Welcome to Be a Bigger Fish, the podcast that explores the power of podcasting.
We’re in Season 2, which is dedicated to exploring in-house podcasts for companies, brands and institutions. The star of this episode is Zane Ewton.
Zane is a communications consultant and the multi-talented content creator for Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric facility. A busy family man, Zane is delighted his job role also has a strong community focus.
Zane’s in-house podcast for APS
[4:00]When Zane discovered his colleague, Michelle, had been considering whether a podcast would be a good idea, he was delighted to say he’d been thinking about that too. They decided to collaborate to make it happen.
The internal comms team at APS were already making content in a variety of channels, including newsletters and videos. Having a podcast sounded like a fresh way to uncover some different stories in the company.
“It was an opportunity to give employees literally a voice – you hear their voice telling their own stories”
This created a lot of excitement around the podcast.
[5:20] The Connected Podcast features employees and subject matter experts and encourages them to talk about the things they are really passionate about.
Zane describes the approach he and Michelle took to making podcasts as a mix between the punchier style of news-based podcasts like The Daily, with the longer more conversational-style podcasts.
[6:00] The podcast content isn’t necessarily planned around the big news events in the company. It focuses on the unsung heroes of the company – the really great stories that don’t get a lot of attention.
The podcast’s tagline is:
“A podcast made by and for curious employees to learn more about the company and more about the people who keep the lights on”
Sharing these previously hidden stories from different parts of the organisation is helping all employees to gain a better understanding of what the organisation as a whole is achieving collectively.
Gaining the skills of a podcaster
[7:20] Zane says he had absolutely no experience as a podcaster before he got Connected set up. His experience as a writer, videographer and photographer meant he was used to being in the background, so hearing his own voice in a recording was a big adjustment to make.
[9:00] Having learned to listen to his voice, the next biggest hurdle for Zane appeared to be learning about how to produce a podcast. He researched the tools and equipment available by relying on the free content available online. Some of his videography skills were helpful for the editing tasks.
[10:00] Zane invested in a Zoom digital recorder. He really appreciates the fact he can take this recorder everywhere and describes an episode he made out in a truck with a lineman, while driving to a remote job. This turned out to be a really fun conversation with an employee who loves his job, that really resonated.
Zane also likes to use Røde microphones, but he points out that capturing a recording on a mobile phone is a perfectly viable option too.
Making a business case for a podcast
[12:40] Zane presented his leadership team with some evidence of the popularity of podcasts and the opportunity they present to meet some of APS’s business objectives.
There’s a current focus on improving business acumen skills in APS, so employees can understand how their job goals roll up into company goals. Being able to show how the podcast could help to enable this, plus some employee engagement goals, was influential in getting the go-ahead to start.
[13:50] Zane measures the outcomes of the podcast by analysing the data he gets from his employees about where they go to get the information they need. This is proving the popularity and application of the podcast.
Keeping the in-house, in-house
[14:45] The APS podcast is published on an employee app. That has some disadvantages in terms of the data that’s available from it, but it does mean the content is kept in-house.
That being said, Zane is exploring the possibility of sharing this podcast content externally. The passion and enthusiasm of the employees featured would make excellent content for a recruitment campaign, for example.
Audio allows a conversation to breathe
“It feels so much more authentic than a lot of our typical corporate communications work, just because it’s our employees talking without a filter”
[17:30] Zane is passionate about the power of audio to share authentic employee voices. He feels that some of the video content seems ‘produced’ but the podcast content feels much less filtered.
Being in front of a camera can be intimidating for lots of people, so video content tends to be brief and scripted. The podcast episodes tend to be around 15 minutes long, to allow the conversation to ‘breathe’ a little more.
Breaking down barriers
[21:00] Getting reliable metrics has been the biggest barrier Zane has experienced with his podcast.
Now it’s been published a while, Zane finds that colleagues he hadn’t previously met recognise him from the podcast. Even better, people tell him they love the podcast and, as he points out, nobody ever told him they love their newsletter.
“The quickest way to connect two people is through a story and I think the podcast is a great example of that, of being able to connect with people on a deeper level than we do with a lot of our other channels.”
Advice to a new podcaster
[23:55] The best way to learn is to jump in and do it. Zane says your first few episodes might not be too great and you might not enjoy having to listen to, and edit, your own voice, but you get better each time. The incremental improvement in all the skills needed to create a good podcast episode is part of the fun of making it.
Zane and Michelle got three episodes ready before they launched their podcast, which gave them a little time to get it right before it went live.
Podcast plans for the future
[26:00] Zane would like to find other ways to use audio content to open up some different avenues. He’s already got an idea for employees to share brief, two-minute stories, of strange days they’ve had at work, to bring a few minutes of fun to everyone’s day.
He’s also talking more about repurposing the content he’s got and maximising what can be done with it.
[29:40] It’s clear that Zane is a highly creative person, so I asked him how we can all bring more creativity into our work. Here’s his excellent advice:
“Be yourself and tap into those things that make you a little bit weird. Try not to worry about what others might think and what leadership might think. Take chances and that’s going to get the ball rolling for some more creative ideas and more opportunities”
When something works and it’s a little bit ‘out of the box’, it builds the momentum for other creative things to work too.
Zane also wisely advocates listening to lots of other podcasts; finding the ones you like; dissecting them to define what you like about them, then deciding what you want to build into your own podcasts.
He points out that the barriers to entry you might perceive are likely to be less intimidating than you think. Just go for it and find out how much fun it is to make a podcast.
Thank you so much for listening in to my conversation with Zane.
You can find Zane on Twitter @ZaneEwton or on Instagram @zane.ewton
If you’d like to find out more about how podcasting could help with your internal communications strategy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter @debbieaurelius or on Instagram @peppermintfishc
Grateful thanks to Alix Pickles for editorial support with this episode.