Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monastery Blog

The monastery has launched a blog, with eight Sisters signed on to write once a month (one is on for the fifth Tuesday of the month, so really there are two holes in the schedule if we want every Tuesday and Thursday covered). So far, two entries have been posted. As communications director, I set up the blog template, put in the basic information, and did an orientation for the bloggers.

I've also offered to sit with them and help them post their entries. I'm certain that at least four of them will pick it up almost immediately, and it will probably only be a regular thing to help three of them. And it doesn't take long and is really a pleasure to get a visit once a month from some of these Sisters to post their entries. I'll fill in here and there with other entries, things I have access to or that work best on a site where I can post links-- and hopefully drive people to our Web site. I am a communications professional, after all.

Today I watched a free webinar on public relations through social media. It was a little overwhelming. The speaker works for major clients as a public relations expert and introduced not just the concept of publicizing businesses through use of social media but also these crazy, complex online press releases. It was for Anheuser Busch, promoting a video they were releasing that was a behind-the-scenes look at the making of their Super Bowl commercial. The release included a Twitter post, a "summary" that was basically the release, had video clips down the side, and had links to all kinds of things-- interviews with the makers of the making-of video, to the video site, to a promotion site for the video, e-mails to all the people involved and a variety of other organizations, links so you could easily "share" the content of that very press release, YouTube embed codes you could paste right in your blog if you wanted to include one of the clips, etc. Everything you'd need as a blogger or online media outlet to link to this promotion.

He also had some high-power graphics of social networking relationships-- how he identified people in a certain target industry tho were all loosely interconnected in terms of their discussion of issues and yet who reached all kinds of different niche audiences. With this chart of connections and connectors developed, you'd have a really powerful list for submitting your PR press release. And you could build buzz and seriously promote something...

Home for lunch I heard an "Intelligence Squared" debate on NPR on the proposition: "Good riddance to the/mainstream media." I love these debates, mostly because they remind me of teaching rhetoric. But unlike many of these "Oxford-style debates," which are always quite civilized and stable, this one devolved right away into heated discussion, shouting even. What was clear was what was at stake. The representatives of mainstream/traditional media are in complete emotional crisis mode over the impending death of their industry. Right away I'd been slightly offended by the way the proposition was phrased. It seemed so callous. Could anyone think that the death of newspapers and magazines in this country is a good thing, long overdue?

I think it's inevitable, given the huge technological transition we're in, but I also think it should be attended with respect and even some sadness. You know, like the death of the record album. Or even the death of the CD. MP3 files are not very high quality, and albums are basically dead as a form, replaced by digitized libraries full of singles. I'm happy to have digital music, and in fact downloaded a CD yesterday (the whole thing, not just the songs I really like-- but I also bought another one by the same artist used online because it was cheaper and I'm thinking will last longer than my next system crash). Still, I know it's not as good as the old technology and I know we're losing access to what was a truly formative experience for me: listening to records, then to CDs, one at a time, in their entirety, on music systems with good speakers or headphones.

Things are changing. For real.

Four of the Sisters wrote their first blog entries right away, and even found photos/artwork for them. They wanted me to proofread the entries and advise them on length and content. Two are holding onto them until their day-- the week of Thanksgiving. The Sisters are nothing if not perfectionists, which will make it hard for them to really get into blogging. But they'll also enjoy having their writing "out there" right away and for an audience. It's my job to build an audience, I think. It's my job, certainly, to help them get what they've written onto the blog itself.

It's hard to say what my job is. I work with an organization that is in some ways slowing down, but which is still constantly courting new ideas. Many of these Sisters want to find a way into the future-- giving online courses, retreats and webinars of their own. They want to share their wisdom and have someone help them navigate the world of technology. In some ways, however, the line between programming itself and promotion of that programming becomes blurred, because there aren't many Sisters who can actually make the transition on their own-- give me something to promote using the new tools of "my" profession. 

After lunch, a Sister dropped by to hand in a profile she's written for the next magazine. I'll have to retype it because, although she did create it on her computer, she's forgotten her password and can't get back on. Then I met with a Sister who is ramping up one of the monastery's traditional programs, a scholars-in-residence program, and starting a new initiative to sponsor students for a year of service living with Benedictine communities after college in needy areas of the world. She needs a bookmark and two brochures. We made a plan, looked at sample text and pricing. This, I told her, is something I can definitely do.

Tomorrow I'm off to the Archives to try to find an image of the 100-year-old grotto with snow for this year's Christmas card...

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