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Spotlight on IFP Resident: Kerry Donahue of PRX

Each week, we will begin highlighting a new IFP Resident organization with an interview with their founder or an employee. Up next is Kerry Donahue the Director of Training at PRX:

What is your company/organization and what do you do?

PRX is a leading non-profit media company primarily working in public media and podcasting. To quote our website, PRX is “shaping the future of audio by connecting talented producers with their most engaged, supportive audiences. PRX builds technology and creates cutting-edge content that reaches millions of listeners worldwide.” I’m the director of training and my team develops and runs podcast training programs around the world and at two Podcast Garages in Boston and Washington D.C.

If you could describe your career path in three sentences or less, what would it be?

I am the youngest in a family of 8 kids so I learned pretty early that the best way to capture people’s attention is to tell a great story. I went to school thinking I would become an engineer. That didn’t work out. I “fell back” on being an artist. I’m pretty good at it. 

Why are you passionate about what you do and what inspired you to start your business/work on the projects you work on?

I’ve always loved the intimacy of radio – which is even more of a feature in podcasting – as well as radio’s nimbleness and openness. The low barrier to entry for podcasting means lots of people can make their own media, and I’ve always loved that.

What is your priority project right now (individually or as a business)?

My small team that works out of the Media Center has two big projects, both 20-week podcasts accelerator programs. Project Catapult works with public radio stations around the country to help them develop their podcasts. The Google Podcasts creator program trains podcasters from around the world. For both programs, we have embraced human-centered design processes to help teams focus on the specific audience they intend to reach. As we say, particularly in a niche, on-demand environment, if you make a podcast for everyone, you end up making a podcast for no one.

How do you as a company/organization/individual handle crisis and what do you during these times to stay inspired and to inspire your team/collaborators?

As a remote team to our main organization, the transition to working from home hasn’t been too difficult. PRX is a pretty nimble organization and our main work now during this COVID-19 pandemic is helping our radio programs, radio stations and podcasters stay financially solvent and reach their intended audiences. A resource we published last week is this Podcaster Toolbox, a guide for podcasters working from home. 

 On a micro-level, we are encouraging as much face time as possible with most meetings via video call. It’s a good way to increase engagement, and it’s just nice to see people you haven’t seen in a while, and to provide that human connection that can fall to the wayside when you’re working remotely – or in quarantine. I’ve also encouraged my team, in particular, to take the time they need to be the best versions of themselves right now. We’re all working under new conditions, and for some, being stuck at home all day and trying to stay organized and productive amid a lot of uncertainty is tough. I’ve hit a lot of walls, and I know my team has and will continue to – so giving them the license to pause, talk it out, or check out as needed is how I’m keeping their spirits up.

What exciting projects have you recently completed, are currently working on, or have in the pipeline?

We are really proud of the ten-part Podcasting 101 video series we released in late October as part of the Google Podcasts creator program – it even has its own companion course! We’ve also been running some two-day podcast training programs for journalists, primarily journalists of color, who want to start or improve a podcast. Funded by the Knight Foundation, we’ve run two of the three trainings in Philadelphia and San Jose. The third training in Detroit has been delayed due to the pandemic. We’re also preparing to open a much bigger podcast garage in Washington D.C. this fall (fingers cross no delays).

If you could give one thing to the greater Media Center/IFP community, what would it be?

My unfailing optimism! Plus, a magical realm where there’s a free phone booth with always excellent wifi whenever you need to make a video call, and (more concretely) an even more sound-proof podcast studio.

If you could ask one thing of the greater Media Center/IFP community, what would it be?

Dearest neighbors, if you’re not using that conference room you booked, it would be so great if you could let others know it’s available.

How did you find out about IFP/Media Center?

When the Media Center was developing its podcast certificate program in the fall of 2017, a friend who runs a film festival put me in touch with Sarah Moosvi, who was then in the Media Center’s marketing department. We designed the first podcast certificate class before I accepted the full-time job at PRX. Then, when I started hiring a team to work with me in NYC, it made sense for us to work out of the Media Center which I’ve always felt had a strong PRX-vibe as both orgs help independent producers make a living. 

What have you gained from your membership?

I am so impressed by the different types of companies and talented people I’ve met through the Media Center. It’s cool to be part of this community.

What unique media center offerings have you taken advantage of and have found the most rewarding?

Well, first, we’ve been negligent about attending happy hours and that’s got to change. We have participated in the first Audio Lab and IFP week. I’ve enjoyed being on the Media Center’s Advisory Committee.

Be sure to check back next week for another IFP Resident Spotlight.