Community of practice for communications: Sharing tools we use to make comms easier!

In a recent global communications zoom chat we discussed creating a rolling post that helps us share the resources we use within each instance to undertake our communications. I think part of this is physical how-to with tools and technology, but part of this is also about how we undertake community engagement.

Hopefully sharing more on this will help us reduce time spent trying to find the right tool for the job, and will also act as some cross-instance inspiration for new ways to communicate in our own locations :slight_smile: (almost as though we were, I don’t know, a single global instance :wink: )

To kick things off, I have a couple of things I’d love to hear about from others:

  1. Have you created videos of how to use the backend of the Open Food Network platform? What tools did you use to do this?

  2. Have you run webinars on using the platform? Have they been well received and useful to users? What tools did you use to run them?

  3. How are you engaging with those running enterprises through the platform compared to a broader comms? How are you building their sense of involvement in Open Food Network as more than software? (this may seem obvious to you, but I’m curious! Individual relationships? Emails to your shop managers? Broader newsletters? Events? Presenting at conferences? etc)

Pinging those on the call and who’ve expressed interest at other times, but keen to hear from others too! @NickWeir @MyriamBoure @Rachel @tschumilas @AmandaW @CynthiaReynolds
And if others have questions in this vein, please add them so we can share :slight_smile:

I thought I’d also kick off sharing with sharing some tools I find helpful for Australian comms.

Finding images to use
The way that I find stock images for free use is by using Common Copyright images. I usually get these from Flickr, once you’ve done a search you can then click on the menu item to the top left just above the photos, and choose whichever license is most appropriate (so as an example, the search ). For some food things there are great images, like farmers markets, for others there are never any good ones, like I can never find good ‘people eating’ types of pics through Flickr.

You can also do the same in Google Images. Search for an image, then click on the ‘Tools’ button, and then click on the dropdown ‘Usage rights’ menu.

Finding content: Tracking articles that mention Open Food Network
I have a google alert set up for “open food network” and other terms to try and get notifications of any mentions, so that we can share them.

Newsletters: What we’ve learned
We use Mailchimp, it’s super easy to change the design etc, but the downside is that we now have to pay to use it because we have over 2000 people on our mailing list. Once you have more than 2000 you can reduce down the size of your list and keep using it for free, but you can only do that once. So it’s better to keep cleaning people off your list more actively if you’re approaching 2000 on the list (e.g. people who have never opened it).

Thanks for opening this discussion @Jen. We are just beginning to organize our communication strategies in Canada - so mostly I’m hoping to learn from others. But a few things to share. I’m thinking here we need at least 4 different sub-strategies in our broader communications strategy - and different media/tools/techniques for each. For example:

  1. Broad awareness raising in Canada - to build partners and legacy users so we can do an effective pan-Canadian launch with support teams in place in different regions. This is the part of our coms we are failing at right now. So - thinking that a ‘good start’ would be to identify partners by attending meetings/conferences and following others - then offering to do some posts/submissions in their newsletters/media… I have someone working to ID a list of these orgs/partners, ‘thought leaders’ now.

  2. Offering the platform to potential users - more specific goal than above - to get aggregators and farmers connected and using the platform, to build an economically sustainable OFN-Can. Here we’ve focused on Ontario and have found that (I think similar to the UK - @NickWeir?) identifying food & farm organization partners and setting up ‘groups’ or finding ways to ‘bundle’ OFN platform usage fees as part of a benefit they offer members. We’ve used conference trade shows to reach these people - doesn’t seem like a social media approach.

  3. Building research networks - part of our funding strategy - to build a Canadian (and global) reputation for cutting edge research re; digital economy, food sovereignty and tech. Here I’ve started a guest blog - it will be replicated on the OFN-CAN website if I can figure out how. Its part of a ‘blog to book’ project that I’d love to engage any of you in if you are interested -

