Have you ever considered an internal corporate podcast as an effective and efficient way of delivering information around your organization? While certainly unorthodox, this technique is one that will surely grab the attention of your employees, and if you take the time to learn more about what goes on out on the floor, they will feel seen and heard. Joining Tracy Hazzard is Erin Smith, the President of BAERING, a public relations agency headquartered in Raleigh, N.C. Tracy and Erin discuss the benefits of running an internal corporate podcast that goes out to everyone within your organization. New times and new situations call for adaptation and that goes double for communication. Together with Tracy and Erin, explore and see if this technique is right for your company or organization!
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Exploring An Internal Corporate Podcast For Your Business With Erin Smith
I am always looking for new things to bring you, new podcasters with great ideas, new angles on how things might work. Here’s one that came across my media desk. She was applying to be a part of my Authority Magazine column. I saw her Q&A and I thought, “This is interesting. I need to do a show about it. I need to bring her on.” I’m bringing on Erin Smith. She’s the President of BAERING, a public relations agency in Raleigh, North Carolina. She has more than fifteen years of industry experience. She’s an authority on all things PR and marketing, especially in North Carolina. She’s helped define the brand and create awareness for companies across multiple industries, biotech, travel, healthcare. She’s a North Carolina State University graduate. She’s on the board of the Red Cross Eastern North Carolina Region.
Why I’m bringing her on and why I’m excited to have Erin talk to you is that she has been doing a lot of internal podcasts, intranet style podcasts. Podcasts that are internal at mid to large corporations, even some Fortune 500 companies, and they’re internally focused on communicating to outside sales, communicating to the team. I want to make you aware of that. Because this is starting to make a lot of companies of all sizes, myself and my team included, think that, “There’s got to be a better way. There’s got to be an alternative way to communicate with our remote teams, our remote workers everywhere.”
Whether our team is a bunch of independent contractors or freelancers put together or it’s an entire remote sales force, I have a podcast in a corporation that does it for everyone who serves vending machines for a large drink corporation. Thinking about those things, like how can we communicate with them better? Podcasting or videocasting, which ever one you might choose, and we’re going to talk about that, Erin and I, which one might be the better choice for you and more acceptable from a corporate level? I’m excited to bring this new view on internal podcasting, with Erin Smith.
Erin, thanks for joining me. I’m glad to have you here.
I’m glad to be here. Thanks, Tracy.
It’s exciting to be able to talk about a little bit different side and angle to podcasting. Talking from the corporate and internal podcast angle is interesting. How did you get started doing that?
It’s evolved over time. As our company started doing more and more with internal communications, companies are recognizing how important their employees are as advocates and how important it is to engage them and keep them up updated. We just needed to find unique ways to keep them engaged and get information to them quickly. Employees are also looking for that touchpoint with leadership. Our world is connected right now but it’s not connected. What are those easy ways that you can connect leadership to employees, especially at a global organization? It’s an easy and great way to do that.
It’s interesting that you say that because I have 60 remote employees. What we do is once a month we have this call and they love it. It dawned on me that the ones who were editing my show, they get me all the time. They hear what I’m saying, but the other ones don’t. You’re setting that off in my head that maybe I need to do an internal one too.
Years ago, I was working on this event for a global organization and we were out in California. We had the leader of the company there and it was a grand opening. A facility manager walked up to him and it was like he was meeting a celebrity. It was at that moment where I’m just like, “Wow.” People want to see who they’re working for and have that connection. He was grateful to have him there. It was a brief 30 seconds, a couple of minutes. He made that man’s day. Employees crave that connection.Find ways to keep your employees engaged while getting information to them quickly. Click To Tweet
In today’s world, I look at that and I think our employees are some of our best advocates for hiring new employees, right?
Yes. We work with a talent recruitment company. They rolled out an employee referral program. I can’t recall the stat off the top of my head, but you get better employees through referral. They’re more loyal. They’re already aware of the company, your culture and those sorts of things. They can be your best advocates.
How long have you been doing this?
Lifetime, I’m upwards of fifteen years. I’m still young in my career, still learning. I would say it’s probably been some of the craziest years in the PR world. We have evolved.
