Carpe Media Redux

In this post, authors Vince Lee and Rachel Seale, members of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) follow up with some attendees from last year’s COPA-sponsored “Carpe Media! Communications and Media Training for Archivists” workshop at ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 in Washington, D.C. 

Sometimes, to truly evaluate the impact a workshop has had on it attendees, it’s often helpful to revisit it after some time has passed and we are quite as close to the event. This separation  offers an opportunity to gauge the perspectives from others. Basically, we wanted to see how our attendees may have applied what they have learned back to their workplaces, and what next steps that they took. We also wanted to see if there were challenges as well, what didn’t work from the workshop, and if there were things that the workshop fell short with in regards to meeting expectations. 

Then

Below is the feedback we collected shortly after the workshop commenced. For a fuller recap of the Carpe Media workshop visit: http://bit.ly/recapcarpemedia2018.

  • Be concise and consistent.
  • Be repetitive, don’t assume people are going to see your one Tweet amidst the 500 million other Tweets that day.
  • Your brand is a promise to deliver something to your customers and also how you are perceived.
  • Resist the temptation to be clever.
  • Stick to the message, don’t be cute or snarky or that’s what the journalist may cut out of context and use in their piece.
  • Choose the platform/s that is most used by your customers and users. Don’t know which platform? Survey!
  • Always be connected (ABC)-think about who you are connecting to and with and what message your audience wants/expects to receive.

A summary of what attendees shared they wanted from the workshop:

  • Tools to raise awareness of what they do and the collections they have to the general public
  • Make communications more interesting and impactful to targeted audience
  • Communicate more strategically
  • Awareness and advocacy targeted to grass roots audience on why archivists and their organizations need additional resources/facilities to house and process their collections
  • Donor communications and bridging perceptions on archivists and our roles
  • Awareness and community outreach to potential donors
  • Get “buy-in” from organizational leadership for additional resources
  • Communicating history and heritage to internal stakeholders
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Group photo of attendees. Photo courtesy of Teresa Brinati.

Now, A Year Later

Below are responses to a survey we sent out to attendees as a follow-up to see what impact, changes, or challenges that the workshop provided to their work.

Cathrine Giles, Manager, State Records Branch, Archives and Records Management Division, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives

Mr. Steinhauer’s workshop was very helpful. It was a great space that allowed attendees to be open and engaging about our communication concerns and questions. He delivered some hard truths about social media and encouraged us to refocus on how we think about and use different communication platforms.

I had great takeaways and notes from the workshop. I’ve worked on applying some to my agency’s social media strategy, such as more distinction between Twitter and Facebook posts. If SAA was to have this workshop again or something similar, I would certainly recommend it.

Andrea Jackson Gavin, Grant Writer, AUC Woodruff Library

I was fascinated by the Carpe Media workshop and the History Communications concept. I was unfamiliar with History Comm, but I follow Jason on social media, and read a bit more about how this developing field can help historians and archivists do their work effectively – especially public historians and archivists.  I have transitioned to a grant writing role, but I think the workshop helped me to consider how my writing to grant funding agencies can be improved with less jargon and more appealing language that will speak to a broader public about the importance of history. Additionally, in the past year I’ve had the opportunity to speak with potential donors and used some of the techniques we practiced during the workshop to help make a case for why archival collections and accompanying monetary donations can be helpful to advance society, research and scholarship.

Vince Lee, Archivist, University of Houston Libraries-Special Collections 

The Carpe Media workshop has made me realize that the work of Archivists and Archives is “invisible labor” and “investment” by the public and donors alike. People know we are there and what we offer but take for granted what we do and don’t realize what it takes to process a collection and make it accessible. I think as Archivists we need to better articulate the value/cost of our work better. How I have tried to apply this to my work after attending the workshop is by trying to let donors know that we not only need their material support, but also their monetary support in trying to either acquire or process collections. In working with our Head of Special Collections and Director of Advancement, we have created an informational brochure providing the value of archival supplies-acid free folders, photo sleeves, archival boxes, etc and the hourly rate we pay a Graduate Assistant to process an incoming collection. By providing these metrics to interested donors, we are also giving them the tools to share and advocate on our behalf of the investment and costs that are involved when we process a collection.

Julie Schweitzer, Archivist, United States Memorial Holocaust Museum

The Carpe Media workshop has not impacted my work as much as I had hoped, mostly because our social media team remains a strong but separate department. However, as I have been following our social media presence after this workshop, I have been pleased to see that our social media team largely follows the recommendations made during the workshop.

Ashley Selima, State Archivist and Public Administrator, Rhode Island Department of State

One of the biggest shifts for me after the Carpe Media workshop was definitely taking a more proactive approach with our Communications Department and sharing content, ideas, or trends that I thought would assist in highlighting the Archives. I’m fortunate that we have a Communications Department but Jason’s workshop provided tools for working with them and being a better partner to spread the word about our holdings, our work, and our goals

Other respondents who wished to remain anonymous

COPA’s planning/facilitation of the workshop is very much appreciated, and I am thankful to have been awarded a spot and the opportunity to attend. I cannot say that the workshop has explicitly benefited me over the past year—perhaps I have not actively sought enough advocacy/communications opportunities. A key reminder that was helpful: refrain from using jargon and/or prepare to explain it to a general audience.

I did participate in the survey directly after SAA (in early September) and I think at that time I noted the workshop was somewhat different than I expected. It was more general and basic than I anticipated and did not seem tailored to the audience: e.g. the archival community is very active on Twitter for scholarly communication and public communication (often led by national institutions). The intro to specific media formats did not seem to take this into account. The role-playing was more helpful and I appreciated hearing my colleagues make pitches and work to tailor them.


The workshop was definitely helpful in terms of giving me a set of steps to think about in formulating the best approach to different types of external – and even internal – interactions with different stakeholders. I felt the workshop was much more beneficial in terms of planning internal conversations than necessarily external/media communication – and I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but I remember it not being something that I had expected. Though at this point, it could just be that was the part of the workshop that most stuck with me.


In general, I liked the workshop, though I had been expecting more of a focus on speaking to the media and on camera than advocating for staffing to administrators.  Speaking to the media has been an aspect of my position that I’ve struggled with and, though the workshop was interesting and helpful, I would have liked to have more guidance on that.


I have used what I learned to communicate more efficiently with colleagues and to get support from my administration. I evaluate what evidence I have that would influence administrators to give us the resources we need.

I am more strategic, overall, in the emails I send and the information I put out on the social media platforms we use at work. I do practice ABC (Always Be Connected) when I craft messages for internal or external users and customers. 

Another thing I have taken away from the workshop is to practice communicating high stakes or high pressure conversations. I remember being nervous at the end when we were role playing and Jason played the part of administrator. Practicing stressed me out then and stresses me out now, honestly, and the stress doesn’t really go away. until I can have that stressful conversation or send that email. However, when I rehearse for that difficult conversation, I am more prepared and perform better. 


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Workshop facilitator Jason Steinhauer role-playing with an attendee. Photo courtesy of Vince Lee.

Final thoughts

Based on feedback a year later, it seems that the workshop has improved attendees’ communication strategies. At least two respondents used what they learned to educate donors on resources required to make collections accessible and available to the researchers. Also, the sentiment we’ve received is that  a workshop on communicating with traditional media would still be helpful, though it should be specific and not as general or broad. Finally, it seems that most respondents have come away from the workshop with a newfound awareness of the critical components involved in a successful communications strategy whether it is working internally with their own communications department, or taking a more proactive role when working with different audiences.

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