For This Podcast, a Personal Approach
Academy Award winners, Olympians, heads of state, and more have lent their voices to the University of Oregon’s The Duck Stops Here podcast.
The podcast, created by the U.S. university’s strategic engagement team, is a cultivation experience that provides donor prospects with a forum to share passions, discuss issues, and celebrate accomplishments. While the university shares the podcast with listeners via social media, in newsletters, and on platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify, there’s one audience member who matters most: the guest.
“Our number one priority is that the guest loves it, that they have a wonderful experience and feel well taken care of and celebrated,” says Michelle Joyce-Fyffe, Senior Director of Strategic Engagement.
The show also facilitates connections across the institution, she adds.
“One of the great things about this forum is that it leads to so many natural follow-up opportunities from different people and parts of the university, [like] ‘I heard your podcast [episode], and I love that you care about this, so I wanted to connect.’ All those kinds of outreach become very natural suddenly,” says Joyce-Fyffe.
The University of Oregon team accomplishes this by strategically pairing prospects with the perfect interviewer—from development officers and engagement officers, including Joyce-Fyffe, to students and alumni, as well as beloved professors who changed guests’ lives. Recently the team paired a vice president at Microsoft who oversees artificial intelligence work with a computer science professor.
“It was perfect because now the prospect understands that we have high-level individuals teaching about his area of expertise at the university,” explains Joyce-Fyffe.
Prospects have complete control over the production and editing process, working closely with the engagement team to ensure success. When the team launched the podcast in 2021, its first ask to potential participants saw an enthusiastic 94% response rate, much higher than that of traditional outreach.
“The more people that we get on the podcast, especially people with name recognition or prestigious titles, the more likely people are to say, ‘yes,’” says Joyce-Fyffe.
The most listened to episode features Daniel Wu, a Chinese American action hero and movie star, who shared his episode with his Instagram following of more than one million. The episode was also popular with Chinese students on campus.
What started as another way to virtually engage prospects during the pandemic has changed with the return to in-person engagement. Recently, the team created the position of Digital Engagement Officer to manage the podcast and other digital endeavors.
“It seems like such a missed opportunity to drop the ball on all of these great virtual engagement opportunities that were created during the pandemic,” says Joyce-Fyffe.
She says what she enjoyed most about this experience was discovering her podcast voice.
“It’s been very empowering to flex this completely different muscle that I wasn’t using before in my role, and it was fun to be creative. Now I’m a podcaster!”
Fast Facts: Podcasts
- Sept. 30, 2023, is International Podcast Day, a celebration created by podcast enthusiasts.
- “Podcast” was coined in 2004 by a British technology journalist and nods to Apple’s then-relatively new iPod.
- CASE added podcasts as a Circle of Excellence Awards category in 2018, recognizing 56 winners (and counting!) since then.
About the author(s)
Hannah Ratzer is Editorial Specialist at CASE.
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