Purdue: Effectively Engaging Alumni

[00:00:00] Jennifer Lee Gunson: Welcome to Continuing studies, a podcast for higher education podcasters. In each episode, we talk to a university podcaster to ask some questions, get answers, and share tips and ideas about higher education podcasting. Hi, I'm Jennifer-Lee, I'm a radio broadcaster and a podcaster.
[00:00:21] Neil McPhedran: And I'm Neil McPhedran. I've come to podcasting after 25 years in the digital agency world. Together we've hosted executive produced, and/or launched six and counting higher education podcasts.
[00:00:33] Jennifer Lee Gunson: Today we're talking with Kate Young from This is Purdue podcast.
[00:00:37] Neil McPhedran: Kate Young is an award-winning podcaster and serves as the host, writer, and executive producer of This is Purdue, Purdue University's official alumni podcast.
[00:00:46] Now, Jen, we met Kate at Podcast Movement 2022, and we instantly struck up a great conversation and we are really intrigued by what she's doing. With the This Is Purdue podcast and how unique it is, and just the incredible audience they have built for their alumni and alumni association.
[00:01:06] Jennifer Lee Gunson: Yeah, and what I loved about it was that it was so unique compared to some of the other people who we have already interviewed on this podcast and have upcoming episodes too, and just the passion that comes off of Kate when you talk to her about this podcast and the fact that this was a position that they actually created for her and she hopped into and it's her full-time job. And I think it's [00:01:30] neat to start seeing more and more of these positions. In big organizations or post-secondary institutes that have these positions that are related to podcasting.
[00:01:40] Neil McPhedran: Super exciting. Okay. So without further ado, let's jump into it. You said you're the writer, you're the producer, you're the host, you're, you're helping shape it.
[00:01:49] So what's the, what does the rest of your team look like?
[00:01:51] Kate Young: So there's a lot of different team members involved. Um, but I am the one full time person, I believe in the podcast. So we have [00:02:00] multiple teams within that marketing and communications umbrella within Purdue. I have a photographer coming to shoots to get these wonderful headshots of the guests.
[00:02:10] I have, um, a robust video team who sets up these in person interviews, they have the lighting, they have the camera, the different camera angles, you know, they're just absolute pros. I work with our social media team too, so I'm kind of writing that social media content, but I'm strategizing with them on when it should go out, what platforms it's best for, what video clips are performing well, um, on each platform.
[00:02:34] Jennifer Lee Gunson: Well, you started this position at the university. Did they have an idea of exactly what they wanted? Like did they have a roadmap or did you come in and create everything from scratch?
[00:02:44] Kate Young: We had, um, a grad student actually start the podcast as kind of her graduate program project. She was graduating, um, took a full-time role elsewhere. So it was much different, um, how it was started versus what it's kind of evolved and morphed [00:03:00] into. You know, I've changed kind of the cadence of the podcast. I've changed it from more of a question answer type of show to a narrative show where I'm writing a script around myself and the guest, and the story that that guest is telling us about. So it's definitely changed and evolved since March, 2021.
[00:03:17] Jennifer Lee Gunson: I always love hearing about the evolution of someone's podcast. So can you tell us what your goal now is for the podcast? Since, uh, 2021.
[00:03:26] Kate Young: So, the podcast is a storytelling vessel. Essentially, we're taking, you know, our marketing communications team within Purdue. We're taking these stories, um, featuring professors who are doing amazing things from students, some of our athletics coaches who are leading these really successful athletics teams at Purdue, and we're kind of, we're building on that brand awareness of Purdue, but it's also really geared towards our alumni. Um, certain episodes are appealing to students, you know, whether we're featuring student [00:04:00] organizations, letting everyone know what's going on on campus. Another cool aspect and and angle of the show is parents who have high schoolers, right?
[00:04:08] So if you see something pop up on your Facebook feed, um, and you happen to listen or you know, see a video clip, you might be thinking, oh wow, this would be a great, you know, institution for my son or daughter to go to. So that's something that we think about too are these students, the parents of the students and parents of prospective students. So, all of that kind of encapsulates who we're trying to appeal to, um, but definitely hard, heavy hitting on the alumni population.
[00:04:38] Jennifer Lee Gunson: So I loved how we talked about the fact that you're doing video content around the guest first, and then you're taking that and turning it into podcast content. So you're kind of doing double duty.
