Thursday, March 10, 2011

First results of community-driven forums at The Record: Trial and error before success

When it comes to trying new things related to community engagement, digital tools, or training our staff members, Jonathan Cooper, Journal Register Company's VP of content has been telling us in the ideaLab for sometime to follow the Nike approach and "Just Do It."

We did just that at The Record this spring when it came to trying to organize community-driven forums and other events in our new Community Media Lab, a room we set up with a television screen with PC hookups, free wireless Internet, and enough space to sit roughly 50 or so people comfortably with a speaker up front.

The first of such forums was planned for Tuesday evening, with a Tax Tips forum led by one of our community bloggers, Kevin O'Leary of Marvin and Company, P.C. in Latham.

We ran house ads in our paper for over a week and a half promoting the event and pushed it out several times via The Record's social media accounts, not to mention pushing it out on several blogs, including this one, and even passing traditional paper flyers around town.

Unfortunately, once we were all set up and ready to go, no one showed up. Myself and another editor did a few laps around the building a few times to see if anyone was confused about where they should be heading but didn't find anyone looking to attend the presentation.

While a little annoyed with how this ended up happening, we quickly assessed the situation and began brainstorming with what we could do to ensure we got the word out more about the next forums we had planned.

For tonight's forum on Irish Genealogy, as well as a follow-up event Monday night, we immediately set up listings on Eventbrite and send them out via social media and e-mail. On Wednesday we made sure to get an article ready for both the print and online editions of the paper and contacted a local Irish genealogy group to both make sure they were aware of the event and encourage them to attend.

As it stands at close to 3 p.m. Thursday, we are already expecting over 25 individuals who plan on attending tonight's forum, as well a handful who have signed up for Monday's presentation.

As with most new things you try, you don't always succeed, but I'm proud to say we didn't let that stop us for assessing the situation and coming up with better ways to promote our events.

I'll update more tomorrow with how everything went with tonight's forum.

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