How inclusive is your digital media?

I recently wrote a blog for Rotary Voices on the concept of conscious inclusion and how we can make our meeting venues and service opportunities more inclusive and welcoming of people with different needs and backgrounds.

A female smiling Rotarian with brown hair, wearing glasses and a safety vest, carrying a Rotary logo sign
Rotarian Kate McKenzie welcoming guests at Sydney airport for 2014 Rotary Convention

Similar principles apply to our digital media assets such as our websites and social media presence. On the one hand, digital devices can be a great source of empowerment for people with disabilities affecting hearing or speech. Screen readers help people with vision impairment. People who are not able to type can use dictation tools. As video becomes more popular, however, barriers are emerging again. Simple practices such as adding visually descriptive captions for images (Alt Text) and including transcriptions of audio content can combat this. This requires a little more effort, but as technology keeps improving, websites have inbuilt prompts to include Alt Text and automated transcription tools are becoming cheaper and easier to use. A little human oversight is important to avoid errors, however.

Making our websites and social media a safe and welcoming place for minority communities can help us to attract new members and deliver better projects. A no tolerance policy towards racial, religious or gender-based harassment is essential. Actively engaging online with groups that may be underrepresented in our local Rotary clubs not only connects us with our local communities it also links us with the wider world of Rotary. Acknowledging holidays celebrated by diverse communities is a start. We can also follow blogs and pages that represent different voices to learn and engage.

Considering the needs of vulnerable people when we communicate is also good practice. Sometimes we need to talk about issues in society that may be a trigger for persons who have suffered trauma, so approaching such topics sensitively and avoiding graphic languages or images is important. One tip is to include a local helpline when discussing issues such as suicide, violence, sexual assault and disasters.

As someone who uses digital media daily, I haven’t got this right yet. I’d like to learn more and improve my practice so that I can be more inclusive of my community. If you have some tips, please share them.

Resources:

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/

Web Accessibility Toolkit http://accessibility.arl.org/standards-best-practices/

Online Hate Prevention Institute http://ohpi.org.au

By Kate McKenzie

LinkedIN Director Rotarians on Social Networks Fellowships

https://www.facebook.com/rotariankatemckenzie/

https://www.facebook.com/ewa.rotary/

https://twitter.com/explorepromote

linkedin.com/in/kateleannemckenzie

Why Social Media Can’t Be Left to Your PR Director

I have often met Rotary leaders who have nodded thoughtfully when I have explained the benefits of social media and then said “I will get my PR Director to do that”. Although it is important to have division of labour and leaders with the right skills concentrating on the right tasks, social media doesn’t work if it is the sole responsibility of one person alone. In order for something to be social, more than one person has to participate. Of course, not everyone has the confidence to be the main content creator and it is important that the person responsible for managing the club or district pages is able to create the right tone and use their creativity to attract the public’s attention. It can be a very lonely task, however, if that creativity goes unnoticed and unsupported by fellow club members.

Social media works as a PR tool because likes, shares and comments spread the original message beyond the creators own immediate network and into the networks of friend’s friends . If I have 100 friends, and 20 friends like, share, comment on or retweet my post, that will have a greater impact than if only 2 friends did the same.

Stone Skipping
Likes, comments and shares help a post to travel across the web

I often use the analogy of stone skimming or stone skipping, where the stone is a post or update and the world wide web is the pond. If a post doesn’t receive any likes, comments, retweets and shares then it drops straight to the bottom of the web, never to be seen again. Each like, comment, retweet and share helps the post to travel just that little bit further and each splash can attract the attention of new people as it makes it’s way across the web.

Rotary clubs and districts can make the most of the talents of their enthusiastic and creative marketing/PR Directors by empowering them to be the key content creator, while also ensuring that it is the responsibility of all members to be content sharers.

Another example is events. Have you ever walked past an empty restaurant and decided not to go in? The same thing happens for Facebook events- people don’t join events that look empty. If you receive an invitation from your club or district, respond to it. If you can’t attend, invite your other friends before you decline but also leave a short note expressing your regrets and encouraging others to join the fun.

To build your confidence in sharing content, log into the system and observe what other people do. Ask questions in the Rotarians on Social Networks member groups (make sure you join at http://rosnf.net first). Keep your comments positive and always apply the four way test. Set yourself a goal of logging in and responding to event invites and sharing club news at least once a week. Or invest in a smartphone so you can do it on the move. Your PR Director will be much happier, but more importantly your network is likely to become more aware of and engaged in your Rotary activities and over the medium to long term this will convert to new members, funds and support.