Tools like YouTube and AudioBoo mean we can produce and distribute audio and video more easily than ever. Abi Signorelli, Head of Internal Communications at Virgin Media, has been experimenting with AudioBoo for a few months. She’s been using it to record her thoughts, and for impromptu interviews with people she bumps into.
It’s certainly an interesting idea. Using real voices from real employees can really bring messages to life, and arguably help to break down organisational silos.
Video, too, is cheaper and easier to produce than ever. Where I work we’ve been using the cheap and ridiculously simple Flip Video to record and share interviews and footage from events. The proliferation of mobile phone cameras means people no longer expect well-produced, slick corporate video. The homemade quality of videos from Flip or mobile phones lends a shaky, grainy authenticity that viewers are now used to seeing on You Tube.
YouTube is now the second most popular search engine in the world – which just goes to show people are actively looking for multimedia content.
But are people looking for it at work? Recent research at a large telecoms company found less than 4% of employees are interested in watching online video from their employer, while actual hit rates on their corporate videos are even lower. Similarly, Abi’s Audioboo advertures have stimulated some interesting debate, but the recordings themselves attract comparatively tiny internal audiences within Virgin Media.
All of which suggests that hype surrounding pod- and vodcasting is overblown. But in my view that would be too simplistic.
History shows our media consumption habits at home create expectations of the media we consume at work. So as more of us access online video or podcasts regularly, it follows we’ll expect the same media rich content in our employee communications.
Short videos from our recent community festival had surprisingly high numbers of views, and some great feedback from colleagues who said they appreciated seeing some of the events going on across the borough.
But that’s not to say in a few years time we’ll all be scrapping our staff magazines in favour of audiovisual content.
First, audiences have to jump through quite a few hoops to access podcasts. Even simple steps like having to download the file to listen, or even plug in headphones, are reasons not to bother. In organisations like mine – with a high proportion of non-wired audiences – the barriers to access can be huge.
Even for desk-based audiences, video and audio is more difficult to access than traditional print and online communications. A recording, even if really well made, takes considerably longer to consume than the same amount of information in text form. So while they’re cheap to make, they cost more in staff time to consume.
Those who are likely to take the extra steps and extra time to consume video or podcasts are those who are already highly engaged. Those who aren’t will need some strong motivation to actively access information in video and postcasts.
So how do we do that? Simply: make it worthwhile for the end user.
We need to think why would someone take time out of their day to view/listen to this? Would you take ten minutes out of a busy day to listen to corporate news in audio form? Probably not.
But would you take some time out to watch a video of colleagues at a sports day? Or a preview of a new product? Possibly.
Its certainly not suitable for every kind of message; the disincentives to access mean it certainly can’t be relied on for business critical information.
But nor should we write off podcasting for internal comms just yet. Video and audio can bring colour and tone to communications that traditional channels can’t. With home consumption of online audio and video expected to continue to grow, as well as increasing numbers of people working remotely, audio and video look set to play an increasingly important role in the internal comms mix.
In the meantime, it’s good to experiment. You can listen to Abi’s AudioBoos here. Why not add your own?