Working with the Media and Social Media
Use media to promote your project, cast a net for volunteers, and report on the benefits of archeology for the public.
News and Popular Media
Media might include television, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, letters, radio shows, or other formats. Public libraries are another forum, be they for archeologist talks, flyers, or special events. Sometimes a media opportunity will come to you. Other times, you will be responsible for getting the word out about a project. Consider contacting nationwide and local stations, but also think about the park website and NPS public relations as other opportunities.
If the media contacts you for more information or an interview, remember:
- Secure approval from your supervisor, Superintendent, and any others. See if they have guidance or topics to emphasize. Check with your park or regional public relations officer for help.
- Consider how much time you will have to speak, and plan accordingly. Will you be interviewed, which offers time to flesh out the topic? Or will the media outlet want a sound bite?
- Try not to be nervous! Practice what you want to say, maybe in front of a group of visitors or volunteers.
- Stay on-topic, emphasize the significance of the project, and the roles of the public.
- Put yourself in the viewers' or listeners' shoes. What is most exciting about the project? Why is outreach critical? Why are you pleased with the outcome?
One tool is the press release. Press releases can reach a broad audience and bring attention to a park's outreach programs. Consider using a press release to promote an upcoming exhibit or public program, to advertise for volunteers, or to report on a project. Here are some questions to guide writing a press release:
- What is the name of the park, contact information, and a contact person?
- What is the critical background information: the who, what, when, where, why, and how?
- What angle should be presented: Looking for volunteers? The data recovered? Accomplishments of a particular person or project?
- What is the significance of the project? In other words, what is your argument for why the media should take notice?
- How does outreach meet the NPS mission of resource stewardship and public appreciation?
Examples of press releases include:
- Grand Canyon to promote new exhibits (pdf) at Bright Angel Pueblo, and
- Chaco Culture to announce a new museum.
Try to keep the press release to a page in length. Consider style: speak to a layperson audience, but do not "dumb down" information.
Think broadly about media opportunities. Consider working with local tourism bureaus, chambers of commerce, museum networks, or others. Partnerships can also help to fund projects or provide volunteers. Building relationships with these groups can help establish the larger impact of park outreach on local economies and communities.
Sample press releases for archeology outreach are available on the Society for American Archaeology Outreach Materials for Media Contact webpage. Use these for ideas but be sure to consult with your NPS public relations representative.
Social media provides the NPS with another way to promote outreach activities and create networks of interested groups. Opportunities include Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and YouTube, but other platforms are available. Social media is both outreach and a way to spread news and information quickly about archeological outreach projects to a broad constituency.
Outreach through social media keeps the NPS in the public's mind. Uses for social media range from announcements about special events, to cancellations or closings, to reminders about things to do, to building communities of people with shared concerns for NPS resources. Consider creative applications; examples include sending trivia, question and answer sessions with a ranger, and scavenger hunts.
Depending on the needs of a park or program, consider carefully who should have access to the accounts. A large park, for example, may want to share responsibilities so that visitor services, emergency response, and the interpretation division can all update as needed. Change the passwords as necessary for security purposes.
Your site's internet capabilities and security requirements will have an impact on which social media opportunities are available to you. Partners can help by hosting and maintaining blogs, or running chats. Check with your supervisor or Superintendent to discern existing policies.
If you use social media to support archeological outreach at a park, program, or initiative, remember:
- Your words represent the NPS. Consider your words carefully, and make sure that they are appropriate for a broad and diverse set of readers.
- Social media sites require maintenance to make sure that information is current and accurate, spammers or trolls (aka internet troublemakers) have not posted inappropriate comments, and the content reflects the character of the park or program.
- Social media sites remove the real-world clues, such as facial expression, body language and pitch, that help to convey the meaning of your words in face-to-face conversation. Sarcasm, for example, is difficult to convey through social media and should be avoided.
- Be aware of privacy issues. Do not include personally identifiable information about yourself or any other NPS employees, volunteers, contractors, or others.
- If you are considering images of a NPS employee, volunteer, or intern at work for a social media site, you may wish to check with the individual first. An individual may not want their name, image, and place of work to be available by search engine or through social media.
Archeology-specific guidelines for social media sites include:
- Do not post locations of archeological sites or images that make finding a site easy.
- Cameras and smartphones may track the location of their users. As a result, images or text uploaded from an excavation site may compromise the security of the site by giving the exact location of a sensitive resource. Turn off geomapping or locational features, and/or use a program to scrub the metadata.
- Social media provides a way for the public to get to know the archeologists, but be careful not to reveal personal information. Remember that the archeologists - even if they are volunteers or interns - should be presented in a professional light.
- Updates might include new finds, archeological techniques in the field, announcements about public archeology days or exhibits, and interpretation of sites.
Examples of NPS social media sites include:
- Twitter: NatlParkService
- Facebook: National Park Service
- The NPS homepage has examples of podcasts, webcams, and interactive sites.
And in the parks and programs:
- Flickr: National Register of Historic Places
- Fort Vancouver National Historic Site: Field School Blog
- Virgin Islands National Park: Virgin Islands Archeology with the NPS and Friends