memories.

My absolute favorite aspect of this family podcast project is being able to hear my children’s voices at the tap of a screen on my Stitcher podcast player or on our YouTube channel. When the kids were at their grandma’s house for the summer, I’d pull up what I knew to be a favorite movie for one of them and play through their giggles, their attempts to sound like a professional host, their animated discussions, and even their contentiousness with differing opinions.

Podcasting should be fun… right???!!!

I may not be a mom that’s good at framing pictures or building scrapbooks. But I’m a mom that’s good at media production, and being able to include my kids in that skill and use it to build media memories I’ll have forever is everything.

How Do You Do a Family Podcast?

Pick a theme or topic for everyone.

This one was easy for us, and my best advice for you is to take a week where you’re on the lookout for those times when your family is all fully engaged with something at the same time. Your family may have many opportunities to choose from, or you may have less; it’s all going to depend on your dynamic and each person’s interests.

The key is to not force a topic. Case in point: our kids ultimately gained more interest in video games than in movies, so we’re pivoting our podcast to do a season about gaming (which might be something they’re more into than we are, but it’s still a shared interest with all of us).

Get equipped.

You’ll need a few things to create a podcast:

  • A microphone.
  • An audio editing software.
  • A podcast hosting platform.
  • A graphic design tool.

Microphone

Audio quality is a big deal for podcasts, particularly if you have your sights on becoming well-known, popular on iTunes, and even sponsored someday by advertisers because you’re so freaking awesome.

That said, you can get away with the microphone included on your smartphone’s earbuds. It isn’t ideal, but it’s way better than relying on the open-air microphone of your smartphone or laptop.

Our family has used two microphones throughout our podcasting journey (and we’re still refining them):

  • Blue Yeti USB Microphone – I bought this to allow for a variety of recording patterns, but primarily for the omnidirectional recording we used it for at our circular table.
  • Zoom H1n Handy Recorder – This mic has been key to when we want to do mobile recordings. It records to an SD card and lets you have free reign and range of mobility, tethered to nothing, able to walk and talk and thrust your mic into anyone’s face who will give you a word.
  • Audio-Technica ATR2100 USB Microphone – if both of those options are too pricey for you, I swear by this microphone for a great quality sound for a budget-friendly price. It’s USB-connected, but you can also connect it via XLR to a mixer (if you want to mix more than one person into your recording).

Audio Editing Software

Don’t get freaked out by this; thanks to the power of Google and YouTube, anyone can learn to edit audio. Really it’s like editing a sentence in Microsoft Word; if you type a sentence and want to remove a word that you don’t need, you would just use your mouse to highlight the word and hit DELETE.

The same principle applies to audio editing, except you’re working with a waveform and need to use your mouse to highlight the sounds or phrases you don’t need, then hit DELETE.

I monitor the peaks and valleys of our audio as it records (using Adobe Audition).

As far as audio editing software that lets you perform this magical process, you have some good options:

  • Audacity – It’s a free open-source audio editing software you can download off of the internet. I used this for creating some of my past podcasts before remembering that I had the next option already. Audacity is plenty capable for editing and finalizing a podcast audio file.
  • Adobe Audition – This was already a part of my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription (~$600 for a year, and even less for students), plus it has a podcast template included. As with all things Adobe, I only claim to know about 10-20% of each program because they’re so jampacked with tools and features.

Podcast Hosting

First thing here: do you already have a blog or a website? If so, you may choose to feature your podcast from that website… but that does not mean that each audio file of your podcast should be uploaded to or hosted on your blog or website. That would be like placing the city of New York on a train and expecting it to move at its top speed; it’s not going to happen.

That’s why you need to use a podcast hosting service to upload your podcast audio files to so they can be pulled from there when anyone wants to download your latest episode.

  • Libsyn – I use this service at the recommendation of business podcaster Pat Flynn and I’ve never been sorry for that choice. Their plans start at $5/month, and the price increases based on how many times per month you upload a large audio file (memory capacity) as well as if you want analytics on your podcast downloads.
  • Blubrry – I have never used this service, but I hear a ton about it. Plus it provides the plugin I use on my WordPress-hosted website to add the podcast audio link to the blog post for my podcast episodes.

Graphic Design

Once again, don’t get freaked out. This part is just about giving iTunes or any other podcast listening app a visual for your podcast, and that is something you absolutely must have.

Thankfully, here too you have a range of options ranging from free-ninety-five to, well, more than that.

