Podcast: Create your own internal podcast
Fri, Jun 26, '20 •
Is it time to bring an internal podcast to your organization? In this episode, we are joined by Molly Beck, founder, and CEO of Messy.fm. Molly is dedicated to helping organizations understand the entire scope of what internal podcasting can offer, and how to achieve results as efficiently and effectively. The convenience of listening at your leasure, and the long-form conversations about any subject is making podcasts the new medium of choice for the new medium of choice for employees everywhere.
Bringing an internal podcast to your company might just be the perfect channel to add to your internal-channel mix. After deciding who hosts your podcast, it’s time to go through the ins and outs of how to prepare, pitch, record, and publish it. Join us for a conversation packed with insight from one of the leading experts in the industry. You can watch the podcast, listen to it on your favorite platform, or read the full transcript right below.
Jonathan: Molly Beck, welcome to our new episode of the Internal Comms podcast. I'm super excited to have you here. We got in touch very recently after you said “maybe we should have a chat, because I do something interesting that I think your audience will like, and you totally opened my eyes to something that actually, I haven't even heard a lot of before, but it's becoming a massive trend. We’re going to be talking about internal podcasts, but first, please Molly, introduce yourself to our wonderful audience.
Molly: Hello. My name is Molly Beck and I am so excited to be here. I love this podcast as something to just enjoy listening to, and it's such a treat today to be a guest.
Thank you so much for having me on the show.
Jonathan: First off, what's different between an internal podcast and the one that we're doing right now, which everybody can listen to?
Molly: Great question. So at Messy.fm we focus on internal podcasts. What that means is the podcast that we're listening to right now is a publicly available show. Anyone can find it when they search the name of the podcast,the directories, and the next level would be a private podcast. This is a show that is just for a limited audience, whether that's just students, clients or audience members of a particular influencer, whether it's employees or company only. And the last two - employees only, and companies only - is what Messy.fm focuses on. We focus on Internal Enterprise Podcasts as a way to increase communication within a company.
Jonathan: One of our recent podcast guests, Channa Green, was talking about podcasting as well, and I've heard a lot from other Internal Communicators that we've been in touch with. This is really becoming a thing. We're now doing a podcast about podcasting. So this is going to be fun.
I think the question that I've heard the most frequently, that I'm really curious to pick your brain on is - how do I even get started?
Don't I need a lot of equipment, a sound booth, a fancy microphone, and mixing from an audio engineer? What do you tell people when they ask you that question?
Molly: The first thing I say, when someone starts thinking “I think an internal podcast would be helpful for us to foster communication, and increase employee engagement”, I tell them that's amazing, but please, remember you do not work for NPR. You are creating a podcast to have a wonderful experience internally. If you put pressure on yourself as either the podcast producer or a podcast creator, to have a flawless show with perfect audio and no mistakes, you'll never start the internal podcast. We'll never get off the ground. Once you've told yourself that the way that this podcast fits into the Internal Comms we're already doing is a way to leverage content and audio.
We're already putting out blogs, or webinars and town halls. And in a new company, newsletters, audio just fits perfectly into that flywheel. We want to think about how we can not necessarily add a ton of new work to our plate, but be able to create in audio. We know that employees listen to podcasts. Podcasts listening tends to peak between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM. So employees are listening to podcasts while they’re “on company time”. This is just a way to give them a podcast that they can listen to that's related to their job.
Once someone has said, okay, I don't work for NPR, this is just part of my job description is to now create audio, the very first step is to choose the hosts.
When you think about a host, or the first host of the company's Internal Podcast, usually what I see is companies either choosing someone from Internal Comms or a beloved executive, someone that everyone internally knows. They're high up enough that someone would be interested in what they have to say.
That's often an awesome first host because what we usually see happening is that a company starts an internal podcast.
They are having some success with it. Employees are listening to it, and then other people internally start saying, hey, you know, I would love to do a podcast just for my smaller team or just for my department. Or, I would like to talk company-wide also in podcast format. It's usually very political when you choose the first host, and other people will say, hey, why didn't you choose me? This is just our first internal podcast. If this goes well, there's going to be more. So that's step one, choosing a host. Then you want to think about planning out your season one. What I often tell people is the easiest way to plan out a season, one is to get some employee feedback about their thoughts on starting an internal podcast. This person will be hosting it. What questions do you have for them? And see what sort of questions are getting submitted. Are the questions about the executive personally? How did they get started? Why did they come to the company? What do they like about working there? What was their first job?
