Podcasting for Remote Teams: Using Audio to Connect, Engage & Inform
Podcasting for remote teams is a really effective way to connect, engage and motivate your staff, even at a distance.
It might not be exactly by choice, but remote working is fast becoming the new normal. One of our greatest worries, though, is a real drop in engagement and connection amongst staff. Can your people feel part of a team and stay motivated when they're not spending time together every day? Here, I want to show you one way in which they can: through audio. Let's dig into podcasting for remote teams, and how it can help you in these crazy times!
Here's what you'll learn:
First, I'll show you the power of audio, and why it can really help maintain that connection. More importantly, podcasting can help engagement at scale. Online calls are great, and you'll be doing a lot, but podcasting for your remote team reaches everyone in a really efficient way.
Next, I'll look at how others are doing remote team podcasting, and how you might use it yourself. Whether it's a weekly update from your CEO, or delivering individually driven staff learning, audio content can really help foster community and culture in a remote team.
Then, I'll show you how to create your show. I've kept it simple here, because you're already busy. It's just one or two bits of gear, and a simple piece of software. I've got links though, if you want to go deep and make it much more polished.
Finally, I'll cover how to publish a private podcast. How do we get it online and protected, just for your team? There are a few options, and they're pretty easy to set up.
Quick note: I'll show you one way to get most of the benefits entirely for free, too, because I want everyone to have a chance at trying this. I genuinely think podcasting could play a huge part in keeping teams connected, and helping people stay happier and keeping morale high through all of this.
Okay, ready to dive in?
Just to let you know, first, the links to other companies below are affiliate links, and the commissions we get support the free content we put out, at no cost to you. But, we review fair, and I only recommend tools that we know and love. If you choose to use them, I know you'll love them too. 😍
Let's do it! Here's the full index, so jump about as much as you like:
Why Audio? Audio vs Text vs Video
What are the strengths of audio content in working with a remote team (or a large in-office team)?
You're already updating your team via text, I'm sure. I can practically see the email servers around the world creaking right now as team after team goes remote. It's certainly not a bad time for Slack's financials either, although I'm sure they're as unhappy about the surrounding circumstances as the rest of us.
You might also be thinking about video, too. It's a good idea, video can work really well in many cases. But, let's look first at where I think audio stands out. In what ways is it better than text or video?
The Engagement of Audio
Research has shown that listeners engage with audio in a huge way, growing to know and trust the host. They're very likely to take action on things they hear on audio programmes.
When it comes to audio, there are two real defining features of the medium, compared to text and video. The first is how strongly listeners engage with it. And the second is how LONG people listen. Let's look at engagement first, and we'll have a chat about attention next.
First, some clarity: the research around engagement in podcasting comes from the advertising industry. But wait! Before you switch off, think about this: advertising and marketing is all about awareness and action. The action, in lots of cases, is a sale, which is why folks are often repelled by advertising.
But the thing is that you can be selling something good, too. You can be selling the ethos of the company, the values, or the culture. You can be selling community, engagement and connection. You can be selling ‘positive spirit' and motivation, keeping your people happy and productive.
Midroll are a podcast advertising company that have done a lot of research around audio content, as you'd expect. One measure of engagement, or love for a medium, is the trusty NPS score (how likely are you to recommend this to a friend?). They found their average podcast had an NPS of 70, which is a ridiculously high rating, more so even than Netflix.
They also found that 60% of people interviewed had bought something after hearing about it on a podcast ad.
I know, that's not directly related to remote working, but if they can sell products, then you can sell a ‘mindset'. It shows the huge amount of engagement, trust and connection that audio can generate.
The Attention of Audio
Audio tends to get far longer attention & engagement than text or video, because it's a personal, intimate medium, and it can be listened to while you're doing other rote tasks.
Audio really is the king of attention, in my experience. It makes sense, too, if you think about your own habits.
