A podcast isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you’re trying to improve communication within your company. Yet, investing in one can yield far-reaching benefits for your organization — and we’re talking from experience.
As a fully remote company spread across two continents and four countries, PlayPlay needed a way to constantly bring employees together without disrupting the typical remote work perks. After much brainstorming, Playmakers was born — an internal podcast that helps our fully-remote workforce build deeper connections with one another beyond formal, work-centered interactions.
Like us, you might be looking for a way to build a more engaged workforce. Or maybe no one reads your lengthy company-wide email updates anymore because they’re hard to digest and far too time-consuming for your busy employees to read. If this is the case, an internal podcast is your ticket to stepping up your internal communication efforts and re-igniting employees’ excitement about your organization.
In this article, we’ll show you exactly how to set up a successful internal podcast based on insights from our in-house podcasting experts.
What is an internal podcast?
An internal podcast is a podcast made by employees for employees. This means it is created and distributed exclusively within an organization for the employees and other internal stakeholders — like board members.
Internal podcasts do not replace emails or other information-sharing methods. Instead, treat it as another tool in your internal communication stack — especially for understanding how your employees feel about company-wide policies and diving deeper into issues that affect their well-being.
Say you just rolled out an unlimited vacation policy in your organization; the HR team can use the podcast to explain how the policy works and answer anonymous employee questions. Or, after a few months, you can invite some employees to discuss the performance of the policy based on their personal experiences. Even better, you can use this podcast to help your employees get to know each other by interviewing them about their outside work passion projects and interests – that’s what Playmakers is about!
What are the key use cases for internal podcasts?
Internal podcasts serve a variety of purposes, including:
1. Internal communication
Use podcasts to update your employees on company initiatives, policy changes, and upcoming events.
Let's say your company just acquired another business. After sending an email or Slack message to inform employees about this development, you can host a podcast episode with one of the company’s co-founders to discuss the reasons for the decision and its potential impact on the team. This provides real value, as it humanizes the decisions made and provides more context than a generic email.
2. Employee introductions
Think about the last time a new employee sent a Slack introduction message. How much of what they shared can you remember? Not much.
Many people hardly pay attention to employee introduction messages because they are monotonous. Luckily, internal podcasts can help here.
Your internal podcast can be the “get-to-know-you” platform for new or even long-term employees. It’s a more interactive way for everyone in the company to learn about the new joiners and what makes them unique.
Instead of asking newbies to share monotonous introduction messages about themselves, invite them to the podcast. They can chat about their experiences, why they joined the company, and what they look forward to. You can also host group conversations — like a podcast episode with all employees who joined the company in a particular month.
3. Training and development
Host lunch and learn podcast episodes as part of your company’s learning and development strategy. Say you’re a remote team; invite an employee to the podcast to discuss how they plan their typical workday for work-life balance or their top productivity tools.
Many employees might not have the chance to dig into your company’s extensive knowledge library, but they can spare thirty minutes on a Friday to listen to a podcast episode teaching relevant work or life skills.
4. Employee feedback
Use internal podcasts to know your employees' thoughts about your latest policies and company initiatives in real-time. This can help leaders and managers understand employee perspectives and make informed decisions.
Say your company launched a peer review program; invite employees to discuss their experience, challenges, and ideas for improving the program.
What are the benefits of starting an internal podcast?
With an internal podcast, you can:
1. Improve employee engagement
Only 23% of the global workforce is engaged in the workplace, per Gallup’s 2023 State of the Global Workplace report. One of the reasons for low employee engagement is poor workplace communication. Your employees feel unimportant when they do not understand company policies and how they affect them.
Internal podcasts can bridge the gap between employees and decision-makers in your company. Employees can invite members of your leadership team to discuss policy changes and ask questions in real time. Simultaneously, the company leadership can use this platform to gather employee feedback to improve policy execution and overall decision-making.
2. Boost employer branding
People are more likely to believe what your employees say about your brand. So, to build a strong employer brand, you need to convert your employees into willing brand advocates. One way to do that is to promote your brand internally with a podcast.
An internal podcast allows you to discuss the motivations and impact of your company policies. For example, a remote work policy looks excellent on paper, but it becomes more powerful when employees share how it allows them to nurse their sick child or care for an aged parent without quitting their jobs.
