Zane Ewton is a Communications Consultant with Arizona Public Service (APS), Arizona’s largest electric utility. As a writer, photographer, videographer and podcaster, Zane is passionate about bringing engaging content to 6,200 APS employees across the state through a variety of internal channels including an intranet, employee mobile app, SharePoint, newsletters, digital signage and more.

Chuck:  Welcome to Chuck Chats Zane!

Zane: Thanks! Excited to be here. I admit, I’m a little intimidated, given the great guests you’ve had on this.

Chuck: Yeah but they weren’t podcasters. So you get even more admiration than the rest who’ve been on here. 

Before we get into that though, explain to those reading who you are and what you do. 

Zane: Sure. I’m a Communications Consultant with Arizona Public Service (APS). We’re Arizona’s largest electric utility and have about 6,200 employees across the state. I’m part of the employee communications team. 

I’m something of a “jack of all trades” in that I’m a writer, photographer, video producer, podcaster and whatever else might be needed.

Chuck: How big is the communications team there?

Zane: Employee communications is currently eight people. We collaborate closely with teams that are responsible for external communications, stakeholder/social media, marketing/promotions, events, and community outreach. Our entire team is pretty large and covers a lot of ground.

Chuck: There are three things, at least that I know about, that we have in common. 

One, we were both at PRSA Connect

Two, we both know Eileen Burmeister

And three, we both have podcasts. 

Let’s focus on the last one. Tell me about the podcast at APS. 

Zane: Before we jump into the podcast, I have to say that PRSA Connect was a phenomenal conference. You and your team did an amazing job. Also, Eileen is a fantastic human being and we should dedicate the rest of this to talking about how great she is.

Chuck: Eileen is on my 💩 list. She came to Connect to see you speak and didn’t even say hi. 

Zane: Eileen is in demand. Her entourage needed to escort her out quickly.

Chuck: Well, she’s certainly something. But let’s get to the podcast. 

Zane: Yes, definitely.

Chuck: Where did the idea come from and when did it originate?

Zane: My coworker, Michelle Buchanan, and I had both been thinking about the potential for a podcast as part of our employee communications efforts for awhile. She approached me first and said, “Hey, what do you think?”

We started running with it from there. This would have been almost two years ago. 

We are both podcast fans and thought it would be something fresh for employees and an opportunity to broadcast the employee voices. 

 

I like to explain it as giving a voice to passionate employees to talk about the work they are doing that others might be curious about.

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Chuck: Is that the format? Employee voices and their stories?

Zane: Pretty much. 

I like to explain it as giving a voice to passionate employees to talk about the work they are doing that others might be curious about. 

Michelle and I both have a lot of affection for our coworkers and wanted to dig into topics we were curious about with employees who love what they do.

Chuck: How often do you typically publish new episodes?

Zane: Monthly. We wanted to make it something sustainable that we could manage along with the rest of our workload. Each episode is about 15-20 minutes.


Chuck: When I’ve talked to other communicators who have been curious about podcasting, they always have the same questions. The first is whether to make the podcast public or private. What did you decide and why?

Zane: I thought we were in a unique situation, but after speaking with a few people at PRSA Connect, I realize we had some similar concerns. 

We launched our employee news app a few months prior to the podcast launch. It made sense for us to use the app as the main avenue for the podcast. It’s literally in your pocket.

That means we publish the podcast directly to the app platform. It’s private, but you must
download the app to be able to listen.


It's as close to being in a punk rock band as I'll ever be. 

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Chuck: Another question is how long it takes to produce each episode. I know the easy answer is “it depends.” But how long would you say you spend?

Zane: With each episode I get better about guiding the conversation but also editing on the back end. 

We have a brief pre-interview meeting with the guest that’s no more than 30 minutes. We set aside an hour to record the actual interview. I can typically get edits done in two-three hours. 

Then the typical approval process is a few days.

So, like five hours a month? Probably a little more than that because I tend to have the podcast top of mind for potential future episodes.


