Some tips to beat blogging stage fright!

Rather than add this as a comment on my last post about blogging top tips, I thought I’d post again as it’s more visible both to search engine bots and real users trawling these pages, plus it helps keep the SEO of the blog up by adding new posts – there you go, another tip for you!

Thanks to @markmcguinness for tweeting about this useful post for blogging beginnersHow to Create Your Own Blogger Stage Fright – and then Kick Its Ass (by James Chartrand at Lateral Action).

And Twitter, that’s a whole other topic to get stuck into “why”s, “how”s and “when”s. Check out what we’ve blogged about twitter by using the tag cloud.

Get blogging with a little help from the best

Back on blogging again. So you’ve got your platform, you’ve made it look pretty, you’ve added your tag cloud and your twitter stream… now what? How do you get started with that slightly important part called content? Learn from the best of course. Here are some of my favourite blogs which I think are successful for very different reasons. What can you learn from them?

For content
Gnat Gnat – written by my lovely friend DK (so maybe I’m biased…) it taught me a lot about what a blog can be. This is just a collection of words, images, videos etc that make him laugh, make him think, make him cry… things that give us an emotional response that he thinks are worth sharing with the world. Keep it short and let people make their own minds up about what they see.

For design
pandemian – it’s a blog, but it doesn’t look like a blog! This showed me that you that you don’t have to stick to the traditional formats

For business communications
Mediasnackers – it has the strengths of a blog in having video and images embedded where it makes sense, not where the template demands it. Plus it shows authors of posts, it’s not a nameless faceless webpage, and you can comment! Brilliant for listening and exchanging with your clients and colleagues

For community building
Etsy - or “the Storque” as it’s known. This is a place for the numerous craft makers and designers that sell their wares on the website to come together, learn, share and support each other in their artistic and entrepreneurial ventures. I love that it’s public but clearly has the sellers at its heart – after all, Etsy would be nothing without them.

Please do share your favourites here, and tell us all why they inspire you!

Exploring potential online audiences

The first IT4Arts seminar of 2010 kicked off with some really interesting content about how companies and organisations are trying to provide cultural content online.  We heard from:

  • Gavin Bayliss, LSO Live – Gavin spoke about how LSO are moving towards sharing more video content of the orchestra’s work, and an insight into how they engaged new audiences worldwide with the YouTube Orchestra project
  • Robert Delamere, Digital Theatre – Unveiling the new company, Robert gave us an exclusive peek into how Digital Theatre are recording live performances seamlessly, and the high demand for their downloads
  • Joanne South, Arts & Business – Joanne explained a bit about A&B’s current research programme into user-generated digital content and how they’re supporting partnerships between cultural organisations and those specialising in digital technology
  • Tobey Coffey, National Theatre – the NT has been moving on leaps and bonds in how much content it creates for each new show. Toby gave us a whistle stop tour of the process they go through to create digital content for their website before, during and after the creative process
  • Richard Davies, British Library – Richard shared with us the challenged the BL has faced in prioritising and managing the digitising of their (approx) 6 billion pages of literature
  • Fran Birch, The Theatres Trust – the Theatres Trust has been collecting archive images and information about the UK’s theatres for over 30 years. Technology has now enabled them to catalogue and share the data they have for education and heritage purposes

A fascinating and educational day! If you become a member of IT4Arts you can download the presentations for free from their website, and joining is free!

Why blog?

Ok, I’ll be the first to admit it – I was the AL blogging champion and it’s been longer than I care to remember since I last posted anything. It was a busy autumn! And then a lazy December… And as we all know, the longer you put something off the harder it is to get back on it. But here I am! And hopefully I’ll continue to add lots of useful content in the coming weeks (rather than just  be lazy and tweet it – we’re @audienceslondon on Twitter by the way!).

