[NOTES] When Your Community Does the Blogging | MuseumNext Indy
Notes for the presentation "When Your Community Does the Blogging: What, Why, and How," at MuseumNext Indianapolis, September 2015. This talk discusses the Community Blogging programs at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.
[NOTES] When Your Community Does the Blogging | MuseumNext Indy
NOTES:When Your Community Does the Blogging: What, Why, and How
MuseumNext, Indianapolis, September 25, 2015
I’mLori Byrd-McDevitt,the Managerof Digital Content&Social Mediaat The
In myrole I alsomanage the museum’sblog,whichiswhatI’ll be focusingon
I’ll be sharingabouthow we’ve involvedourlocal community inthe blog,
and I’ll share waysothermuseumscando the same.
I love my role as social mediaand blogmanager, because itallowsme todirectly
interactwiththe museum’slocal andonline community.
Everyday I getto see whattheythink,thanksto Tweets,Facebookcomments,and
o All of thismade me thinkaboutthe role of the museum’sblogasa
For my mastersresearchI establishedthe term “OpenAuthority,” whichisthe
coming togetherof museumexpertise andcommunity contributions.
o Museumsare unique intheirpotential tobe a confluence of cultural
By invitinginvariedpointsof view,museumscanuse ourinherentauthorityto
openup the interpretationof content,makingitmore inclusive toall.
I like touse thisspectrumto show whatOpenAuthoritylookslike. Manymuseums
use crowdsourcingasa wayto activelypartnerwithvisitors,especiallyonline.But
there’smuchmore nuance to openauthoritythanjustcrowdsourcing.
Thisspectrumshowsthat there are more conservative approachestocommunity
participation, whichcan thenalsoleadtomore progressive approaches.
Contributory projects are whatwe considercrowdsourcing,andare usually more
passive forthose whoparticipate,withthe museumtakingthe active role.
WhereasCollaborative projectcanbe describedasCommunitySourcing.
o CommunitySourcinginvolvesbiggerasksmade of a more committed,loyal
community.These projectsrequire participantstobe more active and
motivatedintheircontributions, andthat’s whyCommunityBloggingfalls
And thenthere are Co-Creative projects,whichinvolve true participatory
interpretationcomingequallyfromboththe communityandthe museum.
o Thisis a topicfor a whole othertalk.Todaywe’ll be focusingon
So nowlet’sdive into CommunityBloggingatThe Children’sMuseum
Our blogstartedWAY back in 2010, whenwe kickedthingsoff withmultipleposts
a weekwrittenbystaff acrossthe museum.
o Staff blogginghasgone onso longthat it’sgottenquite involved.Pictured
here are ourCreative Directorandour Directorof Collections,who’ve
Overthe yearswe incorporatedmore postsfromguestbloggers,oftenexperts or
artistswhowork withuson exhibits.
Fallingbetweenguest bloggingandcommunityblogging,picturedhere onthe
rightis a photofrom a 2013 post by the founderof our local Instagram
community,sharingabout hisexperience atourfirstmuseum-ledInstameet.Our
From earlyonwe alsousedthe blog to feature visitorstoriesthatwere submitted
as part of contests.These were one-off contributions,sothey’re agoodexample
of an early crowdsourcedapproach.
We didn’ttruly experimentwith the ideaof Community Blogginguntil late 2013,
whenwe beganto thinkabouthow museumfamilies couldwriteforthe blogover
an extendedperiodof time.
The renovationandexpansionof ourbeloved Playscapegallery wasagreat
opportunity,because localswere soexcitedforitsunveiling. We wantedtoletour
families playapartin reintroducingPlayscapetothe world.
So,we createdthe “Playscape 5,”consideringitapilotfor a future,broader
We directlyreachedouttothree familieswhorepresentedthe age-spanfor
Playscape,andwhose parentswere knownsocial mediainfluencersinthe city.
Overa periodof six months,eachfamily blogged forusonce a month.
Beyondthe blog,theyusedthe #Playscape5hashtagtotweet,Instagram,andVine
theirexperiences inthe gallery aswell as learningmomentsat home.
The resultof this blogseries wasthatreaders couldfollow alongonthe Playscape
5’s journey, andsee the new gallery throughthe eyesof familiesjustlikethem.
