Josh Williamson is a Senior Technology Analyst at Astellas Pharma, a Tokyo-based pharmaceutical company with US headquarters in Northbrook, Illinois. The company is focused on improving the health and well-being of people around the world through product innovation and reliability. In a recent webinar, we talked about why they are using private podcasting for corporate learning and employee engagement. Josh shares his insights on the types of learning that podcasting can deliver and how the company has scaled its program to support multiple initiatives and remote business teams.
In particular, Astellas wanted to develop a learning program that delivered small, digestible pieces of content. These micro-learning modules needed to be available to employees in a convenient way accessible when they had free time to stream the content. What’s nice about streaming audio content is that it supports multitasking, increasingly a priority among learning programs.
Here are a few highlights from the Webinar. And don’t forget to click on the the full transcript and recording if you’d like to get all of the great information that Astellas shared:
(2:55) Josh speaks about just-in-time learning: "So if you have a learner who is…in the office, maybe they are out and about, but they have a specific need. Can you reach them in the moment of that need? That’s just-in-time learning. A lot of times a podcast can fit that description really easily. A lot of times podcasts are easy to pull up. They are available on mobile devices readily, and a lot of times you can tag that content so it's easy to find.”
(6:19) Josh goes on to talk about word-of-mouth sharing: "If I were involved in an episode, and say I was a rep out in the field, and I was either a guest speaker, or maybe I recorded some music and I sang on the intro, I would be able then to share that with my colleagues and say, "Listen, did you hear episode five of show number six?" That was me on the recording. That was me in the intro." And that sort of recommendation, you're not going to be able to beat with marketing. Word of mouth recommendation is the best possible recommendation you can have."
(8:11) On requirements, Josh offered: "One of our requirements was that we needed to segment content. We needed to be able to say that content A is only available to group A, and then content B is only available to group B. They can't see both sections' of content… uStudio is actually a tool that does that for us. And it works with our existing employee data, and is able to segment content based on who the users are.
(14:00) Josh on gathering feedback shared: "Is that content impactful? Is it meaningful? Is learning transfer happening? Is it actually helping them in their day to day roles? Or is it something that isn't quite applicable to them? That feedback then drives the next episode, drives the next show, and you can begin to step back and alter some of that content if needed. This becomes an endless loop, and that way your content is meaningful, and it's more likely to be consumed and absorbed."
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Hello, everyone. I'm so happy to be here with you this afternoon. Thank you so much to uStudio for having me. Again, my name is Josh Williamson and I am a senior technical analyst with commercial learning and development at Astellas Pharma US. A couple things about me. I currently manage the virtual classroom design and production for commercial learning and development, and partner with my team on sourcing adult learning technologies, as well as administering and managing our podcast platform, and our video production.
So one thing before I get started, just real quickly, I have a quick disclaimer, I'm going to pop up here. I'm not going to read the whole thing, but basically my opinions and my thoughts today are that of my own. And they do not directly necessarily reflect Astellas's opinions.
All right, so today I'm super excited to have some time with you all to talk about podcasting. Specifically, why podcast and why I use uStudio. And then I'm going to spend some time talking about what I currently podcast, and give you some ideas, maybe to help spark some interest and some thoughts on your side about what you could also be podcasting. And then finally, I'm going to look at where we started and where we are today, and what we're looking at for the future.
So a couple of things that I like to think about when I'm thinking about content creation, and I'm thinking about learners in general, especially in a corporate environment, is I always think about the why. Why are we creating this content and how are we going to reach them? So a lot of times when I'm thinking about podcasting, the first thing that I tend to think about is in relationship to a remote sales force, or groups of people who are out and about throughout their day. They're not tied to a desk. These learners, a lot of times, are easily reached with podcast content. A lot of times video or logging into a learning management system isn't the easiest thing for them to do, especially why they are out and about, driving from customer to customer or going from location to location. Capturing them where they are, or being able to provide content where they are is key. And so if you can provide them some sort of learning content in that moment, while they have some windshield time, that's a great place to reach them. So that's one area of podcasting that I really think of about when I talk about the why, and really think about that learner.
