Sunday, June 14, 2009

Making Media Connections Conference

Last Thursday, I had the great privilege of attending Community Media Workshop's Making Media Connections Conference. I had a great time, learned a lot, and networked a lot - what more could you have asked for?

The conference was held at Columbia College of Chicago and there was a great cross-section of people from what they referred to at the conference as "The Old Media" such as the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune to the new media, such as bloggers (the conference was actually live-blogged the entire day!) to people who worked at not for profits such as myself who wanted to find out more about how we can benefit from both.

The morning keynote was done by Monica Davies, who is the chief editor of their Chicago Bureau. Ms. Davies was an excellent speaker and touched not only on how the old media is going to survive in the age of twitter and facebook, but also how non-profits can be better able to get their stories into the news - which is mainly what I took from her talk. The thing that resonated with me the most was her point that in these tough economic times, newspapers want to hear about how people are doing - both the good and the bed. She said newspapers and other media are especially interested in how people are finding creative ways to weather the recession and if non-profits were doing creative and interesting things to survive, then the media would be receptive to those stories in addition to the bad stories about people losing their jobs and programs shutting down due to lack of funds.

The first workshop I attended was "Words on the Web" which talked about e-newsletters and blogging mainly. Since Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection is pretty up-to-date with newsletters and blogs, I realized that I already knew a lot about what they were talking about. However, an interesting tidbit that I found out was about a website called the Windy Citizen, where people can post interesting news stories including stories they've written themselves such as on their blog. Then, the other people who read their story on the site can rank the story based on how interesting they think the story is and if the story is highly ranked it will appear on the front page of the website.

The next workshop I attended was "Cause Marketing" where corporations (represented by Dominick's), PR Firms, and the media talked about about how you can partner with them to get dollars and free advertising. I learned a lot about how important it is when applying for funding from a corporation to make sure that you know what's in their mission statement and how that relates to who they fund. They also said that in asking for donations, you should be able to tell what you do and why they should fund you in the length of a tweet. Of course you're going to have to back that information up later with personal stories and data, but if you want to get your foot in the door initially you have to be concise and succinct in describing your progam and what they do.

The first afternoon workshop was all about Funding your Communications Department. The big thing they talked about was crafting a communications plan so that when you apply for funding for a communications person they will know what resources you have and resources you need. If you have a good, clear plan about how you will use the funding for using media for your organization than that's the best way to get funding for communications.

The final workshop was actually where we were all split into 3 groups and had a roundtable discussion from someone who represents the new media - in my case her name was Elizabeth Vassollo who is a community reporter for Trib Local, which is a newspaper helped by articles and stories found and written by the citizens of the communities they live in - and someone who uses the new media in their non-profit organization - Aaron Thurmond, who works for the Court Theater and who writes his own blog on arts management. I was especially interested in hearing Aaron's thoughts on building an audience for your blog. His recommendation was pretty simple - read other people's blogs who write about similar things that you do, link to their articles, comment on their posts. People will then see your stories as well and your name will be out there as one they recognize.

We also had the tables turned on us in the discussion and were asked about a success or failure we have had using either new or old media. I told the story of how I wrote about the need for finding a space for our November 2008 conference so I wrote about that on this blog. I then linked that article on my gchat, facebook, etc. An acquaintance (now a good friend!), who works at the Field Museum read that story on my blog and pointed me to the right people so that we could secure the Field Museum for our November Conference.

Overall, I had a blast at the Making Media Connections conference and hope to attend more events held by the Community Media Workshop. Even though I'm not the Media or PR Coordinator, I believe we are living in a age where we all can share our stories and it's important for all of us to know the ways we can better share our stories.


Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Nicole. Thanks for the review. Lots of good ideas to try to put into practice at the Tutor/Mentor Connection and Cabrini Connections. If we can do this, and teach other tutor/mentor programs to apply these ideas, we can raise the visibility of tutoring/mentoring and generate more support for all of us.

Gordon Mayer said...

Hey Nicole,

hey--I was there! I recall thinking, when you told your story about finding the Field Museum space on Thursday aft at the MMC conference that this was a great example of a social media success!

Is it only older folks such as me who still think it's super cool to see an event that we attended written about in print (even if the print is electronic type, on the Web)? There's something so... validating about it! Anyway, glad you made it out to the conference and look forward to working together more in the coming year.