I know when I watch a YouTube video, I'm prone to get impatient and skip through, or abandon it altogether because another video in the sidebar catches my eye. I choose videos to watch based on how short they are, and how specific the topic is it. If someone sends me a video on WhatsApp, or Messenger, I don't want to watch it. I have to consume at the pace of the video and watch the whole thing, rather than choose my own approach…
I'm the same with text. It's quite rare that I'll read every word of an article. I tend to skim the headings, and dip into the sections that are most relevant. Links will send me off elsewhere, or I'll be distracted by something else on my device.
Audio, though, sits in a really special attention space. It's most often listened to as a distraction from rote tasks. That means in the car, on the bus, walking to work, mowing the lawn, cooking your dinner, ironing your clothes…
All of this means far less distraction, and far more hunger to be educated, entertained or inspired for a long period of time. It means podcasts often go for 30 minutes, or an hour, or more!
Dan Carlin has grown an audience of hundreds of thousands of people around Hardcore History. It's a show he records by himself, talking about history for pete's sake! Tim Ferriss has gone to hundreds of millions of downloads while spending 3 hours asking one person about every detail of how they brush their teeth! (I do love Tim's show by the way, especially the crazy detail… 😂)
This shows that people love audio, and they will spend a lot of time listening. Especially if it means something to them.
So, imagine great info, that effects them directly, from their own boss, about a company they care about. That means something to them, and so they'll listen. Probably for the entire duration. Show me a regular all-staff email that gets the same engagement rate!
The Result? Keeping your Team Engaged & Connected
Audio can help managers and executives connect with their staff, through emotion & personality. They can ‘be seen' much more often, even on a remote team.
Text is certainly the cornerstone of online teamwork, and that wont stop. But, what it lacks is the engagement and personality of the spoken word.
To me, audio is really important to remote teams to help people stay connected. Online calls will happen, of course, but they're far less organic than a chance conversation in the corridor. You'll speak to fewer of your colleagues, because it's more of a formal ‘thing' to book a call.
I think this is amplified for managers and the executive team. In an office, you, as a manager, can take a wander once a day and be seen. You'll have ‘quick chats' a-plenty as you amble around the space. Again, a great way to connect. But, on a remote team, that's hard. What do you do? Hit someone up and ask for a quick remote call? For sure, you should do that, but it's less scalable than just saying “Hi! How are ya?” on the way by someone's desk. What, then, do you do?
A good replacement, for me, is talking to the team through an audio recording. It's one-way, so it's not as nice as a good conversation. But, the team hears your voice, your enthusiasm, your concerns.
It's the equivalent of seeing your manager or CEO wandering the office, smiling and saying hi as they pass. It helps you feel like you're part of a squad, rather than a loner in a bedroom, with nothing but text flying at you.
The Ease Of Audio
Good audio is far easier to create than good video, and holds more attention. Audio and text are about the same in difficulty, but audio wins out on engagement and impact. So, audio gives the best results for the effort involved.
One final point, related to how easy each medium is to create.
Audio and text are pretty evenly matched, I'd say. Many people find it easier and quicker to talk for 5 or 10 minutes, as opposed to typing out the same info. But then, publishing text is far easier: just paste it into an email, or into Slack. Audio publishing can be made easy, but it's a few extra steps at least.
So, if they're evenly matched, I'd argue audio is well worth it for the extra engagement and attention you'll create.
Audio vs video is far more clear cut. Video often wins out on polish and impact, for sure. A good production can be a real change-maker in the right circumstance. But, creating great video is hard. It needs lots of gear, the right lighting, audio and video production, and more rehearsal and planning.
Audio, on the other hand, just needs a good mic. The planning is simple because you can just read it from paper, and you don't have to care a jot about how your hair looks!
It's far easier to make audio sound good than it is to make video look good, too, in my experience. At least that's true for folks that don't have a speciality in the area.
So, pound for pound, audio gives you the best results with the least effort.
First, What is a Podcast?
A podcast is a series of audio episodes, just like talk radio, but available on demand and via subscription in your podcast listening app.
Podcasting differs from standard audio only in one sense: how it's delivered.
