Category Archives: Presentations

Where Technology Meets Interpretation Workshop Resources

This past week, I had the privilege of co-leading a interpretation workshop focused on technology with Stacey Kutish, digital interpretive strategist at Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. There were about 30 attendees from gardens and related cultural sites. I’m sharing the slide deck with speaker notes, which includes the following topics we covered:

  • Audience Research
  • Setting Strategy
  • Tools and Techniques
  • What Makes Good Digital Content

Thanks to everyone who came out to this introductory workshop. Related material:

A more in-depth explanation of the strategic planning process can be found in the post Strategy Kit: Goals, Objectives and Tactics for #DigitalHeritage Outreach Planning.

Interpretation Workshop Symposium

Preservation social media leadership: The early days

In 2009, I presented to the Preservation Technology Advisory Board for the first time about preservation social media efforts. Though it was the first time the board members really heard about social media, they were incredibly supportive of the initiative.

The presentation features images by Hunter Wilson, who had a Flickr 365 project going on at the time. He would post a self-portrait every day for one year. Many of them featured compelling Photoshop effects. As I was presenting this, Hunter was at his high-school graduation. We had been interacting on Flickr for a time, and he was gracious enough to Skype in for a PR Campaigns course I was teaching at the local university.

That prior year was magic with connections that embodied the potential of preservation social media, before it became dominated by marketers and the walled fortress that is Facebook. The heritage fields were still skeptical of social media. Out in nowhere-you’ve-heard-of Louisiana, we were pioneering the frontier.

09 Board Meeting: Strengthening NCPTT’s Leadership on the the Social Web

Presentation to the NCPTT Board, May 2009

  • NCPTT Preservation Social Media Initiative and World Wide Web Clearinghouse
  • Conversation, facilitated by online tools that are: Platform-independent Free Interactive Easy to use
  •  Ultimately, it’s still about relationships [human-centered]
  • NCPTT was one of the first preservation organizations to use social media
  • Podcasting [Preservation Technology Podcast]
  •  Social Networking
  • Microblogging
  • Online Photo Sharing
  • Online Video Sharing
  • Preservation needs online leadership. The Future is Mobile
  • Training initiative provides expert guidance, connections for NCPTT [Training staff]
  • People everywhere are connecting in cyberspace to talk about heritage.
  • In 2009, many more heritage organizations have jumped on the new media bandwagon
  • … but progress is using new media effectively has been slow and lacking direction
  • Heritage is still trying to find its voice online.
  • Preservation still needs online leadership.
  • NCPTT’s role is to help the organizations make sense of social media and use it effectively
  • Communicating ourselves on the World stage can be an overwhelming task
  • We’ve been there before
  •  The right tools, mindset and people bring the job down to size
  •  Hard work and service to others unleashes the benefits of online engagement
  •  “We need to connect citizens with each other to engage them more fully and directly in solving the problems that face us. We must use all available technologies and methods to open up the federal government, creating a new level of transparency to change the way business is conducted in Washington and giving Americans the chance to participate in government deliberations and decision-making in ways that were not possible only a few years ago.” From Barack Obama’s campaign platform on technology Monday, March 9, 2009
  •  “We need to connect citizens with each other to engage them more fully and directly in solving the problems that face us. We must use all available technologies and methods to open up the federal government, creating a new level of transparency to change the way business is conducted in Washington and giving Americans the chance to participate in government deliberations and decision-making in ways that were not possible only a few years ago.” From Barack Obama’s campaign platform on technology Monday, March 9, 2009
  • You’re our heroes [advocacy role of board]
  •  What can we do to help? [Ideas, comments and discussion]

Strategy Kit: Goals, Objectives and Tactics for #DigitalHeritage Outreach Planning

The pervasiveness of online tools makes engagement ever easier, and as a result, a less meaningful measure of influence. Conversely, planning for digital communications is often an uncomfortable and intensive process that results in more effective online initiatives by clarifying audiences and expectations. Based on my presentation at the 2013 Society for Historical Archaeology Conference, the following media will illustrate effective strategic planning approaches for organizations that seek to advocate for heritage resources through the web. Methods examined will include the development of measurable tactics to gain internal buy-in, leverage online partnerships and determine appropriate engagement tools.

Versions of this Post

  • Watch the narrated slidecast version of this post on YouTube below and be sure to subscribe to the Voices of the Past Channel for more content.
  • For a simplified version of this concept, read my previous post on Voices of the Past.
  • Download the full paper here: Digital Planning for Cultural Heritage

Please share a comment regarding digital heritage planning approaches that have worked for you. All of us who use the web to advocate for heritage resources would love to hear your story.


In the decade since the widespread emergence of social media platforms, strategic planning for the web and digital media is still a rarity among heritage organizations. Often, the preferred approach is to nurture innovative ideas ahead of audience needs, or the sustainability of the approach over time. The web, digital libraries social media and mobile tools provide effective platforms for heritage advocacy, but truly leveraging these technologies means continually re-anchoring them with strategic context over the course of time. At the core of strategic concerns for digital heritage on the web are considerations of audience outreach, providing authentic interpretive experiences online, and establishing foundations for future “born digital” data. While these concerns are frequently addressed as separate issues, the effectiveness of each is highly dependent on sustainably the systems interrelate. Ultimately, digital strategy is by, and for, people— from planning to consumption. The key to successfully translating good ideas and intentions for outreach through the web and digital media is to develop them into more defined goals, objectives and tactics that can be measured for mission-based results among audiences. Illustrative elements from the strategic plans of the following heritage organizations and programs will be examined:

  • Chemical Heritage Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on the history of chemistry. CHF houses a library, archives, oral history program, public museum, gallery of historic art, and visiting scholars program.
  • National Center for Preservation Technology & Training, a U.S. National Park Service research and granting agency. NCPTT advances the use of science and technology in historic preservation with programs in archaeology, architecture,landscapes and materials science.




Goals are simple, general statements that are rooted in mission. They are based on changing your organization’s position in reputation, relationships or the work of accomplishing mission-based directives. They are vision statements about an organization’s perfect world. They are also often the most difficult for organizations to articulate because they are impossible to ever quantifiably achieve. Because of their layered meaning, they remain evergreen and rarely need to be refashioned. Stating goals in present tense also serves as a motivational function.