These stories win employees over, and they’ll happily promote your company to the people in their network without you even asking.
3. Strengthen team bonding
More than 80% of respondents to a Gusto survey say having a sense of community at work is crucial. Internal podcasts help build a sense of community in the workplace by encouraging employees to interact with one another — outside of task-based conversations.
Internal podcasts create a shared listening experience for team members. When employees listen to the podcasts, they can discuss and reflect on the content together. This shared experience can spark discussions, build camaraderie, and strengthen team dynamics.
For example, PlayPlay’s CEO listens to each of our podcast episodes and reaches out to the guests to share what stood out for them — and many of our employees appreciate this gesture.
How to start your own podcast in 7 steps
An internal podcast requires the same level of preparation as a podcast for marketing or monetization purposes. But it is pretty easy to pull off if you follow these five steps.
1. Set a goal
Your podcast goal is what you want to achieve with it, and it will guide every other decision you make during the planning process.
Your goal should be employee-centered because that’s how you’ll get them to participate in the podcast actively. For instance, our Playmakers podcast aims to foster deeper connections among employees — especially as we are a remote-friendly company with employees across two continents, Europe and North America. For you, the goal can be to turn employees into brand advocates or scale learning and development.
Whatever it is, ensure that your goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. For example, don’t say, “We want the podcast to drive learning and development.” Instead, say, “The podcast will be the main learning and development channel by Q3, 2023.”
Having clear goals makes it easier to measure the impact of your podcast. Say your goal is fostering deeper workplace connections; after a specific period, you can survey employees to know if they feel better connected, thanks to the podcast.
2. Get approval from stakeholders
Securing stakeholder approval early removes any barriers that can affect podcast execution. For example, the last thing you need is delaying production because the finance team hasn’t signed off on your budget. Or canceling episodes frequently because podcast hosts are too busy to record.
Get approval from anyone involved in the podcast execution, directly and indirectly — including podcast hosts, your internal communication team, editors, the finance team, and the like. This can be as simple as discussing your idea with potential hosts after work — like we did for the Playmakers podcast. Or it may involve writing a formal request letter to get everyone on board.
3. Design your visual identity
Visual identity is the overall look and feel of your podcast. It includes colors, typography, and even your podcast name. Once you have these things, you can start promoting your podcast.
The first thing we did was to choose a name for the podcast. We had several options but ultimately decided on Playmakers because it captured the podcast’s lighthearted tone and narrative structure — that is, employee-led conversations that make PlayPlay.
Next, we created three design concepts, based on a benchmark of other successful internal podcasts. The first one matched our brand colors entirely and featured the PlayPlay logo.
The second had a slight logo variation (bubbles) with a modern and corporate background.
And the final one had more of a fun album cover feel while featuring our logo.
The team reviewed these ideas and picked the one that aligned best with the message we wanted the podcast to convey.
3. Create a podcast schedule
A podcast schedule outlines the timing, frequency, and content of podcast episodes. It helps you stay organized and consistent and effectively manage your podcast production process.
Here's how to create a comprehensive podcast schedule:
I. Set the frequency
Decide how often you want to release new podcast episodes. Consider your team’s bandwidth and resources when choosing your podcast frequency.
For example, if you have a small budget and are the only person on the podcasting team, plan to release one or two podcast episodes monthly.
II. Define episode length
Determine the ideal length for your episodes. There are no hard and fast rules here — simply choose a time frame that allows you to cover your content while keeping listeners engaged effectively.
Your podcast recordings might exceed the allotted time for your first few attempts — this is normal. For instance, Playmakers is an hour long, but keeping to the allotted time was initially challenging. We solved this challenge by outlining what we wanted to cover in each episode and sticking closely to the script during recording.
III. Set publishing dates
Choose specific days or dates for publishing new episodes. Consistency is crucial for building an audience, so choose a regular schedule you can commit to. For example, if you decide on a weekly release, you might publish new episodes every Wednesday.
It helps your audience too. If employees know a new podcast episode drops every Friday by noon, they can build listening to it into their schedules.
IV. Plan episode themes and topics
Brainstorm a list of themes, topics, or ideas for your podcast episodes. Tie these topics to your podcast goal. Say your goal is to help employees connect better with each other; your podcast theme might be “A Day in the Life.”
Once you have your themes and topics, you can contact potential guests within the company.
