Toward an Engagement Ethos

I once had a professor who used a handful of favorite mantras.  One that he repeated most often went something like this:

“The things that made you successful up until now are not the things that will make you successful in the future.”

While that sounds counter-intuitive, it encompasses the notion that we have to change and evolve with the times and the contexts we’re in.

A similar theme recurred at the recent iMA conference. Sometimes the conversation focused on adapting to emerging tools, such as Amy Webb’s presentation about technology trends. Other times, the conversation focused on getting better at everything from innovation to collaboration to social media, leveraging networks, and creating multi-platform content.

It can all be a bit overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. These conversations have one thing in common: the challenge to change and evolve with the times and contexts we’re in without compromising the things that made us successful in the first place.

More specifically, how do we maintain and reaffirm the skills and standards that help us successfully curate and distribute content of the highest standard while simultaneously developing the skills to successfully engage our communities and strengthen civic life?

With your help and CPB’s support, we’ve discovered that deeply engaged stations tend to behave in certain ways. They put the community first. They cultivate an engagement ethos–a mindset and internal culture for engagement. Some have always behaved this way–it’s in their organizational DNA. Others realized that future success required something different than past success. They changed who they are as an organization and their way of being a part of the community.

Making this change is hard work. Like change in our personal lives, changing organizational culture requires vigilance and a commitment to a core set of key behaviors. To learn more, watch this brief video. Then adopt an engagement ethos as the first step toward building even stronger stations, stronger local service, and stronger communities.

And that professor I had? He probably followed his own advice, which is what made him a good teacher and why I still remember his mantras.


Top 10 Tech Trends for Public Media

Author, speaker and digital expert Amy Webb presented ten technology trends that matter to public media during her remarks at the Integrated Media Association Conference in Austin, Tex. The trends illustrate just how quickly mobile devices (including tablets) and expanded web technologies like HTML5 will change the landscape in which public media offer content and services.

Webb created a nifty webpage that summarizes her remarks; it includes the Top 10 Trends, as well as links to resources and examples. Pay attention to number eight and, specifically, how Amy advocates an approach that focuses on “hyper-personal” instead of “hyper-local.” (Her “Hyper-Local Hype Cycle” graphic is definitely worth a look).

Learn more about Amy’s work at

Goodbye Public Interactive, Hello NPR Digital Services

This morning NPR announced a re-imagination of its Public Interactive division at the Integrated Media Association Conference in Austin, Tex. The group will now be known as NPR Digital Services.

The change in name comes with an expanded mission to work with stations to “…grow and engage audiences across platforms.” NPR Digital Services will offer content, technology and resources so stations may provide more value to their communities by engaging thought leaders and focusing on mission-driven local content.

Read the full announcement.


iMA Conference: Opportunities for Action

The National Center for Media Engagement is on the ground March 10-12 in Austin, Tex. at the Integrated Media Conferences (iMA) Conference. Colleagues from public media and organizations outside the system are gathering to stimulate innovation and receive tips, tools, and resources that offer immediate opportunities for action.

Participating in the iMA conference too? Let us know. It’d be great to connect.

If you’re not in Austin but would like to keep up with the action, follow our session blogging (below).

5 to 6:15 p.m. – Thursday, March 10

Innovation Anxiety – How to Understand and Leverage the Opportunities of Networks

Presenters: Joaquin Alvarado, Senior Vice President for Digital innovation, American Public Media and Mark Ramsey, President of Mark Ramsey Media

  • Joaquin and Mark began by discussing the value of failure. True innovation produces both wins and losses. If your organization punishes failed experiments, is it also stifling innovation? (the conversation reminded this blogger of a recent post from NCME’s Jess Main).
  • We also discussed the emergence of the term “public service media,” and distinguished it from regular “public media.” Joaquin describes public service media as “…seek[ing] to identify needs and engage with communities to solve problems.” His definition aligns nicely with how we at NCME define community engagement.
  • Venture capitalists are devoting 100% of their budgets to innovation. How can public media innovate with dwindling resources? Harnessing human capital is key. Also, it’s about shifting expectations and perspectives. Minnesota Public Radio’s Jon Gordon remarked, “We need to be willing to risk instead of waiting for new money.”
  • Joaquin argued that meeting the needs of our increasingly diverse nation should be a key goal for public media. Mark also offered that reaching new audiences (e.g. non-college educated) should be a priority for all stations… “…what does their public service media look like?”

What does your public service media look like and how are you pushing the risk and innovation equation?

