Sunday, May 30, 2010
I’ve been doing research lately on online communities for a project I’m involved in. The project (in a current state of un-linkable transition) is essentially to become a resource for building connections within a community.
Thus, we’ve decided that we need an online portion to gather our users together and let them really participate and take advantage of what the project has to offer.
On my quest, I’ve uncovered some great articles other community managers have contributed. Here are the top three I’ve found so far.
Community Spark: Okay, this is actually a whole website dedicated to building online communities. How cool is that? It’s full of articles to pick and chose with great tips. My favorite so far is a kind of fill-in-the-blank Q&A that you should be able to answer before starting your project. How is your community unique? What subjects raise the most interest from your community? Can you sum up its purpose in a sentence? I will definitely be using this sheet as my team develops our presence.
Building and Online Community: Matt Houghey gives an overview for people who are thinking about starting an online community. It’s a kind of heads up of what to expect in the managerial role.
6 Truths: Mack Collier’s article is either a wake-up call to those with an online community, or a good guide for those who are starting one to keep in mind.
In a recent blog post, Lauren Fernandez gave some tips to how up-and-coming professionals can tackle the negative stereotypes and highlight the more positive sides. She believes that age doesn’t have to be an indicator of what you can achieve. This is something I’ve always been a believer in. As mushy as it sounds, you really can accomplish anything if you have the drive. By sticking to your values, generational perspective, and consistently doing good work, your age and its associations will soon be a nonissue.
Fernandez makes one particular point that really speaks to me. Use the Internet as your classroom. Coursework cannot and will never be able to teach you everything you need in the job market. Period. Academia moves slowly and can’t always keep up with a subject, such as communications, that is moving so rapidly. It’s obvious to me as a classmate, and I assume employers in any industry, what students take it upon themselves to learn about the world, their industry and their interests on their own time.
So, as Fernandez suggests, take advantage of the many, many learning opportunities around you. Communicate with people online that you may never meet in person. Utilize social media for your own benefit. Put yourself out there not just as a promotional tool, but in a position to gain information and experience from those around you.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Every day was pretty jammed with activities, learning experiences and exploration. The last day of our whirlwind trip was up for grabs … so naturally we jammed it with as many activities as possible. I had a few museums I needed to go to before the trip was up, and took advantage of the day. The plan was set: Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art.
Here’s tidbit to you all: This is an exhausting plan. It’s incredible, fascinating, wonderful and exciting. But absolutely overwhelming. If I had more time, I would have loved to stretch these visits out longer.
Another note: These trips don’t have to break the bank. We were fortunate to learn from a cab driver the night before that the Met and History museums are tax-funded and the admission price is actually suggested. Score. If you’ve got the money, please spend it. These places take a lot to run. But if you’re a broke student like me, take advantage of this amazing opportunity and just leave what you can.
So … here are some my highlights from the museums. They are very biased to my interests. To see somebody else's pictures of this trip, check out Isaac Viel's Flickr album.
American Museum of Natural History: Overall this place is incredible. Seeing the Dinosaur exhibit was a dream come true! I've always been a big dino nerd. However, there were quite a few exhibits were sadly neglected. For so many people on staff, I was surprised to see a lot of dusty artifacts in badly lit display cases. Nonetheless, fun place to check out. Ignoring some of the outdated anthropological sets. ; )
These are average sized children. Holy cow!!
Left: It's a Moche vessel!! These things are so incredible. Did you know it's modeled after a real person? That's right, it's a portrait!
Below: Silver ... not sure from where.
Ugolino and his sons. 1865 by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux
I'm in a gothic sculpture class right now so this is relevant to me! It's a column statue of a king from Abbey church of St. Denis.
Van Gogh and Picasso. Just chillin'.
Monday, May 24, 2010
There have been too many times where I’ve put my interests aside for work, chores or other “real-life” duties. I’ve only recently stopped to think how this work flow is actually affecting me.
