Wednesday, January 17, 2007

To add value, we have to begin talking

I think for us pretty simple: if we want to work with communities, we better start talking to communities.

This is one reason behind our push to increase our efforts on the ground by adding the number of field offices, partnering with local groups, and reaching out to community/civic leaders. Basically, we're betting that a centralized, top down approach to conservation (similar to politics and entertainment) is safely on it's way out. And while the old web was about "web site, clicks, and 'eyeballs,' the new web is about communities, participation, and peering" (I'm reading Wikiomics and loving it so far).

Our community-centric approach may be a shift in perspective, but for the web it's exactly what we should be doing. If we want to be leaders in the river movement, we need to add value to the existing conversations. And if they aren't happening (and they don't appear to be), we need to create value by starting the dialogue. Last month, Blogging for meaningful discourse, I wrote about our need to define blogging for us. What does it mean? How do we proceed? What do we say?

Fortunately, we're starting to address these questions with our review of the website wireframes. Our homepage design currently boasts a 'hot topics" section that is probably the best real estate on the page. For this corner of the website, this is where I hope we can define blogging, create a voice, and shape the conversation around communities and their rivers (and of course our campaigns).

How that will take shape is not very clear, but the internal organizing and political positioning for our effort to "talk" online has begun. In the web corner, we have two confirmed bloggers and we're working on two more. Prior to the launch of our redesign site on April 1st (our goal), I hope to have several posts in the can and eight committed bloggers.

I think a happy hour session on blogging (I'm through with brown bag lunches!) and what it means for us will be in the mix for January.

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