Can we engage audiences with YouTube Live?
Elianne Ramos, Senior Director of Communications and Public Affairs at National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and prior Latino Digital Coalitions Desk for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, shares her experiences launching and maintaining a YouTube Live platform for her organization. She discusses the benefits of YouTube Live in helping maintain consistent, digestible, and shareable communications that tie together all threads of her organization’s work, what it takes for nonprofits to start their own, and more.
Sarah: Welcome to the Smart Communications Podcast. I’m your host Sarah Durham and I’m joined today by Elianne Ramos, who is the Senior Director of Communications and Public Affairs at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. Hey there!
Elianne: Hi, how are you Sarah? Thanks for inviting me.
Sarah: I’m delighted you’re here and we are going to talk about YouTube Live which is something I know very little about. Before we dig into that, for those of you who do not know Elianne I will link to her professional website and the National Latina’s website in the show notes. I want to flag that she’s got about 20 years of experience before this job serving in roles that include P.R., political campaign, she worked on the Hillary Clinton campaign, strategy development, creative development, copywriting. She’s a real comms. pro who’s had a lot of interesting roles and won a lot of impressive awards and she’s been in this role about a year. So Elianne what I’m interested to hear about is when you got into this role you decided to launch a YouTube Live platform. Why did you decide to do that?
Elianne: Well, one of the reasons is coming from the advocacy world and having had my own platform until I joined this organization I know the importance of having a consistent voice, especially online. For an organization that does as much work in the community as the National Latina Institute, I think it’s very important to have those pieces of messaging and communications that really dig deeper into the daily work that they do and that explore different aspects of the work. We wanted to have something like that which has been discussed internally for a long time and we decided to go with YouTube Live for many reasons.
Sarah: Great. I want to pick your brain a little more about YouTube Live, but in terms of the work itself too we should pause and take a minute to talk about the work that the National Latina Institute does so just tell us a little, briefly, about the work of the organization.
Elianne: We divide our work into a couple of different buckets. One of the main ones is leadership development and we have four offices in different states. We are in Virginia, Washington D.C., New York, Texas, and we are in Florida. What we do there is train activists. We take people from the community, the people that need our expertise and the kind of things we provide and we help empower them. One way that we do it is by educating them and creating different materials so that they become a lot more aware of how the issues impact them. At the same time we build the leadership. We teach them the basic things that they need so that they can defend themselves and stand up for their own rights. So that’s one of the buckets and the other one is we do a lot of research and we create things like fact sheets and other things that explore the issues a lot more in depth as it has to do with policies and the situation the community is going through. The third part is developing communication pieces and educational pieces that we serve to the community at large.
Sarah: Are you using YouTube Live as an education tool, as a training tool? Which area of the work does it serve?
Elianne: It helps to serve everything really because the main objective is to serve the community so it’s providing information and resources education, but at the same time it serves us to highlight some activists that we are building on the ground. Sometimes we explore policies so we will have people that deal within legislation and who are more involved in Capital Hill. It takes all of those dots of the work that we do and packages it in a way that is digestible to people so they understand what we do better.
Sarah: In the live format it’s interactive, but then you post the recording to your YouTube channel right?
Elianne: One of the things that I love about YouTube Live is that unlike Facebook where you have content that is native and you can only use it there. You can share it if you want, but it’s a lot harder to manipulate for embedding and other things like that. The YouTube Live feeds right into our YouTube channel and it also allows us to edit the video and make shorter clips that we can use on social media and we can embed in other platforms that we use such as Medium, our website, and different parts. I love the flexibility of working with the material that we produce. It helps us to have a consistent voice out there. That’s a great thing about it.
Sarah: What are you seeing in terms of participation, of getting people to actually show up live and engage through the medium while you’re recording?
Elianne: Our situation before we started doing this is we had a blog that was there for a couple of years and there wasn’t any content being produced. The approach that we are taking is lets start from scratch, lets build this from zero. We are using a lot of the social media following that we have garnered through the years to guide them into visiting our YouTube channel and expecting the content. We are doing is consistently. It’s only once a month for now, but we have seen the audience growing little by little. I don’t know if you’re familiar with our community. We’re not used to being very vocal, especially about reproductive issues, and so it’s been ameliorating to see how people start participating more and more. Sending questions in and asking the things that we want them to really become aware about.
Sarah: You’re really empowering Latinas to play an active role in this conversation through this channel.
Elianne: Exactly. That’s the idea. We have seen a lot of conversations start from there. We have seen a lot of people recognizing some of the experts that we bring in every month. It’s really fun to do, just to have that conversation in an environment that is informal and people can feel comfortable asking questions.
Sarah: One of the workshops that I give a couple times a year is about content, planning, and management. In those workshops there’s usually a couple of people who are concerned about frequency. They’re concerned about their ability to produce content regularly whether it’s blogging or videos or podcasts and they’re asking questions about how much is enough. So you’ve settled on this format of once a month, and I’m sure that now that you’re a few months into it that helps. You establish a rhythm of how you promote these events before they happen and what you do with them, but how did you decide to do it once a month? Was there anything that informed that decision or is it sort of an experiment you’re going to pilot?
Elianne: Well because it’s an experiment, but also it’s because of capacity. We are a small team and there’s so much going on in terms of what we have to produce in our department every month. What I try to do is make it part of our content strategy, so every month we have a theme of things that we are going to be touching on and that naturally gives us a theme for the live stream. Since we have our calendar we know in advance we are going to be talking about these in the next couple of months so we start gathering who we want to be a part of this conversation. We are very intentional about being inclusive and having a lot of different voices represented there. It helps to set it up as part of your content strategy because that gives you a whole lot of material to play with.
Sarah: I’m sure you’re weaving in those content experts and that theme into everything you’re doing. It becomes a much more fluid and organic experience.
Elianne: Exactly, and because of the flexibility to play around with the result of the live stream it gives us material to put on every other platform that we can use throughout the month and even bring up at some point in the future when we decide to talk about something related.
Sarah: Awesome. You mentioned you have a small team and I know you’re not the person technically runs this. Who is doing the actual technical live streaming, but tell us just a little about what you think it takes to do this well. How many people or what kind of resources? What do you need to do to ramp up with YouTube Live?
Elianne: In our case we have a dedicated person who works on these and she sets up the whole thing. It’s really not that difficult if you’re used to working in an online environment. The learning curve is really not that high. I would say also the platform is a lot more [00:09:20] than other platforms I have worked with so that makes it a lot easier as a point of entry. One of the things that we did have to do in the beginning is play around with the platform and learn how it works in terms of setting it up, making sure that the right images pop up when you’re promoting it for example. That was a little bit of a headache in the beginning, but once you get it down it takes a couple of days probably to get to the point where you’re ready. You go from there and it becomes kind of automatic.
Sarah: Awesome. Elianne thank you for joining me.
Elianne: Thank you so much for inviting me.