Welcome to this second episode in the second season of Be a Bigger Fish.
This season is all about in-house podcasting, so I’m very happy to have had the chance to talk to professional communicator and podcaster, Keith Lewis.
Keith is a media, PR, social media, employee communications professional and CIPR member. Currently in his second spell at Zurich having been in the media relations team there 2006-12, before a two year spell as Head of Communications at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. He assumed responsibility for social media and social business in May 2017.
Outside of work, he is married to Sarah and has two boys (Seth, 10 and Isaac, 8). He is also a rugby referee, operating as a Television Match Official in the English Premiership, European and some international games, and also runs the Rugbyreferee.net site, community and Advantage Over podcast.
Keith’s life as a communicator and a podcaster
Keith is currently working as the Social Media Manager at Insurance company Zurich. It’s a role that enables him to travel and meet his colleagues around the UK, encouraging them to ‘be more social’ and empowering them to get out there and have more of a presence.
When he’s not at work, Keith’s a Rugby Referee and Television Match Official. He struggled to find content online for referees, so he set up his own website to share information. With the rise in popularity of podcasting, and aware he couldn’t find podcast content for referees, Keith started the Advantage Over Podcast about two years ago.
Podcasting to unite a distributed workforce
[5:25] One of the major challenges of Keith’s role in Zurich is the fact the employee group is distributed over multiple locations in the UK. Findings ways to get Internal Communications together and tell the stories of the UK business is tricky. There is also a need to connect with the global community of the organisation. Keith knew from his experience with podcasting that it had potential to help him solve these challenges.
Keeping up consistency
[6:15] Publishing a podcast consistently is hard work. Life often takes over and finding time to create content, outside of a day job, can be difficult. Keith aims to publish an Advantage Over Podcast episode every two weeks.
This is another parallel with Keith’s professional life. He’s aware an Internal Communications podcast will need to be consistent.
“There’s no point creating an audience and getting people expecting something if you then don’t deliver on it.”
[8:45] That being said, don’t let the need to plan your podcast deter you from seizing the moment and grabbing opportunities to capture interesting content, when those moments occur.
[9:35] Keith trains his colleagues to record video and audio content on their own mobile phones, to prove that expensive kit isn’t necessary.
Keith started out podcasting with an iPhone and a tie-clip microphone. He’s now upgraded to a Blue Yeti USB microphone. He taught himself how to use Audacity to edit his podcast, and created a simple template with an intro and outro.
Starting to generate in-house audio
[12:15] At Zurich Insurance, podcasting is still in its early stages. A testing process is underway with existing Employee Resource Groups. A notable success is with the Women’s Innovation Network, which has a keen podcaster as a member, who took up the initiative and started to capture audio content simply and inexpensively.
[14:30] One major hurdle is to find people who can edit audio content well, where it’s not possible to do a ‘one-take wonder’. Keith assures us that it might look tricky to edit audio content, but he taught himself to use audacity. He thinks it’s more a question of making the time to learn to edit rather than needing expensive software to do the job.
[14:50] Keith tells us there’s no difficulty in creating content in an organisation like Zurich. The challenge is in getting that content into a format and structure that makes sense to employees. He’s aware that adding yet another channel to the mix might work against an in-house communicator. To make sure he’s using the right medium for the right content, Keith is testing smaller-scale and low-cost experiments to see how effective they are.
[16:45] There are a large number of home-based workers in Keith’s employee group, so sharing audio content might prove highly effective for them. The potential barrier is having the ability to share internal content that shouldn’t be listed on public podcast directory. Currently, audio content is distributed through Zurich’s Workplace by Facebook channel, but this means it has to be turned into video content to be compatible.
[19:35] Keith observes that the data shared by organisations like Edison proves how rapidly podcast listening is growing. (Here’s a link to the Edison podcast research page) This is bound to have an impact on the use of podcasts internally too and Keith anticipates communications platforms will evolve in line with their audiences’ needs and expectations. He’s aware that people don’t want to have a multiple number of apps on their phones for work, so finding a single platform solution for internal comms would be ideal.
[21:55] Listening to audio content is one of the few things you can do while multi-tasking. People generally listen to podcast content while doing other things and for this reason, Keith thinks it’s likely to become a go-to place for content. The rise of smart speakers and ‘voice’ will also have an impact on people’s expectation for more audio content.
Type of content
[22:55] You can share more authentic content through audio. Not all leaders are natural writers and some great speakers fail to come over well on video. Telling a story through audio is generally much more fluent.
Keith prefers podcast content where there’s a conversation, so dialogue-based content would be his recommendation. He thinks as communicators, we’re used to asking good questions and encouraging people to share their stories, so interview-style podcasts would likely work best for us.
Advice for starting an in-house podcast
[26:00] Keith kindly shares his three top tips:
1. Think about the channel – is there a well-used channel in place you can share audio content on?
2. Think about content – what type of content do you want to share with which audience? Think about ‘niching’ your audience and identifying a specific group of people to test audio content with.
3. Don’t be afraid to mess up – people are quite happy to put up with mistakes during normal conversation, so don’t worry about the content being perfect on audio either.
The potential of in-house podcasting
[27:20] Keith believes adding audio to your content will help communicators achieve their goals. As he says,
“Anyone in communications is trying to get an engaged workforce who understands what’s going on in that business”
Audio brings an opportunity to share stories from any individual to whole groups of employees. It can enable us to convey key messages in a less time-consuming way.
These things can help improve engagement, which statistics show, improves other business metrics. That means we’ll be able to demonstrate some return on investment.
Don’t take up in-house podcasting because it’s a fad, take it up because it has the potential to help create a better business.
It’s always good to talk
As Keith neatly points out for our conclusion,
“It’s always good to talk about these things. We’re not there, we’re learning as we go and I find that, just by having the conversation, I’ll learn as much as people will pick up”
If you’d like to find out more about Keith, you can follow him on Twitter or Instagram @KeithLewisComms.
You can also click on the link to listen to the Advantage Over Podcast or look up Keith’s website www.Rugbyreferee.net
The CIPR Inside Conference
Keith will be speaking at this year’s CIPR Inside Conference and I’m looking forward to being there to hear him.
The conference is titled “Changing the Conversation” and it aims to equip Internal Communications professionals with the knowledge, inspiration and confidence to change the way their organisations perceive their role.
There’s an impressive line-up of leading thinkers from the world of communications. Alongside Keith the other speakers include Rachel Miller; Chuck Gose; Katie Macaulay and Jenni Field.
I’m happy to say there will be an episode of Be a Bigger Fish featuring the current Chair of CIPR Inside, the fabulous Advita Patel, so listen out for that and find out more about the aims of the conference.
You can take a look at the conference programme here and don’t forget to use Keith’s discount code – Keith10 to get 10% off the ticket price.