Or, are the questions more related to the company, or its landscape as a whole? How are we thinking of competitors? How did this product launch go? What are we thinking about in the next three to six months and use that feedback to guide that first season? When I say first season, what I mean is think about doing six to eight episodes to start as your season one.
It's very hard to start an internal podcast and say - this comes out every Tuesday morning from now, until forever. Instead say, this is season one of our new podcast. It's just for employees. And after eight episodes, if it's going awesome and people are super engaged, you roll right from season one to season two. If there are some things you think you can do better, or you want to change out the host, then you're back with season two. When you say welcome to season two, here are the changes that we've made. So far, you've chosen the host, you’ve planned out your first couple of episodes. You're thinking in seasons.
Now it's time to actually record. So recording and editing is where people start to get nervous. No one in our team is an audio engineer. We don't know what a wav file is, what’s an MP3, how do we find music? There are lots of programs that make it really easy to record, and edit. The best one, I think is messy. FM. We make it really intuitive to start a podcast, but there are for sure alternatives, you can look at Audacity, you could record over Zoom. You can look at other recording platforms. The key here is that when you're actually recording, you want to be in a small room with limited windows.
Right now I'm recording this podcast over Zoom with you. I'm in a small room. I have pillows surrounding me, and I'm really close to the microphone. If you're in a small room with limited windows, your sound will be fine for an internal podcast. After you've recorded, you want to start editing again? Remember what I said - you’re not NPR. You are thinking about how to do minimal scripting, and then get ready to go. If you have a guest, come with some stories, right? But during the episode have some notes on your screen. You can follow along and tell yourself that you're not going to do any editing that you're just going to go from start to finish in one take. You have to do some editing because the dog barks or somebody really wants to restart a story.
That's fine, but you don't want to be making it more complicated than it has to be for yourself. Those are the first four steps. Choose that host, plan your season, start recording, begin editing, and then you're ready to publish.
Jonathan: I think also when we say begin editing, we're literally just talking about taking what you have, you do need to cut and paste, export it as it is in whichever format you deem appropriate. And that's it. You do not have to have professionally produced compression templates, and a wave leveling and everything going on. I once learned when I first started, somebody told me it's great that you love what you do, and it's great that you put out perfect content, but it takes you six months when it takes someone else one month.
Sometimes it's okay. If you go for the 80% instead of the full 100, in favor of just getting it out there, and hearing feedback.
Molly: I like your season's approach for that reason. I really agree with that. It's just about getting it out there. Sometimes people are looking for, okay, how much of the time is this really going to take? I tell people to block out about two and a half hours, start to finish to do a half-hour episode. Starting to plan the episode to recording, editing and publishing it - shouldn’t take you more than about two and a half hours per week to get an episode out the door.
Hopefully, over time, that number is actually going a little bit lower. I mean, we have clients on Messy.fm that are going to start to finish recording, editing, publishing in under an hour every week. So it's one of those things that as you do it, you'll get better at it. And also, this is just for your employees.
This is just for people that are already invested in the company. It's not a sales pitch. They already work there. It's to think about how you can humanize employees, or executives and give the behind the scenes on product decisions. All the content that you're already talking about - be it employee newsletters and town halls - you’re just putting in an audio format.
Jonathan: Yeah, it's a great way to start because essentially you, you already have a friendly audience. You said you could do a company-wide one podcast, or you can do a departmental one. When would you do one or the other, and what are the kinds of the differences between creating the content for both.
Molly: I'm actually thinking of a show idea, I think you want to think about host driven versus guest-driven podcasts.
Host driven podcasts would be like a C-suite executive, somebody very high up, maybe like a welcome to our company series of Internal Podcasts done by the CEO. Host driven podcasts are usually company-wide and they're going out to everyone. A department driven podcast is usually, hey, this is just for the technology team. This is just for the HR team, and that's a little bit more intimate and that it's usually actually highlighting people within that group, that maybe, not everybody knows. So if it's like just a department-wide HR podcast, maybe you invite on some high performers within the organization to talk about some strategies that they have that they're seeing working well for candidate recruitment. The same thing on the sales side, maybe you're bringing on some high performers that are talking about really tactical ways that they've found to sell the product better, just for the sales team to listen to can also think about.