A podcast is just a collection of audio files, each file forming one podcast episode. The thing that really makes it a podcast, though, is subscription. As soon as you put your series of audio files on the internet and make it available to subscribe to (via RSS, which you don't really need to know about!) that turns it into a podcast.
The subscription part is easy. It's handled for you by three things:
You upload the audio files to your hosting company, and they make it available to the public. You submit your podcast to the main directories. You only have to this once, right at the start, when you launch. They make it available to subscribe to from then on. Finally, the podcast players allow listeners to subscribe and listen.
As a bonus, you can also embed an audio player for every episode into your own website, or just about anywhere you can create content on the web. So, you can distribute your audio in many different ways.
Podcasting vs Straight up Audio
Offering your audio updates as a subscription based podcast makes them ridiculously easy to find and listen to, and massively improves engagement with the content.
So, why not just post audio files to your intranet or your Slack channel? That saves setting up podcast hosting, after all.
If you did that, you'd still get many of the benefits in the ‘Why Audio' section above. The guide below remains relevant on how to create your audio episodes, whether it's ‘standard audio' or a real podcast. So, it's possible to go ahead with this whole approach entirely for free. But, let's look at why you might want to pay just a little to turn it into a true podcast.
The real power of podcasting is the fact that it's a ‘push' medium, rather than pull. That means that when you publish an episode, it's pushed to the listener right away. Next time they open their podcasting app, the new episode will be loaded up, right inside, waiting to play.
If you do go ‘standard audio', imagine your team having to find a time to go to the intranet and play the file. Can they do that on their mobile? Possibly, but not easily, and it wont offer features like playlists and ‘remember where I left off'. Even posting it in Slack, or a similar tool with an app, it's not a great listening experience, and you have to ‘pull' users to that place, every time something's published.
Subscription and podcast apps are what make podcasting so sticky. They amplify engagement and attention, because it's ridiculously easy for your audience to listen, any device, any place, any time.
Can I Make my Podcast Private?
Yes, there are a number of ways to password protect podcast content, from individual logins to full team access.
Yes, absolutely, private is entirely possible. There are a growing number of services which allow you to publish audio files in a protected, secure manner. Many podcasters are using it for paid content, like premium newsletters. But the same protection works great for any internal material that you'd rather didn't make it out into the public ear.
Yes, it's possible that someone might share their password to the audio feed, or send on an audio file. But, that's the case with any medium. An email can be forwarded. Website text can be copied and sent on. So, nothing that you publish online is 100% secure. But, you can make a podcast as private as text or video, and I'll show you how later in this article.
What Do Remote Teams Use Podcasting For?
There are a range of ways you can use podcasting, or standard audio, to help your remote team. Let's take a look at some of the possibilities.
Keep your staff up-to-date, on-mission and engaged with regular voice updates from the CEO.
One of the simplest uses of audio is to keep your team ‘in the loop' in a really engaged way.
No doubt you already do this via all-staff meetings, email, Slack, or perhaps even through online calls. But, imagine how easy and efficient it would be for the CEO to pull out a mic, and simply speak for 10 minutes. She could talk about what's going on right now in the company, future plans, team changes and more.
The great thing here is that the team hears the CEO's voice. They hear her mood, her passion, her personality. This all serves to connect us far more with that person than we would via text, and so we buy into the message, and the team, in a much greater way.
Small Team Updates
Have every line-manager send an audio update to their team every week to supplement the day-to-day communications and meetings.
Why leave it all to the CEO? Every line manager that works with more than a few people could do this. It makes sure they have at least one real-voice connection with their team every week. Even if calls are the norm, this is a higher level update, without the distraction of the day-to-day.
The best thing is that it's not only useful for the team; it can often help the manager just as much. It encourages them to think through the past week, the coming week, the ups and the downs, and communicate that with every one of their staff.
Staff Training: Critique of the Week
Offer regular critiques on the past week. Talk through wins, losses and ways to improve. This type of critique is more effective and less likely to be misinterpreted when it comes by voice.
