Podcasts Reach New Audiences at Kent State

The future of storytelling is constantly changing, but Kent State University is connecting students to the university through new communication avenues. One platform rising in popularity and mass-consumption that colleges like Kent State are taking advantage of is podcasts.

Podcasting is a form of communication Kent State sees growth and potential in. Edison Research states that half of the United States population has listened to at least one podcast. Edison Research also found that 54 percent of podcast consumers say they are more likely to consider brands they hear advertised on podcasts.

“Podcasting is one social media that hasn’t flared hot and burned out,” said Luke Armour, associate professor of public relations in the School of Media and Journalism (MDJ). “Since Apple first launched its iTunes podcast directory in 2005 when the public started paying attention to the medium, it’s been slow and steady growth, partially because the technology keeps evolving, making it easier to listen and subscribe.”

Faculty, staff and students across Kent State have seen the opportunity to promote content and educational information through podcasting to audiences they otherwise would not reach.

Division of Student Affairs (DSA)

Matthew Lupica Headshot
When Matt Lupica, Division of Student Affairs staff writer and on-air host for 89.7 WKSU, joined the department at the beginning of the pandemic last March, he pitched the idea of creating a podcast to raise awareness about the activities of DSA.

“My main goal was to bridge the communication gap,” Lupica, the host of the Division of Student Affairs Podcast, said. “There's a lot going on within University Communications and Marketing, our departments, and all the other departments that do not get promoted, and I really felt like this was an additional tool that could help us accomplish that.”

Talea Drummer-Ferrell
Talea Drummer-Ferrell, Ph.D., dean of students, was blown away by Lupica’s proposal and joined the podcast as Lupica’s co-host.

“It was a no brainer for me to jump on it,” Drummer-Ferrell said. “I wanted Matt to have some assistance from DSA to provide balance among the dialogue and conversations. Mainly, I sought to ensure that we tell our story, because there are different things students experience across campus that they may not realize is a part of the Division of Student Affairs.”

The first season of the podcast, released summer 2020, focused on Destination Kent State (DKS), the orientation program for Kent State incoming first-years. Because orientation was hosted virtually, Lupica and Drummer-Ferrell sought to assist students through their podcast.

“We wanted to figure out how to deliver the information in a fun way, in addition to what they're getting by going through the process online and through the DKS app,” Drummer-Ferrell said. “Through our collaboration with DKS, we were able to get feedback and build a reputation around student affairs and our podcast.”

The podcast has also covered topics important to DSA, such as mental health and Black History Month, along with special episodes including the 2020 Homecoming Court Royalty reveal. Thanks to their podcasts, Lupica described having a student reach out seeking resources.

“I don't know that we would have reached this student if they hadn't come across the podcast,” Lupica said. “This is a great way to help students connect those dots, and for them to see us in an engaging and conversational environment outside of the division.”

Drummer-Ferrell appreciates the feedback with each podcast and hopes students will recognize the podcast series as a beneficial tool to learn more about on-campus resources.

“We never want students to be afraid to ask for help, especially if they're in crisis,” Drummer-Ferrell said. “I hope that we can keep helping students and gain more popularity and momentum so we can be a better support to students. The podcast has been an incredible experience.”

Listen to the latest episode which spotlights Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and catch up on all of the episodes here: https://www.kent.edu/studentaffairs/podcast

College of Business Administration (CoBA)

Joni Bowen
Joni Bowen, marketing and communications manager for the College of Business Administration, considered producing a podcast for the college a couple years ago because of the benefits she saw for the college.

“I saw podcasting as an untapped resource that we’re not currently utilizing,” Bowen said. “A few other business schools were producing podcasts, but not many. I thought this would be something innovative that we could do to highlight our faculty and reach prospective students.”

Kris Barnette
Bowen assists with the production of Breaking Down Business, hosted by Kris Barnette, an adjunct marketing professor and chief executive officer of All Good MKTG. This podcast series features college faculty and their research while educating listeners about relevant business topics.

“By highlighting the faculty and telling these wonderful stories, we're really demonstrating the value of the education that you can get at the College of Business Administration,” Barnette said. “We're not only showcasing the innovation and the academic prowess, but we're also demonstrating the human, conversational side of the professors and the doctors researching and teaching students.”

Barnette believes the podcast is an important tool to get to know faculty while also trying to appeal to prospective students.

“Podcasts are crucial to information gathering when you're making any kind of high risk purchase decision,” Barnette said. “When students are considering attending schools like Kent State, listening to a half hour podcast from one of your prospective professors is great to get a feel for their personality and understand their areas of study. This is your future career, so being well-informed, especially if it is through this podcast, is important.”

Bowen agrees that students and other listeners learn and gain a greater understanding of the business faculty through the podcast.

“I think the podcasts are a really unique way to share content because we’re not simply delivering this information through a press release or article,” Bowen said. “If the media is searching for an expert on a specific topic and come across our professors on the podcast talking about business topics or research, it gives the faculty better exposure and could give the college some impactful coverage.

Above all, Bowen said the main goal of Breaking Down Business is to share information that audiences find useful and helpful.

