Skip to content

Four P’s of Digital Project Outreach

2013 August 1
by Sheila

The first version of this cheat sheet was prepared for a talk given at the NEH, ODH Project Directors’ meeting (September 2012). I revised it in its current form for the Another Week | Another Tool ODH Summer Institute, July 2013, and is available also as a Google Doc: .


  • is intentional;
  • is integral to a tools/project’s success. Outreach team must be equal stakeholders in the building process;
  • is not only about publicity, the job includes testing and making the tool accessible to targeted audiences;
  • is user advocacy.

Four components of a good outreach strategy:
Plan | People | Presence | Press


  1. Outreach is intentional, it requires a plan (most grant programs require you have one, too):
    Articulate primary audiences, secondary audiences
    Create user scenarios.
  2. Learn about those audiences: where do they go for information, how can you best reach them.
    How can you best teach them about the tool later?
    Think about online and analog ways to reach people.
  3. Plan to extend outreach duties well beyond the official launch of the prototype/tool/software: workshops, demos, support.


  1. Outreach must be someone’s job.
  2. Outreach folks must be equal stakeholders in the building process, and are identified as the project begins. This job is not over even after a grant ends…unfortunately.
  3. Outreach must be involved in testing, and in UX/UI advocating for intended users during development.
    Test like you know nothing about the project.


  1. Establish and maintain a stable, digital presence for the project immediately.
    • Name the Tool–do some research on alternative meanings for names (check Urban Dictionary).
    • Buy domains…try to scoop up as many as you can once you’re committed to a name.
    • Grab the twitter handle.
    • Design a logo and start using it.
    • Build a project website, and only launch the site when you have content and something to say. Pages must contain words and sentences! Do not expound about the PIs CV. Focus on what it is, what it does, what it can do, and who on TEAM is building, creating, testing.
    • Start a blog for regular project updates, process posts, celebrations
  2. Teach others how to use the tool with online Documentation. User guides help teach new users how this works (different formats WP pages, a Wiki, GitHub pages).
  3. Give users a place to ask questions and give feedback
    Appropriateness depends on users, scope of possible questions, level of technical knowledge required:
    Omeka devs’ (Google Group) | End User Forums (BBPress) | Contact form for Net | Anthologize End Users (Google Group) | Anthologize Devs (Google Group)
  4. Together with project managers and developers set goals and be ready to release/launch on those dates.
    Perhaps you want to debut at a big conference or another significant event. Hard deadlines are good.


  1. Before a release, prepare your publicity.
  2. Give press previews to new tool by finding a writer, podcaster who might speak to your intended audiences.
  3. Blog progress and launch news, tweet it, get others to retweet.
  4. Incorporate electronic, print, social media, in-person. You may have institutional public affairs officers who can help.
  5. Prepare analog stuff: Showcase your logo, your URL and let folks show their support for your project w/a sticker, bookmark, pen, mug.
    Bookmarks can be cheap (500, 4-color, 1-color on backside, under $100 w/shipping).


  • Answer emails, phone calls.
  • Check forums regularly.
  • Respond to questions.
  • Incorporate user feedback into the tool.
  • Present at conferences.
  • Give a workshop.
  • Encourage others to use it and teach others.
  • Leave a SWAG trail when you travel.

Selected dh+lib Review, Editor’s Choice Resource, August 6, 2013.

Selected by DHNow as an Editors’ Choice Resource, August 13, 2013

2 Responses leave one →
  1. August 14, 2013

    Great resource! I’d add, too, that for scholarly digital projects, making the conference (and unconference) rounds is also key. It’s just not suffcient — some scholars might be tempted to present at one conference and let it go at that, whereas they should instead do all you describe above and then also talk about the project at multiple conferences (and, of course, unconferences). I remember well how packed the house was at EDUCAUSE when Trevor Owens first presented Zotero. It’s a form of press, really . . .

    • Sheila permalink*
      August 14, 2013

      Yes, totally, that is why I list “conferences” in the plural and encourage giving workshops as part of the follow-through. Of course, what you are sharing makes a difference too. We gave a lot of workshops and demo’d Omeka at many conferences.

Leave a Reply

Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /home/sheilabr/public_html/ on line 65

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS