The Digital Immersion Project, developed by PBS Digital with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is a unique opportunity that mixes in-depth training, hands-on workshops, and collaborative mentorship to improve overall expertise in digital strategies and tactics. The professional development program also focuses on strategic and organizational tactics, with the selected participants being able to draw on the project’s learnings and a national network of public media contacts to further digital success at the local level.
2017 was the first year for the project, bringing together 25 public television professionals from all around the country. The participants first gathered at TechCon in Las Vegas this past April, and have been working individually, in topical cohorts, and with mentors ever since. The first iteration of the project will complete at the end of October 2017.
All year long, each participant has been working on a Digital Strategy exercise that takes the project’s learnings and maps them to the station’s goals, complete with tactics and deliverables. We are featuring just a few of these success stories for their system peers to learn from and gain a little inspiration.
Barbara from WGCU has transformed how her station approaches and interprets data using dashboards. We asked her a few questions -- see what she had to say below!
How did you choose what you wanted to focus on?
Going into the Digital Immersion Program, I presented at 2017 TechCon in a session on building a digital department. As Digital Media Director at WGCU Public Media, a regional sole provider of PBS and NPR, I represented the small station, with only about 40 full-time staff – none devoted full-time to digital. At the time, I was also Executive Producer of Television. The way I had coped with not having a “digital department” was to create a Digital Task Force (DTF), that included ten staff from each of our departments to gather every quarter to do a deep dive and assessment of our digital assets by looking to see what other stations were doing.
Over a year and a half, we used that “steal my idea” concept to revamp our website and migrate to BENTO 2.0; we totally redesigned our mobile app and its main navigation and redid our YouTube channel.
The DTF worked as intended in getting cross-department, multi-level love and attention placed upon our digital assets. And, created an inner bonding by reminding ourselves that we are part of this great larger circle of national stations and that we can check in on what anyone else is doing on the digital platform 24/7. It was fun to get outside our usual roadblocks and virtually travel from Hawaii, cross country to New England.
But, at the end of the day, I still was not able to articulate to our senior staff why we needed to focus building a digital department, nor why our digital future really mattered. So, I decided to focus on creating a way to present and monitor our digital numbers in a captivating way.
What steps did you take towards achieving your goal, or getting close to it?
Also presenting on the “building a digital department” panel at TechCon 2017 was Tammy Carpowich, from KPBS in San Diego. She represented the success story of creating a digital department of xx that incubated staff before sending them on to their respective departments. And, her monthly numbers of website traffic were bigger than our annual numbers. I wanted to those numbers and a staff. So, I asked her to be my mentor. And, I came back from TechCon, after talking with fellow DIP partners and convinced our GM Rick Johnson that I should be able to focus solely on being Digital Director, without having the role of EP of TV cloud my horizons. He agreed. (!)
A former print journalist, I was enamored by the concrete numbers and data available to help gauge our digital trajectory. Tammy and I shared that love of analytics – admitting that one of our favorite things to do was dive deep into Google analytics.
Thanks to my goal-setting discussion with Max Duke and Leif Brostrom, and having Tammy as a mentor, I set off to build a digital dashboard that would present key performance indicators (KPIs) in a way that grabbed the attention of our senior staff.
What are your most valuable lessons from this process?
As a university licensee, one of the my most valuable lessons over the last 11 years at WGCU has been to learn from student interns that the best way to find out how to do anything is to “Google it.” I had no idea how to create a Digital Dashboard and my mentor mentioned that Google Sheets is what her staff had used. I googled enough to know that was a complex path to arrive at the visual appeal I was going for. So, I googled more, keeping in mind that my mentor said the best dashboard would be live not static. That search led me to Klipfolio, where I was able to build a LIVE digital dashboard by connecting our station’s Google Analytics account, social media accounts and present it all in a way that even impressed my mentor.
How will your station benefit from your participation in the project?
When I shared the WGCU Digital Dashboard with our senior leadership team, they were really interested and engaged. Now, they have it as one of their favorite browser tabs where they can check in 24/7 on how we’re performing in their own digital immersion experience. And, they can toggle to see how we’ve done over the last week, month or year. It’s a great tool for our sales staff to sell digital and it’s great for our content creators to see what videos and stories are performing best. It also helps our social media staff see how well their posts are referring traffic to our website. Next, we’re looking at building another dashboard for our sales team, where we connect our DFP account and they can easily monitor ad performance.
Based on requests from senior staff, we’re also working to add radio and video streaming metrics, app and podcast downloads and video starts by name to our dashboard. But, that data isn’t as easy to connect to the dash. And, that’s when I’m reminded by my mentor that some things are best done by having a developer on staff and a digital department. So, the WGCU Digital Dashboard has already benefitted our station by helping to articulate why we need to invest in our digital future.
A few snapshots from Barbara's experience:
Staff can toggle from 7 days, to 90 days to last 365 days, to see trends illustrate before their eyes.
WGCU's digital dash helps illustrate how vital public media services are during a hurricane. On Sept. 9, Hurricane Irma slammed into Southwest Florida. Washington Post reporters hunkered down with WGCU News staff to broadcast radio and streaming updates throughout landfall.
Colorful icons on the digital dash help bring to life how our audience feels about the content we're delivering. Doesn't seems like there's been much to laugh about lately. Should we be amping up our "entertainment" value?