The next part that I tend to gravitate towards is that just in time learning. So if you have a learner who is ... Maybe they're in the office, maybe they are out and about, but they have a specific need. Can you reach them in the moment of that need? That just in time learning. A lot of times a podcast can fit that description really easily. A lot of times podcasts are easy to pull up. They are available on mobile devices readily, and a lot of times you can tag that content so it's easy to find.
The other thing that I think about when I'm thinking about why in podcast is I'm thinking about how to reach that learner in their transient time as well. So that supplemental learning is a term that I like to use. It's going to be the type types of learning that is in addition to what they're required to do. It's also user driven. And so that really lends itself to a podcast, because the user is in control of when they see it, how long that they are consuming it, and what they do after it. Do they go back and re-listen, do they share it with a colleague? That type of supplemental learning really lends itself well to a podcast.
I also think about leadership discussions when I'm thinking about podcasting, whether it is a line manager, or if you start working your way up to executives, being able to reach an audience with quick hit podcasts are a great way to keep in touch and to show that leadership is active. It's a great way to convey messages instead of sending an email, or instead of spending time, and usually money, creating videos. A lot of times you could a podcast on a much lower budget and still be just as effective. The other thing that I'm excited about with respect to podcasts are pre-meeting prep, and post-meeting pull through. I feel like these areas lend themselves to podcasts, because it's something that you can create pretty quick. You can get in the hands of your users also very quickly, and it is easy to access. It's also something that it really kind of lends itself to the supplemental learning as well. It might not be the first time they're hearing this content. Say if they're going to an external meeting or an offsite meeting, they at pre-meeting prep is exposing them to this content ahead of time. They then attend that meeting, have some great sessions, and then afterwards you can continue to pull through the topics and the presentations through that same podcast.
And there's a lot more to potentially discuss, but the one thing our round out with that I'm excited about for future of podcasting really comes down to crowdsourcing content. I'm excited about the idea of not having to create content in learning and development, but being able to use [inaudible 00:05:58] and have them help you create content. Crowdsourcing content is a great way to make sure that the content matches their need. It's coming from the users. It's homegrown.
And what that also lends itself to is word of mouth sharing. If I were involved in an episode, and say I was a rep out in the field, and I was either a guest speaker, or maybe I recorded some music and I sang on the intro, I would be able then to share that with my colleagues and say, "Listen, did you hear episode five of show number six?" That was me on the recording. That was me on the intro." And that sort of recommendation, you're not going to be able to beat with marketing. Word of mouth recommendation is the best possible recommendation you can have.
So let's talk a little bit about uStudio, and why I chose uStudio. I'm going to give you some examples of my plan in getting up and running. So if you're already podcasting, this might be something you've already done. If you are currently looking to podcast a little deeper or start, this might be a format that you can follow, or at least guide you in your process.
The first thing that I would all always recommend starting with is what you are currently doing. Are there groups in your organization that are podcasting, and maybe you don't know about it? They might be able to help you or guide you in your process. Maybe you can share some resources and take advantage of what you currently have at your organization.
If you do start talking internally and you're figuring out that some things might be missing the bar just a little bit, then I recommend creating a requirements document. Creating something that's going to help guide you in your search and help you find a tool or a solution that's going to help you be more impactful. And then the fun part happens. You're you're able to then start searching and finding the right tool. So an example of this would be ... One of our requirements was that we needed a segment content. We needed to be able to say that content A is only available to group A, and then content B is only available to group B. They can't see both sections content.
So uStudio is actually a tool that does that for us. And it works with our existing employee data, and is able to segment content based on who the users are. That was one of our biggest requirements, and then we were able to find a tool that fit that requirement.
