By Chris Grabowski
"What can you do to set people on
That’s a question posed in the
article, "Storytelling that Moves People,” from the Harvard Business Review website on
the subject of persuasion and motivation. The authors of the article, suggest storytelling as a
means to a more personal, emotional and engaging method for connecting with
people in the business world.
The goal of this article is
to help you gain an understanding as to the potential of high-caliber audio
storytelling to deliver internal business messaging. First, why is this
relevant? In a March
2013 article on DailyDot.com, the author quotes a popular podcast producer
who said, "There’s something like 31 million people that are downloading at
least one podcast a month in the United States.” This illustrates the
popularity of podcasts in general. So why should a business think about podcasting when communicating to employees?
One reason is to cut
through the noise. Employees are bombarded with emails, snail mail, presentations
and texts. It’s easy for an important message to be missed, lost or ignored. Tone
and emphasis can be difficult to gauge from an email, which can lead to
confusion or misunderstanding. Podcasts, as opposed to written messages, can lend
sincerity, personality and also humanize the experience.
Another reason for
businesses to consider podcasting is the variety in creativity they offer. Content
can be developed to create messaging stories by interviewing and recording
senior company leaders, marketing, HR, or sales leaders on topics such as best-selling
practices, new hire training, new company initiatives, core values or industry
trends. The only caveats are to ensure the topic is vital to your company and to
interview someone both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the topic you wish
Reach and convenience are
further reasons a company would choose podcasting for their messaging. Podcasts
can be listened to in the car, while waiting in line, at the gym, at the desk
and often while doing many other tasks. If it’s a place you normally use a
tablet, MP3 player, smartphone, laptop or desktop, you can listen to a podcast.
does a great podcast sound like?
Chances are you’ve heard a
podcast created by professionals. National Public Radio (NPR) is an example.
The sound quality is superb, the content is well-written and the topics are interesting.
They have an advantage of course. NPR has
deep pockets employing passionate audiophiles schooled in the art/science of audio
production. Kind of like a high-end
restaurant is positioned to produce fabulous food. Carrying this analogy a
little further, we’ve coined the term "audioTapas,” to convey a tight, refined,
savory podcast outcome.
Here are hallmarks of a flavorful
podcast. It starts with a passion for excellence. If you don’t have an interest
in this medium and a desire to achieve a great outcome, don’t bother. After
passion, comes exceptional planning.
Listen to a few podcasts. You can tell when someone has taken the time
to develop one. Or not.
A well-planned podcast is both concise
and limited to one topic or theme. Next comes the interviewing to capture the
content. People love to hear stories. By delivering your message through a
story, you will delight your target audience. Top-notch writing can’t be
overlooked. While the interviews will flow freely other portions of the podcast
will be tightly scripted. The production process weaves the whole thing
together. This includes the announcing, editing and sound effects. The next
section looks closer at each step.
Don’t Produce Junk, AKA "crudCasts”
Nobody wants to listen to a cruddy
podcast. It’s embarrassingly akin to
reading a memo with typos and bad grammar. With that in mind, here is how to
create a great podcast for business messaging, using the story method to convey
the information. Before you begin, select one topic, and then map out a format.
Let’s say you’re interviewing someone about what makes them the #1 salesperson
at Company X. This provides a
recognition opportunity, which top performers crave. Plus it can motivate
others and increase their seller acumen, too.
Effective interviewing begins
with preparation. Write down your goal for the interview. Create questions that
answer who, what, where, when, why and how surrounding the topic you wish to explore.
When thinking about types of questions, consider the following.
Certain questions yield a succinct
answer and are good for clarifying a point but not for expanding on a thought:
"Do you attribute your selling success to sales call quantity or sales call
You’re leading your interviewee
into a corner. If you open it up and ask
the question differently, the response can be very different: "What do you
contribute your selling success to?” The person being interviewed is now free
to elaborate and be authentic, even funny, giving you a better story to work
Transcribe each interview word-for-word.
This is essential in determining which parts of the interview you will use. It
is also easier to move the interview segments around in print first. Often the responses are edited to make them
sound more succinct or to account for the completion of an earlier thought.
The next step is to create the
script. Most of the content will come from the interview itself, but you will
need to create an introduction, segues, a closing, and any other dialogue
relevant to your topic. Remember, we speak differently than we write. Many
people fail to take this into consideration when creating a script and the
results can be robotic or awkward. Also, have someone else proofread your
script after you’ve done so. "There is no such thing as good writing, only good
While developing a script, decide
whether or not you’ll hire a professional announcer. They bring expertise and
will raise the podcast quality several notches. Search the Internet for local
talent. With the script ready and your announcer chosen, it’s time to talk
recording equipment. The equipment makes a difference.
In-person, in-studio interviews
are the gold standard. You can’t beat the quality produced by a good audio
engineer and studio. This isn’t always feasible. It can be expensive and
impractical if you’re interviewing people in varying geographies. At the very
least, spend the time and money to have a studio record the announcer and edit
the podcast for you.
Poor audio quality will detract
from the effectiveness of your message. If you are going to do it yourself, do
the research. You will need a good microphone like a Heil PR 40 and recording
interface such as a Tascam US-1641 along with audio editing software such as
Audacity. Everyone has their favorite gear and will argue against these choices
but one thing is for certain: learn how to use it all.
If in-person interviews aren’t
possible, another method is to record from a landline phone. You can attach a
phone line-recording adapter to your computer via USB. It isn’t perfect but if
you have an audio engineer or audio editing software to help create the best
sound, it is a good alternative. One more option is to record the interview
using Skype or other VoIP service. Again, the connection quality isn’t optimal
but it does work.
After recording and editing, add
in your music and any sound effects keeping in mind that less is more. Then,
listen again. Have team members critique and revise it as necessary. Incidentally,
the shorter the podcast, the more precision is required. It’s like landing a
jet on an aircraft carrier. (Well, not exactly.) An outstanding 3-minute
podcast can be a thing of beauty.
The final step is distribution.
Decide on your audio format. Podcasts are generally MP3 but some businesses
prefer the smaller file size a WMA (Windows Media) offers. Keep this in mind,
the smaller the file is, the more the sound quality suffers.
There are a few options to get
the podcast to your team such as placing them on the company intranet, a password
protected website, or learning management system (LMS).
Podcasts can be uploaded to
iTunes though some firms shy away from this for fear that non-employees may be
able to download proprietary information. Another option is to use a mobile
app. This is expensive, especially if you’re developing an app of your own. Also
you can email the podcast or link to the podcast. The consideration here is
that you’re sending an email and that offsets the benefit of creating less
clutter for your employees. So include a WOW subject line.
There you have it, an
introduction to producing a great business podcast. When you need to
communicate a critical message to rally the troops, try audio to inspire your
team. They need and deserve good brain food! And if you can’t find the time
required to make it great, find a trained communication professional to
Chris Grabowski is a project manager
with Solutions Unlimited USA, harnessing 20+ years of experience in all facets
of creating engaging, custom audio programs for business messaging. For more
information, visit audioTapas.com or email email@example.com.