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


Adding visually-interesting elements, widgets and gadgets to blogs

Blogger Chris Watkins writes "Spiritual Voices."

Blogger Chris Watkins writes “Spiritual Voices.”

Some days at the lab I am lost in another world on my computer exploring new digital storytelling or social media tools — like Talkshoe on Monday and Tuesday — setting up live chats, recruiting workshop leaders and newsroom trainers and talking about events and interesting content on our social media channels. Other days, I actually have real human interaction — like yesterday and today.

On Tuesday, Roger Beukema, one of our blogging partners based in Oakland County, stopped by the media lab in the morning to learn how to spruce up his blog and use social media more effectively. In between stories about his family, his career as a cop and his connection over the last 30 years to The Oakland Press, we made some headway. It was a purely enjoyable experience for me and didn’t even seem like 2 1/2 hours as I got lost in his stories, along with the fun of learning new digital storytelling tools.

I talked to Roger about adding hyperlinks to content he references in his “Outdoor Notes” posts, sharing YouTube videos related to what he’s writing about, adding more photographs and maybe a podcast after he buys that smartphone he’s been wanting to get for a while. I also shared with him my PowerPoint, “Contributing Community Content: Visually interesting ways to help your content stand out and engage your audience.” The presentation is an introduction to a variety of digital storytelling tools that he could learn about at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab and then incorporate into his blog posts.

Blogger Roger Beukema writes "Outdoor Notes."

Blogger Roger Beukema writes “Outdoor Notes.”

On Wednesday, Chris Watkins, who writes the “Spiritual Voices” column for Heritage Media-West, came in for a morning appointment. A few months ago, she decided to convert her print column to a blog to reach a wider audience and become more interactive. Chris and I had a great time, too, chatting about her past jobs, her personal life and life experiences, in addition to technology and what we could do to enhance her blog.

Chris uses the Blogger platform. We logged on and I helped her add a number of widgets to her blog to make it more interactive. Now followers can connect with her on social media, her most read entries will be highlighted, her blog archives are displayed and she is hosting the Heritage Media “Life” section headlines to help drive traffic back to the Heritage Media news website. I also suggested she shoot some photos to either add images to her blog design or add a photo slideshow. In addition, like I did for Roger, I suggested Chris aggregate content and add her commentary to it, as well as YouTube videos.

I also took a look at Chris’ Twitter account @OnBendedKnees. When I saw she only had six followers and she was following six, we had a chat about how social media can help drive traffic. I showed her how to shorten her blog post urls using Bitly and then tweet them out. I also explained the “connect” and search functions on Twitter, and encouraged her to retweet, reply to tweets, and start interacting with people on Twitter. While we were at it, we followed all of the Heritage Media publications in Washtenaw County, where her column appears in print and her blog is shared on the website, assuring her that editors and reporters would help her out with some retweets and mentions.

While my meetings with both bloggers were fun and I enjoyed helping them, what I look forward to most is our next meeting — after they’ve mastered the basic skills and we can advance to the more fun stuff. For a list of my favorite digital storytelling tools, visit my NewHive expression.

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

Helping a business set up a YouTube account

Technology can be intimidating to some people, even if they made their living from technology 15 or so years ago, like Donna Lavin. That’s why the Community Media Lab in Ypsilanti, Mich., is an invaluable resource, whether you’re very familiar with technology and the Internet, somewhat familiar or a total novice.

For Lavin, who owns the Lavin Lift Strap company with her husband, and other business owners, being out of touch with the latest technology tools is no longer a problem if you’re willing to take an hour or so out of your day to come visit us. And the best part is that it’s free. We have a reporter or editor at the lab, 215 W. Michigan Ave., between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday available and at your disposal.

At the Heritage Community Media Lab Aug. 24, Lavin popped in to see us and we helped her set up a YouTube account to showcase her company’s demonstration videos. It was probably something Lavin could have done by herself, but having someone next to her, guiding her and letting her know she was on the right track and helping her come up with tags, provided a sense of security and gave her confidence.

We also talked to Lavin about the next step — setting up a Twitter account to help build an audience and engage that audience by sharing links and information about her product and related topics, as well as retweeting, answering questions and commenting.

