PR and Outreach-Web-based media

From Wiki
The following public relations and outreach toolkit is a work in progress and being gathered to provide tools for conservation professionals to reach out and create and maintain a dialogue with the public and the media. These tips and resources are only recommendations and should not be taken as instructions or formal policy.
If you are interested in contributing, or commenting on this text, please stay tuned for calls for input on the AIC [1] and through the AIC Specialty Group mailing lists.

Websites

Almost all institutions maintain websites and many often provide information about conservation activities. Many private conservation businesses also maintain websites. See below for examples.

Creating a website involves more time and money to set up, as opposed to a blog. However, with a little bit of guidance, anyone can set up a website without specialized training. If you want to create a website, you'll probably want to talk to people who have done this already. Just to give you an idea of what is involved, you'll have to do the following:

  • Choose and register a domain name. You can search to see if a domain name is available, and register it, through any number of companies, including Dotster.com, godaddy.com, Register.com, or others. Even if you have someone else design your website for you, it is essential that you are the owner of your domain name. If you were going to build a house, you would not allow the builder to be the owner of your lot!
  • Find a web host. The web hosting company will house your site on the web. Again, it may be best to talk to others who have created websites to see what they might recommend. Read this article on Web Hosting for Beginners to see what you should be considering.
  • Create your website. There are many options, including using the software that is available through your web hosting company. One popular option is using software provided by Wordpress. Many people don't realize that Wordpress can be used both to host free blogs and to build websites. If you choose to use Wordpress to build your website, look for web hosting companies that are compatible with Wordpress by reading about WordPress web hosting.
  • Develop a personal archiving plan. No website is forever - you want to be sure that you have all your images, text, and other assets (animations, graphics, etc.) saved on your own computer and back-up hard drives in the event that something happens to your web site, or the hosting company.
  • Maintain your site. Check links from time to time to repair or remove broken ones. Don't leave old or outdated information on your website that makes it look neglected. If you are going to include a "recent news" page, for example, ensure that you keep those pages up to date. Try not to rely too extensively on external links, which are subject to frequent change. For example, if you receive press coverage and you have a "press" page on your website, inquire about permission to have a PDF of the article on your website. Press links often change, and some articles are only viewable to subscribers.
  • Plan to refresh your website to keep it compatible with new technologies. It may not be possible to view an older website on an iPhone, for example. Periodically visit your own site from other computers and devices, to see how it displays.
  • A website says a lot about you. Think of it as a virtual "storefront" for your business or institution, and maintain it accordingly.

Examples in Conservation

Blogs

A blog is simply an online, public journal. Entries are organized by date. Setting up a blog can be fairly straightforward and easy to maintain, especially if you choose to use one of the popular blog platforms: Wordpress or Blogger. (Tumblr can also be used for blogging, but it's more media-rich and has a stronger social-media component-see the section on Tumblr below for more information and examples.) If you have a website, you can link to the blog directly from your website, and use the blog for more frequent, and often more casual (and therefore sometimes more user-friendly) updates. Many institutions now maintain a blog in addition to their website, and in some cases, conservators act as authors and will write about various projects in the conservation lab. One example of an institutional blog is the Shelburne Museum's blog. Institutions may also create blogs to further highlight and communicate information about specific exhibitions.

Alternatively, a blog alone can be used as a site to provide information about yourself or your organization and to serve as a venue for writing about projects, events and other items of interest.

Thinking about blogging? Check out Wordpress's Introduction to Blogging with information such as “What is a blog” and “5 Things bloggers need to know” as well as basic terminology.

A few years ago, Nina Simon wrote a "quiz" to help determine what kind of blog is right for you, with a key to different blog types and examples. Even a few years later, this can still be helpful to the beginning blogger: Institutional Blogs: Different Voices, Different Value.

Examples in Conservation

Rather than list a bunch of other great blogs, check out the link to Conservator's Converse above and click on their blogroll-there are examples of blogs organized by students, conservators in private practice, conservators working for institutions, and institutional blogs.

Tumblr

Tumblr is a multimedia micro-blogging platform, so it's ideally suited to a blogging style that's equal parts photography, brief text entries, video, and/or music. It's also a social networking platform that offers each user many "themes" to choose from, or all the HTML tools needed to create your own theme. The creative flexibility and media-rich content enable Tumblr users to create blogs that are personal and unique.

Tumblrs tend to be quirky and are more flexible with layout than most blogs, though most have cleanly designed infrastructures that emphasize images. The social aspect allows each user to re-blog content from other feeds on their home page with or without comment, which can make the blog an amalgam of original work, basic commentary and unfettered curatorial instinct. Indianapolis Museum of Art conservator Richard McCoy and the Allen Memorial Art Museum both use Tumblr. A tumblr is equipped to do everything a blog can do, including RSS (which stands for Real Simple Syndication and feeds into digital blog readers, for those who read a lot of blogs).

