Blog Entry 22: Advocacy and the Lone Arranger

Advocacy: it’s something we all want to do but when you’re all alone in an archive how do you even know where to begin? Chances are you are already engaged in advocacy activities without even realizing it! Every time you talk to a student about what an archive is, every time you give a tour of the archives areas, every time you mention the archives to an administrator, you are engaging in advocacy.

The key to a successful advocacy encounter is to appeal to the personal interests of the person(s) you are talking to. The way I talk about the archives to a Board member is vastly different then the way I talk about it to an undergraduate student. Is she or he a visitor to the museum? Talk about virtual exhibits. Are they a Board member? Talk about the activities that reflect positively on the institutions reputation. Talking to the Financial officer? Talk about the return on investment that the archives generate through donations or fees collected. Are they a Student? Talk about the research opportunities available.

At the heart of any advocacy statement is the importance of the archives. I want to highlight how the archives can benefit the person that I’m talking to. You want your advocacy speech to be concise, factual, and warm. You don’t want to sound rehearsed, but you do want to sound authoritative. I have memorized a series of facts about the archives: things like how many items are in the archive, when the collection was founded, key/important pieces, interesting factoids, etc. I couple the facts with directed information to customize the advocacy to the person(s).

While every encounter is an advocacy moment, not every moment will turn into a success. But don’t let a non-success keep you from reaching out. If one person out of one hundred responds positively then you have succeeded!

Michelle Ganz, CA
Lincoln Memorial University
Harrogate, TN