Last updated 2nd of May 2019
Author Lisa Hartwell
Podcasting for Internal Communications
In episode 3 of Fresh Talking - the communications podcast - we discuss the value of podcasting for internal communications.
Click play to listen:
We discuss the benefits of creating an internal comms podcast, why they are so popular with employees, the reasons organisations hold back from creating a podcasting channel (and how you can overcome those obstacles) and how you get started with creating your podcast content.
Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes to automatically receive all podcasts the moment they are uploaded and listen to previous podcasts. And if there's a communications' topic you'd like us to cover or you have any questions, get in touch below or send us a tweet @FreshAirStudios.
You can also access our previous Fresh Talking podcasts and transcripts on the blog:
Martin: Welcome to Fresh Talking, the Fresh Air Group podcast where we discuss all things communication, both internal comms and external, with tips and ideas as well.
In this program we're going to be talking about internal comms topics: communicating with your colleagues using internal corporate podcasts. I'm Martin Burgess-Moon, Media Production Manager, and with me on the line is Lisa Hartwell, freelance audio production consultant that we work with quite regularly, but also Lisa has written a number of insightful articles about podcasting for several websites, including ours. Hello Lisa.
Lisa: Hello Martin, how are you?
Martin: Yes, it's a joy to be alive. And where are you calling from today?
Lisa: I am in Leamington Spa, I would like to say sunny Leamington Spa, but it is really quite miserable here.
Martin: Yes, it's similar here as well. Don't forget to subscribe to this podcast, if you're listening using your favourite podcast app, and remember to stop by our website, freshairgroup.co.uk regularly for new updates too. Plus, do contact us with any questions and comments.
So… Why might a company want an internal comms podcast, and what are the benefits of doing one, Lisa?
Lisa: Well, I think the main thing with a podcast is that it can reach groups of employees that are much harder to reach through other means: your non desk employees, field workers, remote workers, obviously we're becoming more and more a nation (or even internationally) that use remote workers…
Whereas office workers have more face to face time with their leadership team, with their colleagues, and can easily access the intranet and therefore know what key things are going on within the business - these are things that are almost impossible for your more dispersed employees to find out about and to have the experience of, so that's the key point. This may not be for all employees, but certainly for those that aren't sitting at a desk nine to five, those are the employees you're trying to reach through your internal comms means, and probably finding it harder to do so.
Lisa: The other benefit of a podcast is that people can listen to it anywhere, and at any time that suits them. They're not on your schedule, they don't have to “down sticks” the minute that they get told they have to find out about a particular topic.
Martin: So, you could work for a telecoms company where you're in a van out and about all day long installing or fixing things, and you don't actually sit at a desk. We do things with banks, for example, where people are on the shop floor, as it were, working on counters, but don't actually have a workstation or a PC of their own. So, they'll sometimes gather around in huddles around a spider phone, as they're sometimes called, and will dial in and all listen as a group.
Lisa: Exactly, and actually podcasts can be used in those situations. So, if you're worried that employees won't even listen to a podcast, when they have those kind of huddles and group meetings, the podcast could be played as part of the meeting, and then the discussion could grow around it. That means, if it's quite dry information, the podcast could give the overview and then those employees could sit and discuss what that means for them, and then for the customer perhaps.
And of course, have you heard of town hall meetings?
Lisa: It's basically a way that all employees can dial in at a certain time, like a conference call, and the leadership team will probably talk about a certain topic, or things that at that moment are quite important to the business, and then the listeners have a chance to submit questions. Now, those are a great idea in theory, because people get to hear from their leaders, they get to interact with them, regardless of where they are in the business. The downside is it's working to somebody else's time. You're working to the time that the CEO can be available, or the internal comms team decide to schedule it.
Lisa: Like you're saying, you're an engineer, you drive from job to job, how easy is it to time your work schedule around a particular time to call into that? Are you going to persuade them to park up in a lay-by to get fully involved? What if they're overseas? What if you have overseas workers? They're not going to get up in the middle of the night (they'd be very keen if they were) to dial in to a town hall meeting to take part in something that's going on in another country.
