Audio is More Engaging than Video

Corporate stories don't let themselves well to email, so instead we tend to jump to video. Yet recent reserach published in Nature shows that humans respond more strongly to audio.

Internal communicators like to talk about storytelling. Yet, quite often, the bland corporate tales we tell are uninspiring, and your employee audience loses interest quickly.

Corporate stories do not lend themselves well to email, which is why many internal communications emails are not read, so instead, we tend to jump to video. Yet recent research published in Nature shows that humans respond more strongly to audio stories than video stories.

In the study, people were attached to sensors that recorded their physiological responses to the video and audio samples. They also self-reported their level of engagement in the story. This way, there was a level of objectivity (the sensors) to complement the subjective measurement (the self-reporting).

The researchers report that audio storytelling is more active on the part of the listener. Whereas in a video, the listener receives visual context, in audio (as with some reading), listeners have to create context, scenery, feeling, and “fill out” more information. In the video, you experience information on-screen, which requires less processing and more ability to “tune out”.

Participants in the research had the fun experience of being paid to watch (HBO) and listen (Audiobook) to Game of Thrones. And even though participants self-reported that video engaged them more, their physiological responses showed that isn’t the case. As the researchers discuss in the paper:

“These findings suggest that listening to audio stories engaged greater cognitive and emotional processing than watching videos.”

So internal communicators, next time you are working on a corporate story or are having trouble getting people to read employee communications emails, try a short Soundbite instead of an expensive (and unengaging) video or another blog/email. You might find your employees are engaged by the experience far more.

For 15 years, James Tyer has designed and facilitated processes and enabled technologies that help change to happen successfully. James helps large communities of people work together and is the author of Social by Design. James helps design the facilitation process, build bridges between silos, and teach/coach new ways of working and collaborating.