This week, discover the Welcome to Cape Breton podcast and meet two staff from the Cape Breton Partnership, the organization behind it. Jeremy Martell, the Partnership’s Director of Communications and Kailea Pedley, the Program Manager at the Cape Breton Local Immigration Partnership, tell you about the podcast and the journey of creating it.

ARAISA: What inspired you to create a podcast focused on the topic of immigration?
Kailea Pedley: Here in Unama’ki-Cape Breton, the power of a good story (and ideally a good cup of tea to go with it) is well understood. And in our work on immigration, we hear time and time again that the best way to build understanding is through the sharing of personal stories. We had a team member with expertise in radio journalism, and she inspired us to head down the podcasting path!     

Could you share the journey of turning that inspiration into a reality?
Jeremy Martell: From there, our team supported the development of a look and feel of a podcast series that would help record and share the stories of our welcomers and newcomers. The biggest challenge was really narrowing down which stories to start with and which may need more time to share. Many people came forward, so we had no shortage of stories that wished to be shared. In the end, we found the right flow based on where newcomers were coming from and choosing to now live.

Can you tell us about a particular episode that had a profound impact on you and that you would particularly recommend to a new listener?
K.P: The first episode, which explores relationships between newcomers to Canada and Mi’kmaq people here in Unama’ki was, I think, very powerful. It felt important to begin this series by hearing the voices of the Mi’kmaq people and recognizing them as the first people of this land and the first to welcome newcomers here.

The power of storytelling lies at the heart of podcasts. How do you select and curate the stories you feature?
J.M: There were a number of factors considered. In the end, we wanted to make sure that we were giving listeners as wide and diverse a collection of stories as we could, from our guests’ countries of origin to the communities they now call home. Additionally, the main criteria to consider was that the guests had a story (which everyone does) and a willingness to share while being recorded (which is slightly more difficult at times).
However, though there were some whom we weren’t able to share their stories yet, there are a number of folks still ready and willing to share, and we hope to have the chance to follow up with them through our future of the podcast and more.

Creating a successful podcast requires a strong partnership between hosts. Could you share with us how you chose your host, how your collaboration has evolved and what you’ve learned from working together?
K.P: I think the host chose us! Our friend and colleague, Norma Jean MacPhee, had a long career in radio broadcasting and proposed the idea of a podcast. Having that skillset in-house was crucial in getting this project off the ground. Norma Jean’s passion for the Island, for welcoming newcomers, and for the power of sounds and stories really shines through in this podcast. 

Were there any significant misconceptions or myths about immigration you aimed to dispel through your podcast? If so, how did you address them?
J.M: Mainly, we hoped to make it obvious that our Island’s newest residents (and in some cases not all that new) are people who are part of our Island’s story now. They may not have been here long or not been born here, but they are now members of our community as much as those who have been here slightly longer. In the end, so many of our Island’s residents are either newcomers or descendants of newcomers, and we all make up the Island’s community and shared history.
For this reason, the first episode with our guest Graham Marshall of Membertou First Nation was so important, as the Mi’kmaq have been welcoming newcomers to the region, and certainly to Unama’ki – Cape Breton for generations. That shared welcoming theme connects us all, whether our family arrived in the 1800s or 2023.

What advice would you give someone wanting to start a podcast in the settlement and integration sector?
J.M: Be sure to take the opportunity to hear all stories, whether good or bad. Our experiences all make up our story; some of those experiences are not as positive as others, but they’re all important. Showing a real-world reflection through these stories is very important, as newcomers to the Island sometimes experience difficult situations and challenges, before and after their arrival. These difficulties help shape the entire picture, so they should be considered.

As we look towards the future, what can your listeners expect from your podcast? Any exciting projects or developments you’d like to share with us?
J.M: We can’t share too much yet, but we are excited to bring more stories to the podcast soon.

Do you have a dream podcast guest to invite to your shows?
K.P: I’m excited to hear more from folks who have settled in Inverness, Victoria, and Richmond Counties! The first episodes gave us glimpses into the experiences of people settling in different parts of the CBRM [Cape Breton Regional Municipality] and Port Hawkesbury. I’m looking forward to hearing about the settlement journey of folks all over this beautiful Island!

How long does it take to create one podcast episode?
J.M: Each episode is very unique, needing travel across Unama’ki – Cape Breton, perfectly timed scheduling, editing time, re-editing time, and then additional promotion and graphic design time. Some episodes have come together in a matter of weeks, while others have taken a month or more. Each one involves a lot of care to get to the final product.

Many aspiring podcasters are eager to know how to build a dedicated audience. What strategies did you employ to engage and grow your listener base?
J.M: We brought our podcast’s message to many local audiences to start, sharing through social media, e-blasts through our local business and settlement communities, and paid promotions through Spotify and YouTube. We didn’t want to limit the podcast’s reach, as we wanted as many to hear the stories as possible, so we made the podcast available on a number of platforms, those that are facilitated by subscriptions and those that can be accessed by anyone anywhere. We’ve also relied on local community groups with a focus on helping to welcome newcomers (made up of both long-time residents and newcomers) to help share the podcast with their friends and families.

As hosts of an immigration-focused podcast, what kind of feedback have you received from your audience? Has it led to any unexpected outcomes or connections?
J.M: The feedback to date has been very positive, mainly sharing that people just really want to hear people’s stories. Each is interesting and showcases different journeys that brought them here, and most are stories that listeners would have never guessed without hearing them.

Have there been any moments of doubt or uncertainty in your podcasting journey? How did you navigate through those challenging times?
J.M: A podcast isn’t easy to pull together, so it was a risk to give it a try, but we all felt it was a worthy project to try out and see where it went. Throughout the process, it was clear that something special was forming, so we focused on finding ways to improve and make it work as we went. Ultimately, it’s just important to be nimble and flexible so that as challenges present themselves, we are able to pivot in a direction that makes sense.

Lastly, if there’s one key takeaway you hope your listeners gain from your podcast, what would that be?
K.P: For me, it’s about shining a light on the fact that every story, every person, every immigration journey is unique. That every story has value. And that when we pause to listen to each other’s experiences, that’s when the best learning happens.

Listen to Welcome to Cape Breton: click here.

Last week, we featured Racialized 506, a Saint John Newcomers Center podcast. If you missed it, click here.

📢 Want to showcase your initiatives?

Have a unique story to share? We’re inviting member organizations to contribute ideas for our ‘Member Spotlight’ articles. Share your insights and inspire your peers in the settlement and integration sector. We want to shine a light on your expertise and outstanding work!