Behind the scenes of ListenUp!
By Abigail Long
When the Office of Marketing and Public Relations began work on the podcast project, they contacted Professor Ed Arke of the Department of Communication, asking if he knew of any students with the ability and desire to help record and produce podcasts.
Through Arke, junior broadcasting major Katie Manzullo heard about the project and contacted web content editor Craig Hise to see how she could get involved. Says Hise, “It has been great to have her as a member of our "pod cast" as she brings a lot of excitement to the project and has come up with great ideas for content and personalities that we can feature (the podcast for the Presidential Inauguration was her idea), as well as doing the recording and production work.” Another member of the podcast team is Laurie Brown, promotional writer in the Office of Marketing and Publications.
We interviewed Brown and Manzullo about ListenUp! and got some background information about why they got involved and what goes into podcast production.
Interview with Laurie Brown
| Laurie Brown, promotional writer
What kinds of podcasts have you been involved in making?
My first podcast promoted Richard Hughes’ new book Christian American and the Kingdom of God. Richard and I had just finished writing a StoryLink article about the book, so we thought giving audiences an opportunity to listen to excerpts would enrich the message. Richard did a wonderful job of preparing his script, and then delivering it in a way that was warm and welcoming. And our producer, Katie Manzullo, literally walked us through every step of the process. Her creative direction made the project a success.
Our second podcast is due out this summer. It’s a supplement to a Bridge article where graduating seniors share their journeys of spiritual formation while at Messiah. The podcast includes nine student commentaries ranging from favorite memories, to advice to first-year students, and reflections on whom at Messiah most influenced their growth. Everyone involved with the project was really touched by the heartfelt responses given by our student panel. It was a great experience—really affirming—and we believe listeners will be encouraged as well.
How did you get involved in podcasts?
It was assigned by the director of print and web communications. Podcasting is new to Messiah, or at least to the Office of Marketing and Public Relations, so we researched the technology thoroughly before launching. We threw around a lot of ideas, experimented a bit, and then found Katie Manzullo! It was a great learning experience and a lot of fun.
Can you describe the podcast production process?
The first step is determining the topic. I try to find content that provides additional information or a sidebar for readers to learn more about a person or subject featured in StoryLink or The Bridge. Craig Hise creates podcasts of a different nature—they’re more of a “series” such as the The Reading Man—book reviews by Pete Powers, interim dean of Messiah College’s School of the Humanities and a professor of English. We believe serialized podcasts, dotted with the unexpected, will keep listeners tuned into ListenUp.
The second step is writing/developing a script. We’ve learned it’s easier and more efficient to have the subject read a script than to produce an open-ended, on-air interview. Katie Manzullo ’10, a broadcasting major, is a wonderful post-production editor but her time is understandably limited. Editing out the “ooh’s” and “um’s” of a casual conversation is painstaking work so we encourage our subjects to prepare a script but to read it in a conversational tone, interjecting personal anecdotes or comments when necessary. This is an important distinction and I think we’ve pulled it off pretty well.
Next, we coordinate production time with all the parties, which can be challenging, but well worth the effort. Then, we hand it over to Katie for editing and adding polish. Finally, posting is easy but just because it’s out there on the World Wide Web doesn’t mean listeners will be drawn to it. It has to be promoted—which is something we’re excited about.
Did you get any training before jumping into it, or did you just figure it out as you went along?
We definitely learned as we went along … and continue to do so. I actually spent countless hours at my home computer trying to learn Garage Band so that we could edit recorded interviews. Craig did the same with a program called Audacity. We had a lot of good laughs before we determined that Craig and Katie, with their technical gifts, were better suited to the production aspect of podcasting. I’ll stick to developing content and promotion. We are glad it worked out as it did and learning together as we did, made us a stronger team.
Have you worked mostly by yourself, or have you been a part of a team? If so, who was on the team, are there any students besides Katie Manzullo involved in podcasting?
I primarily worked with Katie on production but Craig has never been far away. He and I pretty much bounce everything off one another. It’s highly collaborative and we learn a lot from just talking things through before we get to the production phase.
What is the most difficult thing about making a podcast?
Really, nothing is difficult about making a podcast. It’s getting listeners to plug in that’s a challenge. People are busy and the podcast adds yet another thing to their “to-do” list. Although we believe Messiah has created something really exciting in ListenUp. It’s a high quality product with engaging content listeners can’t access anywhere else.
What is the best thing about it?
It’s immediate, simple, relatively inexpensive, creative, and comes with a sense of freedom. If you have a team of people, each with their own area of expertise, a podcast can be pulled off pretty easily.
What do you think about where the podcast initiative has gone so far? What sort of things do you think will be made into podcasts in the future?
We’re off to a good start. Our podcasts are compelling and appeal to a broad range of audiences. Podcasts provide unlimited opportunities but probably the area we should focus on most is making video casts. The student podcasts, for example, would have made great videos for our admissions team to use at Open Houses, or even for others to download onto their mobile devices. I know many colleges offer lectures via podcasts as well.
|Katie Manzullo '10 at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration
Interview with Katie Manzullo '10
How did you hear that the Office of Market and Public Relations was looking to start a podcast?
I first became aware of the project in my newswriting class last semester. Dr. Arke brought in information about many internship opportunities throughout the semester, and one of them involved working with the Office of Marketing and Public Relations to develop a podcast. As a broadcasting major focusing on radio production, I was immediately interested. Craig Hise and I met a few weeks after and began brainstorming. Though I didn't have extra credits for an internship, I took on the project anyway. I knew I wanted to be involved.
Why did you want to be a part of it?
I spent the spring semester of my sophomore year at Messiah's Philadelphia Campus. While I was there I took a number of courses in audio production and radio reporting. I've always had an interest in radio, but that semester I fell in love with audio production. My idea of a fun afternoon is recording and editing audio. Not much gets me more excited than isolating individual breath sounds, smoothing out transitions, and making someone with even the worst stutter sound like a great orator.
You record the podcasts, is that correct? what is that process like? Do you have any other people helping you?
I record every podcast in the WVMM 90.7 studios in the Larsen Student Union. I'm the production manager at WVMM so I have access to the studios. I also edit every podcast, which can be a pretty involved process.
Craig Hise and Laurie Brown from the OMPR have come to me with wonderful ideas for some of the episodes. For others, I've gone through the whole process, from concept to finished product, independent of the OMPR. The success of any episode relies not just on my editing skills, but whoever is being featured on the podcast.
What is your favorite thing about the whole project?
My favorite episode so far has been Jeff Rioux's preview of Josh Ritter's concert. Jeff knew I produced ListenUp! and had expressed interest in doing a piece. We were able to get together and spend a few hours listening to Josh Ritter's music and reading reviews of his work. Jeff came with some really brilliant insights and we were able to put together a great podcast so people in the community could become familiar with Josh's music before he came and played a concert for SAB. That's what I really love doing- highlighting something that an organization does really well and explaining it. SAB brings amazing concerts, and I was able to give Jeff a way to articulate why Josh Ritter was the perfect person to play a concert at Messiah College. I've also loved the chance to get to know people through the podcast. I have met a number of fascinating and inspirational members of the community while recording podcasts with them. In some ways ListenUp! has become a way for me to realize all of my campus friend crushes.
I really think that every person has a story to tell, and I feel privileged to help people tell their own story.
Check out ListenUP, Messiah's new