I can say you’re absolutely right. In marketing in general, it’s crazy.
Every day is different. Everything’s changing. I’m blessed to be able to be a part of all that craziness and to continue to learn and grow.
How long since you’ve added podcasting into the repertoire of things you’ve been doing?
Around 2010, we started doing podcasting mostly for media support. When we were pitching our clients, it gave us a way outside of the stodgy old press release to get information into the hands of the reporters. We did it quite frequently with our clients. We paused that service for some years and have picked it up again. It’s another fad now and I hope it’s not just a fad. I hope it stays.
We’re past that into something more sustainable. We’ve gone through that fad stage, that hype cycle of it. Those of us who’ve been sticking it out for the last years have found it to be sustainably successful. It’s here to stay.
The upcoming generation, the Millennials, they’re driving a lot of it too. We’re so busy, it gives us a way to listen to things while we’re doing other things. It is a here to stay tactic, for sure.
Video is the hype thing to be doing. The stats say that video has four times more viewers, four times more traction, but in corporate world, podcasting seems to be a little bit more acceptable.
It’s a price point thing. Videos are much about the story. It is a storytelling platform, but people get nervous about putting something out there that’s not perfectly polished and perfectly done when it comes to the media.
Especially in a corporate environment, right?
Yeah. It has to be well done, polished and professional. Whereas with podcasting, there’s a little bit of forgiveness there. I say just an audio track, it can be so much more. You’ve got your blogs, graphics, and stuff that can go along with them, but they are easier to produce and they’re more cost-efficient. I can do many more podcasts and I can get more information out there than I can with a video that may cost me $60,000 that has the same exact content in it.
They’re a little bit more understanding that the editability of audio seems easier than the editability of video. That’s probably in the back of a lot of corporate minds thinking, “If we don’t like what was said, we’re always able to make that cut without people realizing it.” When cutting a video, if you don’t have multi-camera, it’s bad.
I coach people behind the camera all the time, but when I get in front of the camera, I freeze. A lot of people do that.
I know exactly what you mean. I remember doing my first corporate video, I was working at Herman Miller, Inc. out of Holland, Michigan. I had to do this corporate video. It was this tiny segment that was not even two minutes of time. I must have had to rerecord it twenty times. I was getting angrier and frustrated with myself for having to like, “How can I not memorize this one little dumb line?”
Especially a lot of the guests that we work with, I say guest but they’re on the leadership team. They’re all over the world sometimes. It’s easier for us to get a hold of them. I can do this over the phone. You and I are doing it through the computer. It’s more accessible. I don’t have to book 2 or 3 months out to get on their schedule. It’s such an easier way to do things and to keep a story going or to keep pushing out content that’s relevant to your employees.
Let’s talk about what some of these internal corporate style podcasts sound like and look like? What is the model? I’m sure there are a lot of differences in what you do.
One important thing that we have talked about or learned over the years is that you can’t do one podcast for an entire employee base. If we have 30 minutes to an hour with a leader, how do we create a podcast that can be chopped up into different formats to target different audiences? You have your manufacturing line employees. You have your corporate employees that are in an office setting. You have your field sales teams that are out. Each one of those podcasts has to look a little bit different or need supporting resources around it that may be different based on what they’re doing. Each one takes a different form.
If you want to say, “How many shows?” it’s more based on the content than it is, “We’re producing a show for here and here.” We have LCI, which their mission is to employ the blind and visually impaired. The majority of their employees are blind. They can’t read newsletters. We do a newsletter podcast. It may sound boring to you or I, but when you’re accustomed to hearing audio all the time, it’s literally a readout of the newsletter. It sounds like a storybook a little bit. We’re telling a story and reading what the newsletter states. It varies. We have to be nimble and flexible every time we do a podcast. For us and what we do, this could be different, we have a framework so that the guest that we’re talking to know what to expect. They know what the plan is if you will. We don’t have a set, “Here’s what the show looks like. Here’s what the output is going to be every single time.” It’s a little bit different every single time.
I feel the same way. Every show that we do is different too and I like it that way. You have to align it with the goals. You have to align it with the organizational structure too.
