Connecting the media lab with nonprofits

Last week, Michelle Rogers, director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, presented "Digital Communication Tools" to the SouthEastern Michigan Computer Organization.

Last week, Michelle Rogers, director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, presented “Digital Communication Tools” to the SouthEastern Michigan Computer Organization.


Through my outreach as director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, I’ve had the pleasure of presenting and working with numerous nonprofits. In the last week, I’ve traveled to Oakland and Macomb counties encouraging nonprofits to use digital communication tools.

The SouthEastern Michigan Computer Organization invited me to present on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Meetup and Eventful March 9 at the Mahany/Meininger Senior Community Center in Royal Oak. SEMCO talkIt was a little intimidating at first knowing I would be presenting to computer nerds, who are at a whole other level in their knowledge and understanding of technology. I feared they would look down on me and see my suggestions for social media tools to help take their nonprofit to the next level as elementary or pedestrian.

Boy, I was wrong.

For the most part, the group, ranging in age from about 55 to 75, was in awe of the knowledge I was imparting. They asked a lot of questions and really seemed quite fascinated with all the tools I presented on. They had so many questions that I ran over my two-hour time allowance, and had to push through Eventful pretty fast. In addition, I was running the PowerPoint from my GoogleDrive and livestreaming on UStream all off a personal hotspot that, as you can imagine, was running down my battery at breakneck speed.

As I wrapped up, many members asked if I’d be available to present to other nonprofits they are involved with, as well as return to SEMCO to drill down deeper on individual communication tools and teach a more hands-on workshop. I call that success.

Facebook Post

The following Friday, I paid a visit to the Macomb Literacy Partners at the invitation of Executive Director Ken Lampar. We had met a few weeks earlier at another presentation I had given to Macomb County nonprofits. Ken was looking for me to come in and meet with his assistant and himself so they could “pick my brain” about social media and digital media, and their current social media strategy.

It was a different experience than the earlier presentation to 40-plus people who had attended the SEMCO meeting. Working with them one-on-one in their office as an adviser felt rewarding. They looked to me as an expert and I enjoyed recommending tools and strategies after learning about their mission and main goals.

Among other things, we talked about adding a YouTube channel featuring the success stories of some of the people they are working with, the stories of volunteers and why they devote their spare time to Macomb Literacy Partners, as well as video updates from Ken and his staff, and tutorials. They also liked my suggestion of setting up Twitter lists to be better organized and facilitate more retweets and two-way conversations with their audience on the site. I also recommended the tool WeJoinIn for scheduling events and volunteers.

Their No. 1 priority, or task to accomplish, will be to launch a blog and write about their efforts at Macomb Literacy Partners, share success stories, recruit volunteers and announce special events. The blog will feature widgets or links to all of their other social media channels, and it will be linked to The Macomb Daily news site as part of a blogging partnership. In return, we will ask them to add our headline widget to their blog to help attract readers to our content, as well.

If you are involved with a nonprofit and you’re looking for a speaker to present on digital storytelling tools or social media, feel free to reach out to me via the comments section of this blog or tweet @CommunityMediaL.

We’re approaching the two-year anniversary of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab. Helping the community — including nonprofits, businesses, government and individuals — embrace social sharing and use digital tools to communicate a more engaging message is what we set out to do, and I love every opportunity that comes my way to do that.

SEMCO post

Using live chats and livestreaming video for community engagement

ScribbleLive statistics from my cancer chat held March 21.

ScribbleLive statistics from my cancer chat held March 21.

Have you used ScribbleLive or uStream to hold live chats with your audience as they view your event online? Whether you’re an independent blogger or journalist working for a news website, these tools are great to incorporate into your skillset so you can provide better community engagement and practice interactive journalism.

I have been using uStream and CoverItLive for nearly a year to share our workshops at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, formerly the Community Media Lab, with our online audience, and recently switched from CoverItLive to ScribbleLive. I held my first ScribbleLive chat, broadcast at news websites affiliated with our chain across the United States, March 21, and again March 28. Having these two chats — one on cancer and the other on marketing blogs — under my belt has helped me build not only on my skills, but my confidence, as well.

The cancer chat was a little intimidating because it was my first and I knew I’d have a national audience. I recruited experts for the chat from the American Cancer Society, Southgate Surgery Center and the University of Michigan cancer AnswerLine. Although none had participated before, they were excited for the opportunity.

I started by setting up the event in ScribbleLive and adding them as guest writers. They were sent invites through ScribbleLive a couple of days in advance so they could register, upload avatars and become familiar with the platform. In the meantime, I researched the topic and came up with questions in advance to facilitate the chat and fill in when the talk was running slow. I also created shortened links in Bitly to facts and information I was citing so I would have analytics later to view. ScribbleLive also shares data.

Although I don’t think the other media outlets promoted it as well as they could have, I tried my best, using all of our Michigan publications’ Facebook pages and Twitter accounts affiliated with our mastheads in Washtenaw County that I had access to as a former editor. So, it’s no surprise that most of our audience came from Washtenaw County.

In all, we had 41 concurrent watchers, 1,551 total uniques, 2,186 page views, 16 unique users who posted comments, 24 published comments and 101 total posts for our cancer chat. To view the chat, click on our article page at Heritage.com, where it was posted.

I also organized and moderated the chat for the Southeast Michigan Media Lab’s workshop “Marketing blogs so people can find, read them,” the following week March 28. I upped my skill level by incorporating livestreaming video with this chat, embedding our uStream channel, which has had 465 views since inception, in ScribbleLive. For this, I had help from Paul Kampe at The Oakland Press, who has been my ScribbleLive mentor. In the past, I uploaded three embeds — chat, video and PowerPoint — in an article page with a headline.

