Podcasting as a Secret Weapon in Employee Communications

Posted by David Grossman on Mon,Mar 05, 2018

To highlight some of the most promising trends and innovative ideas in business, The Grossman Group is launching a new series, and we’d love to hear from you. Let us know what great approaches or innovations you’ve seen that are worth sharing, whether they’re inside your organization or happening at a workplace you admire. Contact us at dgrossman@yourthoughtpartner.com. In the post below, read about one of the newest trends that has us excited, a new take on podcasts for business.

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I’m often asked about popular and promising trends in internal communications today. Of course, there are plenty of interesting developments, but one I find especially intriguing is leader podcasts.

Companies have used podcasts for years for broadcasting meetings to a large or global audience, but that’s not the type of podcast I’m thinking about. I’m excited about fresh approaches to podcasts that give leaders and communicators at all levels a chance to reveal a different side of their personalities and what matters to them.

You need look no further than Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for evidence of what podcasts can accomplish for leaders (but we’ll get into that a little later).

Podcasts Are Mainstream

Podcast-stats112 million Americans listened to a podcast in 2017, according to a recent report from Edison Research. That number is up 11 percent from 2016. Overall, 40 percent of Americans age 12 or older have tuned into a podcast at some point. 

Interestingly, Edison also found that listeners tend to stick with the podcast, rather than dumping it after a few minutes. Their research found 85 percent of listeners hear the entire show, or most of it.

As this research underscores, podcasts are no longer a niche option – they are clearly mainstream, and smart communications leaders would be wise to take advantage of this increasingly popular communication vehicle. Unlike video, podcasts are also much cheaper and easier to produce, often requiring just 15 to 20 minutes of a leader’s time to record.

What Podcasts Can Do for Leaders

One of the biggest challenges for leaders today is finding new ways to connect and truly engage their teams. Time and logistical constraints force leaders to resort to long emails or scripted speeches as their main forms of communication. As a result, employees don’t see the personal side of leaders. To the average employee, the leader is often a distant figure, which can make the business strategy feel distant and unrelatable as well. Yet with a quality podcast, leaders can use tone and storytelling to communicate in a whole new way, and reach a busy workforce that much more easily.

Take Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who introduced a podcast last year that’s designed as a way to highlight interesting Chicagoans. While Emanuel conducts the interviews, he often reveals snippets of personal details that he doesn’t normally share, including stories about his wife, Amy Rule, and his three children.Podcast-woman-listening.jpg

Emanuel has interviewed the homeless, Chicago teachers, beer brewers, actors, and chefs, among many others. As described in a Chicago Tribune article, the podcasts offer the mayor an opportunity for levity and demonstrate “what can happen when a control-the-narrative mayor loosens the reins just a little … (the podcast) represents a departure from Emanuel’s tendency to avoid letting the public see his meaningful interactions with regular Chicagoans.” 

Leaders with similar trouble moving off script could learn a lot from the mayor’s approach. The possibilities are endless, but the simple concept of a leader conducting interviews with other leaders, employees, factory line workers, HR managers, and a whole host of other employees is a great way to introduce a new side of the leader. At the same time, leaders who are uncomfortable being videotaped are often far less reluctant to speak into a microphone. 

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How Companies Are Using Podcasts in New Ways 

Of course, podcasts aren’t just for top leaders. A growing number of companies use them to reach a busy or remote workforce that craves easily digestible information on the go. Podcasts allow employees to access important content in a quick and easily accessible format while they’re commuting, working out, grabbing lunch, or heading to their son’s soccer game. Podcasts can be as short as a minute or two, or as long as 30 minutes or more (but the longer versions need to have a really compelling narrative, such as a highly engaging guest speaker, storyteller or interview subject). 

Companies such as Marriott also use podcasting as a way to reach potential job seekers. Recently, Marriott launched a podcast for job candidates called “The Wandernaut Show,” which highlights what differentiates Marriott from its competitors and shares the company’s values through storytelling. 

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital also recently launched its own “BlogTalkRadio,” which features 30-minute episodes and employee interviews that provide a “behind-the-scenes look at the people, places and work we do.” The episodes feature doctors, nurses, leaders and other employees sharing their experiences in pediatric care.

Podcasts Add Diversity 

One of the most important benefits from podcasts is that they add a new channel to the communicators’ arsenal. Too many companies rely only on email and Intranet. For remote workers or workers who don’t bring a laptop to work, those channels are far less convenient. 

After all, great communication requires that we know and understand the needs of our audience. And for today, an engaging podcast may just be what that audience is looking for.

Have you come across an employee podcast that you find particularly impressive? If so, we’d love to know more. What stands out about it, and why does it work? 

David Grossman


Click below to download the eBook—Can You Hear Me Now? Make What You Say Matter and Increase Your Chances of Being Heard—to access messaging secrets on how to connect and communicate with your team:
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Tags: Internal Communication, Inventory of Innovations Series

    About leadercommunicator blog

    Leadership and communications expert, David Grossman shares high-level tips on leadership effectiveness, internal communications, employee engagement, and a variety of other topics on the minds of leaders and communicators.

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