Inspiring Podcasts for Internal Communications

7 great shows and the lessons they instill

This is a post about business, society and culture focused podcasts that internal communications professionals can apply to their work — lessons from startups, organizations and life. I reflect about why each podcast is relevant to the field and share an episode with a relatable lesson to our work. 

Work Life 

In this podcast co-produced by TED, Wharton Professor and New York Times best-selling author, Adam Grant, “takes you inside the minds of some of the world's most unusual professionals to explore the science of making work not suck.”

Three years later, the first episode from Season 1 still tops my favorite podcasts list. It tells the story of Bridgewater Associates,

“the world's most successful hedge fund [where] everyone is rated and ranked constantly — in front of everyone. They've figured out how to embrace negative feedback, and they swear it's essential to their success.”

They record every meeting, encouraging employees to review each other’s presentation and facilitation styles. In addition, they encourage employees to provide frequent feedback at all levels — even to the CEO directly. 

This made me think of the culture we cultivate as internal communicators. While the extreme feedback level of Bridgewater Associates might not be for everyone, it’s worth learning about their style of success and borrowing from the best practices that feels right for your team. 

In Depth 

Produced by the venture capital firm First Round, In Depth, is “dedicated to surfacing the tactical advice founders and startup leaders need to grow their teams, their companies and themselves.” It’s hosted by Brett Berson, a partner at the firm, and commits that “every interview will hit the level of tactical depth where the very best advice is found.”

Episode 4 features the Founder and CEO of Drift, David Cancel, who highlights why he focuses on storytelling internally. Episode 12 features Kevin Fishner, a Chief of Staff, who walks us through “important systems at HashiCorp, including how they run meetings, structure annual planning, and make decisions through writing.”

Whether you work in internal communications in tech or another field, there are a lot of great takeaways from this long-form interview podcast. 

How I Built This

In this NPR podcast, Host Guy Raz “dives into the stories behind some of the world's best known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists — and the movements they built.”

For the past four and a half years, featured founders have shared their entrepreneurial paths with the host, Guy Raz, who asks thought-provoking questions, including his most famous: “How much of your success do you attribute to luck, or just hard work?” 

In the episode featuring Katlin Smith, the founder of Simple Mills, she shares her story of creating a healthy food business with muffins, cookies, crackers and other treats that are now available in 28,000 stores and generating approximately $100M in annual revenue.

Smith opened up about her management challenges and the process of becoming a better leader through coaching. As internal communicators, we play a key role coaching executives to become the best leaders, in particular, influencing their communications with employees for the greater good. 

Hidden Brain

This former NPR show spun off to Stitcher last year with its host and Executive Editor Shankar Vedantam. Hidden Brain defines its goal as a “conversation about life’s unseen patterns.” Over the years, it’s explored topics such as laughter, empathy and soft skills. There are even study guides, which are great resources to consider should you wish to start an Office Podcast Club.  

This episode really resonates with the field of Internal Communications — “Finding Meaning at Work: How We Shape and Think about our Jobs.” It explores the impact of work on our lives and wellbeing. 

“‘People who see their work as a calling are significantly more satisfied with their jobs. They're significantly more satisfied with their lives. They're more engaged in what it is that they're doing and tend to be better performers, regardless of what the work is,’ said Wrzesniewski, who researches how people find meaning in the work that they do. Across a diverse array of jobs — from secretaries to custodians to computer programmers — Wrzesniewski finds people are about equally split in whether they say they have a ‘job,’ a ‘career,’ or a ‘calling.’”

To learn more about employees' perceptions of themselves and their work, tune into this powerful episode.

Fortune Favors the Bold 

This Mastercard branded podcast is hosted by Ashley C. Ford, whose storytelling style feels like you’re hanging out at a coffee shop and chatting with an old friend. 

Season 3 “takes on real questions from real people — financial questions that everyone thinks about, but no one talks about.” Produced in partnership with Pineapple Street Studios and previously Gimlet, the show tells powerful stories. A lot of these questions are about the way that work provides for people financially. 

Episodes 5 and 6 focus on “How Do I Make Work, Work For Me?” and addresses the rise of the gig economy, millennials in the workforce and powerful stories of people along the way. As internal communicators, it’s helpful for us to know the psychology behind why people work. These episodes share insightful reflections on this topic. 

Hurry Slowly 

Hurry Slowly is “a podcast about how you can find more calm, comfort, and clarity through the simple act of slowing down.” Host Jocelyn K. Glei “strives to help people find more creativity and meaning in their daily work.” She also curates a newsletter, which is one of my favorite lists of links to arrive in my inbox, and is the author of Unsubscribe

It’s difficult for me to pick a favorite because so many of these episodes are relatable, including topics on productivity with “Who are you without the doing?” to events with “How to have transformational gatherings.” 

Currently, as many workers struggle with the blending of work and life at home, I appreciated listening to this interview with Cal Newport, author of Deep Work. His thoughts on “attention capital,” a “30-day digital declutter” and how to shift your approach to work made me rethink hitting send on all of those “instant” messages — perhaps you’ll feel the same way.

Get Together 

Produced by the team behind People & Company, a consulting firm whose
“mission is to bridge gaps by helping people get their people together.” Their podcast is about “the nuts and bolts of community building.” Started by Bailey Richardson, Kevin Huynh and Kai Elmer Sotto, the podcast prioritizes showcasing diverse communities and their leaders.  

Episodes focus on the timeline of communities, from starting to scaling to sustaining. As internal communicators, we shape our communities at work. One of my favorite episodes features an interview with Cindy Au who built communities at Kickstarter, Zagat and Brainly.

“When you work in community, you get to be the person who thinks about the customer all day long, who thinks about people, who thinks about how they connect.” - Cindy Au

With a Ph.D. in English, Cindy’s story reminded me of the different skills and strengths unique career paths can contribute to success. 

As I publish this list of my favorite podcasts, I would like to know — what podcasts are bringing you inspiration and shaping your thinking about internal communications? Reply with what you’re listening to lately. 
For a list of the best internal communications podcasts, Banana Tag has published a stellar summary.