AdvoTalk: Marketing place-based programs in an entirely digital world

Sarah Durham (00:00:03):

Hey everybody. Thank you for joining us today. I am Sarah Durham. I am the CEO of Advomatic and we are talking today about marketing place-based programs in an entirely digital world. Before we get started, I want to introduce a couple of people to you quickly and tell you a little bit about what we’re going to do. First of all, Rory Tucker, wave your hand. This is Rory. He is just briefly on-screen to say “hello”, if you are struggling with GoTo webinar or have any technical questions, Rory is going to be monitoring his email. He’s going to chat out his email address right now. It’s so you’re welcome to drop an email or chat him. There is in your GoToWebinar panel, a Q and A area and I am monitoring that. So if you see me looking off to the side, it’s cause I’m looking at the chat panel and the Q and A and I want to make sure that as we go through this conversation today, we answer all of your questions.

Sarah Durham (00:01:02):

So feel free to chat in questions as you go and I will either weave them into the conversation or save them for the end. We have Laurel Sheridan, who’s going to tell us a little bit more about herself and her organization in a minute. Laurel works at BRIC, and then off-camera we have Kathryn Glass. Kathryn is in a location where she had some GoToWebinar challenges so you’ll hear her voice but not see her fabulous face. Hi Kathryn. (Kathryn: Hello!) Okay, so with that we are going to get started and we’re just gonna, you know, dig into what we’re talking about today. We are talking about marketing place-based programs in an entirely digital world. I’m going to tell you a little bit about why we’re doing this session in a minute. And I also want to make sure that I introduce Advomatic because some of you who are participating today may not know us very well.

Sarah Durham (00:01:57):

So Advomatic is an agency that works with nonprofit organizations and we help nonprofits build websites in WordPress and Drupal. We also help organizations with existing websites like BRIC improve those websites by optimizing them and doing sort of deeply technical work to make them more effective and build out new features. And we also maintain websites in Drupal and WordPress. I often think of Advomatic staff kind of like mechanics who are super technically competent and great at doing the things that go beyond the basics in WordPress and Drupal that in house people either don’t know how to do or don’t have the time to do themselves. So at Advomatic, we call it Continuous Care. And we have a range of clients. These are all Advomatic clients. BRIC is an Advomatic client, the Newark Museum, Shriver Center on Poverty Law. Many others. Advomatic’s sister agency, Big Duck, helps nonprofits build strong brands, strong campaigns, and strong teams.


Sarah Durham (00:02:56):

And I run both those agencies, and Kathryn, who works with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and I have worked together through Big Duck, not through Advomatic. So that’s a little bit of preamble. Let me tell you what we’re going to do today, and then I will talk less and let my guests talk a bit more. The point of today’s session is to help those of you who are either participating live or who are gonna watch this afterward, get some ideas, and think perhaps more strategically about your websites in this moment of really dynamic change and challenge that we’re all facing. So in a second I’m going to stop sharing slides and when I stop sharing my slides, you’re just going to see us and we’re just going to have a discussion and I really want to encourage you in that too, to chat in questions, chat in comments.


Sarah Durham (00:03:45):

And also, if you’re working in an organization that is adapting and doing some innovative stuff, please tell us about it. I’d be delighted to read what you’re doing and share that with the group. Coming up, there are three more AdvoTalks I want to highlight for you. In about, I don’t know, two weeks, I’m going to do an hour-long webinar on content planning and management. This is a kind of a 101 session, so if you’ve got somebody on your team who is now responsible for content on your website and they need some basic management and planning skills, this is not going to be about how to write or how to design. It’s going to be about how to stay organized and how to make sure you have a clear strategy. That’s coming up on May 12th, I’m going to be doing something on May 29th with one of Advomatic’s clients at Stanford University called Bridging the gap between content creation and technology.


Sarah Durham (00:04:33):

And that’s about how large organizations weave the tech together with teams that create content. And then finally on June 5th, I’m going to be doing a really interesting interview with Joe Coakley who runs digital campaigns at the ACLU. They’re also an Advomatic client and Joe’s going to tell us a little bit about how he does what he does and share some tips and best practices. So with that as background, I’m going to get into our topic for today. So Rory sent me this slide a little earlier today. Digital transportation is transformation. It’s years away. I don’t see our company having time to change anytime soon. And here we are, we are in it. And I have had some very interesting conversations over the past few weeks with organizations about how they’re adapting and I’ve, I’ve spoken in the past month with Kathryn and with Laurel about this and they both shared some really interesting things that are happening at their organizations. So rather than I tell you, I thought I would invite them to tell you directly. So Kathryn Glass is the Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Laurel Sheridan is the marketing director at BRIC. These are both Brooklyn based organizations, for those of you who are not from Brooklyn. And before we get into Q and A, Kathryn, tell us a little bit about Brooklyn Botanic Garden for those of us who may not know it as well.


Kathryn Glass (00:05:58):

Sure, sure. Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a bit over 110 years old, and we’re a 52-acre site in the middle of Brooklyn and very much distinguished as a Botanic garden by the fact that we’re in the middle of a city kind of cheek by jowl in the city. Most Botanic gardens in this country and in fact around the world tend to be in more suburban locations. BBG has kind of distinguished itself throughout that history in two ways. One is by being a really beautiful site, kind of a remarkably compressed set of small sub gardens and longer gardens, but also because of its programs that are dedicated to children’s education. This idea of kind of nurturing a love of horticulture and botany in young city dwellers, and also through its commitment to its community, which is maybe best expressed in the kind of training we do in community horticulture. Things like a contest we sponsor called the “Greenest Block in Brooklyn” and a festival we do called “Making Brooklyn Bloom”, which is about giving people some of the tactics and tools for gardening in their own urban lives.

