When I lived in New York, one of the focal points of my entertainment year was the Israel Film Festival. My friends and I, pre-Hulu, pre-Netflix, pre-much-of-anything-other-than-mainstream-modes-of-entertainment, eagerly anticipated the annual display of Jewiness-on-film meets Zionism, the Jewish geography and Hebrew immersion experience that was the Festival. We all knew when the Festival was happening, where it was happening and what was playing. I remember that most of the shows were sold out well in advance, because of the collective New York Israel-loving-and-missing community, many of us in our twenties. We planned outings, doing dinner or drinks first at a local bar or on several occasions, sinking into New York cliche with frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity, which had the convenience of being nearby the theater.
And all of that was before social media.
Since I moved to LA, I’ve either been out of town for the IFF (my fault, but usually because I’m in Israel), or have been in town but have been unaware that it’s happening. This doesn’t seem possible, as I spend most of the day online and connected to the Jewish world. I follow the IFF on Twitter, and subscribe to their FB page, as well as email blasts from the Jewish Journal and the IAC. This year, one of my friends posted about it on Facebook. But if not for that, I might have woken up someday next week and learned that I had missed it yet again.
Theoretically, in this age of hyper-connectivity, I should have been overwhelmed with communications regarding the IFF, both in advance and once it was underway. So why wasn’t I? Part of the problem is that communications are overwhelming generally – since I rarely pick up a copy of the Jewish Journal and read only selected articles online, it’s not the mainstream media that’s the problem as much as it is the evolving way we consume that information. And it might be, in part, because their social media presence is so minimal and they are failing to mobilize the audience (and their sponsors) as brand ambassadors and PR agents.
Because Facebook is an inexplicable mystery when it comes to assessing the potential for organic reach without advertising (and because they should be advertising to LA Jews and don’t seem to be), let’s take a look at the Twitter account for @israelfilmfest.
Their account, since November 2009, has tweeted 121 times. They have under 1000 followers. Most of the “people” they’re “following” on Twitter aren’t people at all: they’re other Film Festivals (who are not likely to share, retweet or publicize the IFF’s efforts) and organizations (some partners, who should be sharing/retweeting/publicizing, but don’t seem to be). And – most disturbingly – only have tweeted 5 times in the month of October, precisely when tweets should have been, if not fast and furious, then laden with information, tempting offers and tidbits about the festival’s films. The website links to a few pieces about the Festival, but imagine the reach of those pieces expanded by social media…
This advice is unsolicited. But because I love the Festival, I’m sharing some tips about how to do it better next year (or at the other two outings of the festival, upcoming in Miami and New York….but don’t ask me when those are or were, since that info doesn’t seem to be on the IFF website).
1. Use your assets in promoting the festival. The filmmakers. The content of their work. Their actors. People in LA who are Israeli or support Israeli culture. Local kosher/Israeli establishments. Festival partners. Organizations who aren’t financial sponsors, but could be content partners. And the organizers should have shot wide in terms of the angles that could be explored for coverage. For instance:
- People who are in the know about Israeli music get giddy at the fact that Meir Fenigstein founded and runs the Festival, it’s like being in the same room with one of the Beatles. Why isn’t there an article about Poogy/Kaveret, or about the music of Israeli films?
- Fenigstein told a story at the screening of “The Go-Go Boys” about Menahem Golan’s role in suggesting and sponsoring the first IFF. Why wasn’t that a first-person piece (or an interview) in the Jewish Journal, Variety, THR, The Writer’s Guild, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, or EW?
- Cannon Films, the Golan/Globus production company that became huge in the 80s and is the focus of The Go-Go Boys,” producing Death Wish, Bloodsport & Breakin’, must have inspired dozens of filmmakers (in addition to Eli Roth, who is featured in the film). Maybe pitch Quentin Tarantino on writing something about his favorite Cannon Films outing, or invite Eli Roth to introduce the film at the Festival? (They may have, but these are the types of ideas I mea when I say “shooting wide…” in regard to PR.)
