Making Your Media Matter 2009

The Center for Social Media is hosting the 5th annual Making Your Media Matter conference — a perfect opportunity to learn and share cutting-edge practices for creating media that matters. Held at American Universitys Katzen Arts Center in Washington, DC February 12-13, the conference brings together filmmakers, non-profit communications leaders, funders, and students to share and learn about using the latest tools and trends in creating, distributing, and fundraising for social issue media. Danny Alpert, a producer at See3 and others will be speaking in a number of panels. The best part? Only $100! ($50 for students).

If you’re going, let us know so the Jews can get together!

Telling Stories to Hear Stories

Social media is all about two way conversation, simply put. Exchanges between real people, building real relationships, and finding common ground, shared interests and, in many cases, collaborating to take action together.

Oftentimes as we manage Facebook groups or blog posts or even in surveys we ask people to share their stories. “Tell us about an experience when…?” Shawn and Mark at Anecdote develop courses on storytelling, and digital storytelling. Their discovery is that you have to tell stories to hear stories. That by modeling the style, length and risks taken in talking about your own life, you given permission and frameworks for others to do the same. We take cues from our peers about what’s appropriate. And especially in online settings, many people are still discovering/learning/evolving their comfort zones and the cultures of various online forums. From their blog:

Here’s an example. When I see my teenage daughter after school I would often ask how her day went, whether anything interesting happened at school, and the standard response is often monosyllabic: yep, nup. In fact the more questions I’d ask the shorter the answers. So I changed tack and rather than ask questions I simply recounted something that happened in my day. I would launch into something like, “I met a bearded lady today. This morning I drove down to Fitzroy to run an anecdote circle for …” and immediately my daughter would respond with an encounter from her day. A conversation starts and it’s delightful.

So next time you seek to hear other people’s stories, consider how you invite them to do so. Finishing a blog post with a question or invitation is a great way to encourage comments. And also consider sharing some of yourself. Blogging is a lot about developing a community — commenting on your friends’ and co-workers’ blog posts to tell you story is a great way of establishing a norm and permission for others to tell theirs.

What approaches have you found most successful or useful for inspiring dialog in your groups and blogs?

[Thanks to Naava Frank of Knowledge Communities and Kehilliyot for turning me on to this concept.]

Baltimore Jewish Leaders Assembly, Powered by Teens

Allison Fine signs copies of her book, Momentum
Allison Fine signs copies of her book, Momentum

Allison Fine, author of Momentum was the keynote speaker at ACHARAI, the Shoshana S. Cardin Leadership Development Institute’s “Technology: Threat or Promise” event on Thursday, November 20. After setting the stage to help participants see the landscape of the field, Allison pointed to the group of teens seated at the back tables. These people are the future employees, and consumers of what our Jewish organizations have to offer. Allison urged us to listen to them, carefully. How are they using these tools, how are they making decisions, what do they want? The bottom line: communities are no longer being built from the top down, they are powered from the bottom up. We must empower and engage these young people to bring them into our community and organizations.

These teens came to the program to both learn and teach. One of the several break out sessions, led by Darim’s Director of the Learning Network, Caren Levine, employed the teens to help participants get hands-on experience with social media tools, such as wikis and blogs. The teens were able to help lower barriers to entry, so participants could experiment with the technology in a safe and supportive place.

Teens debrief at the end of the day
Teens debrief at the end of the day

While the teens were instrumental in assisting the program, I think they walked away with more than they expected. Those who attended my session on social media theory and practice told me they had many “ah-ha moments” — that while they don’t think twice about the technology, they’d never paused to think about how it can be used strategically to help achieve a specific goal, and they were excited to see examples of really fun stuff happening online in the Jewish world.

Hats off to Debs Weinberg and her team for organizing such a thoughtful, educational and inspiring event. In my vision, the next stage of Jewish organizational life will fuse experienced strategic thinkers with younger “we’ve grown up on this stuff” staff to shift organizational practice into relevant 21st century modes. These young people may have walked in thinking they were contributing to the teaching, but they left with much more. Sitting in on the debrief after the conference, I was amazed to hear what they had learned. The skills they developed in this one day will position them to be incredibly valuable in the job market as they graduate in the coming years.

