The Global Head of Communications at LivePerson, a global technology company that develops conversational commerce and AI software headquartered in New York City, turned on a podcast while commuting to work one day. His first thought was “why aren’t we doing this?”. The rest is history.
LivePerson uses podcasting in a host of different ways. We held a webinar with Hollie Ellison, Sr. Director of Communications, who shares her examples of how they’ve used podcasting to give a voice to their newly remote teams. Before podcasting, a small group of employees were publishing write-ups covering wins, while others hardly promoted their efforts at all. Not every accomplishment received equal recognition and it was impossible to verify who was taking the time to read about them. In response, LivePerson created a platform to recognize not just the usual champions, but all of their deserving team members. With a simple 20-30 minute conversation, employees are able to gain exposure, educate others, and even give more meaningful credit across teams.
In the recording, you’ll hear Hollie explain how a private podcast can simplify and streamline corporate communications and ultimately give colleagues a sense of connectedness. She shares insights on how LivePerson successfully transitioned town halls and sales write-ups to podcasts, along with tips for getting up and running quickly as a podcast beginner.
Here are some highlights:
(2:15) Hollie commented: "The problem we were looking to solve is how do we feed our global employees regularly cadenced information efficiently without the heavy lift of some of our traditional formats?"
(4:24) Hollie on employee podcast usage: "…it's easy to access for employees. Not asking them to take time throughout their day to attend yet another meeting, but really allowing people to access this content wherever they are, whenever they'd like to, on their commute when we all used to commute places and so on and so forth."
(11:41) Hollie said about employee participation: "And it's a really low lift way, a low risk way to elevate those different voices, showcase different people from across the company and really dig into content and discussions in a way that we just didn't have available to us previously, before podcasting."
(19:02) What's next for LivePerson? Hollie offers: "…we're reviewing our internal communication strategy as a whole. This whole new world that we're all trying to navigate, and determine what our employees need, and how to best connect them, and keep them informed. And really want to look deep into how we can best leverage uStudio and its capabilities and podcasting as a forum to better connect."
So hello everyone. That's me. Hi, I'm Hollie Ellison on the comms team at LivePerson. And I was asked today to share with you how we leveraged podcasting to simplify some of our internal communications. So today, I'm going to go through the problem we were looking to solve when we started considering podcasts, how we netted out as podcasting as a great solution for us, what we did to get the program off the ground. And where we are now and how we're looking to scale.
First things first, LivePerson is a conversational AI company which, very simply put means, we provide technology that allows some of the world's biggest brands to connect with our customers through a combination of automated conversations and human agents. And a little bit of context about what our company is like, just so you know where all my remarks today are coming from, we are public and we are not new. We are public for over 20 years, founded over 25 years ago by our founder and CEO. We have around 1200 employees and growing. And before COVID, we were in 18 global offices around the world.
We have, since now went to a fully remote model. And are testing with some hybrid working spaces in some of our major hubs. And I'm bringing that up because I'm sure anyone listening to this is dealing with some similar issues in that, trying to determine how to best communicate with employees in this very complicated world that we live in. I also threw onto this slide that we're a comms team of two, just to emphasize that all of the things that I'm talking about today were not done with some massive team. We really did it in a grassroots level.
The problem we were looking to solve is how do we feed our global employees regularly cadenced information efficiently without the heavy lift of some of our traditional formats? Some of those being live broadcast town halls, which we do on a quarterly basis and, when we were in offices, would require the full blown production of live streaming, IT, speaker rehearsals decks, what have you. We'd also do a lot of long form videos. So, if there was an important business initiative to talk about, we would get an executive or business leader in a room, get the camera crew, write the script, do the filming, and then spend a few days editing. And, of course, all of our favorite, the old written content, which really would vary anything inconsistently from a paragraph from some people to a full blown 12 page white paper from others. Lots of editing, sign-offs, what have you. You send them out through an email and you don't really know how it's consumed.