While goals function as an organizational compass, objectives define a time and place for recognizing a successful interim stop on the journey. Objectives are a critical success factor in strategic planning for digital planning for heritage organizations, but are rarely articulated because of the discomfort their specificity implies. They focus on inspiring measurable action, acceptance or awareness that make organizational goals a practical pursuit (Smith, 82-84). Eleven criteria define the ideal objective:

The strategic planning process for heritage organizations generally evolves into three levels of focus: goals, objectives and tactics. This approach can be effectively executed regardless of the size, scope or resources of an organization.

  • They support mission-based organizational goals for the organization.
  • They are focused on a specific audience.
  • They emphasize impact, not products.
  • They are rooted in research.
  • Their wording is semantically clear.
  • They are measurable.
  • They are time-defined.
  • They focus on one result from one audience.
  • They challenge the organization.
  • They are attainable.
  • They are accepted throughout the organization.

Objectives accomplish one of three outcomes. The first is awareness, or what audiences understand about an organization through simple transmittal of information. Objectives can also influence acceptance, or the emotional response felt by publics, which can foster advocacy, particularly in controversial situations. Finally, objectives can be used to inspire action for changing an existing behavior or adopting a new one.

It’s easy to report web page hits and time spent visiting a site. Establishing if that is a value and then putting a number to it is critical to establish momentum. These numbers can be determined through evaluation of an organization’s existing audience interactions or results achieved by similar organizations online. As the plan is updated and iterated over the course of time, a truer understanding of audience will develop and more targeted numbers can be assigned.


Tactics are the tools, platforms and approaches identified in a plan that most efficiently interface with targeted audiences to accomplish organizational objectives. In social media, these may include Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.


Michigan State University Campus Archaeology

The MSU Campus Archaeology Social Media Action Plan combined vision-oriented goals with an aggressive schedule of posting procedures for reaching targeted audiences. Among its goals were to be seen as “the go-to authority for MSU’s history” and “innovators and the authority on Campus Archaeology.” Its targeted audiences included alumni, students, faculty, staff, and Lansing/East Lansing community. The plan emphasized integration of social media and including everyone who worked on any aspect of the program so that a consistent and frequent message was delivered to core audiences, while seeking to expand them as well, especially among staff and alumni. As a result, the program was recognized for its field school work with an AT&T Award for innovative teaching for combining digital and traditional media. The University subsequently reclassified the program as critical and recently made its budget a permanent line item. (Goldstein, 2012)

Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA)

The Social Media Subcommittee of the Society for Historical Archaeology created an outreach plan in 2011. The subcommittee sought to provide a resource for membership to interact regularly with the organization, and offer non-members insight into both SHA and the world of historical archaeology. The subcommittee’s central tactic was development of collaborative blog that was supported by an aggressive community-building campaign on Facebook and Twitter. During 2012, 50 people contributed 125 posts. Followers on Twitter more than doubled to more than 2,800. Additionally, most of its 1,365 followers on Facebook liked the SHA page during that same period. (Brock, 2012)

The foundations for SHA’s strategic plan were established by spring, just in time for the premiers of “National Geographic’s Diggers” and Spike TV’s “American Diggers.” The blog and social media channels became the launchpad for SHA’s response. President Paul Mullins proactively issued a public response to the shows, stating:

“These shows are disappointing, but we can continue to approach them as teaching moments and acknowledge that even thoughtful viewers may not immediately grasp the ethical shortcomings of such methods or understand what they risk losing in the hands of a haphazard metal detector survey. We do not need to surrender our preservation ethics or scholarly rigor, and while we may not transform everybody we can reach many thoughtful people who respect precise fieldwork, community scholarship, and responsible preservation.” (Mullins, 2012)

SHA shared follow-up posts from its Ethics committee regarding the organization’s conversations with National Geographic. It furthered the opportunity for “teaching moments” by featuring a Current Topics post from Matt Reeves, director of archaeology at Montpelier Foundation, who runs a workshop with metal detectorists. The post discussed his program and provided materials for working with this community in more proactive ways. By prioritizing the development of its digital platforms, SHA was positioned to take advantage of a media controversy to raise awareness, foster advocacy and inspire action among its identified publics. It provided members with instant, two-way communication about how the organization was responding to an important issue while it supplied resources they could apply to their own work as it relates to a hot topic. At the same time, it presented the organizational position on these issues and promoted its available resources to the public and potential members. Four of SHA’s top five blog posts them covered this issue, accounting for 15 percent of the blog’s traffic for the year.

National Center for Preservation Technology & Training (NCPTT)

NCPTT’s plan was developed in 2007, just as social media began to enter the popular mindset. Among agencies for the U.S. National Park Service, NCPTT is very small and remotely located in the small town of Natchitoches, Louisiana. Moreover, it’s congressional mandate extended well beyond the National Park Service to include historic preservationists in general, giving the research it fostered in the technologies of preservation a global audience. The organization applied the Hoshin Kanri model of strategic planning to its digital efforts. It categorized its goals under the 11 focus areas of the Hoshin method: Content, Tools and Vehicles, Structure, Processes, Leadership, Partnership, Metrics, Internal Communication, Reputation/Impact, Role and Global.

Because so few of its peers were on the social web at that point, NCPTT’s priority was to develop its internal savvy and build a library of digital media content that would engage early adopters in its audience and establish its authority in this area when the rest of its audiences followed. This goal was articulated under the Structure focus area as “A streamlined process empowers NCPTT staff to rapidly deliver media content directly to the web.” The objectives under this goal included regular training by digital media experts, more autonomy for staff members posting content, and implementation of digital tools and platforms to make the posting process as simple as possible.

