Behind the Partnership Podcast
After nearly three years, Golden Charter’s venture into audio has a loyal following. SAIFInsight goes behind the scenes to look at how it’s put together.
Three years and more than 40 episodes in, the Partnership Podcast is showing no signs of stopping.
Host Malcolm Flanders has welcomed around 4,500 listeners to his 15-minute episodes, at a rate of more than 100 per instalment. Boosted by funeral directors’ increasing interest in FCA regulation from 2021 onwards, the show, produced in-house by Golden Charter, aims to go beyond pre-planning and cover all aspects of the funeral profession in informative, easily digestible episodes.
As Malcolm explained earlier this year, “It’s not called the Partnership Podcast for nothing: our audience is made up of independent funeral directors. They’re the only people we make the episodes for, and the goal is to cover the issues that matter most to them at any given time.”
Podcasts, an audio medium often compared to pre-recorded radio, haven’t been a staple of funeral directors’ working lives, and for many it was a new habit to pick up. But the show’s creators found that the audio approach had unique benefits.
“’Podcast’ isn’t exactly the most self-explanatory term, especially now that no one tends to be actually listening on an iPod these days,” says Michael Fern. The SAIFInsight co-editor acts as producer of the podcast.
“Fundamentally for us, they’re simply a different way to give funeral directors information. Between SAIFInsight and email newsletters there’s plenty of opportunity to read about what’s happening in the profession, but when you start thinking about doing the same thing audibly it can change quite a bit.
“We found the best thing to do was to have a much more informal chat. Even when you’re talking about something that can sound quite dry, like regulation or Trust transparency, when there are two real people having a real conversation it can be engaging in a different way from something that’s written down.
“The other benefit is really just convenience. The reason we release episodes first thing in the morning is for commuters. You’re not reading a magazine on your walk or drive to work, but you absolutely might be listening to something. Putting the Partnership Podcast online and on podcast apps ultimately means it’s in your pocket whenever you feel like hearing it, and you can play it alongside other things you’re doing.”
The key for Golden Charter was to offer that new option without spending unnecessary time or resource.
“We were firm in wanting this to be an easy to pick up, low cost way of getting information to funeral directors. At the same time, we didn’t want to cut corners and make it low quality or hard to understand – you can’t get good information out of a podcast if you can hardly hear it.
“I think we’ve struck the right balance, doing things in-house for next to nothing, but reacting to how the episodes sound and how they’re received to make sure we’re putting out something that does its job well.
“We treated the first few episodes as a trial, and by that point it was working so well and reaching enough people that we knew we’d aimed for the right level.
“The only thing that will change are funeral directors’ needs. Malcolm invites people to email him at the end of each episode with ideas or thoughts, and that feedback is what will keep us moving forward.”
What goes into a recording session?
1: ‘PodMic’ directional microphones: Recording in the office isn’t exactly soundproof, so directional mics are important as they pick up the sound they’re pointed at more than background noise. PodMics are made for podcasting and were a practical all in one solution, with an internal pop filter helping keep sound as clear as possible.
2: In-line preamplifier: The earliest episodes still had a lot of background noise when sound levels had to be turned up for some guests. Preamps boost the sound as it comes out of the microphone, long before the editing stage, leading to a much clearer initial recording.
3: Audio interface: The microphones plug into a compact dedicated device with its own settings to make sure the right level comes through to the computer. They are adjustable even while recording, and flash to let you know when sound levels are good or too high.
4: Editing software: Professional editing software came at no additional cost, as the team at Golden Charter uses the Adobe Creative Cloud to produce a range of communications, videos and designs in-house. Adobe Audition is an industry standard audio editor with a range of controls to ensure the final product sounds just right.
5: Soft furnishings: Not everything has to be high-tech when it comes to getting a podcast right. Packing the room with soft furnishings like cloths and even chairs helps absorb sound and reduce distracting reverberations when recording.
6: Noise cancelling headphones: Plugging these into the audio interface gives the clearest possible idea of how the recording is sounding, allowing for adjustments mid-interview so you don’t miss anything important.
- Identify a subject – Ideas for episodes come from Malcolm, Golden Charter’s Communications team, funeral director input and other decision makers
- Agree the interview – Once a guest is secured, the team agree an in-person or online Teams-based interview time
- Scripting – Malcolm and Michael write up a script of questions together, and get it approved internally and by the guest, who will then understand exactly what will be covered
- Recording – Malcolm has a roughly half hour chat with the guest, covering the scripted questions and anything else that comes up in the conversation
- Editing – Michael works on the edit, taking the key parts for the funeral director audience to turn a half hour chat into a 10-15 minute episode
- Review – The guest, Malcolm and others at Golden Charter listen to a complete episode to make sure it sounds good and will be of interest to Independents
- Release – The episodes go out on a schedule, landing with subscribers first thing on a mid-week morning, followed by an email to let funeral directors know it’s available
Three years of highlights
There have been more than 40 episodes produced over the podcast’s lifetime, and all are still available at goldencharter.buzzsprout.com and on podcast apps. Here, we look at some of the most popular instalments on the most relevant topics.
