HASTAC Communications: A Reflection
Over the 2017-18 academic year, I served as a communications intern for HASTAC@ASU. In this capacity, I regularly posted to the HASTAC Twitter, compiled and published monthly HASTAC newsletters, and sat in on several HASTAC team meetings. These roles, tasks, and experiences provided a unique and rewarding set of challenges I did not expect to encounter as a PhD student in Literature. Troubleshooting and solving various problems with members of the HASTAC@ASU communications team allowed for a collaborative learning experience unlike anything I have experienced as a graduate student.
The monthly HASTAC newsletters were a challenge in collaboration and communication, though through no fault of those involved in Nexus or across partner institutions. Working within Google Docs to compile the newsletter was a straightforward task, though moving the contents of the document into Drupal and MailChimp was far more difficult. If I was working alone, this would have been a tedious and frustrating task. Working with Liz Grumbach and Jenn Byron made the process more bearable in many ways. Aside from supportive and encouraging feedback with each newsletter, the communications team was able to make a complex and frustrating task into a successful newsletter every time.
The workflow between Google Docs, Drupal, and MailChimp is far more compex than it might seem to those of us outside of that process. There is nothing about it that is a simple copy/paste from one program to the next. In fact, most of our time collaborating on the Newsletters the day they went out was spent on re-formatting the newletter as it moved from Google Docs to Drupal to MailChimp. As taxing as a process as this was, having several of us working on it helped combat fatigue and frustration. We were able to troubleshoot problems, such as poorly formatted banners and paragraphs, with relative ease. I am certain that we would have all experienced various forms of meltdowns had we tackled these tasks independently.
Another main task was sending out tweets on the HASTAC Twitter account through Hootsuite. While far less cumbersome than the newsletter process, this task kept me up to date on HASTAC news, developments from partner institutions, recent publications in the DH community, and projects within ASU. If I did not have this task, I would likely have not paid any attention to these items. By posting tweets throughout most of the week, I also learned how to target audiences based on analytics. Tweets were sent out at specific times based on the highest volume of traffic to the HASTAC Twitter account. By looking at the likes and retweets, a clear picture began to crystallize of who constituted HASTAC’s audience for particular types of tweets. Leveraging these analytics for highest possible audience engagement is, to me, a valuable and vital skill as an academic. I can say with great confidence that working with Twitter has made an alt-ac career choice far more appealing that before the 2017-18 academic year.
In short, I would like to thank Nexus, IHR, and the HASTAC@ASU team for a rewarding and enriching experience. Without this experience, I would not have the necessary skills to manage social media accounts or construct effective and informative newsletters for academic organizations. These are increasingly vital skills for 21st century academics. I am thankful for the opportunity to work on these skills and pursue more careers options after completing my PhD in Literature. I am grateful for the support, encouragement, and experience gained by working with Jenn Byron, Liz Grumbach, and Prof. Jacqueline Wernimont.