Throughout 2008, NCPTT shifted its digital infrastructure accordingly. The organization tracked digital media conferences taking place in nearby metropolitan areas to draw blogging and experts to its facility for staff training on the principles of blogging, online media editing and search engine optimization strategies. It repositioned its intranet from a static system of document links to a social media learning and sharing experience. It did this by creating an NCPTT FriendFeed group, which was embedded on the intranet’s homepage. Bookmarklets were installed on staff member’s browsers to allow immediate sharing and conversation about news items without the need to broadcast links through email. This provided a safe place for them to acquire online posting and conversational skills. To reinforce the promise of the Web 2.0 revolution among the organization’s laggards, communications staff continually posted news articles about social media’s burgeoning impact to the FriendFeed room. This tactic cost no money, required little time for implementation and readied staff members for engagement on then-emerging platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

A more celebrated objective under this goal in NCPTT’s strategic plan was its migration from a proprietary CMS for its website to the open source version of WordPress. It was among the first U.S. government agencies to make such a leap. With the proprietary CMS, content had to be submitted to the webmaster to post. WordPress’ intuitive interface and built-in search optimization functions allowed staff to post high-impact multimedia content directly to the site. By the end of 2009, NCPTT was featured as Government Video Magazine’s “Website of the Week,” citing the National Center’s use of “photos, videos, podcasts and every other modern method to demonstrate [its research].” Additionally, tech blog Honeytech named the website number four on its international listing of “Top 10 Government Sites Powered by WordPress.” The WordPress organization also chose NCPTT as one of eight U.S. government sites featured in its Showcase for outstanding implementation of the CMS (NCPTT, 2009). The success of this migration led to other agencies within the National Park Service’s Cultural Resource Program to consult with NCPTT regarding their digital strategies.

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS)

RCAHMS began its digital media planning by embracing the promise of technological and social openness even while it undertook a frank examination of its limitations toward achieving that promise. The planning process started by a “challenge group” comprised of representatives from each department throughout the organization. The group first crafted a description of social media that would communicate its potential to others in the organization. It then set out to link that potential to Strategic Priorities previously identified by the organization. The group called for relaxed editorial guidelines in keeping with more authentic engagement on social media platforms and drafted a one-page common sense policy for using social media. It also emphasized principles of public interaction with its collection through crowdsourced content opportunities, user-generated tagging and integrated data systems. Notably, it also emphasized a spirit of fun and experimentation in approach not characteristic in the heritage field:

“We should be prepared to experiment before we get it right; this is a new way of working, and it will be new for some of our audiences too, we should be prepared to try a few things to get it right. As this is such a new and fast changing media we should be very responsive to change and constantly redevelop our strategies.” (RCAHMS, 4)

One of its first initiatives was a user-centered photo sharing initiative in which it began accepting user-contributed content. RCAHMS began to allow direct public contributions to its MyCanmore online image collections database via the application programming interface (API) of the social media service Flickr. Within six months, more than 2000 images and 350 text contributions were added by users.

In a project funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, RCAHMS partnered with the University of Edinburgh, National Museums Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland to hold a social media training series for the Scottish cultural heritage sector titled “Digital futures of cultural heritage education.” The collaborators worked to establish a research agenda for museum and gallery education for the digital age with the further goal to inform and align policy and practice in the use of social media. RCAHMS also sponsors the research program “Beyond Text” at the University of Edinburgh to explore the role of users in contributing to the public online presence of cultural institutions, the ways in which users might contribute to the ‘making’ and ‘unmaking’ of public archives, and the ways in which a global public learns and constructs meaning from institutions’ digital collections. Among the program’s current research projects is a study of how new online media environments are changing the way users engage with, and learn from, the collections of cultural institutions.

By articulating an audience-based vision at the outset of its digital and social media planning, RCAHMS established an internal mindset of open engagement, which attracted influential partnerships and led to internal technological evolution.

Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF)

The Chemical Heritage Foundation is unique among heritage organizations in the diversity of its heritage preservation and outreach programs. It crafted its emerging media plan to help it re-imagine itself as a platform for telling the story of chemistry using its extraordinarily broad collection of heritage content (i.e. art and object collections, oral histories, archives, rare books) that span the entire historical narrative it supports. These assets provide rich material for digital storytelling. The challenge the organization has begun to address in the past year is to find ways to make its high-quality event programming and collections data more accessible to online audiences.

CHF’s strategic planning approach advocates a high level of collaboration that is focused on “the organization” telling stories, rather than individual programs. It focuses on the creation of digital assets that meet measurable, audience-based needs in the near term; retain ongoing relevance through vigilant curation in the longer term; and provide it in consistently updated formats that will allow the next storytellers of chemical heritage to readily continue the narrative. To this end, CHF adopted the following seven goals for its digital media strategy in the summer of 2012:

  1. CHF publishes its digital products in formats optimized for search (SEO), sharing and exploration.
  2. CHF tells the story of chemistry in human context—stories by people, for people.
  3. CHF provides timely, relevant engagement opportunities for its audiences.
  4. CHF’s content is available whenever and wherever our audiences need it.
  5. Digital strategy is a core consideration in CHF’s public-facing processes and initiatives.
  6. CHF facilitates active and enlightening dialog with its audiences.
  7. CHF’s staff members are savvy, empowered digital advocates for chemical heritage.

These vision statements were each supported by approximately three objectives and an appropriate number of tactics. For example, under Goal 3, the following objectives and tactics were among those articulated:

Objective: Increase audiences for CHF events by 35% in FY 2013 through a program of interactive online livestreaming.


  • TriCaster device for portable in-house production of livestreamed events.
  • Social discovery with simulcast tie-in using Google Hangouts
  • Create a Vimeo channel as platform for a high-quality online archive of event footage
  • Measure views through YouTube Insights, Vimeo analytics and streaming logs

Objective: Establish mobile interactive tour in FY2013 to increase average visitor engagement in CHF’s permanent collections space by 10 minutes.


  • Toursphere Mobile Application Service for museums
  • Virtual docent tour video for six cases
  • iPad Checkout Station for Visitors with pre-loaded tour
  • Museum promotional signage and postcards incorporating coded links/QR code
  • Launched in phases of six cases per iteration.
  • Testing by CHF staff members and random visitors.
  • Measure with Toursphere analytics and built-in survey feature

By the end of the 2012 calendar year, CHF had achieved its objectives for livestreaming through the broadcast of four events. Online audiences for these events more than doubled total attendance with views from around the world. Content for CHF’s mobile app was developed during the fall of 2012 and will launch by February of 2013. It has spurred a broader interpretive multimedia program that has enhanced its social media channels as well. Through these objectives, the organization has enhanced existing audience engagement experiences and opened them up to much a much wider array of audiences with relatively few additional resource requirements.