2. Enhance your social media presence. Ideally, hire someone (or designate a web-savvy volunteer) to coordinate a multi prong social media approach, including (at minimum) Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. But I know sometimes Jewish nonprofits can’t allocate those funds, in which case less ideal but still a plan, hire a consultant to create a plan for you to implement before during and after the festival. And that’s #3…
3. Create a content plan, including a commitment to Tweeting regularly leading up to and during the festival. In addition to varying the types of content posted (trivia, Q&A about the festival or its films, short video clips, shoutouts to filmmakers, links to purchase etc), this content plan should also clearly identify the goals of each week’s social media outreach. Which week will be primarily about promotion and identifying potential partners/sponsors? Which week will be about getting people in the seats? Which week will be about celebrating the people who come and the energy on-site? (That there are NO PHOTOS on the Photos tab on the website as of November 2 – a week into the festival with almost a week to go – is not a good sign.)
Keeping Twitter current and active on its own (or even using magical Facbeook advertising) isn’t necessarily going to sell out the festival. But today, there are so many (free or mostly free) tools that are available – why not use them?
(If the folks at the IFF want help with this next year, they can feel free to be in touch. I’ll give them a decent rate, I promise. :))
I’d love for this to be an instructional story about how to effectively request and obtain Divine intervention that yields a traffic-free journey between cities in Southern California. It’s not. But the trip between San Diego and Los Angeles did provide me with a fascinating experience of gratitude that wasn’t quite prayer, and yet, wasn’t NOT prayer. As it happened, I knew I had to write about it.
Luckily, one of my clients, ELI Talks (who is hosting FREE live, TED-style talks in NYC next week – see this link for all details and registration info), provided the inspiration with an online conversation on God that had me asking some questions about prayers and where they go, once uttered.
Driving back from a social media training in San Diego to Los Angeles before the High Holidays, I felt something move through me. I turned down the radio and began to speak words aloud. “I am grateful,” I began, adding simple phrases until they became sentences of gratitude. Spontaneous, uncomplicated gratitude, so large that I had to speak it aloud even with no audience to listen and applaud, hadn’t happened to me a lot in my life. It sounded like prayer, albeit (my inner writer scolded) a not-so liturgically or poetically-compelling one.
But who was I talking to? God? My ancestors? A muse? Or, as many say in California, “the energy of the universe”? It felt like I had written an important letter, but had failed to address the envelope, or was sending to an email address that had been discontinued. Who would even hear this expression of thanks, this gratitude for things ranging from family to the completely appreciated lightness of traffic, from the laughter I received during my presentation to feeling the sunshine on my arm as I drove? Where was God? And did it matter? Or was it important to express the gratitude regardless of whether or not it was directed at anyone (or Anyone)?
Read the entire piece at eJewishPhilanthropy.com. And as always, please feel free to share any feedback…
As a producer and consumer of print and online media – and one who subscribes to far too many print magazines, as the pile in my home testifies – I’m always interested when a new magazine perceives a market and emerges. In a world increasingly reigned by “online” and “free,” what goes into the decision to create something new with a paywall that also has a print component (which raises costs considerably)?
I learned about The California Sunday Magazine months ago through some writers’ networks I’m involved with – their goal was to make a beautiful magazine that focused squarely on California (a big state with lots of different areas of industry, so no lack of stories there). And what was interesting to the members of the writers’ network was, unlike most startup magazines, there was no call to submit for free, which usually looks like “you guys, we’re starting a great new magazine – no pay right now, but great exposure when we launch with potential to be assigned paying pieces when we get funded in the next three years…” Writers were promised competitive rates for their work (and the masthead of professional writers and editors speaks to that). What a concept.
The California Sunday Magazine premiered today, written in a congenial tone, with (not so many – 3 features, five shorts and one “miniseries,” punctuated by “commissioned content” from brands and companies) articles running the gamut from farming to this piece about Anne Rice, author of Interview with the Vampire and so many more novels (who now lives in Palm Desert). It’s currently monthly, although they aim to go twice-monthly, and then eventually weekly. You get 3 articles for free, then they ask for your support. The lowest level of support is $39.99 a year, but print copies will be in “select Sunday copies of the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Sacramento Bee.” The management promises, “one-hundred percent of your Fan contribution goes directly to writers and artists.” (That’s something.)
What’s “Ranch-Style” Social Media? Good question…well, it has little to do with the creamy dressing that people use to dip hot wings and occasionally vegetables into, and everything to do with the location of my last social media training .
I was honored to have been invited by the folks at See3 Communications to be part of the social media boot camp they were conducting for the Leichtag Foundation, a foundation whose mission it is to honor the legacy of Lee and Toni Leichtag through igniting and inspiring vibrant Jewish life, advancing self-sufficiency and stimulating social entrepreneurship in coastal North San Diego County and Jerusalem. The event was held Monday, September 15, at the Leichtag-run ranch in Encinitas (near San Diego), where a number of social entrepreneurship programs and Jewish organizations also were headquartered under an initiative called the North County Jewish Hub. (You can view tweets, photos & vines from the day at #NCJHub.)
My presentation on Twitter provided some best practices, as well as some examples of what constitutes good engagement (like the @midnight #HashtagWars) and what constitutes a Twitter #fail (for instance, the recent DiGiorno’s #WhyIStayed snafu).
The media session provided lots of hints about how to approach – and most importantly, develop ongoing relationships with – members of the media, to maximize your chances of getting coverage for an event or organization.
Thanks for your patience while we worked out some technical challenges with EstherK.com – I’m looking forward to bringing you more writing, advice and food for thought in this space over the next few months, and hope you’ll be here to think, learn and laugh with me. Until the fresh content is fully baked, I wanted to share these two videos with you.
I’ve started working as freelance community manager for ELI Talks, a program designed to bring TED-style talks and weekly on-air conversations to people who want to explore Jewish engagement, literacy and identity. Most of the time, I’m behind the camera, live-tweeting the weekly conversations (you can see past editions at the ELI Talks website under the section for ELI Talks on Air). But my first run was as an intervieweee – I spoke about my writing on everything from Jewish singles to life after loss; and my next one was as an interviewer, as I spoke to the guys behind the Jewish video site Shmideo. (The links in the previous sentence will take you to MyUrbanKvetch, for the minute-by-minute breakdown, in case you’d like to see a part of the video without sitting down to watch the entire thing. :))
More content to come – looking forward to sharing with you in this space soon! (And a happy Jewish new year to those of you who are celebrating…)
This week was simply mad – a personal essay in the JTA (commonly known as the AP of the Jewish world) about loss, focusing on a ring that was my mother’s; I attended my lovely and moving good-bye party at work; a new part-time job came together which enables me to shift into new styles of writing (more to come on that later); and over this weekend, was mentioned in an article in the New York Times about the Modern Loss site, to which I had contributed a piece titled “Deleting My Mother.” (As an extra bonus moment of glee, the Times referred to me as “founder of the blog My Urban Kvetch,” a mention I never would have imagined when I founded it ten years ago.)
Earlier in March, I read a piece about improv inspiring creativity at Jewish nonprofits, and decided to take it one step further with this piece, “Yes-And’ing Our Way to Organizational Progress.”
This past weekend was also the Jewish holiday of Purim, which is typically marked by celebration and comedic performances, including something called a “Purim shpiel” – generally this highlights the story of Purim in some way, but the spiritual community known as IKAR treats the “shpiel” time as an opportunity to lampoon the community itself. This is my second year on the writing team for the Shpiel, and one of my two contributions was a parody of pharmaceutical commercials, but treating IKAR itself as the drug. (The other one, a Yiddish-inflected parody of “Roar,” by Katy Perry, isn’t posted yet.) There’s a lot of inside comedy, but I think it still plays to others. Check it out!
Last weekend in the print edition and Tuesday online, the Forward published my piece “The Jewish Lonely Hearts Who Meet Online” – about online dating sites, the blame game that singles play with each other, and how we all could take a higher road when it comes to interacting online.
Then on Facebook, we launched some midweek discussions about JDate’s advertising, when that niche dating service launched its new ad campaigns, making some laugh and others cringe. With slogans taking a pot shot at Match.com (“6000 years of persecution and now you’re joining Match.com?”) and appealing to those who are waiting to “find someone who shares your love of gefilte fish,” the slogans run from the stereotypical to the unoriginal, playing to the broadest strokes of public awareness of what defines a Jew, and what those Jews are looking for when they’re looking for love online. (You can read the NYTimes article about this new campaign here.)
In a sad note this week, but relevant to Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to share things we love with people we love, the world lost famous comedian Sid Caesar. The Jewish Journal asked me to write something – since I love writing about entertainment, TV and comedy, and did feel a bit personally connected to Caesar (even though we had never met), I wrote this piece – “My Friend’s Seder With Sid: Remembering Sid Caesar,” now featured in the Jewish Journal’s Religion section – about how virtual connections can become real, with people acting as emissaries and interceding to create real-life connections. The story contains some of my friend’s personal reflections of her time with Sid over the last year, and reminds us of how much laughter he gave the world. May his memory and his work continue to be an inspiration to those of us who dabble in or appreciate comedy.
Those of us who live in Los Angeles – or anywhere where earthquakes are part of our regular lives – know today’s truth: if it wasn’t confirmed on Twitter and Facebook, it wasn’t really an earthquake. But in their recent coverage of the 20th anniversary of the famous Northridge Earthquake, The Jewish Journal asked me to weigh in on how social media is used during a national disaster of any sort.
After a robust discussion with the reporter about the challenges of relying on social media during an unnamed generic disaster – will there be internet connectivity? how about battery chargers? – we spoke about the social aspects of connection and feeling like you’re not alone. The experience of receiving a literal jolt, some of us home alone or sleeping, startles us into reality – reaching out to others, even to say “did you feel that?” is such an essential and reassuring part of human reconnection. I have found it personally reassuring to watch as people shared stories of where they were, the embarrassing or funny situations that emerged, or jokes about where the quake hit and why.
I’m quoted minimally, but you can read the entire story here.
Mid-January arrived, and with it, the RAVSAK/PARDES Jewish educators’ conference – titled “Moving the Needle,” the content contained inspiring speakers, informative panels, deep dives into practical subject matters and workshops designed to give educators a skills upgrade. I was honored to present “Jewish Geography Goes Digital” to an involved and inquisitive group of Jewish educators from across the country – the interactive skills session featured extensive dialogue with those in the room, facilitated sharing of experience using social media in an educational context, and the introduction of new tools and awareness of social media culture as a way to deepen relationships with constituents.
You can check out my presentation below (and additional presentations are available here). And remember, if you’re interested in a consultation on social media culture or tools, creative content strategy, or communications methods for the digital age, please be in touch and we can discuss the possibilities.
In May, I was invited to London to speak as part of the Jewish Leadership Council’s Lead Division’s newest initiative, Leading In which was created in response to the desire and need for more leadership skills training, expressed by alumni of Lead’s programmes as well as employers within the community. The JLC, in a blog post about the program, explained:
We believe that Jewish communal leaders need both a deep understanding and knowledge of the UK Jewish Community as well as a core range of leadership skills. Leading In consists of regular bi-monthly evening sessions, open to all who are in a leadership position in the community, both lay and professional. Each session will include a leadership skills based session (a choice of three with the option to participate in a fundraising series over several sessions), an opportunity to network and a masterclass with an inspirational, visionary leader.
The event, held at the London Jewish Museum, was attended by 60 lay and professional leaders from more than 30 Jewish communal organizations. Debbie Klein, chair of JW3 (the about-to-launch Jewish Community Centre), gave the opening keynote discussing leadership tips, and participants chose from workshops like, “Inside the mind of a leader” with Jeff Wolfin, “Fundraising” with Jeff Shear (the second in the series), and my session, “Leadership in the Digital Age: Conversing, Commenting and Creating Meaningful Relationships” (available in its entirety – 1 hour, 22 minutes – below.