What’s also happening at that particular moment in time, there are many things that pop up in the corporate setting that you have to account for and adjust to.
That’s why podcasting is also appealing because it’s flexible. If you try to plan a video, if you try to plan all those things, it will be months before the information would get out there. At least within a week, you can be producing and getting your podcasts back out there. That’s a great way to look at it. I’m going to jump into some of our five things. Everyone who’s reading is used to my five things. These are normally the five things that make a show successful. I switched them up a little bit here because Erin has such a broad experience and I want to cover a couple of different things. Erin, you’re going out and you’re searching internally within a corporation to decide who should be a guest on some of the shows. Not all of them have guests, I’m sure. When you do that, do you have criteria for how to determine who’s going to make a great guest?
The criteria are that I talk to them first and I make sure that they’re going to be entertaining. A lot of the companies that we work with have scientists. Scientists are a wealth of information and knowledge for our employees that we work with, but they don’t always make for the best interview. A lot of times what we do is, we aren’t interviewing our guests. We are hooking them up with an employee that they feel comfortable with. It’s a little bit more like a conversation. I like to listen in on what that conversation might be. Make sure that it’s going to work. Make sure it’s going to be entertaining and not be a dry subject matter. One client in particular, we have an internal newsroom where we have a team of people that are our boots on the ground. They’re listening for what’s happening at the manufacturing site out in California. “I heard so-and-so talking about this. I think it would be a great podcast topic. Can you talk to them?” We have a team of people that are out there being our eyes and ears.
They’re looking for people and topics at the same time.
We want it to be relevant. If they’re experiencing a challenge on the manufacturing floor or if there’s something happening in a certain division with regards to someone came up with a cool new idea, we want to hear about that as it’s happening. We try to keep it as real-time as possible.
Often when you’re a host of a show and it’s more of an externally focused show or you’re a PR firm working with a client, we push our external idea of what’s important. Instead, you’ve created a process that pulls it from internal and then you have a filtering system from there. You don’t want it to come from a top-down as, “This is what management thinks,” because then you won’t get anyone listening.
It’s about the employees and what they’re seeing and feeling. To have leadership echo that or support that is the two-way street that we’re trying to create there. We do have external guests from time to time. For example, we work with an agricultural company and they’re constantly faced with conversations about GMOs and pesticide use. It might, in this particular case, be a good idea to bring an outside resource in from an association or someone that can help us support training for employees. When you’re in the supermarket and you hear someone say, “GMO green beans,” how do you have that conversation to say, “There’s not actually GMO green bean. That’s a marketing ploy.” How do you feel comfortable doing that? We do sometimes have external resources that we bring in if it makes sense for the topic that we’re talking about.
Now you have a different problem. Normally, our second question is about how you increase listeners. You want to increase listening within your organization. How do you monitor that and find how you increase that listening happening?
For the clients that we work with on their internal communications, we limit the way content can be received. We try to only have an intranet, a newsletter. We try not to overwhelm by the number of vehicles we’re pumping out the same content in. We want people to expect that I’m going to get this type of content from this podcast. Townhalls, a lot of times they’re done in person and sometimes through a video conference. Some of our employees have gotten used to receiving audio of a townhall after the fact. They know that that’s coming every quarter.
What is the predictability that we can put in place with regards to the podcast so they know, “I’m going to get this type of content at this cadence?” That’s what we can do and then we’re directing them. We’re forcing them to, “If you want to know more about this or if you’re looking for tips on how to sell this product, go to our podcast. We have more information here on the podcast.” It’s that expectation and predictability that that’s where they can get that type of content.
You’re also matching it to some of the people in the field, people driving places. They might be doing service or other things like that. You’re also tapping into the method that they can consume it the easiest as well. You guys are helping to handle this and facilitate that. What do you think are some of the ways that make it produced in the most professional way? How do you control some of that?
