Janina Ziesche

Janina Ziesche

Last updated on 20 September 2021

Janina Ziesche works as an Executive Assistant at the International Atomic Energy Agency. She attended the ARA 2021 Virtual Conference with support from the DPC Career Development Fund, which is funded by DPC Supporters.

I am not (yet, at least) a trained records manager or archivist, but I have practical experience working on projects that aimed to establish or improve records and information management (RIM), as well as knowledge management structures in two different organizations. While I am personally super excited about the positive impact that effective RIM has on the work of an organization, I quickly realized that the biggest challenge is to find a way to share my enthusiasm and convince management and colleagues of the benefits of RIM and the connected digital platforms.

The opportunity to attend the Archives and Records Association UK & Ireland (ARA) 2021 Virtual Conference on a grant offered by the DPC Career Development Fund therefore came at a great time for me. The programme under the slogan “We Love Records” was centred around the topics of Sustainability, Diversity and Advocacy. Because of my professional background, I was particularly curious to hear from records management and archive professionals about their strategies in advocating RIM within their organizations.

The panel “Records Marketers: selling records management across the business” put the spotlight on different approaches to marketing RIM. I don’t think there is one right way to advocate for any of the above topics – it will depend on the audience, the organization and its culture, the legal context etc., so I believe that the diverse strategies presented on this panel offer some actionable tips and ideas for everyone. Edward Ratcliffe, Records Manager for the Equality and Human Rights Commission in London, takes his inspiration from the principles of stand-up comedy. Developing his communication by talking into a tape recorder, he creates funny communication bits that use emotions and the elements of jokes – set-up and punchline – to capture his target audience’s attention and provoke them to act on his message. For instance, by ranting about an unsatisfactory situation and getting his IT colleagues to laugh, he may well be able to convince them of the value of a reliable email retention policy. Frances Lund, a Knowledge and Information Management Advisor at the Department for Transport (DfT), shared the people-based approach she and her colleagues pursue for raising awareness and facilitating the practical implementation of knowledge and information management (KIM) in the Department’s business areas. They work with a network of “Local Information Managers (LIM)”, who act as KIM champions in their business area. The responsibilities are clearly defined by a role profile, and it is a requirement for each business area to have at least one LIM. Some of their key responsibilities include training other staff members on the use of SharePoint (where the records are kept) and introducing them to the KIM policy and principles. The champions themselves are kept updated by trainings, regular check-ins, easy collaboration methods (such as MS Teams) and practical exchange of experiences within the network through “show and tell” sessions. Jason King, Records Manager for the Crown Estate, advocated for being less of a “lecturer” when it comes to motivating organizations to take an interest in RIM. The carrot, so he argues, yields better results than the stick. Rather than talking about governance or compliance or bombarding people with policies, he pursues what he referred to as “records management by stealth”. He likes to establish personal contact with individuals to show them how they can benefit from what he’s offering. He recommends making it as easy as possible to do records management by using a light bureaucracy, easy and intuitive electronic document and records management systems and modern technology.

Similar points were made by another speaker. In her passionate and highly entertaining talk “Advocate or Be Forgotten”, Anne Cornish, Chief Executive Officer at the Records and Information Management Professionals Australasia (RIMPA) in Australia, made the case for an extroverted, confident and inspiring records manager. Instead of hiding in the literal or figurative basement, she recommends approaching the case of marketing RIM like a consultant. Get out, learn about your organization and really understand what people do and need, while also explaining who you are, what you do and how this can help them. To do that it is necessary to collaborate and form relationships. Like Jason King mentioned above, Anne points out that no one will be impressed if you threaten them with non-compliance or promise them more productivity. Instead, aim to be an understanding, approachable and knowledgeable partner who makes their work simpler and can provide solutions to their daily problems. How can you do that in your daily work life? Chat to an executive assistant in the coffee area and understand what problems they are facing. Ask for feedback from to a group of colleagues about a workflow and explain how you can help to make it simpler. Sit down with a manager and explain how RIM can help with their organization’s objectives. Tell training participants a true story of how records management made daily work easier for a business unit. Participate in an audit committee meeting and explain how you can help with their assessment. It seems that a lot of successful marketing of RIM happens on a personal level. By engaging with individuals, listening to their concerns and ideas with an open mind, taking them seriously and providing tangible solutions to daily challenges, you will gain their trust and in turn generate buy-in into the activities and objectives you want to promote.

A different advocacy effort was discussed in an interesting presentation by Simon McKeon and Caroline Catchpole from The National Archives (TNA) on their Digital Capacity Building Strategy, “Plugged In, Powered Up”, which aims to advocate digital preservation to the archive sector. A 2019 survey among the UK archive sector that was designed to understand digital skill capabilities and identify what training and support is needed in the sector resulted in the following key findings: a) generally, digital skill confidence is low, especially with regard to digital preservation and programming, b) there is a lack of digital preservation strategies and organizational buy-in, and c) there is a clear interest in hands-on training in these areas. The key message of the strategy is “Today, archiving is digital archiving”, i.e., to be an archivist in the 21st century, you need to embrace and develop digital skills. The 3-year strategy spreads its efforts across four work areas, Engagement, Access, Preservation and Skills, and has developed impressive resources (if I were an archivist, I would be pretty excited now). To name just a few:

As part of the strategy and to complement it, TNA, together with the PR agency Allegory, developed the Advocacy Campaign “Act Now” to raise awareness of the urgency of the topic of digital preservation with both archivists and decision makers. The materials produced for this campaign are open to all archivists looking to advocate for digital preservation within their organization: https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archives-sector/projects-and-programmes/plugged-in-powered-up/advocacy-resources/

And the strategy is not finished yet – the TNA is working on a Digital Engagement Toolkit for the sector and another round of the Peer Mentoring. Stay tuned.

For me, the ARA Conference was like a window into a different world. Apart from the practical ideas I take away from this conference, the sheer breadth of topics, trends, areas for application and learning in the archives / records / information and knowledge management world is fascinating. I am very grateful to the Head of the Archives and Records Management Section at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Gabriella Ivacs, for making me aware of the DPC Career Development Fund, and to the DPC for making such opportunities available.


Scroll to top