Sarah Durham (00:07:17)

Thank you. And Laurel, can you take us through a little bit of an overview snapshot of BRIC?

Laurel Sheridan (00:07:22):

Sure. So first, thanks for having me today, Sarah. This is really exciting. BRIC was founded in 1979, so we’ve been in Brooklyn for over 40 years. We are a leading arts and media institution. We have our headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn, which is called BRIC House. If you guys have been around there, it’s on Fulton and Rockwell. And so we, we really have sort of four main disciplines. One, performing arts, which you might know us from the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Festival in Prospect Park. We have Jazz Fest, we have BRIC House Sessions. We also have a contemporary art program, so we have an exhibition space in BRIC house. We also do a lot of artists’ residencies. We have two distinct media initiatives. So we run all the public access television in Brooklyn. So you might see, you might be familiar with Brooklyn Free Speech.

Laurel Sheridan (00:08:22):

And we also produce our own content which is called BRIC TV. So, and last but not least, we also have a robust arts and media education program. So we are in over 40 schools in Brooklyn teaching arts and media to grade school kids. And so that’s kind of like a brief overview of BRIC. Like I said, we’re over 40 years old. We have over a hundred full time employees. I think total with part time, it’s about 200. We work with over a thousand artists, seasonal employees and freelancers in Brooklyn. So you know, we, the organization really nurtures and incubates artists and creators and students in Brooklyn. So that’s really one of our main focus.

Sarah Durham (00:09:18):

Great. So, for those of you who aren’t in Brooklyn or don’t know these organizations, as you can tell, they’re both very dynamic organizations with a lot of educational content, a lot of programmatic content, and they also have a lot of place based stuff going on. You can go to these places, you can do things there. But let’s back up a second because I think, you know, as we talk about what has changed and how you’ve adapted to a world in which people can’t actually visit the garden, or can’t visit BRIC house, I think it’s important for us to get a clearer picture of how your organization before the pandemic, before you were shut down, how did you think about what programs you might share or promote or people can do online versus what kinds of things happen in person? Kathryn, let’s start with you. Can you give us just a very quick synopsis?

Kathryn Glass (00:10:11):

Yeah. I would say we thought very little about our online presence, although I will say that Brooklyn Botanic garden had a history of publishing really high quality horticultural content through its science division beginning about 70 years ago. And that that content was transmuted to our website. So we were primarily featuring, featuring two streams of content. One would be what’s in bloom, in other words, what’s happening now, what’s the reason you might want to come visit us? And the other that kind of really solid how to horticultural content. But we were mostly pushing people to an onsite experience.


Sarah Durham (00:10:54):

And Laurel, how about you? How did, how did BRIC think about online versus in person?


Laurel Sheridan (00:10:58):

Yeah, so as I mentioned before, we have a robust media program. So I feel like digital programming has always been in the organization’s DNA. You know, they’re constantly producing documentaries and scripted series. And so I feel like that part has always been there. But as an organization, we also really value human connection and bringing the community together. And that was kind of you know, you could see that in BRIC Celebrates Brooklyn Festival you know, in our other sort of event-based programs. And so it’s done. You know, I guess in the past we’ve really looked at the online platforms as more supplemental for those kinds of event based programs. So the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Festival, we would do artist interviews, we would have acoustic performances for Jazz Fest. We would do the same. We would actually record their performances and we would use YouTube as our main platform for that content. But like I said, it was always sort of, it felt more supplemental to what was happening in real life. And I think now we’re starting to realize that it’s a platform in and of itself. So it’s exciting for us.


Sarah Durham (00:12:28):

You know, you’re both touching on something that I think is implicit but not but we haven’t said aloud yet, which is that in this context when everybody is having to work remote in ways they haven’t, they’ve gotten used to Zoom, they’ve gotten used to digital contacts. And so actually that opens up the doors to do a lot more stuff digitally than it used to. It probably was the case that six months ago, a lot of your clients, your donors, you know, program participants might not have had the zoom app on their computer for instance. And I’ve had some very interesting conversations recently with other organization leaders about this. I had a call yesterday with the CEO of the Ms Foundation for Women, for instance, who was telling me that because Ms had to cancel their gala, they decided to do an online event that they’re calling a Feminist Block Party, and their Feminist Block Party is free.


Sarah Durham (00:13:25):

Anybody can participate, you can find it on the Ms Foundation for Women’s website, and it’s going to be this really dynamic interactive hour-long event. And the beautiful thing about an event like that is that it’s actually, it only takes an hour to participate in. You can do it from home and it’s a way that Ms can actually engage a national audience or you can engage a national audience and something like that as opposed to just being place-based. So there is a really dynamic opportunity with that. Let’s talk about specific things you’ve changed or pivoted because you’ve both done some really interesting things to adapt to this world. And Kathryn, I was struck by an exchange we had recently where I was asking you about a particular video. So you know, you have the Cherry Blossom Festival. Sakura Matsuri is probably the biggest event that the garden does over the year, and you have to rethink that and make that digital. So tell us what you did. I mean, when your largest event goes away, how do you pivot? 


