Best Practice for In-house Podcasts with Harriet Small. S2 Ep1

Best Practice for In-house Podcasts with Harriet Small. S2 Ep1

Be a Bigger Fish is back!

Welcome to season 2 where we take a closer look into the world of in-house podcasting. 

This season is dedicated to exploring the use of audio content inside organisations or institutions. It will feature practitioners and professionals who have an active interest in making successful podcast content and sharing their expertise.

We’re starting with the fabulous Harriet Small.

About Harriet

Harriet is an internal communications professional working in the transport sector. She has 12 years’ experience in communications, journalism, and public affairs at companies such as Sky, Merton Council, the European Union, NHS, and titles across Hearst Media.

Harriet is the winner of the IoIC rising star award 2019, where she also sits on the FutureNet committee. In 2018 her ‘Be Epic’ campaign for Merton Council was shortlisted for an Employee Engagement award in the IC category.

Harriet curates the blog commsovercoffee.com and is an ambassador for the Taylor Bennett Foundation.

Harriet’s career in communications

[2:30] At the time of recording, Harriet was working at Sky in role she really enjoyed. She tells us a little bit about the roles she did prior to that, including some interesting work with members of the European Parliament.

A purpose for podcasts

[4:30] Harriet and I have a shared interest in two things: internal communications, as we’re both in that profession and secondly, podcasts. Harriet often shares her morning commute podcasts on social media. She says that started off as a response to questions people kept asking her about how she found out the information she did. It would often be something she’d heard on a podcast, so she decided to share her sources, as she says,

“there’s so much professional and personal and entertainment content that comes out in podcasts. It’s just so varied.”

[5:30] Harriet listens to podcasts because they give her access to knowledge and insight into the experience of people she couldn’t otherwise hear from:

“So that’s one thing for me I really found fascinating about podcasts is that access into a different world and something that you don’t always see.”

Harriet also appreciates the fact that podcast episodes can vary in length to accommodate a whole, in-depth conversation,

“The other thing is that people have more time on a podcast to share things”

She feels that allowing a conversation to develop and deepen gives you a ‘whole new perspective’ on the speaker.

How long should your podcast be?

[6:35] There’s a lot of advice about how long a podcast should be, so given her comments, I asked Harriet if the length of a podcast had a role to play in its success. Harriet’s favourite podcasts are those longer conversations, and she’d feel like a condensed version would leave her feeling like something had been taken away from her.

However, she also sees value in the short form podcast, where the subject matter would be draining if it was discussed for too long.

The traits of a good podcast

[8:00] For Harriet, good podcasts have an element of storytelling where the story ‘organically takes a life of its own’. She likes to hear an in-depth account which enables her to feel like she’s been on a journey with the hero.

She also enjoys podcasts that she can learn from, particularly learning from a shared experience or example. Harriet also appreciates podcasts that feature humour.

Introducing an in-house podcast

[9:35] In her desire to bring podcasting into her professional life, Harriet has uncovered some challenges. She lists some of the biggest struggles, including how to host the podcast, “on a platform where it can be sustained,” and how to develop a strategy to implement it correctly.

As she points out,

“we want to do it in the best way possible. The danger is that you rush to launch something and then it’s not yet fully formed idea, which has good thinking behind it, and then it falls flat.”

This is why Harriet is looking for some best practice for in-house podcasters.

Measuring podcast success

[11:00] I asked Harriet what she’d regard as a measure of success for her podcast. She wisely says, “I think it comes right down to that ‘Why’. So for me, if I were to release one in-house, currently, I think I would be looking at solving some problems.”

A good way of measuring the success of a podcast would be to use it for communicating some helpful information, such as during the onboarding process. Having that employee report back to say they found information they needed at the right time and stage, because of the content of a podcast, would demonstrate its value.

As Harriet rightly states,

“it’s always good to build in an ability to measure impact.”

Using podcasts in-house

[12:30] Harriet sees a potential role for podcasts to solve long-standing communications challenges, such as through the onboarding process; for reaching remote workers and for career development.