Chuck: What’s the approval process like at APS? Who needs to approve?

Zane: It depends. 

I’m happy to say we’ve streamlined the approval process for the podcast quite a bit. We run it by the guest (and their leader, if necessary). We say this is more of a courtesy than an opportunity for them to make a lot of changes. 

So far, everyone has been comfortable with that.

If there is anything potentially sensitive in the discussion, I will run it by my leader as well.

Just get started. It won’t be good at first, but you will get better with each episode.

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Chuck: How do you measure the success of each episode?

Zane: One of the drawbacks of publishing to our app platform is the metrics aren’t as thorough as we might like. For example, we’re not able to see how many employees are playing the episode, how long they listen, etc. 

We can see the traffic to the app increase dramatically when we publish the podcast. It’s definitely the crown jewel of the exclusive content we add to the app.

So much of this experience has been very grassroots. It’s as close to being in a punk rock band as I’ll ever be. 

Chuck: What’s some of the best anecdotal feedback you’ve received on the podcast?

Zane: My favorite, and it’s happened more than once, is an interaction that goes something like this. I’ll be in a meeting and someone hears my name and says, “Hey, are you Zane from the podcast?” 

“Yes, I am.”

“That’s so great. I love the podcast. It’s only 15 minutes and I learn something new every time!”

And I think to myself, “Nailed it!”

Nailed It
Chuck: What’s been your favorite episode to record?

Zane: A recent one I really enjoyed was when we jumped into the truck with one of our Construction Planners in Prescott and talked about working and living in Prescott. 

Our company is built on generations of employees - people who grew up in AZ with their parents working for the power company. Brent was the guy in Prescott and his love for his work and his community just jumped out.

Chuck: That’s awesome. 

For another communicator who’s been thinking about getting into podcasting, what would be your top 3 recommendations?

Zane: 

1) Don’t get frozen in analysis paralysis. It’s easy to start researching equipment you might need and feel overwhelmed. Particularly if you don’t have recording experience. 

2) If you have some budget to work with, focus on a good recorder and mics. I bought a Zoom recorder because I wanted the flexibility to leave the office and be able to record with clarity in places like a line truck or at a power plant.

3) Just get started. It won’t be good at first, but you will get better with each episode.

Personally, starting the podcast was something far out of my comfort zone. I’m a writer. I’m behind the camera. Co-hosting a podcast has forced me to put myself out there in uncomfortable but super rewarding ways.

Chuck: Those are all great recommendations. 

I know I limited you to three but another I would add is to listen to other podcasts. Non-IC ones. And find out what you like and don’t like about them. 

What are some of your favorites?

Co-hosting a podcast has forced me to put myself out there in uncomfortable but super rewarding ways.

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Zane: Absolutely! Listen to all sorts of podcasts. It will help shape what you want your podcast to be.

This is slightly emba...no it’s not. I’m just going to own it. I was a big pro wrestling fan as a kid. There are a lot of podcasts out there from guys that I grew up watching. Pro wrestlers are fantastic storytellers and interviewers. Chris Jericho’s podcast is particularly good.

And on the other end, I love The Slowdown. It’s with U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. 

It’s only five minutes long and she shares a brief story and reads other poets poems. It’s beautiful.

Chuck: No shame in professional wrestling. I was a huge Junkyard Dog fan as a kid and watched Wrestlemania this year for the first time in 30 years. Loved every second of it.
 

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Zane: I met Mick Foley last year at a spoken word event and flittered like a school boy. He was my hero and a painfully kind and wonderful human being, considering he was the 1994 King of the Death Match.

Chuck: #Legend

Zane: I don’t know if flittered is a word. But it’s how I felt.

Chuck: Zane, I want to thank you for sharing your insights on podcasting for internal comms and professional wrestling.

Let’s wrap this up emoji-style. Share your passion for IC using only emojis.

Zane: 😍 Send that one to all my coworkers and friends. Being able to help smart, passionate, wonderfully kind people share their stories is my favorite thing.