The Gift of Time and Organization. For Free! It’s Called RSS.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. With a name like that, you’d think it would be so simple. While RSS can seem confusing, it really is so simple, and so valuable. Imagine a single newspaper delivered to your door every morning with articles on your favorite topics by your favorite authors. And nothing else to slog through. Welcome to RSS!

Common Craft, a great little firm from Seattle has produced a fun, short video to help us understand RSS:

I use Google Reader. There are many good readers out there, but I’ll use this as an example. Down the left side are all the “feeds” I subscribe to. When I run across a blog that I like, and want to keep up with, I click the “subscribe” button — commonly shown as this orange icon. That blog is then added to my reader.

Each morning when I sit down at my computer, I open my Google Reader. It shows me all my feeds down the left. I’ve organized them into folders by topic. The bold titles are the feeds with new posts. I can then scan the posts in the main part of the window, and click on any headline to open a new window to go directly to the blog. This way, I don’t have to remember all my favorite blogs, and remember to go to my “favorites” and take the time to check on each one, or waste time if there is no new content. It all comes to me.

I scan my feeds — I don’t read every single post of every single feed. And if over the course of time I find I’m skipping more than I’m reading, I can unsubscribe in one click and remove that feed from my reader.

This is a very useful way of organizing your own reading to keep up with the most amount of high quality and useful information in the least amount of time. It is also useful to know that this is how an increasingly large percentage of your constituents are aggregating and consuming content online. By RSS enabling your content, your readers will be alerted every time you post something new.

I add new feeds to my reader regularly, as I’m turned on to a new blog, or a trusted friend makes a recommendation. By pulling all of the greatest content together, it makes catching up on my reading a real treat — sometimes even a reward after I’ve completed a big task. What’s on your RSS reader?

IT Staffing — How Do You Measure Up?

NTEN (The Nonprofit Technology Network) is an incredible organization that brings together staff of nonprofit organizations to use technology better. They offer a conference (this year, April 26-28, 2009 in San Francisco — come join us!), webinars, knowledge sharing, affinity groups, online discussions, discounts on software, and much more.

One of the most valuable services they provide is data of how organizations across the nonprofit sector are using technology. They conduct regular surveys and research, and publish regular reports which are available for free download on their web site. Samples of reports available include:

At Darim, we find that the Jewish community, in general, lags behind both similar for profit and non profit organizations in their use of Internet technologies, social media strategies and data management. There are wonderful notable exceptions, but Darim’s work focuses largely on helping Jewish orgs get a leg up on how they use these powerful tools.

While we often compare our work to other similar organizations in our community, it is important to step outside the Jewish community from time to time to see how our work and investments compare with other nonprofit organizations. Salaries and education of IT staff, how centralized or distributed the tasks are among staff, what ongoing training or professional development is offered, etc. The NTEN reports offer a window into the broader nonprofit community, showing the trends of both small and large organizations.

A new report on IT staffing is due in January and you’ll find a link to it here on JewPoint0!

Check out some other interesting articles and resources on IT staffing:

Video Within Reach

As broadband internet has become the norm, and the value of compelling content online has become key to capturing and retaining user’s attention, online video has become more popular and more powerful. See3 Communications, a fantastic firm headed by Michael Hoffman out of Chicago, has released their Guide to Online Video.

The 7-part entertaining, informative and inspiring Guide is your best introduction to the WHY and HOW of online video for publicizing your organization, increasing momentum for a campaign, and spreading your message virally. Michael serves as your docent through the series of short 1-3 minute videos, each with complementary links and resources. Non-technical and very accessible, Michael teaches you how to be an online storyteller.

Check out the first part in the series below. Then proceed to the full Guide to Online Video on the See 3 site.



1. The World We Live In from See3 Communications on Vimeo.

Modeling the “Whole Internet” Strategy

RedWriteWeb, one of the most popular blogs on web technology news, is running a series of posts this week on how religious organizations are using technology. Today they focused on the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, pluralistic research and training institute that trains and ordains rabbis as well as runs high schools in Jerusalem, among other things.

As their work attracts and serves a very diverse (and worldwide) audience, so too must their online strategy. Beyond information about the organization and programs via their web site, the Institute incorporates extensive video and slide sharing throughout the site to share their value and make their work (and their extraordinary teachers) come alive. Further, they are developing a Facebook strategy, working their Wikipedia entries, venturing into podcasting, blogging, using video-based distance learning, and experimenting with Twitter.