So I'm not saying that we don't do any of these things anymore, but we can't do a lot of them. With so much happening, we're a very innovative company, always something going on. We can't do this for every bit of news. So then, we thought to ourselves, "Hmm, everybody seems to be podcasting these days. And surely, everybody's listening to one. So, I wonder if that could be an option for us?" We thought it appealed to us because we could do some impromptu recording and the production on the back end wouldn't be as heavy of a lift. We could have conversations with the business leaders, or the teams who are doing cool things around the company and not have it so scripted, or have to deal with formal presentations. And it's easy to access for employees. Not asking them to take time throughout their day to attend yet another meeting, but really allowing people to access this content wherever they are, whenever they'd like to, on their commute when we all used to commute places and so on and so forth.
Some of the things that were important to us, as a company, when we were exploring this podcasting as a enterprise solution was, first and foremost, it needed to be secure. Security is paramount as it is for any business really. I don't need to explain why. But we wanted to not have any of this sensitive internal information easily downloadable and [forward-able 00:05:16] throughout. We wanted to have a great UX. If we were going to have podcasts, it should walk and talk like a podcast. We want it to look like any podcast app that you would access for your personal information... For your personal use, rather.
Needed to be easy to administer. As mentioned, it's really just me so I didn't want to have to deal with developers and submitting tickets every time I needed to upload, or make changes on the back end. Analytics was very important. None of our internal communications platforms up to discovering uStudio really provided that level of insight into how much people were consuming our information. And to what extent. You just can't get that when you just send out a blind Google Drive link. And accessible for employees. We didn't want to launch all whole new thing that we were expecting people to proactively log into to get. So, we wanted something where we could just grab a link, share it out in the forums in which they're already used to, and access the content from there.
So, needless to say, uStudio checked all those boxes. Otherwise, it would be quite bizarre that they'd ask me to speak with you today. So, once we had uStudio in place, it's like, "Okay, now what? How do we begin to podcast?" And I put a Slack message on our New York City channel just saying, "Hey, does anyone know anything about podcasting and equipment?" And I swear, like within 30 minutes, I had six guys up on my desk who had set up elaborate podcasting studios for their own personal use in their homes. And one thing I learned quickly is that people who podcast love talking about podcasting, that's for sure.
So, I netted on this cool piece of equipment RODECaster Pro, which is a standalone piece that I didn't have to worry about recording through my computer. And I could have multiple microphones. I could have callers. I could have people dialed in if they weren't there in the office with me. So, a neat tidy piece of equipment at a relatively low cost. I took over a small conference room. I had been setting everything up, taking it down until the CEO asked me one day. He was like, "Why do you keep doing that? Why don't you just take over the room?" And I said, "I'll consider that a green light to take over this conference room." And I wanted to make it fun. So I got like an On Air light outside, even before we launched, just to build some excitement and hype before we even published our first episode.
How do we edit the thing? Sure, the story is, "Oh, yes, you just hit record and then get it out there." We all know things need to be edited to some extent. And it was so much easier than I ever anticipated it. I used Garage... I still use GarageBand, which comes on every Mac. And I really looked at a couple YouTube tutorials and figured it out myself for the most part. I did have, through a connection of mine, a 60 minute tutorial where I hired someone to come and just look over my shoulder. And, from there, look at that, voila, I became a podcaster.
Now, what to put on this enterprise podcast network that we were creating? And it did start out, we were calling it the LivePerson Podcast Network. We've since rebranded to Inside LivePerson because we went to more video focused content. More on that later. Really, at first, all the content we put out there was generated by our communications team. And we would have interviews with business leaders about different initiatives, or big wins that our sales team had. Everything went through us and we produced it, put it up there. And we quickly realized that's not scalable. And also, nobody wants to only hear from me. How do we change up the voices there while still having an element of control from communications? So, we thought through what... And it was a lot of trial and error, some testing and learning to see how do we involve others from across the organization, into our programming and network?
I think it's probably best just to use one of our shows as an example. Our AI at LP show, which is one of the programming streams on our Inside LivePerson Network. One of our business initiatives with us being an AI company is to make sure that all of our employees globally are fluent in artificial intelligence. And can talk intelligently about it with their customers, or at a dinner party. So, I identified, "Hey, podcasting might be a great way for them to get their information out to the company and have discussions, real discussions with the people across our teams who are building this incredible stuff that we do, that we produce.