Collectively, these organizations mentioned above represent a wide range of perspectives related to the preservation of heritage. Their digital strategies reflect that diversity, yet these also share common themes in approach. Here are similarities that can inform other digital planning processes related to the preservation of heritage.

Write an Honest Situation Analysis

Defining goals, objectives and tactics for digital strategy is a process that requires a realistic evaluation of organizational position and responsibilities, whether perceived or actual. This typically examines events and circumstances in the organization, professional fields or among affected publics (including internal ones) that can be leveraged for acting on these results. This should also include threats, including heritage resources the organization is currently charged to protect, or situations it commonly finds itself in when online engagement could make a difference. It should also include a frank look the organization’s existing technology in comparison to emerging platforms.

Root Digital Planning in Existing Organizational Priorities

The critical leap to success depends on tactics being rooted in a larger strategic vision for the organization. In many cases, this has been articulated to some degree with a mission statement and a five-year outlook. While having these directives makes the social media strategic planning process much easier, many heritage organizations either don’t have such a document, or it’s severely out of date, or more likely lacks measurable specificity. Additionally, pre-existing commitments, politics, and infrastructure may not allow a direct route to an articulated plan based purely in mission. In these cases, a strategic plan for digital media can spur a grass-roots recognition of the value of defining audiences and measurable expectations of work.

Thoroughly Define and Prioritize Audiences

The principles of social media in particular will often engage naturally when you are using the social tools while intentionally remembering who your audience is and what drives them. The “World” is not an audience. Neither is “The Public.” This will make participation from the staff and publics much easier as well. Measurable success in digital strategy depends on articulating every potential audience for the organization, and prioritizing those by importance. This will help focus appropriate digital platforms as well.

Monitoring and Management

There must be someone responsible for social media execution, and they must be supported by an interdepartmental team. They must also have appropriate tools to accomplish this job. Milestone check-ins are critical to the success of each project. Commit wholeheartedly and integrate these functions into job descriptions of a full-time individual, but be realistic about what they can accomplish in a given period of time. Google Analytics is used by virtually every organization evaluation. The free service provides a deep level of data on how visitors access and interact with websites. Google has recently begun to focus on increasing its capabilities for measuring social media’s impact on website traffic. For social media monitoring and posting, Hootsuite is also widely used by each organization that engages on multiple platforms. Hootsuite allows subscribers to collaboratively schedule posts, monitor social engagement and respond to audiences through one web-based interface. Once an account is setup, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Linkedin streams can be organized into tabs. Information from those tabs can be further organized into columns, providing a comprehensive social media dashboard.

Costs and Content Development

Costs for digital media initiatives vary as widely as the content standards of the organization, and the greater the time put into crafting this plan, the more efficient it will be in the long-term. Online audiences value consistent, authentic connection with individuals at an organization over higher production values with a corporate voice. Agreed-upon posting schedules and suggested best practices for documenting field work will keep the short-term costs for the public engagement side of digital strategy low. Based on outcomes of the situation analysis, investment will go toward adopting or sustaining storage systems for heritage data that can interface with web-based platforms.

Heritage organizations routinely partner to protect the resources they care about. That spirit of partnership is effective online as well. NCPTT collaborated with the local university journalism program, other National Parks and National Heritage Areas to accomplish some of the tasks in the development of its plan. It also shared its expertise in helping partner organizations like the Association for Preservation Technology launch their digital initiatives.

Be Your Own Platform

Digital media services and platforms will come and go. They are all ultimately tools. It is critical that heritage organizations own their data and take responsibility for continually growing its accessibility. While this is especially important for metadata related to memory collections, it also applies to the organization’s collective voice, a critical part of which should be its blog. Unlike social platforms whose fates are controlled by their parent companies, most blogging platforms allow back up and migration of data through open formats. With their multimedia capabilities, blogs are the most effective means for dynamic digital storytelling. As was demonstrated with SHA’s response to the “Diggers” television shows, it can also be a place to centralize thought leadership and mobilize audiences. Additionally, its built-in syndication capabilities make automating direct feeds to social media and mobile applications possible.

Internal Participation

Seek organizational buy-in the long-term, but start initial planning with an interdepartmental group of influencers that are most enthusiastic about heritage outreach. Identify the digital interests of staff members, and then encourage that through training by people with those areas of expertise. Provide the opportunity to apply those skills with internal engagement opportunities that are internal or to a limited audience. For written posting procedures, one page is ideal for a social media policy. Legalistic guidelines discourage internal participation and lessen the effectiveness of online conversation.

While day-to-day engagement is a critical component in gaining trust, a much more effective strategy is to use time-limited digital outreach campaigns. Use the organization’s long-term activity calendar to align planned projects with potential campaigns, involving as much of the organization as possible over the course of each year. A project lead and team are assigned to keep these time-limited campaigns on track. But other willing staff must be empowered with awareness and proper equipment so they know how to look at a situation and capture engaging content as it presents itself.

Defining goals, objectives and tactics digital planning facilitates a proactive approach for organziations. It ensures that strategic directives can be sustainably accomplished in a world that demands digital accessibility. This goes beyond the traditional archival responsibilities of such organizations to address the current expectation among audiences for ever-present engagement. For any historical narrative, people are both the catalyst and the audience. Much like the digital landscape, these audiences are also diverse and complex. The strategic planning process simplifies focus for both these areas so that professionals in fields such as archaeology, archives, preservation, conservation, landscapes and oral history can be more effective in advocating for heritage resources.


Bonacchi, C. (ed), 2012. Archaeology and Digital Communication. Towards Strategies of Public Engagement. London: Archetype PublicationsGiaccardi, E. (ed), 2012. Heritage and Social Media: Understanding Heritage in a Participatory Culture. New York: Routledge.

Goldstein, L. and Brock, T.P. (2010). MSU Campus Archaeology Social Media Action Plan.

Brock, T.P. (2012): Email communication, Dec. 26, 2012.

Adair, B., Filene, B., and Koloski, L. (ed), 2011. Letting Go? Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World. Philadelphia: The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.