You know what? It sucks. I’ve made myself miserable by pushing away my passions for a rainy day that never seems to arrive. Or worse yet, tried to convince myself that my work should be the one and only activity that really fuels my engine.
Fortunately, my life epiphany seems to be part of a larger shift in thinking in society today. More and more companies are valuing the well-rounded individual. Someone who loves his or her job, but something else too.
BBH just posted a blog highlighting projects that its employees maintain in their spare time. Author Heidi Hackemer, a planner for BBH New York, states what BBH and many other companies are starting to realize: someone’s personal pastimes are just as important as a formal education in his or her field of interest. A hobby, no matter how silly or small, shows a person’s drive to learn and an endless pursuit of inspiration.
Google has a similar mentality, and has actually transformed it into work policy. Engineers are given “20-percent-time” to focus on other interests that Google believes allows employees to bring inspiration back to their work. Apparently, Google Suggest was one project sparked by outside interest that was brought home to Google and developed.
What’s my take on this? Thank god. I want to do valuable work that I enjoy, but that’s not all I want. I was always the child with a new career aspiration every week. I can barely commit to lunch, how am I supposed to pick one single interest to pursue for the rest of my life? I haven’t even graduated from college and I’ve already found myself in a rut where I fixate on the resume benefits and time consequences of every move I make. This has turned me into a (more) neurotic, anxious, tightly wound person.
I feel like I am finally starting to acquire the reassurance and self-assurance that it’s okay to not want to dedicate every moment to a project, a favorite class, or something that will look pretty on my resume. I have a limited amount of time in this world, why shouldn’t I (and everyone) focus a little more on the present rather than how every action will affect our future? I want to do good work, and make time for the things I enjoy.
So what am I up to now?
I’m baking again, even if that makes me a domestic homebody.
I’m running at night, even if that means getting a little less sleep.
I’m writing again. My own thoughts, on paper. In color, too.
I’m also learning (slowly) to take advantage of every opportunity I want, and not what I think I should want.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
How is your life changing?
Kind of an interesting thing to think about, right? We don’t often notice the subtle, small changes that occur in our daily lives. Instead, we have a pretty major “wtf” moment when we look back on the past year or more of our lives.
On a more specific level, how is your job changing? What new roles or skills do you apply to an average workday that you never utilized before?
Todd Defren of PR-Squared just wrote a short post on the increase of customer service within a PR person’s role. Defren explains that with the rise of social media, a practitioner is more and more a “public relations counselor,” who oversees customer needs and responds directly (usually on a public medium, such as Twitter).
How interesting it is to think how social technology has not only affected the way in which we communicate, but also changed when there is even a need for communication. Going social means opening up that direct line of communication, and being open to more one-on-one interaction – even in a public domain.
I have returned from Creative Week in New York City and my mind is still reeling. What a whirlwind. We visited top agencies, showed off our school’s work in a student exhibition, had incredible “wow” moments at the unConference, and explored the beautiful city in our spare time. I’m still in the filtering process after an overwhelming week of information and creative stimuli. At the unConference in particular, we had the opportunity to meet and learn with some of the most brilliant minds in the industry.
At the unConference, I learned about one particular project that related to my own work. Peoplescape is a “connective social experiment” driven solely by Maria Scileppi. Beginning in June 2007, Scileppi set out to meet one new friend every day for an entire year, record their story, and make an impact. In a digital world overwhelmed with social media, Scileppi wanted to explore the power of human interaction. From Peoplescape’s wesbite:
“Peoplescape is about promoting human connection and breaking down social barriers. It is an exploration and affirmation that each day and every individual is significant ... Affecting the people around you and being affected by them is the essence of life.”
To conclude her project, Scileppi hosted an exhibition to share her experience with others. In this space, the project participants could finally meet and interact themselves, expanding the connections formed around this project.
