Are you using a podcast for internal communication inside your organisation?
Have you been using audio more over the past year?
If you’re thinking about creating an internal podcast, this article will help you think it through.
I’m noticing more of my clients using podcasts inside their organisations, from “roving reporter” style shows featuring employees interviewing each other, to regular CEO podcasts. Internal communicators are experimenting with the medium and figuring out what is right for their culture.
Some companies, like Deloitte, host them externally, which means anyone can listen.
Tip: Make sure you know what problem you’re trying to solve when introducing any new channel. Be mindful of the ‘noise’ inside your organisation and how your channels work independently and collectively well together.
Further reading: Candid Comms podcast: How to plan your IC channels
I interviewed the Producer of my own Candid Comms podcast, Debbie West, who is the Queen of podcasts, to share her expertise with readers of the All Things IC blog. You can find Debbie online via her Seren Creative website.
Are you using a podcast as part of your channels mix? If so, please do let us know and we’ll add you to the list at the end of this article.
Who is using podcasts for internal communication?
Thank you for inviting me to talk about podcasting for internal communication, Rachel. It’s a subject I was delighted to write about for you, back in the summer of 2019, when you kindly appeared on the podcast I was making at the time.
I’m a keen podcaster and an internal communicator, so I’ve been exploring the best uses for podcasts in internal comms for a number of years.
Further reading: How to use a podcast for internal communication.
How can podcasts be used for internal communication?
Debbie: There are lots of great uses for audio-first communication inside organisations. The best uses will vary, depending on the structure and purpose of your organisation, the preferences of the people in it and the outcome you’d like to achieve from your podcast.
For example, if lots of your colleagues are out on the road and are already keen on listening to content as they travel, fact-based information like product updates and tips to improve may appeal to them and help you keep on top of their skills and knowledge development.
If you are keen to enable more of your colleagues to have a voice in your organisation, a podcast that’s led by and features colleagues sharing their stories would be ideal.
You could also use a shorter-term podcast season to support a particular initiative, like a cultural change programme or a wellbeing initiative, for example.
Why is audio useful for IC?
Debbie: There are lots of advantages to using audio content as part of a successful internal communications channels mix.
Audio is typically accessed from a mobile device and listened to on-the-go. That’s great for encouraging people to take some time away from their screens while still being ‘at work’.
It also allows people more flexibility over when and how they’d like to access the content.
It can be relatively quick and easy to produce audio comms. It’s less tricky to capture and edit than video content. Also, those camera-shy people you’d love to feature in your comms may be more willing to allow you to capture them on audio.
Listening to a podcast is generally something people do alone. This means a more individual form of connection is made between the listener and the podcast speakers.
That can be very helpful when dealing with more complex topics and it’s an ideal medium to share the more detailed reasoning behind decisions, or to tackle difficult issues.
Podcast listeners are statistically more inclined to listen through to the end of an episode According to the Neilsen Podcast Listener Buying Report, 80% listen to all or most of each episode of a podcast. That’s a great rate of engagement when compared with other forms of written comms.
What does a great podcast look like?
Debbie: Hmm, should that be, what does a great podcast sound like?
This will vary for the same reasons I’ve spoken about above. It’s important to make your podcast fit your culture and your colleagues’ preferences, to some extent. Generally, people expect podcast content to be less formal than your corporate culture but take care about launching something that’s totally off-key with your prevailing tone of voice.
There are some standards and formats that we know work well in audio. For example, good audio quality is an ideal to aim for.
While it’s tempting to use any piece of audio you can, such as the soundtrack from a video conference, those things don’t always transfer well to a podcast. It can be frustrating to listen to a speaker refer to visual prompts they can’t see, for example.
Also consider the value of your people’s time. While you can use audio as a medium to explore complex topics in depth and at length, you should still take time to edit the content.
Avoid having lots of mis-starts or moments of repetition to listen through in order to get to the good bits.
You should take care to consider the accessibility of your content, too. Offer full transcripts, where possible, and note that while background music is appealing, it can be tricky for colleagues who have slight hearing impairments to pick out the narrative from the music.
Do you need a lot of equipment?
