Introduction Habit

As we continue to develop our practice of digital engagement, we arrive at the nitty gritty of how we sustain our work, day after day, month after month. Because the road ahead is long, it’s useful to think about creating content as a “habit,” one that can be developed over time, like any other habit.

When you think analytically about the ways you consume and interact with media as an individual, you’ll probably notice that you have habits. You may regularly check certain websites or look at the weather radar using a favorite app. You may check social media feeds when you wake up, or to procrastinate. We grow accustomed to getting certain kinds of information from specific platforms and people, at predictable times of day, or when we’re in certain states of mind.

From the producing side, this means creating a steady flow of content that will be present and discoverable on the platforms that people regularly seek out—developing a habit of content creation to feed audience expectations and to encourage audiences to look forward to hearing from us consistently.

Content-producing habits can fit into the normal flow of planning in your organization. As you think about future ideas, goals, and projects, you can build a media-production component into the plans you are already making. You may not feel that you know enough about digital strategy to do this, but we think you do, once you get started.  Just think about ways that audiences can be engaged in what you are doing, while you are doing it. Often, audiences are as interested in your creative process as they are in the finished product.

One easy way to handle this is to create an editorial calendar. Thanks to tools available for editorial planning, it’s possible to stockpile content in advance of when it will be released. For example it is possible to plan an entire campaign of Facebook postings or tweets, to write all of the content and organize all of the images, and then to place this into a (free) software program that will release the posts at specific times on specific dates. At the same time, it is also important to build in the capability to be responsive to current events or to comments or questions from your audiences. Many organizations use some combination of stockpiling and spontaneity to build out their content production and create a steady flow.

In this section we will show how to make editorial planning easy and straightforward. We’ll share interviews and examples of editorial calendars so you can see how others have approached this work. We’ll offer suggestions for fitting editorial planning into the flow of the work day and point you to resources for more advanced editorial planning if that interests you. We’ll link to resources for editorial planning around revenue projects like Kickstarter or season ticket campaigns. And finally we’ll show how you can use editorial calendars together with a channel strategy to create an integrated content plan.

Some journeys are best left as spontaneous explorations, but for digital engagement, especially on behalf of a trusted institution, it’s best to have a map.  May the tools and habits you develop in this section serve you equally in times when the well’s run dry and when you’ve found an oasis.

15 minutes to skim
2 hour exercise
1 hour reflection (min)
30 minutes to explore links
15 minutes to read again
4 hours minimum, across several days

Interviews Practitioners on Their Process

We recently had a video go viral and it’s now at 3 million views. That kind of thing is rare (that’s the 2nd time this has happened) and we’ve had to make plans and scramble to respond quickly to the international press inquiries that come in. It is a good idea to have a plan in place.

We spoke with Amanda Moren from BANDALOOP (California) and Melissa Higgins from Sozo Artists (New York) about collaborating on BANDALOOP’s digital engagement from opposite sides of the country.

Read the Interview

We don’t have a message or a product we’re pushing. We’re pushing conversation, curiosity, and exploration, which means that people feel welcome to share what they’re doing, to ask questions, and to feel like their ideas can contribute.

We reached out to Erinn Batykefer, Laura Damon-Moore, and Holly Storck-Post to learn about how they manage digital engagement as a team and find ways to streamline their work with LAIP to efficiently manage the project on top of their other jobs.

Read the Interview

Exercise Draw an Editorial Calendar

Step one: Explore Backgrounders

If you are just starting out with social media you may not realize that posting to your channels does not always have to occur “in the moment.” Most people and organizations balance their spontaneous sharing with planned postings coordinated with the organization’s activities. This kind of planning can be accomplished easily by making an editorial calendar and using software that helps you schedule and release your content on specific times and days.

There are many tools to help you with this, some free and others offered on subscription. One of the most widely used platform managers is Hootsuite. Hootsuite’s free version allows you to manage your Twitter, Facebook, and other social platforms on a single screen. It is quick to learn the program’s rudiments, and the Hootsuite website offers helpful tutorials to get you started and to develop your skills.