Dobreva, M., O’Dwyer, A., and Feliciati, P. (ed.) 2012. User Studies for Digital Library Development. London: Facet Publishing

Graham, P. (2011): Skype communication with Philip Graham regarding digital strategy for the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

RCAHMS (2011): Social Media Challenge Group Strategic Recommendations. Smith, R.D. (2009). Strategic Planning for Public Relations. New York: Routledge.

You don’t have to be a King to find your voice

This is a post I’ve literally waited over a year to write. It concerns something only a handful of people have known about me to this point.

king george vi
king george vi

In late 2009, I found myself in a Wikipedia-induced causality loop. You’ve been there. One search leads to another one and then a morning has suddenly passed. I don’t know where this particular one began but it ended with the story of King George VI and the commencement of production on “The King’s Speech.” I immediately put the film on a Google Alert.

Reading the ever-increasing number of stories and blog posts about the stellar film was excruciating since I apparently live in the last place on earth the movie would ultimately run. I’m proud to see the film is as beautiful and brilliant as I’d hoped.

Why the weird obsession? Because it’s my story too — and the story of many others who conditions that affect their hearing and speech. While most of us will never influence the course of history, the struggle is much the same.

The Beat of a Different Drum

From the time I was a child, I knew I heard things differently than other people. I could discern sounds no one else seemed aware of in some situations, but there were others in which I couldn’t make out the words of someone standing talking directly into my ear (particularly when there was background noise). Severe ear infections throughout my pre-teen years led surgery to put tubes in my ears and have my adenoids removed. The pain went away, but the problems with sound and articulation continued. My family moved a lot in those years, and with each new school, I’d eventually end up in a speech counselor’s office.

Several years ago, I got fed up. I’d been to audiologists, speech pathologists, and had my hearing checked countless times. My hearing was perfect–hypersensitive even–so how could I have so much trouble understanding and articulating speech? None of the local doctors could tell me.

Finally, I turned to the ultimate “expert,” Google. I listed every hearing and speech-related symptom that was driving me crazy.

Here were the top two search results I saw:

I was dumbfounded (no pun intended) reading those entries. Literally numb. Having a name for my “defect” didn’t change its reality, but it changed everything about how I viewed it. In that moment, I remembered the nine-year-old boy hiding in the corner at public events because the noise was driving him mad and didn’t feel contempt for his weakness. Instead, I felt respect for someone who never gave up hope that some day he would find a way to make a contribution.

Life with an auditory processing disorder is a Skype conversation with a long time lag, or hearing someone speak a language you don’t know and waiting for the translator. Sound comes in, but has to settle before the can brain process it and forms a response. The kicker is that the response, no matter how perfectly formed in the mind, doesn’t automatically articulate itself the same way vocally. Additionally, the ability to filter sounds is limited, so I can hear conversations going on throughout a wide area.

Me at one week
They say I took the heavyweight crown in the week-old division.

APD is thought to be caused my two things–recurrent ear infections as I mentioned earlier and oxygen deprivation during birth, which also fit my story. In 1970’s small-town Louisiana, your general practitioner was your only doctor and you didn’t question his word even if it killed you. My 4’11” mother had a difficult, prolonged labor with me before her doctor realized her pelvis was too small and performed an emergency c-section. Besides a temporary conehead and scratched-up face (from my fingernails), those hours in the birth canal resulted in flattened cartilage and an unknown period of time without oxygen.

Again, I contacted doctors, audiologists and pathologists throughout Louisiana, certain they could do something with this new information. I got one acknowledgment, which was “this condition can only be treated in children. There’s no point in a diagnosis, because the wiring in your brain is set.” Probably true, but I wasn’t willing to stop there.

My odyssey led to Judy Paton (the second link in my Google Search) in San Mateo, Calif., who specializes in working with adults. She performed the testing, confirmed the diagnosis and provided advice to keep challenging the speech and hearing center of my brain. One of the things she suggested was to work with a vocal coach. The musical element would improve diction, timing, rhythm and tone.

Just Breathe

Another Google search led me two buildings from where I work in rural Louisiana to Terrie Sanders, one of the few McClosky-certified vocal trainers in the country.

As in the film, we did some of the funny exercises (lying on the floor, skipping, swinging arms, stretching the tongue). The emphatic cursing trick depicted in the movie I discovered purely on my own, and it is frighteningly effective. But the biggest revelation was awareness of my breath.

I knew I had to go deeper. Those poor young blokes had cried out in fear, and no-one was listening to them. My job was to give them faith in their voice and let them know that a friend was listening. That must ring a few bells with you, Bertie.  ~Lionel Logue, The King's Speech
"I knew I had to go deeper. Those poor young blokes had cried out in fear, and no-one was listening to them. My job was to give them faith in their voice and let them know that a friend was listening. That must ring a few bells with you, Bertie." ~Lionel Logue, The King's Speech

“Inhale from the diaphragm and let the words flow out with the breath,” my teacher would say. “Just breathe.” It seems like the most natural thing, doesn’t it? Biologists say it’s an involuntary function of the body. For sustaining existence, that’s true. But I would discover that deep, life-giving breaths are a matter of intention. If two words can sum up a personal philosophy, “Just Breathe” became fuel for my thoughts, a moment to decide, a prayer — and perhaps most surprisingly, the foundation of a decent tenor singing voice.

So why am I in the communications field? Seems like the ultimate masochism, doesn’t it? Sometimes, absolutely! But we all have “something” to overcome in the quest for a legacy. And meaningful connections can be forged in so many ways that have nothing to do with skills of articulation.

Still, public speaking is no longer just the realm of world leaders and Dale Carnegie types. We all have to do it to be effective in our work. That was one of the reasons I threw my hat in to present at O’Reilly Media’s Gov 2.0 Expo last spring. The presentation was selected to be included in the last round of “lightening” keynotes, which meant the presenters had about five minutes each. My presentation wasn’t going to be one of the philosophical types that frame the future of governments and the world and wow the audience with its profundity. The audience wasn’t going to be blown away by its delivery either, as I’d have to read it to maintain my timing. But it was MY story: a simple and direct explanation of who I am and what I do. This presentation would be my declaration that cultural heritage defines our humanity as much as climate change, national defense or the value of currencies. It was also a powerful testament to the power of the online community, as friends like Lorelle VanFossen and Lisa Louise Cooke, both natural speakers, spent their valuable time helping me to refine it. And other online friends who I’ve never interacted with, like Todd Henry, Chris Guillebeau, and Liz Strauss, whose blogs and podcasts have, over time, empowered me with transformative habits to make a difference by focusing on the “now.”