7:30  to 9 a.m. – Friday, March 11

PBS & NPR Local / National Strategies

Presenters: Kinsey Wilson, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Digital Media at NPR and Jason Seiken, President of Interactive at PBS.

  • Kinsey kicked off the conversation discussing how NPR’s strength is its news gathering capabilities and ability to have “boots on the ground” in communities across the nation. The recent re-imagination of Public Interactive as NPR Digital Services helps supports this key capacity by offering stations digital tools that can augment their work.
  • Jason Seiken discussed the history of PBS Interactive. Before 2007, the goal was to grow Since then, it’s been to grow to benefit member stations.

Some recent stats:

  • 24M monthly users of PBS sites;
  • PBS was the 18th most popular website for video in January, with more than 105 million video streams;
  • attracts a younger, more diverse audience;
  • The majority of COVE video content is locally produced.

What’s next from PBS Interactive? (a) COVE API coming soon; (b)  redesigned video experience; (c) improved administrative interface; (d) better performance and an ability to monetize national content for stations.

Next steps for mobile? (a) Local video to appear in mobile applications; (b) mobile version of COVE; (c) Mobile toolkits for stations.

1:30  to 2:30 p.m. – Friday, March 11

Top 10 Teach Trends that Matter to Public Media

Presenter: Amy Webb, CEO of Webb Media Group

Technologist Amy Webb offered 10 Tech Trends that public media to pay attention to in the months ahead. View this nifty webpage Amy created that summarizes her remarks.

NAMAC Features NBPC’s Fields-Cruz

Last month, the National Alliance for Media Art + Culture (NAMAC) profiled National Black Programming Consortium’s (NBPC) Leslie Fields-Cruz as its “featured leader.” In a Q&A posted on NAMAC’s site, Fields-Cruz discusses what drew her to public media and eloquently reveals how she remains engaged and inspired with her work.

As Vice President of Operations and Programming, Fields-Cruz manages NBPC’s Production Media Fund and supervises the distribution of NBPC funded programs to PBS. She also oversees the popular NBPC series “AfroPop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange.”

(Note: NAMAC’s previous “featured leaders” include Shirley Sneve, executive director of Native American Public Telecommunications and Justine Nagan, executive director of Kartemquin Films.)

NBPC has a busy week ahead. On Friday, March 11 Kay Shaw, director of NBPC’s Public Media Corps (PMC), moderates a session at the Integrated Media Association Conference that explores different models for community partnerships. Then, on Saturday, March 12 NBPC Executive Director Jacquie Jones participates in “Open Wide: New Models for Public Media” at the South by Southwest Festival.

Engage NCME in a Community Near You in March

Don’t look now, but staff members of the National Center for Media Engagement (NCME) are coming to a conference near you during a flurry of activity in March 2011.

Charles Meyer, Cristina Hanson and I (Bryce Kirchoff) will be at the Integrated Media Association (iMA) Conference in Austin, Texas, March 10-12. The iMA gathering is part of the prestigious South by Southwest (SXSW) conference. It will feature sessions that explore the latest innovation in public media. For more, click here.

Also on March 10-12, Ann Alquist, NCME’s Director of Radio Engagement, will be giving a  presentation at the Association of Music Personnel in Public Radio (AMPPR) conference in New York City. She will facilitate, and present, as part of the Going Local: The Community Session where she will be joined by representatives from the Houston Grand Opera and WQXR, WNYC’s classical music channel. The AMPPR conference runs from March 9-11. More info here.

Jennifer MacArthur, NCME’s Director of TV and Digital Media Engagement, will participate in a special panel discussion as part of the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival sponsored by the Center for Asian American Media. On Sunday, March 13, Jennifer will discuss Mastering the Art of Engagement and Crowdsourcing alongside panelists John Lightfoot (California Council for the Humanities), Alicia Dwyer and Tom Xia (Xmas Without China), Ellen Schneider (Active Voice), Pete Nicks (The Waiting Room) and Dien S. Yuen (Give2asia). The panel will explore the dynamics of crowdsourcing through case studies, offer new strategies for media makers, and even reveal funding opportunities. Learn more.

Finally, NCME’s engagement manager Jess Main will be attending the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington, D.C., March 17-19. Sponsored by the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), the  conference brings together nonprofit professionals from around the world to collaborate, innovate, and maximize technology in the nonprofit space.

Headed to any of the gatherings mentioned above? Drop us a note. We’d be delighted to connect.