Virginia Allen: Podcast Co-host
15 minute readI got the chance to interview Podcast Co-host Virginia Allen. Here's her story. Virginia Allen is a news producer at The Daily Signal, The Heritage Foundation's multimedia news outlet. She writes on a range of topics and co-hosts The Daily Signal Podcast and Problematic Women. Virginia Allen earned a bachelor's degree in government from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. After graduation, she moved to South Africa for a year to serve as a missionary volunteer, and worked with vulnerable children and youth. Upon her return to America, she moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue new opportunities. Before she joined The Daily Signal, Virginia worked as the administrative assistant in Heritage's communications department for nearly two years. 1. How did you become involved in the Problematic Women and Daily Signal News podcasts?I began my journey at The Heritage Foundation as an intern and then was blessed to get a job in Heritage's communications department in the spring of 2018. I remember observing my colleagues, as they hosted “The Daily Signal Podcast” and “Problematic Women,” and frankly I was quite intimidated! I secretly thought podcasting might be a medium I really would enjoy -- as someone who loves to connect with people and discuss important issues -- but I was nervous to leap into the unknown. One of these colleagues, who helped on “The Daily Signal Podcast” Monday edition, moved back to Texas a little over a year after I started at Heritage. My supervisor, Rob Bluey, asked me if I would be interested in stepping in to help on the show once a week, and I said I would! I still remember how nervous I was the first time I walked into the studio to record. It took months before I finally felt comfortable speaking into a mic, but I work with excellent people and they were so supportive. I helped with the podcast for a few months before Lauren Evans, co-host of “Problematic Women,” asked me if I would consider helping with the show while another colleague was out on maternity leave for a few months. “Maybe,” was my response to Lauren. “Problematic Women” is a high energy 45 to 60-minute show with a good mix of interviews, commentary, and straight news reporting. I was used to only doing interviews and one short news story a week so “Problematic Women” was going to be a big leap! But Lauren convinced me, and after only one episode I was all in. I loved reporting on issues I care deeply about and having the opportunity to be creative and craft a dynamic and fun show with a fellow staffer and friend. Then, about seven months ago, an opportunity opened up on Heritage's Daily Signal team to take on the role of both news producer and regular co-host of “The Daily Signal Podcast.” I was thrilled to take on this new role and again stretch my podcasting abilities. I am loving the opportunity to co-host two very different podcasts and continue to grow in this great field.2. What do you feel is the biggest difference between writing an article for print media and creating a podcasting segment?We all speak a little differently than we write, so even when making notes for a segment, I try to think about how I want to verbally communicate the information in a way that is relatable. Segments on “Problematic Women” tend to be a little more conversational than those in a written news story. Interviews for a written story versus a podcast are very different, both in regard to the content used and how the content is relayed. I may spend half an hour talking with someone for a written story, and then pull four or five quotes, or bits of information, depending on the nature of the piece. When doing a podcast interview, on the other hand, I guide the conversation, but the guest chooses what they will share.3. What does your decision process look like for finding someone to interview?I love personal stories, and so any time I hear about someone who has firsthand experience around a policy issue or a situation in the news, I am eager to have them on the show. I think a person's “lived experience” is powerful when we are considering how policies created in Washington, D.C. actually impact people. But I cannot take all, or even most, of the credit for finding great people to interview on either podcast. My colleagues often send me the names of people they think would be a good fit for “Problematic Women” or “The Daily Signal Podcast.”4. What are some strategies that you use to build a loyal audience?My co-hosts and I want our listeners to feel like they can always trust us to report the news honestly; and that they are a part of a larger community of people who love America. We are especially focused on building community on “Problematic Women” because the show was created as a platform for conservative women to have a voice. We recently started a weekly Twitter poll question on the show, which appears every Thursday morning on my Twitter page, @Virginia_Allen5. The poll provides a fun way for our listeners to engage with the show and share their thoughts with us.5. What has been the most difficult part for you when creating and hosting a podcast?I have learned a lot about my own voice and my own speaking idiosyncrasies as a podcaster. You quickly realize that you repeat certain words way too often or that you have a tendency to slur certain words. It has been challenging learning to pay close attention to how I sound, and critiquing myself, as I seek to communicate in the clearest way possible. I am very much still learning in this field!6. What would you say differentiates a professional podcast from a podcast that is just starting out?Podcasting is frankly quite new, so many podcasters have only been hosting shows for a year or two -- yet they may already have a very large audience. Often the difference between a new podcaster and an old pro can be heard in the level of confidence and voice control they exhibit. And of course, production quality really makes a big difference when it comes to podcasting. A skilled editor can truly make all the difference!7. What advice would you give to someone looking to start a podcast, especially with a saturated topic like politics?Find your niche! It is much easier to start a podcast when you know who your audience is -- moms with young kids, or basketball players, or nature enthusiasts. If you want to launch a more general podcast, then take time to think about what your “value add” is to that field. There are a lot of political podcasts out there. So, if you want to speak out on policy issues, maybe brand your show as a podcast that takes issues in Washington, D.C. and explains how they will impact people in your home state.8. Has creating a podcast changed the way you listen to podcasts?Yes. I am always listening to how podcasters ask questions of their guests, and how they discuss issues. Some podcasters are really good at making you feel like you are just sitting on the couch with them and a part of the conversation. That is something I aspire to, especially on “Problematic Women” because it is more conversational in nature.9. What are some of your favorite podcasts right now?I do enjoy listening to Joe Rogan's podcast because he is very talented at keeping interviews interesting and engaging for the listener. The stock market always has fascinated me, so I frequently listen to “Snacks Daily,” which is an entertaining business news podcast. I also really enjoy “Heritage Explains” because the episode are short, very informative, and the production quality is excellent.