And then finally, once you find that right tool, you can then plan for launch. And I honestly have plan on there three times for a reason. Because this planning stage is the most important stage, no matter what tool you find, if it's the best tool on the face of the earth, if you don't plan for that launch and really have a communication method, and a plan of action all the way through, your launch might fall a little bit short. And so planning is really key once you find that right tool, to make sure that you're able to reach those users and they know how to get in and access all of your content.
So that's more of a macro view. I would like to dive in for a second and talk about the steps of deployment that have worked for me. So that first step actually starts in that internal phase, and it's creating an evaluation group. And that could be a group that is in your department. It could also extend outside of your department, and be a little more cross-functional, and allow potential users that would help you make decisions. And that evaluation group is key, because it's going to help you make decisions down the road. And like we talked about earlier, determining requirements is really that good next step, to make sure you have a plan of what your tool needs to accomplish, and then maybe what it doesn't need to accomplish, so you can stay on track.
And I mentioned earlier, having some cross-functional partners. Some members that might be a part of that evaluation group, but might also just be there in a support capacity. So think about your HR members, your legal, your compliance. Anyone that might actually have a higher up decision making process than you or your team, you need them on your side from the very beginning. That way, as you progress throughout these steps, you always have someone who is there in your corner. That cross-functional support group will also help drive the direction of the evaluation group. They begin to work together to make sure that you are coming up with a holistic approach to podcasting, and it's not disjunct. It satisfies the needs of your entire organization, or at least the greater needs of your group.
And then I can't stress enough how important it is to have technology in your corner. Whether it's an IT team, whether it's a systems management team that helps manage technology, anyone who touches technology with your group or with your organization, if you can get them with you every step of the way, they're going to be much more willing to help you, and also work with you and compromise if there are things you need to compromise with. I can't tell you how many times that, especially in technology, if you're brought in early, you are so much more willing to help than if you're brought in at the last minute and all the decisions have already been made. It's going to be really tough to get an ally at that point. So the sooner that you can get those technology teams involved, the absolute better.
And so at this time, we're kind of getting into that finding the right tool section above. And as you're looking for the right tool, I encourage you to really dive into that marketing campaign. And this is where the planning phase begins as well. So you're thinking about the tool, you're thinking about how it's going to impact that user, and you're thinking about how you're going to tell everybody that you're launching this new tool.
As you find that right tool, you eventually settle on the solution for you. Now you can start to think about your content. And I'm not going to talk about the actual production of the content today, the recording, the editing, and the distribution. Not really going to talk about that. That's probably best for another conversation. But at this time, you're thinking about the content that you're going to create. You're probably thinking about some talent, some people who most likely in your organization can read through some scripts, be engaging, be exciting, identifying subject matter experts to talk about their content, and you're probably starting to plan those episodes now, along with your marketing for each episode, or each show.
And then you're ready to launch. Once you have that content created, you've got your tool identified, your marketing campaign is ready to go, then you're ready for your launch. And once you launch, it's not the first time that users are hearing about it, because if you had a strong marketing campaign, they're already realizing and they're already aware what you're doing.
And finally, the final step that I have that sometimes is forgotten about is feedback. And it's not necessarily feedback about user experience. That's great, but for me, I care more about the content feedback. Is that content impactful? Is it meaningful? Is learning transfer happening? Is it actually helping them in their day to day roles? Or is it something that isn't quite applicable to them? That feedback then drives the next episode, drives the next show, and you can begin to step back and alter some of that content if needed. This becomes an endless loop, and that way your content is meaningful, and it's more likely to be consumed and absorbed.
So that was a lot. I know there was a lot there. And like Zoe said, if you do you have questions, I would love to take those as we get towards the end of the session. So please type those in. I would love to interact with you.
