Want to use the immediacy and impact of podcasting to enhance engagement in your organisation?
Start with these guidelines from Axiom associate and seasoned audio producer Mik Wilkojc
“What exactly is a podcast?” That’s a question I’m often asked as someone with a background in national radio and a producer of corporate audio programmes. The simple answer is it’s a term combining the ‘pod’ of ‘iPod’ with the ‘cast’ of ‘broadcast’. It refers to an audio file you download from a website or intranet onto your computer, tablet or smartphone – and then listen to when and where you like.
But, as with any potent means of communication, there’s a lot more to it than that.
Consider content and copyright
I define the ‘pod’ element as Personally Overseen Data. As a podcaster, you are a publisher, and hence responsible for the content and copyright of the material you disseminate. This means that, in the real world, you don’t have carte blanche.
Let’s look at content first. As with any published format, you are covered by the law of libel. In a nutshell, don’t podcast anything false or malicious that might damage a person or organisation’s reputation. This isn’t to say you can’t be controversial, challenging or cheeky; just be sure you can back up what you say.
The other © is for copyright and this refers to the exclusive and assignable legal right a creator has over their material. You may have listened to podcast versions of programmes made by major broadcasters, such as the BBC, where the speech is as transmitted – because they own it – but the music has been chopped out. This is because the broadcaster has paid-for permission for conventional transmission via the airwaves, but would have to pay again for podcast rights, which can be pretty expensive. The rule-of-thumb is don’t use commercial music, soundtrack extracts of film or TV and avoid modern literature and poetry. Believe me, it’s a minefield.
Even so, you can, at reasonable cost, use ‘production music’ to ‘dress’ your podcasts. You can buy for this for limited distribution in your podcast. Alternately, you could ask around and see if there’s a budding musician who might knock-up – cheap or for free – some beds (music or sound effect played in the background) and idents (a jingle or other sound effect that identifies your programme).
You might be thinking: “But I’m only broadcasting to a bunch of colleagues across a couple of sites.” That may be the case, but with the proliferation of social media, you’d be amazed how quickly, and inadvertently, something can go global. You might at first be pleased by that, but there are plenty of exposed backsides out there in the ether that were intended for an audience of one. Just saying.
Harness the power of the human voice
As important as content and copyright is the mood, the timbre, the vibe you want to engender. You want to be informative without being tedious. Authoritative, without being authoritarian.
In the corporate sphere, it helps to find someone to front a podcast who speaks the language of management, but has the common touch with the audience. They have to adapt a third way of manipulating their speech – the one that sits between normal conversation and making a presentation. Ideally, they have to be a natural storyteller. Someone who can subtly modulate what they say, creating light and shade to what could otherwise be rather uniform grey. Keep an ear open at the water-cooler and in the canteen line and you might well tune into that certain someone among your colleagues as they tell anecdotes and gags.
Podcasting is a very intimate medium. It’s downloaded to a personal device and then – usually – fed directly into the recipient’s ears. Get the feel right, and you can build an enthusiastic audience of thousands, one-by-one.
Which brings us neatly to knowing and getting your audience. Unlike most podcasts, there will be an element of obligation in consumption. A comms podcast isn’t a leisure activity. It’s there to get across news and concepts. The added dimension of the sheer, well, humanity of the human voice will clarify and reinforce your messages more than you can imagine.
The voice. It’s the ultimate font.
Podcasts: The adaptable medium
Today, you can use podcasts in all kinds of ways inside your organisation. For instance, you can use a one-off podcast to help announce a major change. That can give employees a chance to hear directly from senior leaders about what’s coming.
Or you might launch a regular magazine-style podcast that people subscribe to so it gets downloaded automatically to their computer, tablet or mobile as soon as it’s available. These regular shows can keep employees updated on all kinds of news and issues. It can work like a really good radio show – with a presenter and a range of guests. There’s scope for including the ideas and opinions of frontline staff from all levels. You can also set up hard-hitting interviews with senior leaders.
And these days, podcasts can also come with visuals – infographics, photos, even bullet points. By adding graphics to podcasts, you can reinforce important points and make messages memorable over the long term.
No wonder that, when it comes to Axiom’s armoury of communication solutions, in pod we trust.
Axiom associate Mik Wilkojc is a double Sony Award-winning producer and editor of corporate audio programmes with a long pedigree in national broadcast radio, including 35 years at the BBC