Lisa: So, podcasts give that ability to actually be more flexible with when people listen and how they listen. They can listen on their commute, they could listen in between these appointments if they're an engineer, they can listen at a time that suits them, instead of it always being on your time schedule.
Martin: And with podcasts, are they measurable in any way? Can people find out how many people have listened?
Lisa: Well, yeah. 2019, so many times I've heard people talking about 2019, in internal comms, it's all about tracking engagement, you need to know your stats. And that isn't easy with some forms of internal comms. If you still sending out a newsletter or a magazine, you don't know how much of it's read, you don't know whether people are actually engaging with that content or not.
Whereas, podcasting figures are much easier to track, and some methods (when you distribute your podcast), that people listen through can even offer more engagement stats as well. So you can find out how long people are listening for, at what point they turned off. If you have different stories or topics, you can actually set it up with some distribution methods to find out which ones interested them the most.
Martin: So, you mentioned the word “engaging” there, so do you genuinely believe that podcasts are more engaging, not only for the listener, but also for the person that's actually in the podcast?
Lisa: I think so. I think audio is much more emotive. People come across when they're talking naturally as being more transparent and open, and a lot less contrived. Research has shown particularly that younger employees… your generation Z are they now? Are we on X, or Z, or Y? I'm not sure. But those younger employees especially, are wanting more access to their business leaders, and podcasts offer that same intimacy of listening to a radio show or something like that, that makes it feel more one-on-one.
So, even if they're not meeting that leader in person, a podcast gives that option of feeling like they're being spoken to as an individual, and of course working in audio and video, how storytelling works so well, for centuries. It's one of the earliest forms of communication, it’s telling stories, and it will always work, and of course podcasting is a great medium for telling stories, and video's good for this as well, of course.
Lisa: People love video as well, but the time and energy that's involved in video creation is a lot greater than with podcasting, and it's harder to distribute to those employees we were talking about before, that might be dispersed, not at their desk… and actually I say, I don't know if this is your experience, but I think those who take part in podcasts feel a bit more relaxed than those that might be faced with a video camera crew to do a video. What do you think?
Martin: Oh, absolutely, yeah, because they're not feeling as though they're on show, as it were, so they're not going to worry about how they come across so much in the way that they look, as well as they sound.
Lisa: Exactly, because with video, you're like, "Oh, what do I do?" Suddenly you don't know what to do with your hands, you're like, "Is my face twitching?" You don't get that with podcasts. There are still some things that can make people freeze up with podcast recording, but I think in general people are a lot more relaxed if they're just talking into a phone or something about a topic that they know a lot about.
Martin: Podcasts seem to have exploded in recent times, they've become incredibly popular, it's like everybody's doing them. So it is seen as being quite a trendy thing to do at the moment, although I suppose there is a risk you could get lost in the crowd, so you need to stand out, I suppose, and you need to market it properly.
Lisa: Yeah, and I think for internal comms, I mean it did used to be quite an indie thing, and I think it was quite a hard sell almost to persuade people to listen to a podcast. Now, they're a lot more mainstream. There was some recent LinkedIn research that showed that 42% of 18 to 34 year olds listen to podcasts at least once a week, and also, even across the generations, a lot more people are used to things like streaming audio, downloading music, or have even, I think it's over 50% of people have downloaded an app so that they can listen to traditional radio. They're still liking their traditions, but liking to listen to it in a more modern way. So it is very much a part of culture.
Lisa: So, in terms of the technology and the desire to listen, or to use that as an internal comms channel, I think it's not such a hard sell for employees. It's obviously not going to be for everybody. The older generations, again you may need to either educate as to how they can access these, or it may not be for them at all. No one form of communication is going to be for everybody. Some people like reading, or skim reading, some like videos, some like audio. But video and audio definitely are leading the way at the moment, and I think podcasts have become very much a part of the mainstream and something that people don't shy away from anymore, it doesn't scare them, the thought of trying to access a podcast.
