Key #4: Look Outside the Company, and in the Attic
Another key step is deciding how far the media network will extend. "A big question is, who gets to post?" muses Montoya, campaign strategist for John Edwards. "We don't really keep that tightly controlled. One of the first things we discovered was the power of community. We put our site up with limited staff, and within days we had people from outside adding information we wouldn't have resources to find, like audio clips of the Senator speaking someplace that we never would have had. Soon thereafter, people started weekly roundups of what he was doing, which we could not have kept up with."
The idea is to let your constituents become programmers for your site, with the dual benefit of adding content and furthering engagement with your audience. "Our community blog gives people the tools to be journalists," says Montoya. "Every time John Edwards goes to an event, people bring video cameras and digital cameras, and they post about it at our site." Diaries, videos and podcasts are recommended by registered users at the site, and monitored by staff and volunteers. Says Montoya: "A lot of times we'll bring those posts to the front page of our site without editing."
PodShow's Bloom says that replacing the single, dominant voice of an organization with "a dynamic message" is a big cultural shift, but one that allows "the underlying soul and spirit of the entity to be communicated." The payoff, he says, comes in the opportunity for longer, deeper dialogue with anyone who is interested. "You get your day in court in any conversation this way. If you have a fully enabled media platform, you have the opportunity to excite and engage almost anyone."
Meanwhile, some of your best material may already be on hand. One of the common-sense steps toward becoming a multimedia operation is to start by taking inventory of the media assets you already have. "We have a lot of content," says Montoya. "We want to use it, and use it efficiently, so we've taken image and footage that exists and pushed it out online."