[00:04:50] Kate Young: They did not have any video elements before I came on board. I started a YouTube playlist for the podcast under the Purdue university YouTube account umbrella in [00:05:00] April of 2021. So at first we were kind of dabbling with just putting the audio waves or audiograms as some people know it as. So we had those branded graphics and it was just that audio form wave kind of plane. But it was a different place for our audience to listen to the show because a lot of our older alumni are on YouTube. So we wanted to go, you know, where our audience is .And then once we started taking our video team and, and gathering this video kind of strategy around the podcast and [00:05:30] shooting these in person, our YouTube growth just exploded.
[00:05:33] We're seeing, you know, 25,000- 30,000 listens on these full videos now. You know, if you're a Purdue alum, you're watching Coach Matt Painter, our basketball coach right inside Mackey Arena, and you're having these memories of, I remember when I went to a game when I was a student, or I took my son or daughter to a game.
[00:05:51] So they really like those visual elements and watching the podcast versus maybe listening on Apple or Spotify. Ideally, I hope they're consuming [00:06:00] both.
[00:06:00] Um, what I do with the, This Is Purdue episodes on our podcast RSS feed, so on Apple, Spotify, on our website, it's embedded in there, I'm writing that narrative script. So like I said, I'm doing prep work, research ahead of the interview on the guests, but I'm also doing a ton of that after, so I'm taking, you know, eight to 10 hours to write this narrative, and then recording that script audio and piecing together a story from those interview clips as well. So it's telling a different [00:06:30] story, whereas on YouTube they're watching just myself and the guest have this conversation. Ideally, I want them to listen to the actual podcast just because there's so much additional research time, energy that goes into that. And it's really fun sometimes to hear, you know, certain elements that you might not pay attention to when you're just watching it on YouTube.
[00:06:51] Jennifer Lee Gunson: That's a lot of work, which you're great at but, uh, what was your reasoning?
[00:06:56] Kate Young: I have to give my video team all the credit because they're the ones editing, editing that video. But the podcast that I'm interested in, a lot of them are that narrative, you know, scripts.
[00:07:05] So I also love writing. I come, you know, from the communications and writing backgrounds, and again, being a Purdue alum, I have these certain memories and things that I can put a twist on because I know that Purdue culture so well or these little behind the scenes stories that, you know, not, not everyone would be able to recount or relate to.
[00:07:26] I've just been really lucky that they've let me kind of put a spin on it and [00:07:30] take this podcast under my wing, kind of as my baby. So, I just think there's so much more you can learn from the research that I've done to craft that actual podcast episode. When you talk to a guest, you might have 30 to 45 minutes with them, but I'm telling the background of where they grew up, or why they're interested in STEM, or how they got into Purdue.
[00:07:51] Neil McPhedran: Any advice you have for other podcasters out there who may be audio focused and are thinking about exploring the video side of things?
[00:08:00] Kate Young: I mean, it does take extra work, right. Extra team members. Um, so if you are just starting out, you know, focus on the audio, that's what a podcast is, right? And I think as you know, get going and get more experience, that's a great time to start with the video elements as well. But even if you're recording on Zoom and you don't have this fancy in-person setup, there's so many things that you can repurpose with those clips. You know, I use Wave to create [00:08:30] those under a minute clips to post on all of the Purdue social media channels, I use it to post on my own social media channels, on my LinkedIn. So, you can take this video that's virtual and still, you know, repurpose and use that content .When you do want to get into the big in-person video setups, you know, we've even thought about, instead of having this like 60 minutes ESPN style interviews, taking, you know, you and the guest with microphone and headphones and, you know, having a little, This Is Purdue [00:09:00] branded coffee mug, and just having a simple conversation with one camera, instead of our three camera angles. Like trying to maybe simplify a little bit of our video strategy, just because I will warn people too that sometimes the guest walks in and is like, I thought this was a podcast. What are all these cameras doing here?
[00:09:17] So that's something that you would want to, and we do this, but kind of warn the guest ahead of time. Hey, this is for video and we're recording the audio, but the video goes on our YouTube page. So just growing and keeping your [00:09:30] podcast consistent and then kind of advancing to that next level of video. But I do think the more things that you start putting on your YouTube for your podcast, it's just gonna grow and grow. And I think that's the way that podcasts are kind of going in the future.
[00:09:43] Neil McPhedran: That is super smart. How you're uniquely using video in YouTube compared to how you're treating your audio in the RSS feed. I like that. Now, are you also creating smaller clips with that long form video for other, uh, social media uses?