Martin: So, we said it was popular, but not everybody's doing it. What do you think is holding businesses back from creating a podcast at the moment?
Lisa: I think people, they immediately think about the technicalities of recording a podcast and distributing it, and they think that's a technical step too far for them, and they don't really know how to go about it, and I think it's a shame if people don't look beyond that, because it isn't as difficult as they think it is. Obviously, I think especially if you go and put it in the hands of a production company, they can take care of all that, like Fresh Air Group, they can take care of all that, but in general, even the early stages of it like recording yourselves, or your leadership team, or whatever, it is as simple as doing what we're doing here, which is a phone interview.
Lisa: You don't necessarily need to buy in a lot of expensive equipment to do it. You can just record like we're doing now, and again, with distribution, there are distribution mechanisms, such as the ones that Fresh Air Group provide, they just use a telephone. Every employee has a telephone, or access to a telephone. I can't imagine there are many employees now, that don't have a smartphone, but even just a normal landline, you could use to access your internal comms podcast. And of course, you can use your existing methods as well, you've got your intranet, you've got perhaps Yammer, things like that. If you have them, use them for the podcasting, but don't be put off thinking there has to be some special way that is beyond your technical ability to access.
Martin: Yeah, and thinking about the podcast itself, how would you go about creating the content? I.e. what you're going to say, who you're going to say it to, and so on.
Lisa: It does very much depend on your audience group. You do need to really sit down and think who you're creating the podcast for, and the kind of information you want to communicate, and the way they would most like to hear it. You don't want to make the content too dry, people are going to switch off. If you have information to share that is traditionally quite dry, such as, I don't know, policy changes, then keep it brief, let them know how it affects them, that's the most important thing, this is all about how does this affect the employee? And do it in a way that's going to engage with them. If you think it's getting too dry, if you think the information's too dry, give the basics and then give them an option to find out more, or give the basics and then suggest it gets discussed in team meetings. Don't feel you've got to fill your podcast with every little piece of information that goes around that topic.
Martin: And we, of course, do a lot of leadership interviews, and they tend to carry themselves, don't they?
Lisa: They do. Employees like to hear from their leaders, they like to hear from the CEO, the MD, even the CFO if it's a certain time of year. Maybe the financial figures have come out, and employees want to know what that means for them and for the business. So, an interview style with the leader can really come across sounding, not only relaxed, but very genuine and open.
Martin: I always say to people, when they're not sure what to say, "Don't just think about what you want to say, think about what people want to hear."
Martin: Are there any tips, with regards to promoting the podcast internally? Because we talked about how you do it, and what you're going to say, and so on and so forth. How do you actually get people to hear it?
Lisa: Well, I think that could be a podcast in its own right, it probably will be a topic you tackle on your podcast in the future, because there are so many innovative ways to share, not just podcasts, but other internal comms information. But the campaign methods that I know are used through Fresh Air Group, or can be provided to clients, are things like text messaging, which immediately links the listener through to the delivery platform. So, they immediately get a text message, and if they’re in a position where they can listen, they can instantly just put their finger on the screen, and listen, or they can link to an internal website through a text message as well. I think the more important thing to promoting the podcast is to make sure that once people know it's available, you release it regularly. What's that old radio saying about repetition?
Martin: Repetition creates-
Lisa: Repetition builds repu-
Martin: Oh, repetition builds reputation, yes, yes.
Lisa: And I think that's important that if you're going to commit to a podcast, doesn't matter if it's going to be once a month, once a week, once you've committed you make sure that that new podcast is available when you say it's going to be, at the time you say it's going to be. So that people get into a habit of dialling in, or linking in to listen, and you then establish that channel as one that can be trusted over time, and they know it's always going to be there when they need it. When something new happens, they know they can find out more about it.
Martin: Thank you for joining us, and as always, if you want to get in touch with us just go to the website, freshairgroup.co.uk, and you can contact us through there.