Some of the greatest minds of our time, from Fortune 500 CEOs to startup founders to creative directors, are hosting podcasts.
Matt Zelesko, the Chief Technology Officer of Comcast Cable, is one of them. On his podcast, Z Time, he talks candidly about his career, interviews other thought leaders, and offers predictions about the future of the industry.
Do you want to listen to it?
Sorry, you can’t.
Z Time is created for a very exclusive audience: Matt’s team.
Podcasts are already well-established in the mainstream, with one in three Americans listening to at least one podcast per month. But relatively few people have been aware of the employee-only podcast subgenre—unless your boss or company happens to make one.
With the current orders of social distancing, quarantine, and working from home, download rates for traditional podcasts has grown more unpredictable, most likely due to people cutting out their daily commute. But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the way we work, it’s also opened the door of opportunity for the internal podcast trend.
Long before social distancing was a household concept, employees have craved more access to their bosses, and their boss’s boss, especially in large organizations where senior executives can feel like elusive ghosts you hear about in orientation but never meet in real life. In fact, 23% of workers in companies of 500 or more don’t even know their CEO’s name. And 32% couldn’t pick them out of a lineup.
Internal podcasts help pull back the curtain of secrecy and offer the accessibility that employees crave. This is even more important now that so many large companies have sent their employees home for the foreseeable future.
We all want connection
Internal podcasts are a good tool to increase employee engagement. Less than one-third of Americans are engaged at their jobs. The biggest reason for this? Disconnected management.
Senior leaders might think their messaging is getting across, but surveys show the farther workers are from top leaders on the company food chain, the less they feel connected to company strategy or understand how their individual efforts contribute to overall goals. A well-crafted podcast impacts brain activity in a way that both resonates and intimately transports a person emotionally. This, along with the informal, conversational nature of podcasting, allows executives to bring new meaning to their explanations of strategic decisions, and what it means for employees at each level.
So, how does it work?
Employee-only podcasts are password-protected and usually uploaded and listenable from internal intranet sites only. Since they aren’t publicly available, hosts can bypass external communications teams that might water down messaging or delay publication. Instead, executives have the freedom to speak frankly, show vulnerability, and be straightforward about what’s shaping their companies and industries.
There are other benefits to consider. A regular internal podcast can give new executives a public-speaking practice; audio delivery can modernize training or onboarding; and internal podcasts can test the waters for potential hosts if a company sees branded podcasts on their long-term marketing plans.
Here’s the five-step plan to follow to have you up and running with your own employee-only podcast by Friday:
Step One: Decide who will host. In a perfect world, the CEO or founder will host. It’s impossible for them to communicate with every employee on a regular basis and they’ll want to increase their accessibility, plus the cache of having someone high-level be the host makes it more likely employees tune in. But character and voice matter, and a charismatic, beloved CTO, CFO or head of a mid-sized team can have just as much impact.
Step Two: Buy (inexpensive) equipment. Get a decent microphone (like the fan favorite Blue Yeti) and a pair of headphones, and you’re ready to go. Self-service podcast recording platforms are your friend here: My company Messy.fm provides these services, but there are other options: consider Skype, SquadCast, and even Zoom. You can be all-in for less than the cost of catering a lunch-and-learn.
Step Three: Use employee feedback to shape your first three episodes. Announce to employees that you are launching an internal podcast and have them submit questions or topic ideas they would most want the host to explore. Then, use that feedback as a guide for the first few episodes. For example:
• Are many of the submitted questions about how to be a better public speaker? Invite two of the most skilled presenters in the office to jump on the mic to share their tips.
• Did you receive numerous requests to hear more about the host’s career journey? Do an episode where they walk through the career decisions they made in their first 10 years after college—the place many employees might still be.
• Receive a lot of questions about how the company’s product strategy compares to competitors’? Invite your company’s research team to come on and share what they are seeing in the marketplace—for your employees’ ears only, of course.
The era of the employee-of-the-month plaque on the wall is dead, especially in businesses with remote offices. With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, that’s most of us right now. As an alternative, think about rewarding high-performers by bringing them onto your podcast, and having them talk about business-winning projects, or perhaps share more about themselves in an informal Q&A. Or, you might invite guests from outside your company to interview: influential clients, customers, or brand ambassadors to give employees an outside perspective on the work they do day-to-day and how others view the company.
Step Four: Record in a small room. Record in a small room with limited windows (there’s a reason many popular podcasters joke about recording in their closets—it works!). Don’t worry about being perfectly polished; part of the power of podcasts is that they are conversational and genuine. An internal podcast should be a resource for the workplace, yes. But people also want to hear about why this company is such a great community to belong to; that story about your embarrassing business school interview; the client lunch were everything went wrong. This is an informal audio experience meant to humanize your company’s leaders through tips, stories, and personality-driven interviews, not generate sales. And, don’t forget to smile.
Step Five: Once you go live, keep track of the metrics. Review your analytics. Which episodes are getting the most listens? If you’ve published three episodes and the interview with the company’s social media manager about how to use LinkedIn got five times the number of listens as the others, that gives you important clues about what you should explore further on the show.
Remember, you’re not launching this podcast to go viral. You’re launching it to connect with your employees. Even if “just” 100 people listen, they’re the 100 people who you want to listen.
Leaders launching internal, password-protected podcasts helps morale, can be done 100% remotely, and inexpensively. This is the time to start. No hand sanitizer required.