Number one is internally having that employee or employees that are great hosts. That’s important. We’re the facilitator. We don’t do the podcast, we’re pulling all the pieces together, pulling the logistics together, making sure that our microphones work and everything’s hooked up and we’re pressing record when we’re supposed to. It’s about making sure the host is well-spoken and knowledgeable on the topic and engaging. Honestly, we work with such a variety. Some of the podcasts, we distribute through YouTube because we can control it. It’s still new for some of our clients. They’re not willing to quite invest yet in a lot of big technologies and hosting platforms. It can still be done professionally. We want to make sure that the sound is good from our side and the supporting materials that we may put out around it look good and professional.Video is the hip thing to do right now because it gets more viewers, which means more traction. Click To Tweet
That ties exactly to what we hear from everyone else, that sound is the most important. Excitement levels and host energy, that goes second in seeming professional even if it’s not recorded in a studio or anything fancy like that. I want to ask a little twisted question because we’re in the middle of sequestering. Are you having challenges with your recording sessions and other things?
No, everybody’s flexible and patient. When we have had technical glitches, everyone’s just like, “No, it’s okay.”
“It’s happening. Internet is a little slow today, but we’re working on it.”
Knock on wood, we’ve been okay. It’s not new for us to record in this manner. Similar to you, you mentioned you guys have 60 remote employees. You’re somewhat used to it. We’re the same. Sometimes we’ve had to catch an exec out in a different part of the country because of their schedule. It doesn’t sound as great all the time. For us in internal communications, it’s more about the content. It’s more about having that consistent touchpoint between the leader and the employee.
They’re willing to be a little more forgiving from time to time when they have to because they want the information.
I think so. No one has told me different. When we do quarterly surveys and things like that, no one has complained yet.
If content is good, they won’t complain. You probably have the challenge of that engagement problem that almost everyone has on their podcast show. You need to get everyone to engage back at you. You need a feedback loop from those topics and other things like, “What do you want to hear more of?” How do you increase that engagement on your behalf and helping in conjunction with your clients?
The big thing is the surveys and the touchpoints. We find ways to do quick little surveys. If we’re delivering a podcast, our newsletter for example, we’ll add a quick, “Was this content relevant? Yes or no?” It’s important for us to get real-time feedback so we can pivot as we go. The larger surveys that we do with regards to internal communications that sometimes happen once a year, we do ask specific questions about the content, the format. If it’s still a relevant platform for people, are they listening to it? Numbers go up and down based on what’s happening in the world, what that topic of that particular podcast might be. We like to have, “Did you like this? Yes or No?”
Keep it short.
If we do a podcast and we do an internet article to supplement it, we are able to look at how many views did we have on the article on the internet as well. We’re not just looking at engagement to the podcast itself or on the platform that we’re hosting it on. It’s more about the content for us and are we getting engagement on that content or that topic across the board?
The last thing that we normally ask everybody in our five questions is about profitability. In this case, corporations are not looking at this being a profit center more as it being a return on investment in time and some money. What types of criteria do they use to look at it and what do they think is successful?
One of the biggest things that we hear whenever we roll out something new is, “What is the ROI? What is the cost that’s going to take me to get it up and running? How do I know it’s working?” We talked a little bit about video. We know from employee engagement, employee advocacy, culture, all of those things that people are talking about, the connection between leadership and the employee is important. It’s not always easy to measure. You can do surveys, you can do focus groups internally, you can ask those questions.
Sometimes people are reserved in what they’re willing to give with talking about how they feel about leadership. That’s a hard question internally for me, especially because we’re an outside agency. I can sit here and tell you there are all these kinds of metrics that we can put in place. I prefer that each company look at and set a metric that they want to measure, that’s important to them and then you’re checking back every six months to a year. Did we reach that metric? Is it being successful? We can then determine if the ROI is there or not. Every one company is different.
I could see someone setting up like employee retention or something thing like that is their goal. Let’s see if we improve that over a given time or something like that.
It’s hard, too, because sometimes in corporate, not all the departments are talking to each other. We talk about employee retention, that’s an HR metric, but we may be doing podcasting for the marcomms team. The marcomms team may be paying us. Sometimes those don’t want to talk to each other.
For those of you who don’t know what that means, I always like to explain, it’s Marketing Communications team. We have a lot of entrepreneurs out there reading who are like, “What is a marcomm? Do I need one?”