Peoplescape was a big “aha!” moment for me, especially with my work with Talk, a community-building project for the University of Oregon. We have similar goals, but have yet to get to the point where we can really foster a connection between our project’s participants. Scileppi reminded all of us at the unConference that your brand, project or organization is a friend to your audience. You always need to be thinking of what you are giving back to the relationship. Why does your audience want to be your friend?
Scileppi’s project is a huge inspiration to me. Whether it be for a personal or professional experience, I think it’s important to be reminded of how to connect with others. Turn your neighbor, customer, or classmate into a friend.
Monday, May 10, 2010
I am visiting NYC this week with a group of advertising students from the UO SOJC. It’s an incredible group of people led by an incredible professor (Deb Morrison) visiting incredible agencies in this incredible city. I’ve just completed day one and I’m already in awe of my surroundings. There is an indescribable energy in the air. It thrills you, intimidates you, and motivates you to do something.
Today we had the opportunity to visit and speak with Euro RSCG at their PR and pharmaceutical advertising branch. Check this place out – they’re pretty incredible. In 2009, Advertising Age listed them as #2 in the top ten best agencies. They do traditional marketing as well as some pretty incredible creative business ideas that develop a company or organization outside of its direct-to-consumer marketing.
The entire visit to Euro was fantastic, but there was one topic in particular that really stuck with me. A fellow student asked how we might better foster relationships between the account and creative sides of a campaign. Coming from a PR/planning background, I can definitely relate to the tension that forms between the creative genius and the logistical multitasker. Naturally, the advice offered was to work together. If the strategy is developed and/or discussed between everyone beforehand, each element can be more secure in what he or she contributes to the overall project.
Here’s the key point: you have to be confident in what aspect of the project you are representing. Our advice to planners was to not be afraid to discuss and suggest creative elements, and vice versa. Personally, I have a tendency to back down against someone who I feel ‘knows more’ than I do. Leadership and management roles have always come pretty natural to me, so I tend to disregard it as something easy in comparison to other more intimidating aspects. But you know what? Some people can’t get their shit together. I’m proud of my color-coded planners and will try to respect my coordinating, aligning, rearranging, constantly churning brain as a skillset that I can bring to the world. And believe it or not, I'm creative too. It just doesn't always express itself as boldly as others.
So thanks, people of Euro RSCG, for helping turn my neuroses into selling points. Because if I got them, I might as well use them for the better.
Friday, May 7, 2010
These are the questions that a group of historians with the Library of Congress are hoping to answer. As this New York Times article explains, Twitter has given its archive of public messages to the Library of Congress for a historical archival project. These historians are now faced with an enormous collection of personal anecdotes that will only continue to grow. This project has an incredible amount of potential. As one source stated, “Twitter is tens of millions of active users. There is no archive with tens of millions of diaries.”
I am fascinated by this project. As a history buff, I am captivated by the lessons we can learn by turning to our collective past. What bothers me most about the historical field, is how there is often a disconnect between the academic study and a consciousness of the present moment – pop-culture, technology, and all.
I think the relationship Twitter has formed with the Library of Congress is a step in the direction we will be moving as a culture. More and more people are recognizing the potential power clutched by social media, interactive media, and whatever social communication channels the future will offer.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Quite frankly, I don’t get the hype. I think the rapid evolution of communications is absolutely fascinating. I also think it’s incredibly important to stay atop of these changes if you wish to be a part of the communications industry. What I don’t understand, are the two extreme takes on this (sort of) new phase in the way we connect.
To those who seem shocked or overwhelmed with interactive media – catch up. Are we really that surprised that communication is changing? Language evolves, cultures evolve, it’s only natural that they way we relate to one another is too. I was not one of the first members of Twitter, but I caught on, got used to it, and found my own way to contribute.
Now, to those who think social media platforms will save the world – they won’t. They will change the world, but only in many small and individual ways.