“The podcast is a valuable tool to share information with our stakeholders, students and alumni,” Bowen said. “I see us continuing to produce podcasts as long as the platform remains relevant to our audiences.”

Listen to Breaking Down Business’ latest episode here: https://soundcloud.com/user-186189155.

Career Services Office - College of Business Administration (CoBA)

Bowen was approached by Andy Weyand, the director of career services in the College of Business Administration, to produce a podcast as a new approach to learning within CoBA..

Andy Weyand
“I suggested podcasting because it’s a new communication method and new medium we never tried out in terms of sharing Career Services’ coaching,” Weyand said. “With the connections that we have, we saw it as an innovative approach and opportunity to interview people that will assist our students before entering the workplace.”

After discussing the podcast with Bowen and the dean of the college, Deborah F. Spake, Ph.D., Weyand developed Ready for Business, where he interviews experts from the Employer Advisory Council and other faculty members to coach business students on how to land a job post-graduation.

“The main idea was, how cool would it be if students can hear it straight from the mouth of a recruiter on what's the best way to network, write a resume and provide tips on what to avoid while interviewing,” Weyand said. “Part of our mission is to provide future employers with a pipeline of talent prepared and ready for employment. I feel the podcast is an innovative approach to educate the students we’re coaching.”

Weyand believes podcasting is a great idea because it is easily accessible, short and popular among college students and staff.

“Ready for Business is an opportunity to allow students to consume and take this coaching at their leisure,” Weyand said. “We’re highlighting what job seekers are looking for in a candidate, and I hope students engage with our content and reflect on these experts’ advice.”

Weyand produced the podcast series in 2019, but he would like to bring back the series late 2021 once he decides on more topics and content. Listen to Ready for Business here: https://www.kent.edu/business/kent-state-college-business-podcast

College of Public Health (CPH)

Joud Roufael
Joud Roufael and Andrew Snyder, doctorate students in the College of Public Health, created the Positive Health Podcast April 2020. Roufael said he saw an opportunity amid the pandemic to provide public health communication with the student body.

“As students at Kent State, we felt that a podcast for students, and developed by students, was an effective way to provide information on current and emerging issues,” Roufael said. “We have invited faculty guest speakers and established interdisciplinary segments encompassing the intersectionality of the complex healthcare system and the bigger picture of what is public health.”

The podcast series is not produced by the College of Public Health, but the students have received support and endorsement from the college, along with college alumni, the College of Nursing and the Undergraduate Student Government (USG).

Andrew Snyder
Because of the university’s global reach, Roufael said Positive Health expanded beyond the United States and extended to over 24 countries.

“It was an unintended, yet very thrilling, outcome of this podcast,” Roufael said. “We have received great student engagement, particularly from the students who participated in our segments. I am grateful for this experience, as I believe this podcast has been an additional opportunity for me to provide mentorship to the student body at Kent State.”

Snyder agrees that the podcast is an incredible initiative to inform students about public health issues and topics.

"Having worked in both the College of Nursing and the College of Public Health, this is even more special for me because I get to build a bridge between these health fields,” Snyder said.

Listen to Positive Health Podcast’s latest episode about vaccine hesitancy here: https://anchor.fm/publichealth/episodes/CON-Segment-2-Vaccine-Hesitancy-eqifra.

Podcasting in the Classroom

While specific departments use podcasting to promote educational content, some professors have decided to teach the importance of podcasting to their students, educating the next generation of podcasters for entertainment or business.

Stefanie Moore
Stefanie Moore, professor in MDJ, began teaching podcasting in her course, Digital Public Relations, over 10 years ago.

“In the field of public relations and communications, a podcast is just another communications tool we need to understand how to use in an integrated strategy,” Moore said. “Students not only examine how organizations use podcasts to reach target audiences, but also how they can use podcasting as an outlet to share their own voice and build their personal brands.”

In Moore’s class, students learn about content strategy, storytelling, scripting, interviewing and audio production techniques in creating their own episodes. They also learn how to implement some promotional and optimization tactics.

“Podcasts have officially become mainstream, and they are easier to access and to produce,” Moore said. “Podcasts can help students and organizations showcase personality, get personal with audiences and build community and relationships that will last a long time.”

Amanda Rabinowitz
Amanda Rabinowitz, host and producer at WKSU and an adjunct professor in MDJ, also teaches podcasting in her course Storytelling with Sound. Students’ final project involves pitching a complete idea for a podcast and producing the first episode.

“I hope it inspires them to continue working on podcasting beyond the class, either for student media or for their own portfolio,” Rabinowitz said.

Listen to the Digital Public Relations Podcast here: https://soundcloud.com/digitalprpodcast.

Listen to Storytelling with Sound’s latest series, “What Keeps You Up at Night?,” here: https://soundcloud.com/amanda-rabinowitz-843385995.

See how three Kent State alumni find personal revival and community in the power of podcasting in the Kent State Magazine Fall/Winter 2020-21 Edition: https://www.kent.edu/magazine/so-help-me-pod

POSTED: Wednesday, March 10, 2021 11:20 AM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 02:20 PM
Brady Warmbein