Provide a critique of the past week. Cover the strengths and weaknesses of any work done, and what could be done to improve things in future.
This is a ‘level up' or an addition to small team updates. A dedicated update on learnings from the past week. Managers can find this very useful, simply pulling out a mic and documenting their thoughts on what happened.
This works amazingly well in audio. It really benefits from the subtleties of voice that you just don't get in text.
For example, typing “well done” can fall a little flat. It lacks power. But, say the same thing on-microphone and your pride and passion for it shines through, really bolstering and motivating the team.
Similarly, typing out a negative critique, or highlighting some mistakes made, that can come across very harshly on text. Speaking the same words, though, allows you to use tone of voice and pace to communicate that this isn't an attack. Instead, it's support, and a real desire to help the team improve.
Staff Training: Learning from Others
Share the experience of your staff. Do interviews with individuals or request ‘lessons of the week' from the whole team to broadcast.
This is one of my favourite, because it gets the whole team involved. Plus, it takes advantage of your biggest asset: the skills of your staff.
One way is to have an assigned host, who has the regular duty of interviewing your team (here's how to plan a great interview). Each week, they hit someone up and ask, what did you learn lately? Between them, they come up with a topic to cover, run an interview, and publish the results. It's a conversation between colleagues about a topic that the interviewee is particularly expert on. Or perhaps even just a small lesson they learned that week about productivity or teamwork.
Another way is to drop the interviewer and get your staff to do it themselves. Whenever someone learns something good, from the small soft skills to the big strategic ones, encourage them to grab a mic and record a summary.
It's amazing what happens when you can make this part of the company culture, and people are sharing ‘lessons learned' all the time. The podcasting format allows people to consume this easily and in otherwise wasted time. And the audio approach means that the whole team is really connecting with that person, hearing their voice and personality.
Team to Team Updates
Offer individual team updates to the entire company to encourage cross-team communication & collaboration.
If you're a big company with more than a few sub-teams, why not set up a rota so that each team can take turns sharing their recent work.
I'm sure you already try to keep the entire company informed on what's going on in a wider sense, but hearing it literally from the human/horse's mouth is very different, and much more engaging.
Repurpose Your Online Calls & Meetings to Keep Remote Teams Involved
Re-publish board meetings, strategy meetings, planning meetings, or anything that's valuable to your team. It might even replace the dreaded meeting minutes!
Now that you're fully remote, you've got a whole new resource in the form of online call recordings for every meeting.
This might not work for everything, and it depends on how open you are as a company. But, a lot of businesses publish minutes from every meeting anyway, so why not re-publish your call recordings?
For sure, your staff wont listen to every one, but they might listen to recordings that relate directly to their work. And the ones that do listen, they'll be even more involved in the company, and may even have some useful feedback to offer (if you encourage it!).
Onboarding New Staff
Create an audio ‘course' that trains up new staff. It can introduce them to the culture and values of the company through the real voices of their colleagues.
Audio can be a great supplement to the way you onboard new staff, especially in helping them get a feel for the culture and ethos of a company.
Remote teams can struggle with this because it's harder to get to know colleagues online. Even if you do regular online calls, text chat will normally be the main form of communication, and it's just a little… sterile… at times.
Instead, create a series of audio episodes which introduce the new hire to each team, with informal snippets from staff members. Offer training in this way, too, where they can learn from their colleagues and their manager, really getting a picture of what they're like.
This is a great way of scaling training and speeding up ‘belonging' for people new to your company.
How to Create Your Podcast
Alright, you're in? Let's get it started up.
I'll leave the planning to you, but I do have one tip. Most of the approaches above benefit from at least a rough outline script, so you wont have to write it all out, word for word. You'll sound the most ‘real' when you have an idea of the topics you want to cover, and just go for it.
Then, it's down to the fun part: recording!
Equipment for Recording your Audio
Record as simply as possible. The more simple you make it, the less time it takes and the more likely you are to stick to doing it regularly. Go with one of the following:
- Record on your phone, into the voice recorder app (“Voice memos” on iOS)
- Record into your computer using a USB microphone and a recording application
Equipment for recording on your phone:
- Base level: hold your phone like you're making a call, and speak!