Kathryn Glass (00:14:31):

Really our largest season went away, right? So BBG, I think we see this in our web traffic and we see it in our requests from media to come cover us really peaks for the eight weeks of April and May and, and is especially driven by those blossoming cherry trees, which takes place over maybe three or four weeks, beginning with the Japanese Hill and Pond Garden. And then usually culminating on the Cherry Esplanade with these big showy, they’re called Kanzan Cherries, which is where we typically hold the Sakura Matsuri Festival. And you’re right that the festival itself at its peak could have as many as 40,000 people a day. So for us, that’s 80,000 people in two days out of a visitation that historically was, could have been as high as a million. So it’s a very, very big number. But the Spring season itself represents almost 50% of our attendance.


Kathryn Glass (00:15:24):

So that’s the closure of the garden for that time period, that’s really so painful to us nevertheless because we know that, you know, the eyes of our members and press and followers, and supporters, visitors, is on us. In this period we decided to push out as kind of our first content push, a very highly polished beautiful kind of meditative walk in the Japanese Hill and Pond Garden. And we decided that we had lots of other content streams coming that were more education and activity focused, but we wanted to start with a couple of things that were strictly horticulturally focused. And the thing that I shared with Sarah that was astonishing to me was, we sent out some teasers for this, then we live-streamed it on a Sunday afternoon. And then the first day we had some 30,000 views of the content.


Kathryn Glass (00:16:19):

And now we’ve surpassed a hundred thousand views. So it’s just very curious between the website and Facebook. It’s an interesting sort of dataset to look at compared with the number of people who might actually come onsite. And the comments and the feedback we keep getting are from people who had bought tickets or intended to come or who usually held a spot on their annual calendar for this moment saying, you know, this is what I did. I got together with my family or friends and we live-streamed it and talked about it. So that’s been, that’s been very gratifying to see.


Sarah Durham (00:16:56):

And you also produced this I think it’s a 18 minute long video that’s a meditative walk through the cherries so if you can chat that out, that video is so great. It’s so soothing and it’s so, you know, and it brings, it basically brings, brings the cherries to you. Laurel, tell us about a flagship program at BRIC. I think when we spoke, you talked about your virtual exhibitions and how you had to rethink going digital and how you did that.


Laurel Sheridan (00:17:29):

Yeah, I mean, I think the obvious flagship program right now that might come into a lot of people’s minds is the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Festival, which we just had to cancel and I feel a lot of similar things to Kathryn. It did bring in, you know, it was a lot of our audience fundraising, et cetera. We’re just pivoting on that now, not quite ready to talk about what’s happening next. But we can save that for next time. But the virtual exhibitions I’m really excited about. We’re actually building the program right now. We have our first launch on May 11th. So I think that was a really like, easy touch,  an easy way to migrate to our website and use the platforms that we already have. I think, you know, we’ve all seen a lot of web traffic a lot in the recent months. And so we’re excited.


Laurel Sheridan (00:18:26):

Or the virtual exhibitions, it’s actually, I’m looking on Google trends and the virtual exhibition term has skyrocketed.


Laurel Sheridan (00:18:37):

So can you guys hear me okay? Is there a little feedback?


Sarah Durham (00:18:40):

Yeah, we’re getting a little audio feedback. I’m just going to double check what’s going on with that. That might be I think Kathryn had, may, may have had an issue. Kathryn, are you there? 


Sarah Durham (00:18:55):

Oh, that’s better. Okay, great.


Laurel Sheridan (00:18:57):

So yeah, the virtual exhibition that I’m really excited about because it is, it’s a, a low touch for us. You know, we have images. I think the technology is already there and I think it’s actually a really wonderful way to still support our artists. One other program that we obviously had to cancel was our BRIC Lab Residencies. And this, the residencies, we work with like eight teams of artists throughout the year. And they come in and they have about two weeks at BRIC House. So we give them space, time, and tech resources. And then their residency culminates in a performance, in two performances actually. And they’re usually work in progress. And, just by nature, every BRIC lab is very different. It’s usually performing arts base, so it could be theater, music, you know, it’s very eclectic programming and it’s really wonderful.


Laurel Sheridan (00:20:05):

But it’s also, I think that has posed a big challenge for us. And how do we take that to the digital space? Because every program is so different. Every piece is so different that there’s no template. There’s no, you know, just like one page that we can drop things in. Some are more media based, some, you know, are very performative. So we’ve actually done a few now on Instagram live, which is one of the first platforms that we transitioned to. And I’ve just been blown away by the work. And it was one, I think one of the biggest surprises to me seeing what resonated with our audience is online. We worked with All My Relations Collective did a piece and they actually did two nights performing this piece that was just, it just blew me away how quickly the artists adapted to the platform. And I think it really just shows just by nature, like artists are problem solvers. And the one thing that actually really surprised me was that people do have attention spans and they stuck around. It was an hour long piece on Instagram live and it was really wonderful to see, because I thought that was going to be like one of the hardest things to transition and it’s actually, I think, been one of the most successful.