[00:09:59] Kate Young: You know, we've done a little bit with just doing those one minute clips on YouTube and then leading people to the full episode. We've done like hype trailers, so any type of athletics coaches are really fun because we can get that archive content from people playing basketball back in the day. We've had NFL quarterbacks that went to Purdue on, and we'll get footage of them, you know, playing in the NFL and we'll put this kind of, you know, exciting music and then we lead people to the full [00:10:30] podcast episode. So any type of, you know, one to two minute video clips, like a montage type of thing that's branded and has your podcast music, that's a great way to lead people, you know, oh, I want to hear more. Why did the former Bears quarterback, why did he retire from the NFL, he could have played a couple more . And that's how you get them, you know, to listen to the full episode.
[00:10:49] Neil McPhedran: When you're posting the audio and then posting the YouTube, do you post those simultaneously or do you have a strategy and a stagger there or?
[00:10:58] Kate Young: So every other Thursday, our show's bi-weekly, so every other Thursday the YouTube episode drops along with the podcast episode in the morning. And so again, I think from the data that I've collected, people who are watching it on YouTube are different from the people that are listening to it on their iPhones or their Androids. So those come out at the same time.
[00:11:16] We'll promote the video and the audio kind of separately on social media. We'll mix it up and one post include the YouTube video link and another post include, you know, the Apple Podcast link. So we switched that up a little bit. But [00:11:30] overall, the way that we market it, I think by now most of our listeners know that it's on YouTube and it's on their favorite podcast app. At one point, the goal was like 30,000 downloads or listens within a year. Obviously we blew that out of the water, but now we're separating a little bit. So we want X number of listens within the podcast platform itself from that RSS feed and then on YouTube, since we've exploded so much on there, I think my goal this year is like 450,000 YouTube views. [00:12:00] Don't get frustrated with how many downloads or listens you're getting, because it takes time. It takes a lot of time to grow a show, to grow the awareness. I just think it's really important. I know I, I've heard it all the time that, well, 130 listens and it's like, who are those 130 people that are sitting down or going for a walk or working out and listening to you? Like, that's a big deal, that's great.
[00:12:21] So I think that's important when we talk about, when I have to share a report about, um, the podcast numbers I [00:12:30] always try to include that because it's just so different. And a lot of people right, still aren't super familiar with the podcast landscape. So kind of explaining that and explaining that, you know, even some of the data is just not there yet. Whereas with social, you can see all these different crazy statistics and where people are from and you know, the gender, and all these different things that podcasters don't necessarily have full access to right now.
[00:12:55] So explaining that can be hard, but just no. That [00:13:00] as, like I said, if you just keep up with the consistency and keep your content, you know, really, really good and a lot of our content is evergreen. So you could go back and listen to any episode at any point. It's not locked in on like the current latest news or anything like that.
[00:13:15] Jennifer Lee Gunson: I love your explanation of stats 'cause this is what I tell a lot of people I work with, that Podcasting is more focused audience too, like opposed to like YouTube and social media, it's really easy to go to. But if you want to listen to a podcast, you have to [00:13:30] a find it on your favorite player and then download it, like that's a lot more effort.
[00:13:35] And so those people are more focused. So maybe you have a hundred people, but that's a hundred dedicated people every episode that's buying into what you're saying.
[00:13:43] Kate Young: Like you said too, it's like there's more time involved with listening to a podcast. You know, some articles on our website that have a hundred thousand clicks or 300,000 or whatever. Yeah. And then you're reading like a two minute article and you're done. But you know, a podcast like you're listening and you're taking a chunk out of your busy day to listen.
[00:14:00] Neil McPhedran: How do you see, sort of in the university, higher education landscape, podcasting evolving as that important tool. Either for internal communication with the institution or, in your case really, it's an external communication to alumni, but even beyond alumni, and as you were talking about the brand and that positive knock on it has for the brand. Anything you could share there?
[00:14:24] Kate Young: I have people reaching out from the College of Education or our College [00:14:30] of Liberal Arts. You know, the engineering school is, you know, amazing at Purdue. They're reaching out and asking us to feature, you know, maybe one of their alums, one of their stories, or just saying how much they enjoy this episode, and then they'll share it on their LinkedIn page and on their Twitter pages. So there's so much internally with our campus partners, our athletics episodes. Again, if the athletics partnership that we have is really strong, so we're working with them and I'm saying, "Hey, just did this interview with the former Purdue quarterback. [00:15:00] He was in the NFL for 14 years. Can you put this on your homepage?"
[00:15:03] And then bam, the downloads are coming in 'cause people are going to buy tickets on the site, or they're looking at the latest scores, and they see that podcast. So getting our campus partners involved and having them share with their networks and their people has really grown the show as well. So that's another tip I would have for anyone.
