Following my last class today I headed on over to the University of Virginia to take part in the annual meeting of the College Communicators Association. I was asked to talk a bit about how university public relations people might utilize bloggers as a means to build stronger ties with the general public. To be completely honest, I felt like a fish out of water, but I shared some ideas based on my limited interaction with public relations folks from various institutions. Here is a brief rundown of my main points:
Keep in mind that blogging is a self-indulgent and ego-driven activity. In other words, bloggers work to share their ideas with an audience and not the announcements of others. In other words, understand that your communique goes against the grain of what blogging is about.
Do your homework and look into specific blogs that might be receptive to you rather than sending out a mass email. The overwhelming number of blogs are not worth contacting because they do not attract an audience. Build a relationship with specific bloggers. A few weeks ago a major archival repository put out a video announcing a new exhibit. The video went to most of the Civil War bloggers, which resulted in me not featuring it on this site.
Look for the tell-tale signs of a thriving blog. Feedburner chicklets indicate the number of subscribers while sitemeter and statcounter will sometimes make public the number of daily visits and other relevant statistics. In the case of advertising you may want to request a Google Analytics report.
Focus on bloggers who are self hosted and have their own domain name since this suggests a certain amount of investment into the site. At the same time it is important to remember that you are asking for free publicity. The blogger has to get something out of the transaction. What are you offering to the blogger?
Make the pitch to the blogger as to why your information is relevant to the audience. Again, I receive regular emails from various institutions and only rarely do I respond and it is even rarer that their information is featured on this site.
Finally, the energy expended trying to reach out to other social media sites should go into crafting your own content and figuring how to effectively utilize the many social networking tools that are available. Create your own audience and understand why it matters.
I guess that sounds like something that Chris Brogan or the countless other so-called social media experts might say.
Vicki found this document during her research into the Confederate Citizens and Business File in Footnote.com. This particular letter struck her as important and decided to pass it on to me, which I greatly appreciate. The letter was written by John D. Berry, Schuyler County, New York and sent to the governor of South Carolina, probably late 1860 or early 1861. Berry is listed as a (col) barber in Schuyler County.
Watkins, Schuyler Co. NY
To the Governor of South Carolina. Sir I hope you will excuse me for ben so forward in droping you a few lines. Sir I am no a Scoler. My dear parents Sent me to School & paid $3 per [ ] And There It would bee imposseble for me to Say more than one leson a day & Some times not that for Pregdise was So Strong in this Country Against the Colored rase that it was imposable for me to Get justice done me in School. Sir this was on the Acount of Slavery & the arguments that you Southern men are obliged to youse to kepe us back & to Corupt the whites of the norther States & this Sir you have done perty efeculy for Clay to Lead of with Compromise After Compromise & then all you have to do is to buy Dou fases & that you Did be guining with Webster[.] but Sir I respect Mr. Colhoun for we new where to find him & his corse wodent of Dun us as much harm as has ben dun us by Henry Clays Corse for if the South had declared Slavery to be the Eakual of Liberty then as now the blood which is to brake on you now wold of brok then in sted of now & the Crash would have been So great that it wold have cosed you and every other Slave holder to Shake with fear[.] your proclamation wodent Save you nor all the Governers in the Slave States. For we Abolitiones have got the North rite & Justice is to be Dun to all men kind north & South & like bfore quiet will come to this Government[.] this is so & you may as well begin one time as Another for the [ ] is rapidly at werk & your Proclomation is [ ] here at the north your bst [?] laff at it with the exception of Benet of the herald & we have Got him tite for he hasent Got eny Enfleuence[.] he is used up Sir & this is so[.] the Crises is upon you & you must Do my People Justice with the rest of mankind & this Sir will save you and your State will flourish & wax with wealth. I Dow respect Southern Gentlemen ten times ye one hundred times more than northern doufase for They Deceive Both north & South & you cant Depend on them[.] all they want is Ofise[.] Sir the South Dun rong when they Sanctioned the Outrage on Sumner it was Bad for you & it was bad for you when you Sanction the execution of J. Brown and his follower & Sustained Walker as the South and Administration did for you have made thousands of votes & people raise their voises & hart & hand Against you I mean your instituatain. But Sir the Day has come for the Deliverance of my people & now humane Agency Can prevent it[.] I thank God I am down on Slavery & in the words of Oconel when he first herd the idea of property in man it Sounded to him as if Some one was Stamping upon the Grave of his mother and so it Seams to me[.] I am for Liberty Every time & care not how it comes either with or with out blud shed[.] Yours for liberty
It looks like an elite unit of black Confederate soldiers was indeed trained during the war. Enjoy. In all seriousness, if you want to follow a very interesting line of inquiry that may result in a legitimate black Confederate soldier I urge you to check out this discussion thread. Kate Holleron is researching her great-great grandfather, who served in the 26th Tennessee Infantry. This is how serious research is done and I couldn’t be happier that this blog is assisting Kate in the research process.
This week my AP classes are tackling the various reform movements of the Antebellum Period. It should come as no surprise that we spend a great deal of time on the Abolitionist Movement and William Lloyd Garrison in particular. This morning I began class with a fairly vague question to get the ball rolling that asked students to assess Garrison’s philosophy and goals. Their responses are fairly typical and express a collective belief that Garrison ought to be admired for his perseverance and that his goals were laudable. There is nothing necessarily wrong with such a response, but we should not pass up the opportunity to work to understand Garrison’s place both within the broader anti-slavery community and the society as a whole. We do this by first sketching out the goals of the American Colonization Society, which united a broad swath of the population as well as notable political figures from around the country. I then asked students to think about the implications of their goals of gradual abolition followed by colonization; what do these goals tell us about how Americans viewed slavery and race. Most of the students were able to see that the program was intended to cause the least amount of harm to slaveowners while colonization suggests that many Americans were unable to imagine a racially integrated society. This is the context in which to understand Garrison:
On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hand of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.
This broader picture allows students to move beyond their own narrow interpretation of Garrison’s words and actions to a clearer understanding of the extent to which his understanding of race challenged the very foundations of American society. This move from the personal to the historical is the bread and butter of historical inquiry and it is important, but it should not constitute the end of any classroom discussion about Garrison and the radical abolitionists. [click to continue…]
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"Levin is both superb scholar and public historian, showing us a piece of the real war that does now get into the books, as well as into site interpretation.” –David W. Blight, Yale University