V. Choose your podcast guests
Get in touch with potential guests who have relevant experience to discuss the topics in your schedule. Contacting guests early lets them prepare and adjust their schedules to accommodate the podcast beforehand.
Here’s a simple invitation message:
Hello [employee name],
I’d like to invite you to be a guest on the podcast on September 1, 2023. We will discuss how to balance work and travel as a digital nomad. The podcast typically lasts for an hour.
Let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll send more details.
Sometimes, a guest might be interested in coming on the podcast but not have relevant experience for the topic you’ve assigned them. In that case, ask them to suggest a topic. If it fits your goal, go for it!
4. Choose your production setup
Your production setup determines your podcast’s sound quality. Your content might be great, but listeners will abandon the podcast if they struggle to hear the host and guests.
Sound quality also affects your guests. As one of our Playmakers hosts shares:
“The first episode wasn't that great because of the sound quality. And it was frustrating for me and my guest because it was a powerful episode. But the experience was poor as you could barely hear the guest – we were in a big open room, and the echo had a major impact on the sound. So now we know how to do the room and mic setup. We know which room not to use and which room is great for the sound.”
A good podcast setup doesn’t cost much. You need four major things:
- A good-quality microphone — like an XLR mic
- Wired headphones — like the Sony MDR-7506
- A sound-proof room – ideally a small meeting room that minimizes the echo
- Video recording and editing software — like, PlayPlay, Riverside or PodBean
5. Record and promote your podcast
A few days before recording the podcast, do a dry run with your guests to familiarize them with your process. The more relaxed your guests are, the better their delivery.
Our Playmakers host says, “During the dry run, discuss the topic with your guest(s). This will help the guest feel more comfortable and help you stay on topic during the recording day. Also, reassure them that feeling a little uncomfortable in the beginning is normal - but after the first five minutes of the show, they’ll forget the mic and focus on the conversation with the host.”
If you have a multi-lingual team like ours, you'll need to decide what language you'll record in. We record Playmakers in the guest’s native language to make them feel more comfortable. Then, we use PlayPlay’s translation subtitle feature to translate it to the other languages people speak on our team.
After recording the podcast, you’ll need to host it on a podcast or audio service so that everyone on your team can listen to it. You have lots of options here — from Audible and Spotify to Google Podcasts and even YouTube. Choose a platform with access control so you can limit podcast access to your employees. You won't be monetizing the podcast, so make sure the platform isn't expensive.
Once the podcast is live, promoting it to attract listeners is the next step. One of the most effective ways to do this is to record short promotional trailers for your podcast — similar to a movie advert. Use a tool like PlayPlay to produce teaser videos in less than 15 minutes that’ll whet your audience’s appetite.
You can share the teaser videos with your employees via email and Slack and use the same channels for podcast distribution.
6. Measure podcast performance
Creating a podcast is only half the battle. If you want to make sure your podcast is resonating with your audience, you need to measure its performance.
Hosting platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have analytics dashboards where you can see the number of listens, play durations of each episode, and listener demographics like gender and country.
Beyond these, you should also look at qualitative data, like how many employees discuss podcast episodes (like they would after watching a new Netflix series), and reach out to guests and hosts to share direct feedback.
These insights will help you discover any lapses and improve the quality of your podcast. Say employees repeatedly mention that the podcast is too long; you’ll know to shorten the episodes.
Three brands with the best internal podcasts
Let’s take a look at three brands doing internal podcasting right.
1. Inside Shopify UX
As the name suggests, Inside Shopify UX dives into the day-to-day world of Shopify’s UX team. Each episode hosts a member of the UX team who discusses their projects and career, the value of design at the tech company, and why they love working at Shopify.
The podcast also serves as excellent employer branding material.
Playmakers is PlayPlay’s internal podcast. We use it as a medium for learning more about our fully remote and distributed workforce and helping our employees become more familiar with each other.
We discuss various topics, including mental health, work-life balance, productivity, etc.
3. IMS internal podcast
The IMS internal podcast discusses everyday issues that affect employees’ well-being — like mental health and workplace productivity. For example, to mark 2023 Men’s Health Week, the company hosted a series of conversations with male-identified employees sharing advice on how to take care of one’s mental health.
What we love about this podcast is its top-notch production quality and engaging commentary that easily captures the audience’s attention.
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