Podcasting as an internal comms channel
In this episode, we speak with Jen Grogono about podcasting as an internal comms channel. Jen is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of uStudio Inc., uStudio deliver a new generation of media technologies for clients, transforming training and communications using podcasts, on-demand video and live streaming. Jen’s early work in digital media has been recognised through industry awards and noted in business publications like the New York Times, Fortune, and Wall Street Journal. Jen is based in Austin, Texas.
uStudio have a platform which they built to help businesses adapt media and it’s their belief that over time businesses will look more and more like media organisations in terms of their communications. uStudio have developed an application (website and mobile based) that feels a lot like a Netflix experience and helps organisations communicate in a show episode format. Jen explains:
“Using audio and video strategically for internal comms, training and HR is something we believe is important and meaningful in terms of having an effect and allowing workforces to be more aligned with their organisations.”
Why podcasting is a great channel for internal communications
As a communication method, Jen thinks ‘voice’ was lost for years with the use of emails, pdfs and powerpoints. People had forgotten that the voice carries so much more meaning than the written word. A study has shown it is actually 500% more effective at conveying meaning so if you’re not using this you are missing out on one of the best ways at getting your message across and making sure it’s heard and retained. New technologies like Clubhouse, Zoom and remote conferencing are making us think about how to take advantage of their technical capabilities.
A lot of the work uStudio does is around helping organisations find their voice and use it in their internal comms and the most acceptable format for this is often podcasting. It’s a really simple way to organise information with series and episodes and research by uStudio suggests it’s by far the preferred mode for employees to receive information. In some big organisations, not everyone has a company email address but everyone has a phone so you can take advantage of this to convey your messages. Podcasts are a flexible way for people to absorb your messages and can be consumed while commuting, exercising or doing other tasks.
Prior to the pandemic about 70% of consumers used the mobile app for listening to podcasts but this flipped to 70% using the web application once less people were commuting. Working from home also enabled people to listen to the podcasts while working which many found useful.
How to set up and develop an internal podcast
Jen has developed a useful resource called “The 6Ps of podcasting: A quick & easy start-up guide for the corporate podcaster” to help set up podcasting as an internal comms channel. The 6Ps are:
If you’re just getting started or even someone who has been podcasting for a while, Jen recommends you look at ‘people’ from a few different angles:
- Firstly, who is in the team who’s actually going to produce the podcast? Do you need someone who is writing an editorial calendar, or someone who is doing the recording, or someone to host the show? You need to gather and assemble the team who are going to record and publish your podcast.
- You also need to look at who the executives are within your organisation who you can get onboard early. Having them behind you will help you make better progress and get the podcast off the ground.
- Finally, you need to think about your listeners. You need to find 10-15 people who are a good representation of the organisation who can give you feedback on the content. They can help you understand how your podcast is being received.
There’s a useful Venn diagram in the guide which shows how the various ‘people’ interface with each other.
You need to think about the techniques you can use for programming for this new medium:
- What are the shows, how long are the episodes, who are the people that you are targeting?
- Do you have different channels for your different audiences depending on the spoken language?
- Even though it will be ‘on-demand’, how many episodes will you need and how often will you put out new episodes?
- Which parts will remain consistent, and which will change every week?
It’s often easiest to emulate the genre and format of an existing podcast such as one on the BBC or The New York Times Daily. Make sure you write a programming brief with the list of shows, purpose and format.
This is about choosing and organising the actual recording aspect:
- Do you want it to be a very high-end recording with high-end editing?
- Are there intros and outros?
- Is it original music or something from a music library that has a royalty free license?
Software such as Squadcast and Zencastr make recording of podcasts simple using a laptop or phone. There is an unbelievable richness of tool choices these days. You need to decide if you want to do it yourself or get a professional company to do it for you.
You need to have a plan about how your publishing is going to work and which tools you are going to use to upload your podcasts. Publishing internal podcasts is different to external podcasts which are often uploaded to a website and are in the public domain. Internal podcasts need to be uploaded to a secure site which employees have access to. The uStudios app can be downloaded from Apple and is a secure way of broadcasting your podcasts. You can add your own corporate logos to it and make it unique to your organisation. If there’s a lot of training content on your podcast, the app allows you to bookmark the episode so you can come back to it and you can also create a playlist like Spotify. The app also allows organisations to get data about the consumption of the podcasts which is very useful.
Promotion is often overlooked but very important. If no one knows a podcast exists you probably won’t get many listeners! If employees don’t have company email addresses you need to think about how you will promote the podcast and get people to download the app. Organisations have used the CEO to promote it and talk about their favourite episode. The uStudio app allows you to download ads which can be incorporated on the company intranet. Some companies have given away free airpods to the first 100 downloaders or they’ve developed loyalty programmes for people who’ve listened to a certain amount of content. Promotion is especially important in the early part of rolling out a podcast. As Jen says, “it’s about selling the unknown through the known”.
This is often the hardest ‘P’ for organisations to get to grips with as there is so much information about message consumption in this medium. For example, if you can see not only how many people hit play on an episode but also how many people listened to the entire episode, this tells you a lot about how engaging your message is and how well it was delivered. It’s important for internal communicators to think about having access to this information and what they would do with it. You can see who has accessed the podcast and when and who hasn’t listened to anything. Podcasting tools often allow you to see information about likes and shares. This is all information which isn’t readily available if you use email or written communication to deliver your message. Jen doesn’t think that as an communicators people are entirely sure what to do with this information yet. Maybe it will help give us a better understanding about the length of programme people enjoy and whether the title influences how many people listen. Jen is looking at benchmarking some of this data across the different industries and sizes of organisations which may help determine what good episode engagement looks like. For example, they may be able to tell a pharmaceutical company the ideal length for a podcast training episode. They can also use the dashboard from their app to tell individual communicators what’s working and what’s not. While knowing what to do with this data is still in its early stages it’s really interesting and valuable.
Craig asks Jen about the ability to comment on podcast episodes and Jen explains that the way the app is set up is more like Netflix and Spotify. It’s more of a curated environment as there’s often not time for an organisation to be looking at and modifying people’s comments. If you want to open up the commenting ability it is possible, but then you may find you have to start competing with the loud minority and you’re not really breaking through all the ‘noise’. Jen says not many of their customers want to do this but are happy to have the ability to comment privately or to send a message to the host. It’s also possible to embed surveys in the show notes for people to complete and ask people to complete them in the podcast.
How do we know if podcasting works?
We have to communicate, it’s not an option, so choosing the way that is going to be most preferred or well received is obvious. Jen’s advice is to use all the channels at your disposal and use them the way they’re intended to be used. Don’t try and send a six-page email when maybe a podcast episode or a pdf might be more approproate.
We communicate for a reason, we want people to think something, or feel something or do something. Starting to measure how well a particular piece of communication causes that think, feel, do response is something we can do once we can understand the data available. Jen thinks it’s an exciting time as we can also look at what happened to productivity and sales within an organisation after introducing podcasting. Internal communicators will be able to get in on the data discussion!
Just do it and get started, don’t try and make it perfect. There’s no question you’ll look back at your first podcast and probably smile because you will have moved so far and so fast. But it’s an exciting thing to do and fun to get started with a new medium and a new tool and it just takes hold.