Penn State University: Insights from 250 Episodes

Use your podcast to take your mandate beyond the campus, and become an invaluable resource for students, faculty, and the wider public audience. Explore the strategies and tactics behind successful university podcasts as Jenna Spinelle unpacks her experiences producing over 250 episodes of "Democracy Works" and "When the People Decideā€, and shares insights on how universities can leverage this dynamic medium to give people political hope, foster community engagement, and amplify their educational impact both in and outside of classrooms.

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Chapter Time Stamps:
(00:00:00) Introduction 
Jennifer Lee Gunson and Neil McPhedran introduce the episode, welcoming Jenna Spinelle back.

(00:02:08) Jenna's Background & Podcasting Journey 
Jenna introduces herself, her role at the McCourtney Institute for Democracy, and the inception of Democracy Works and When the People Decide.

(00:05:37) NPR Collaboration & Local Impact
Explains the collaboration with the local NPR station, WPSU, and its impact on local visibility and engagement.

(00:07:40) Finding Guests & Prepping for Episodes
Jenna discusses finding guests, differences in target audiences for both podcasts, including use in classrooms, as well as her preparation process for Democracy Works based on the show format. 

(00:13:00) Podcast Content in Classrooms 
Neil & Jenna discuss the strategies that Democracy Works has used to integrate podcast content into classrooms.

(00:14:58) Institutional Review and Self-Policing 
Discuss the content vetting process, institutional trust, and responsible self-policing to maintain institutional values.

(00:17:06) Podcasts' Role in Institute Outreach
Examines the effective role of the podcasts in the Institute's outreach efforts, connecting with alumni chapters, and promoting democracy beyond the university.

(00:18:30) Preparation and Interview Styles 
Jenna shares her approach to pre-interviews for different podcast formats, highlighting differences in narrative storytelling versus academic discussion.

(00:19:31) Engaging Audience Feedback through Surveys 
Neil & Jenna discuss the Democracy works listener survey - the format, significance, tweaking content length based on feedback, and incentives for participants.

(00:23:17) Changes in Podcasting Landscape 
The evolving podcasting landscape, increased competition, audience expansion, and the role of universities in expanding audiences and providing educational content

(00:27:23) Insights for New Podcasts
Jenna advises newcomers to manage expectations, appreciating the impact of having a dedicated audience and encouraging university engagement with various constituencies.

(00:30:08) Conclusion 
Neil& Jen share their key takeaways
  • (00:00) - Introduction
  • (02:08) - Jenna's Background & Podcasting Journey
  • (05:37) - NPR Collaboration & Local Impact
  • (07:40) - Finding Guests & Prepping for Episodes
  • (13:00) - Podcast Content in Classrooms
  • (14:58) - Institutional Review and Self-Policing
  • (17:06) - Podcasts' Role in Institute Outreach
  • (18:30) - Preparation and Interview Styles
  • (19:31) - Engaging Audience Feedback through Surveys
  • (23:17) - Changes in Podcasting Landscape
  • (27:23) - Insights for New Podcasts
  • (30:08) - Conclusion

Creators and Guests

Co-host and editor of HAVAN's podcast Measure Twice Cut Once/ Traffic Helicopter Reporter/Social Media & Marketing Manager for Euro Canadian
Jenna Spinelle
Jenna Spinelle
Founder @thedemocracygroup. Comms @McCourtneyInst; instructor @psubellisario. Bylines: @time, @currentpubmedia, @insidehighered
Penn State University: Insights from 250 Episodes
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