If you are a CEO, an entrepreneur or a business owner that’s reading, make sure your teams are talking. Make sure that if you’re investing in something like a podcast, a video or other tool internally, that you’re getting the most use of it across all your departments or else the ROI is not going to be there.
Before we got into our five things, we were starting to touch on this a little bit. I want to circle back to this, this idea of segmenting. It’s critical. You’re talking about the fact that you might actually be creating multiple podcasts within a corporation because they’re going to different types of people.
We have the same content. It might be an update on a new product. If a new product is rolling out, we’ll take that most knowledgeable person on that new product rollout and we’ll ask them a series of questions. We’ll chunk those questions up based on what’s going to be most relevant to the employee segment that we’re pushing that out to. For example, those that are in the corporate office may want different information than someone that’s on the manufacturing floor that’s manufacturing the product.
If there are questions about safety, for example, and how it’s going to be manufactured, that may only apply to the manufacturing floor. The sales team may need different information. They’re going to want to hear it differently. They want to know what are the key sales messages that I’m taking to my client? That’s all they care about. If we have a program from a community relations standpoint and we’re partnering with an organization that there’s a cross tie there, a STEM education or something like that program, they might not care that we’re doing that. They only want to know, “These are the talking points for this product that I’m going to sell.”
We like to chunk everything up a little bit so that it’s the most relevant content first to that group. We then like to house them all together in one place. I mentioned the intranet, the internal internet. There are all other kinds of tools like Yammer and things like that, that people can use to house this type of stuff. We’re not leaving anyone out. They can go back and find the information if they want it. We’re trying to deliver the most relevant content to the group first and make sure that it takes priority to other things that they may want to know.
We joke here a little bit that the marketing teams and the marketers have the attention span of a gnat. They need their information quick and short. There are other people who want the deep details. You have different types of listeners within an organization.
A lot of the companies we work with have scientists. They want all the information and details. We do have blue-collar line workers, manufacturing line workers that don’t want that. They just want to know how it’s going to affect my job.
“What’s relevant to me? I’ve got to get home to my kids, I’ll listen to it in my ten-minute drive home,” or whatever that is.
The audience segmentation piece is important for internal communications and the podcast piece, but we still have one shot with one interview with that person. We have to make the most of our time with them.
You’re not over complicating it by making each one do multiple interviews. Doing it that way, you’re still trying to capture it all the time. It’s how you edit it, chunk it down and reorder it.
It’s more complicated on the back end for me.
It’s your team that has to do more work than the team that’s recording, which is good for the corporation. That’s what they’re looking for. That’s what they’re paying you for. Do you have any advice for those corporations that are thinking about starting a podcast? Anything that you would advise them about that?
A lot of people might disagree with me, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. For us, it’s about the story. It’s about the content. Sometimes, especially in the corporate, we get so wrapped up in, “How are you going to do it? What’s the technology that you’re going to use? How are we going to deliver it? What are the steps?” We may miss the opportunity. Sometimes we just need to jump in and do it. It’s about the content and the story and that’s more important than anything else. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Get started. It’s so easy.
For those of you who’s a regular of the show, have you not learned that pretty much from every podcaster that’s come on? Whether they’re talking about it on an entrepreneurial, solopreneur level or all the way up to Erin talking about corporations. It is the idea of get started because you don’t realize the return on investment that you’re going to have from this. The effect of doing it is going to help you learn so much about both the way your company wants to receive information and the value to that information and communication.
Practice makes perfect. Isn’t that the saying?
Erin, I am glad you came on. I’m glad we got to look at this view of it. I would love for you to touch a little bit about your company itself and on what BAERING does. How has been offering these services and other things help your company be competitive?
