by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
It’s been a whirlwind week at the Garden. First, almost a foot of snow, which until this year, hardly EVER happened in Richmond. The Garden shut down for 3 days while we cleared the snow from the walkways. And, practically at the same time, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden was declared a finalist in the Shorty Awards — “the Oscars of Twitter.” Not only that, but thanks to Richmond’s incredibly supportive social media community, we were “seeded” in 1st place.
The Shorty Awards are an international competition that attract quite a bit of attention. In the #culturalinstitution category, we were up against some heavy hitters including MOMA, and The Royal Shakespeare Company. We’re not a tiny garden, but with just over 40 acres, and about 50 full-time employees we’re kinda’ small compared to MOMA. For example, on Twitter, we have about 2,750 followers compared to MOMA’s 75,500 plus! The Garden has only been on Twitter for 15 months. Well in the world of social media, everything is new. The #Shortys themselves are only in their second year. Which is why, I think, that there is some confusion about what the ShortyAwards stand for, and what it all means. I wondered that myself, in fact. What would the value be to go for such an award? What would it bring to the Garden? And why might I pursue it?
After reading the Shorty Awards website in more detail, it all became clear. If you look past the flashy judges (MC Hammer and Alyssa Milanno) you’ll see that this is a legit competition, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. For me, all of a sudden it clicked why this contest is important. The Knight Foundation takes social media seriously, and that is why they sponsor these awards. More than most, they understand that emerging media, blogging and citizen journalism is the future, and that there is no going back. They also realize that the early adopters of emerging media need to be rewarded for taking risks, for being on the frontier and for doing social media well, so that they will continue to strive to be the best. As a former print journalist myself, who now runs a community news blog in addition doing social media for the Garden, I realized that these are folks who speak my language. The Knight Foundation’s mission is clear: They want to make a difference.
They, “…seek opportunities that can transform both communities and journalism, and help them reach their highest potential. We want to ensure that each community’s citizens get the information they need to thrive in a democracy.” They fund a lot of projects — to the tune of nearly $400 million dollars. And they expect projects that they fund, to show passion, among other things. They have such a beautiful vision.
We believe nothing big happens without a big idea, nothing new without a new idea. In every project we fund, the idea comes first.
Every day, we ask the question, of ourselves and our partners, “Is this the best there is?” We seek out leaders who ask the same, who can identify the best opportunities and turn the big ideas into action.
The five basics that all transformational projects seem to have:
- Discovery of the facts
- The vision to see what’s possible
- The courage to push for change
- The know-how to get it done
- The tenacity that gets results