[00:15:21] Neil McPhedran: Yeah, that's a great tip because at the end of the day, you guys are creating very high end content, and to your point, whether you're another [00:15:30] faculty or department within Purdue, everyone's looking for that content. You are producing it. So it's good, that's a good tip to remember, hey, we've got great content. Other people want it.
[00:15:41] Jennifer Lee Gunson: And you're creating a community. Because the thing is, these universities are so big. And you want to showcase all the great different courses and different departments you have. So it's one way to keep everyone connected.
[00:15:54] Kate Young: Absolutely. I mean, our, you know, we have 55,000 people between [00:16:00] staff, faculty, you know, in this little town, in West Lafayette, Indiana. So it's so special and rewarding to me too when people, you know, bring up the podcast or say, I love this episode because I remember when I was at Purdue when this happened, or, I really love that professor. I can't believe he's, you know, creating these cancer drugs that are saving people's lives. I can't believe that's happening at Purdue, I didn't know that, right? So that's a great point about creating a community and you know, as time goes on [00:16:30] and the podcast does gain more and more brand awareness. We've seen that, um, feedback grow as well.
[00:16:35] Neil McPhedran: Any advice you have for other alumni focused podcasts? I think it's really interesting how you guys have really done something special with your podcast.
[00:16:45] Kate Young: Take advantage and try to network. You know, we have a Purdue for Life as our alumni Connection group and organization within Purdue. So I partner with them and I'm like, can you add this episode to your newsletter? Can you embed this video or this [00:17:00] episode here? So get other people involved with sharing it on their social networks, in their newsletters, really anywhere that you can, you know, get it.
[00:17:09] Jennifer Lee Gunson: You gotta put a lot of work into it. I think that's a big misconception, no matter what type of podcast you're doing. A lot of people are like, I'm just gonna put it up and I'm gonna be Joe Rogan tomorrow.
[00:17:19] Kate Young: Yeah. Yep. That's not how it works.
[00:17:22] Neil McPhedran: Sounds like that's the opposite of what you're doing.
[00:17:24] Kate Young: Yes, for sure. For sure. And again, just having expectations. And like I said [00:17:30] before, don't be discouraged if you have 150 listeners. That's amazing.
[00:17:34] Jennifer Lee Gunson: That's hard to get. Like a lot of people think, they scoff at a hundred, and it's like, no, like what we're saying, that's a hundred dedicated people that are taking time outta their day to figure out if they have Apple app on their phone to have to download it. And then take the time to actually listen to it and focus, opposed to throwing up a YouTube video and press play, or wasting time at work if someone gives you a funny YouTube link in your email. A lot easier.
[00:18:01] Kate Young: Exactly, I know. So I just want to hit home on that too, that it takes time, consistency to grow an audience and your audience expectations, you know. I think that at Podcast Movement this year, they said the average is now 160 listens over 30 days. So if you're getting 200 listens, you're already better than half the podcast out there. So just keep going and, you know, share those stats too with your leadership team. If you're getting a little bit of pushback on [00:18:30] why aren't these numbers higher, right?
[00:18:31] Jennifer Lee Gunson: And most podcasts go into pod fade. Because people can't get over the eight episode mark. I always tell everyone that I work with, if you can get over eight episodes, you're already winning.
[00:18:42] Kate Young: Yes, and I think, you know, everyone's like, there's so many podcasts out there, and that's really kind of a myth because, yeah, like you said, there's X number of active podcasts, anyone over eight episodes that keeps going, and there's an even smaller number, so that's a great point.
[00:18:58] Jennifer Lee Gunson: Actually, just to end on this [00:19:00] before we keep going, but I read a stat last year that it's one podcast per 10,000 people. That's a lot, there's a lot of room to grow.
[00:19:08] Kate Young: Totally, yeah. It's like you said, you know, I also tell people don't jump in and be like, we're gonna get a podcast out every single Monday. Like maybe you start out monthly, maybe then you move to biweekly, and then if you want to go to weekly, go for it. But like figure out the time and the team members and the work that goes into it and [00:19:30] start, you know, the first Thursday of every month we're putting out an episode and then move on from there. Because, I think the pod fade and that burnout comes from people trying to crank these out every week and wouldn't you want it to have quality over quantity?
[00:19:42] Neil McPhedran: What other university or higher education podcasts do you listen to or do you like or can you recommend to us?