I’ve seen a team do it for marketing, where they did a getting to know our customers better series. They essentially did Zoom interviews with some high profile customers, and then shared it with the marketing team to make sure that everybody reminded themselves who they're trying to reach. That would be departmental. The company-wide would be a little bit bigger, a little bit more high level.
You would have a higher level role being the host of the podcast.
Jonathan: Interesting. So in general, would you say when you see people are starting to create these podcasts, and that stuff is out there. When you have a strong host, is this person then introducing the topics himself?
Is it based on his or her observations or, how does this person then create content? Because for us, this podcast that everybody's listening to now is a very clear example of a guest-driven podcast. I want to invite experts such as yourself so they can talk and teach me something new, that hopefully the audience also likes. That's literally how this works. But host driven is a very different approach. How does that kind of work when you say strong hosts, do you also mean somebody is very strong at storytelling?
Molly: When I say strong host, I mean someone that's a little bit of a celebrity within the organization. So this person is often probably put up on the stage at town halls.
They're going back to that question of if they have lunch and learn it would sell out quickly. Somebody that's a bit of a celebrity internally, either because of their job title, or because they've been at the company so long, or because they're managing a really exciting project. Every company that has any number of employees that are going to have natural sort of celebrities.
Those usually make good podcast hosts because people are excited to listen to them. so I'm sure you can think about even within your company, maybe it's someone in the C-suite or someone very high up, but there are definitely people that everyone's like, oh they're going to be talking on the webinar - I should definitely listen. That would be an example of a good host. If you're doing a host driven podcast, if it's gastric and then you just want someone that's comfortable. Again, they're probably well known within their department, but maybe they're not at the pinnacle of their career.
They're not at the highest point within the company.
Jonathan: I would say that what I've noticed as well, as usually I'll have like a 10-minute talk with people that are going to be guests on a podcast, just so I can see how they communicate now. For me, that's never been a problem because I'm speaking to internal communicators and people such as yourself, like communications is your business. Generally, these people are very good communicators, but I can imagine that sometimes you have a guest that has incredibly interesting things to say, but then maybe is not the strongest communicator. Is that somebody, would you say shy away from those people or would you say take those people and then just kind of help them go the extra mile for them?
Molly: I think somebody that someone who might not be the strongest communicator, is an awesome guest for the podcast. They would be fun to have on. You would just need to make sure that you're doing a pre-interview with them. Perhaps you're sharing some of the questions ahead of time - you’re asking them to come prepared with some specific stories and examples.
People remember stories. They don't remember facts, just sort of help your guests along potentially that someone you really want to have on the podcast, but they're not the strongest guests. You actually do a test episode with them and have them run through the whole show. Beginning to end, twice. I guarantee the second time will be better than the first.
You can sort of prop up a guest. I'm guessing that probably a lot of people that listen to this podcast might work, or have a big vested interest in Internal Comms. We see lots of companies where Internal Comms is the ones suggesting and hosting the internal podcast.
I just want to address that if you're listening to this podcast already you likely have an interest in podcasts, you are looking for really interesting ways to talk to your employees. That's why you're a fan of this particular podcast. I think that you would be, whoever is listening, an awesome host for the internal podcast. You know, being the one to raise your hand and suggest, Hey, I think we should do an employee-only podcast means that you look super forward-thinking. It means that you get to learn some new skills around interviewing, editing, and producing. It's also awesome internal branding for you as an employee. If you are the host of the podcast, then you are the one that gets to meet these high profile guests. You're the one that's pitching this idea internally. This is probably a little bit of a controversial thing to say, but I think it's really hard to lay off the host of the company-wide podcast. Everybody knows who you are. And it's going to be really awkward for management if they had to say, yeah, the host of the internal podcast is no longer with us.
So I do think that being the one to raise your hand and say - I want to host our employee-only podcast is a great way to stand out.
Jonathan: I absolutely agree. In fact, last week we had a conversation with Channa, who I mentioned before, and she said how important it is as an internal communicator to kind of elbow your way into conversations, and be a fly on the wall to be able to hear what everybody in the business is sharing so that you can help them share that message better.