Sarah Durham (00:21:30):

That’s great. And I’ve gotten a couple of questions in from some people I want to ask you those. And I also want to flag a couple of people have asked Rory if we could chat out links to the Ms Foundation for Women’s Feminist Block Party and also the BRIC Instagram handle so people can take a look at Instagram for that. I think one of the questions that we’ve gotten is actually very, Laurel, what you just talked about is sort of a great jumping off point for this. You talked about how, you know, all of these new digital projects are experiments. There’s no, you don’t have best practices for them, there aren’t established processes. You and the artists you work with are having to figure this out on the fly. And when you and I spoke a couple of weeks ago, one of the things we talked about is, is how, how hard that is on staff, you know, that as a staff person you’re having to learn a lot of new things and pivot really quickly and you’re already working, as we all are under unusual circumstances, and challenging circumstances. So the question we’ve gotten that relates to this is, how has your staff adapted, or did they need to be retrained to go digital? And so, you know, do either of you have any advice in terms of sort of building those digital muscles? Let’s start with Laurel.


Laurel Sheridan (00:22:51):

That’s a really good question. I mean, I will say that for the marketing staff, you know, it was full-on from the beginning. The team was really busy once, you know, we’re at home and these are our platforms and now all the pros, Facebook, social media, YouTube, we’ve been the ones that have kind of been in charge of those platforms and controlled the content that’s been on them. And so, you know, I think a lot fell on the marketing team’s shoulders too, you know, kind of lead the charge in this new digital programming world. So I think it was hard on the staff, but I think that they were very familiar with the programs and I think it actually gave them a chance to shine. So I was really proud of our team because we were able to problem solve, like I had mentioned, I think too, like Instagram Stories, the metrics aren’t really good.


Laurel Sheridan (00:24:02):

So we had to build our own rubric to figure out what was working and what wasn’t working. And I think the team really stepped up. I think that, you know, there has been a learning curve and we know that with the artists too, when we’re asking artists to go live on Instagram, they may never have done it before. So our team had to, you know, dig in and actually create sort of a way for other people to use. Which was something that we hadn’t done before. But I think it helped us work through the process of like, how this is all going to work. If we have to tell somebody else how to do it. So I thought that was, you know, an interesting thing. I think there’s still a lot of other platforms. There’s so much out there and it’s hard to, to be, you know, masters of, of all. So I think we’ve really chosen like what our strengths are and where our audiences and what we know to kind of build on that.


Sarah Durham (00:24:57):

And Kathryn, you know, many of the people who are, who are attending today, I can see who’s on the attendee list. I know some of these people, a lot of them work in museums and in arts and culture organizations, different kinds of organizations that in some ways are like BBG in that their staff are our educators. They’re specialists in their fields. Tell us how you have had to teach people on your team new digital skills. Are you trying to minimize that? What do you think about that?


Kathryn Glass (00:25:30):

Well, we also, we came up with kind of a rubric for prioritizing what content was going out first and then shifting into training colleagues, especially in education and public programs. And especially in video, we’ve also taken the chance to think about the opportunity to kind of restructure our teams around audiences instead of around internal responsibilities. So for example, we have a children’s education team, but to try to think about content that’s appropriate for children and families. We’ve come up with a team of people that might include an interpreter, an editor and a digital person as well as the content person. We’re working with a team of people who are focused on lifelong learners. So that’s not just our kind of formal continuing education program, but it’s also our community greening program and maybe our artist in residence program. So kind of taking that chance to rethink about content from an audience perspective, get some cross training, cross all of these teams has been strategy. It’s hard. It’s very hard. I feel like we’re all working as much if not more than we were before.


Sarah Durham (00:26:52):

I bet you are. Yeah, I bet you are. So, Kathryn, I just want to dig deeper into something you said and make sure I’ve understood it correctly. So are the, are the people that you are, I love the idea of organizing your teams around audience and what the audience is looking for from the garden and am I understanding you correctly that you’re also sort of embedding the people who can help them create content on those teams?


Kathryn Glass (00:27:18):

So we have a digital team already and we’re creating these smaller audience centric teams to help re-imagine the content, how it can go out. And I think one of the harder leaps that our team has had to make and that our colleagues have had to make is two, explore how to deliver content in a way that’s best suited to the media. So, for example, I would say, yeah, we have a team of really passionate educators who work in our children’s garden and serve a community of families where the kids come and they over eight weeks they take care of a bed and they’re potting up plants and they’re, you know, learning about cooking and they’re doing an art project. And I think the temptation always from the educators is to try to deliver on the kind of content promise of what they would have.


Kathryn Glass (00:28:15):

And so what’s been challenging and also fun is kind of to say to them, well let’s explore what might be more interesting in this media and how do your families really want to get content? Do they really want a three page email with activities? Or think about the parent who’s sitting at home with a five-year-old. Is it better for them to have a little nugget of an idea of something that’d be fun to do with kids one today on our Instagram feed? Do you know what I mean? So it’s not going to look like what you would typically do if you had 10 kids sitting in a garden plot. But maybe what’s manageable for them and their caregiver is something rather different, right? Or repackaged differently.


Sarah Durham (00:29:02):

And I think you’re, you’re touching on a fundamental best practice of communication that I think, I love that you’re bringing this up because what you’re talking about as being audience centric, really thinking about who’s the audience, right? What’s the environment they’re operating in? What’s going to be a realistic way to deliver the content in a way that’s deeply meaningful for them.


Kathryn Glass (00:29:23):

And I think there’s one other thing, Sarah, that might be worth pausing over and saying because I have a feeling our colleagues in every institution are dealing with this. It’s that our staffs and maybe particularly our educators and artists, they’re desperate to work, right? They know what they do provides a lot of comfort and joy and value. And it’s really hard for them to be cut off from what they’re doing. So I’m also looking at it, it’s an exercise for our professional steps and being able to do the work that they care about.


