Podcasts have reached an all-time high in popularity. You’ve most likely listened to one (or many), as has 55% of the U.S. population. More Americans listen to a podcast every week than attend religious services. And, there are now more than a million active podcasts on Apple Podcasts. At Podbean, we saw 100,000 new podcasts created in 2020 on our platform alone.
However, while you may be a podcast fan, it might not occur to you how this could relate to developing and supporting your employees. Yet, we’ve seen tremendous growth in corporate podcasts, especially private podcasts for employees. There are many reasons why private podcasts for internal communications, training, and leadership development are paralleling general podcasts in growth.
So, how can organizations benefit from internal podcasting? What role can private podcasts play in employee development? Where to start? And, how can you use corporate podcasts for employees most effectively?
Benefits of Corporate Podcasts: Private Podcasts for Employee Development, Training, Leadership and More
Podcasts are easy to consume anytime and anywhere. Corporate podcasts can enable employees to use time more effectively, always having various learning opportunities at hand. Because podcasts can be relatively easy to produce, companies can be nimble with timely updates and keep everyone connected.
Communications are typically believed to be about 7% content/words, while about 38% is how those words are spoken–things like tone and inflection. Though this varies by situation, it does mean that voice is a powerful tool for improving understanding and creating emotional resonance. Extracting data from podcast advertising studies, we see both high retention and action resulting from what people hear in podcasts. When combining corporate podcasts with other learning tools and resources, organizations really start to see improved results.
Audio is an intimate form of communication. Podcasts can use storytelling principles and conversations to really reach and stick with the listener. “Zoom fatigue” was one of 2020’s most popular search terms. We all know the feeling of strained eyes from looking at screens all day too. Listening to a corporate podcast can give our eyes a break while our brains take in knowledge.
We’ve worked with many companies who turned to private podcasts because of their team’s own listening habits or employee feedback. Since the format already has wide appeal, it automatically offers potential for better engagement. Accordingly, our customers report high levels of employee engagement with their podcasts and many have switched more resources, trainings, and various internal communications to private podcasts.
Podcasts can be consumed on-demand and on-the-go. Employees get content they need at their fingertips, so it’s always there when they need it and can be fit into their schedule. Obviously, podcasts can be a great fit for remote teams, whether distributed around the globe or working from home. If employees spend a lot of time on the go, corporate podcasts are a must for your organization.
How Are Companies Using Private Podcasts?
You can use corporate podcasts for:
- Sales enablement
- CEO updates or leadership fireside chats
- Team, product or service updates
- Employee or customer interviews/stories
- Role plays
- Leadership development
- Stories from leaders or different departments, to give employees a sense of the larger organization, rationale for decisions, company direction, etc.
- Just-in-time updates for fast-paced industries
- Preparation for a training session, reinforcement/companion piece to an eLearning course or in-person training
- Industry/subject matter knowledge: interviews with experts in the field (internal and external, partners, vendors, etc.), TED-like talks on key areas
- Repurposing existing content/replays of meetings, webinars, etc. (or taking select pieces to reinforce key learnings or distill information for future reference)
- In almost every conceivable way, if it makes sense and serves a purpose (also, to note, podcasts can be both audio and video)
VMware creates podcasts to enable employees who are distributed and often traveling to listen to vital training information and technical updates on their schedule. They found that their LMS and other communications tools didn’t have a good offline playback experience. Now, with their corporate podcasts, “everyone loads up some podcasts to have available for their plane ride” or wherever they might be.
After a successful initial pilot podcast, VMware now runs over 10 podcast channels covering a while range of segmented needs. The episodes are approximately 60% communications and development, 40% required training.
You can hear about VMware’s experiences with training podcasts and various forms of podcasts for employees here. They share a lot of tips and takeways!
You get an immediate feel for the company culture when you look at Slalom’s website. They knew podcasts would be the perfect medium to convey success stories and carry their people-first culture forward.
“We were looking for a way to connect all of our teams, share our stories, our impact, in our own voices (which is our tagline, by the way!). But ultimately, we wanted to connect our people and share our knowledge. But the whole thing about it was that we wanted it to be personal,” shares Vimal Parker.
The Slalom team is producing multiple podcasts covering strategy and culture, organizational effectiveness, customer engagement and experience stories, 2-3 minute “wins to know”, and tech stories focused on key areas for today and the future. Their podcasting app (a white label app created by Podbean) is called Slalom OnAir. They’ve seen tremendous growth with their private podcasts. This has also become one of their best onboarding tools.
Several companies we work with create role play podcasts either for sales or customer support. These are ideal for listening to, modeling, and gaining ideas of how to handle different customer scenarios and objections. What has been especially useful is that employees can listen to these again to continue improving or reference them when they’re running into difficulty. Podcasts are ideal for training and improving on what are primarily verbal interactions.
We see this being done a few different ways. One is that the learning team creates fully scripted role plays and either acts them out themselves or recruits different employees to play the roles. Another is to record trainings in which role playing is done. Team managers or members can record role plays around specific situations they’re encountering. These can be edited, if needed, and then put out as podcast episodes for distribution and replay.
What do you need to create successful private podcasts for your employees?
- Equipment/Technology: This can be as simple as recording from a mobile phone, but most times you will want to invest in (or repurpose) a microphone and headphones and some basic editing software. If you want to quickly get some ideas, Podbean offers “How to Record a Podcast” which covers mic and editing basics, remote recording and more. You can also record a Zoom call and convert it into a podcast episode.