I think if you're a podcast host, there's no easier way to establish your profile than that.
Molly: I couldn't agree more. I also think if you're the podcast host and you might have ambitions of leaving your department, start interviewing people on the podcast that are in other areas of the company, get to know them, have them on the show, ask them great questions, build a real relationship with them.
The podcast is the excuse for you to have them on, and be able to share what they're doing with the wider company. That's also an excuse for you to make some relationships. In six months, when they have an opening on their team, you raise your hand in, they already know you.
Jonathan: I see. It's becoming a sneaky way of developing your career
Molly: I also really think that. You know, when blogging first started and people would talk about “we should have a company only blog”. Everyone was like, what? No, that seems crazy. And now almost every company that has over a hundred employees has either a company newsletter or a company blog where they're routinely communicating to their team members in the text format.
The same thing will be true in the audio space. In five years, every company will be doing private audio, private podcasts, internal podcasts, whatever you want to call it. This is a way for you to be right on the bleeding edge of a new Internal Comms trend.
Jonathan: That’s a bold prediction. I like this. That's something that we can use when we want to get budgets to organize this in an organization, I guess.
Another question that a lot of people will be faced with is: why is an internal podcast right for me? What are the advantages of this format? Why should I be doing that? What would you advise them to say?
Molly: You mean like, how are they going to pitch it to their boss? Yeah. You know, I would say if you're pitching to your boss, I would lead in with the fact that if you've recently done an employee survey, you likely are not reaching a hundred percent of your employees with all of the company news.
So there's some sort of disconnect, even with all that you're doing that you're not reaching all of the employees. People like to come to people like to attend our webinars, but not everybody. Maybe we have an international company and not everybody can attend them at the exact time we do the webinar. We can also think about how we send out these newsletters every week. They have a really low open rate. Maybe a lot of our workers don't know who our executives are, and it's causing a disconnect. When the executives come out with new information and the employees don't feel connected. I would lead with some things that maybe could be better within the company, and then present podcasting as a potential solution. I always think when you're talking to your boss, you never want to say this is the way we're going to save the company, but instead give them some facts. Hey, one in two people listens to podcasts regularly. I pulled five of our employees and they all admitted to listening to podcasts during the work time. Why don't we give them some of our content and audio format?
I don't think it will take too long. We can use it as an excuse to talk to higher-ups, and share their work internally. Let's try it. Let's do a season one and see what happens. That's how I would pitch it to a boss. It's a little bit experimental. It's a new way to try something. And then I would reevaluate after six or eight episodes.
I think the reason I'm telling you this is because I believe that at the end of eight episodes, you will see such a lift internally in terms of who's consuming your content, and how excited they are about it that you'll go from season one to season two. Looking out for you personally, as the person that's pitching this, I would pitch it as an experiment to your boss. It's not going to take too much time. We just talk two or three hours a week to get started. The tools are all there. They're available on the internet. It's not prohibitively expensive. Less than 200 a month to try it, put it as an experiment.
Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, even your initial investment outside of any potential monthly costs, we're talking about getting a $60 microphone generally.
Make sure you're in a room that doesn't have too many windows, just like you said. it's, it's really not that hard to get started. I think people look at a podcast and think, oh my God, it's such great content. People have maybe high expectations also of themselves with it, but that barrier entry isn’t as high.
Molly: Remember you are not NPR. Like we're trying, this is an experiment internally. The tools are there. It's not a big outflow. We're all going to be working remotely in some fashion for the foreseeable future. Let's do it in some interesting ways. One thing I wanted to touch on that people often ask about, that I don't think we've touched on yet, is how do employees actually listen to the podcast?
They can listen through Apple podcasts as long as they just take the RSS feed of the podcast, and put it on their device specifically. As an employee, you can still have the experience of listening to an internal podcast, the same way that you would listen to a public podcast.
You would just put it on your device. It's not searchable on Apple podcasts. Other people can't find it, but it is available on your device, so it's really easy for the employee to have it be part of their flow, in between other popular podcasts that are publicly available that they're listening to. Now here they have the company podcast also can do it on. We give embeddable eye frames, you could embed it on a company intranet page where you could send people directly to Messy.fm and they would input a password to listen.
