Outreach on the Coffee Break!

By: Nathan Hartel, Riverside County DCSS

The new Coffee Break podcast with Riverside County Child Support Services (Riverside County DCSS) is the innovative idea of Riverside County DCSS Director Kimberly Britt. Britt enjoys listening to podcasts and conceived the idea of a child support podcast to educate and inform the public about the services available statewide through local child support agencies. The Coffee Break podcast is hosted by Riverside County DCSS Chief Attorney Bruce Wagner and Deputy Director Nathan Hartel. Each episode is produced by Riverside County DCSS Media Production Specialist Marquese Howard and intern Nancy Ruiz.

Initially the team needed to determine the intended audience of the podcast. They narrowed their focus to four primary audiences – existing child support customers, the general public who may be in need of child support services, other county and government agencies, and Riverside County DCSS employees. Education and information would be the podcast’s primary focus, with each “episode” providing relevant and interesting information that would help any listener better understand Child Support Services as a department and learn about the services provided to parents and guardians.

From the beginning, Bruce and Nathan recognized the effort as an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships with the public by showing the importance of customer service: taking time out of their day to speak to listeners directly about who Riverside County DCSS is as a department, discuss the services provided, and most importantly to describe the kind of experience a customer is entitled to have when they engage with department employees. The title of the podcast came out of the realization that the hosts were giving up their “coffee break” time to speak with the public about a host of different topics and when the coffee cups are empty, the podcast episode is over.

Striking the right tone with the podcast has been important. While levity has a place in each episode to create a lighter, more intimate and friendly approach, the hosts recognize that the tone should match the gravity of the issues that customers find themselves addressing. That meant a conscious decision to be light-hearted where appropriate but to take seriously the topics under discussion to honor the important work parents do in supporting their children.

A rough guideline was planned for a 6-episode first “season” and the team began preparing to record. Episode 1 was always going to be about facts vs. myths of the child support program. Transparency was also important in planning the tone of the podcast. The team recognized that many people have misunderstandings about the child support program, who is served, what caseworkers and management can and cannot do to assist parents, and the reasons behind all of this. Rather than tiptoeing around those issues, we wanted to face them head on and use the podcast format as an opportunity to clarify misunderstandings. That first episode, Child Support Facts vs Myths, provided the opportunity to do just that. Future episodes will provide additional opportunities for transparency as the two hosts address challenging questions and comments that come directly from the public about their experiences with Riverside County DCSS and the child support system.

The process of planning and preparing to record each episode is intentionally loose: Bruce and Nathan have the topic idea, the title, and the framework of what to discuss, and from there it is a matter of recording and trying to be as natural and conversational as possible – which is sometimes easy, sometimes not. Marquese as producer provides valuable insight and recommendations as they work through each episode while intern Nancy Ruiz prepares podcast notes that help listeners identify when in each episode they can find topics that were discussed.

Everyone at Riverside County DCSS is excited about the future of this endeavor and believes the list of topics to discuss are endless. Season 1 will record its final episode before the year’s end, with Season 2 already being planned. The podcast has been an amazing outreach vehicle, invaluable for creating a way to speak to a large, diverse audience, at their convenience, with a minimum of staff and travel time. Stay tuned for many more episodes soon.

The Coffee Break Podcast series can be found through a variety of sources: if you are on a mobile device, episodes can be found through any podcast client (Spotify, Listen Notes, Anchor FM, and Google Podcasts are a few) by searching RivCoDCSS and subscribing to the Riverside County Child Support Services Coffee Break Podcast series. For those unfamiliar with podcast clients, listen in by visiting www.riversidechildsupport.com. Click on “Parents/Guardians” at the top and then select “Coffee Break Podcast.” Please subscribe and leave a review!