Sarah Durham (00:29:57):

Hmm. To help them do their job and work they care about. Yeah, that’s a great point. I want to come back to that in a minute.


Sarah Durham (00:30:06):

Earlier you both talked about video in different ways and we’ve gotten a couple of questions about that. One question is, are there video platforms that you’re using or would recommend? And that the person who asked this question commented that video, it’s particularly challenging and I think it would be interesting to hear a what, what platforms you’d recommend, but also any tips or any easy, best practices that you’re finding work well when you’re working with somebody who might be an educator, a curator, a botanist, a dancer, you know, who may, who may not be so techie. 


Laurel Sheridan (00:30:44):

Yeah, well this is a good time to pitch our new online classes. So I mentioned we run all the public access television. And so we have, yeah a lot of classes at BRIC House. And one thing that we just transitioned was doing them online. So this was another one of those things. It was like, this is why we should have been doing this all along. Like this is, they’ve been really successful in selling out. So we’re really excited about this initiative. But we actually have classes to teach people how to use editing software, cameras, Instagram, all, all of those things. So I can post a link to those resources too.


Sarah Durham (00:31:33):

Yeah. If you can either chat them out right now, chat the page or let Rory know where to find it and he can chat it out. Mmm. And Kathryn, how about you? Do you have, any video capacity-building recommendations?


Kathryn Glass (00:31:48):

I don’t really, I’m sorry. We have, we have worked with a bunch of people for a long time and, and have relied upon them. But I will also say that this is a time, and if you’re lucky enough to be in New York where there’s a lot of this kind of talent out there where you may find among your members or your followers that there are people who really want to help you, who, who might offer their services. Mmm. And we’ve called upon some of those people to come support us. And we were getting a lot of, a lot of free photography and even some videography are very, very low cost.


Sarah Durham (00:32:26):

How did, how did you do that? How did you put out the call for volunteers? 


Kathryn Glass (00:32:32):

It came in over the transom. It came in over the transom. And I think, look there, part of it is that people like this place and this time of year, it’s a desirable place to be. And so even with our, you know, friends in the news and New York Times and the journal and those people, when the photographers come here, they’re really thrilled for this kind of assignment because it’s just an, it’s just a feel-good assignment. So that was sort of easy for us. I think when we’ve worked with, we’re working with a team now and I think because we have a nice footprint in the community, we’re able to bring them a kind of visibility that they might not enjoy in other projects.


Sarah Durham (00:33:16):

Hmm. Interesting. You know, I want to share a couple of video tips for people who were dialing in. And then I want to go back to Kathryn’s point about keeping your staff engaged. Yeah. And, and you know, giving them a way to do what they do. So a couple of video tips for those of you who are trying to figure this out. I have found always, even before this, but especially now that a great way to help a non-video person make a video is to have them use zoom. If, you know, if they’re used to using zoom, they can log into zoom alone and they can turn on a webcam and they can prop up a device that they need next to them. And just press record and zoom will create either on your desktop or in the cloud, you know, a whole video that you can then edit.


Sarah Durham (00:34:10):

You can also, I think slice and dice the MP3. One of the, one of the best practices. I encourage anybody who’s using video on their website in new ways or maybe hasn’t used it as extensively before, as it is a best practice from both an accessibility point of view and a search engine optimization point of view to transcribe that video. We’ll transcribe this video and post the transcription. It’s a best practice because people who don’t like to watch videos or people who have different abilities around hearing can then read the transcripts, which is great. But it’s also a best practice from search engine optimization because it gives you thousands and thousands of keywords that Google recognizes. So it’s one of the ways you can get the search engine credit for all this great content you’re posting is, by transcribing and posting.

Sarah Durham (00:34:59):

And there are tons of great resources now and you know, in other places about how to look good on camera. Really basic stuff that probably anybody could use. So you could probably find a link to that. And then I think what you’ll get from BRIC if you do some of those trainings is really some good, good pro stuff. So if you’re going to, you’ve got somebody who’s gonna have to produce a lot of videos, sign them up for a class and you know, and do it. But if they just need to do a little something on the fly, check out, zoom. Back to Kathryn’s point. So you, you made this important point about how so many people want to do their jobs, want to do important work, want to be helping. And maybe right now the best thing you can do for your staff is to give them something to do.

Sarah Durham (00:35:42):

Kathryn, you said something on the phone to me a few weeks ago about trying to be really strategic about what should be expressed digitally. So trying to take advantage, right, of the smarts and capacity of your team, but also not just throw everything up on the website or in social media just because you can do it. So tell us a little bit about how you think about that or how you would recommend people listening to this call. Think about that. What’s the strategic framework you use to decide what’s a good investment of some of this time and effort?

Kathryn Glass (00:36:15):

Yeah, I mean, I think for us it began with really imagining our audience at home and then thinking about what we could offer singularly, that others couldn’t. So beginning with a kind of big sweeping horticultural immersive stories that we thought we could do really, really well in a fairly highly polished way. And then moving into more of a service delivery model, so people who’ve signed up for classes, what could we do for them? And then finally starting to imagine programming that’s later on in our season that we may, you know, we may have the chance to deliver in person, but yeah, even if we do, we’re probably going to also be creating video for that. And some of that just has to do with the seasonality of where we are. But we’ve also encouraged our education team, for example, to look around and see “Is there redundancy here?”.