A scheduler can only help so much—you need to figure out what to schedule! So, your editorial calendar needs to start with the things you want to share with your online community.

Below is an example of a simple editorial calendar created by the Detroit Symphony staff to use at their Monday morning planning meeting. Elements of the Symphony’s mission are mapped against the organization’s key activities each week. Then the social media staff (of one!) draws on these ideas to create the week’s social media content.

Creating a planning grid such as the one below can be added to a weekly or monthly staff meeting, or, if you work alone, you could create one yourself to help keep yourself on track and to make it easier to come up with ideas every day. A simple grid could be kept in a shared folder to make the planning transparent to everyone who needs to see and use it.

If you feel ready to build a more detailed and longer-term editorial calendar you could create it with a bigger grid that allows for weeks or months’ worth of planning, or you could use a tool like a Google calendar.

One advantage to using something like Google calendar is the ability to share the calendar across the organization so that multiple people can see what’s planned and can add their items. You and your team can also keep track of ideas far in advance and develop scenarios to mention and share content over multiple weeks. You can add attachments to your calendar entries such as photos, press information, sample posts, biographical information about artists, or any other content—developing these resources well in advance of when they will be needed for social media posts.  Larger organizations frequently have a “media asset file” where material they may want to share in the future is kept at hand.

Within a tool like Google’s calendar, you also can create color-coded calendar elements that indicate which social channel is most appropriate to your activities.

If using an electronic calendar sounds too complicated, consider putting a large piece of blank paper or a whiteboard on the wall, creating a grid, and making your planning calendar something you can write on and erase.


Step two: Make editorial planning a regular agenda item for your staff or team meeting

You may have separate people in your organization responsible for development, marketing, and programming, or your staff could be one or two people who each have many responsibilities. When you regularly meet, add an agenda item for your editorial calendar. The first time you include this planning in a meeting, it will probably take a little while to begin the conversation, so ask everyone to set aside a bit of extra time for the first meeting. This will be the first step in future editorial planning.

Step three: Decide on a time-frame

At this first meeting, pick a week in the future to use as a sample week for building your sample calendar (make it a real week with real activities, not an imaginary week).

Step four: Draw the structure

Draw a grid on a large piece of paper or whiteboard. On the left-hand side of the grid make rows for each of the main categories you may want to share that week and on the top write the days of the week. Categories could be things like exhibitions, performances, or classes, or could be contextual information like posts about the arts in your community, “artists to watch” and the projects they’re working on, or links to other organizations doing inspiring work. Think beyond the transactions you want from your audience (like selling tickets) and consider the kinds of conversations you would have with someone who shows interest in your organization’s work, someone you want to get to know.

Step five: Fill in the structure

Discuss as a group the key things you can share that you think will be interesting to your community that week. Consider the information, images, or links that the audience could contribute to what you’re doing, and conversations you might want to have online. Then, spread these items across your grid, thinking about how the days could build on each other or the way the timing of posts could be especially important.

Step six: Make a plan for media you have or could create

Talk together about the photos, links, text, commentary, or anything else you may already have on hand that would be helpful to use, and what things you will need to assemble or create.

Step seven: Make a plan for community

Make a list of people or organizations whom you would like to engage in the work of your organization that week. Who might you tag, cite, link to, or invite to participate?

Step eight: Assign keeper(s)

Discuss who in your organization would be responsible for developing the elements within the grid you just created. Who is the keeper of the flow of activities in your organization? Who is responsible for photography? For text? For links? For biographies or other factual information?

Step nine: Debrief

Wrap up your first meeting by debriefing about building your sample editorial calendar – what has helpful, what has been difficult, and how you want to work together on editorial planning, going forward. How can you make the process simple and part of your ongoing work?

Note: If you are feeling stuck, trying Googling “editorial calendar images.” You’ll find that many organizations and people post and share their editorial calendars online.

