27 September 2023

Winning Australian connection to an American travel podcast

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By Rama Gaind.

International travel is on indefinite ‘hold’ as a result of global COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, but there’s a lot of activity going on behind the scenes for when the lockdown ends.

Optimism surrounds an ambitious project on Portland, U.S.A., spearheaded by Barking Owl Communications in Sydney.

This is the first of a two-part feature that looks at the history behind the launch of Portland, Unpacked – a new travel podcast.

Katie Cahill and Jill Collins, from Barking Owl Communications, wearing the Portland eye masks created for the launch event in March 2020.

Victor Hugo, considered to be one of the most important and prolific of the French romantic writers, had a saying that exemplifies if you only want to do one thing,
then you should do it – and do so – adroitly.

Hugo (1802-1885) – poet, novelist and dramatist – was veracious when he said: “There Is One Thing Stronger Than All The Armies In The World, And That Is An Idea Whose Time Has Come”.

Such is the case with the overwhelming success of a new travel podcast – Portland, Unpacked – launched by Travel Portland in the U.S.A. What’s even more noteworthy is the concept for Portland, Unpacked was created by Sydney-based agency, Barking Owl Communications.

The podcast, which is hosted by well-known Australian actor, commentator and DJ, Faustina Agolley, features stories of Portland, the largest and most populous city in the American state of Oregon.

Until it’s safe to visit in person, there are lots of ways to experience the city from your home, far away. This is a story not only about travel, but the ideas, aspirations and a vision that’s turned them into reality, with the thought that it could change the world for the better. It has. It’s a story about the product, the people involved and the months that went into the planning.

The podcast team from left: Trish White (Barking Owl Communications colleague based in Melbourne), Kate Montague (Audiocraft, producer), Katie Cahill (Barking Owl), Jill Collins (Barking Owl), Jess Bineth (Audiocraft, producer).

Managing director Jill Collins said Portland, Unpacked was the first such project for Barking Owl Communications.

The concept was launched in February this year through short audio trailers to the travel industry at the Visit USA Roadshows and a special sneak preview was held at the Golden Age Cinema in Surry Hills. It did go ‘live’ on March 16, but that was also the time when the COVID-19 global pandemic began to take hold. Consequently, all the accompanying marketing activities have been put on hold for now.

Challenging times

While the start of the new decade, and 2020, has been a year like no other, the travel industry as we knew it may never be the same again. Current worldwide challenges and the unpredictable times we face around international travel will remain until the lockdown is lifted.

In the meantime, we have the ability to plan a visit to one of our dream destinations, to re-visit or be surprised by a new one when it’s ‘safe’ to travel again. Now is the time to prepare. Let there be no regrets. Dream. Discover. Explore. Smile.

These are precisely the sentiments that continue to motivate the team at Barking Owl Communications. Their enthusiasm has not been dampened. In fact, as Jill puts it: “The exciting thing is there is more to come when the time is right to launch our paid marketing program! We are really excited about the finished content which is a beautiful, high quality production telling the story of Portland through the eyes of some of its most fascinating residents.”

Jill Collins congratulates the team on the great production of Portland, Unpacked.

“Both my colleague Katie Cahill and I had this great idea last year about connecting one of our favourite destinations and the rise in the popularity of podcasts in the marketplace,” Jill said. “Having lived in the U.S., I had been inspired by beautifully produced NPR podcasts with rich soundscapes that dropped you into the heart of the story. Katie and I wanted to recreate that.”

“We did a lot of research and there weren’t many podcasts in the travel space with the exception of some in studio productions or more ‘travelogue’-style pieces where tour operators etc. were interviewed one-on-one. These were all fine, but we wanted something completely different.”

Seeking inspiration

Jill said they spent a lot of time in planning with podcast production company, Audiocraft about who would be the audience, what stories would be told, who would be the host. “We wanted to make this perfect! Once we had our plan in place, we presented it to the Travel Portland team and they green lighted the idea. From there we went into overdrive – and learned a lot on the way.”

Barking Owl team with podcast host Faustina Agolley, from left: Trish White, Katie Cahill, Faustina Agolley and Jill Collins.

“We also had some good luck! Thanks to Travel Portland’s International PR manager, while we were in Portland recording our interviews, we met the very talented Ben Landsverk at a wonderful event he runs with Kate Sokoloff – called the Low Bar Chorale – basically a fabulous pub choir of locals who get together regularly for an audience singalong to famous artists. The Chorale is one of the many great local stories that made it into the podcast and Ben ultimately composed the theme music for the podcast for us”

Jill Collins reiterated that it “has been a wonderful journey for both Katie and I and also our trade colleague – Trish White – who has done all the heavy lifting from the travel industry perspective. They are an amazing group of professionals.”

The hard work that’s gone so far into “working like crazy with our partners to bring all the puzzle pieces together” is incontestable. When the time is right, and the marketing assets are finally officially launched across trade and consumer platforms, the huge exposure on a global scale will be well worth the wait!

It was author Roger Crawford who said: “being challenged in life is inevitable”. If you are unambiguously explicit, then being defeated should not be an option.

That’s when it becomes the motivating story of Australia’s Barking Owl Communications!

NEXT WEEK: find out about some of the captivating stories of the city contained in Portland, Unpacked “through the eyes of some of its most fascinating residents”.


Portland, Unpacked was brought to life through the talents of Audiocraft, Marketing Equation, Faustina Agolley, American Airlines, Jupiter Next and Nova.

How to Listen

You can find Portland, Unpacked on your favourite podcast platform or go to https://www.travelportland.com/portland-unpacked/

For more information on Portland and the podcast, visit:




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