To prepare for the marketing chat, I asked the presenter to send me his PowerPoint in advance. I uploaded that to Scribd.com to share with our audience, but also so I could prepare questions and information blocks. This chat had 149 uniques, 200 page views, 48 posts, 13 comments and five unique users posting comments. It wasn’t as many as the cancer chat, but the subject was pretty narrow, so it was expected. In comparison, The Oakland Press hosts a chat on the Detroit Lions. On March 28, that chat had 3,455 page views, 3,046 uniques, 16 unique users posting, 34 published comments and 37 posts.

I expected both of my chats to get a wider audience than they did, especially the cancer chat because of its broad interest, but I think as I do more and as I get more cooperation from each newsroom in promoting them, future live chats will fare better. I am still pleased, though, with the outcome. These are awesome community engagement tools that I anticipate will grow in popularity as our audience becomes more familiar and comfortable with the platform as they’re exposed to it more.

Just as I have been working steadily over the last month to recruit bloggers — partnering with 20 in the last month — I’ve been working equally as hard at lining up live chats, asking editors across Michigan and our audience for their suggestions. Some future chats in the works include a talk on Alzheimer’s disease, suicide prevention and tax filing headaches and deadlines this season.

If you have any ideas for live chats or workshops at the media lab, or want to learn how to use these tools, please contact me through Twitter, @digitalJRN.

Preparing a PowerPoint for a Community Media Lab workshop

As the founder of the Community Media Lab, it’s about time that I led a workshop and shared my excitement about the free technology tools I have learned as a member of the Journal Register Company’s ideaLab.

I have volunteered to teach “Contributing community content in different ways” from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 12 at the lab, 215 W. MichigaPowerPointCovern Ave., in Ypsilanti. My focus will be on sharing free media technology tools that will enhance storytelling in visually interesting ways. I will  showcase Flickr for photo slideshows, ManyEyes for data visualization elements, Scribd to embed documents, ipadio and Google Voice for audio embeds, Animoto and YouTube for video sharing, Survey Monkey for crowdsourcing, uStream for livestreaming video, CoverItLive for live chats, and Capzles and Dipity for timelines, as well as other tools. I also plan to share tips on what editors are looking for, and how to package your submissions and promote your content on social media once it has been posted online.

On Friday, I spent some of my time with Community Media Lab supporter Chris Wechner, an Internet marketing specialist who has been using our free services and giving back by helping me brainstorm ways to promote and market the lab. I showed him my PowerPoint in its early stages and he gave me some tips on improving it. Since it’s my first PowerPoint, I appreciate all the help I can get. In addition to helping me utilize some of the PowerPoint tools to enhance my presentation, he offered me tips over the weekend on presenting next week. He has delivered many presentations and I value his advice.

Chris joins a small-but-very-dedicated posse of supporters that also includes community blogger Bob Cummings, EMU professors Michael McVey, Nancy Copeland, Toni Jones, Anne Bedar and Carol Schlagheck, Eastern Echo adviser Kevin Devine, freelance editor and journalist Sarah Rigg, and social media maven Leslie McGraw. All have volunteered their time to help make the Community Media Lab a success. I will be drawing on the goodwill of these individuals, as well as some other colleagues and local professionals, to teach workshops in January and February. Please look to our Facebook page for future workshops, and remember that the Community Media Lab is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. You are welcome to come in for one-on-one instruction on anything from setting up a social media account or blog to editing a video or photo slideshow, to tips on writing a news release.

As always, I appreciate your comments and ideas. Feel free to reach out to me, Michelle Rogers, at mrogers@heritage.com.

Setting up for our workshops

Today I moderated, live blogged/tweeted and live streamed one of our workshops for the first time. During each of our workshops someone typically fills this role and today it was my turn.

To live blog our workshops, we usually use CoverItLive, a tool that lets you live blog an event while integrated Twitter and user comments. It’s simple to use and generates an embed code so that we can share the live blog with our entire community by posting it on our website. You can replay the live blog of the event here, which will give you a better idea of how CoverItLive works.

When using CoverItLive, you can integrate Twitter accounts and hastags into the conversation. I integrated the CML’s Twitter account (@CommunityMediaL) and the hashtag #CMLWorkshop. I chose the hashtag because it was something that could be used during other workshops and could help the dialogue continue. Or so, that’s my theory. Integrating Twitter into the live blog helps broaden our audience and engage more people.

Today’s workshop was on narrative and column writing and was hosted by Renee Collins. Collins is a former editor at Heritage Newspapers and now teaches journalism classes at Adrian College in Adrian, Mich.

I used UStream to provide a video stream of her presentation. UStream is another easy tool to use. I used one of our netbooks that has a webcam installed in it to video the presentation. The program is free and doesn’t require any software to be downloaded, which is always a plus. I simply turn on the channel I’ve set up on the website and turn the computer toward my subject (in this case, Collins). I was able to just let that run while I live blogged and tweeted the rest of the workshop without having to think about the live stream. Hassle-free, which is great when you’re juggling everything thing else.

You can see Collins’ presentation here, though the video isn’t the best. I believe that fault lies with the quality of the small webcam on our netbooks, not with Ustream.

We had a fair amount of engagement during our workshop with 10 viewers of the CoverItLive blog. For being 1 p.m., I’d say that’s a decent turnout. For anyone who missed it, you can rewatch the live video and blog here.

Have any questions about how I set this up or any of the tools I used? Email me at kgjestland@heritage.com, or follow me on Twitter @kgjestland. I’ll be back in the lab 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. next Monday.