  • Canva.com – One of the best things to happen to the world, allowing people to create pretty things without needing to know much about graphic design. (Though please don’t get me wrong; you’ll never create something in Canva that’s as good as what a designer can come up with.) In any case, Canva is a free website where you can use their templates or put in the size of what you want to create and use their elements to whip something up.
  • Adobe Photoshop – This is my go-to for creating visuals, though I will also use Illustrator for more complex or nuanced creations. However, if you want the “lite” version of Photoshop, it’s way more affordable and can still support your creation of a podcast thumbnail graphic.
  • PowerPoint – While being the absolute last tool I’d opt to use, PowerPoint can still let you create visuals and save the slide as an image file (JPG or PNG) to get by.

Record your first three episodes

Wait, why three? Can’t you just test things out and record one first?

Sure, except for this relatively recent new term as it relates to consuming entertainment: “binging.” People love to hear or watch one episode and then leap right into the next one if the content is riveting enough.

Since one of your goals in starting a podcast is to gain subscribers – those fans who will check their podcast player for your latest episode on the day they’re supposed to drop – you’ll want to get them hooked right out of the gate. So plan to record at least 2-3 episodes and publish them as your podcast launch. Bing-Bang-Boom.

Listen.

This is going to be the best part of creating a podcast but the one part you constantly forget to do. If you don’t listen to what you’ve published, you will miss the value of what you just created, as well as the lessons you can learn for what you will create in the future.

Enjoy the fruits of your family’s labor. Laugh at the goofs. Brainstorm new ideas. Relish the moments and the memories you just created together which will live on thanks to the magic of media.

Unpause It.

Now that I’ve told you all about the why and how of our family’s podcast, maybe you’ll want to listen to some of our journey. Our podcast is called UnpauseIt, which is what we always call out when we’re ready to start playing the movie or video game we’re currently enjoying once the bathroom or snack breaks are over.

Our labor of love. Lots of labor. More love.

It isn’t perfect. But it’s ours and, because of who’s in it, I love it with all of my heart.

Empathy is Everything

We’re all a little too into ourselves.

From dawn to dusk, from mirror to screen, we are all up in our own feelings and experiences. Why? Because it just feels right.

We feel right.

Which means anyone who doesn’t feel like us, sound like us, or look like us feels wrong.

I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t feel like connecting with a person or a brand who makes me feel wrong because they’re right. How about you?

Enter empathy in marketing.

If you’ve read this blog, you know it’s primarily about digital marketing. Social media, apps, writing, email… these are all things that make marketing happen.

So what does empathy have to do with marketing? Everything.

If you don’t believe that, I dare you to try something:

  • Walk up to a stranger sometime today.
  • Tell the person why your breakfast choice this morning is so awesome.
  • If they haven’t walked or run away from you yet, ask them if they’d like to try your breakfast choice for themselves.

who-are-you-why-are-you-talking-to-me-really-social-blogNow you may luck out and run across a very open and receptive person who entertains your impromptu interruption of their day. Consider this, however: most marketing is not done in person. It comes at each of us through screens or paper, very often without any noise or audio, so the in-person factor is absent.

So, if instead of you stopping someone, how would your stranger respond to a flyer or a a billboard talking about your breakfast?

“BYE!”

You and your audience need empathy. Take it from me. Take it from Brian Fanzo, who has been beating the drum for empathy in marketing and, well, everywhere else.

Enter empathy in life.

As much as we may not want to admit it, marketing is involved in just about every facet of our lives as human beings. And since we already demonstrated that effective marketing requires empathy, imagine the following scenarios:

Parents try to market to their children the right choices to make as they grow up.

Job seekers try to market to a prospective employer just why they are worth getting hired.

Elected representatives market to voters why they should be trusted with power, while voters market to their elected representatives why they should support certain policies.

Religious leaders market to souls why the message of their faith matters to life today.

Each day, you are probably marketing your own opinions (whether you see it that way or not) to friends, family, and strangers in an effort to help them think and act the way you do. You use words, possibly volume, and maybe even supporting links to convince others you have the right answer for them.

How’s that going for you?

If you aren’t practicing your empathy as you market your way through life to accomplish what you want, I guarantee you aren’t being effective.

How to get empathy.

We all sorely lack in empathy, and yet it is the most important tool for us today. Whether you are a marketer trying to promote a service or product, or you are a human being trying to be humane, you need empathy in your DNA.

Need some empathy? (Yeah, you do. Trust me). Here are just seven ways to give it, and your humanity, a shot:

Read a story.

Break out that library card. Open your Kindle app. Dive into a fictional story. By reading a narrative, you can tap into scenarios and reactions that may not have been in your experience. Even as you project yourself into a character you read about, your empathy gets exercised as you must imagine alternate situations where you don’t get to decide the outcome.

