New Podcast Aims To Help Town Reach A Broader Audience

by Ryan Bray
Mike Solitro and Mia Baumgarten host “Orleans: Behind the Scenes,” a new podcast geared toward better informing people about what’s happening in town hall and around town.  RYAN BRAY PHOTO Mike Solitro and Mia Baumgarten host “Orleans: Behind the Scenes,” a new podcast geared toward better informing people about what’s happening in town hall and around town. RYAN BRAY PHOTO

ORLEANS – Fridays are often quiet in the otherwise busy Nauset Meeting Room in town hall. For Mike Solitro and Mia Baumgarten, it’s the perfect time to break away from their busy schedules and have a chat.

Solitro, Orleans’ assistant town planner, and Baumgarten, the town’s media program coordinator, together host “Orleans: Behind the Scenes,” a new podcast designed to bring listeners in closer to the various happenings in and around town.

Town officials are always looking for different ways to help boost communication with the public, and Solitro said the podcast was born with that mission in mind. The first step was coming up with a title, and after some brainstorming, “Orleans: Behind the Scenes” was born.

“I think by the end of the day I had sent you six options of things that rhyme with Orleans,” Baumgarten said in conversation with Solitro shortly after last week’s episode was recorded. “Themes, convenes, scenes… ‘Behind the Scenes was the best one.’ That one clicked really easily.”

The town website is full of information for residents and visitors. But Solitro said a podcast is another means of reaching people who might not check the website for information, or even know that it is available as a resource.

“The feedback we get rarely is ‘There’s overcommunication’ or ‘We hear this too much,’” he said. “So if we can figure out different ways to repackage the information that might be out there elsewhere, it might open things up. ‘Oh, this is on the website’ or ‘This is on the calendar. Here’s where I can find that.’”

But it’s not just about giving people information, but how they’re getting it to them. The conversational nature of a podcast also allows the town to connect people with the information they need in a more engaging way.

“One of the things we really talked about a lot was the desire to really humanize the communication,” Baumgarten said. “It’s all on the website. It’s all straightforward. But there’s such a barrier I feel between the citizens and the people in town hall, because they’re not hanging out and spending hours here realizing how much fun we are. So how can we get it out there in a really digestible way and how [do we to tell] people that we’re happy to be here, we’re happy to help and we have personalities? We really want to convey the information in a way that people are going to remember it.”

The duo have recorded seven episodes to date, with each episode running about 15 minutes. Guests so far have included Orleans Health Agent Alex Fitch, Town Assessor Brad Hinote, Recreation Director Tom DiSiervo and Peggy O’Sullivan, who works with Baumgarten as a multimedia technician.

“We have an overall basic structure that we try to follow for every episode,” Solitro said. “We’ll tailor it both to the subject matter and who the guest is. The idea is to humanize it and put a human voice behind it. Not to sensationalize or make light of it, but to show ‘These are things that are being worked on’ or ‘These are things that we’d like to do.’”

Looking ahead, the plan is to expand the guestlist beyond town hall to bring in people from around town.

“We’re interested in local business owners,” Baumgarten said. “We're interested in talking to people who work in other parts of the municipality who aren’t in town hall. We’re interested in anyone who has a perspective on Orleans, has interesting things that they’re doing and wants to better communicate with the public.”

“This forum is good to spotlight stories,” Solitro added. “So if people have good stories that deal with Orleans in some way, that’s what we’re here for.”

Solitro and Baumgarten have a fun, easygoing rapport, something they make a point to capture in the opening moments of each episode. The podcast starts with a short bit of playful banter, apropos of nothing, that helps ease into the episode’s guest conversation.

Baumgarten called these “cold open” segments a “hook” to help humanize the podcast and draw in the listener.

“I have an editing background, so I do the editing of the podcast, just for technical things to make sure everything’s clear,” she said. “And as I go along, I just get chunks where we stopped interviewing and were just chatting. And it becomes ‘That was a really fun little thing that that person said.’ It’s a way to display their personalities.”

By day, Solitro is plenty busy in the town’s planning office, while Baumgarten oversees coverage of town meetings and other events for Channel 8, the town’s public access station. But even with their busy schedules, the added time that goes into planning and recording the podcast is well worth it, the hosts say.

“I’ve been having a blast, I think Mike has too,” Baumgarten said.

“Interviewing is both easy and hard because it’s just asking questions,” Solitro said. “But the hard part is asking a good question where what you’re trying to get to comes out, and then listening and having good follow up. So I really love getting to know the people that we’re talking to, and then the interviewing piece is really exciting.”

“Orleans: Behind the Scenes” is free to stream on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. It can also be found on the economic development page of the town website, as well as the Channel 8 homepage.

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