[00:19:49] Kate Young: Yeah, there's a couple, you know, I will plug, This Is Purdue is really the only storytelling podcast in the Big 10 that I've done a little research on, and there's [00:20:00] not many other higher ed official podcasts. There might be, you know, like fan podcasts for athletics, but officially affiliated with the university. Our podcast is really kind of paving the way there, which is really exciting. Some other ones, The Higher Ed Marketer, The Brand Education is good, Future U podcast is good, uh, Higher Voltage with Kevin Tyler is good. So any of those.
[00:20:24] Neil McPhedran: Well that's great. And I think you just threw down the gauntlet to other Big 10 universities there. [00:20:30]
[00:20:30] Kate Young: I keep waiting. I keep waiting for something to pop up and I'm like, okay. But really, I mean, it's such a, like I said, people think there's all these podcasts out there.
[00:20:39] There's really not. There's really not. And you know, start now. Like we started in 2020 and look at how far we've come. Um, we just won a couple awards this year. We were on Apple Podcasts, top charts under the education, um, category a couple times recently. So that was super exciting to see. So [00:21:00] yeah, there the world is your oyster.
[00:21:02] Neil McPhedran: That's great. Well, that's wonderful. Thank you so much for your time today and all your insights and sharing your story with us. That's great and then it's super exciting what you guys have achieved with, uh, the, This Is Purdue podcast and find some big 10 copycats.
[00:21:19] Kate Young: Yeah. Bring it on.
[00:21:21] Jennifer Lee Gunson: Or maybe in Canada where Neil and I are based, we will start rivaling you guys.
[00:21:27] Kate Young: Yes, yes, for sure. Well, it was an honour. Thank you so much for asking me to be on.
[00:21:32] Neil McPhedran: Thank you.
[00:21:33] Jennifer Lee Gunson: Thank you so much.
[00:21:42] Neil McPhedran: Wow, that was great. What an awesome guest. One of the key things that really stood out for me was how Kate and the team uses YouTube versus audio. It's not a versus, more like how they work together hand in hand, but from an output perspective, they're totally different. I think podcasters, our default is let's create the audio version and match it up with the YouTube version.
[00:22:08] But she really, you know, reverses a script there, if you will, and it's more like two different outputs and how do they work together? So, you know, as a consumer, or as an audience member of the podcast, it's almost like a double listen. I'll watch the YouTube, but I'll also listen to the audio version.
[00:22:26] Jennifer Lee Gunson: Yeah, I like that it's not the same episode [00:22:30] for both mediums. She really caters to YouTube and then she caters to the podcast audience. I think that's brilliant. Another thing that they do, is the alumni podcast features key destinations on campus. So it kinda takes you back through that nostalgia journey down memory lane. So a lot of people that went to school and are alumni of Purdue University, uh, get to like, kind of walk back with Kate and see different people that have been integral in their learning, or maybe get to see past students that they used to, uh, do [00:23:00] reports with or do studies with. So I think it's a, a super neat feature as well.
[00:23:04] Neil McPhedran: That's really smart. You know, I know it takes a lot more work because as she was telling us, there's a setup involved and whatnot. But wow, that seems like really, really worthwhile. You know, to your point there, that tug is at the nostalgia, you know, when we went to university, we remember all those spots on campus and everything like that, so that's great. And I really like how, they lean into and feature [00:23:30] alumni that, have seen success in life.
[00:23:34] Jennifer Lee Gunson: I love the success part too, because like you were saying, people get to see that there is successful people coming out of the program, because education is expensive. And I think a lot of the times, we want to make sure that we are choosing the right paths that fit for us, and that there's gonna be opportunity at the end. And if we are looking at colleges and universities that aren't turning out success stories, that might not be an institution we necessarily want to go with. So I think it was a great conversation.
[00:24:04] Thank you for tuning into the Continuing Studies podcast, a podcast for higher education podcasters. We hope you found this episode informative and inspiring. If you enjoyed the show, we encourage you to follow and subscribe to our podcast on your preferred platform, so you'll never miss an episode, and if you have found this episode particularly valuable, please consider sharing it with your friends and colleagues who are also interested in higher education podcasting.[00:24:30]
[00:24:30] We also invite you to join the University Podcasters Network Group on LinkedIn, where you can connect with other podcasters in higher education and learn from others in the field. Thank you for being a part of our community, and we look forward to continuing to bring you valuable insights and conversations about higher education podcasting.
[00:24:49] See you in the next episode.

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
Kate Young
Kate Young
Award-winning #podcast host & producer for @lifeatpurdue 🎧🖤 #ThisIsPurdue
Purdue: Effectively Engaging Alumni
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