So, from there, I sat with them to develop the concept and did some training on how to run these interviews. And that kind of format of finding areas within the business and people who were excited to have this forum, it's like a creative outlet that so many people are curious about. And it's a really low lift way, a low risk way to elevate those different voices, showcase different people from across the company and really dig into content and discussions in a way that we just didn't have available to us previously, before podcasting.
So since we launched right before COVID in February 2020, we have 210 episodes out there from across our myriad shows. And Bot Talk, I have to give a shout out in case my team is listening to me, where we just have two passionate people who are conversational AI experts, Chris and [Dr-ina 00:12:29], and they talk about things just out there in the world. So it's like a cool, reliable content source that changes things up a bit.
I was asked to dive into a little bit more about how we onboard new shows, and how we scale it. So, I really work with the individuals. And, again, sometimes it's me reaching out. Like seeing areas across the business where I just think, "Ooh, this could be well served by a show." Or sometimes they come to me with an idea and we'll work together on a creative brief. So, sometimes if somebody's an engineer, they're not going to have their head around the concept. So we could work it through to really define what the show is going to be and give it a really distinct intent. We'll establish an editorial calendar. What does the first three, five months worth of content look like? How would you imagine that looking? What sort of topics? We then design episode prep docs very much akin to how we would prep one of our executives for like a interview with a publication externally.
For every episode, we look through, what do you want to achieve? What are the lessons learned? What are some sample questions to really align? And what I found is even people, even if they don't have any experience in like comms per se, they get it. And I don't want to be too overbearing because we want everyone's unique je ne sais quoi to come through and their personality. So, I don't want to be heavy handed while still being a resource for them. If they need additional equipment to do it well, if they've committed to this regular cadence of a show, most of the time, it's really just giving people a good microphone for $100. And since we are doing more video based shows now, we just use Zoom or Google Meet or StreamYard, whatever that person might be comfortable with, and they could record it from there. And, again, the first couple times we make sure all the recording is set so that we could do great post production work, which leads us to editing and producing.
So, yes, I learned how to edit audio podcasts on my own via GarageBand once we started getting into video, a bit out of my skill set. And also, now we're talking about scaling this. I can't exactly quit my day job and just do that all day as fun as it may be. So we learned of, and have continued to use this third-party vendor who will take editing notes, and produce the podcast for us. So, that's another thing that I helped onboard our Inside LivePerson talent on. How to take a transcript of a video and do some simple timestamp editing and notes for us to send to this third-party. And for a nominal fee, and I really need nominal, under a couple hundred dollars, they can produce these videos, give us the final product back. I then upload it to our platform, and we publish it and promote it to our company.
Another great way we started using an opportunity we recognized with our uStudio platform on board is it could be a great place to house existing, regular release scheduled content. That was a lot of words. What I mean by that is I'm going to take our Made in the GPT show, as an example. Made in GPT is a monthly event that was already happening across our company. And every month, there's an hour long session where they deep dive into a new product, or feature, or solution on our product team. After that live event, the recording link, typically like a Google Drive link, would be emailed out to the whole company. But then that's it. It's just like in an email which comes and goes into the ether. And there's no metrics and no understanding of is anyone absorbing that? Is anyone ever going to find it again? Probably not.
So I worked with my colleague, who runs that Made in the GPT program. I was like, "Let's create a show for it." So, now, he still runs his Made in the GPT live events, as he did in the past but now with the recordings. We upload them all up into uStudio under the Made in the GPT show. And now, he has a link to it. Now, there's a beautiful archive that's easily accessible for all his past shows. So, when there's new employees onboarding they could get up to speed, or kind of get more in the mix and dive in, in a very familiar looking podcast housing format. And also just for reference.
And now, he also has insights into how many people are watching, and how are they consuming that content afterwards, in addition to the people who attend it live. So, it's really become a one stop shop and doesn't have to be necessarily like a long-term commitment. Sometimes like an LP Cafe show, which you'll see our cute logo for, was just really in the early days of the pandemic, a series that our HR team ran. So, we're not producing new content for it, but we have it. And we have it archived in a beautiful place. And for our employee resource groups too, you'll see our live and color team can has their content. So it's a win, win, win.