Ultimately, the experience was a continuing reminder of the power of family. Watching the experiences of the historical Queen Elizabeth portrayed in The King’s Speech, I chuckled to think of how familiar they might seem to my own wife, ElizaBeth, in bolstering a recalcitrant husband to discover his message and believe himself worthy to deliver it.

When my name was announced on May 27, 2010, deep gratitude for so many supportive people had replaced any lingering fear. Emerging into glaring spotlights and a podium in front of several hundred people (including a livestreamed worldwide audience), I didn’t think about the first words I would say or how I would look on the 30-ft HD screens on either side of the stage. I thought only two words again and again:

“Just. Breathe.”

Gov 2.0 Presentation: Advancing Heritage Online

Located in a small north Louisiana town, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, a research division of the National Park Service, has struggled to maintain its profile among the audience of historic preservation professionals it serves as well as its own parent organization.

In 2006, NCPTT became one of the first heritage preservation organizations to adopt a coordinated social media strategy. The National Center began integrating podcasts, online video, photo sharing and social networks around its organizational blog and sharing its content through Creative Commons.

While the organization was able to distribute its content broadly and cheaply, its audiences were not yet engaged in, and often distrustful of, online technologies. NCPTT partnered in the development of targeted organic online networks to help its audiences take the first steps toward online engagement. One tactic included a Ning network for the robust heritage community where the National Center is located, supported by a weekly column in the local newspaper. It also partnered with the journalism department at the local university to develop a site dedicated to connecting heritage professionals in new media called “Voices of the Past.”

Combined with consistent, quality content related to its own mission of “advancing the use of science and technology in historic preservation,” NCPTT has effectively raised its profile and influence as a federal organization and a historic preservation leader. In December 2009, it was named “website of the week” by Government Video Magazine and the technology blog HoneyTech named it number four on its list of the world’s top ten government websites powered by WordPress.

[advance to first slide]
Slide 1

Hi, my name is Jeff Guin. For the last three years, I’ve been helping people advocate for their cultural heritage by building trusted relationships on the web.

One way to do this is by fostering online communities that help people discover the benefits of engagement on their own terms. For my organization, this has meant a larger audience that advocates for us, and the cause of heritage.

Slide 2

For all the talk about transparency with our data, building relationships with *people* is still key. These relationships are critical in the case of heritage preservation, where costs are high, and resources are limited.

Slide 3

An object does not contain value by virtue of its age. The Rosetta Stone *is* ultimately just a stone. Its *shared story* is what added a whole new dimension to our humanity.

The web is *perfect* for sharing these stories, but our audience in heritage preservation is more comfortable communicating face-to-face…

Slide 4
…and the everyday people who are engaging on the web often feel shut out of the conversation. Yet heritage values are why we’re *all* here, striving so hard to make our voices heard in the world.

So my dilemma has been how to connect online with an audience that isn’t quite there. But given my organization’s small size and national role, how could we afford not to try?

Slide 5

…and how could we engage important audiences that are on opposite ends of the spectrum?

Help them meet in the middle, step by step.

Slide 6

Even when you feel like there’s no one out there who can speak this new language, engage anyway.

We started internally, with a continuing training series featuring new media experts. These people keep our staff grounded in the principles of social networking.

Slide 7

These experts also have strong connections to some aspect of their heritage. So we’re gaining powerful advocates on the web, even as they teach us to engage in the spirit of openness.

Slide 8

Now, my role in the heritage field is to help people find their own voices online by connecting them with others who share similar goals … and to help them understand that trust is built through sharing on a *peer* level.
Slide 9

This means *respecting* the fact that people have different comfort levels in beginning with new media and meeting them where they are.

This was especially true early on with our local audience in the town of Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Slide 10

… which also happens to be my hometown. It’s a place rich in history with almost 30 active heritage preservation organizations that partner effectively.

It gave me my sense of heritage values and I wanted to give back something that would provide a safe and simple way for these people to start communicating online.

Slide 11

So we collaborated to create a community-driven site focused on local projects, like the crisis recovery of museum contents after the Kate Chopin House was destroyed by fire in 2008.

This inspired small towns in other states to build similar sites. That got me thinking …

Slide 12

Connecting a community that shares a geographic identity is one thing. But now we have the ability to create global communities around ideas.

Slide 13

I created Voices of the Past as the common ground where heritage professionals could take their first steps toward adopting social media, and enthusiasts could begin really engaging around heritage topics in a relatable way. This collaborative multimedia site also promotes those who *have* found their voices to communicate heritage online.

Slide 14

And these people contribute content to the site as well. Like Scottish Archaeologist David Connolly who videoblogged a month-long excavation in Jordan, discovering ancient tombs and Roman milestones along the way

Even as these networks began to grow organically, I knew their audiences needed a “bridge” between new media and old.

Slide 15

For the hometown network, I write a weekly column for the local newspaper on heritage issues, including updates from the website.

For Voices of the Past, we’ve partnered with the local university journalism program to give our media production values similar to what people expect from their local news stations.

Slide 16

It’s been a lot of work, but we are all inspiring *each other* to add value to our local communities.
Side 17

The relationships and lessons emerging from these networks have made a big impact on my own organization as it engages online.

Many more people are visiting our site and interacting with our content. For the first time, we can go to preservation conferences and people know who we are.

Slide 18

And the connection extends beyond that audience. Recently a law enforcement officer in Wisconsin contacted us about a preservation technology he heard about in one of our podcasts. We were able to provide a key piece of evidence to help him solve a cold case. And the FBI is now interested in the technology.

Slide 19

You don’t have to totally change the game to make a tangible difference in the world. You can get recognition just by being out there and never giving up…

Slide 20

Whatever you’re doing today is making history. So many of our ancestors have faded into the past, never having had an opportunity to make their voices heard.

Yet they still made it possible for all of us to enjoy the capabilities of finding our own voices today.

That’s a legacy worth passing on.

Thank you!