One article on Social Media Today summarizes the debate pretty well by presenting two arguments on whether or not social media should be a required skill for PR professionals. The first author, Kasey, thinks social media is great for some, but isn’t right for others and shouldn’t be touted as a necessity. Rachel, the responder, seems to think that is the point. Interactive media channels are not right for every audience or every business, and that’s why professionals need to understand them.
So in sum, know your stuff. If you would rather not update your whereabouts on Gowalla, that’s a choice. But you better understand how it works and why others may want to utilize it. If you would rather not maintain a personal blog, feel free, but learn how blogosphere communities work. But … what’s a better way to learn, than to do?
Let’s use Eugene, Ore., as fun example to test out these questions. Eugene is a warm, inviting town that anyone can quickly call “home.” However, like every home, there is always something that needs to be fixed, sometimes tension between generations, and every once and a while … it’s just a big mess.
I’ve called Eugene home for most of my life. At times I feel a loving comfort from its familiar faces and spaces. But sometimes I also feel a disconnect. I sense the mounting tension between the wealthy and the desperate, the young and the “mature,” and those who wish to evolve and those who fear change. How can we overcome these groups individual isolations and come together as the engaged, proactive, united community that I know we all wish it to be.
Maybe it’s just my wishful kum-bay-ya approach to life, but I really feel that the more opportunity people have to contribute, the more they will. If you reach out to someone for help, more often than not he or she will come to your aid. Why don’t we take this approach to the whole community? Let’s let people create the change they desire, let’s let people have fun.
I work at the Eugene Saturday Market. Every week the Eugene Park Blocks attract people from all scopes of life who talk, listen to music, eat, and most importantly – enjoy the company of their community. How can we apply this sort of all-inclusive feeling to every day life?
A year or two ago I discovered the legal graffiti wall behind Amtrack on Shelton McMurphey Blvd. What a great idea this is! Eugene already loves its murals; what if there were more spaces for continuous, expandable, adaptable, engaging outlets of creativity? Let’s not reserve our communal artistic aesthetic for planned programs. I want to see a space for anonymous expressions of creative thought. I want to see a visual conversation created between two people who may never meet. What would it matter if someone abused the free space and painted something obscene? They would only be adding to the discussion, and someone else could come along and challenge it with a fresh coat of expression. The current graffiti wall is a fantastic start, but it’s pushed to the edge of town – out of site, out of mind. Let’s push community involvement and interaction to the front of our minds.
This is just one way in which we could become a more engaged community. There are many more out there, and even more brilliant-but-untapped minds who can provide their thoughts. Don’t ignore the tensions of a community, let’s address them and create an opportunity for involvement. Let’s make our town a home.
*Photos by rerinha and Dynamic Street Art
Friday, April 23, 2010
Jeremy Porter of Journalistics recently posted his advice for building and strengthening your networking community. He approaches it from the angle of journalists and public relations practitioners, but I feel that a lot of his advice can apply to any industry. Whether or not you work in the media, with the community, or within an organization, it’s always great to, as Porter says, “know somebody that ‘does that’ or ‘works there.’” Say you’re going for a research grant to do some work on your dissertation … how great would it be if you already knew some of the people in the loop and they were familiar with the great work you’re doing? You don’t have to be a media guru to benefit from a little schmoozing.
These are three of Porter’s tidbits that I found most intriguing:
Have a Good Opener – you’re going to have to introduce yourself at a networking event. You should be able to answer the “what do you do?” question consistently, with a clear and memorable message. It doesn’t hurt to prepare this statement and practice it – just don’t sound like a robot when somebody asks you (unless of course you are a robot).
I need to do this. I have many thoughts bumbling around in my brain, but I struggle to articulate them without context and explanation. It doesn’t really matter what you do, your interests don’t have to mirror your potential contact. Expression your passion and think of a way to connect it to someone else’s.
Deliver Value – I’m pretty passionate about this point. I regularly scan my contacts to see what ideas pop into my head. If I come across some information that would be interesting to one of my contacts, I share it with them. If I see synergies between people in my network, I share it. If somebody asks me for help, I offer it willingly. Don’t miss the opportunity to pay it forward, you’ll feel great and will find people often reciprocate.