Alan Abbey, the organization’s web site manager, is turning theory into practice, experimenting, and measuring his success. More than dabbling in this and that, he is creating an internet strategy for his organization, and is implementing the multiple facets of that strategy. Alan knows that the age of focusing only on your web site ended in 2007, and he’s integrating multiple tools and approaches. He understands it may take time for each venture to get rooted and attract and audience. And for his audience to mature and start to use these tools as well. And perhaps, in the coming year or two, he’ll weed his garden and pursue a smaller number of approaches that have the greatest returns for his mission. Or maybe he’ll find great success in all of his approaches. Learn about his work at ReadWriteWeb. And check out the other religion postings this week too.

Further reading:

  • Andrea Useem writes about religious life and web 2.0 on the Religion Writer blog.
  • See3.net offers wisdom on using online video for non profit causes on their blog, See What’s Out There.
  • Short video tutorials on a number of social media tools, such as social bookmarking, Twitter and others from Common Craft.

Web 2.0 Strategy in Jerusalem: Tachlis 2 Point Oh!

Jewlicious, PresenTense and others are putting on a valuable conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 called Tachlis 2 Point Oh! to demonstrate how to get the most out of Web 2.0 tools. Panelists are the who’s who of Jewish 2.0, including Ricky Ben-David, Aharon Horwitz of PresenTense, Ahuvah Berger on social networking, and David Abitbol from Jewlicious on blogging.

Get all the details here.

In Jerusalem next week? Don’t miss it! Did you go? We’d love to hear what you learned.

Preparing for Successful Technology Change

Adding a new technology to your organization’s toolbox is not as easy as it might initially seem. In addition to research and making a decision about which tool and vendor to select, the project management often takes more skill, time and focus that one assumes. Furthermore, management of a technology project really is quite different than other projects, so making sure you’ve got the right person on the task can make an important difference.

Implementing the technology in your organization isn’t like flicking a light switch. In his book Managing Transitions, William Bridges discusses how change is situational, but transition is psychological. It’s not just enough to launch a new web site — all stakeholders (staff, board, members, volunteers, etc.) need to move through the transition to maintain and use the new tool smoothly and effectively. Bridges gives many suggestions about how to do this, and recently Dahna Goldstein from PhilanTech has offered her own useful insights and advise on the NTEN blog:

“In our personal lives, we tend not to like change, particularly changes over which we feel we have no control. The same is true in organizational changes.

People may be concerned about how a new technology will affect their jobs or day-to-day work life, or may be worried about their ability to learn the new technology. The most important element in mitigating anxiety related to organizational changes is to understand that it exists.

Anxiety can also be mitigated through good communication, involvement and empowerment, creating opportunities for feedback, and allowing people to voice their anxiety in a safe way so that they know that the anxiety they feel about an impending change is understandable, normal, and manageable.”

She expands on the following points:

  • Set a clear direction from the top.
  • Tie tech changes to mission.
  • Communicate early and often.
  • Involve and empower staff.
  • Tech changes need champions and influencers.
  • Recognize that change causes anxiety, and work to mitigate it.

Check out her post to learn more. What have been your tricks to manage successful implementation of new tools? What have been the challenges? What have you learned?

What is “marketing” and “communications”?

While many people think the word “marketing” refers to trying to sell something, it’s really much more beautiful than that. We can look at the Jewish community in 2 different ways. Commonly, we see institutions which are trying to get people to become members, attend events, and make donations. Through a different lens we see groups of people with common interests, needs and locations coming together to form communities. And as these communities grow, they need some structure to support their activities.

The mistake we make in thinking about marketing and communications is that we put the institution first, when we should be putting the individual, and the community needs first. It is a subtle but important difference. The exciting thing about “web 2.0” — both the technology tools and the culture evolving with it– is that it brings us back to the centrality of the community over the institution.

Our Learning Network session tomorrow for Darim member congregations is a first step in examining this shift. “Communications” are more than a standard issue bulletin and the phone tree. Communications today is about weaving together the community. It’s as much about listening and responding as it is about hawking your wares. If you are a member can can’t attend our session you can find useful resources and an archive of the webinar in Dirah. If you’re not yet a member of Darim you can learn more on our website.

Coming soon – some reading recommendations for rethinking your assumptions about marketing and communications. Stay tuned.