La. Folklore Society Presentation: Bringing Communities Together

Speaker’s Notes:

Slide 2:
I was born and raised in Natchitoches.

I lived away a while, working as the communications director for Willamette Industries Southern Region. Willamette was a Fortune 500 forest products company based out of Oregon. They were bought by Weyerhaeser a few years ago.

I came back to NSU in 2001, to get my Master’s in Folklife and Southern Culture.

My research has been about the timber culture of the north Louisiana piney woods.

I knew I wanted to do something with heritage values and began interning with the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, a National Park Service office here is town. I was hired full time as the public information officer there when I graduated school in 2002.

Slide 3:
Turner’s thesis of the frontier in America fits very well within the constructs of the 2009 Louisiana Folklore Society meeting.

Slide 4:
I’ve been involved with social media since it first came on the scene in 2006, I’ve found that many of those same concepts from Turner’s thesis apply to what’s happening on the web now.

Slide 5:
This is how social media functionally breaks down.

There are hundreds of these tools now, with still more appearing on the scene in spite of the economy.

Very few are folding. This is for contextual information only, this presentation does not purport to explain them all!

Slide 6:
But Web 2.0, New Media, Social media or whatever you want to call it, is not about the tools, it’s about people.

So how to does it benefit you or your organization to engage with the new realities of the web?

Slide 7:
Built-in audience with your values

Your content will always be relevant, whether it’s agreed with or not.

Slide 8:
The web now is as easy as launching your browser and filling in blanks.

You don’t need to be a web expert to sign up for services or upload content.

Slide 9:
No domain or storage costs means no headaches or dealing with down servers.

Slide 10:
When I started the Natchitoches Preservation Network one year ago, one of the first things I did was go to the local newspaper and talk to the editor about contributing a weekly column based on the news of the site.

The Natchitoches Times already prints news from local rural communities, and I presented this as a different way to think about a community.

Though it takes a lot of my time each week, I’m essentially getting $250 worth of advertising space for the site while the paper benefits with a fairly well written item on a topic of local interest.

Potential third-party promotion in newspapers still adds credibility to the site.

Slide 11:
Most of these tools are free to use. You don’t have to pay a dime to get your content in front of the world.

And generally, posting your content only takes a few minutes.

Slide 12:
In the past, all media that was created was automatically copyrighted as all rights reserved. That’s changed now with the advent of Creative Commons.

What this lets you do is set perameters for copyright of your online media.

For example, you can specify attribution for your work, or that it can be used strictly for non-commercial purposes.

There are several options, but the end effect is that people can use your content and build on it without having to consult you first.

Slide 13:
Most Web 2.0 tools have some type of measurement built in that helps you understand your audience better. A direct mailer can’t do that very easily!

Slide 14:
I created the Natchitoches Preservation Network to help people to advance and connect to Natchitoches heritage.

Natchitoches has some 30 different groups that have some sort of mandate related to heritage issues.

Though they have traditionally been friendly, they didn’t communicate very well.

Sometimes you may get 10 e-mails or postcards announcing an event, or none at all.

This site was created to get those folks talking and collaborating.

But it was also created to bring in people who were not a part of an official heritage organization.

There’s a perception in many communities that you have to be a Ph.D. or a socialite to participate in heritage activities. This gives those people a safe place to join the conversation about heritage.

Slide 15:
Social media is not about the tools. It’s about people, empowering them and helping them to connect.

Like most networks on the web we have a diverse membership, but they are all invested in preservation Natchitoches Heritage.

Besides the residents of Natchitoches Parish, which form the core of the group, here’s a quick overview of some of our members’ backgrounds…

Slide 16-19 are pretty self-explanatory

Slide 20:
Now, the Natchitoches Preservation Network is a Ning site.

Ning is a service that lets you create your own fully functioning social network for free.

It functions much life facebook and works with most of the popular social media tools found elsewhere on the web.

Slide 21:
Today, I’ll give you an overview of these tools used in the Natchitoches Preservation Network and some ideas about how you might be able to use them as well.

Slide 22-34: Concepts are explained on the slides

Slide 35:
RSS lets you subscribe to web content much like you’ve traditionally subscribe to a newspaper or magazine.

You don’t have to go around to different websites for content, because RSS brings it to you automatically.

When you see the little orange button on a site, you know that you can subscribe to the site and all the content will go to news feed, either in your browser or a news reading program of your choice. I use Google reader personally.

Slide 36:
Lifestreaming tools like Friendfeed take this one step further by aggregating all this content onto one page, allowing you to open discussions on the content.

Lifestreaming tools will import content from many types of services onto one page.

Many prominent bloggers have adopted lifestreaming tools like Friendfeed as their primary form of communication with their audiences.

Slide 37:
Second life is not a service I use personally, but there are those in the heritage field that use it extensively.

Ruth Tringham, U. Berkley, has an Island in Second Life that allows her students to practice archaeology.

There are university graduate degree programs held entirely in Second Life now

Slide 38:
It’s not about the tools. It’s about the people and how you can empower them to do more.

Presentation: Web 2.0 and the new World Wild Web of Journalism

Speaker Notes:

Slide 1: Welcome, I’m Jeff Guin. I’m a 1995 graduate of Northwestern’s journalism program. I am currently the public information officer for the Natonal park service’s National Center for Preservation Technology. I’m also an adjunct instructor in the journalism department here teaching public relations courses.

Slide 2: Starting pretty quick, you are going to be pulled in a number of directions. You will have to make a lot of decisions that will affect the rest of your life. It’s all happening pretty quick and the choices can be overwhelming sometimes. Your choice of a college is critical to your future.

Slide 3: Ultimately, what we’re all looking for is to find a meaningful way to contribute. To find fulfillment in our personal and professional lives. To do that, you have to answer one question first: “Who are you?” What are your values? Your beliefs? Your dreams? What drives your passions?

Slide 4: Obviously, you have some vague idea that you’d like to be a journalist or you wouldn’t be here. Take a moment to think about that. Is it because you like to write? Because you want to make a difference? Because you want to meet cool people? Those are worthy goals, but first, let’s take a look at reality …

Slide 5: It’s not a pretty picture is it? Television, radio and print media are all struggling to stay afloat. These companies have defined journalism for a century or more, yet now find themselves suddenly outdated and struggling to survive.

