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Nonprofits Should Hire More Public Historians for Strategic Communications Planning

Nonprofits should hire more public historians to help with strategic communications planning. What's a public historian and how can they help you ask?


What's a public historian?

According to the National Council on Public History, a public historian is somebody who applies history to real world issues. The best public historians are people who can take the scholarly rigor and methods of history and use them to solve your problem.


How can a public historian help your nonprofit's strategic communications?

Historians like Quentin Skinner learn from history communications techniques that have changed the world. Not only that, Skinner's methods of mapping your linguistic landscape and charting tectonic shifts in the linguistic environment can be used to plan where you should focus your communications attention (i.e. what keywords you need to innovate) and how to evaluate over the long-term whether real changes are happening. Basically, if you want to use words effectively, you could really benefit from a sense of their history, why they transformed into what they are today, and how they would need to be different to enable a different world.

Ultimately, don't you want to change history? What if you could get a historian today to tell you exactly what types of information a historian 20, 50, 100 years might be interested in if they were studying whether and how things changed? You could then keep track of that information and set yourself up for truly long-term evaluation success. Remember today is just tomorrow's history!


But why a public historian?

In the 100-Year PR Plan, I argue for ways that nonprofits can think more historically about the communities they serve and the linguistic and institutional environments they are trying to change. But ultimately, the 100-Year PR Plan is not a scholarly exercise. Public historians often receive specialized training that make them more sensitive to the concerns of local communities and more in tune with the practical needs of an organization that is going to use their research to inform action.


Check out the National Council on Public History's job board as well as list of programs offering specialized training in public history to identify ways to recruit a public historian near you!



Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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