Pod People on Best Practices for Working Remotely
Making it work wherever you are.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused industries of all types to make adjustments, including podcasting. Determined to still create, many podcasters have shifted their workflows, with some teams working remotely for the first time. As more creators turn to home studios, relying on tools like Anchor and Soundtrap to produce their shows, we chatted with Rachael King and Eliza Lambert of Pod People. As the leaders of a fully distributed production company, development firm, and staffing agency, with over 600 independent audio professionals, Rachael and Eliza shared their go to tips and tricks for all the podcasters shifting to a remote work environment.
Spotify for Podcasters: You’ve been operating fully remotely since you launched. Can you talk a little bit about the motivation behind that?
Rachael King, Founder and CEO: I'm a big proponent of people being able to control their own schedules and do what works for them, and the way technology has advanced means that you really can work from anywhere as long as you've got a laptop and the time zones add up.
Eliza Lambert, Vice President of Operations: What we've found — and I think why it's continued to be a remote model for as many shows that we make as possible — is that that was the way for us to get the best talent. If there was a show that said, we don't care where our producer is based, that meant that they had this enormous world of amazing podcast producers that they could access.
What best practices do you have set in place to make the remote set up work?
Lambert: Rachael and I are both digital natives, so a lot of it was already very natural, so I think in some ways, the clunkiness I see in other industries just in terms of being unsure about remote work generally didn't really come up within Pod People. It just felt really normal because it was using our inherent digital literacy that is part of being in our age group to a new media process that was inherently digital anyway.
King: I don’t ask a lot of my team — it’s very much whatever process works for you is great — but I insist on video syncs every Monday so that everyone gets to see each other’s face at the beginning of the week, and we go through everyone’s to do list and make sure that we can get any questions answered and figure out if I need something from you or you need something from me. Everyone’s got their coffee and it’s just kind of a good way to set up for the week — I know exactly what I need to get done, and I have all the things I need to do it.
We actually try not to do other meetings or calls on Monday. We need Monday to be like a heads down day of productivity and set up. It's the preparation day.
In terms of tools, Slack is amazing. Just not having a thousand email threads, and you don't have to constantly be thinking about did everyone who see this needed to see this, are they on here, and also just having a place to communicate where we're not afraid that we might accidentally CC a client on there with an issue that they don't need to be bothered with. We've tried every project management and communication tool out there, other than Dropbox for sending large files, we use Google for everything. It just communicates so well — it integrates with everything.
Turning our focus to recent events, we’re currently seeing a mass shift towards remote work across industries in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. The podcast industry is uniquely situated to adapt to a remote environment, but how have you adapted these practices or advised your clients about rapidly shifting to remote work?
Lambert: A lot of what we're doing is running tutorials and making sure that everybody feels really comfortable with a new infrastructure that we're using, from Zoom calls to SquadCast to the microphones that we're sending so that they can record at home. Obviously, everybody we've hired up to this point is incredibly technically savvy, so we have a lot of fabulous producers who are also providing support in that way. I've been really impressed by how people are finally saying to themselves, oh, yeah, podcasting isn't as hard as I thought it was, and I can tell because of how easy it is for me to learn in this moment how to adapt my practices to be able to report remotely, and be able to record on these new platforms that podcasters generally are really familiar with.
Do you think there’s an opportunity for producers to get more creative in this moment?
King: I think we're going to see a lot of really interesting stuff coming out of this, from shows that already exist obviously pivoting to do a new kind of content, but I also think that we'll see a lot of new shows that people will start that will be remote first.
A lot of our independent producers have some weird, crazy ideas that they wanted to make and didn't have enough time and now they might, and we're also seeing the production companies that we work with shift their focus to development just like the TV studios are.
It strikes me that audio is a good medium for this difficult moment in the sense that it can be done very remotely, but it’s also a very intimate way of capturing how people are feeling.
King: I mean, this is the medium for this time. Not only is there a safety mechanism to it, which I think is what a lot of people are looking for right now, but also, there's an ethics associated with it. Aren't we all supposed to be alone all the time? There's this incredible intimacy and opportunity within audio, and also so many things that are inherent to making podcasts and making audio work are things that everyone now naturally has to do. Not isolating necessarily, but practicing being quiet and practicing being alone, and within your own space as well as working remotely, talking to people remotely, creating intimate connections in ways that are new and unusual.
This article has been edited and condensed for clarity.