Think in questions.

In a discussion with someone else, your natural response is to think of what you’ll say once the other person stops talking. More often than not, you’ll want to talk about yourself and your experience.

Instead, try thinking up a question to say once it’s your turn to speak. Even if you’re aching to share your own perspective, have patience. You’ll get to it eventually! First, you can make serious effort to learn more about the other person and give your listening talents a workout.

Ask, “What if it were me?”

This one is tough because it tackles that no good, very bad tendency of human beings: judgment. We do it in a split second: we judge other people for how they look, what they where, what they say, what they do (or appear to be doing), and then we do the worst thing possible: we assume.

What do we assume? That we would do better and they don’t or can’t because, well, they just aren’t you.

Instead of judging and assuming, try this on:

“Wait a second… what if that were me?”

This question will stretch your privilege and soar your sense of uncomfortable into new heights. But if you take it seriously and try to answer it, you may find that you need to learn about concepts or situations where you only have part of the picture. You may look backward, currently, and forward as you try to anticipate how you would respond when placed in another person’s story. You may even realize that there is often no one right way to proceed. Life feels quite different when you step out of your own shoes and squeeze into someone else’s.

Play decision-based video games.

Your video game console may do more for you than simply providing a temporary escape. Games can let you follow a story that alters the macro outcome based on your micro choices. I’ve played games where I tried to make all the right or “good” decisions, and then I’ve gone back to make all of the “bad” or wrong decisions. A good video game will cause other characters and certain scenes to respond differently based on what you’ve chosen.

joker-awesome-use-of-power-boss-really-social-blog
Mass Effect, my favorite decision-based video game.

Peruse reviews.

If you want a pulse on how all types of people feel about a product or service, online reviews are a gold mine. Even if the brand has a very niche customer base, the opinions each person chooses to publish give invaluable insight into where they’re coming from and why they feel a certain way.

Be afraid.

Maslow's hierarch of need | Really Social Blog
Maslow’s hierarchy of need

My hope as you read this is that you hardly ever have to feel real fear. I’m not talking about momentary anxiety (the kind you get when your card is declined at the register). Gripping fear is when you feel that something you need to survive is at risk. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, they are listed as the physiological and safety needs of a human being:

Physiological (breathing, water, food, sleep, clothing, shelter, and sex)

Safety (Personal security, emotional security, financial security, Health and well-being)

When these basic needs are threatened, a human being—you, me, or someone in our circles—knows fear and will react to it in any number of ways based on who they are, where they’re from, and what they believe. Some feel this fear more often than others because they survive anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges.

Fear is within our control, however the things which catalyze our fears may not be. Neighborhoods, cities, and even countries experience violence. People pursue agendas that threaten the livelihood of others. Accidents happen.

I’d like to think that I know how I would respond if one of my physiological or safety needs are threatened… but I don’t. And even my best guess would still just be for me, and not for someone who has not lived my experiences. Thus when I hear of or see someone else responding to fear, my goal is to reach into my empathy and respect the fear of their situation.

Ah. Respect.

Yep, it’s true. Empathy walks hand in hand with respect. While one deals largely with feelings, the other is ultimately a choice. And both are crucial to treating each other humanely, which is something sorely needed today.

As much as each of us enjoys feeling right, where does that get us if we never tap into what others experience? By practicing and perfecting empathy, you will be a smarter and stronger person than you were before. More importantly, you will be key to creating connections rather than building walls.


What are ways you practice and perfect your empathy? Comment below!

Empathy By Way of Handicap Ramps

ONE WEEK. That’s how much longer I have until my foot surgery recovery hits the weight-bearing milestone. How long will my empathy for fellow humans with disabilities or handicaps last? FOR-EH-VER.

For the past five weeks, I have gotten from Point A to Point B via crutches or knee scooter. Each day has been a challenge with successes as well as sweat-inducing challenges. (My worst undertaking each day has been to crutch up our stairs in the morning… I keep feeling like one moment of imbalance will result in my death down the steps.)

Through all of this, I’ve experienced an existence which I had only before observed. Sure, I’ve moved out of the way on the bus for a person in a wheelchair or with a cane, or I’ve offered to hold a door open longer to help them pass through. But seeing and knowing are not the same thing.

I mentioned empathy earlier in this post, and that’s where I feel this experience has brought me the farthest. As a marketer and communicator, exercising my empathy muscle is one of the most important ways I stay good at my job. Throughout this last month, I’ve drawn many correlations between what I experienced with my temporary disability and what our customers experience when we lack empathy.

