In our latest episode,“Culture is a Conversation,” we spoke to CEO coach and award-winning author of Love is the Killer App, Tim Sanders, about the urgent need for executives to rethink their corporate culture with audio in mind. Listen to the full podcast or see excerpts below.
#1. Your company is very email-centric.
It’s difficult to convey meaning clearly through any medium where you can’t hear or see the speaker. There is a misconception that email saves time, but when you include the cost of the misunderstandings it breeds – wasted effort, hurt feelings or paralysis among them — there is a high cost of running an overly email-reliant culture.
Data shows that when we read text, we can only decode 7% of the author’s intended meaning, but in an auditory setting, that comprehension increases to 38%. This means that when you switch from an email culture to an audio-based culture, understanding increases 500%.
Here’s an example of where text fails. Let’s say you post a photo of yourself on Facebook while on a business trip to Oslo, Norway, and someone responds by writing in the comment “Must be nice.” Is this a jealous comment or a supportive one? Without hearing their voice, there is no way to know. With email, we’ve come to expect that our tone may be misinterpreted, so as a result, email culture often causes us to undercommunicate because of previous experiences we’ve had in being misunderstood. As a result, we say things in small, often cryptic ways that are hard to attack, but that just makes it all the more difficult for the recipient to understand your meaning.
If tone, intent or meaning are important aspects of a communication, you’re better off choosing audio over email.
#2. You need to communicate big ideas or big changes quickly.
Designing a presentation for a live event or a video requires a lot of backswing. There’s going to be plenty of preparation and rehearsal with a lot of people involved. It’s high effort and fraught with delays. Asking an executive for a 20-minute presentation could take months to actually get done. The process doesn’t really scale to frequent, agile communications.
Podcasting is ideal for getting important messages out quickly. It’s the comfort factor of having an informal conversation versus the real and perceived effort of scripting a presentation. A lot of people have “talker’s block,” but most don’t have “asker’s block,” especially when they are chatting with people they find interesting. A better, faster way to get your messages out can be to ask your executives to interview new employees, top clients, or key influencers in their industry. Just getting them talking to others about big ideas or big changes, rather than presenting them.
Here’s an example. Let’s say the CEO has hired a new Chief Sales Officer, and this is a big change for the organization. Podcasting is ideal for communicating major changes. The CEO can interview the new chief sales officer about her background, why she took the job, and some of the things she wants to accomplish. It becomes this nice little fluid conversation that can show off the CEO’s vision, help create affinity for the new leader, and align the organization around expectations for managing through that change. Podcasting has a perfect combination of quick turnaround and meaning while formats like email or presentations have only one or the other.
#3. Your corporate executives have “likeability” issues.
Some corporate leaders are beloved by their employees, but not all are. It’s not that these less popular ones are hated, per se, but more often, employees lack any kind of meaningful connection with those bosses. Some leaders just come in, do their job, and go home without interacting with anyone down the hall. When they do communicate with the masses, it’s done through memos and email, where personality and likeability are lost.
The most successful leaders build relationships across the organization at every level. If your leaders seem out of reach or out of touch, audio podcasting can be a great to help them form lasting bonds with their workforce. Audio allows personality, passion, and understanding to come through. It creates a number of queues that help employees see what they have in common with their leaders, because kinship is so important to bonding.
#4. Your videos look overly stiff and scripted.
People act differently when a camera is in their face. They become self-conscious, and there is more pressure to present themselves in a certain way. The CEOs I’ve worked with report that they’re able to be more candid with audio versus video. It changes the presentation into a conversation, and they don’t have to worry about appearance. It removes all the fear and insecurity that comes with how they appear on video.
Nick Morgan, a great communication coach, always tells me, “the difference between making an audio recording and a video recording is like having a beer with a buddy versus going on a first date.” In one situation, you just throw on a baseball cap and you’re ready to go. In the other, you have to dress up and look good because your reputation and image is on the line. Audio is the much more casual and comfortable platform. Having executives sit down for interviews and fireside chats creates a much better experience for everyone involved.
#5. Your workforce is increasingly composed of millennials.
Statistics show that the average podcast listener is doing 1.8 things at once, which means that a large chunk of listeners – 30-40% of them — are doing 3 or more things at once. One thing we know about millennials is that that they love to multitask. It’s very natural for them. They’ve been doing 2-3 things at a time ever since they could walk. Other platforms such as email and video don’t work as well because they require the audience to stop what they’re doing and redirect their attention. Meanwhile, audio allows a person to listen as they perform other tasks.
And here’s another interesting fact. We did a study and found that when a leader writes an email that can’t fit into a preview pane, the readership of that email drops between 50 and 90%. But when you send an audio file, the intention is different. The intention is to have the audience listen when they have a chance. It’s less restrictive. It’s not the same thing as asking them to read this long email. So, it’s easy to see why more and more millennials have been gravitating toward podcasts. Audio even provides a little entertainment factor that doesn’t make it seem like a chore to read.