What better way to show people that you care then to reach out and offer something of their interest? And what better way for people to get to know yours?
Everybody is Important – the Barista at Starbucks? She’s working on her MBA and is going to be your boss in five years. The guy working on your car? He’s going to coach your kid’s soccer team next season. And that woman wanting to interview you for her school paper? That’s the CEO’s daughter. Everyone is connected. Never – never ever – assume somebody is not relevant to the type of relationships you’re looking to build today. You never know who will be important, so assume everyone is.
Honestly, I think this is a good life lesson. We should really all treat each other as valued, important individuals that be of benefit to someone else. This statement is also related to Porter’s advice: “Don’t Judge.” Even if you don’t connect with someone you meet as a friend, you never know how you could help each other out in the future. Let’s treat the whole world like a potential resource of friends willing to lend their skills for the benefit of others.
Go here to read the rest of Porter’s insight and think how it could apply to your life.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
For those who don’t know, I was invited to speak at the UO Art History Department’s annual symposium. That's me below. It's hard to look suave with your mouth open. The theme this year was “Art and Ritual,” which felt like the perfect fit for my work on bloodletting rituals in Maya sculpture. Hooray for me - I was one of seven students (bachelors, masters and doctoral candidates) chosen to speak from a national call for papers.
If have to pick one thing this experience taught, it’s that crafting a presentation is a lot more difficult than I expected. I read as many articles, blog posts and tip sites as I could find on creating and presenting a spoken paper, all of which provided me with at least one insight I would have never thought of before. I also realized that while this was a wonderfully nerdy niche symposium, I learned some skills about preparing a talk for an audience that could extend into any future situation. Whether you’re crafting a presentation for academia, a client sales pitch or an informal class talk, I believe there are some general tips that can help.
So while I may not be a seasoned professional (yet), I thought I would contribute my top five takeaways from my experience. Some I did well. Some I will do better next time.
Prepare for everything. Expect anything
I am a planner … For better or for worse. In this case, my need to feel prepared served me well. In addition to your talking points or scripted speech, have a list of things that might come up. What questions could people ask? What are additional facts that are interesting, but may not flow in your presentation? Remember, no matter how much you may rehearse, something may not go to plan. Be mentally prepared for anything. I was called up to speak twenty minutes before I was scheduled to begin. The trick is not to let it get to you. I knew I had my speech down, and I knew my slides were ready to go. Prepare for what you can, and be ready to let the rest go.
This advice was offered by my incredible professor/mentor. Of course, this is more metaphorical than literal. Begin your presentation with a bang to grab the audience’s attention. A boring introduction suggests it will be a boring talk, so convince your listener from the start that there is a really good reason to listen. I like to compare it to a movie preview – it really just summarizes the film, but uses words with just enough drama to get you interested.
Believe in your words
You have to commit to yourself. If you feel unsure of what you’re presenting, the audience won’t want to listen to your argument. I received some great advice from Paul Viel, who said, “Remember, they are totally interested in everything you’re saying.” It’s tough to build up the confidence to mentally expose yourself to a room of people, but I convinced myself that everyone would be as captivated by my topic as I was, which helped me keep up the energy and enthusiasm to make it through.
Use your friends
Practice in front of anyone and everyone you can. Believe me, I know that Mr. Desk and Mrs. Pillow are a far more comforting audience, but they don’t offer the feedback, or even the pressure, that you need to succeed. I felt pretty satisfied with myself a few days before my talk … and then I spoke in front of seven people and had the rude awakening that I talk way too fast, it’s really hard to read a script while you’re standing, I have a tough time articulating specific words, and that I was a lot more scared than I thought I would be. My trouble spots stuck out like neon signs under the pressure of having a few people standing in front of me. Even if your material is perfect, it’s helpful to get used to the feeling of others watching you speak.
