Advertisers and economists talk about a concept known as the value proposition. It refers to what makes a product or service valuable to others.
In the context of how preserving institutions communicate, the value proposition bluntly asks: why should anyone pay attention to what an organization has to say? When we talk about digital preservation, what is it about our message that makes it useful and worthy of attention?
After all, there is already plenty of competition for people’s attention, commitment and passion. A teenager with a smartphone has access to more information today than a U.S. president did a few years ago. And, as Nick Poole from the UK Collections Trust says, today’s generation also expects information services to be highly relevant and empowering to their interests. “To tomorrow’s consumers,” says Poole, “any aspect of life which constrains the sense of agency is broken, and will be worked around or ignored.”
There are levels of value, the most basic of which is fleeting attention. Can our tweets, blog posts or Facebook entries snag your interest? We here at NDIIPP are mindful of this basic requirement. But we also aim to reach our audience at a deeper level. What we really want from people is to care so much that they will engage — leave a comment, say — as well as be influenced by our point of view. To that end, we strive to create social media content that is interesting and addresses issues that people care about. If we do our job well, that content will spread on social networks through sharing.
There are different audiences for digital preservation, and it’s useful to keep them in mind. Here on The Signal we think of three general audiences: 1) information professionals; 2) researchers, students and teachers; and 3) the general public. We try to speak to the unique interests of each group, and we publish posts that are primarily addressed to a specific audience. More often we attempt to touch on topics and interests that we hope have broad appeal to diverse perspectives. That’s actually easier to do than we first suspected, given the rapid rise in interest about advice for keeping collections of personal digital information.
To this point, we’re pleased with how well we are communicating and interacting with people. But there is room for improvement, especially considering the ever-increasing competition for that most precious and scarce resource: your attention.
We would love to hear your suggestions for how we, along with the digital preservation community in general, can do better in getting the message out.