Internal podcasts: entertain or employees will tune out

Let’s face it, many corporate podcasts need work, a lot of it. Podcast expert John Palumbo offers three tips for dialing up this popular, but tricky internal communications tactic

Think about your favorite podcast. Now think about the internal, private podcasts your company produces. Are they as good? Even close? Probably not. Well, that means you’ve failed.

At this very moment internal communications are arguably the most important function at companies of every size. There has never been a time when employees want and need to be hearing from leadership.

Many organizations now understand an email from the leadership team just isn’t going to cut it. Employees deserve more regular, authentic and transparent communication. So, communications professionals are seeking new tools that will help them do that, one of which is private podcasts.

Private podcasts are internal shows that are created and released exclusively to employees. They give leaders a platform to discuss important issues and initiatives in an authentic and transparent way where employees can actually hear leaders’ voices. This is a sharp contrast to lifeless emails, which are typically edited a dozens of times, scrubbed by legal departments and barely read by employees.

Employees, especially those ‘harder to engage‘ millennials, already listen to public podcasts to get informed, get ideas and learn new skills. It makes sense for companies to leverage this popular format to inspire, educate and inform them as well.

But (there’s always a ‘but‘) there’s a problem. A lot of companies think producing an internal podcast is as simple as grabbing a microphone on Amazon, plugging it in and having a company leader regurgitate the same information from that company-wide email they were planning on sending or just letting them ramble on-and-on about internal business updates. In other words, they’re overlooking the crucial element that sits at the core of every great podcast show — the entertainment factor.

So how will you know if your podcast isn’t entertaining? The same way people who launch public podcasts know – no one will listen.

So how can you make sure it is entertaining? Well, that’s a bit more complicated, but here are three places to start:

Create a talent search for a host: much of the success of your internal podcast will rely on finding a host who can carry your show and keep employees entertained, engaged and regularly tuning-in. In a perfect world, the host will be a high-profile company leader since they will bring instant credibility (and lots of listeners) to the show. But what if you don’t have a leader who fits the bill? One solution is to pair a leader with a co-host who can bring some energy and entertainment. Another option is to think beyond leadership and maybe hold an internal talent search and invite employees to apply for the gig. And, yes, you could even expand your search to outside talent.

Cast strong guest stars: one of the things that gets many of us excited about tuning-in to our favorite public podcasts is the guests. With this in mind, consider bringing on interesting, accomplished, knowledgeable guests. Consider authors or other notable speakers that bring critical entertainment factor to your podcasts. And you don’t just need to limit yourself to experts from outside the company. Consider enlisting internal thought-leaders to come on your show to share their best practices, talk about exciting projects and discuss skill-building strategies. Spotlighting internal guest also helps to foster recognition and visibility within the company.

Don’t skimp on production: while strong hosts, guests and content are essential, production is just as critical. A podcast where guests sound like they’re calling in from a tunnel or ones that are edited in a way where the cuts don’t sound natural are impossible to listen to. In order to ensure sloppy production doesn’t bastardize your podcast show, you need to look into getting the right equipment and possibly enlisting an editor. Consider licensed music, non-linear story-telling and other devices regularly used by well-produced shows. For some quick production tips, I recommend this article. For some inspiration regarding podcasts that are both effective and entertaining, tune into The Prof G Show with Scott Galloway and PepsiCo’s Unexpected Professor.

Ultimately, if you do decide to launch an internal show, here’s a simple question you can always ask yourself to make sure it is, in fact, entertaining: if I strip out all the internal information from the podcast would it be just as entertaining as a public podcast?

Hint: the answer had better be ‘yes.‘

John Palumbo is the founder of BigHeads Network, a podcast production company that develops internal podcast shows for corporations such as American Express, Panasonic and PepsiCo.

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