December 17, 2018

We have brilliant friends at Brilliant Ink and now we’re sharing the wealth. We’re sitting down with experts to chat about all things employee experience to uncover even more ways to empower your people. Stay tuned for all the best practices you can handle.

A Brilliant Expert on Internal Podcasts

Podcasts are everywhere.

According to some figures, there are over 550k shows and 18.5M episodes ready and waiting, and the numbers are climbing daily. Infinite Dial 18, an Edison study on consumer behaviors, found that 73 million people in the U.S. listen to podcasts monthly and 48 million listen to podcasts weekly, a 4% and 2% increase from 2017 respectively.  

Perhaps you’ve listened to Fresh Air or binged Serial, but it’s rare to find that type of engaging content at work. It’s something we face in internal communications all the time: How do we make our materials as compelling as the stories people consume outside of the office? One answer is starting a well-produced internal podcast.  

Recently, I sat down with Tyler Brown, Audio Creative Lead at Pandora, to talk about what makes his work of engineering and producing audio content so remarkable. He and his team approach their range of internal and external podcasts from a creative, storytelling lens that breathes energy and life into organizational news, both big and small. Check out his take on the power of audio and how to do it right in our interview below.

What’s the value of producing an internal podcast?

Podcasts have the potential for intimate connection – they’re innately human, and there is value in that. It’s a one-on-one, immersive experience with listeners.

Everyone consumes information in different ways. Some people are readers and some are listeners. Some people need info in person while others are fine with mass emails. It’s important to deliver content in different ways to cover everyone’s needs and learning styles.

What are some general best practices?

I believe it’s important to be redundant with news and information. If you want people to hear a message, they need to hear it a few times and in different ways. When you’re putting together your list of stories to include in the podcast, think about what key messages you can reinforce.

Being a good partner with departments and groups is another element of a successful internal podcast. Allowing for open collaboration really helps. So does staying in touch and meeting with peers regularly so you know what’s going on and how the podcast can support what they’re trying to do.

Using music and sound effects to highlight key points and transitions can really increase emotional engagement and retention.  

Lastly, publish your podcast on a regular cadence. It helps get the word out and people start to expect it at a certain time on a certain day.  

How does storytelling show up?

It can be easy to lose the storytelling angle when you’re reporting on company news and facts. But those facts won’t resonate with people; they won’t stick with them or encourage them to change something in their day-to-day life unless there’s a story.

We encourage people to be unscripted – to be real – especially with leadership so that the personal elements behind all these facts connect with the listeners.  

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a podcast?

Invest in some professional help and hire a real audio engineer either as an employee or as a consultant. Having an audio geek who can focus on the sound quality and engineering of the content will make a big difference. Consultants can often bring their own gear too.

You also need someone in the producer role to manage concept creation, driving the creative, scheduling, interviewing, hosting and covering all the bases.  

Is it hard to get people talking?

At Pandora, everyone is pretty open and understands the value of audio and what makes for good content. But sometimes people aren’t comfortable talking and it’s all about connecting with them on a one-on-one basis. It also helps to show them examples. Show them what unscripted content is and how it’s produced. That helps to establish some trust.  

Other tips include letting the mic roll the whole time. Don’t go question by question, and don’t give them the exact questions beforehand. (If people have too much time to prepare, they can freak out when they forget what they planned to say.) Once people open up and start talking, you can go back and ask the first few questions again to get answers that are less stiff or awkward.

Lastly, and this goes to the storytelling component, keep some of the, “ums.” Keep the, “I’m so nervous.” Keep some of the things that make people, people. Your podcast will be better for it.  

If someone wants inspiration, what podcasts would you recommend they check out?

I’m really loving “The Daily.”  It’s an awesome current event show that focuses on one topic each day and is really engaging and enjoyable.

Tell me about your career at Pandora.

I’ve been with Pandora for eight years now. Before joining, I worked in recording studios and audio for gaming. Then I was hired on as the first audio producer here at Pandora, making ads, and I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a variety of projects since, partnering with Product, HR, Brand Marketing and other teams. I’m so thankful I’ve had the chance to grow and try new things here. I get to work at an awesome company, making killer content with great people. I’m really lucky.  

For even more inspiration, check out 2018’s best podcasts (so far) according to Vulture, check out this list.  

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Sara Forner Howland

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