The successof the Playscape 5 ledusto confidentlymoveforwardwithaformal,
recurring,andbrandedCommunityBloggingprogram, whichwe call The Children’s
o Shownhere are the various brandedgraphicswe use on differentsocial
platforms,whichyoucansee are personalizedforeachblogger.
We selectourAmbassadorsthroughanapplication-basedcall outtoour local
o We reachedoutto around75 active bloggersandreceived24 applications,
which,at 1/3 of the community – was muchmore than we anticipated.
o So we were thrilled…
o In the applicationwe specificallyaskedabouttheirpersonal passionsand
unique perspectives.Aswellassamples of theirwritingstyle.
o We selectedourapplicantstocreate amix of pointsof view,agesof
o The reach and influenceof their personal socialmediafollowing doesplay
a role in theirselection,but isnotthe mainpriority.
Similartothe Playscape5,theyeachblogonce a monthfor six months, usingthe
Afterourfirstclass of Blog Ambassadorswrappedupinearly2015, we began
We received18submissions,andselectedfourforoursecondclass of
Ambassadors,whoare bloggingforus currently fromMay through October, and
three bloggersforourthird class,whichwill kickoff inNovember.
Thistime we were happyto receive anumberof submissionsfromDaddybloggers,
of whichthree were selected.
We’ll getmore intothe logisticsbehindthe Ambassadorprograminasecond,but
let’sfirstchatabout WHY you shouldtryCommunityblogging.
Firstof all,itprovidesan invaluable inside lookintowhatyour audiencesare
o I like tosay that it’sa directline to your community’sbrain!
Our Evaluationstaff have especiallylovedtheseblogs,becausetheyprovide such
Andthe blogsalsoprovide anendlesssupplyof photos,quotes,andmemorable
momentsthatwe can repurpose. We all know it’snotalwayseasyto gather
photosof these authenticmomentsaround the museum.
The secondreasoninvolvesRadical Trust,whichcallsforaquote fromColleen
o “Radical trust isthe confidence thatamuseumhasintheircollaborations
withonline communities.Institutionsdisplaytrustinthese communities
o AndI love thatquote because it tiesindirectly toOpenAuthority,which
seekstohave an opendialogue betweenamuseumanditscommunity.
You showradical trust byempoweringcommunitybloggerstotake the reinsof
It seemsscaryto hand overcontrol of the blog,because it’sseenas thisepicenter
of a museum’sauthenticvoice.Butthat’swhythe community’sperspective isso
valuable — it’sauthentic.
We’re luckyat The Children’sMuseum tohave such incrediblyloyal and
enthusiasticfamilies.Communitybloggingisourway of showingour appreciation,
and our trust, really, of acommunitywhoisso graciouswiththeirsupport.
If you value whatyourcommunityhasto say, why not give themwings—letthem
say it on your blog.
Colleen’squote alsomentioned Transparency,whichis expectednow inadigital
worldwhere institutional responsescanbe made quicklyandopenly.
Transparency alsoforcesan organization tobe okay with laughing at itself, andto
knowitsstrengthsas well asitsweaknesses.
Openingupthe blogto a communityperspective notonlyincreasestransparency,
it showsthatyou’re confidentwithwhoyouare.
Nowthat we’ve gottenthroughthe “WHY,”let’stalkaboutthe “HOW.”
It all starts with connectingwith your community.
o If there’sa specificaudience orgoal foryour blogprogram, you’dwant to
considerhow toconnect withthatrelevantsubsetof yourcommunity.
For us,it startedby connectingwithourlocal mommybloggers,whichsoon
expandedtodadbloggersandalso,because of ourcontentareas,geekand pop-
We beganto buildourlistof contacts simplybykeepingthe informationfrom
bloggerswho requestticketsinexchangefor reviewingthe museum.Whenthis
happenswe alwaysask if they’re interestedinbeingonourlistof bloggers,and
o We don’tuse theiremailsforanyotherpromotional purposes.We are
strict inonlycontactingthat listif itis a directemail fromus aboutan
We thengrew our listof contacts bythrowing special “BloggerPreviews”for
exhibits,andwe pulledoutall the stops!Forlargerexhibits,theygetafull dinner
and goodie bags,inadditiontoa firstlookat the new gallery.Forall exhibitswe
Thiswas our initial wayto invite thisaudience in,toshow themthatwe value
theirsupport,andto make themfeel like apartof the museumfamily.
