(By Tim O’Brien) In recent months, I’ve had a few conversations with communications professionals who have been exploring the use of podcasts for internal use targeting employees and others inside their organization.
Typically, the idea is to produce episodes to update internal audiences on important information, such as organizational events or training sessions, along with an interview featuring someone in the organization’s leadership.
In one instance, I helped a membership organization get set up to launch a pseudo-internal podcast. While it is on iTunes and other podcast channels, its primary audience is the organization’s membership. The host, a staff member of the organization, interviews members on interesting new projects they have completed. I did this in my capacity as their communications consultant who understood podcasting. They didn’t come to me simply because I was a podcaster.
As you would expect, the podcast medium can be ideal for reaching those hard-to-reach people in the organization. Let’s face it, some just don’t like to read the company newsletter. Others can’t sit still to watch that video blog past a couple of minutes. But it appears more people may not mind giving the organization’s podcast some attention during a drive or a workout. This is especially true for field representatives, remote workers and affiliates, and strategic partners.
The challenges most of these organizations face are time and money. Some want to know what the return on investment would be before they even commit, since producing a podcast most definitely involves some combination of staff time and budget monies.
Since most professional communications people have already produced their share of multi-media content, they know how expensive it can be to produce high-quality audio or video. So, as they explore podcasting, while cost is always a concern, they tend to shun the “cheap” option because they’ve already seen where that gets them.
Professional workplace communicators tend to have high standards, so when they express an interest in podcasting, they’re thinking NPR-level production values. They know the CEO will listen to their work, and that their careers are riding on this.
Usually, they want to know if it’s something they can do in-house or if podcasting will require someone else to handle it in support. Each organization is different, but given the user-friendliness of today’s equipment and the affordability, it’s likely more will attempt to produce podcasts in-house.
Still, even if they are capable, available time could be scarce for them, so they may consider tapping an external resource for help. That’s where a lot of very important dynamics come into play. They will need to be comfortable with cost, production quality, an outside resource’s ability to write, counsel, understand the challenges they face and work with them, and of course, produce a technically solid podcast on a consistent basis.
Another challenge that internal communicators face is where to host the podcast. Some organizations cringe at the idea of using a third-party to host a podcast, while at the same time their IT people give them that “IT guy” look of dread when they ask how they can host a podcast on their own secure servers.
This usually requires a little education on how third-party hosts work and discussion of things like RSS feeds. The issue really isn’t that complicated, but it must be addressed with care. In the end, the decision on where to host a podcast is all about comfort levels on the part of internal communicators.
Because I’ve handled internal communications matters for clients for decades, I can say that decision-making can be a minefield of regulations, worker contracts, sensitivities, personalities, and competing internal interests. The content that is created is the end product of careful and patient nurturing.
As media coverage of podcasting continues to emphasize the search for the “Netflix of podcasting,” commercialization has taken center stage. Meanwhile, some of us will be working to help organizations create effective audio content for employees, workers, sales representatives, and partners.
Tim O’Brien is the producer and host of theand the founder of the Pittsburgh-based communications consultancy . He has handled a range of complex internal and workplace communications matters. He can be reached at 412.854.8845 or .