The use of podcasts as a communication medium has exploded in recent years. In 2020 alone, over 100 million people listened to a podcast at least once a month. It’s no surprise that many businesses are now exploring podcasts as a way to connect and engage with distributed workforces. Accessible, low-cost, and easy to produce, podcasts could well be a communications game changer.

And one of the trailblazers in this sphere is Permanent TSB Bank (PTSB). We got together with PTSB’s Creative Designer, Steve Donnelly, and Scott McInnes, communications specialist and Director at Inspiring Change. Our conversation is available here as a podcast. (Well, it couldn’t be in any other format, right!)

In this post, we summarize some of the main insights and give you a heads-up on the power of podcasts.

Internal communications: PTSB’s experience of podcasts

With 2,500 staff, PTSB is one of Ireland’s leading providers of personal and business financial products and services.

PTSB has introduced podcasts as a new communication channel largely in response to the challenges of remote working. Traditional communication channels such as staff newsletters and printed media are no longer hitting the mark at PTSB.

According to Steve Donnelly (pictured above), workers now need more opportunities to connect and engage with their colleagues and head office. The company uses podcasts to tell stories, celebrate successes, and deliver authentic, personal messages that really resonate with staff. Super-easy to put together, they are also a cost-effective option.

Donnelly reports that feedback from employees on the podcast series has been overwhelmingly positive. The first episode alone saw a click-through rate of 64%. And the initiative has generated a real buzz with lots of colleagues coming forward with future ideas and topics.

For Donnelly, the flexibility of the podcast has been what’s made the difference. Employees are often juggling multiple commitments while working from home. And podcasts are readily accessible at a time that’s convenient for the worker. Some listen in the early morning before the kids are up, while others tune in when preparing the evening meal. The podcast has given workers more choice and control over how and when to consume information.

Within PTSB, the podcast has ‘democratized content.’ Corporate messaging is supplemented with personalized content containing real stories and ideas from colleagues. And it’s proven to be a powerful vehicle for connecting and engaging employees across every level of the business.

How to create engaging content for podcasts

So, if you want to follow PTSB’s example, here are some tips from Donnelly and McInnes on how to create a successful podcast.

Find the right content. The best way to find out what content staff want is to ask. Invite workers to submit ideas on topics that would improve their working life. For example, instead of reading a list of HR policy changes, highlight what it means to employees’ daily work. That way, you will be making the communication more relevant and personal. 

Make it about people. PTSB’s podcast has been successful because it’s centered around people. Successful podcasts like PTSB’s use human-centered, lively content that entertains and engages. Highlight the team’s work, celebrate employees’ achievements, and showcase in-the-moment great ideas from around the company.

Featuring employees in your podcasts will help build a strong company culture. And it can bring to life the company’s vision and values in a way that’s meaningful to staff.

Keep it relevant. Make the focus of your content about how it will enhance employees’ work life.  If it’s not relevant, then workers will simply tune out. Create content based on the demands of your audience, and you will be onto a winner. These could include team or departmental podcasts if there’s a demand.

Start simple. There’s no need for a high-production effort. In fact, overly produced podcasts can have the opposite effect and disengage users from the platform. Real stories and insights from everyday colleagues and friends don’t need any slick production. A heartfelt CEO message recorded on the hoof from a smartphone will resonate more than a carefully scripted version.

Podcasts can easily be created remotely, providing the opportunity for more user-based content. All that’s needed is a smartphone or laptop with a decent mic. At PTSB, podcasts are published on the company portal and also feature in a weekly digital newsletter sent to all staff.

Benefits of podcasts vs. traditional top-down communications channels

Donnelly and McInnes both make it clear that new ways of working demand new ways of doing things. Podcasts offer several benefits over more traditional top-down corporate communications.

Transparent leadership: The global move towards distributed teams and remote working is here to stay. However, leaders still need to be visible and accessible. Podcasts offer easy ways to connect directly with staff no matter their location.

Meet employees’ needs: Every employee is different. And each will have their own communication preferences. Podcasts mean you can tick even more boxes for more employees. Gen Z and Millennials, in particular, love these platforms. 

Smart ways to communicate: Affordable and easily accessible, podcasts are cost-effective. And they are more engaging than traditional newsletters and email.

Furthermore, podcasts give your employees an organizational voice. Within a set of clear operating guidelines, workers can share their likes, interests, insights, and bright ideas with colleagues. This ability is more important than ever in the absence of office water cooler conversations and face-to-face interactions.

Enhance your employer brand: Ultra-modern and on-trend, podcasts can be a differentiator for businesses. Using these tools will enhance your employer brand, boost your retention strategy, and make you an employer of choice. 

Check out the full podcast above for more detail on the issues we have summarized here.