Eventslike thisestablishgoodwill. Yougive a little.But you geta lot.
Movingfrom connecting to collaboratingisn’t easy,but beingpreparedhelps!
o An earlywaywe collaboratedwitha unique communitywasthroughour
o Thisis where local influencerswere giventicketstoa popularadults-only
museumeventinexchange forsharingaboutitontheirsocial channels.
o Eventhoughthiscollaborationwasusingtheirpersonal accounts,we still
alwayshave to be careful withhow the museumisrepresented,
o So forthe Lifeguards we didhave specificguidelinesforcontent,which
has workedoutreallywell eachyear.
Likewise,whenitcame to CommunityBloggers,we foundthatbeginningwith
more structure was keyto success.
For the BlogAmbassadors,we meetwitheachbloggerpriortotheirtimeframe,
where we layoutexpectations,talkabouttopicideas,andconfirmscheduling.
o Afterward,Imaintainan openline of communication;theyknowthat
theycan come to me withideas,questions, orconcerns atany time.
For now,our BlogAmbassadorshave anoverarchingtheme fortheirposts,within
whichtheyhave free creative rein.
o Each of theirpostsillustratesawaythattheirfamilywasinspiredbythe
o For instance,an exhibitmayinspireacraft,a recipe,anothertrip
o Recentlyabloggersharedaboutherfamily’slove of ouriconicChihuly
glasssculpture andwhatit’smeantto themthroughthe yearsas they’ve
I neverheavilyedit blogs,asthisdefeatsthe purposeof beingauthenticand
transparent.Ionlydo lighteditingif there are inaccuraciesinexhibitnamesor
information, oranyglaringgrammatical errors. Andpeople tendtoappreciate
those kindsof edits.
A big part of collaboratingis, let’sface it, compensation.Thisis alwaysa big
question whenitcomesto communityblogging.
Afterdiscussingthe topicwithsome of ourmore professional bloggers,we’ve
We’ve foundthattheyconsiderbloggingforusaninherentvalue, because it
raisestheirown social mediaprofileandaddstotheirexperience.
o We foundthatthe applicationprocess motivated those whobecome Blog
Ambassadors todo theirbestandvalue the opportunity.
o Theyreceive abranded,personalizedbadge fortheirownblog,andare
alsofree to share the contenton theirownchannels afterit’sappeared
on the museum’s.
We doshow our appreciationinotherways,including
o an annual membership
o “welcome”and“thankyou” giftpackages
o free ticketstospecial eventsthatmayoccur while they’reAmbassadors,
o and otherunique opportunities.
o Also,everyonealwayslikesagoodbutton. Youshould seriouslyconsider
More recently,we’vebegunusinga Memorandumof Understandingwithour
bloggerssothat we can furtherclarifythe expectationsonbothsides.
o It mostlylaysoutthe logisticsandwhat we discussinour initial meeting.
o In thisMOU we alsoinclude asectionon legal concernswithhowwe can
use theircontent,and bestpractice in properlyattributingideasor
o Believe itornot,“lifting”ideas fromotherblogsdidbecomeanissue with
one of ourformerAmbassadors,whichisactuallywhatledusto adoptan
MOU. Andwe’re now verygladwe have one.
While we feel like we’re ina goodroutine withourAmbassadorprogram,there’s
still alot of room to grow,
o bothwithlooseningthe structure of the suggestedcontent,
o and especiallywhenitcomes to increasingdiversityin perspectives and
In the future,thiswill call forwiderrecruitmentfromoutsideof ourtypical
o We’dlove tosee more participationfromneighborhoodmembers,
grandparents, familieswho adopt, familieswhohave experience with
special needs,andothercultural perspectives.
No matterwho participates,the mostimportantthingisthat our blogempowers
o to share theirunique pointof view
o and have a renewedsenseof ownershipover theirmuseumexperience.
Andthat bringsme to the end.
I’dbe happyto chat withanyone more aboutthis,sofeel free toreachout.
Thank youso much.