- Improved: plugin a Rode Smartlav+ into your phone for more flexibility
Base level, here, is surprisingly decent, considering! But, an external mic like the Smartlav+ is a really good investment. Frees up your hands, and increases the quality. You can even do two-person interviews if you add Rode's SC6 adapter, as shown here:
Equipment for recording on your computer:
- Base Level: the Samson Q2U is a great value USB microphone
- Pro Level: the Rode Podcaster, a shock mount, and a boom stand
The Samson is a great mic, and it comes with a mic stand, so you get it all-in-one. If you do fancy the upgrade, though, the Rode Podcaster sounds brilliant. It's also nice having a good quality boom-arm on your desk, so the mic's always ready to swivel over and start recording.
Software for Recording and Editing
Both options, below, handle recording and editing for single person recordings. They could also record a two-person conversation if you use just one mic and pass it between you.
- Base Level: Audacity is free and does the job well
- Improved: Alitu is a paid app, but automates and simplifies the process
Audacity is a great tool for the price: entirely free! It does both recording and editing, and has been a staple of the podcasting world for a long time.
It's a little dated and clunky now, but it does the job! You'll find all the tools you need for levelling and noise reduction, and it's not too hard to learn. You'll find a collection of free tutorial videos for Audacity over on my YouTube channel.
If you want things as quick and easy as possible, check out Alitu: The Podcast Maker app. It's our own tool for creating a podcast. I started building it in 2017 based on real demand from our readers for something that makes podcast editing & production much easier.
Alitu has a monthly fee, but in exchange it allows you to record solo (or two people in one place) clips right into the app. Then it cleans them up for noise and volumes, adds your music automatically, and allows you to publish to the top podcasts hosting companies.
It also offers a custom podcast editor, which allows you to trim the file and take out any mistakes. The learning curve and time involved is much lower than Audacity, but obviously Audacity has the advantage of being free. That means it's a trade-off between time, stress and money.
Try and keep your editing as simple as possible. You'll want to do a bit of cleanup – make sure the volume is fine and perhaps even some noise reduction – but don't worry about making it perfect.
Read much more here:
- Recording a Podcast, Every Method Explained
- Complete Podcast Editing: From Making it Easy to Making it Good
How to Publish a Private Podcast for your Remote Team
Now we've got it recorded, we need to get it online. How do we get our recording from your device to your team's ears? Here are four options for you.
The ‘Straight-up Audio' Approach
Publish the audio direct to any of your existing private channels for a low-fi, free-of-charge approach.
First, the lowest barrier to entry, and entirely for free: simply post it to your intranet, your Slack channel, or your team Dropbox. Team members can play it directly from any of those mediums, whenever they like.
As I mentioned in the ‘Why Podcasting' section, this makes it a little harder to listen, and you wont get the same engagement or attention, but it's a great way to start for free, and test things out.
In the long run, your team might be totally fine with listening like this, and there'll be no need to upgrade at all!
Non-Private Remote Team Podcasting
Leave your podcast open the public. This makes it super easy to set up, and very easy for your staff to subscribe. But, you have to be OK with everything you share going out to the world.
This is the easiest option, but, of course, your content is available to everyone. In some cases that may be totally fine. Public companies are already an open book in many ways. Private companies may be fine with sharing learning resources or broad-company updates.
But, there are good reasons to avoid sharing small team updates with real detail on the work you're doing, or repurposing team meetings in this way. If so, look to the next section for the private options.
To go ahead and create a public podcast for your remote team, here are two of the best options, right now.
One is Captivate. Captivate are a hosting company that let you run as many shows as you like under a $19 / month account. That means you can have one CEO update feed, a few small team ones, a staff on-boarding podcast and more. It's flexible enough to fit any plans you have.
The other is Buzzsprout. I consider Buzzsprout the lowest cost good option, and it's great if you're only going to run one show. So, you can't have multiple shows for different purposes, but it's only $12 per podcast and the setup is as simple as it comes.