Wait … there’s a screen behind me?
Even in a more formal, scripted environment, it’s still important to interact with the images on the screen. This is something I probably could have done better at. I had rehearsed enough to be able to look up from my paper, but when it came to use the laser pointer I received at the podium, I was lost. I think some of my points could have been clearer, or at least more exciting, if I had been able to engage with the images behind me more. If you are glued to the podium, at least remember to let your body express what you’re saying.
Mind map it
Maybe this is just my problem, but I found that as I was reading I would get too absorbed in the individual words, and forget the birds-eye view of my presentation. It found it really helpful to have a little outline off to the side to keep my mind in check on where I was, and where I was going with my argument. I also segmented the paper I was reading from, to alert myself
All in all, be yourself. Presentations can be tough, but well worth the work. After proving my academic worth to the symposium attendees, I feel a bit more relaxed in a room of peers. So buck up and show the world what you have to offer.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Negative? Yes. Relatively true? Yes. I haven't given this blog the proper nurturing that it deserves. It's like a sweet little starter plant that you buy when the sun starts peaking out in April and you have all of the best intentions. But then it sits on your porch for a few weeks, occasionally gets a gulp of rain, and eventually collapses.
This spring is going to be different. I'm currently enrolled in a class that's asking me to engage in my niche blogosphere community, and I'm determined to do it. Essentially, I now have homework to do what I've been trying to do on my own for over a year. I'll admit, it's hard to brush off the self-disappointment that I couldn't get the time/motivation/inspiration to put my thoughts out there by myself, but I'm pleased that I'll at least be able to do it.
There will also be a bit of a shift in content. I still want to contribute my own experiences and inspirations, but I will also be including more perspective from the communications side of the art world. It's one of the many topics that grab me, but often the one that gets tossed aside first when it comes to articulating my thoughts.
So ... here's to Spring and the potential it brings.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
For New Years, I made a quick trip to SF before the new school term. At the last minute, I quickly looked up the local museums to see if any exhibits caught my eye. Lo and behold, the de Young was hosting the Tutankhamun exhibit! Oh. My. God. Like many children, I had a major Egypotology phase. That is normal, right? I was obsessed with everything to do with ancient Egypt. The culture, the religion, and of course - the artwork. I knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, and plan was made.
Unforunately, no cameras were allowed inside the Tut exhibit, so the photo to the left is all I have to prove my experience. I have to say, it was amazing. Ah-ma-zing. The objects from Tut's tomb were really only a minor part of the entire exhibit. Several rooms were filled with pieces from earlier burials, which really gave the audience a great background in the stylistic history before entering Tut's area.
If anyone can make this exhibit (it leaves on March 28th as seen in the sign), I would highly recommend it. If not, try to catch it sometime in your life. Even for those who didn't spend childhood creating Papyrus from scratch, it is still a magnificent sight.
The Maya are known for their incredible ceramic vessels, and this one in particular caught my eye. It's from the Classic period, dated to about 600-900 CE. As you may be able to gather from the following images, it depicts a sacrificial ceremony.
Another favorite was a stela from the Guatamala/Belize area dated to 761 AD. The stela depicts Queen Ix Mutal Ahaw.
I don't know a lot about this figure in particular, but this stela is a perfect example of what I love about Maya public sculpture. The power radiating from this image is incredible.
You can check out the rest of my photos from this exhibit on my Flickr.
Monday, January 11, 2010
This phrase really sparked a connection for me. It's easy to talk about reaching out to communities and building a stronger network, but who are these people? Long gone are the days of media-gurus concocting strategies to appeal to certain subgroups. That just doesn’t work. We – community organizers, leaders, and educators – are level with the people we reach out to. The role that our institutions and organizations play within our community is just as important as any promotional release we could invent.
So what is your community? How do you fit into it, on a personal and professional level? Who is the person sitting at the next table? Know your community; know yourself.