I'm going to spend a little bit of time now talking about what to podcast. Because sometimes this is a great question on, "What do I do to podcast? I don't know where to start." And if you're just starting out, I want to recommend that you repurpose existing content. But only to a certain extent. I'm going to caveat that a little bit. If you don't have any podcast content now, a great way to get up and running is to maybe take a webinar that you have. Maybe it's a 60 minute webinar. You can cut that up a little bit and part it out. Maybe you have 20 minute episodes and you've got four of them. Then you have the beginning of a podcast series there. You could bookend it with some music and you could end each episode with a call to the next one, because you already have all that content. That's a way to generate interest and some content and get podcasting rolling. After you accomplish that though, I would encourage you to then think about crafting and creating podcast specific content. And so those could be lots of different things. I'm not going to talk about every single one of these, but I have some favorites that stick out to me.
I want you to realize that podcasting is just another form of media. It's nothing groundbreaking. It's just audio. And it's just another way to reach your learner. So some things might lend itself to a podcast a little bit better than others.
One thing that sticks out to me are leadership interviews. That's a way to get a leader in front of an audience really quickly, and it's a pretty low level bar, right? Just to get an audio episode recorded, maybe do some light editing, and then get that out to your audience. It can be a casual conversation. It can be an interview, it can be something more formal where you have a panel, lots of different options. But that's a really easy way to get leadership involved and generate excitement about podcasting.
Another one that's interesting and unique to me and my thinking is how you might be able to use a podcast to enforce or help expose a sales contest. So sales forces are very contest driven at times. They're very competitive. What if you were able to use a podcast to help launch that sales contest and provide updates? It could be very short, it could be very accessible. As soon as that episode is published, the user would probably get a notification on their phone. They could hear the update on the sales contest, maybe hear some quick key points about how to continue to be successful, and then move on. You could even announce the winners of this podcast that way. So that might be something really enjoyable to have from a sales point of view.
The other thing that I would recommend, that unfortunately we haven't had a chance to do yet but I'm very interested in, is doing a live from podcast. And if you're able to do a live from podcast that might work better for a show that is already established. Something that already has episodes to it, you might already have panelists and interviewers already, and you could have them meet at a live location. Maybe you're at an offsite meeting or a POA, and you can actually interview people live. Maybe in a large room, you can grab them casually as they're walking through the hall, and then what you could do is work to get that published really quickly. Maybe by the next day. So the next day of that live meeting, you could then start to generate some interest around maybe the upcoming sessions for the day, or the topics from the previous day, and that might be really fun to do more of a less edited, more casual live episode.
All right. So let's talk about where currently we sit. I would love to share with you a little bit of our journey and where we've come with podcasting. So we started officially podcasting in uStudio in 2019. And we launched with about five episodes and ... Sorry, five shows. And it was about 23 episodes. Our target was one specific sales force that was already podcasting, and it was around 250 individuals. Flash forward a little bit to today, and we are up 13 shows with about 118 episodes live in our app right now. We typically only keep episodes live for a certain amount of time. So sometimes we pull them and update them and relaunch them if there's content that has changed, or we might pull some episodes and replace them with different episodes entirely. And right now we are over 1000 individuals in our podcast app, and that's a overwhelming majority of our sales force currently.
So as I begin to wrap up my basic content here, and I would love to begin to hear from you on some potential questions you have. So if I've said anything that has sparked a question or a thought, if you want to share how you're currently podcasting and some successes, I would love to hear that from you and share that with the group as well.
A couple of big learnings that I took from this, from our launch to today, is really to be flexible and have that flexibility with recording as well as your post-production. So a little bit of backstory for me. Personally, I'm a musician, I'm trained in audio engineering and mixing and editing, and I also perform in the Chicago area. And so I have a pretty good idea, at least in my head, of what I think is professional. And a lot of times, especially being in a remote or a hybrid environment, it's pretty tricky to get that super high quality, high fidelity level of audio with very few mistakes and pristine quality.