Kathryn Glass (00:37:16):

You know, if there is incredible, easy-to-use content on Alice Waters’s website and program that teaches school gardening, and there is in fact, and there is a Cornell Botanic Gardens, let’s never, let’s not reinvent the wheel. In educators time might be best used just creating and curating a list of content that they think it could be meaningful. And I recognize that all of our colleagues want and need to have points of contact over this time as do our funders. So, everyone has to have some ability to contribute to the content feed. But for us it was very much about segmenting out from a kind of on the access of highly polished to a little more scrappy around the edges and we might typically be, but still kind of are adhering to our basic standards for accuracy. And then from kind of like high touch to lower touch and then we kind of ran that over a 12 week cycle to see what would be panning out.


Sarah Durham (00:38:25):

Great. Laurel, how about you? How do you, how do you decide when somebody’s got an idea for something that they want to spin up digitally? How do you decide whether or not to move it forward? 


Laurel Sheridan (00:38:36):

So I guess historically BRIC, the disciplines of BRIC have been somewhat siloed and it’s been a process but you know, for many years, but we’re trying to break down those silos internally. So this moment in time actually offered that to us. You know, in the past there’ve been contemporary art programs and performing art programs and media programs and we took this opportunity to launch BRIC at home. That was just the umbrella for everything. So you know, we have teams, a team, a BRIC at home team that is cross-discipline and we all come together, you know, well at least once a week to talk about what programming is coming up, what, what holes need to be filled, you know, what isn’t being represented, what audience are we missing? And I think this has been you know, a really exciting time and has helped build a model for future collaborations at BRIC.


Laurel Sheridan (00:39:46):

So it’s given people an opportunity to share their ideas that maybe they didn’t have that opportunity before because they were siloed. So somebody had a nice jazz artist. They wanted, you know, thought it would be great. They had the opportunity then to share it like within the BRIC at home team. And this has actually been we just launched a new strategic plan and this has been one of the central tenants of the plan is like, let’s build or let’s break down these walls internally and externally. Because we really found that people knew us for one thing and not the other. So everybody was familiar with the festival but didn’t know we had this amazing contemporary art program or these media classes. And you know, it’s a lot. It’s a mouthful and it’s hard to tell everybody at once like what we do. But I think that this is really giving us that opportunity to, to start, start doing it. And I think, you know, I’m excited to see, you know, once we returned back into the building, I think it’s, it’s just opened a lot more doors for collaboration and engagement with the staff. So it’s exciting.


Sarah Durham (00:40:57):

You’re, you’re both making a point that I want to elevate and reinforce, which is that there is a tension in this moment around timing because, and I think, I think particularly for institutions where you don’t really know exactly when you’re going to reopen or exactly what the transition back is gonna look like. There’s a short term timeframe, a midterm, and a long term timeframe. And I wrote a blog about this on the Big Duck side and Rory, maybe you can find this blog, but it’s in this blog. I proposed that this is a good time to think about having a team and a tomorrow team. And I think what Laurel is describing is now a team, you know, the BRIC at home is now a team. It’s a team that’s focused on a short term time horizon.


Sarah Durham (00:41:45):

But in this moment it’s also so critical that there is a tomorrow team that there are people thinking about the longterm of the organization. Not just like the content or what happens digitally, but just, you know, how are things, what’s, what’s going to be different when you reopen your doors? How are things, how are things going to change? And Kathryn, I wonder if that’s something you can speak a little bit about because the Brooklyn Botanic garden, not only is, I know, thinking about that and your key part of that, but also has the dynamic of being in the middle of an executive director transition too, which is another big, big tomorrow wildcard.


Kathryn Glass (00:42:19):

Yeah, it’s, it’s actually been, I mean, I, I feel a little silly saying this, but I feel energized by the kind of learning that we’re doing around this because we’re all doing slightly world playing slightly different roles than we would typically. But yeah, we have a reopened task force that my team is leading, a combination of visitor services and volunteers, public programs, security, custodial and maintenance. Our model is really Demi to make this very tactical, our model is being driven by how much PPE and other kinds of equipment and supplies we can get because we, we need to act on the, you know, keep your teams safe first and then open yourself up to the public. I mean, I think New York is, we need to be really interesting this summer. I’m concerned about the number of public amenities that are already being closed, including camps, probably beaches, public pools.


Kathryn Glass (00:43:25):

The New York city teen workforce is not, you know, they’re not, or they’ve said they’re not moving forward with hiring 75,000 teens. I’m just trying to imagine in my mind the experience of a parent with kids or teens, you know, just being told that a lot is not available. And so then what is an outdoor space representing how’s the garden serve the community at that time? And I think there’s going to be huge demand. And I think the question is how quickly can we mobilize into an operation that might have to have twice as much twice as much workforce on site to serve a 10th of the audience because we’re going to have to figure out how to bring in enough people so that there’s distance and we can observe all of our public hygiene protocols.


Sarah Durham (00:44:20):

Mm. These are tricky, tricky issues. Laurel, did you want to chime in on that topic?


Laurel Sheridan (00:44:25):

Well, I just think it’s interesting you’ve been reading a lot lately about collective trauma and, and how that’s gonna affect us as a society moving forward. And I, I’ve been reading a lot about what audiences want, you know, what they’re looking for to feel safe. And it’s just been really interesting. You know, just to hear from, you know, some people just want to see that somebody else is doing it. Which is, you know, to me it’s like, well, if other people are there, I don’t want to be there right now. So it’s an interesting mindset. But I think it’s something I think making people feel safe and giving them space to heal is going to be really important. And, you know, I’m actually really proud that I think BRIC, a lot of the programming that BRIC does addresses that. And I, I’m just excited to see like the artists that we’re going to be working with, you know, that can, you know, reflect what’s going on right now and, and, you know, make audiences feel safer. I think it’s going to be you know, like Kathryn said, it’s, it feels weird to feel excited about some of these things, but I think it’s, you know, it’s going to be really interesting you know, the next year or so of programming and what it looks like and you know, it’s an interesting challenge to have. 


