Masks on, earbuds in: Verve launches pandemic podcast for staff

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As credit unions quickly shifted staff to remote work when the pandemic hit, industry leaders were forced to rethink how they communicate with employees.

“In the beginning of the pandemic there was so much uncertainty and we thought: How can we provide our team with the information they need? How can we make our team aware of what other teams in the organization are doing to support them and our members?” recalled Kristin Steede, vice president of learning and development at Verve, a credit union in Oshkosh, Wis. “The answer was the podcast.”

Verve's podcast is one of a host of different ways the institutions in this year's Best Credit Unions to Work For rankings have shifted their employee-communication strategies in the wake of the pandemic.

Verve began podcasting in late 2018, but in March it shifted its focus to the COVID-19 response, making the podcast available to all 300 employees. The platform Podbean was used in order to allow team members to access the content on their mobile devices outside of the office, and the nine-week series saw a total of 286 downloads —
a 13.5% increase over pre-pandemic listening trends. On top of that, episodes were longer than normal, running closer to 30 minutes instead of the standard 10 or 15 minutes.

“Our culture is incredibly important to us and we are always thinking of new ways we can connect with our team members. We create and offer written communication, videos, blog posts, and the podcast is one more way to reach our team members,” said Sarah Nachman, a learning and development designer.

Americans' appetite for podcasts has also grown substantially. More than twice as many people listen to podcasts on a monthly basis now than in 2013, according to one study, and that figure is expected to continue to rise.

Verve’s podcast, though only available to employees, fits in with the broader theme of what Doug Wilber, CEO of Denim, a social media company based in St. Louis, called “social selling” — allowing staff to share ideas and experiences even when separated due to social distancing.

“There’s added authenticity when marketing messages come from people instead of brands,” Wilber said. “A robust social media and social selling program can help a credit union team efficiently and authentically engage with the audiences who matter most.”

Nachman said the success of the COVID-focused podcast series supported her colleagues’ belief that fellow employees would be receptive to hearing timely communication through this medium.

“Managing the podcast internally allows us to quickly pivot and change our programming to meet our team members’ needs,” she said.

While a podcast could be used as a vehicle for promoting products and services, Steede said it was decided that the focus would remain on “what we were doing to better serve the needs of our impacted members, our communities and what our support teams were doing to assist our member-facing team members.”

With medical opinions and governmental recommendations seemingly changing by the day, a conscious effort was made for the podcast to include only practical pandemic-related information that affected branches, members and team members, Steede said.

“Members would have an opinion about the medical and government responses, but their beliefs or our beliefs as the hosts was not the purpose of the podcast," she said. "We knew offering our opinions would take the focus away from how well we responded and how proud we could feel to be a member of this team. Our intent was always to share what Verve was doing to keep make a positive impact in our members’ and our team members’ lives.”

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Best Credit Unions to Work For Employee communications Employee engagement Employee relations Workplace management Workplace safety and security Coronavirus