Slide 6: So, right now you may be thinking “OK, so maybe Accounting would be a good career after all…or maybe you’re just thinking …

Slide 7: I bet you think this a lot during classes, don’t you. Guess what? You’re on the right track.

Slide 8: If you’ve used Facebook. If you’ve set up a profile and updated it, you have already had a taste of the future of journalism. It’s been almost two years since Time Magazine made you–yes you–and all the other web users of the world, its person of the year.  At the time, it was a bold statement and was met with some ridicule. But now, I think everyone is beginning to realize how social media–also known as Web 2.0–is fundamentally changing the way we communicate.

Slide 9: So here’s another question: Do you know what social media is? (ask for crowd responses)

Slide 10: If you use any of these tools, you ARE using social media. These social tools have one purpose in common: to communicate information to audiences of like-minded people.

Slide 11: So words best describe what social media is about? Interestingly, many of those words begin with the letter “C”. Let’s think about these concepts …

Slide 12: Is there a platform more capable of widespread distribution that the World Wide Web?

Slide 13: Of all the things this new era of journalism promises, the most exciting from my perspective is the ability to find your voice. To connect with others that share your ideals and then be able to make a lasting difference without regard to how much money you have or where you’re from is pretty much all you need to begin the process of self-discovery.

Slide 14: Social media is about conversation. One of the reasons traditional media is having a problem adjusting is that it is still stuck in the gatekeeper paradigm. The fact is, that people want to make up their own minds based on informed conversation. The journalist’s new role can best be summed up as conversation pilot, rather than gate keeper. They still have the ability to raise questions, and even set the tone for discussion, but they don’t control it.

Slide 15: In that same vein, Social media journalism is about listening to an audience as much as it is about reporting the news. Even after an item goes to print or a package is aired on the six o’clock news, the story doesn’t necessarily end there. Many times, it’s only the beginning. The ability to stay engaged with a story and an audience is becoming a valued skill among new media journalists. Essentially, when you report a story, you take some form of ownership for it and commit to following it through.

Slide 16: The web is about conversation and community, but it’s also about leadership. You have a great deal of autonomy to stand up and make a difference, but you also have a great deal of responsiblity to do the right thing and not hurt people. And you still have to know how to write correctly if you want any sort of credibility!

Slide 17: Has anyone here used Second Life? (crowd response) Then you know, on the social web, you are free to develop your own identity. You aren’t bound by the expectations of people who know you, and there’s a great deal of freedom in that.  But with that freedom comes a  lot of responsibility. What you post to the web today could potentially be seen by your great-grandchildren.

Slide 18: Has anyone ever posted to YouTube? Anyone get comments? More than 10? 20? (crowd response) Then you know that anything you post on YouTube has just as much chance of going viral as something posted by a Fortune 500 company. On the social web, content is king. It’s a place where thought leadership and artistic expression hold more sway than slick production values.

Slide 19: Social media is easy to use and immediate in delivery. It offers instant feedback. As a result, the mainstream media have hopped on the bandwagon. Hit shows like American Idol encourage viewers to vote for their favorite contestants;  the more opportunities they have to personalize these things, the more engaged they’ll be. Social media caters to folks who are used to getting what they want, precisely when they want it—delivered on their favorite devices, including iPods, iPhones, and game consoles, like Playstation. This is affecting traditional entertainment too. Shows like Gossip Girl and Lipstick Jungle were ratings disasters—at least, in terms of traditional TV ratings. But when network executives took into account the buzz on blogs and fan pages, recordings on DVR and downloads on iTunes, they realized the shows were actually very successful.

Slide 20: This ease of use and immediacy makes social media extremely empowering. You can do a lot of good with it, or a lot of bad. In either case, what you post will be your legacy. That means it will likely impact your ability to find employment. The first thing human resource managers do now is Google potential job candidates. So make your mark intentionally and do it with class.

Slide 21: Social media is about helping people of similar values find each other regardless of their location or culture. Whatever you’re into, there’s someone out there who shares that passion and wants to talk about it.
This offers a lot of opportunity for the future journalist, because you can explore your interests, rather than reporting on subjects limited to the location you happen to be living in at the time.

Slide 22: Social media has given birth to a number of mobile possibilities.
I recently got a contract job producing a high-profile video blog this way.This came as a result of a chance meeting at a cemetery, of all places! I pulled up some of my past video by using the YouTube function of my iPhone. Quicker and more effective than a business card! I can take photos, record interviews, post to my blog and even use twitter from my iPhone. When Apple figures out how to make it take quality video, it has the potential to be the perfect newsgathering tool.

Slide 23: This all boils down to the fact that social media is rooted in journalism. Every time you post something, you have taken part in this new publishing paradigm. The question is “are you ready to take the next step into this new world?

Slide 24: Which brings us back to the question …

Slide 25: Northwestern State University can’t give you the answer to that question. What we can do is offer you the tools and opportunity to answer that question on your own. It’s about pursuing your passion and making a difference, not just for an editor, but for the world and the things you care about. Northwestern can help you along that path.

Slide 26: So, to recap …

Slide 27: I want to wrap this up by telling you about the guy you’ve seen in most of these slides. His name is Hunter Wilson. He’s a senior in high school who last year decided to take up digital photography as a hobby. Since then, he’s produced one digitally-enhanced photo each day and posted it on the photo sharing service Flickr. His photos have been viewed hundreds of times and he’s become a rockstar on the web. All he had to do was discover his passion. The web gave him the platform for expression. If you’d like more information on social media in journalism, you can contact me via e-mail. Thanks for being with us today and I hope to see you next fall.

Presentation: Developing portfolios that get noticed

So why do you need a portfolio? You may think your professors exist just to make you miserable and mess up your grade. But consider this: are you under 30? Then you have never known a truly bad economy. Your knight in shining armor is not going to pop up after graduation and offer you a job. In reality, luck is where preparation meets opportunity. Your good luck charm is your portfolio. To gain an edge in a job interview, you will have to set yourself apart from the crowd by demonstrating skills that employers are looking for. And MORE THAN YOUR GRADES, they are looking for people who are curious and are practical problem solvers. Your portfolio gives you an edge to meet the challenges that you will face after graduation….