So why push myself to get blogging again? Well this has been inspired by a couple of clients who have recently been in touch asking “why should I have a blog?”, “how do I write a blog?” and other general good practice questions, so I thought I’d share my experience in the hope to support others going through the blogging journey for the first time:


Why blog? Here are a few reasons why:

It will likely increase traffic to your website – I’ve been monitoring our web traffic through Google Analytics and I’ve certainly seen an increase directly from the blog

It’s a simple and quick search tool – a blog is an ideal place to host links to resources and contact details, whilst also easy to tag subjects and themes of information, e.g. “Diversity” or “Access”

Advocacy – it’s been a great tool for AL to show that we keep an ear to the ground about a number of subjects and work in a broad range of issues within the cultural sector

Power to the people – blogs are designed (in the majority) to enable comments and discussion on posted topics

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – Blogs have great SEO (find out why here) this ensures that they appear high in Google and other search engine results pages. If your website is struggling with other sites which have similar content to get that top spot, a blog might just pip them to the post!

Some advice on how to get started:

Start internally – this allows your staff to become familiar with the blog and how it works without feeling that the world is appraising the site before you have much content!

Allow all staff to contribute – everyone has something to say, and most blogs allow multiple users to edit and post. It’s a good tool for internal relations and sharing all the knowledge that you have as a team.

Have a think about what functionality you want – multiple users? Comments? Tag clouds? There are lots of blog platforms out there so before you create your account have a dig around. Here’s a good guide to choosing your blog platform from Jennine at Independent Fashion Bloggers

But don’t forget, blogs are not websites, and can never have the functionality of your own custom built site. If you’re a small operation and don’t have the dollar to  get a website built, then a blog can be a good staring place for an online presence. That’s what I’ve been doing with my theatre company – Longshot Theatre, yes it’s real!

There are lots of sites out there which give advice on starting a blog, but personally I think there’s no better way to learn the ropes than to just get stuck in!

P.S. This is a bad example of a blog in one way – you should keep it short and sweet!!

Musings on the LSO Digital Symposium

lsodigitalI’ve just got back from the LSO “All Change?” Digital Symposium. Both Anwen and I were in attendance and I think our feelings about the day are about the same – lovely to network and join in the debate as always but we really need to move on this conversation now and talk about the impacts, actions and responses of digital development. One thought from the day stood out for me in particular:

Government should have led the way in testing and researching digital content and social media, much as they tested new school learning frameworks in laboratory conditions in the 50s and 60s, we should expect them to finance and develop models for the public to engage with online media, test them, refine them and release this information to publicly funded organisations.
Although I think it might have been an interesting approach, my argument with this is that approaches to interactive social media (by which I mean not videos or podcasts, but a platform that genuinely allows the audience to participate) should be unique to each organisation due to online content’s very nature of transparency and openness.

Hmm, I could have phrased that better, but it’s been a long week!

You can view comments from the day at Were you there? What did you make of the day? And can you refine my response above?!

Free recession-busting podcasts from industry leaders

KnowHow NonProfit have uploaded to their website a series of free podcasts collected from leaders in the Third Sector at the 2009 ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) CEO Summit, which this year was entitled Leading change: steering your organisations through the recession and beyond.

Subjects under discussion include:

Three secret weapons for getting through the recession
Being accountable: ‘The Obligation of Leadership’
The financial impact of the recession on the third sector
The recession as an opportunity to grow
Leading the future: driving and leading innovation
  • Three secret weapons for getting through the recession
  • Being accountable: ‘The Obligation of Leadership’
  • The financial impact of the recession on the third sector
  • The recession as an opportunity to grow
  • Leading the future: driving and leading innovation

Visit the KnowHow NonProfit webiste here to listen to the podcasts.

AMA – collaboration, collaboration, collaboration (aka digital)

controlAs my colleagues have given you a marketing perspective, a research perspective and an organisational perspective, I’ve gone for the digital perspective. In the spirit of web 2.0 and Charles Leadbeater’s The Art of With (next event 25 November at Cornerhouse) for me this is all about the opportunities to collaborate and connect with each other, with audiences and with artists.

