Publicity and Outreach

Enlisting Transcribers

Attracting volunteer transcribers to your project (as well as visitors to your website) is, to some extent, dependent on the size and duration of the project and staffing.  However, both social media and face-to-face publicity build the visibility of your work and expand your pool of transcribers.

Working the Crowd(sourcing)

During the startup phase, seeding your project with a core group of transcribers and samples of completed transcriptions may help attract newcomers to the project. In line with the adage, “nothing builds success like success, “ a visible track record–including a body of transcribed material already online–validates the project to potential transcribers, demonstrating that a community of interest and proven viability exists.

Intelligent use of a multi-faceted social networking tools–a project blog, twitter account and facebook page–is valuable, and adhering to writing and publishing styles, to standards and practices appropriate to each outlet, augments their usefulness. Especially in the beginning, before your social media network builds a self-perpetuating base, outreach requires regular publication and a focused marketing plan.  The involvement of volunteers will ebb and flow, and an ongoing outreach program will help ensure that the volunteer pool remains a renewable resource. Explore social media programs of projects and institutions similar to your own to create an optimal combination of communication options.

Social networking alone, however, may not reach groups or individuals most likely to participate in transcriptions if your project reflects a narrow focus or highly specialized topic. Presentations to teachers and classes, to groups with interests related to your subject matter, and talks at meetings and conferences are among viable approaches to spreading the word. Contact with teachers, for example, provides an opportunity to suggest integrating transcription into a syllabus and an curriculum-based method of integrating digital tools as instructional modes. Talks at museums or local history organizations might encourage historians and hobbyists to take on your project individually or as a group effort.

Consider, too, the college or university student or the new graduate who may be in the job market. Establish an unpaid internship with specific criteria and list your project with appropriate student placement offices or academic departments. While an internship places some monitoring and supervisory responsibility on you, an intern, nonetheless, may provide quantifiable and reliable input to your project during a defined time frame.

Outreach to interest groups with a particular focus on your subject area encourages volunteers. Listservs such as H-Net reach broad, specialized audiences. Announcements on blogs and digital publishing sites spreads the word even further. As your project progresses, conferences and meetings offer specialized venues for talking about your project, the processes, and attracting volunteers.

Promotion and Incentives

Volunteers comprise a fluid group of workers; their numbers may vary over time and their involvement may fluctuate. If you are relying on transcribers who are external to your organization, chances are many will come and go intermittently; others might register to transcribe, but remain only long enough to test drive the project.

In any project, a sense of involvement and community is a foundation of commitment. Developing and maintaining a core group of dependable contributors may occur slowly and as a result of intangible factors of project management.  Communication with your volunteers encourages their engagement and commitment to your Scripto project. Let your volunteers know they’re part of something that’s progressing. Keep them aware of their numbers, perhaps how many items are transcribed over a designated time period, and inform them of any project events, milestones, or public comment. Consider letting them know of unusual transcriptions others in the group may have done or perhaps communicate special issues and discoveries related to the transcription process.


Scripto is a free, open source tool for enabling community transcriptions of document and multimedia files.