Saturday, November 05, 2005

Disseminating Projects in the EU, A case study, ‘The Kindersite Project’

What is the Kindersite Project?
The Kindersite is a free resource on the Internet for the:
§ Introduction to technology for very young children
§ Introduction to English for any level
These missions are accomplished with 100s of items of rich, multimedia, graded, content in the form of games, songs and stories

The Kindersite primarily focuses on Content rather than how and where to use computers in education.

Today the Kindersite is a global resource in education, and for fun, for young children.
The site is being used as a resource within:
§ Preschool
§ Kindergarten
§ Early grades
§ Teaching of English –1st and 2nd language
§ Autistic spectrum
§ Deaf and hard-of-hearing

Kindersite Statistics
The Kindersite has between 500 to 1,300 users a day from around 50 countries. Over 9,400 schools have registered from 125 countries

This has been achieved with, zero funding, by voluntary work only

Why Specialist Dissemination
The Directorate-General of Education and Culture (D.G.) have made it very clear that they now expect professional level:
§ Valorization
§ Dissemination

Within dissemination this means bringing your project to the attention of the stated target group of your project. It is clear that the D.G. are asking for, ‘Value for Money’.

In my opinion, this means all your target group should be made aware of your project/resource/product and you must succeed in this task.

Dissemination is not just knowing who you want to target and delivering a suitable message to them, but actually having a wide, considered and effective methodology to put your message in front of that all target. The how of message delivery.

How Has the Kindersite Achieved Global Usage?
The Kindersite has not had the financial resources to carry out a paid dissemination campaign, leaflets, post or advertising but has relied on Internet channels ONLY.

Four strategic methodologies have been combined:
1. Positioning – ensuring that the message speaks to the target group
2. Communication – delivering a clear and readable message
3. Dissemination – delivering the message to the target group
4. Analysis and feedback – understanding who your visitors are and communicating with them

I must stress that these areas are very closely linked. For example, you cannot achieve good dissemination without excellent communications, and vice versa, the most persuasive communications are not enough if the audience does not read your message. All the steps I am about to detail were part of the success of the Kindersite

Ensuring that your message speaks to the target group is based on understanding their needs. Good positioning will enable the receiver of your message to ‘immediately’ understand that the message is relevant for him.

Positioning is always based on the target groups perception, not the projects.
Thus you will need to ensure that your message states clearly:
§ That the source of the project is respected and obvious
§ Who is it for
§ What does the project do (what is the added-value)

For example (in simple terms) a Socrates Lingua project needs to say that the:
§ Project is by specialist academics
§ It is for language schools/specialists
§ It is a free resource to locate language XXX

However good your project or dissemination campaign, if you do not deliver a clear and readable message then you will lose, possibly, half your target audience straight away.

Problems often experienced by projects are:
Not seeing the wood for the trees – writing documents that deal with the minutia of a project and miss the ‘Grand vision’ and overriding ideas. Your documents must work as a reversed pyramid, the tip, resting on the ground, contains the broad idea, as you work through the document the details that make up to the broad idea should become clear.
Trying to say everything about the project, everywhere – in every document/web page etc. each statement covers too much ground or is a repeat. Describe it feature of your project individually and then you can show how each feature builds up to make the whole.
Creating unreadable text – convoluted, long sentences within huge paragraphs. Very unattractive and intimidating. Break up the text, use headings, bullet lists and diagrams, make it interesting.

Use Clear Language

The Kindersite has mainly used 4 channels to disseminate our message to our target groups. Additional channels have been occasionally used when available. For example, speaking at conferences.
The main channels have been:
§ Linking
§ Newsletters
§ Internet newsgroups
§ Press Releases
It must be said that dissemination today is a difficult and frustrating experience due to the presence and problems caused by Internet abusers. Spam, Spoof and Conmen.

It must also be clear what you want from users i.e. the message you are communicating must be clear. Must they contact you, view your website, join the project, contribute etc. It is advisable, when disseminating, to beware of delivering more than one message at a time.

Dissemination – Linking to other Internet sites
The Kindersite is currently listed in about 3,000 other sites.

You can link in 2 directions:
1. To synergetic sites
2. To search engines and directories

By linking to synergetic sites you will bring your resource to the attention of an audience who are potentially interested in your resource. It will also raise your placement within a Search Engine.

Being ‘findable’ in a search engine or on a synergetic site means visitors and usage of your resource.

Dissemination – Newsletters
The Kindersite has a database of 238,000 schools globally, about 144,000 in Europe, plus 2,300 educational authorities, plus 1,000s of Associations and groups involved in education.

We send email newsletters to teachers, principles, education associations and education authorities announcing a resource.

§ Remember who is the target group
§ Personalize every message
§ Subject clearly shows you are a serious education institution i.e. not selling Viagra
§ Ensure the message has value and interest to the targeted audience
§ Send the mail at an appropriate time of the day
§ One message per communication

Dissemination – Newsgroups
The Kindersite is a member of about 250 newsgroups

There are 1,000s of Internet newsgroups that allow engagement with committed individuals within a field.
Most newsgroups are for the members to discuss aspects of their profession.

Most newsgroups do not allow pure dissemination messages on a regular basis. If in doubt, send a respectful message to the moderator of the newsgroup with your message.

Dissemination - PR
Writing articles of interest to eMagazines and disseminating to them (Press Releases). Most journals and magazines now have a presence on the Internet. The most important provision is to ensure to edit your article or press release to suite each individual journal, a blanket article will not work.

§ Locate the publication
§ Understand their publication requirements
§ Tailor your article to fit the requirements of the publication (translate)
§ Send to the publication
§ Follow up
§ Thank

Analysis and feedback
Almost everything the Kindersite has achieved has been based on, an analysis of responses to our dissemination campaigns. The 3 ‘W’s:
§ Who – is visiting our resource
§ Why – the are visiting
§ Where – where they came from geographically and where they found the Kindersite

The Kindersite also receives 100s of messages every week. In every case that is called, we respond rapidly, respectfully and fully to feedback, whether good or bad.

We have then dynamically adjusted the Kindersite, and what we do, based on feedback – sometimes minor sometimes major.

Example – Autism Spectrum Disorders
The Kindersite received a few messages from Special Needs teachers that they were having success with Autism Spectrum Disorder children. Based on the feedback we decided to address this target group.

§ Located specialist newsgroups and wrote to them
§ Wrote articles for Autism sites/associations
§ Built up a database of Special Needs schools
§ Sent newsletters to special needs schools
§ Requested feedback from teachers/parents of ASD children
§ Respond immediately to feedback to the feedback
Today 1,000s of Autistic Children Use the Kindersite

The Kindersite has used the power of the Internet to send individualized, mass communications to 1,000s of our targeted groups.

These have included:
§ Hundreds of decision makers in education authorities around the globe
§ Tens of thousands of teachers and principals
§ Hundreds of directors of associations and their memberships

There is no guarantee that our messages and delivery methodology will be effective but I can tell you that today the Kindersite is being used as a resource for education, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week around the globe.