On many Tumblrs, you can find posts about conservation by appending "/tagged/conservation" after the Tumblr address. For example, the Huntington Library's posts tagged with conservation can be found at: http://huntingtonlibrary.tumblr.com/tagged/conservation

Examples in Conservation

Twitter

Twitteris a platform that allows users "tweet" short messages of up to 140 characters. Users may subscribe to other users' tweets, which is known as "following". Tweets are publicly visible, unless the user makes their Twitter feed private, in which case their tweets are only visible to just their followers. If a blog is an easier, more casual alternative to a website, Twitter takes this a step further. Generally, the 140-character limit is equivalent to two sentences, which means that updates posted to Twitter are brief and relaxed, sometimes using abbreviated or slangy words. Twitter feeds also act as aggregates for other content, and often link to blog posts, press releases or articles.

A public Twitter feed can be a great way to share progress or gain public feedback on a project because it is so interactive. Most large arts organizations have active feeds; the Brooklyn Museum and The Smithsonian in particular are admirable. The Brooklyn Museum often provides an in-process look at art installations, while the Smithsonian is thoughtful and encouraging of online participation by Twitter users who are enthusiastic about the museum and its activities. Twitter and Facebook can be linked, as with the Lunder Conservation Lab's account .

Regardless of the number of followers, the reliable maintenance of an account establishes credibility and can be influential for public relations, community feedback, recruitment and background information. More guidelines can be found on Mashable's guidebook.

Examples in Conservation

Lists of conservators and other cultural heritage professionals made by Twitter users

Facebook

Facebook is a social networking platform that allows users to create profile pages and connect with others by inviting them as "friends". Facebook is largely used for personal connections, but many organizations and businesses also maintain Facebook pages to communicate information and create more visibility. Facebook is also a great way to advertise links to new blog entries, to news stories and events, and to informally poll the public. One primary consideration in using Facebook for professional networking is its personal nature. You must educate yourself on all of the features of Facebook if you intend to use it simultaneously for personal and professional networking. If a friend "tags" you in an embarrassing photo from your distant past, it may be visible to all your "friends," personal and professional. Learn to use the settings to keep your various personal and professional networks separate. LinkedIn is one platform that focuses solely on professional networking, but all platforms evolve and change, and require active management and attention to ever-changing features and privacy settings. It is also difficult to completely "delete" a Facebook page once it is created. It is more accurate to think of a Facebook page as "deactivated." Maintaining a Facebook page for an institution requires real-time management, and since it's hard to shut a page down once it's created, ensure that you can make a sustained commitment to this platform before you start. If you have the time and resources to manage it, it can be an incredibly powerful tool for the instantaneous sharing of information with your "network."

Examples in Conservation

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the world's largest professional network, with over 150 million registered users. As with Twitter and blogs, any individual may set up an account. Unlike Twitter and blogs, the options for individuals and organizations are very different. Arts organizations can set up company pages that will associate themselves with any employees who are on LinkedIn. These pages allow for a short description of the company or organization and can link to services, websites, Twitter feeds and job opportunities. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is an example. Or the arts organization could set up a LinkedIn group, which would allow non-employee users to join and participate in discussions (see Chianciano Art Museum). Most people view LinkedIn as a job search tool, for which it can be effective, but its capabilities also hold potential for conservators who are engaged in a project or looking for collaborators. An additional stereotype about LinkedIn is that the site is primarily used actively by business and sales executives. This is true, but plugins are appearing that may increase activity in the creative and cultural space, such as Behance.

An individual profile is usually composed of a person's current and past professional experience, education, descriptive summary, and groups, but other sections can be added (common categories are publications, speaking engagements, and selected work projects). Status updates are temporary updates that appear directly beneath your professional headline. Some examples might be "I authored an article on carbon-based polymers for the Hamilton Kerr Institute Bulletin. [link]" or "Pleased by today's NY Times coverage of image electroscopy." LinkedIn's function hinges on connections. Finding connections can be done in many ways -- searching, browsing the connections of a connection, joining groups -- and adding someone is easy so long as you know them and take the initiative to click a "Connect" button. Because the site is so business-oriented, posting updates and expanding your connections may be a way to stay in touch with board members and funders or to identify new targets. The same can be said for identifying people with the expertise to assist in conservation projects. For anyone who is connected to a connection of one of your connections, you are able to identify how you tangentially know each other and, if desired, send a message ("InMail"). This can be useful.

For more ideas from a business and tech perspective, these blog posts are informative: Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn, and Three Ways to Use LinkedIn If You're NOT Looking for a Job.

