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Jenna Spinelle

Jenna Spinelle, Communications Specialist at Penn State McCourtney Institute for Democracy, is one of the 12 presenters of the 2020 Higher Ed Content Conference .

In this 4-question interview, Jenna tells us about best and worst content trends in higher ed, content measurement, great content ideas and a favorite tool.

1) What are the worst and best content trends in higher ed?

Stale, overly-processed quotes! You can spot them a mile away in news stories about everything from faculty research to student success. If it sounds like it came from a robot, no one is going to take the story seriously. We all have real personalities in there somewhere; I would love to see more of these personalities come through this year.

I would love to see more multi-platform storytelling that incorporates written, audio, and video content. For example, a story in an alumni magazine that’s released with a companion podcast episode diving deeper into what makes that person interesting or a recruitment video that’s a compilation of instagram stories with voiceovers from the students who took them.

2020 Higher Ed Content Conference

2) Why is it still so difficult to measure the performance of higher ed content?

Unlike a lot of marketing these days, I think a lot of higher ed content is created without a specific audience in mind, which makes judging its engagement and performance very difficult. If you don’t know who you want to reach, how can you tell whether you’ve reached them effectively?

Taking more time to focus on an audience might help make tracking more manageable, or doable at all.

3) Share 3 pieces of higher ed content that made you envious or proud.

I’m continually impressed with Notre Dame’s content on multiple fronts, but I recently came across the alumni magazine from the Mendoza College of Business. From design to story presentation to tone, it feels like a magazine you would pick up on the newsstand regardless of whether you have a connection to Notre Dame or not.

I’m a podcaster and could easily fill the rest of the space with great shows in higher ed, but I’ll choose a few that really stand out: 

Consequential: A podcast about how AI impacts our lives from the Block Center for Technology and Society at Carnegie Mellon University.

Ways&Means: A narrative show (think This American Life) about the ways our lives are impacted by public policy. It’s produced by the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke.

Big Brains: An interview-style podcast produced by the University of Chicago. The show really highlights the school’s amazing faculty, but in a way that’s focused on issues, not the university itself.

Finally, I love Bucknell’s website. The images are compelling, the copy is tight, and the calls to action are clear. I love that they are capitalizing on the email newsletter boom by having the mailing list sign up front and center.

4) What’s your favorite new tool for content work?

For anyone who has a podcast, I highly recommend using Chartable for URL tracking. It shortens your episode links for social media, provides analytics on click-throughs and episode downloads, and redirects users to Apple Podcasts or Spotify if they have the app installed.

A conference focusing on higher ed content?

The Higher Ed Content Conference is a must-attend event for higher ed content professionals and teams looking for new ideas and best practices.

Read below what a few of your higher ed colleagues who attended the past editions of the Higher Ed Content Conference say about the experience.

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