How will you reach weary employees and cynical audiences in 2021?
If you answered, “I don’t know,” or “the same stuff we always do,” it might be time to shake up your content calendar. Frankly, it could be time to revise your whole strategy.
The pandemic is upending the way we receive and perceive information. It’s fraying those interpersonal bonds that were once forged over casual chats, coffee breaks and in-person collaboration. The ongoing effects of COVID-19 are eroding trust and undermining social connectivity in profound ways that we don’t fully understand.
This historic moment calls for content that’s personal, warm, authentic and accessible. Something beyond bland email—something enticing, even. Enter the podcast.
We asked Carmen Collins, Cisco’s social media and employee/employer brand lead, about what it takes to make an exceptional podcast in 2021. (She’ll be sharing more juicy details during her session on “Top Tips from the Best Internal Comms Videos and Podcasts of 2020” session at Ragan’s upcoming Internal Comms & Culture Best Practices virtual conference.)
Collins says the first step, before doing anything else, is to establish clear objectives for your project. “Podcasts are a new shiny thing,” she says, “but will a new podcast justify the resources? Is your audience asking for a podcast?”
The best way to find out is to ask them. Use pulse surveys to or other anonymous feedback forums to make sure a podcast would be a welcome addition to your messaging mix. “Start with empathy,” Collins says. “Put your consumers/audience first. Deliver to their needs, not yours.”
Once you get the green light to launch, Collins says to create an “editorial calendar of guests.” Then, determine how many episodes you want to create and how you plan to release and host your files. (There are plenty of ways to host, record and edit!)
“Planning is key before launching,” Collins says, which pertains to content and equipment. “If you don’t invest in superior equipment, it will sound amateurish and fall flat.” Collins notes that podcasts are not a “Field of Dreams” proposition. “It’s not ‘If you build it, they will come.’ Invest in a promotion strategy, which often includes paid media,” she says.
What about topics, you say? Collins says Cisco’s employees fuel their coverage. She shares:
“The WeAreCisco team has an excellent source of content—our employees! Our team manages the @WeAreCisco social channels and listens on the #WeAreCisco hashtag, and our employees always have a story. Our team is terrific at identifying the right channel for that story. If it’s a longer-form story that comes from an engaging employee, the podcast becomes a great option.”
The metrics you monitor will hinge on your specific goals. But tracking listens or downloads are obvious numbers to watch. “We measure how many listens over what amount of time as our main metric,” Collins says, “and we’re also A/B testing length of episode’s effect on these metrics.” She notes that her team made their second season’s episodes shorter based on analyzing data.
Of course, some metrics are impossible to fully tabulate. Collins cites the impact of an episode titled “Look for the helpers,” which highlighted Cisco employees’ chartable work as the pandemic took hold in 2020. The episode resonated deeply as it provided comfort and inspiration during an incredibly stressful, unpredictable time. That sort of encouragement and motivation—which can fuel employee engagement, trust and meaningful connectivity—is perhaps the most important return on your podcast dollar. That’s always an investment worth making, but even more so as we continue to bear the devastating effects of COVID-19.
Learn more podcasting tips from Carmen Collins and gain crucial comms insights from a slew of other expert speakers at Ragan’s upcoming Internal Comms & Culture Best Practices virtual conference.