Dana Healy: What Did We Learn? 2019 ACM Conference Debrief

Updated: Feb 29, 2024

ACM PDX picture at ACM Northeast

By Dana Healy, Executive Director, CTV North Suburbs

Original Post Date, July 19, 2019

All photos provided by Dana Healy

“What can we learn from this?” Conferences are a valuable tool to bring information back to our organization and create more impact for our stakeholders. You need a space to debrief after an experience like that. Here’s my take on the 2019 ACM conference.

1. Massachusetts Shows Up

This was my first year representing the Midwest. Since moving, I haven’t had the chance to see my community media peers for over a year. A huge portion of the attendees were Mass residents!

What can we learn from this?

Massachusetts has a strong momentum in recruiting political support through the Senate and the House for our efforts to stop the FNPRM on the FCC’s August agenda. The Midwest and the rest of the country need to work even harder to get our reps to sign on for support. Sigh, always an uphill battle.

2. Focus is Better than Broad
The Strategic Leadership and Change in Community Media was by far the VIP of the conference sessions (no disrespect to the other sessions, I presented too). I’ll be referencing it quite a bit. Matt Schuster, the Executive Director of Public Media Network asked the packed session room if it was better for an organization to be narrowly focused, or broader in its mission. No hands went up for either question. People were unsure.

What can we learn from this?

We need to get back to the basics regarding nonprofit management. Schuster says, “It’s important to first make sure the organization mission is strongly crafted and focused."
A well-conceived mission statement should:

  • Be Focused
  • Solve an unmet public need
  • Leverage distinctive skills
  • Guide trade-offs
  • Inspire and be inspiring
  • Timeless
  • Be Sticky

Oh my. So many things! Just in a mission! Getting back to the roots of how a traditional nonprofits have developed and crafted their missions would be a great step for many of us. As you move forward, use your mission statement as a guidepost to keep focused in your initiatives. “Does this opportunity align with our mission? Are we staying focused?”

3. Tools Keep Websites Nimble

We need video content on our websites to stay relevant. This past year, almost twice as many people left traditional cable compared to 2017. The more content we put on the web, the heavier our websites are, making loading times slower. The Cablecast Reflect tool keeps the website light, and quickly loading. Bryan Harley, Executive Director of CMAC, educated us about the Cablecast REFLECT tool which integrates with Cablecast SX, Flex and VIO video servers. Cablecast REFLECT will pull the files and streams from both the Cablecast LIVE and VOD video servers and send them out to your audience. After CTV’s massive website redesign, we leaned into aggregating all of our videos onto custom landing pages for our cities. Tools like this have made that possible.

What can we learn from this?

There are tools that are already available to us with vendors that we currently utilize. Deeper education into what our vendors are offering is a strong move.

4. Impact vs Output

Hours of programming we create has always been a go-to metric. I will be dropping that metric and trading in true impact assessment because of Chad Johnson’s presentation. Chad Johnson of CreaTV in San Jose, California, brought some serious value to the conversation about impact measurement. It is obvious that we, as community media centers, are not doing enough in this department.

What can we learn from this?

To reach the heart strings of donors, we need to tell an impact story with people. Instead of measuring output of programming hours, we need to measure how that programming impacts lives. I will be adopting a simple assessment at the beginning of an internship, and then one at the end to assess knowledge.

5. Even if Everything is Great: DisruptMar

Marty Jones, Former CEO of MetroEast Media Center in Portland, Oregon, inherited a “warm cherry pie out of the oven” speaking about MetroEast. His organization was strong, and well-funded. He still put into action numerous initiatives like building out a new location.

What can we learn from this?

Sometimes the best time to disrupt is when you have the money, support, and bandwidth to do so. So, do that now!

6. News Deserts = Opportunity for Community Media

The Local News Needs and the Role of PEG Channels dove into how three channels are executing news programs. Erica Jones, the Director of Institutional Advancement at Somerville Media Center gave me a light bulb moment. Educate the new volunteers about media consolidation at the jump! Informing new volunteers about the need for diverse voices in our community so they understand the “why” behind the “what” of what they were doing.

What can we learn from this?

Capitalize on the attention and enthusiasm that new volunteers or members have with your organization by educating them about the importance of what community media does.

7. If you Don’t Promote, it’s like it Never Happened

Also at the News session, Mike Johnson the Executive Director of CCX Media, spoke about the media strategy behind the news creation. The CCX Media audience is huge! Check out their Facebook audience at 5,400 followers! We’re gaining on you, CCX! As it gets larger, the growth is happening more rapidly.

What can we learn from this?

Audience begets audience. The more people engage with your content, the more their friends will see it and follow. How do we get there? Consistency and patience.

8. Trying Something New

I had the opportunity to present in the Community Media Centers: Poised to Prosper panel. CTV North Suburbs is really flipping the script on the elimination of public access facilities. I was so nervous to announce that we were abandoning access to facilities, something we have had for thirty years. It was met with mixed reviews.

Dissension ignites conversations, which is what I wanted to do.

What can we learn from this?

There are no one size fits all approach to community media. What works for CTV North Suburbs, may not work for you, but you should still learn as much as possible about what is working for other centers.

9. Networking is a Lot of Work

I attended the ACM solo. I make it a personal goal to meet as many new people as possible, learn what challenges they are experiencing and what successes they have had. It is by far the best education, but it is a lot of work! As an introvert, I run out of energy with this kind of output. But, I strongly believe as veterans in community media, we need to make it our duty to engage and mentor the upcoming generations, learn from them, and include them.

What can we learn from this?

Everyone is feeling the same as you. They want to make the connections, but may not have the bandwidth to do so. Be the first to reach out.

Other items of note:

The awards lunch during the week instead of the last day was an excellent change. There was a packed house to appreciate our leaders.

Vendors showed up in strong support. Some unique raffle prizes like a bass guitar from Municipal Captioning was pretty cool. Smaller raffle prizes so winners can pack them into their carry-on would be fantastic!

Bring sweaters and sweatshirts. The AC was blasting!

People like karaoke, and there are many talented singers in our field.

What was your take on the conference? I would love to hear your take-aways! See you next year in Chicago!

This post was originally published on Healy’s Linked in profile. Find the original post and here and connect with Healy on LinkedIn to get updates on her future posts. 

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