It’s not hard to talk yourself into launching a podcast these days — including a podcast for your team at work. There are plenty of good reasons to do it and many examples of companies that have used podcasts to elevate their internal communications and inspire their workforce.
Part of the attraction: podcast consumption just keeps rising; recent research shows that about 57% of the US population listens to podcasts. And there’s some evidence that internal podcasts get as much as three times the engagement as other internal communications.
Not that we’re trying to talk you out of starting a podcast. We’d love it if you did, especially if you made it with Descript. If you do it well, an internal podcast can help you disseminate knowledge, forge relationships across physical distance and cultivate your culture.
Ashley Hunsberger, Director of Developer Advocacy at edtech software maker Blackboard, wanted to share information among her engineering team in a way that was more personal and less formal than a blog post. So she and a colleague, Scott Hurrey, started an internal podcast. “I find podcasts a great way to keep your voice, and let people feel like they’re just having a cup of tea with you,” she says.
But if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, you have the wrong expectations or you don’t go in prepared, you’ll probably be disappointed. Maybe fired. We want to help you avoid that.
So before you embark on an internal podcast, here are three questions to ask yourself.
Can I come up with something valuable to say?
In the context of internal comms, the answer is yes only if you’re sure you have insight that can help your team do their jobs, or can tell stories that will help motivate them. Those are the kinds of things that make for good podcasts.
Launching a podcast to share knowledge, nurture relationships or hammer home your vision makes perfect sense; but you shouldn’t assume your team will listen to your podcast just because your intentions are good. And even if you lead a close-knit group who wants to hear you talk about your vision, they’ve only got so many hours in the day — a 2019 survey found that 51% of people who don’t listen to podcasts say it’s because they don’t have the time.
But like any audience, your team will make the time to engage if you give them something valuable. So the best way to answer this question is to think about what they want to hear, not what you want to say. If you’re sure you’ve got something they’ll find useful, enlightening, or inspiring move to the next question.
Is a podcast the right platform?
Just because you have something to say doesn’t mean a podcast is the best way to say it. You want to think about the distinctive benefits of a podcast — the things that no other medium can do for you. A podcast can help strengthen your culture through authentic conversation. If it’s engaging enough, it’s a good way to train your team or share important information
You might go the podcast route as an alternative to forcing your team to sit in a meeting and listen to you talk for an hour. If you make a podcast instead, they can listen while they’re driving to work or walking the dog (and you can avoid the torture of scheduling across impossible calendars and time zones).
Or you might choose a podcast because you want better visibility into engagement. Your internal wiki is perfectly suitable for dry (but necessary) information that you want to make easily accessible — but it’s hard to know whether anybody is actually reading it. Whereas if you publish your podcast through a hosting service like Castos, you can get detailed data on how many people listened to it, for how long and at what times (plus a lot more).
Or maybe you start a podcast to try to help your team connect with leadership on a more human level. At Blackboard, Hunsberger saw how well that can work when she invited the Chief Product Officer to appear on her podcast. “People are used to hearing from leadership at the all-hands, with corporate language and PowerPoints,” she says. “The podcast made it feel very conversational, so we could get to know the CPO a little better.”
All of those are good reasons to start a podcast. Bad, potentially fireable reasons include assuming everyone will just listen because podcasts are cool, or because you think it’d be fun to make one, or because you think it will be easy. Which leads us to our final question.
Are you ready to commit?
We’re not talking about financial commitment. You’ll need to buy some hardware to start a podcast, but there are many guides online, including ours, to help choose microphones and set up your recording space without blowing a hole in your budget.
But you will have to commit the time. You can expect to spend around an hour planning each episode, an hour recording (including setup; the recording itself should probably only last 30-45 minutes), and two or three hours editing — probably more in the early going. The time commitment is the most likely reason that 37% of the titles on Apple Podcasts never produced more than two episodes.
Of course, Descript can help you streamline the process, without compromising on quality or spending a fortune on professional editing. Not only is our editor just easier to use, but tools like Overdub and Filler Word Removal will save immense amounts of time you’d otherwise spend making the most agonizing edits. Our new Studio Sound feature will make you sound like you recorded in a studio, on an expensive mic, no matter where and how you did it
Still, you can’t be naive about the time commitment. A podcast can help you engage your team on levels that no other medium can, but the strength of the connection will correlate directly to the amount of time you put into making your podcast as compelling and valuable as it can be.
If the answer to each of the above questions is yes, you’ve got the makings of a successful internal podcast. Do it right and your team will feel more connected wherever they are. You’ll open up a new communication channel for sharing knowledge and delivering important messages. Do it in Descript and you’ll save time, you’ll get a studio-quality result — and you won’t get fired. At least, not because of your podcast.