For BAERING, we’ve been in the Research Triangle Region of Raleigh, North Carolina for years. Our market is B2B-focused. A lot of what we do is business-business communications. It is fun for me. I enjoy it, but we don’t always get to do the fun, sexy, flashy stuff that happens with consumer brands. We have to look for fun ways to get our message out. Podcasting has been one of them. For our company, we’re lean and nimble. We work to deliver. That’s important to us. Our clients range in size from mid-market to Fortune 500. It doesn’t matter if they’re mid-market or Fortune 500. They all want to see action. That’s where we’ve seen the most successes. We get in, dig in, get it done. We do think strategically. That’s all-important. Those are table stakes if you will, but we’ve got to deliver. We dig in and we move forward. That’s a little bit about us over the past years, how much communications and marketing has changed. I feel like I’m in school all the time because I’m learning. What’s the next thing that’s come up or come out? What’s the new TikTok or Instagram? What is it?
“Is it right for my clients? I’ve got to evaluate it.” We have a rule here at my company, Podetize, that my partner and I have to start a new podcast every single year. Because we have to be in it with our clients to understand how hard it is. Are you doing something similar? Are you doing a podcast for your clients? I know you’re in the middle of it because you’re recording with your clients. You’re seeing the difficulty there.
Not regarding podcasts. My husband and my kids all the time are like, “Mommy, you’re always on social media.” I’m like, “It’s work. I have to be on it.”
“I swear I have to do this.”
We have to practice it in order to be able to advise and take our clients through the process. That’s why I jump in and do things quickly, too, because I feel more comfortable doing them if I’ve done them myself. If I go in and set up the podcasting equipment and stuff like that, I don’t want them to see me fumbling with stuff. We’re constantly practicing and looking for ways to do things differently and more efficiently. We’re about an eight-person team. We stay busy with our client work. Our clients are gracious. A lot of times they do let us practice new things on them. We have a great group of clients.It's all about your employees: what they're seeing and feeling. Click To Tweet
Erin Smith, it’s been such a pleasure talking with you. You’ve given us such great insights and I appreciate it. I’m glad we connected so that I could learn some more.
Yes, thank you.
I hope you enjoyed that and was as enlightening for you as it was for me. I’ve got a page of notes about all ideas about how I might be able to structure an internal podcast for my team. I’m always looking for what my new podcast is. As you know, The Binge Factor was a reframe or rebrand. I wanted to try how difficult it was to rebrand a podcast. We moved from Feed Your Brand to The Binge Factor. One of the things that I’m going to do here for this particular episode is I’m going to publish it in both feeds. I’m going to publish it in Feed Your Brand and I’m going to publish it in The Binge Factor. The reason I’m going to do that is because this show has broader application in its thought to my Feed Your Brand audience and to my Binge Factor, all of you out there reading, my audience as well. My Feed Your Brand is focused on advanced tactics and techniques for podcasters. The Binge Factor is focused on advice from great successful podcasters. We have a little bit of both going on in this episode.
I’m taking Erin’s advice and I’m going to be multi-purposing and multi using the same content in that same way as well. As I mentioned, The Binge Factor was a rebrand. It was a spinoff of Feed Your Brand. We did all that and there were lots of complications and issues with how we did that. That I learned about, but now I’m ready to start thinking about as we head into the second half of 2020. I’m thinking about what’s that next show that I’m going to create. I like to start up a new one every year and make sure that I’m relevant with what’s going on. I’m thinking that maybe we’ll start up an internal podcast and see what that’s like. Erin inspired me and I hope that she’s inspired you.
You’re always able to find all kinds of information about our fabulous podcasters that we’re featuring on our show. In this case, our fabulous in PR and marketing genius that is Erin Smith and her company BAERING. You’ll be able to connect with her. She’s got a connection on LinkedIn to us. You’ll be able to connect with her directly as well. I look forward for you to reaching out to her, asking her questions because this is such an unusual style show, especially if it might be right for you. Thanks, everyone, for reading and don’t forget you can apply to be a featured podcaster on The Binge Factor and all you have to do is go to TheBingeFactor.com. I look forward to featuring you in the near future. Thanks, everyone for reading.
About Erin Smith
Erin is the President of BAERING, a public relations agency headquartered in Raleigh, N.C. With more than 15 years of industry experience, she is an authority on all things PR and Marketing in North Carolina.
Erin has helped define the brand and create awareness for companies across multiple industries including biotech, travel and healthcare. A graduate of North Carolina State University, Erin also serves on the board for the Red Cross Eastern North Carolina Region.
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