There's a bunch of different ways. Employees can listen to the podcast as long as they have already gone through a level of approval that they are authorized to listen to the podcast.
Jonathan: Yeah. It really doesn't have to be that hard.
So when it comes to podcasting, we've defeated the question of why is this right for you? I think that a lot of people understand that podcasting can take an important place in our Internal Comms mix. For me, one of the biggest advantages has been that it's a true long format means of communicating.
I was thinking of this as you were talking about departments. If you have that high performing sales guide, that's explaining his or her tactics. it's one thing to write a quick blog post about that and then quickly say here's, here's what I would do. Step one, two, three, four, five. That's it. It's another thing to hear somebody talk around it - the nuances, the context of the situation - becomes much richer, right? That's this also been feedback that you've heard from people that you've helped them?
Molly: A hundred percent. I totally agree with that. That audio is a way to go deeper into a specific topic.
And it's also what a special experience for that salesperson to be like, hey, I’m invited to be on the company podcast. Like people are recognizing that I'm doing special work. They want to interview me for 20 minutes. Even if the podcast is only going out to employees, that's a really easy way that takes no money to make high performers feel really special.
By inviting them to be on the podcast. We have a couple people that do what they call “employee of the month podcast”. And, people within the company nominate people to be on the podcast. They get to come on, they get to get interviewed by the Internal Comms team runs that podcast they're interviewed by them.
They get to share what they're doing with the wider organization. And it's a really easy way to make them feel super special and valued. Awesome.
Jonathan: You knew I was going to ask you to, of course, so you've seen so many company podcasts, you must have a good overview of the ones that make you go, oh, this is super novel. I love this. I've never seen this idea before, or maybe just the ones in general that are successful outside of the example of the kind of general CEO and salesy podcast. What else can we inspire people with?
Molly: I saw a really great podcast once. I think it was maybe three weeks ago, I was working with their team, their research team.
They do a huge annual report every year where they do really, they work at a huge publicly-traded company. They do a really big, deep dive on a specific aspect of the competitor marketplace. And they put together like a, literally like a 50 page document on, Hey, this is what we're seeing. This is what we should be thinking about.
And they were feeling discouraged because no one was taking the time to read their work. It was just too thick, too heavy. They still did the written report, but they took different sections and made it into, I think it was 10 episodes. Might've been 10 or 12 episode series.
They released all the episodes at once. All of the different sections of the report got someone who wrote the report to be like, hey, this is what we saw when we were researching YZ. And they were able to take this research report that previously no one really had been. Looking at that they were able to distill it down into like 10 or 12-minute podcast episodes and share it with the whole company.
They were really excited about A creating it, and B, helping their work to get into other people's hands. I thought that was a very inventive use of internal podcasting.
Jonathan: That's amazing. I think there are a lot of people out there that had work in businesses that have very complicated aspects to it. So I think that would be a great way.
To be honest, that makes it easier to prove the worth of your internal podcasts, because you can actually say, I'm literally up in the knowledge of the people that listen to this. It was a thing. Another thing that we always advocate is your high performers are those people that you can have as guests: those are your ambassadors. They're your best friend. After they're done podcasting, they are going to feel much more empowered to start doing more Internal Comms because, you know, we'll have to be realistic. We both love podcasting, but it's not the only thing that you're ever going to do.
There are other forums that also need to engage with the more people you get on your side, the more scalable your Internal Comms essentially becomes.
Molly: I totally agree with that. I also think if you're at a company where maybe you have a lot of people that are involved, even if they're not employees, maybe you have investors or a board doing a private podcast, just for them here at Messy.fm, we do a private podcast just for our investors. It goes out to about 12 people every month.
I talk about what's doing well, and what could be better within Messy. And it's basically the same as the email that I send out to them every month. It's just an audio form. And it's a way for people to feel like maybe it's not necessarily different content, that's in an email, but it's just giving them another option of a way that they can engage.
Not everybody loves to read, so much of Internal Comms tends to be text-based, and you lose those people that aren't big or natural readers.
Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely great tip. When it comes to all of the topics that you can cover - let’s say we stick to your season based formats - would you say plan out your topics and make sure they're all kind of streamlined, have them go purposely all over the place? Have you noticed a difference between what has more success?
Molly: I haven't noticed a difference in what has had more success, but I've noticed a difference in the creator feeling less overwhelmed when the season is all around a specific topic.