Sarah Durham (00:45:58):

I mean, I think if you are an optimist, you know, what, what this presents is a deep opportunity for experimentation and innovation. And you know, and I think, I think it’s you know, Kathryn’s point about needing twice the staff to service, you know, a fraction of the people is, is a, is a very important pragmatic reality that I think a lot of organizations are going to have to figure out. But in the tomorrow team thinking there is also this sort of great, great opportunity for innovation, then I think your, your organizations are both exploring. We have a question that I want to ask, that’ll take us back to our earlier discussion about how you work with your staff with content. And and I have, I have some thoughts on this one too, but I’d be curious to hear what you both think.


Sarah Durham (00:46:53):

This person is saying that they’ve got people who want to produce content but aren’t necessarily the best people to deliver the content. Like somebody who, who’s an expert in a field but isn’t great on camera, isn’t great on video or is not a strong writer. So I’m curious if you have navigated that, how do you bring out the best in the people on your team who are now producing content that goes online when they’re, they’re typically used to doing that in other, in other channels? Kathryn, do you want to tackle that first? Yeah. 


Kathryn Glass (00:47:30):

You know, that’s like that person put their finger on what is precisely this, the most painful moment from a sort of internal staffing perspective, right? Because yeah, we all have high regard for our teams and what they do and they’re not used to being told that their content has to go through, let’s say my content filter, right? So where I’ve landed, and I’m, I have some discomfort around this, but I think this is probably the way our teams are going to be working is that we’ll coach and give advice and give guidelines. So let’s say I’m working with a team of educators and the children’s garden, and they want to teach a 45 minute class on propagating seeds, let’s say, or kitchen botany, something like that. We might say to them, here’s what’s going to work. It has to be 10 minutes. You know, so you’re, you’re putting yourself, and in fact, what I did was look up what is the role of a producer on a film set?

Kathryn Glass (00:48:21):

Right? And I think that’s what people who are playing around in marketing and communications, that’s the role that we’re filling. We’re the producers. And so we’re going to give the outlines and we’re going to support the platforms. And then sometimes you can say to someone, we’re going to try this once it’s a pilot. We’re not committing to doing it once a week for the next eight weeks. Let’s see what happens. And if, if 90% of people only watch the first three minutes, that’s going to tell us something. Right? And so I think we, I think what’s happening is that as institutions we’re becoming a little bit more comfortable with things. I feel scrappy and rough around the edges and, and that we’re also putting some guidelines in place and allowing, you know, allowing us all to experience what a failure might look like. 


Laurel Sheridan (00:49:12):

Right. And I think that’s where the importance of metrics comes into play for us. You know, I, we are lucky that we do have, we have producers on staff, you know but this, there’s a lot of new territory now, a lot of new content being created. So we do give those guidelines and I think a lot of our team has been open to them because we, the marketing team are the ones looking at the metrics. So we’re, we know, you know, on our YouTube page, on our YouTube video that generally people don’t really get to watch the first, you know, 50% of it or something like that. So we’re, we’ve been able to kind of supply those, that data for, for our teams, which I think has been really helpful. And, you know, and we’ve had some frank discussions about it, like this program, you know, we tried it multiple times. It’s, it’s not working, you know, here are the numbers. It’s not subjective. Mmm. And so I think that that always helps to have the, that kind of data to share with the team and, you know, it’s everybody’s learning and I think we all have to kind of have, you know, be kind to each other I think is really important right now. And, and be willing to experiment and support each other in any way possible. So I think that that’s also important in the times.


Sarah Durham (00:50:40):

And I think, I think you’re both also describing things that are best practices at any time. I mean, I think, I think, for instance, looking at the data to see how the content is or isn’t received is always the best practice. And Kathryn, I love your point about not committing to something out of the gate just because you have somebody who’s really excited to write, are really excited to produce videos saying to them, look, let’s try this out and let’s see how it’s received. These are, these are evergreen best practices and, and maybe one of the benefits of this moment is that it gives you an opportunity to kind of establish some of those or reset some of the norms in your, in your organization. The, the other thing I want to add to this, and this is something that I’ll talk about more in that content planning and management workshop that’s coming up in a couple of weeks is in my experience there is a kind of an art and maybe it is the art of the producer of finding the right medium for the person who’s got the content.


Sarah Durham (00:51:39):

And I think one of the places where we tend to go wrong when people want to produce content is sometimes they pick the wrong channel. So I’m the person who has the great idea, does not necessarily have to be the person who delivers it, nor does it have to be delivered in the channel they originally set. So let’s say for instance, I have an idea and I’m really excited to make a video about it, but I’m not great on camera. It could be that the producer says, that’s a great idea. Why don’t we bring in this person who is great on camera and they can work with you and either you can co-deliver it or they can deliver it. Or, or they might say to me, you know what, let’s do this as a podcast. Or how about if you write it instead?