What's next for us here at LivePerson? Well, we're reviewing our internal communication strategy as a whole. This whole new world that we're all trying to navigate, and determine what our employees need, and how to best connect them, and keep them informed. And really want to look deep into how we can best leverage uStudio and its capabilities and podcasting as a forum to better connect. We can't just run into people in the kitchen any longer and say, "Oh, hey, nice to meet you. Oh, what you're you're in from Seattle? Oh, what do you do?" This is a great platform for us to even expand to know who's who, who does what?
We're experiencing extreme growth at the moment, so how do we best leverage it? And a lot of that is taking a real deep look at our analytics and determining what formats work best. So we can make some really critical decisions about the type of content. And also, the formats that we use. Do people like short? Long? That's something that we haven't really gotten into the meat of yet. And, of course, refining our production process just to make it a bit more seamless along the way and scalable.
In conclusion, I would say to don't overthink it. It's definitely a much lighter lift than many of the traditional formats that anyone involved in internal comms is familiar with. And it's a real low barrier to entry, nominal in terms of costs and effort. And there's so much information out there, figure it out just to start testing and learning. And just treat it what it is. It's fun. It's conversations instead of stressing out about decks, and just listening to someone talk to a deck like I am right now. It's a whole new way to absorb information and to share things. And to get to know the personalities behind so many of your company efforts.
So with that, those were my prepared remarks. And apologies that my present mode was not cooperating. I'm going to stop my share right now.
Thanks Hollie. Looks like we have-
We have some questions. So, Caitlyn is asking, "How do you recommend doing podcast recordings if your employees are remote for recording? Is there any sort of call in function that you use?"
Yeah. Well, now that we are using video based podcasts, it's really like this recording right here that I can make a podcast out of. It's really that simple. You could take a recording of a Google Meet, or a Zoom, and turn that into a podcast.
I got a little equipment crazy. I loved having the gear. It was kind of fun. Not to mention our New York City office was like a block away from B&H like the mega center for all things AV in the world. And there was a neat... In the ROADCaster Pro that we bought, you can have wifi, you can have people call in essentially through your phones. You can connect your phone. But the easiest, the simplest, even if you don't use video, you could use the audio from a Zoom.
Yeah. Something I'll also add is there's tools like Squadcast is one of them and Zencastr where it's like an online desktop app that you can use. That's like $20 a month or something. So, those are good tools also.
Another attendee is asking, "How long would you say it takes you, from start to finish, to create a podcast episode, including storyboarding, interviewing and editing?
That's a very good question. And there is a learning curve. I would say in the beginning, it was a day long affair. I think now we're down to it. And also, our employees are getting used to it and now that they know, it doesn't take so much with preparation, we'll just have a quick prep call. So, I figure there's an hour spent on prep, including like a quick call with the team, just to go over. Recording, I'd say probably four hours with an asterisk, discovering resonate recordings, and being able to just outsource it to them with some production notes has been a big time saver.
A follow-up question from me. So, how does that compare to like the town halls and the previous write-ups that you explained at the beginning of your presentation? How does that time compare to those efforts?
I know that's a very leading question, but town halls are like a week of my life from start to finish. And it's not that those are gone. It's just that I can't have a town hall for every new initiative and thing that we need to be talking about so, significant. And I feel like just the fact that when you like put the term podcast on it, just by its nature, I think it puts people in a more casual mindset. Our town halls are fairly formal, and produced and rehearsed. And the creative team is doing all the decks and design. And the IT team, it's not a walk in the park for them either.
Yeah. Another question. "So, what problem do you find podcasting is solving for your internal communications?"
I think it's filling in the blanks for some of the initiatives that, otherwise, would be lost in the abyss of emails. We also don't have... We used to, we no longer have an intranet, so they're having a repository of this information just in its own right is solving a lot of problems for us. So, in terms of being able to access all these assets we're creating, there's so much being created on a daily basis. And we have a new employee resource source group every other week it seems. So, how do you get the most mileage out of it? How do you leverage all this work people are doing in producing great stuff to share with the company? So, I think those are a couple of the biggest benefits for us.
And then, the last question here. "So what percentage of your employees currently engage with your podcast episodes?"
