There are myriad articles that ask you to take sides in the video vs audio debate. I like both, and see the unique benefits each brings to particular tasks. Of course, subjectivity plays its part, where the benefits may seem less valuable to one person over another. For the sake of this article, I’ll try to sneak past tribalism and subjectivity and simply lay out what I see are the core benefits of sound/audio over visuals/video. In particular, I’ll showcase the power and potential of a podcast to inform and influence the people who make your organisation work.
Let’s begin by acknowledging the role of video in bolstering business marketing efforts over the past few years. Video content has played a large part in helping brands rank higher in search results, boosting traffic via email clickthroughs and YouTube views, and providing plenty of content to fill hungry social media channels. People like video, or at least they enjoy hitting the play button to see what might pop up in their feed!
Audio on the other hand has survived the success of video largely because of its unique characteristics. These selling points have been largely untapped by the business community, who see video as the glossy medium of choice. Capturing the zeitgeist is one thing, but if you’ve spent a small fortune creating video content that only really delivers audio, then you may be wasting money and time.
Your videos are possibly podcasts in disguise
Video content can be terrific. It can visually dazzle, hold our attention to explain complex things such as how food production works, how technology works, how the planet works, and so on. This is what video does really well. Visuals can break down information into easily digestible portions that our brains can adjust to. It’s an obvious strength.
Video can also be dull and distracting. Many businesses go to great lengths (and great expense) to show people talking to one another, or directly to the camera. In these instances, it may be prudent to ask yourself, would a podcast have been less expensive, less time-consuming to produce, and less distracting?
When it’s better to tell, not show
You’ve heard the maxim “show, don’t tell”, and I don’t refute this valuable technique. It’s about allowing a reader to experience something for themselves through how the narrative is built. It’s a fabulous technique that good writers take advantage of. You’ll notice it when you’re watching a film and you think to yourself, Why did they just explain everything to me? I’m not stupid. That would have been an instance where the filmmaker didn’t give you enough credit for having worked the plot out for yourself, so decided to spoon-feed you extra information just in case. They told you something instead of showing you something and letting you fill in the gaps.
A good podcast will allow your listener to fill in the gaps without having been shown anything. It’s a simplistic example, but it’s an obvious one. Free from visual distraction, audio has the power to hold your listener’s attention and allow them to interpret what they hear using different sensory cues. They will pick up emotion in people’s voices, and because they are practising open listening, will be more likely to listen without judgement.
When it comes to conveying business messages, such as via an internal communications podcast, open listening comes into its own. Free from visual distractions, business leaders can create the right tone of voice, pass on more precise messages, and convey powerful emotion where necessary. Hearing just a voice (without seeing a face) inevitably leads people to make use of different skills they wouldn’t normally use.
How Coronavirus has affected the working environment
Your ability to communicate in a world that has adapted to working away from an office is more crucial than ever. When the lockdown is over, the business landscape will look different and will probably operate differently. It will offer a chance to see who really embraced digital over the past few years and who’s been faking it.
We have had the technology to enable distributed working for many years, but few organisations have applied it for one reason or another. Part of this is having relied too heavily on traditional methods of communication, being lazy, or being generally dismissive of progress. Alternatively, some use periods of disruption to invent better ways of communicating, ironically building better relationships with their workforce than if they had been confined to their desks in an office environment.
The lesson here is to resist reverting to “business as usual”. Use this as an opportunity to shake up your organisation. Use periods of disruption to invest in new communication methods. There’s no better testing ground than enforced conditions to learn new skills and techniques to take your business beyond lockdown and into a richer future. It’s fertile ground for fertile leadership.
How the humble podcast can help
So why are podcasts, which have been around for ages, going to help you communicate better and move your company forward? Let’s make a simple list:
- They are cheaper to produce when budgets are tight.
- Associated equipment is easier to use.
- Podcasts are less labour intensive.
- File sizes are smaller, which saves time and resources.
- Podcast listeners are more engaged.
- You can record a podcast in your jammies.
Different skills are required in order to make audio work over video, and the art of storytelling is slightly different. But in telling your story, or conveying information and messages, audio has the power to hold attention better than video, and it is this potential where I truly believe businesses can benefit.
Busy internal communication teams, often under the cosh to save their own jobs while trying to help you do yours better, have an arsenal of tools at hand to streamline your business. Often, they have tight budgets that don’t allow them the freedom to use them, or they simply resort to tried and tested methods of emails and the occasional CEO video. My advice would be to add a more regular form of communication to this team’s arsenal: a private internal communications podcast that’s inexpensive, creates better engagement and is more regularly produced.
How to convince your CEO to start a podcast
I’m not suggesting you replace other forms of communication with a podcast. The best channels are those that appeal to different audiences. The average open rate for internal emails stands at around 66%, which is decent but not great. Add an alternative channel and you could capture much more engagement to those who simply don’t enjoy reading. And keep making those videos if you want to, though eventually you may come to realise that talking head videos may be a waste of time. Audio editing is tough, but video editing is tougher.
Whether you’re considering an external podcast to entice new customers and create leads, or to leverage a new medium to better communicate with the people you work with, the power and potential of audio is outstanding. If you want to create a leadership platform that exists beyond the boundaries of Zoom meetings, town halls and emails, look no further than the humble podcast. It could be the alternative comms platform that sees you and your business through these challenging times, emerging with a more engaged and informed workforce along the way.