Reflection Bell of Mindfulness

If you were to share something with your audience about this very moment, what would it be? We invite you to set a reminder on your phone or email to ask yourself that same question over the course of one week.

Step one: Set a Reminder

Set an alarm on your phone or download one of these apps for your computer or mobile device to trigger a moment of mindfulness throughout your day. Pick an interval that feels good to you. For some that could be once a day, for others it may be once an hour.

Step two: Ask Yourself This Question

Each time you are alerted to be mindful take a few seconds to be present to what you’re doing and where you are. Ask yourself, “What might I share in the current moment?” You do not have to write down your answer or share what you decide. The purpose of this reflection is to make a habit of looking at your environment with a lens towards sharing and to note patterns in what you find to share.

Go Further Resources on Creating Habits

Because people interact with media as a habit, we need to learn to create the content they’re looking for so that we can feed their habit consistently. But it’s not always easy to sustain the habit of content creation. In other sections of this course we’ve shown ways you can stockpile, plan, and pre-populate a content calendar. Here are some resources to inspire your creativity and make creation a habit you can sustain.

# 1 – The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, by Twyla Tharp

The link above will take you to the Goodreads review of this very special book, a sort of user’s manual for living a creative life. Tharp’s orientation is that the creative life is within the reach of anyone who is willing to make creativity a habit by integrating creativity into one’s everyday life. A practical as well as an inspiring read, this book is something you’ll find yourself referring to, giving to friends, and, most importantly, using to fuel your own habits.

# 2 – Unstuck

Unstuck is a set of web-based tools to use when you feel stuck, and for any reason. Consisting of free tools and advice as well as subscription and fee-based applications, Unstuck offers practical advice for everything from trying to do too much, to holding yourself to an unreasonable level of perfection, to re-kindling your inspiration. When you sign up for Unstuck’s e-newsletter you get a bundle of ideas weekly that help keep you focused and productive.

# 3 – Morning Pages, Julia Cameron

Morning Pages is a daily habit for creativity that asks you to write—free-form and long-hand—for three pages every morning. Their purpose is to clear your mind of the things that are in your immediate consciousness; a clearing exercise to free your mind and open pathways through which creativity and insight can enter.

# 4 – The Power of Habit, Why We Do What We Do in Life and in Business, by Charles Duhigg

Journalist Charles Duhigg wrote this compilation of stories that reflect the science of habits and the conditions necessary for changing them. Even if his specific examples don’t resonate with your own life or organization, his explanation and guide to the ways you can adopt habit-forming and habit-changing behaviors is practical and based on the book’s research.

# 5 – If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, by Brenda Ueland

This book about writing has been called the best ever written on the subject. “Whenever I say ‘writing’ in this book,” Ueland says, “I also mean anything that you love or want to do or make.” If you ever feel short of inspiration, we advise an afternoon with this important book. “Everyone is talented, interesting, and has something to say.”

Think Deeper Know What You're Getting Into

How will you take care of yourself?

Digital media runs 24/7. With this constantly in the background, it can be difficult to log off and take the time you need to relax or cultivate space for yourself. As you take on new obligations, what boundaries might you need to draw? How can new digital engagement projects feed you energetically rather than taxing limited attention and time? How will you decide when you need to say “no” and how might saying “no” help you do your job better?

What role is your organization playing in distraction culture?

Having the world at our fingertips is an alluring distraction from the world that surrounds us. Individuals are interacting with one another online more and more, but these forms of engagement also draw us into our phones and devices, away from in-person relationships. As you expand your organization’s digital engagement, how might you think about your role in this “distraction culture”? How could your digital engagement foster connections both on- and off-line?

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This course was created to encourage small and under-resourced non-profit professionals to navigate the changing landscapes of digital engagement with a spirit of possibility, experimentation, and thoughtfulness.

Read more about what inspired the course and learn about its makers.

Wanderway was commissioned by the Wyncote Foundation

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