AIVD in Masters Of Podcasting: 'We are more open than you think'

Launching a podcast to recruit staff. The General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) did it. And with success. The Service, as the podcast is called, even won an award for it. In the second episode of our brand new show Masters Of Podcasting, we talk to the Dutch secret service about the podcast as a means of attracting new people. And also. how open can a secret service really be?

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The idea for a podcast originated in corona time. "We like to go to people," begins Guido van Hulzen. He is relationship manager within the AIVD. "We tell people what we do as an intelligence and security service. We do that mostly in hall rooms. But in corona time, that became very complicated."

The AIVD had to look for another way to reach people. "Being a lover of the genre myself, the podcast was suddenly very high on the list." That it would be a narrative podcast was pretty much established. "We have a story we always tell new staff members; a terrorism case study. That case study became the starting point."

Getting the podcast finally made, too, proved to be "quite a complicated" process. Van Hulzen: "We are not so used to this. People quickly see bears on the road that aren't actually there." 

Masters Of Podcasting

Listen to the episode with the AIVD?

Like, for instance, 'betraying' secrets. A fear Van Hulzen was quick to quell. "The material we make is our property. After shooting, we can cut until we drop. So nothing is going to come out that we don't want to come out."

A process of consultation and fine-tuning with stakeholders followed. After six months, there was enough support throughout the AIVD and Van Hulzen could get to work. Van Hulzen wrote the first script himself, with input from colleagues. "The disadvantage of being a secret service is that a lot of information is simply not allowed to go outside. So although I was keen to bring in an external party, we chose to do that first phase ourselves."

Tips for governments and large organisations

  • Take time to create sufficient support within the organisation
  • Hook up professional podcasting experts
  • Research who your target audience is
  • Don't be afraid to let go of your original idea 

Benefits of a podcast for government agencies

  • More openness to citizens
  • Citizens get a better picture of (and thus more understanding of) what happens behind the scenes
  • Improving the image of the body and the officials working there 

The podcast as a magnet for new staff

For the AIVD, a podcast is the way to attract new people. "After all, the people we are looking for do not let themselves be found so easily," Van Hulzen explains. 

In the second season of The Service involves a fictitious cyber attack. Each episode ends with a complicated technical challenge. Intended to get people who can do it excited about the work the AIVD does.

"Those boys and girls who can do that are highly sought after in the labour market," Van Hulzen says. "There is a huge pull on them. So forget about approaching them for a job like that. By challenging them in this way, hopefully they will come to us."

The employer branding podcast

Creating a podcast to recruit staff. In our white paper '20 business podcast ideas and formats' we call this the 'employer branding' podcast. With such a podcast, you basically show what you have to offer as an employer to potential new staff. 

After all, it has long ceased to be just about terms of employment. People want to be proud of their employer, expect social commitment. You can convey that feeling with this podcast.

The AIVD's podcast is a great example of this type of podcast. The Service combines an investigation of a fictional case with interviews of staff. Through their stories, as a listener you get a fairly real picture of the AIVD as a workplace.

Insights from the 'employer branding' podcast:

  • Interview the leadership about the mission and vision
  • Make a docu-series about the organisation
  • Create a series about a (fictional) case
  • Interview employees about their job or projects 
Employer Branding Podcast

20 business podcast ideas and formats

At Springcast, we developed a white paper with no less than 20 storylines and formats. Have?

Werf& Award for The Service

The AIVD's 2022 podcast has won the Werf& Award for recruitment and labour market communication. It is the jury prize. For Van Hulzen, the award crowns the work of the podcast, which has been downloaded more than a million times. "We achieved our goal of recruiting people through this podcast," he says.

"We are fortunately a very popular employer. When a vacancy comes online for intelligence officer, a lot of people apply for it," Van Hulzen continued. Before the service put the podcast online, it was not very difficult to recruit this target group.

Unknown makes unloved

"However, there is still a lot of misunderstanding surrounding all the digital things we do. It is very complicated to explain what we do. People find it scary. We didn't want to start immediately with this branch of the AIVD in our podcast, but first wait and see what the first season would do."

When that became a success, the service decided to focus on recruiting technical profiles, i.e. cybersecurity people in this case, in season two. "Those people like games. Are professionals. You really don't need to tell them to do their job."

So the AIVD decided to challenge this target group in season two with complicated technical challenges, hoping to get them excited about joining the service. Whether that achieved anything, Van Hulzen would not say. "That's a secret ;-)" 

About 'The Service'

The Service is a six-part podcast series by and about the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD). Liesbeth Rasker steps into the shoes of a new AIVD employee. In the podcast, she goes through the basic training that every intelligence officer undergoes.

In season 1, Liesbeth investigates a fictional terrorist threat and meets her new colleagues. Each colleague takes her one step further in the investigation. Season 2 involves a fictional cyber attack. In it, Liesbeth must find out the source behind this attack.

At the end of each episode, there is an assignment for the listener. The latter is challenged to solve complicated technical challenges. Intended to make those who possess these skills warm to the AIVD as an employer. 

The AIVD developed this podcast to give a good idea of what working in the service entails. In the podcast, everyone can listen in on the work of the AIVD. Meanwhile, the recordings for season 3 are in full swing. 

Listen to The Service here!

About Masters Of Podcasting

Masters Of Podcasting is Springcast's brand new podcast. In this show, we engage with experts in the field of podcasting. These can be professionals who guide organisations through the podcasting process, as well as entrepreneurs and organisations who have started successful podcasts themselves in recent years. 

The first season of Masters Of Podcasting is a series of ten episodes. A new episode will be published every Tuesday. You can watch these here find. Want to know more about this podcast? Then keep an eye on our socials or subscribe to the show in your favourite podcast app. 

Femke de Walle

Femke de Walle

Storyteller in sound, word and image, coming from the world of radio. Years of experience as a radio producer/DJ, reporter, newsreader and journalist. Writes blogs and produces podcasts for Springcast.

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