One thing I've had to realize is not all of your productions of podcasts can necessarily be studio quality. You're not producing a platinum album every single time you publish an episode. And that's okay. And I think that's great. The ums and ahhs, maybe the dog barking in the background, that's fine, because that's life. That's where we are right now. And I think it brings a sense of humility and understanding to your content if it's not pristine and shiny and produced in a Abbey Road Studios. So be flexible in your recording. If you have Zoom, if you have another webinar tool, or you're able to record your conference calls, that's fine. There's nothing wrong with that.
And then as you begin to grow your program, you can always begin to invest in better technology, better hardware, better software, maybe even more headcount to help you do this. It doesn't have to be the largest production and the best e-learning that you've ever made, because a lot of, what's happening? People are listening on their phones. They've got earbuds in, they might have their phone on speaker phone, as they do some work around the house. Think about how you consume podcasting. You're probably not going to notice the difference on a phone, between FLAC lossless audio and MP3 audio. So that was one big learning for me is to be able to take a step back and to be able to work with what you have, and that helps you reach your learners even faster.
And finally, spending time in that marketing communication was a big learning for us. We have some episodes that took off. And the reason that they took off is because they were supported with great communication, with a great plan, and great follow up. Other episodes and shows that we've launched didn't quite gain the legs that we were hoping. And usually that's because they were not communicated well enough. So the more time that you can spend in your pre-production, and marketing, and figuring out how you're going to get your users into your podcast, and generate the excitement about that content, the better.
Like I said earlier, you cannot replace a personal recommendation. So one thing we have started to gravitate towards is using quotes from your employees, and being able to quote in a follow up email about a certain part of an episode that really resonated with them. Maybe from a leader, maybe from a manager, and as a hourly employee or as someone who is not a people manager, if they see that their manager is recommending that, that's going to carry so much more weight than any email will.
So at this point, that's all of the content that I have prepared. I would love to hear from you if you have any questions, or if you have any thoughts, we've got a few minutes remaining. About four minutes left. Zoe, I'll pass it to you, and I'd love to hear from the audience.
Yeah. So it looks like we have some questions coming in. Rachel asked, "What are some of the benefits you've experienced by using uStudio to host and distribute your podcast? Have you seen a barrier to entry, or do you have an engaged audience?" And then next, "What are some of the ways you continue to engage your audience?"
Yeah, that's a great question, Rachel. Thank you so much for asking. The engagement is always an uphill battle. I'm not going to lie once you publish an episode, it's really hard to get them back to that episode. A lot of times it comes to posting another one. We definitely have noticed a few dips in between publishing days. We do our best to publish on a routine basis, so that way people begin to know and expect when an episode is going to drop. That isn't always possible. So as far as engagement goes, one of the things that have really helped us is in that marketing campaign, having a pre communication, a pre-launch email go out, setting the stage for what's going to happen. Having that launch communication or that episode drop communication go out, and then a week later, maybe two weeks later, following up with subsequent emails, maybe sharing a thought from a leader, maybe sharing a quote reminding them that other episodes exist. And obviously weighing that email fatigue a little bit. Knowing when you're going to communicate is always key.
I hope that helped. I hope that captured most of those questions. I realize there was a couple there. If you have a follow up, please ask again and I would love to engage with you. Yeah.
Okay. The next question is, what types of topics seem to resonate most with your workforce?
Yeah. Yeah, that's a good question. So for us, at least where I sit, I'm in learning and development. So a lot of our podcasts are either product specific, they might be sales or selling method specific. More focused on training. That being said though, we have other types of podcasts that are more general. That are open to the public of our company. And the leadership episodes are usually pretty positive, great feedback on, we actually just launched an employee impact group podcast. Our African American employee impact group put together a podcast during Black History Month. And that was really popular with our company, and got some great feedback about those leadership interviews. They were short, they were just in time, it was great in the moment to cover some topics that were at top of mind. And we had some great feedback about that.
Great. So how do you measure engagement with your podcasts in ROI?