So, first of all on the ‘with each other’ – yes, I was one of those annoying twitterers (purely a personal experiment of course – my theory being if you’ve not experienced it how do you know what impact it might have). Armed with my trusty iphone I was multi-tasking – listening, tweeting and reading.  My findings – I was not so interested in where people are as what they thought.  My conclusions – I made some connections with interesting people at the conference who I would not have necessarily met in person and useful references were sourced by active tweeters, but I was hoping for a bit more comment. Anyway – have a look at one of the various tags #ama2009, #amaconf2009 or #amaconference09 or see what I had to say at #audienceslondon. I think there are big implications for the future of conferencing too, which we at AL will have to take note of – we live in a world of immediacy… look out for the new ‘digitally interactive dialogue space’. And is anyone using the AMA wiki set up by #MarcusRomer (follow his Twitter too)? One request by twitter was to share social media case-studies… so should we do this using social media?

Tackling digital from an organisational point of view seems to present a number of challenges, some of which is discussed in the Silos to Shrek Ears research report which inspired Dave Moutrey to take Cornerhouse on the journey he described in the keynote. We are charged as marketers and organisations to manage complexity, as discussed in Graham Leicester’s inspiring work at the International Futures Forum. So, how do we live comfortably with all the new opportunities – maybe it’s something about using evidence and information. Who has used the YouTube Metrics as Ed of YouTube suggested? Or entered into the discussions on the impacts of social media as suggested by Marcus Romer (everyone’s new guru… or is he a geek?). For Cornerhouse this is working out how to work an ‘Adhocracy’ style organisation.  However, the top tip is: if you can change the way you work internally effectively,  your audiences will probably go with you… wherever you want to take them.

Now to the audiences bit – as you may know, my continual quest is for some more concrete information about which audiences engage digitally and if they do, how (or does ) it enhances their artistic experience…  As Diane Ragsdale said it is not enough to facebook them, it’s all the other stuff and how relevant you are to someone that influences them to engage. Andy Ryans reiterated this, in terms of encouraging us to remember the other tools, such as just talking to people face to face. We perhaps need to be clearer for ourselves about how we use the wonderful Web 2.0, and remember according to the 90-9-1 principle of social networking maybe only a small proportion of audiences are up for full online dialogue. So, how can we best serve the 90%? Maybe we can take some lessons from the Slow Food Campaign – combine enjoyment and responsibility on all sides. Hans de Kretser’s guide to social media should be good reading (wait for the conference report) – number 1 is ‘have a strategy’. You can already find Marcus Romer’s session about using digital media here? In terms of generating content to engage audiences – do we take Dan from Innocent’s advice of ‘keeping it mildly interesting’ – perhaps we’re putting too much pressure on ourselves to come up with super-duper content, when people actually want to know how many costume changes are involved or by what route a painting arrived from New York…

There were obviously some bits about artistic content online, with the much lauded YouTube orchestra (in collaboration with LSO) and many examples from Watershed of what they’ve let artists do.  But the heart of the matter seems to be about giving up control and allowing amateur/user generated content to work alongside the professional artists’ work. Most people do know how to edit and filter to find the good stuff. And on the other hand our brands are usually strong enough as arts organisations to survive re-shaping by our users or audiences. Finally, we should not fear failure, allow ourselves to experiment and as Ed of YouTube said just ‘read up, team up and mix up’.

And as Martin Reynolds of Festivals Edinburgh said “collaboration breeds collaboration”.

An AmbITion Manifesto

Wordle: ambITion manifesto I’ve been mulling over the thoughts and questions I took away from the AmbITion roadshow and Art of Digital London Symposium… lots of issues that were discussed at Sadlers Wells also came up in Leicester at the AMA conference. Having just written up my post-AMA conference manifesto, I felt inspired to write a post-AmbITION manifesto too, about things we need to be doing differently or better…

ambITion recommends that arts organisations…

1. Create remarkable content (it’s not about creating quality so much as interest)

2. Crowdsource and co-create (collaborate with other artists and audiences)

3. Explore virtual spaces and be playful

4. Provide platforms for discussion and co-creation, don’t just provide content (e.g. host bloggers nights)

5. Open up the creative process

6. De-institutionalise and personalise instead

7. Share the power of the curatorial/creative process – empower your audience to participate

AmbITion Roadshow/Art of Digital: things to read


So, we went to the AmbITion Roadshow and Art of Digital Symposium and learnt some things… here’s the first installment – things to read! About digital, about the arts and how it could work for you…

To keep up to date join the ‘ning’ network for Art of Digital London and also to find out about the follow-up workshops and surgeries organised by IT4Arts and Mute – which Audiences London will also be contributing to.  Also see previous post in this blog to answer our burning question… how do our audiences engage with digital?

