At the recent speeddating event I went on, people always ask what you do. I always have problems explaining what I do without using up at least 30secs of the 180secs. So I've recently found it easier to say I'm a BBC internet evangelist. Its not ideal but most people I speak to have a better idea of what I do because of the wording.
Christian wrote a excellent blog post about justifying the work we do. Theres some really good parts I would like to quote.
As an evangelist/advocate the hardest job is to tell people exactly what your impact was. A lot of what you do is planting mental seeds and inspiring people to work differently – that can’t be measured in hard figures. Other companies measure the success of an event for example by how many business cards were collected and have a department that follows these up by contacting people. I don’t like this much, first of all because a lot of the people I meet don’t have business cards but follow me on twitter instead and secondly because they gave me the card and not the company.
If you enjoy free information, swag, being able to directly reach internal experts and being able to network with a select group of like-minded people:
- please leave comments on the blogs/announcement pages of the events (in our case the YDN blog and upcoming – a lot of people only look there and don’t have time to scrounge the web for all the info.
- Use tags we provide at events to tag your photos, blog posts, tweets, videos…
- Tell us about cool implementations and changes in your company based on what we talked about – we are happy to feature those and send you link love and there is nothing cooler than telling the world how someone else but us have done something cool with our stuff
- If you sign up for an event – show up (or send a colleague). I am getting terribly sick of spending a lot of money to hire locations and have 150 sign up to the event in the first 10 minutes – effectively blocking out people that should be there – and then 20 show up! This is wasted time and money – and in the current climate that is not a clever thing to do.
I love my job and I am doing quite extensive work to make the IT industry understand that tech evangelism is not a waste of money but that there is a massive need for it. Marketing and PR departments just cannot reach geeks and internal geeks have neither the drive or the opportunities to talk to the world about the great things they do. I am very sure that innovation and change in IT is not coming from top down but from people who dare to talk to the right people to initiate change. As I put it in my talk at accessibility 2.0 geeks that care are the drivers of innovation and I don’t want to lose the opportunities we have right now.
Yes exactly this why I have had such a hard time with the PR and Marketing departments of the BBC. Luckily most of the time they have ignored Backstage but with the events we attracted a lot of attention. As most people know, I tried to educate our lovely PR lady Sarah by forcing her to read the Cluetrain Manifesto. That only works so far though, Christian is right the evangelist create opportunities at a grass roots level. I like to think PR and marketing is all about control while being an tech evangelist isn't, actually the opposite. We tend to tell it as it is and answer the tricky questions. But this is all about measuring success and yes its all about the stories. The stories when things grow from a small seed to something large and interesting. I guess being humans, we like stories. Stories put things in perspective for ourselves. Maybe this translates into a slide on a managers powerpoint between the hard figures of other projects. Or even a example for how successful a project or division is doing but at a much lower level, the links are tighter, stronger and true that ever before. Theres no way to measure these more human like attributes such as trust yet, but the day there is, I bet ever company will come around to the fact that evangelist are good long-term business sense.