Tuesday, September 30, 2008

follow your audience: the chart cart

While at the Communications Network in Philanthropy conference last week, I heard about the Commonwealth Fund's "chart cart," an online communications tool that's a great example of using technology in an interactive way to meet your audience's day-to-day needs--and, in the process, positioning your organization as a trusted source willing to share what you know.

The idea's so simple and appealing, I'm wondering why I don't see it more often among Washington's policymaking organizations. The Commonwealth Fund's key audiences are health policy leaders, researchers and analysts, and the charts share data resulting from studies that the Fund supports, publishes or uses in its executives' speeches and testimony. Sharing the charts is a natural outgrowth of the Fund's dissemination efforts, and actually makes their job easier: There's no need to collect and respond to requests to share slides after a successful speech, yet they're putting data in the hands of people who want to share it with more audiences than they could reach. It creates opportunity for a wide range of secondary uses for presentation charts, from news media reporting on a topic to a ripple-effect created by researchers making presentations. Downloads are free, and available in PowerPoint or PDF formats; you can download a single chart, or create a customized collection of up to 40 slides at a time in the cart.

How to take this to the next level? First, consider what data collections you have that could advance your communications if shared with customers or colleagues. Then make them available online--and take it one step further by providing links to your data on a blog, Facebook page, or even on YouTube, where plenty of presentations are appearing.

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