Also at the Community Media Lab, we helped freelancer Leslie McGraw map out her multimedia plan to continue a series on the achievement gap in Ann Arbor Public Schools and we spoke to a local resident interested in getting more news published about what’s happening in the local court system. We encouraged him to set up a blog and promote his work using social media, and we may partner with him on it.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit the Community Media Lab yet, we hope you will make time soon. Whether you work in public relations, volunteer as a media liaison for a community group or nonprofit, you’re interested in blogging or sharpening your social media skills, or you’re just uncomfortable using technology and want to get up to speed, we’re here to help you. We’ve helped people set up personal and professional Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs, and edit video. We’ve also hosted a variety of workshops, on everything from writing a press release to editing audio for podcasts to using the Freedom of Information Act to navigating a wiki. Click here to check out what free workshops we have planned for September and October.

We also plan on presenting on our Community Media Lab at local senior centers, chambers of commerce and classrooms. To make arrangements for us to visit, email

Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Audio, Video and More

I spent Thursday afternoon and all of Friday in the Community Media Lab and had many conversations about reaching an audience, how to grow an audience, and building relationships on social media. Some of those conversations were more organic, evolving from a chat about today’s media landscape, while others were more focused and specific.

Michael Mathis, an Ypsilanti attorney who says he’s now “shifting gears,” was my first visitor Thursday afternoon, but he really wasn’t there to “visit” with me specifically. I just happened to be in the SPARK East building, where our Community Lab is housed, at the same time he was attending a Shifting Gears support group meeting. While he was waiting, he asked me if I worked for SPARK. I told him I was part of the Community Media Lab and then explained the mission to him. Michael seemed very interested and mentioned he was leaving his career and considering his options. A mentor had suggested that he start a blog. In addition to law, he has a background in journalism and has done voiceover work on Internet radio. He was planning to attend a workshop on the blogging platform WordPress at the Ypsilanti District Library. As soon as he’s done, I suggested he come back and we would help him set up his blog. I also suggested BlogTalk Radio for an Internet talk show. His first hurdle, however, is figuring out what type of content he would be providing. He’s also interested in making revenue from his online activities, so I steered him toward Google AdWords. I don’t know much about it, but I know the Google offices in Ann Arbor offer 20-minute time slots to chat, or he could simply “Google” the information. I wish him the best of luck as he starts his new venture, and hope he returns to us as a content-sharing partner so we can add his voice to our website and the community at large.

Bob Cummings, a community blogger who partners with us, stopped by on Friday to learn more about, for capturing audio and he wanted links to a workshop presented by Leslie McGraw that he missed on integrating social media into your professional development. Bob has been a regular visitor to the Community Lab and has attended some of our workshops. I consider him our super fan because he is so supportive and enthusiastic about our efforts in the lab. He’s also a dream to work with because he is so curious about all of the technology tools out there for him to share his message. After a couple of hours, Bob had his Scribd and iPadio accounts up and running, and tested on his WordPress blog. Bob is a big fan of Twitter and has had a lot of success sharing his message using the microblogging tool. He also has a true understanding of social media and its power. I look forward to reading his new blog posts and seeing how he incorporates the two new tools he learned about to enhance his storytelling and information sharing.

Donna Gilkey-Lavin also stopped in Friday just as Bob was leaving. I had been expecting her after receiving an email from Kyle DeBoard of SPARK, who referred her to me for help with social media. Donna and her husband, who reside in Belleville, started the company Lavin Lift Straps. She has a very interesting story, which she shared with me as we talked about her business and its needs. The Lavins are getting assistance and advice from SPARK, which is good, but she was looking for a little insight about social media and how she can use it to promote her business. We talked about setting up a Twitter account and Facebook page, and I suggested she check out,,, and we talked about YouTube for sharing her product demonstration videos, as well as video testimonials. The company also recently won an award, and I suggested she return to the lab for help on writing a press release. She was so grateful and appreciative, which reminded me how useful the Community Media Lab can be for people. It really is a great resource. I encouraged Donna to set up a Twitter account tonight as a first step. I also suggested she return any weekday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to speak to any of the reporters and editors here, who can help her decide on a blogging platform that fits her needs, educate her more on Twitter and help her set up a Facebook page for her product, as well as a YouTube channel.

While some days spent in the lab can be slow and we use that time to work on our own content for or explore new technology tools, it’s days like yesterday and today that make me feel good about the service we provide in the Community Media Lab. The challenge is spreading the word about what we offer and utilizing those very tools I promote to help reach a larger audience.