Illustration by Jørgen Stamp CC BY 2.5 Denmark




Digital preservation relies on a wide range of skills and services, so digital preservation managers need to coordinate a diverse set of skills, policies, tools and services from disparate sources. For some organisations digital preservation is entirely new and the relevant resources will need to be assembled for the first time. Even established programmes will face new challenges and therefore the range of tools and services required may constantly change. Hence the ability to communicate with other staff, departments, and organisations has emerged as a key skill for successful digital preservation managers.

Because technology and staff continue to change, communication and advocacy must be an ongoing rather than a one-off activity.

In the early days of digital preservation, communication and advocacy involved blunt statements about the social and economic impact of data loss and obsolescence. As solutions have emerged, so messages have become more subtle.

Advocacy has become increasingly about identifying stakeholders and helping them understand:

  • how their choices make digital collections more or less resilient; and
  • the benefits they will accrue from the active management of well-formed and accessible digital materials
  • the necessity of investment – whether time, money or other resources – and the extent to which it is required to achieve these benefits.

In an institutional setting this means understanding all the agents involved in a digital object lifecycle, helping them to prioritise and support those actions that make and keep collections robust, and discouraging those actions which put collections at risk.


Stakeholder Analysis


Stakeholder analysis starts with gaining a clear understanding of the organisation's digital preservation aims before identifying internal and external stakeholders who can influence those goals. Having identified them, it is then possible to develop a plan that will convey your aims and engage them in the digital preservation process. Approaching this with a clear methodology in mind will produce the best results and will tie in with a number of other digital preservation activities such as policy and strategy development (see Institutional policies and strategies), creating a business case (see Costs, benefits, impact and business cases) and identifying relevant standards and best practice (see Standards and best practice).

The following steps will help facilitate a thorough analysis of stakeholders:

  1. Identify what you hope to achieve through your digital preservation activities. This may include lists of the principal collections involved and the main aims and objectives as well as potential benefits (see Business cases, benefits, costs, and impact) that will accrue. This will provide a clear reference and focus for advocacy and can later be tailored to the various audiences that are identified.
  2. Identify the groups and individuals that can inhibit or enable digital preservation activities. These may be internal or external, and any one stakeholder can have multiple roles. For example, you may identify information technology staff as a key group which may then in turn include an IT Services Manager, Programmers and Support Staff. Some of these may be easily accessible inside your own department, some fall within different line management structures, and some will be entirely external. This means you may need to include other managers or service owners within your stakeholder analysis.
  3. Organise the stakeholder groups and individuals into key audiences that are in a position to influence your goals and priorities. The audiences chosen will probably reflect the working practices of your organisation and/or your approach to digital preservation, perhaps relating to specific parts of your organisational structure (e.g. Senior Management, IT, Information Managers) or by their role in relation to the digital preservation process (e.g. Funders, Depositors, Users).
  4. Establish solid collaborative relationships with the key stakeholder audiences you have identified to underpin progress towards the aims established in Step 1. Understanding the needs, priorities and constraints of internal and external stakeholders will yield information that directly informs your planning and improves your understanding of what stakeholders want and need from digital preservation activity. Stakeholders may be constrained by budget and/or legislative boundaries of which it will be valuable to be aware. Conversely, they may also have relevant expertise or resource that can be deployed towards digital preservation activity. In addition, understanding the language and terminology used by stakeholders enhances effective communication strategies and can help avoid difficulties that arise when stakeholders understand a term or concept in divergent ways. The ability to use your stakeholders’ language generally helps get colleagues and collaborators to buy into your plans. If key stakeholders have conflicting interests you will need to mediate between them.
  5. Building on this two-way engagement, clearly define the important information to be shared with these audiences that will help secure their buy-in. This should include:
    a Key messages based on your aims and objectives. These should be simple and direct statements written in plain language so they are easily understood by a wide range of non-specialist audiences. Ideally they should also be aligned with wider organisational strategies and aims.
    b Benefits that stakeholders will accrue from participation in/support of the proposed digital preservation activities. For example an IT manager might want to reduce costs of storage by deleting or de-duplicating redundant storage. A clear digital preservation strategy can help them reduce their storage requirements by distinguishing those collections that must be retained from those that are no longer required
    c What will be required of them to ensure success. For example, you may wish to develop clear metadata requirements for depositors; or you may wish to give your IT department estimates for the amounts of storage and bandwidth that will be required and when.
    d What barriers/misconceptions about digital preservation you may need to address. For example preservation is often confused with just having back-up copies. You may need to tailor language and terminology to specific audiences. For example certain terms such as “archiving” have different meanings in other sectors such as IT.
  6. Make a plan to engage each of the stakeholder groups building on your knowledge of their priorities, expertise and limits, and using the various messages previously identified. You may need to use different methodologies for the various groups, tailoring your form of communication to best suit the audience and messages to be conveyed. This may include a range of communications channels including presentations, briefing papers and stakeholder working groups as well as developing a variety of plans and resources such as business cases (see Business cases, benefits, costs, and impact), policies (see Institutional policies and strategies) and risk registers (see Risk and change management).


Digital Preservation in the Media


Digital preservation gets surprisingly little attention in the mainstream media. Reporting of digital preservation tends to fall into two clichés: gloomy stories of data loss and an impending ‘digital dark age’; or platitudinous statements about indestructible storage.

The reality is more mundane and more subtle. Practical, detailed and achievable requirements that deliver long term access, such as reported in this Handbook, are less attention-grabbing, but can deliver real benefits to institutions and their user communities.

In some advocacy contexts it may be useful to refer to a common vocabulary to support explanation of key terms and concepts in digital preservation. Some examples are suggested in the resources section below.

The broader digital preservation community has created short animations for advocacy such as those selected in the resources section below. These are short, entertaining, and often helpful in getting key messages about digital preservation across to non-specialist audiences and the general public.



Team Digital Preservation and Nuclear Disaster: An Animation

Entertaining cartoon on the importance of trusted digital repositories, metadata, and refreshing digital media. (3 mins 18 secs)

Team Digital Preservation and the Aeroplane Disaster

Entertaining cartoon on the effects of obsolescence and importance of migration. (3 mins 37 secs)

Team Digital Preservation and the Arctic Mountain Adventure

Entertaining cartoon on the importance of preservation planning. (4 mins 22 secs)

Team Digital Preservation and the Deadly Cryptic Conundrum

Entertaining cartoon on the importance of representation information. (4 mins 9 secs)

Case Studies

Increasing Participation in Internal RDM Training Sessions

This case study looks at the approaches taken by two Jisc MRD Projects to ensure good attendance at their internal research data management (RDM) training sessions. 2013 (4 pages).

Defining and Formalizing a Procedure for Archiving the Digital Version of the Schedule of Classes at the University of Michigan

Nancy Deromedi of the University of Michigan describes forming a partnership with a key administrative unit that had not been to date a receptive partner on campus, and raising the awareness of the archival considerations as the unit transitioned from a hybrid system of digital and paper to a solely digital process. April 2008 (8 pages).