- Multiple Podcasts? Click here to sign up for Captivate
- Single Podcast? Click here to sign up for Buzzsprout
- Or, See all the Best Podcast Hosting options here
Private Podcasting via WordPress & Castos
Create a private podcast feed on your website using WordPress, Seriously Simple Podcasting & Castos. The feed is secured by one main password, so you can't manage individual access.
If you use WordPress to run your website, then here's an easy option for you: use the Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin.
This plugin allows you to run a podcast from your website, and it's ‘password protect' feature allows you to put the entire series behind a locked door.
This is a simple option. There's just one password for your entire team. But, you could argue it's a little less secure, since that password could get out. I suppose that's a risk, though, even if every user has their own password.
The communal password means it's hard to remove access for people who leave the team. That's easily fixed by regularly changing the password, but there are headaches, there, around keeping people updated. It's up to you to decide if this approach offers enough protection for you.
If you do go ahead with it, then the plugin is run by Castos who are a podcast hosting company. If you sign up with them, then you can quickly publish episodes directly from your WordPress site.
Managed Private Podcasting via Transistor.fm
Easily manage every login using Transistor.fm's private podcasting feature for the most secure option. Run one to three different podcasts on their standard plans, or more on enterprise.
For a more sophisticated approach, look to Transistor.fm. This podcast hosting company offers a ‘private podcasting' feature on it's Professional Plan ($49 / month) and above.
The setup is really easy: simply create a new podcast within your Transistor account and designate it a private feed. Then, paste a list of all your staff's emails into their ‘distribution' tool. Once confirmed, Transistor will send an invite to every one, including their access credentials.
The advantage of this is that you can remove staff who leave the company, or for any other reason, and users can manage their own logins.
On the downside, you can only have one private podcast per account on the Pro plan, and three private podcasts on the Business account. That means you're limited in how many private podcasts you can create across your teams. But, they do have enterprise plans if you're looking for more capacity.
- Click here to sign up to Transistor
Update: Since releasing this post I've been getting some great suggestions for other tools to check out. Some good, and some bad, of course, but here are the ones that have stood out so far, and that I plan to test out in future:
Storyboard is akin to a separate platform for your private podcasting needs. You create as many shows as you like, and publish them via a dedicated Storyboard mobile app. Employees then download that app and listen on-the-go, or they can listen on the Storyboard website too. Security looks really good, and there are some very corporate-focussed options like SSO, feedback surveys and intranet compatible episode links.
Summary: Podcasting for Remote Teams
Here's what we've covered:
Because it has the power to convey personality, values and culture through real voices, and has the advantage of being really easy to create and distribute. It's effectiveness is multiplied by the fact that it's even easier to consume through subscription, and the fact that people connect with it, and listen for a long time.
How to Use it?
Engage and connect your team through weekly CEO updates, regular small team briefings, community content, staff training, new hire on-boarding, easy access meeting recordings, and more.
How to Do it?
The key to creating this type of podcast is to keep it simple. One decent USB mic, or your smartphone, is all you need. Then, if you have the time, add a little polish, such as audio cleanup and music, using Audacity. Or, automate the audio cleanup and save time on recording and editing with Alitu.
How to Publish it?
Three options, depending on budget & requirements. Most simple: Run a public show using Captivate or Buzzsprout. More secure: Run a private feed on WordPress via Castos and their SSP plugin. More secure: Run a fully managed private podcast feed via Transistor.fm.
Want to do it for Free?
Sure thing! Record audio directly into your phone, and post it raw, right on your intranet or Slack. Test it out this way, and decide if it's worth going ‘full podcast' to make for higher quality, easier subscriptions & more listener engagement.
What Other Questions do you Have about Podcasting for your Remote Team?
I hope I've answered the bulk of your questions here, but I've no doubt you have more! If you're looking for extra detail, I've linked to a lot of our in-depth articles above, and you can always find our prime resource on starting a show here:
But, if you're looking for more, here are a few options: