Business Archives Roundtable and Colloquium

Business Archives Colloquium, Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Business Archives Section Meeting, Friday, August 14, 2014
Guest Author Jennifer Johnson

The focus of the Business Archives Section this year has been advocacy. This was brought on by the layoffs of the Target Corporation’s Archivist and Historian in 2013, and the section trying to understand how best to advocate for its members in this and similar future situations.

The first step was creating an Advocating for Business Archives Toolkit, which includes the following sections.  This site may be closed to non-members, so I’ve also included some of the links here:

The second step was having attendees share successful advocacy stories.

The third step was having a panel of non-archivists at the colloquium present on their perception of business archives and how we can best advocate for our organizations.  The panelists included Leah Rogers, Nationwide Insurance, Natalie Zmuda, Ad Age, and Richard Gomes, Citigroup.  Here are the highlights from this panel:

  • Use heritage as a platform to tell stories about who your company (organization) is, what are its values, and what are its relationships to customers and consumers (users)?
  • PR/Marketing folk aren’t always comfortable with an archivist as spokesperson because we’re not media trained, ask to be media trained.
  • Focus on heritage and assets rather than marketing the archives.
  • Rethink your metrics
    • How did you help part of your organization earn sales credit?
    • What is your influence?
    • Where did you help the organization save money?
    • How much money did your organization save by using you instead of an outside resource? Sell yourself as an internal service; we are providing research, access to information, and knowledgeable staff.
    • Focus on meeting the business needs of your organization
    • We support brand equity, improve morale and retention rates, and create shareholder goodwill.
  • Understand your market and create an opportunity for the archives, show them what they need in their language
  • How to work with PR and journalists
    • Do the legwork on a story, what’s the hook?
    • Explore numerous potential outlets for sharing a good story
    • Look beyond print, and include images, video, and audio where possible to illustrate a story
    • Create social media content, many organizations try to reach audiences on a daily basis and need content

Lastly, the Section conducted an advocacy survey among members in January-February, 2014, with three goals:

  • Ensure Steering Committee is focused on members
  • Understand members’ perspectives on advocacy
  • Help guide future Steering Committee efforts on advocacy

62 out of the Section’s 300+ members responded to the survey, which is about 20% of the membership and not necessarily a representative sample of the group. Key findings of the respondents:

  • Most are focused on internal organizational advocacy, or inreach, versus external advocacy
  • They voted the top two roles of the section as networking and continuing education
  • They have expectations of the Section and SAA to advocate for other business archivists, particularly if the archives is in jeopardy of being closed

What followed was a discussion of the validity of the survey, given the low response rate, and how best to proceed when a situation as the one faced by the Target Corporation Archivist and Historian occurs in the future.  What was clear to Section meeting attendees is that the response to Target by the Issues and Advocacy Roundtable (letter sent 2013), without input by the Business Archives Section, was the wrong step to take.  There was consensus that SAA should have responded to the Corporation directly, much as they did in the instance of the closing of the Georgia Archives, or the defunding of the NHPRC. What is also clear is the Section needs to communicate its needs better to both the I&A Roundtable and SAA leadership when circumstances like this occur in the future.

The Section leadership may not have learned what they hoped to from the advocacy survey, but the discussion about it was lively.

Follow the Business Archivists on Social Media:  Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter @BASarchivists


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