Who's asking the numbers questions to a comms person? That's a very good question. And it's something that is on my list of analytics. We need to dig further into and pay more our attention to our repeat users versus our net new. And those new people who attend, who engage with content are they coming back? So, of our 1200 employees, we do know that pretty much everyone, at some point, engages with content hosted there. And we create pretty compelling content that is there. After we have our quarterly downloads, that's where the recording is. So, can never say 100% of the people are like actively engaging. And then, we have really niche programming too, where people could geek out over some of like the AI type of content. So percentages, I'm not even going to go there. So, it's hard for me to quantify that without having those stats in front of me. But for the broad business information, it's where people access the content.
Thank you. Do you have a favorite podcast show that LivePerson produces?
This is me determining who's going to listen to this and be like, "Ha, how did you not pick my show?" I have to give the award though, to Bot Talk, just because my two colleagues on my marketing team, Chris and Drina really have committed to really robust programming, and an editorial calendar that they cut to. And they talk about things both inside our company and outside. And they're so good and they have such a great rapport. I called them Regis and Kathy Lee, but then I realized I was dating myself and they didn't know who I was talking about. But just their unbridled enthusiasm for all things bots, and automation, and the possibilities of AI. So good that I'm even thinking of, "Hey, how do we get them a real podcast?" So, I'm going-
Have to give my vote to Bot Talk.
Okay now, last question. We just keep getting some good ones. "So what kind of analytics does uStudio provide?" And I can also-
Yeah, I was going to say, I'll need you to fill in the blanks, but we're able to see how many people have access to content. I could see what shows are trending, and then what episodes within those shows are trending. So, at a glance, if my Bot Talk crew, they want to know, "Oh, hey, how many people listened to that last episode?" I could tell them. If they want to know what's our most popular episode ever? I could tell them even within date ranges. So, one of my KPIs, like just as part of comms is how many minutes listened. And we're playing with what are the best measurements of success for this platform. But I'm able to set it from Jan 1 to current date. And see that in our overarching dashboard.
You could get very granular. I could see by distribution, since it's connected with our single sign-on and on our Google directory, I could see depending on team who's active. So, if I wanted to see how many people in our product organization, or our sales organization are accessing specific content, I could see that. And you could also see what percentage of a specific episode they've listened to. So, did they just like pop in, and they're like, "This... [inaudible 00:31:45]." Or are they listening to 25, 50, 75, 100% of it. So, you could really tell engagement from it too not just, "Oh, somebody just popped in and left." I'm sure I'm missing mounds of it, but that's why I said too, that's on my to-do list is to really understand which of those many metrics are the most meaningful for our situation to help us plan our growth forward.
Yeah, no, definitely. I think the named user function is really helpful, especially also with promotion to see who isn't engaging, who do we need to push a little more to listen. And then, there's time of day and the device they used, things like that to really let you better understand their exact habits of how they're listening. But I think you got the big ones.
Yeah. Well, and it was recently brought to my attention from my uStudio team that, "Hey, everyone's listening through the desktop." Very small, or it's at least it's really shrunk the number of people using the awesome mobile app that we have. So that is why. And now as I'm learning, like our single sign off it could be a little complicated. So now, I'm able to work with your team to figure out is there a way and connecting my tech team with your engineers for streamlining that so we can ensure the usage as we've envisioned it?
Yeah, definitely. I think especially now, so many of us are working from home as well. As you can see, both me and Hollie are at home, but-
Yeah. And my dog Lily, who's not interested in this whatsoever.
Well, I think, we went about over time. So, I might go ahead and wrap us up. But thank you, Hollie for a great presentation. Again, to our attendees, this webinar was recorded and we will send a follow-up email to everyone with the recording link. The recording will be available in our uStudio trial app in our Let's Get Podding webinar series podcast show.
So if you do not have a trial with uStudio and you would like to view the replay, you can download our app for free in either the Apple Store or Google Play. Once prompted after opening the app, enter TRIAL, all capitalized, as your company code. And if there's any confusion, these steps will be listed in our follow-up email.
If you'd like to learn more about uStudio, you can visit our website at ustudio.com. Thank you so much. And we hope to see you in the future in our next Let's Get Podding webinar. Have a great day, everyone. Thank you.