She spots the potential to capture and share the views of senior leaders, which can be available for people to access them when they really need them. You could aim to make this type of content more conversational too:

“factor in how you scope and get questions from various people within the organisation and make it a conversation. They’re answering questions that have been submitted by people in the organisation – the real questions that an average person in the various departments would have”

This type of approach could help your in-house podcast to feel more two-way.

The best type of content for podcasts

[15:00] Harriet highlights the Deloitte podcast, The Green Room, as a good example of in-house podcast content. She points out that reading form a script doesn’t work so well on a podcast. When people seek podcast content they are looking for less formal and more ‘humanised’ content.

It’s worth considering how podcast content differs from other written, or even audio, content in order to plan it effectively. Sharing best practice between departments in a large organisation could be a good topic area, but the style of communicating that should be appropriate for the medium.

Podcasts or videos?

[18:30] Working at Sky, Harriet used a lot of video content in her internal communications. She found video performed better than any other content she shared. She was interested to find a platform that shares video and audio content in-house, securely.

Given the preference for video content at Sky, I asked Harriet if she felt there was any appetite for podcast content there. She observed that people currently want more video partly because video was used first:

“video hasn’t yet had its glory days, I think it’s still got time to mature and grow and then it will fade out and then maybe make room for audio podcasts”

Podcasts for ever

[21:55] Harriet has encountered a concern that podcasts have to run for a long period of time. Conversely, she sees the potential to use them ‘for a particular season or particular topic’ such as a product launch or the implementation of a new process.

Harriet also thinks that podcasts are a really good platform to get more use from the content of larger events or conferences:

“So people who weren’t able to attend certain sessions can go back in and listen to it. Or they can also get vox pops from people in between, or keynotes can be recorded so that people can listen to it in their own time. I think that’s way there’s actually power to play with that model a little bit more.”

More awards for podcasting

[23:30] Harriet observes that there should be more awards categories for in-house podcasting. It would be good to explore in-house podcasting more and share best practice.

Harriet studied a LinkedIn course on podcasting, which covered a lot of the technical aspects. She felt that there was a lack of guidance to link that to her role. She’d love to see more guidance on in-house podcasting. As she points out,

“Knowing the constraints a lot of in-house practitioners have with resources, it’s always good to know what you’re getting into.”

Repurposing content

[26:30]  Once you start to create podcast content, it can be repurposed so you can get the most out of it. You can ask yourself how you can make content more exciting, so that it can be transformed into something else.  For example, frequently asked questions could be made more interesting through audio and shared with a remote workforce.

Repurposing does require some skill. Transcribing audio content won’t necessarily make for successful podcast content. Harriet has some helpful ideas for using different channels to convey the same base information and to help grab employees’ attention.

Podcasting works for different people

[29:40] Harriet thinks podcasting can be a great way to share your voice if you are not confident presenting at a conference or to large groups of people. It can help people to shine where they may have struggled to do that in the past.

Conversation-style content also tends to bring out more authentic way for people to share their views and is another great way to feature speakers who might not be confident presenting their views.

As Harriet observes, this can give assurance that other characters in the story of an organisation should be invited to speak and share their voice. This is particularly helpful in discussing topics like diversity and inclusion, or mental health in the workplace.

“It helps with that as it’s comfortable, especially when you’re dealing with a hard topic.”

A potential new podcast?

[33:00] Harriet started up a blog series about personal development, following a twitter chat about learning on a budget. It’s hosted at commsovercoffee.com She’s thinking of extending this idea into podcasting, perhaps as part of her role with the Taylor Bennett Foundation.

In her ‘work outside of work’ Harriet helps host low-cost learning opportunities and feels passionate about enabling communications professionals to keep on top of their Continued Professional Development without finding cost a blocker.

Listening guide

[37:50] Harriet kindly shares some of her favourite podcasts so you can listen to them too:

The Internal Comms Podcast with Katie Macaulay

NPR How I Built This

Eat Sleep Work Repeat with Bruce Daisley

Fearless – The Art of Creative Leadership with Charles Day

Harriet’s blog is available at commsovercoffee.com and you can keep up with her on Twitter at @HarrietSmallies

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