I mentioned in the last blog what my big plan is to continue with my oral history experiment.
(Please note the last word. For PR and Marketing people this is The Age of the Experiment. Everything we do with the new media, with Web 2.0 is an experiment. We are in perpetual beta. Footnote everything with: “Subject to Change.”)
It occurred to me that if the old cassette tape interviews were gold, and they are, then why are we not mining more gold?
So, I’m assembling a band of students, staff and freelancers and preparing them for our Alumni Weekend. We’ll descend upon our returning alumni like low-key locusts armed with digital audio recorders, video cameras and still cameras.
We’ll interview the hell out of them.
And they will enjoy it. They’re the easiest audience in the world. If they didn’t love the school, they wouldn’t be returning to Alumni Weekend. Part of the reason they return is to share memories and stories.
I’ll come up with an outline of questions for the students so we’re consistent with all the interviewees, but I’m pretty sure once they start talking, the interviewer can just set back and let the digital equipment do all the work.
The secret here is that I don’t want to dig too deep. I want whatever comes to them – the friends, the way of life during their time here, what they did for entertainment, what the food was like (if they haven’t blocked it out), favorite professors, pranks, athletic games.
We do, by the way, have an alumna coming who just celebrated her 101st birthday.
I’m looking to haul back as much oral gold as I found with the old cassettes. I’d like to interview at least 20 alumni. If they talk for an hour, we’ll break the shows up into 20 minute segments and end up with 60 shows.
Why do it? Well, if you’re in alumni or fund raising, you’ve got a whole bunch of happy alumni. If you’re in public relations, you have more people adding to the history of your institution.
The 70s-80s interviews are being downloaded everyday across the country and 10 different countries around the world. So as the word gets around to the alumni’s family, friends, other alumni, local historians and others, these interviews will be popular as well.
The message to these alumni is this: You’re important to us. You’re important enough that we want to listen to you, record you and post it to our website where your story, told by you, will live forever.
Give it some thought for your school. I know you’re stretched thin. Everyone is.
You don’t need one more project. No one does.
But this project will outlive us by generations.