Sarah Durham (00:52:22):

So all of those things can be experiments. They’re all, they’re all different. And, and I have found in a lot of years of managing content for Big Duck, that sometimes it’s sort of an art to find the channel that allows that person who’s an expert in a field to say the thing they really should say. And it’s not always the way they think. Sometimes they are better in video or they are better in audio and they sh they shouldn’t. Right. And you just have to kind of work with them to get that right. Laurel did you want to add, come back to that or Kathryn? Yeah, please go ahead. Well I was going to ask you how you and your clients are thinking about this total glut of content because my sense is, what I’m trying to talk to our teams about is that yeah, there’s so much great free content out there.


Sarah Durham (00:53:15):

I mean let’s acknowledge that we’re all looking at screens all day long and for a lot of us, we don’t want to be looking at a screen when we get home. But if you did, you could see first run shows and the metropolitan opera and the dishes. So like how much, how much is too much and, and how much is your tomorrow team really, how much time do you really want? Your team’s thinking about the next eight weeks versus where are you going to be when you reopened? Yeah, I think, I think that that depends a lot on your mission. And whether you are a B to B organization or a B to C organization, if you are the Brooklyn Botanic garden or you are BRIC or you’re an arts and culture organization, you, you probably are trying to reach people in their leisure time.


Sarah Durham (00:54:04):

And you’re absolutely right that if people just spent a long day on Zoom, they may not want to spend a long evening on Zoom. And there are a lot of, a lot of things for them to do. I think it’s different if you work in an area where you’re providing a service that might relate to somebody fundamental wellbeing or like, like one of the things that we’ve been reading about and following, which is an interesting dynamic of this time, is that if you remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one of the reasons this is such a crisis is that we’re actually being reduced to this survival layer of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We’re concerned about shelter and food and our basic safety. So if you’re producing content that addresses those kinds of things then actually I think there’s quite a big audience or appetite for it in, in this web, in this webinar today.


Sarah Durham (00:54:59):

And in a lot of the webinars we’ve been leading at Big Duck and Advomatic, we found that for some people, I mean this is work, right? Watching this webinar is work for the people who are, who are doing it. But it’s a different kind of work. It’s an opportunity to learn something, to sit back, to reflect, and to kind of take a breather from having to be the one who’s generating things and that can be restorative. So I think I think arts and cultural organizations are fundamentally restorative institutions and it’s so powerful when they give us the opportunities to do that. But yes, there is certainly, there is a glut of content. I just want to time check us. We’ve got about five minutes left and I have one, one final question for you and I want to just call the last call on questions.


Sarah Durham (00:55:46):

If any of the people who are with us want to chat in a question to me, this is a good time to do it. My, my question for you both is we are now well into this, we’re now, you know, six, six weeks into the period of time in which your institutions physically closed their doors and you’ve been living in this digital adapted world. In hindsight, just six weeks in, what have you, what have you learned or what would you do differently next time if you, if you, you know, knowing what you know now. What do you wish you knew then? Kathryn. Can we start with you?


Kathryn Glass (00:56:26):

I would have fought to have kept our part time photographer and videographer on staff. I would have recognized that too. To offer a Brooklyn Botanic garden at home.


Sarah Durham (00:56:40):

Means you need the people who are already trained to be here.


Kathryn Glass (00:56:43):

Content producers that those functions are essential. Then even when other part time staff are being let go, those people need to stay on.


Sarah Durham (00:56:55):

Laurel, how about you?


Laurel Sheridan (00:56:58):

I wish I would’ve come up with the idea of recreating famous artworks, the Ted Rover ones because I can think that’s genius. I would have also liked to have predicted Facebook’s come back. I think we all sort of thought it was a dying platform, but you know, in the last few months its usage especially on desktops has increased a lot. So, you know, that’s something we can still adapt to, which is great. I think something else that the team has actually talked about is having more of these sort of media resources and whatnot available for artists like people looking for, how do I, you know, create a video. You know, I’m used to being this kind of using this medium, how do I adapt to the current digital world? So, we actually do some of that. In real life. We have our media arts fellowship, which pairs artists with media educators. And so I think that, yeah, I think the team, a lot of people, even for performing artists, like how do they best do the sound on their phone when they’re going to do, you know, Facebook or Instagram or something live like that. So maybe having some more resources for artists I think would be a big one.


Sarah Durham (00:58:22):

Great. Okay. Well, we’re about at the top of the hour, so as we wrap up, I just want to share a couple of pieces of housekeeping. First, this session has been recorded and we’ll be posting it on the Advomatic website, which is and we’re going to send out a link to everybody who registered with the video and the transcript. So that if you would like to refer to anything that was discussed, you’ll be able to do that and you’re welcome to share that recording. It’ll be open and not gated. I also want to flag that there are a number of webinars coming up both at Big Duck and Advomatic. They are on the Advomatic website, on the Big Duck website. I’m actually doing a series of workshops next week based on my new book, The Nonprofit Communications Engine.


Sarah Durham (00:59:08):

Kathryn was one of the people I interviewed for that book. And it’s a four-part series of capacity building series for communicators sponsored by MailChimp. It’s going to be really robust. It’s going to be like sort of the equivalent of an all-day intensive workshop, but it’s going to be broken up into one-hour chunks over four weeks, so you can sign up for that for free. I chatted out the link. Most importantly, I want to thank Laurel Sheridan and Kathryn Glass and all of you who took the time to log in today to share and to learn and to be together and for keeping the nonprofit sector vital and giving us reasons to restore ourselves, ways to restore ourselves and for doing this important work. Thank you all for joining us today. Thank you.