Read on and see if any of these ring true for you:

You can’t assume you know the other person’s story.

Climbing out of the car with crutches
Every morning, getting out of the car and ready to roll to work was a challenge.

By just glancing at me, you can immediately tell something happened to my foot. I’m carting it around on a knee scooter, it’s bound up with an ace wrap and a black boot of sorts, and I’m obviously favoring it with every motion.

But not every person living with a handicap is as obvious. In my commutes I often crossed paths with another woman who walked with a cane. She would join me on the handicap ramps rather than trying to climb up train steps. As we began to chat, she shared with me that, in spite of there being zero cartilage between her femur and tibia/fibula bones, many people assume that she should be able to handle a few steps. Even though she attends physical therapy and takes painkillers to alleviate what her body experiences, she has heard fellow passengers on the train grumble and opine as to whether she really needs to use the handicap area.

I’ll confess: when I used to see someone without a wheelchair make their way onto public transportation using the ramp, I would wonder if they just weren’t putting in the effort to climb the steps. My newfound friend on the train woke me to the fact that just because I don’t see someone’s ailment doesn’t mean they don’t live with one every moment.

In the future, I’ll never again judge someone for using the accessibility features in our world. I can open my mind to a world of possibilities rather than a mistaken assumption.


Your offer to help is about them, not about you.

The first week of my limited mobility was all about finding the ways I could move with assistance that was already built-in: ramps, automatic doors, smooth terrain, etc.

hill up Colfax from Civic Center Station
Throughout March, I’d wear sleeveless tops because of this hill. Two blocks of sheer exertion to make it to the top… and I didn’t want anyone to help me.

I also knew I’d be relying on the kindness and patience of others… and I have to tell you that my ego and self-sufficient tendencies mightily roiled at the idea. Since I was young, I have always been proud of my independence and ability to “be strong” my way through any difficulty.

I found myself working in ways to thank others for their offers to help while assuring them I didn’t need it. The first few times I could tell that my refusal of assistance was taken badly, so I worked on putting more sincerity and gratitude into my vernacular. My challenge was to try to see the person’s good intentions without internalizing them as a knock on my independence. I have found myself often timing my approaches to certain doors or ramps when no one is nearby who will offer a lending hand right when I’m about to accomplish the obstacle at hand.

Does this make a helpful offer bad or unwelcome? Not at all. But I know going forward that I won’t take it personally if my offer to assist is declined, because the other person may have it entirely under control without my help. They may also have other reasons why my help isn’t needed.


Happy endings aren’t for sure.

I mentioned that I have one more week until I can start trying to walk with two feet instead of one. My recovery is on pace and my left foot should eventually heal fully and allow me to walk without assistance (and in nice shoes once again!).

There are so, so many who don’t share this positive outcome. Their pain is chronic, their ailment has no turnaround cure, or their treatment options are limited (if existent at all). While I can chuck my crutches to the storage space in a week, they’re facing months and years of continued struggle and judgment just for making their way through each day.

As someone who experienced a temporary setback to my mobility, I can’t tell you enough how much I look forward to getting things “back to normal.” But that’s my normal. “Normal” for many other people means always using ramps, always needing handicap-accessible features, and always facing people around whom they must navigate.


If you aren’t accessible… really???

This was my biggest revelation: accessibility is important. It can make or break the ability for someone to relieve their bladder, carry out plans, gather with friends, perform a job, and generally live life.

Handicap ramp at light rail station
Each Light Rail station has a handicap ramp. I often had company on my daily commute.

I have been overall very impressed with the accessibility features in Denver. The Light Rail system has handicap ramps at each stop, from the parking area all the way to the front door of the train. Drivers of trains and buses readily helped me and other passengers get on and off safely, as well as reminding other passengers that the handicap area needs to be vacated for passengers needing assistance. Buildings like the Pepsi Center and state buildings are equipped with automatic doors and handicap-accessible restrooms.

Granted, I did run into some exceptions. A restaurant in the Highlands I visited with coworkers during my first week of recovery offered several sets of steps for me to traverse just to get into the door on a snowy evening. A public transportation driver would occasionally show impatience with having to lower and raise the ramp for me to enter. Even fellow Denverites would give attitude, or zero signs of yielding space, when I rolled on needing to find somewhere for my seat and my knee scooter.


Empathy matters. It’s what makes us human. Because whether you carry yourself around with a fully capable body or a fairly capable apparatus, you deserve to be treated with respect. You deserve to be seen and heard. You deserve empathy.

I know these recent experiences exercised my empathy and will continue to do so. How do you maintain your empathy for others, and how does it make you better at what you do?