FCA regulatory training with Kenneth Keegan
6 July 2022
Kenneth was one of the thousands who put himself and his staff forward to do Golden Charter’s online regulatory training this summer, a requirement under Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulation. He explains what’s involved and talks about the benefits of doing training alongside fellow funeral directors.
“I think with all new things there’s a sense of anticipation or anxiety about what the training will entail. But having actually gone through the webinar, it seems like we’re already doing 85 to 90% of the things we discussed.”
Reputation in the community with Callum Ross
28 June 2022
This summer’s most popular episode was on the link between supporting families and local business branding – and how promoting plans has evolved in the era of social media and regulation.
“I don’t think there’s been a better time to sell funeral plans.
“In a time when we’re seeing [some providers] bow out and disappear, I think this is an opportunity to say to people ‘you’ve come to the right place to get a funeral plan’, and you can sell a plan with confidence.”
AR and IAR applications with UKGI
30 March 2022
Becoming a Golden Charter Appointed or Introducer Appointed Representative involved going through a process with regulation experts UKGI. Malcolm talked to its managing director, Nikki Bennett, about what was in store, and how the relationship between funeral directors, Golden Charter, UKGI and the FCA would work.
“The FCA is realising that everyone has different approaches, and no two firms do exactly the same thing. Golden Charter has a good relationship with the FCA, and its customer-centric approach is already in line with what the regulator wants. This puts us in a position to know what they are looking for and keep the process simple.”
Inspection regimes with Scotland’s Inspectors of Funeral Directors
3 March 2021
The regulation issues go beyond the FCA. Last year Malcolm interviewed Scotland’s two Inspectors of Burial, Cremation and Funeral Directors, giving an idea of how inspection could work across the UK, and exploring their work so far and what they planned to do once the pandemic began easing.
“Things will get a lot easier when you have the opportunity to actually go around and visit people and put a face to the names. That often makes a big difference.”
Promoting your business
Marketing in a pandemic with Charlotte Wathall
27 January 2021
The pandemic engaged new funeral directors with the podcast as the community explored digital solutions, and on this episode Derby’s Charlotte Wathall focused in on how digital marketing had helped her support her community at the height of COVID-19.
“It’s always difficult to market a funeral directors, and then with the added pressure of a pandemic and death figures being announced on the news every day, people don’t want to think about it. So we tend to try and go down the route of our other services that we offer. Our bereavement services, our bereavement counselling and things like that. And then also our pre-need. It’s easier to market pre-paid, or pre-planning, than it is to market an actual funeral. We’re just reaffirming to people that we’re here for them.”
SAIF Digital with Declan Maguire
15 February 2022
Declan has appeared twice on the podcast, talking about digital marketing in 2021, and returning this year with the advent of SAIF Digital. He talked about how much more aware of digital families were since the start of the pandemic, and how the SAIF Digital programme helped Independents keep meeting their needs.
“It’s supporting members in their digital marketing – specifically how to arrest the decline of business or to drive growth in their business.
“We’ve seen over the years there has been an increasing number of people who will go online to look for a funeral director. And if we look at the number of funerals compared to the number of searches online for the term ‘funeral director’, it’s approximately 50%. That’s in 2020, so that’s increased significantly.”
Church of England services with Sandra Millar and Jim Auld
5 May 2021
The Church of England’s Head of Life Events, Snara Millar, joined returning gues Jim Auld to talk about the link between churches and funeral directors.
“We encourage clergy a lot to make good relationships with funeral directors. Sometimes we say, there’s hard funerals; the funeral of a child, the funeral of a young mum, and there’s only one other person apart of the family itself who’ve been through that, leading that occasion: the funeral directors.
“Support one another and be kind to each other. And I also say to churches pray for your funeral directors – and I also encourage them to take cake round as well.”
Bereavement support with Catherine Betley
17 September 2020
Professional Help’s Catherine Betley outlined the current state of support for grieving families – and for the funeral directors who support them – and talks through how SAIF Care and SAIF Support work to help both groups.
“What [SAIF Support offers] is a helpline, we offer a completely non-judgmental view of what might be happening in someone’s world. We understand the profession and some of the pressures that are on people.”
IFD College training with Chris Parker
2 June 2021
Malcolm welcomed the IFD College’s Principal to discuss vocational training and the College’s long history.
“People have the choice of what they do, but more importantly, employers aren’t paying for training that’s not required and not necessary. I think delivering on the promise of 25 years ago, which was training for everybody, I think we’re there.”
You can listen to all of these episodes and more at goldencharter.buzzsprout.com or by searching for the Partnership Podcast on most podcast apps.Tags: Golden Charter, Malcolm Flanders, Partnership Podcast, podcast, regulation, support