The Case For Internal Podcasts

There’s a new kind of podcast being produced by some very big companies. Is it a good fit for yours?

Happy employees listening attentively to their company’s internal podcast :-) Photo by Shridhar Gupta on Unsplash

From day one, Pacific Content has focused one thing and one thing only: creating original podcasts with brands. Until relatively recently, that has meant one thing and one thing only: making an amazing public-facing podcast focused on raising brand awareness or changing brand perceptions.

Recently, though, a new type of original podcast with brands has emerged: the internal podcast.

What’s an internal podcast? It’s a podcast that is often, but not always, privately distributed, and it’s produced by a company for its employees. One of the most prominent internal podcasts (partly due to the fact that is available publicly) is from American Airlines and it’s called Tell Me Why. The show is hosted by Ron DeFeo who is the company’s Vice President of Global Communications, and it publishes a couple 5–10 minute episodes a month.

Here at Pacific Content, we are getting more and more inquiries about internal podcasts and we’re currently in production on series with multiple clients.

Why An Internal Podcast?

So why are companies making internal podcasts? Here are some of the reasons:

  • Internal communications — make sure all your employees know what’s going on inside your company
  • Culture building — share your values, tell stories to your team in your own voice, celebrate the wins that define and build your culture
  • Learning and development — help people in different roles and at different stages of their careers build new skills, learn new strategies, and discover new ideas
  • Onboarding — give all new employees, or people in new roles, the information and advice they need to start their new roles successfully. Whether it’s everything you need to know about the culture of the company, how basic things work inside the company, or what success looks like in the new role, these evergreen-style podcasts help bring people up to speed in a really engaging way.
  • Employer of choice/retention — making a great internal show about topics that matter is also a progressive way to become an employer of choice. Showing your staff that you care, that you are communicating effectively, and giving them information that they need to succeed is a fantastic retention strategy.

American Airlines made their show because they have 122,000 employees who said in internal surveys they wanted to know more about corporate policies, such as why some routes were added or cut, why you can’t have an emotional support peacock on board (!), and why new uniforms were rumored to be making people sick (!!).

The power of audio

And why would a company choose to make an internal podcast compared to other mediums? For American Airlines, they chose podcasts as a friendly and less formal way to have these types of conversations. Here are some other reasons to consider podcasting:

  • Audio holds people’s attention for longer periods of time
  • Ability to have deeper explorations of a topic because of the longer episode length
  • Audio is not a screen-based medium, so people can listen on their commutes, working out, etc

The other big reason to choose an internal podcast is that it’s not email or video. A lot of employees are burned out on email, especially internal messaging. For many, it’s become a generator of stress instead of an effective communication tool. And it’s tough to get employees to spend any considerable amount of time at their desks on a screen watching an extended town hall video with full engagement — there are simply too many distractions and other screen-based work to do. Finding a novel and interesting way to talk with employees on a non-screen-based medium could be a magic way to create engagement that bypasses the stressors of an overflowing inbox or an over-crowded screen-based schedule.

Who should produce an internal podcast?

If you’re reading this and wondering if this would be a good solution for your company, here are our thoughts about who should make an internal podcast and why:

  • Companies with LOTS of employees are a great fit. If you have 25K, 50K, 100K, 150K employees, an internal podcast can be a really smart way to communicate effectively.
  • If you are a rapidly growing company and have lots of new employees joining on an ongoing basis, an onboarding podcast could be a really smart tool for consistency, common questions, and culture building.
“Tell Me Why” host, Ron DeFeo of American Airlines
  • If you have big, nuanced issues that need to be discussed with all employees and that are too sensitive to be made public, a private podcast where you can explore those issues in depth makes a lot of sense. (It is worth noting, though, that American Airlines made their show public because they assumed that there would be leaks if it was private and that in host Ron DeFeo’s view, “there is no such thing as internal communications anymore.”)

Measuring Success with Internal Podcasts

Like any other podcast, you should ask yourself what success looks like for an internal podcast and then design a show to hit those goals.

For most companies, getting your employees (or a specific subset of employees) to listen is a key metric.

Completion rates of episodes is another great metric — out of all the employees that hit play, how many are making it all or most of the way through each episode? In other words, are they finding this valuable and is it a good use of their precious time and attention?

And depending on your reason for making the podcast, surveys or research with your staff about whether the podcast is helping to achieve those goals is really useful:

  • Am I feeling more connected to what’s going on at this company?
  • Am I learning valuable new skills that help me succeed in my role?
  • Am I off to a fast-track start as a new employee in learning about how the company works, how the culture operates, etc?)

Depending on what tool or app you use and whether your internal podcast is open or closed to the public, you can get some unique measurements compared to an external podcast. For example, you can tell which of your employees has listened and which ones haven’t :-). Tools and apps in the wild for internal podcasts include:

Not unlike Pacific Content, there are even companies like MouthMedia that specialize exclusively in business communication through audio.

Would You Listen?

What do you think about internal podcasts? If you’re part of a large company, would you listen to one?

If you’re a leader in HR, L&D, or Internal Comms, could see you audio as an effective new strategy at your company?

Would it be more effective than a video town-hall or a series of emails or posts on an intranet?

Are there other reasons we’ve missed that podcasts could be an effective platform for internal communications?

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