For two half days, about 80 of us scholarly communication types sat in the Indiana Convention Center learning from consultants, who coached us to frame our knowledge in ways that would help us envision our desired future, set goals, and be effective persuaders. Interestingly, the first consultant knew little about libraries and even less about scholarly communication, but he understood exactly what most scholarly communication programs aim to do. Thanks to the Institute on Scholarly Communication.
The 80 or so participants sat at tables of five to ten. When we brainstormed or shared ideas, we shared amongst our tablemates. Luckily, I was able to sit with a great cohort that included representatives from the University of Florida, University of Colorado at Denver, and Drake University. Over the course of the workshop, we collectively chatted about topics from future of publishing to wondering why business faculty/students are so resistent to OA.
On day one, we were asked to assess our environment. We looked at competition, economic climate, political climate, customer expectations, demographics, and technology. In these categories, we were asked to list the current scholarly communication trends, and then we were asked to list assumptions for the next three to five years. For instance, for economic climate, the current trend is that funding is generally low across the board for all initiatives, but we might assume that five years from now there might be an increase in funding. We were asked to look at these trends and make these assumptions because we can’t know the future, but we can have a vision, based on current trends, that drives our programs; however, our assumptions may not come to fruition, so the vision should be revisited often.
Next, we were asked to evaluate our own scholarly communication program. What is working well? What is not working well? Based on the environment and the assessment of our schol comm programs, we then had to state what we envisioned for our program in 5 years. One short sentence vision and a vivid desired future in bullet points. I’m not sure many people in the room had necessarily written these things out before -not that our visions were meant to be posted up on our schol comm sites, but rather meant to be dissected and broken down into digestible strategies.
Next, write out drivers and barriers to our programs. With a long term statement and drivers/barriers, we had to create short-term outcomes. Luckily for me, I had a Megan Oakleaf curriculum pontificated by Dave Lankes for the outcome-based assessment coursework in library school. Parsing outcomes from goals can be an exercise in futility, but if they are really figured out, then you can end up with an explicit, measurable, plan.
In the last exercise of day one, state three goals and ways they can be measured. Write out actions that can accommodate goals with who, when, and how success will be measured. In summary, we started the day with an assessment of our program’s environment, stated trends and assumptions, looked at what’s working well and what’s not, thought of a long term future of our programs, wrote out drivers and barriers, created short term outcomes, and finally set goals.
On day two, we had a consultant who works in academic libraries, which made the consultant effective in a different way. This consultant had us read The Necessary Art of Persuasion by Jay Conger, in which Conger draws from 12 years of consulting to describe how persuasion takes a lot more than just facts and a clear voice. Persuasion is a negotiation and can take time. Effective persuasion requires four essential steps: establishing credibility, basing goals on common ground, using vivid language and compelling evidence, and connecting emotionally. Conger does a great job describing how you can make substitutions that will make up for areas of weakness.
Picking up from day one, we were asked to plug our goals into a worksheet, then describe why they matter, who do we want to influence, and how we want our target audience to change, but next, I believe, we made the most important analyses in demographics.
Who is the target? What are their characteristics? Needs? What do we think their goals are? How do they see themselves? I think this exercise really helped a lot of us to hone in on our audiences in new ways. I’ve seen a lot of schol comm initiatives that lump the target audiences into one group. The goal of the workshop was to become more effective and persuasive, so taking a hard look at the various target groups helped us think about how to break down and approach different types of targets e.g., how to approach a digital native vs. non-native or a tenured faculty vs. non-tenured or administrator vs. colleague. At one point, we were asked to describe our target audience in two non-obvious words. I came up with digitally sympathetic while another came up with intellectual activists. I think that I grew the most in this part of the workshop as ideas for marketing, elevator pitches, and the like came flooding to me.
The rest of the day, we had exercises tailoring our message to our target audiences. Writing out what we want them to know, feel, do. Looking at the WIIFM (What’s in it for me) and seeing how our message/proposal will meet the target’s needs, desires, goals, and shared goals (goals shared between target and selves).
Last, we looked at the various ways to make a call for action. Direct, Question, Recommend, Delegate, or Challenge. Depending on the target and on the experience of negotiating with our targets, we’d choose a call of action that fit the mood.
I’ve regurgitated a lot of just what we did, but the true learning came at the end of each exercise when we’d share our analyses with our tablemates. Each represented schol comm program had a different state, different needs, and different target audiences. So I attended the workshop as if my schol comm program was starting from scratch. At the University of Florida, they already have an in-house developed IR, OA publishing funds, and a dedicated schol comm staff. Since Drake University is much smaller than the University of Florida, their program was in a different state –as was the University of Colorado at Denver.
Overall, I think the workshop succeeded in helping us to unravel our current actions/beliefs and forcing us to take a hard look at our techniques and assumptions. Just because we have facts and a clear message doesn't mean it'll get through to everyone. Persuasion requires tailoring and compromise particularly when we have such diverse target segments (Master students, Doctoral students, digital natives, untenured faculty, tenured faculty, adjunct faculty, etc). Now who will have the time to spread and implement more effective techniques back home?