Yeah, that's a really good question. So that's something that we have started doing more recently. For us, we're looking at engagement as, are they in the app? Are they getting to an episode? And are they re-listening? Those are really the three major ones. So are there any barriers to them getting in the app? Is there a discrepancy of users who are in the app, but who aren't listening to any content? And if they are listening to content, that's great. We've checked two boxes. Are they going back and listening to content more than once? If not, okay, that's fine. Some content might not warrant a second or a third listen, unless they actually need it in the moment.
The other thing that we are looking at is that crowdsourcing of content. We found that that helps users be a little more engaged. And again, we talked about recommending and word of mouth. If someone recommends an episode that they're involved in or something that they had a hand in creating, we find that those episodes are much more popular and users really are engaged. They're sharing that episode more often than not. They're talking about it with their peers.
One thing that we would like to do more of is more of that ROI, that return on investment. Is there a learning shift that's happening? And that might come a couple different ways. There's ways to use some calculators that might help you figure out your physical dollar amount. But what I also use, or what I would like to use, I should say, because we're not quite doing this yet, but I would love to get to that point, is asking more than just a level one survey question. Getting deeper into your surveys, or feedback, and finding out are they doing a certain process differently? Have they improved since X date? Maybe as a new hire has come in, have they made X progress of users that might not have listened to a podcast? Those are the types of questions that usually you need, again, that cross-functional group. You need that cross-functional buy-in, because it might not come from your department to lead, but you might be able to partner with some other groups that are asking those types of questions to help give you the feedback you're looking for.
Great. We'll get to our last two questions and then we'll end it out, because I know we're a little over time. But Steve is asking, "So do you update your sales force on how your overall sales as a company is doing? Do you talk about your current sales versus your goal? Are those types of topics that you are communicating via podcast?"
Yeah, that's a good question, Steve. I think that it's something that could be done. We aren't currently utilizing podcasts in that fashion, to be totally transparent, but I think that's a great idea to be able to use maybe forecasts, or financial results, and to be able to share that with a podcast, possibly even crowdsource it, have your manager [inaudible 00:31:20] processes be able to crank that out and have that be user driven, I think that would be a great way to get interaction through a podcast. It would take an infographic or an email just to that next level. And being able to have users interact with it in a different way, I think that's a great idea.
Okay. And then last question is, "Do you try to some infotainment types of topics? If so, what works here?"
Sure. Yeah. So are you thinking ... And you don't have to follow up if you can, but if you're thinking more humor, if you're thinking more things you might hear in a public podcast, things that come to mind might be commercials or side interviews that might interrupt the podcast briefly. You might have a quick senior level interview, you might frame it with some humor, and then you pick back up with your content. I love the idea of fake commercials. So if you were to put together a quick jingle, maybe have a funny voiceover or a funny graphic that accompanies your podcast. Something that might be reoccurring, that people look forward to. Anytime you can include brevity or levity and humor where appropriate, I think would be great. Especially with breaking up a podcast. If you feel like your podcast is getting a little long and you don't want to part it out into two different parts, breaking it up with some sort of a commercial or an interjection is always welcome, for sure. Take what you hear in public podcasts, and chances are they're going to translate into a corporate environment if you put some creativity behind it.
Great. Well thank you so much, Josh. I know we're a bit over time, so I'll go ahead and wrap us up. But I'd like to thank you 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 trial app in our Let's Get Podding webinar series podcast show. So if you do not have a trial with uStudio and would like to view the replay, you can download our app for free in either the Apple Store or Google Play. Once prompted after you open the uStudio app, you'll enter TRIAL, all capitalized, as your company code. And if there's any confusion, don't worry, these steps will be listed in writing in our follow up email.
So again, I'd like to thank everyone for joining us today. If you'd like to learn more about uStudios secure podcasting solution, you can visit our website at ustudio.com and request a personalized demo. So thank you so much, and we hope to see everyone in the future, in our next let's get plotting webinar. Have a great day.
Thanks everyone. Bye bye.