The power of podcasting in a pandemic world

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Written by Grace Hannah on 20 January 2021 in Opinion
Opinion

Communication is vital in a world dominated by fears created by COVID-19. Here Grace Hannah explores the growth of the podcast.

People the world over are wishing they bought shares in Zoom before the pandemic but there’s another major communication tool that’s perhaps being talked about less but has also delivered a big impact in the workplace through COVID - and that’s podcasting.

Even before the pandemic, over 10m people a week were listening to podcasts in the UK - that’s a combined 59m hours. Fast forward to now and with podcast listening up 58%, year on year, podcasting has really stepped into the limelight as a communication discipline that’s flexible and creative enough to deal with major societal, economical and organisational challenges, like COVID-19, head on.

With the demise of face-to-face communication and the overnight removal of any in-person learning interventions, coupled with the phrase that has now been coined ‘Zoom burnout’, podcasting has played an increasingly important role in both internal communication and learning and development within organisational culture.

Podcasting is providing organisations (including the NHS at the height of the pandemic) with the ideal learning content solution to fit into the ‘pick and mix’, on-demand learning culture

The other trend we’ve seen in 2020 is employees who are much more intentional about their own learning and development. For example, instead of filling their old commute time with more time on the day job, many are using it for their own virtual development instead.

Fitting perfectly into remote and hybrid working cultures, as well as the consumer’s ongoing desire for easy-access, in-the-ear content, podcasting is providing organisations (including the NHS at the height of the pandemic) with the ideal learning content solution to fit into the ‘pick and mix’, on-demand learning culture that’s evolved as a direct result of COVID.

Featuring business leaders, subject matter experts, fellow employees and external stakeholders too, in a high quality flexible format, podcasting is filling the gaping hole that’s been left in many learning and development strategies.

For Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership/Champs Public Health Collaborative, when the COVID-19 pandemic really kicked off in March 2020, they were immediately concerned about the impact of lockdown and social distancing on the mental health of their residents and key workers.

 

Their response was a Kind To Your Mind campaign with the Your Mind podcast at the heart of it, featuring high profile guests, practical advice and a suite of relevant topics to the live crisis. Described as the ‘shining star of the campaign’ the podcast has helped the partnership to meet their goals of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their residents and key workers during the pandemic.

Now with a vaccine in our imminent future, the question is what role will audio play as the pandemic continues to play out and we reach the other side of it? Will it leave its mark on organisations? Will the power of audio be limitless in driving engagement, insight and development in a post-pandemic world? 

Immediately pivoting and tailoring podcast content to focus on relevant topics for 2020 like mental wellness, work and life balancing, resilience and coping strategies as well as product and services, is keeping people connected, engaged, informed and well equipped to cope with the ever changing landscape.

The fact that 92% of podcasts are listened to alone makes it a great platform for lockdown and isolation learning and podcasts are often a cathartic experience after group video calls for so much of our day.

Keeping people feeling connected is a huge challenge facing every HR or learning and development professional right now and it’s easy to understand why the intimate ‘in ear’ experience of hearing the CEO talk about his journey through the pandemic, is a more palatable option than another video briefing or webinar.

Internal subject matter experts will continue to steal the ground of external ‘trainers’ and personal journeys and storytelling will become an even greater learning and development currency than before

Where this has been coupled with other interactive digital communication support tools collecting questions, comments and feedback on the content shared is also extremely effective. There’s so much about 2020 that has not been black or white with so many unknowns, emotions have been a key factor as have bringing the human touch to everything.

Therefore, the ‘in conversation with’ format has also been massively popular as a way of connecting leaders (and the humans behind the title) to their organisation and teams.

Much uncertainty remains when it comes to the pandemic but one thing most of us agree on is that there will be a long term impact of COVID-19 on how we work, learn and communicate.

In a post-pandemic, hybrid, empowered world, pick and mix learning content will prevail, internal subject matter experts will continue to steal the ground of external ‘trainers’ and personal journeys and storytelling will become an even greater learning and development currency than before.

Watch this space because audio in the learning and development space is about to explode.

 

About the author

Grace Hannah is director of people for Communicorp UK

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