Examples in Conservation

Podcasts and Video

Audio Podcasts

Podcasts get their name from the combined words "iPod" and "broadcast." The neologism is apt, for podcasts are audio files that may be played on mp3 players. They are frequently used by radio shows, audio books, and language learning programs and though similar to a traditional broadcast, they are considered a horizontal media. This means that as with other social media, producer and consumer converge, reshaping dialogue and redistributing content relating to favored topics of conversation. Typically a producer maintains a downloadable list of available and current files on a server as a web feed (see This American Life), which can be accessed through the listener's software or downloaded as a file and then opened in the software. The files can range from thirty seconds to two hours or longer in length.

Conservators are an audience of individuals that must work with their hands and eyes. This makes audio a novel and timely way to communicate new conceptual ideas, although the visual nature of new techniques may be difficult to communicate. Topics such as material history, artists' intent, and social context could be rich territory.

Examples in Conservation

YouTube / Video Podcasts

YouTube is a video-sharing social media. Users can set up their own customized channel, upload videos, subscribe to other channels of interest, comment, link to their other websites or profiles, and embed videos on other networks such as Twitter and blogs.

The advantage of video for conservators is without question. Only in video can a spectator observe the process by which works are restored and strengthened in real-time or, with minimal video-editing, before, during, and after treatment. This potential is valuable to educators, marketers and fundraisers. Uploading videos to YouTube increases the possible audience by billions of registered users, who are continuously exposed to related videos as part of YouTube's playlist setup. Other networks, such as Vimeo, are also popular. Online video audiences are growing, with American internet users watching an average of 23.2 hours in December 2011. Preparing and posting a short video on an art conservation topic is a great way to share your work and increase your reach to enthusiasts.

For additional ideas for how to make your video channel a must-see, read this tipsheet.

Examples in Conservation

Flickr

Flickr is a photo sharing application, owned by Yahoo!. It is free to set up an account, and a range of privacy settings can help you control how widely your photos are shared. Photos can be assigned Creative Commons licenses that let viewers know under what conditions they can use your images, and under what conditions you can use images you find on Flickr. Similar services include Picasa and photobucket, but Flickr is the largest and the most widely used.

There are over 5 billion photos on Flickr, with at least 60 million users exhibiting varying degrees of Flickr community involvement. An account comes equipped with a photostream, which can be formatted in different ways; the Tate Gallery displays previews in chronological order that may be made larger by clicking on the image through to the image URL, while The Metropolitan Museum of Art shows photos at their full size.

Examples in Conservation

Pinterest

Pinterest is now the 3rd most-used social media platform in the world. It's a virtual "pin-board" that allows you to create a virtual scrapbook of images in any number of categories you choose. Read 5 Reasons for Museums to get on Pinterest Right Now to see what advantages it may offer.

Having debuted in 2009, Pinterest is a relatively new social network that jumped from 40,000 unique visitors a month to 3.2 million in 2011. Of concerns has been the attribution of images posted to a user's pinboard, which is not straightforward or standardized. The partnership with Flickr seems to be a step in the direction of clearing up any ambiguities about who owns content, given that Flickr has a highly developed rights infrastructure. Together with a strong legal framework, the focus on images holds great potential for conservation outreach and marketing, although the typical users of Pinterest are the hobby baker, the wedding planner and/or the fashion enthusiast, and the tone and content reflect this.

Examples in Conservation


Email

Email is still a popular way to deliver e-newsletters. Services like Constant Contact provide easy-to-use email list management tools (opt-in, opt-out, import/export), design templates, and email statistics (email open rate, click-throughs, bounce-backs, etc). The important thing to remember about email lists is that you need to gather email addresses legitimately - everyone on your list must "opt-in;" that is, they must explicitly agree to receive emails from your business or organization. Companies that email without permission are known as "spammers." One way to gather opt-ins is using a "subscribe" box on your website. This takes some internet savvy. Your email service provides the code, and someone with coding or web design skills can place it on your page. There are other ways to gather email addresses legitimately that don't require any computer code. Services like Constant Contact can provide you with a link to join your email list. Once you decide that an email newsletter would be valuable for you, you can explore these options further.

Creating the emails is generally easy, using the free design templates provided. There is typically a fee scale that increases as the number of names and/or desired frequency of emails increases. The frequency of your emails can be determined by how often you have something newsworthy to share with your audience, but you want to be sure not to over-communicate. Quarterly email newsletters might be sufficient for one organization, whereas another may need to send out weekly updates. Match the frequency of your emails to the preferences of your audience. Use the statistics reported by the service as one way to measure the success of your efforts.

One service used by many non-profits is Your Mailing List Provider. They offer a text-only email newsletter service for free, if you have under 1,000 contacts! They also offer more robust service for very competitive monthly fees.

Most services give you a way to provide access to your newsletter "archive" on your website. It's also a good idea to archive a back-up of your e-newsletters. For more information, refer to the Personal Archiving section.