How Jostens Used Podcasting to Boost Morale and Connect their Employees

Mark Bussel, Jostens’s National Director of Learning and Development, claims that using Podbean caused him to rethink his strategy about how information is presented in an organization -- to shift away from an one-for-all newsletter in favor of targeted “microbursts of learning” across multiple podcast channels. Podbean’s Head of Marketing, John Kiernan, interviewed Bussel about why Jostens started podcasting, how they create podcasts and how podcasts have helped them improve their internal communications.

Jostens is an American institution. With 127 years of history behind it, the company is all about making memories with a product range that includes its iconic Super Bowl and class rings, school photographs, diplomas, and yearbooks. But, Jostens goes beyond memorabilia by engaging with the communities it serves and working with its partner schools to improve awareness of issues ranging from climate to culture to the environment itself.

Headquartered in Minneapolis, Jostens maintains a total of 10 facilities in the US and Canada, and its products are sold as far afield as Mexico and Europe. Their products are one-of-a-kind, and their business model is equally unique. Jostens thrives on client relationships formed primarily by the independent representatives that compose its sales force -- a salesforce with an average tenure of twenty-five years with the company.

Why Podcasting?

When it came to communications at Jostens, Mark Bussel, the company’s National Director of Learning and Development explains that “we had our trusty email blasts and, sometimes the content was written, sometimes it was recorded. We would send out some webinars or some face-to-face meetings every now and then.”

While this worked quite well for employees on-site where engagement with management was direct, the main impetus to begin podcasting came from the company’s remote sales force who were looking for a way to remain current while they were traveling. “Our reps came back and said, ‘it'd be really cool if we could get your communications on our phones so we could listen or watch whenever we have some downtime or during our commutes.” In light of that request, Bussel claims, “Podcasting became a pretty obvious solution once we started to explore and dig into it.”

Although Bussel was already sold on the idea of podcasting, COVID 19 upped the ante. “We had a remote sales force to begin with, then COVID forced our internal staff to go remote too. This whole communication thing became a real challenge for us.” Bussel and his team took the opportunity to embrace podcasting with Podbean, streamline their communications channels and give Jostens employees “a common library -- a single place to go for information on their own schedule.”

The Power of the Podcast

“These channels are instrumental in our ability to help our team reach a completely different level and, and give them access to information, knowledge, and perspectives that we wouldn't have had regardless.”

Discussing the shift from emailed communications to podcasting with Podbean, Bussel speaks about how things have changed since the early days of simply sending out video links with his weekly email updates.

“Podbean allowed us to build communications in a different way -- we started to look at our audience and segment it a little bit. We looked at their needs and it empowered us to start to deliver some different content that became critical during COVID, especially content related to working remotely, like well-being and training.”

Developing Channels

Once Bussel and his team began using Podbean to develop different content channels suited to the varying audiences within Jostens, he says, “We ended up with about six internal channels that people can go to various topics and targets -- before we didn’t have that.”

With such strong internal success, says Bussel, “We even created channels for our people out in the field to share with their customers.” Here, they discovered an unexpected side benefit -- podcasting has helped Jostens improve its customer communications as well as that of its employees.

According to Bussel, customer-facing podcasts allowed Jostens to “share our purpose”. He explains, “Purpose and mission can become like a fancy brochure you hand out. But now, with Podbean, you can hear it. It's a living, breathing thing with an ability to really reach a much broader audience much quicker.”

Positive Feedback

This ability to segment meant Jostens was able to reshape its employee experience, especially that of its independent reps, a potentially difficult demographic, within the company. Bussel was able to add value in a way that was focused and authentic rather than intrusive. A fact that he is quick to point out was supported by the feedback.

“Once we got into it, the feedback started coming in from sales and our internal folks. There was an appetite there, especially with people being remote. We were able to take the pulse of what was going on in this feedback loop.” Considering the response, Bustle states “It was the result of Podbean, which has kept us, oddly enough, better connected than we were before.”

Creating Content

When it comes to producing podcasts with a department of two, Bussel admits “I was really kind of shocked at how easy it was to publish. I thought there was a lot more to it.” Due to Podbean’s ease of use and intuitive toolset, he says he can “spend maybe two, three hours a week putting together the content for the upcoming weeks.” This leaves him time to focus on other roles in the company.

Bussel stresses that Jostens takes a “grassroots” approach to its podcasts and that he is not the company’s sole contributor. “Our people contribute, whether they shoot on their phones, or record video in their Zoom. There's a lot of different ways that we've started to gather content.” Jostens benefits from Podbean’s universal accessibility -- content can be created with a basic recording device and edited on a laptop that already serves multiple purposes within Bussel’s role.

There is no dedicated editing team. “We'll take maybe 15 minutes to create an episode by putting a bumper on the front and back and adding a little bit of music. I am by no means a technical expert, but I've learned in a really short period that we can make it look pretty doggone good.”

Alluding to his prior experience, Bussel says “I didn't know anything about podcasting. Zero. I listened to podcasts every now and then.” He now finds himself the resident podcasting expert. I get asked, he says, “Did you get somebody to do that? Are you a professional at this? And I’m like, No, I just had the will to do it. And it was really cost-effective. Let me show you how.”

The Results

One of the key benefits of switching Jostens over to Podbean to deliver information, Bussel says, is the flexibility to present and adjust content organically. “You reserve the right to make changes and grow along the way. If you see another need, or if you see another opportunity, don't be afraid, even if you change a channel in midstream, you know that that's okay. You reserve the right to make it better.”

Bussel knew what he didn’t want for Jostens. “The meetings that I really struggle with are the ones that you go on into when it's face to face and you just start walking through a PowerPoint deck. I struggle with that. I want that conversation. I want that interaction.” In his quest to unite the company, he admits that before adopting Podbean he wasn’t sure what was possible. “I don't know if we anticipated it, we were hoping that that engagement was a possibility. But it gave us this two-way communication. That’s just at a different level than where we were before.”

Finally, Podcasting allowed Jostens, as Bussel puts, it to “open the door for some outside perspective, which we have never done before. It has helped us empower our employees to the next level, regardless of where they are.” It is a significant change for an organization that had become entrenched in its employee interactions.

Last Minute Advice

When asked to offer advice to anyone considering bringing podcasting into their organization, Bussel stresses focusing on the message over the tools.

“Listening to your audience is just so important -- figuring out how you connect and driving that value down to them. We went out and we listened and we asked: What are the challenges going to be? What are the challenges that we need to communicate and share? And what are the solutions?

With that done, I look at what it takes for me to produce almost all this content on my little laptop, and it's not that hard. I knew nothing about it ahead of time. It's really cool how using Podbean has transformed an organization.”