That helps if people internally are like, hey, can I be a guest, or can you highlight my project? If it doesn't fit into the theme of the season, it's easy to say this season we're actually focusing on customers. So your idea is awesome, we'll keep it in mind for fitting in and see if it fits in with season two's theme.
And instead you do a 10 episode series all about customers. You have some of your customers come on, you have the sales team come on and talk about what is the sales journey. You have the CEO come on and talk about some stories about how they got the very first customers. It's just a nice, very definable season where you just talk about customers or you just talk about this specific aspect of the company, a mix of interviews, or maybe the solo hosts.
All tied back to a theme that tends to be easier for the creator than being like, hey, we'll just talk about anything on this podcast.
Jonathan: How have you seen people go about deciding what themes would work and which kind of content they would produce? Do people survey their internal stakeholders?
Do they just say, I know that this is something everybody talks about in the lunchroom. What kind of approach is usually good here?
Molly: You know, I always tell them to survey, but I think probably a lot of them do what you just said, which is like, hey, this topic keeps coming up in Internal Comms.
You know, that's what we're hearing people talk about. That's what they're asking questions about at town halls. That's what they're talking about in the lunchroom. I also think sometimes it's the host. What is the host most interested in? If the host is the head of tech, the technology team, then they might be interested in focusing on something around the product or new innovations within the space, versus a different team that might be focused on how we get new candidates, or how we make sure we preserve culture.
As we grow quickly, sometimes the host interests will shape the podcast, which is awesome. You want the host to be engaged or sometimes Internal Comms, which tends to have more of a 360 view. We'll be seeing what employees are talking about, and try to create content around that.
Jonathan: Awesome. I, yeah, I love this.To be honest, I think that there's a case to make for everyone to have their own internal podcast, simply because it’s, well, once you get into it, it's an easy thing to do. You're adding such a rich format of communication. And I really like your example of researchers explaining their report.
Especially for complex information, it's probably one of the best mediums you can wish for. Do people listen to their internal podcasts only at work? Or do they listen to it when they commute? Or is there any kind of idea that you have on that?
Molly: You know, we used to see people listening more on their commute. Because we can pull analytics across all of the shows, but now that people aren't commuting as much, it is that window right around lunchtime that they tend to be listening also super dependent on the company. Sometimes people take to town halls and they'll be like, hey, listen to this podcast before we have this event.
Then you see everyone cramming right before. Sometimes you see companies that will be like one of 'em. One of our most popular podcasters is a c-suite executive at a very big company. And he does his podcast that it's called something like lunch with Matt, and Matt does the podcast where it's him and it's supposed to be really informal.
Like he used to do lots of lunch and learns, but now with everything happening, that's not happening anymore. He takes questions from employees, and answers them. Like, hey, this is what I'm talking about today. It's just a very informal talk and you usually see people actually listening during lunchtime. That's sort of like the theme of the podcast, I would say in general, Internal Podcasts track closely to publicly available podcast data. And that most people are listening either on their commute during lunchtime, potentially working out like transition times where they're listening to “regular public podcasts”.
Jonathan: Awesome. All right, Molly, we're coming to the end of our time. I just want to ask you one final question, because first off we've already given everybody I think an entire plan to start their own costs. The last thing I want to ask you is - is there any other secret sauce tips you can give based on rules if you want to ensure success of your brand new season one?
Molly: My best tip would be - if you've listened to this entire conversation about Internal Podcasts, you are ready to start. Don't trick yourself into thinking, oh, I need to wait until all of this is lined up. Or when things are less busy or I have to pitch it to my boss better. Just say, hey, I think I'm starting an internal podcast.
Let's do it. I don't think this is something that you need to make bigger than it is. It's only internal. You don't have to get external approval for it. You're ready to go. You have the tools, you have the people that interview, you have some topics in your head. Don't sleep on this one.
Jonathan: Awesome. And exactly, don't sleep on this one.
I've been advocating that Internal Comms needs to do more to revolutionize and modernize itself. I think that this is a really great tool to do it. So Molly, thank you so much for your time. I hope you enjoyed it. I definitely did. I hope everybody learned a ton and I look forward to having you on the show in the future sometime again.
Molly: What a treat. Thank you so much.