  4. User Support - mostly the strategy has been 'email me questions. REALLY shouldn’t have started that!! I’ve now got 2 people (maybe) who say that want to learn the platform to do user support on a contractual basis. I’m thinking of working that into our business model somehow - would love to hear if/how others charge for support and/or initial onboarding? I LOVE the UK community - thinking of replicating that here - should we? does it work? I also think a compendium of ‘quick guides’ - one page infographics that outline specific things - like: how to reconcile a payment, setting up a members-only shop, … I know these might be in the user guide - but why don’t people go there? Not sure about video/webinar - do people use that. I can say that I never learn tech things by watching a webinar. (but I’m a different generation.)
    5 - Help building local systems - finally, I think this is another arm of a coms strategy - how does OFN-CAN deepen our support to users, and help them get word out about their markets/offerings? I have some experience with Mailchimp from my farm - and i LOVE it - I think there is a way to help our OFN users do landing pages, marketing emails… Lots and lots of mailchimp tools to help. Maybe OFN can be a bridge to those, and charge for the service?
    Sorry for long post - but you asked!

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Thanks @Jen for opening up that conversation!

We are just starting in France to build our communication strategy, will take time, but the first tool we decided to adopt is a CRM, we chose Vtiger, which is open source and answer pretty much what we need. We don’t know yet if we will send newsletter from Vtiger (they have some internal module) or Mailchimp, we are comparing the two solutions at the moment.
The CRM is not perfect, but we hope they will fix the 2-3 annoying things. We are building some commercial pipeline within it and distributing the support and advice work among various contributors to start building a more distributed team. We will share our involvement building material as soon as we have built them :wink: For now I’m cleaning and qualifying our contacts and users that we have not contacted since they created their profile on OFF.
Tha CRM also comes with a ticketing tool that we are implementing with @Rachel to manage support in a distributed and resilient way.
When we have tried and found a good way to make all that work we will share some feedbacks with you and invite you to use it if you want :slight_smile: For now we have only one user and pay 250€ per year for the whole feature sets. If others want to do the same at some point maybe that will be worth hosting it ourselves.

We didn’t create any video yet. For images we use Flickr as well.
No webinar either.

About community engagement apart from newsletter that we are building we are organizing a first community gathering this autumn. But until now coms have gone mainly through personal relationships with users, mostly through me, but now we want to organize so that things don’t depend so much on me and we can distribute the work. So we are building processes and will try not to loose the personal relationships on the way :wink:

About broader coms we have written some blogging strategy (we defined our objectives, etc. but it’s in french for now, I can translate when I have time), and we will send 2 different newsletters I think, one to our users and one to broader public. Not sure yet. Or at least some “maintenance and release notes” will be sent to our users only.


I usually find nice Free photos on unsplash. Keyword based search works nice directly from url

We communicate via a self-hosted wordpress blog, each post there is automatically duplicated on our facebook page via SNAP (Free) plugin. We get some feedback via the blog, some via FB, and some via mail so both platforms seem relevant as of today. We considered dropping FB and switching to Diaspora and other GAFAM-free services via Framasoft, but postponed while waiting to test OFN.

Every once in a while our subscribers get a printed paper in their basket, with some infos we consider important. Since paper now uses less energy as an email anyway :angry:

Our subscribers get personnalized emails via a homemade online mail-merge. It grabs our subscribers list and their active subscription details from our wordpress registration form (Contact Form 7 + Contact Form DB, to export database queries as CSV from a secured URL), and adds the details of the week in the mail. This tedious part, along with personnalized invoices generated with OpenOffice Spreadsheet and sent with Mail Merge in Thunderbird, I hope will be replaced soon by clean user credit admin in OFN :wink:

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A good source of stock photos I’ve used is Pexels - Just search for what you’re looking for.

I’ve just started trying my hand at video creation, like this hub order cycle creation walkthrough - The software I’m using for this is free. OBS Studio for recording my screen ( - for Windows, Mac, AND Linux) and Davinci Resolve ( for editing/effects. Think Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut X, but FREE. They also have a $299 paid version that adds multi-user collaborative features, extra effects, etc. But the free version is, frankly, amazing. The downside, as I’ve found, is that video rendering is very, very slow on older hardware, or pretty much anything short of a gaming PC. My average speed, if there are a lot of VFX at play, is about 10 minutes render time for a minute of 1080p video. I used to think my laptop was pretty snappy until I started this!! lol

I’m also working on PowerPoint presentations to use in the future when discussion the platform with potential new users. But that will be at in person/face-to-face meetings.

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