- Platform: A podcast hosting platform designed for corporate podcasts like Podbean Enterprise has all the built-in capabilities you’ll need to deliver private podcasts securely and conveniently to your employees. We suggest doing a demo or trial of any platform you are considering. Get a feel for the user experience and what tools the platform offers that can save you time. Security is an important consideration for proprietary content. You also want to be able to deliver a smooth user experience that is similar to employees’ existing podcast listening habits. Find out if the platform offers SSO integration, an attractive app, collaboration tools, and detailed listening analytics.
- Content Plan: Decide what your corporate podcasts will be about and how you plan to meet your goals with them. This may mean outlining episodes for one pilot series or creating an editorial calendar for your weekly podcasts for the year. Many times, this will be part of your overall employee development content plan so you can determine where to strategically use podcasts.
- Promotion/Communications Plan: Don’t neglect to promote and build excitement around the new podcast(s)! Here are 15 tips to help.
Considerations for Success
- What is the benefit to the company? What is the benefit to the employee?
- Who needs to be involved in planning and decision making? Get key stakeholders involved early. Involve IT, purchasing, and others who may need to ensure technology meets certain criteria. Identify podcast champions in the organization.
- What format(s) will you use? Corporate podcasts might take the format of interviews, solo talks, stories, role plays, microcasts (i.e. microlearnings), a cohosted discussion, or a CEO/leaders’ “fireside chat”. Tailor the format to what you want to convey. Remember, that in many cases, a conversation or incorporating more than one voice keeps things engaging. One person talks can work, but that takes skill to do well and should be highly focused.
- What content? This will be based on your goals. Don’t forget there may be opportunities to repurpose content or use content to reinforce/connect to other learning modalities.
- The format and content will also drive decisions like how often you publish episodes and their length. A common adage in podcasting is that a podcast should be “as long as it needs to be and not a second longer”. For corporate podcasts, we find that keeping the podcasts digestible works best. Some companies tailor their episodes to fit within a typical employee commute time. An ongoing podcast can be released on a consistent basis, such as a weekly team update that employees come to expect. But podcasts also work well for releasing an entire series on a topic. As you can see, there is no one way to podcast. It’s all about making it work for the need.
- Who will be handling what? Look at roles and responsibilities and how to use internal strengths to produce the best podcast most efficiently. For example, who will be creating the content plan? We find that’s most often done collaboratively, by the learning team or by a group from the particular department the podcast focuses on or executives (or a combination). Other duties will include scheduling interviews, recording, editing when needed, uploading content, and promotion. A good host or someone with strong interview skills can make a big difference in making the content engaging. There are plenty of resources to help build these skills and our team at Podbean is glad to point you in the right direction.
- Understand how to track podcast results and measure ROI. What do you want to measure to determine how your podcast is meeting your goals? When and how will you track success? It is also important to understand a bit about podcast analytics and any special insights your podcasting platform can offer (such as Podbean’s User Engagement Intel).
The first hurdle comes with just getting started. It can be overwhelming to decide on the format, figure out how to record and edit, and get settled on details like a platform and distributing the podcasts to employees. Check out this guide for all the basics on starting a podcast. You might believe this is a worthwhile project, but struggle with buy-in from others. Along with getting stakeholders involved early and being able to present the benefits, we suggest a pilot program. It is one of the best ways to demonstrate the value of corporate podcasts without a huge commitment.
You may have a lot of the knowledge and talent needed to create podcasts already within your organization. For example, if you have an A/V team or employees who produce multimedia content, they typically have the editing skills needed. Additionally, you might consider outsourcing. For example, you can hire a producer to edit or even do full-service planning and production. Some companies hire voice talent to host their corporate podcasts or record an intro. Let us know if you need referrals to any such services!
Even though the content of your private podcasts may be quite different, we suggest listening to a variety of podcasts to get ideas. You may want to borrow certain elements, such as having a standard intro and outro. Another element many people enjoy is incorporating a fun, standard question or set of questions in interview podcasts. Listening will help you get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.
Your private podcasts need an internal marketing plan. How are you getting the word out and creating excitement? How are you promoting podcasts as part of your overall communications strategy? Are employees shown how simple it is to get the content and aware of the content available? Do they know why the podcast will be useful to them and save them time?
Here are some methods companies have used to be sure their corporate podcasts are promoted and accessible to employees:
Enable push notifications on your employees’ mobile devices. You can also share private podcasts via internal emails with a link to the podcast episode(s). Take advantage of scannable QR codes that will take employees right to the latest podcast episode. Additionally, Podbean offers embeddable players you can post to your intranet site. You can make custom playlists to share content that’s applicable to certain situations.
Integrate your podcast into your employees’ workflow and your overall development plan. Podcasts work well to reinforce other learning opportunities and vice versa. Offer incentives based around listening and make it exciting and easy to share. You can use interactive features like app comments, as well as integrating discussions about podcast topics beyond solo listening. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Build word of mouth by getting employees involved in making podcasts or being interviewed.
Additional content considerations if your corporate podcasts aren’t achieving the results you’d hoped for:
- How does the podcast make work life easier for the employee or provide something unique?
- Are our podcasts being segmented to the proper teams in our company?
- How concise and focused is the content delivery?
- Consider getting feedback from employees who are listening. Ask what they need and how they prefer the podcast content to be delivered.
- Look at your listener engagement intel to analyze patterns and make adjustments. Perhaps listeners are skipping certain segments or dropping off at a certain time. This can tell you a lot about how to make content more appealing. Remember that you can always create more content around a specific topic, so shorter targeted episodes may lead to deeper podcast engagement. Always put yourself “in the ears” of the listener. What content will help them? How can you use storytelling or create a flow to make the content interesting?
Your employees probably already enjoy podcasts and use them to learn. However, that’s just one reason to consider private podcasts. They offer unique benefits and can solve an array of needs.
If you are considering corporate podcasts or already doing them, join other professionals to share knowledge in our Linkedin group.