Some of the presentations:

Books and things:

  • The Art of With by Charles Leadbeater… not to, but with…
  • Digital Britain Report – essential reading if you need a steer on government ambitions.
  • “Free” by Chris Anderson – as the name suggests he is a big fan of  the idea of ‘information wanting to be free’ and true to his word, the book is available free online.
  • Arts Council Digital Research – recently published results from phase one – including some qualitiative research with arts audiences and digital users and an audit of all RFO’s online presences.

Sites to visit

  • Henry Jenkins - digital geeks guru! Said things like “convergence culture – when old and new media collide”… and more…
  • Christian Payne – or as his known in Twitter – @Documentally – if you want to know what’s what in social media and networking – he’s the man!
  • Hide and Seek – champions of  ‘pervasive gaming’ – where you put the individual at the centre of a game or project, responding to our participatory culture resulting in the ultimate engagement.  All sorts of cool projects, and were inspired by the work of Punch Drunk.
  • You Tube Symphony Orchestra - a global collaboration involving LSO and other orchestras to solicit auditions from musicians around the world, culminating in a performance at Cargegie Hall that was livestreamed on Youtube and reached 8million views.
  • Britten Sinfonia – using digital technologies well to engage with their audiences
  • Slideshare – an online storage place for all your Powerpoint presentations
  • Social Innovation Camp - why not create one for the arts?! It’s a weekend where you get lots of technology geeks together with social activists and come up with new solutions to old problem using digital tools
  • A Million Penguins - Publisher Penguin’s wiki novel

And there’s lots of good stuff at Missions Models Money about our changing society and how organisations should adapt and evolve.

Musings on the AmbITion Roadshow/Art of Digital Symposium

twitter2A full two days incarcerated within the lovely Sadler’s Wells, and all I’ve got to show for it is a rather annoying new addiction to Twitter! But only annoying to those around me – I’m loving it… and yes I know I’m a bit late to this party.

On a more serious note, it was all very interesting although I had hoped there would be a bit more about audiences, which is only to be expected working for Audiences London. I’d like the input from the experts to move on from ‘there’s all this stuff you can use to communicate in different ways, and it’s all free, so use it’ (albeit with a bit of a caviat that they’re only tools – mode, not medium) to… ‘who is it we’re engaging with, and what kind of engagement does that result in, through using digital media’. It is clear at one end that it’s working for participative activities and at the other end results have been recorded in terms of global profile. However, there’s a whole world of ‘engagement’ between those two.

Some random quotes and thoughts were… ‘websites should be based around pull and shared content’ (Hannah Rudman). Hide and Seek’s Alex Fleetwood was living example of how you have to trade relinquishing control for greater visibility.  A strong theme emerging was that if you collaborate, consult or even just open the door to others it can help to develop and improve what you do. Rohan of Missions Models Money mentioned that you’re just helping people do what they already do – which begs the question, are we really reaching new or different audiences, or just deepening the engagement of existing audiences through all this digital activity.

Ekow Eshun of the ICA kicked off the Art of Digital Symposium with words of wisdom along the lines of…  the arts have a responsibility to respond to the world around us, so you can’t claim to be a  contemporary space and remain relevant if this does not include engagement with digital opportunities. He also made a very valid defence of his motivations for integrating ‘digital’ responsibilities across the organisation, rather than having a hived off separate department. Although he didn’t get a chance to answer a question about whether he’d consulted his audiences about the ICA and its digital engagement.

And Ed Baxter of Resonance FM – who I I think I want to adopt said… ‘If you learn something share it, if you make a mistake point it out’. Which seems to me very wise and should be at the heart of any thriving community.

My remaining questions are … who is the twitterer ‘sealtree’, and would I really want to go to a ‘geek camp’… And please tell us what you’d like to know about how your audiences engage with digital media, or share examples of what’s worked, and what’s not…


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