Debbie: You really don’t need too much equipment to get going. I’d say as a minimum, have a microphone, even just an inexpensive lapel (or lavalliere) microphone. Whilst smart phones and laptops can capture sound quite effectively, it makes a huge difference to use an external microphone that’s designed to record voices.
Debbie: As you get more keen on your podcast’s sound, you can invest in better-quality microphones for less than £200GBP, like this USB microphone from Røde.
I mentioned the importance of editing as I think this is critical to creating high quality audio content. You’ll need to use software to edit your podcast content, but you can use free tools such as GarageBand (on a Mac) or Audacity.
The environment you record in can make a big difference to the outcome of your podcast, at no cost. Try to find a place with the least interruptions and background noise possible. Smaller, cosy rooms are much better for sound recording that open, airy spaces. That’s why you’ll see some podcasters recording under a duvet or in a cupboard!
Rachel: I recently shared the equipment I use via this blog post: Behind the scenes of the Candid Comms podcast:
- Blue Yeti Microphone – approximately £120
- Marantz professional sound shield – approximately £70
- Pop Shield – approximately £7
- Snowball microphone – approximately £55.
Note: links to go to my Amazon Affiliate account.
Who is using podcasts for internal communication?
Debbie: I’m so glad you asked this question. It’s something I’m working on finding out!
I must say I was surprised by the Gallagher State of the Sector Report 2021, which showed podcast users represent less than 30% of the internal communicators who responded to the survey.
I’ve been speaking with an increasing number of internal communicators who’d like to set up a podcast, so I predict this figure will see a steady increase in the coming years.
I hosted three seasons of a podcast series called Be a Bigger Fish, where I interviewed a number of professionals who were using podcasts in internal communication, with great results. I’ve linked to some of those episodes below.
Since this is a subject I’m so passionate about, I’m in the process of creating a new podcast season to pick up from where Be a Bigger Fish left off.
I’d love to use this opportunity to shout out to anyone who is using podcasts or audio content in their internal comms – we’d love to know about you and what you’re doing. Let me know by DM on Twitter @HiDebbieWest or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Podcast episodes featuring people who are making a podcast for their internal communication:
1. The Making of SteelCast with Tim Rutter & Gareth Brookes from Tata Steel
I think this is a really good example of a two-person Internal Comms team making the most of podcasting during a pandemic. Their podcast is available to listen to here: https://tatasteeluk.podbean.com/
2. Creating a Cultural Cornerstone with Jon Bonoff from GuideSpark (a US-based communications company)
I really like John’s approach to creating his internal comms podcast and the impact it has on is organisation’s culture.
3. How to Make a Podcast People Love with Zane Ewton
Zane speaks with great passion about the podcast he made while at Arizona Public Service (APS) in the US. His genuine humanity and creativity are infectious.
4. A Promising Podcast and its Legacy of Lessons with Jen Phelps
I absolutely loved the fact Jen was so honest about the high-budget, low-engagement podcast she tells us about in this episode. There’s so much to learn from this.
5. Building a Brilliant Podcasting Team with Steve Eccles, Helena Cox and Mark Bateman of East Riding Council
This is a hybrid podcast that speaks to the whole community, of which council employees are a part. Great inclusive approach to community and IC podcasting.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts Debbie, I know internal communicators will find this article useful.
I featured Deloitte in 2019 when they had just wrapped season one of The Green Room podcast, led by Internal Comms Assistant Manager Kaylin Duckitt. This is an external-facing podcast featuring internal hosts (employees), it tackles a tricky question about the world around us and is published once a fortnight. They are now on season four.
Further reading on the All Things IC blog: Seven things Deloitte has learnt from starting a corporate podcast.
List of companies who are using podcasts for internal communication
- American Airlines – Tell me why podcast
- Arizona Public Service (APS)
- Deloitte – The Green Room podcast
- East Riding Council – I heard it through the grapevine podcast
- GuideSpark – Engage podcast
- Netflix – We are Netflix podcast
- Tata Steel – SteelCast
- TD Stories – The power of wow podcast
- Trader Joe’s – Trader Joe’s podcast.
Are you hosting a podcast inside your organisation? If so, do get in touch with Debbie or feel free to comment below and we’ll add your company to this list. You can also find me on Twitter @AllThingsIC.
Post authors: Debbie West and Rachel Miller.
First published on the All Things IC blog 4 June 2021.