When we think of disasters, our minds often wander to natural catastrophes such as earthquakes and hurricanes, or the recent devastating bushfires that blanketed most of Australia in a thick haze of smoke. We tend to think of bloody battles of years gone by with countless casualties. We conjure up images of deadly icebergs decimating unsuspecting luxury steamships. We think of the human chains attempting to make the dangerous trek across land or sea in the hope of escaping brutal conflict. Yet, right now, humankind is facing a global disaster like no other.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted and twisted our everyday reality in such a short amount of time that it’s created a sense of collective disorientation.
Conventional wisdom would tell us to look to the past to understand the future. Yet we’ve been told in no uncertain terms that these are ‘unprecedented’ times.
The virus is virulent; it spreads fast. So, how can workplaces adapt?
Communication is key
The director of the World Health Organisation recently said the COVID-19 pandemic “has highlighted the need for compelling and creative communications about public health”. He added, that using media was “a powerful way not only of communicating important health messages, but of administering one of the most powerful medicines, hope”.
But, how do you boost optimism when in a matter of weeks, we’ve had new words such as ‘social distancing’ enter and dominate our lexicon? And how do organisations get heard in a time of crisis?
The answer lies in podcasting.
Shaping your message through podcasting
And right now, there’s no better time to continue this trend to create content that nurtures us and counters isolation.
An event for your ears: Concasts
Just about every major event that you can think about has been pulled off the 2020 calendar. They’ve either been cancelled or postponed. Even international headliners such as SXSW took a hit. And much to the dismay of fans of the Eurovision Song Contest, it was cancelled for the first time since it began 64 years ago.
Our football, soccer and cricket fields remain empty. Along with this, conferences, forums and networking events have folded one by one, like dominos falling.
But despite the grim outlook, there is an opportunity for innovation within the events space.
Event organisers can still showcase their line-up of exceptional talent and bring to life insights, conversations and arguments through the convenience of a podcast. I like to think of it as a conference-podcast, or ‘concast’.
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Thought leaders such as Tim Ferris and Sam Harris have for a long time understood our collective appetite for sharing ideas and delivered this intellectual sustenance through podcast morsels. Podcasts not only allow listeners to exercise and stretch their minds, but they also build a sense of community through their warm personal style, as voice conveys pure emotion.
In addition, podcasts command full attention unlike any other medium, which helps hosts to build authority and credibility. In fact, it’s the only medium that keeps audiences fully engaged for almost 100% of the time.
From writers’ festivals to corporate professional development events, podcasts can fill the gap of empty auditoriums.
Soothe with sound: Mindcasts
Tuning into the news has become an exercise in resilience. Whether it’s the death count from COVID-19 mounting across the globe, our healthcare workers under immense strain or the unemployed snaking their way around Centrelink offices — these images are not for the faint-hearted.
Right now, you might feel like you’ve been dropped inside the set of a sci-fi film, like Inception, with everything shifting and your experience of ‘normality’ challenged daily. The world certainly feels like it’s grinding to a halt.
Our supply chains are disrupted, entire industries have been crippled, schools and universities have been forced online and working from home has become the rule, rather than the exception.
To top it off, the International Monetary Fund has told governments to enact wartime measures to help ‘fight’ the virus.
Without a doubt, we’re all stressed. Reports show that about one-in-four queries to Beyond Blue are now directly connected to the virus. But even before this crisis, stress was considered the health epidemic of the 21st century, and was directly linked to reduced productivity.
So now is the time to act.
To combat our collective angst, businesses, educators, the health sector and government organisations are perfectly positioned to help create a sense of calm and balance as we come to grips with our dystopian reality.
Podcasts allow for the best-of-best to be recorded and shared from all corners of the globe. We can learn ways to manage our stress load by listening to psychologists, meditation experts, sleep therapists or nutrition specialists. Podcasts also allow for sensitive case studies to be shared by easily being able to de-identify interviewees.
Education in your ear pods: Podclass
Now that universities and school classrooms have shifted online, students need to be engaged in new ways. Educators can dive into new ideas and keep students on track with their course work by using podcasts as a creative extension of the classroom.
Similarly, teachers can keep up with their own professional development through podcasts that are designed specifically as a resource to elevate their teaching abilities. And academics can harness podcasts to influence discussion and research in their area of expertise.
However, educational podcasts aren’t just suitable for the teaching profession. The screen-free alternative is ideal for learning something new and staying up-to-date with market and industry trends.
Right now, there’s a lot of financial instability and uncertainty which is an opportunity for financial experts, wealth managers, banks and the superannuation industry to guide consumers — whether you are a business owner or employee — about all things money-related, from household budgeting to navigating financial obligations and entitlements.
Connecting companies and colleagues: Companycast
Businesses can also use this time to bolster the professional development of employees using podcasts to upskill their workforces.
You can create handy audio guides around issues such as safety, diversity and inclusion, or wellbeing programs, whatever aligns with your goals and values.
Or you may simply want to create a daily missive to help separated employees feel connected to their peers and leaders, and boost morale and enthusiasm.
Alternatively, you could invest in a specific series for your executive team to help strengthen their leadership skills at a time when they need to put their best foot forward. If LinkedIn is anything to go by, we’ve seen individuals across the nation take to online platforms like a duck to water, so why not capitalise on this trend?
Across social platforms, we’ve also seen many small to medium businesses commenting that it feels like the end of times. Given what’s at stake — entire livelihoods — this is an opportunity for sales tacticians, business coaches and mentors to share their wisdom via podcasts about strategies that can help limping businesses to continue to keep the lights on.
While this won’t be a revenue generator immediately, as a brand-building exercise it will pay off in spades down the track by building your funnel.
Feed your soul: Cookcasts
While most of our restaurants and cafes have been forced to close, supermarkets have been the big winners, as Australians have flocked to stores to panic buy everything in sight.
Suffice to say, home-cooking has now become a big part of our daily lives. Plenty of inexperienced cooks who have previously treated their kitchen as a prop are now in need of some culinary clues. And the more kitchen savvy among us are looking to keep our minds off seclusion by stretching our gastronomic skills, making sauces, breads, and pickles.
Food retailers can respond to this change in consumer behaviour by giving back to the community. Rather than simply cashing in on the surge of shopping trips being made, they could create a podcast series that helps home cooks and adds value — by giving tips on everything from batch cooking to boosting your immune system through food.
Take an audio trip: Travelcasts
With the days getting shorter and the air getting colder, Australians are getting ready to hibernate. And escapism is going to be one of the best ways to combat the winter blues during the chilly months, as we submit to our lockdown.
While we may not be able to take a tropical holiday abroad, there’s no reason we can’t travel through our imaginations.
While the airline and travel industry reels from their forced hiatus, primary tourism departments attached to each state government can fund a podcast series that takes us on an auditory journey. It’s an opportunity to showcase our culture, food and other highlights across cities and regions, and whet our appetite for travel when the time is right.
It’s also a chance to hear from people who are the beating heart of tourism, from park rangers to Indigenous tour leaders, and artists who bring to life major events such as White Night.
When times are bleak this will inspire hope and resilience.
Put podcasts on your playlist
Without a doubt, it’s not ‘business as usual’ right now. So, organisations should look for new ways of communicating.
Because as the late David Bowie sagely said: “Tomorrow belongs to those that hear it coming.”