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TechTank

How organizations with a message can leverage the Internet

Disruptive technologies have transformed the publishing industry by enabling new and diverse groups of people to be content creators. Blogs, for example, long ago became credible sources of information. Likewise, one only needs to think of big independent names on Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, and Medium among others to appreciate the way that social media has changed what it means to be a publisher. Interestingly though, many institutions that already had strong credibility pre-2000 have been reluctant to enter the world of content, but are instead entirely relying on others to publish their materials. In particular organizations like advocacy groups, universities, corporations, and foundations among others could make valuable contribution to the conversation.

This past weekend, my colleague George Burroughs and I presented at SXSW representing The Brookings Institution. Specifically, we spoke about two digital products our Communications Department has developed: The Brookings Essay and visual storytelling through online video.

New content at Brookings

The Brookings Essay is an example of some of the best immersive storytelling available on the web today. To do it, we have a cross-functional team of existing staff in our Central Communications Department made up of designers, promoters, and web developers who work with authors from concept to implementation. It is unusual at Brookings for our Communications staff to develop content alongside a writer but such is the nature of building digitally native products. Likewise with video, as you might expect, our creative leads and developers are more involved with the scholars than we are with written research, supporting them throughout the process. A good video takes a minimum of six weeks to put together and requires an array of staff to build and promote.

Both products attempt to immerse readers in research by crafting an enticing narrative. Part of Brookings mission is to create high quality objective research that has impact. The Brookings Essay and our videos are just two examples of how our communications work as well as research, is fulfilling that mission. All authors want to have an impact whether emotionally or intellectually, and if it inspires the reader/viewer to action, even better. The web has made it possible for all different kinds of publishers to achieve these sorts of objectives.

An exceptional content creating organization

Brookings is made up of more than 100 scholars in DC and more than 200 around the world. They produce between 50 and 100 pieces of original content every week. Brookings is exceptional as an organization that generates large amounts of content but is not a traditional publisher. But now that the Internet has democratized publishing Brookings has the capacity to assert its relevancy to any targeted audience.

Brookings work in this space is being recognized in a variety of ways, whether by presenting at SXSW or by having our staff hired away by traditional publishers like The Washington Post. More organizations can step into this space and take control over their own message and most importantly their own stories

Author

David Nassar

Vice President, Communications - The Brookings Institution

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