Welcome to Be a Bigger Fish, the podcast that explores the power of podcasting.
The star of this episode is podcasting expert, Paul Gisby.
Paul’s early career was as a scientist, working in a variety of sectors. He moved into pharmaceuticals, where he developed the skill of medical writing. His communications skills found their home in making audio content, and he now works full time as a podcast maker and producer.
Paul’s move into audio
[3:00] Inspired by his favourite radio show, Paul spotted an opportunity to use audio as part of the communications solutions for a large change programme inside his company. He immediately felt at home making audio content and his initial project was a big success. This experience was the inspiration for Voquinexus, Paul’s podcasting business.
Responding to colleague feedback, the content Paul produced in-house was accompanied by some visuals. He calls this ‘audiographic’ content and it forms a nice compromise where audio-only content seems lacking to your audience.
Developing podcasting skills
[6:25] Paul learned his podcasting skills on the job and through working with a consultant who had experience in radio production.
“One of the best things for learning how to do this is listening to myself and comparing myself to, chiefly, radio.”
Why audio works for leadership communication
[7:40] Paul specialises in leadership communication. He finds audio the ideal medium for going into depth on subjects and creating a connection between host and listener.
“It’s brilliant for the kind of thing where it’s really difficult to get the essence over by a PowerPoint slide.”
He used audio for a more conversational follow-up to formal presentations, to get into the subtlety of thought behind the ideas being presented.
[9:30] There’s no substitute to listening to someone speaking in person about their own subject. That ‘something extra’ you only get from the originator of an idea is what people a looking for in communications these days.
Leadership communication that suits audio
[10:30] Audio works well for situations where a leader needs to connect with large colleague groups. Conversation-based content which enables a leader to get to the nub of a concept is very effective.
Paul advocates getting a bit tough with leaders when you interview them. Challenge them to break away from generic responses and be more specific in their explanations.
[12:55] Sharing knowledge across a global organisation is easier with audio. Paul uses a technique he calls ‘wisdom capture’ to preserve and share niche expertise and experience inside companies. It makes that wisdom available for anyone else to learn from at the time they need to access it.
“It’s that insight that particularly came through from the stories they told that made it so powerful and it’s now there in perpetuity.”
Getting the listener to reflect
[16:10] Getting people to connect with an idea requires you to get your listener to really hear and reflect on your content. Paul feels that audio is the best way to achieve this.
Encouraging experts to tell stories
“Stories are right at the heart of great podcasting”
[17:50] The best podcasts contain great stories, but it’s not always easy to get good stories from experts. Paul shares his experience in encouraging experts to illustrate their concepts with memorable stories. He also explains some of the theory behind why experts find storytelling such a challenge.
Tips for setting up a strategic in-house podcast
[21:30] Paul talks through the process he typically works through in order to get an in-house podcast off to a good start. He often has to pause the creative process in order to ensure good strategy and alignment with objectives
“Take some time to be very clear on the objectives…when we’re clear on that, let’s go back to the material we’ve got.”
[23:30] It’s easy to gather hours of content, particularly with employees who are passionate about what they do. Your job is to hone that content so it maps through to your strategic outcomes.
[24:10] Don’t underestimate the time involved in creating podcast content. Maintaining momentum is important too – once you start delivering podcast content you’ll create an expectation for more. It’s a good idea to plan to run limited seasons of content rather than an open-ended series.
“It helps to get help, but you don’t have to. You can do it yourself.”
Measurement and podcasting
[26:30] Paul talks about the challenges of measurement and of making a business case to gain budget for a podcast. Some companies use sophisticated tools to measure things like employee engagement, which can help. It can be more effective and meaningful, however, to get positive verbal or written feedback on podcast content.
[30:30]Try not to over-emphasise obvious measures like numbers of listens and downloads. Some of the most impactful projects Paul has worked on have been accessed by a small number of people, because they were so niche. Those people can make a big difference to the success of a project, however, so the influence of the audio content can have a disproportionately positive outcome.
Getting management buy-in for your podcast
[33:30] This is a common challenge for podcasters. Audio content isn’t that common yet and is still the poor relation to video in internal communications.
Paul’s advice is to gather positive anecdotal feedback, particularly from senior or influential people. Just one good recommendation can be ‘gold dust’!
Creating content that connects
[35:00] Start with your strategy, then get your guests into good conversations. Be genuinely curious. Bear in mind that people commonly underestimate how much they know and how helpful that knowledge could be.
Set up focus groups and find out what your audience would like to know and understand. Allow them to speak in anonymity so they have the confidence to be honest about the things they don’t understand.
Dealing with performance anxiety
[37:45] Paul places a lot of emphasis on a pre-interview discussion. It’s good to encourage people to think about the questions you’re going to ask and the answers they are going to give. If they have time to reflect on their answers, they are generally able to provide better-developed responses. This helps them to overcome nervousness.
“It’s interesting how people change once the microphone is put in front of them.”
[38:50] Get people talking about the things they are passionate about. Get some chemistry going by showing a genuine interest and encouraging a conversation. The good thing about audio is that editing is much easier, if you need to cut out parts of the conversation that didn’t go so well.
[41:30] Beware of communicating your own anxiety to your interviewee. Get into the right space yourself before you press record.
Paul’s aspirations for podcasting
[42:50] ‘Wisdom Capture’ is an area Paul would like to focus on more. He’s also keen to share more voices from middle management. There seems to be plenty of focus on senior leader or founders and entrepreneurs, but less sharing of middle manager experience, despite its relevance to so many people. Try to find the value in the everyday.
Podcasting as a craft
[44:30]Paul describes how he has come to view podcasting as a craft.
“I love the idea of being an expert in that area; of honing and developing and refining your technique to produce ever better versions each time.”
Learning different ideas and techniques to help others get their point across well is a strong motivator for Paul.
The future of audio in organisations
[46:35] Paul hopes people will become more aware of how audio content can make a real difference. It shouldn’t be used just for the sake of it, but there are situations where audio will be the channel that can make the most difference. The more people are aware of this, the more likely companies are to develop an audio strategy.
[47:50] The technology that powers podcasts needs to become more intuitive to encourage greater take-up. As Paul points out, “No-one ever says ‘I don’t know how to watch the video!’” That being said, the habit of listening to audio content is growing strongly outside the context of work, so it’s likely to increase in-house too.
His podcast, Talking Leaders, is available here or on all good podcast directories.
Thank you so much, Paul!