NEW MARKET — A few months back, New Market Police Chief Chris Rinker tuned into a podcast series recently started by Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter. As a fellow law-enforcement officer, Rinker was naturally intrigued by the idea and thought to himself, “That’s a way to reach people.”
It got Rinker thinking. What if the town of New Market began a similar series, through which staff could relay important town news, events and other various local happenings to residents in a way that is easy to digest whether they’re sitting at a desk or out and about?
Rinker floated the idea to Amber Smoot, New Market’s events and marketing director, one Friday night, and the following week the two met to brainstorm before presenting their idea to Town Manager Todd Walters. Walters was on board, and the monthly “Talk New Market VA” podcast — with Rinker and Smoot as its hosts — was started.
While discussing the podcast recently, Rinker readily admitted that they’re “kind of copying the sheriff’s office,” adding that the town is “stepping out of the box a little bit to reach a lot of people.”
“And that’s our goal,” he said. “It’s just another avenue for us to get to folks.”
“Talk New Market VA” launched in March, and Rinker and Smoot are three episodes into the series as they continue to work their way through an endeavor that is brand new to both of them.
The attempt at the first episode, Rinker said, was rough. He and Smoot knew little about recording a podcast, and because the town doesn’t have an IT person on staff, they didn’t have someone in the office they could consult. They tried recording with basic equipment, only to realize that the quality was “terrible,” Rinker said. They needed a soundboard and came to the realization that they’d need some funding.
They got it from a local business, ATL Farms, who offered to sponsor the town’s podcast and provided money to purchase a soundboard and three microphones built for podcasting. Rinker and Smoot even enlisted the help of an employee of Vision Technology Group, a company that provides IT services for the town, who helped them set up the soundboard.
Now, Rinker and Smoot are recording a 45-minute episode each month that covers a variety of New Market-related topics and includes a special guest. After each recording, Rinker takes the audio, does a bit of editing, adds some music to the intro and posts the finished product to the town’s YouTube page and New Market’s website.
Smoot said the premise of the podcast “flows with our goal and the Town Council’s goal of getting more information out there to our citizens and keeping our information open.”
“We wanted anybody to listen to it, not just a town resident,” Rinker said. “We want to promote the Town of New Market and how great it is, and just get it out there.”
Because they were getting acclimated to the process, Smoot said they chose to go with easily accessible guests for their initial episodes. Mayor Larry Bompiani joined the duo on the debut episode, and Walters lent his time for episodes two and three.
The hosts’ areas of expertise allow them to cover a variety of topics — Smoot can easily provide details about upcoming events around town, while Rinker is able to relay public safety information — and having guest speakers like Walters and other town staff members afford listeners a look at upcoming town projects and provide an inside look at how local government operates.
“It is natural for Amber and I to sell New Market because we care so much about New Market,” Rinker said, “and we want other people to hear what goes on around here all the time.”
Smoot said that pre-pandemic, Walters had mentioned the possibility of holding a “civic-type class” where people could come learn more about local government functions that people “don’t see on a day-to-day basis.” The podcast enables town staff to cover those types of topics.
“This was a really good … outlet to kind of show people what we do,” said Smoot, who added that once she and Rinker get comfortable with the podcast, they’ll begin opening the door for listeners to ask questions that could then be answered in a future episode.
The guest speakers will become more varied also, and Smoot said she’s looking forward to future episodes in which they’ll invite local business owners on to “let them have their moment to let people know who they are, what they do.”
“There’s a lot of times you see that shop and you drive down and you’re like, ‘Oh, I’ve never been in there. I need to get in there one day.’ And that one day never happens,” Smoot said. “This is kind of a way for them to get their name out there as well.”
So far, Rinker and Smoot said the feedback regarding the podcast has been positive, and Smoot noted that her friends joke that there are “celebrities now in New Market.”
The second episode of “Talk New Market VA,” released in April, had 69 views on YouTube as of Thursday, and the third episode, released on May 18, was approaching 50 views at the end of last week.
Rinker said that he’s hoping to see growth in the number of subscribers to New Market’s YouTube page, noting that “we just need some thumbs-up on there to increase that number and to help with our reach,” and that he and Smoot have even discussed doing some training to learn how to better utilize the popular video-based website.
“We’re proud of what we have,” Rinker said of the podcast. “We’re proud of our sponsor. We’re proud we get hits, not having any idea how many we would have the first time. We were pretty ecstatic that people listened, and people are continuing to listen.”