Historians Craft

Why You Need a Platform & How to Build One

  1421697146_full.pngDo you have a platform?

A platform is a suite of tools that you can use to make you and your ideas, research, books, and projects visible to the world.

In this post you will discover why you need a platform and how you can build one.


Why You Need a Platform

Publishers want historians to have platforms because they want their authors to be able to sell books through who they are, who they know, and through social media.

However, an historian’s need for a platform extends further than their publisher’s desire to sell books.

Platforms allow historians to broadcast their ideas beyond their books and classrooms: They enable historians to publicize their ideas and research to the public.

The public needs to know, and in most cases wants to know, about history. A public that knows about the past can learn from successes and mistakes and act in a way that builds a better future.

Historians have the power to affect a better future by empowering the public with information about their history.

Promoting History, Not Propaganda

Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly wrote four of the thirteen best-selling history books in the United States in 2014.

Why did their books sell so well?

Aside from the fact that Beck and O'Reilly wrote them without jargon and without copious notes and citations (or any notes or citations), Beck and O’Reilly have platforms.

Historians may not have the platform that Fox News provides these propagandists, but we can put a dent in Beck and O’Reilly's “history” book sales by building platforms en masse.

The individual platforms of many historians will change what the history-loving public understands about history and how they discover and learn about their past.

Together we can make a difference in how the public appreciates and perceives history.

We may also be able to sell more history books.


How to Build a Platform

Platforms consist of several building blocks, or planks, that you can stand on to be heard and seen as a subject-matter expert or authority.


7 Platform Building Blocks

Historians-Platform1. Website: A website should be the first element you build when you create your platform.

Your website will serve as the primary place where people go to find more information about you and your work.


2. Publications: Published writing highlights your professional knowledge and establishes you as an expert in your field.

Publications also have the ability to connect you with readers.

If you want to create a wide-audience for your work, publish in non-academic magazines, newspapers, and blogs in addition to academic publications.


3. Newsletters: Newsletters provide you with a direct link to your readers and followers.

They work in conjunction with your website to call attention to you and your work.

You will need to develop a mailing list of people you can send your newsletters to if you want to make use of this weekly or monthly platform tool. (This will be the topic of a future post.)


4. Public Speaking: Public speaking engagements such as book talks or lectures at your local library, museum, or historical society provide you with opportunities to present your research and ideas in person.

They also furnish opportunities for your audience to meet you and get to know you as a person.


2637715-15. Social Media: Social media offer powerful outreach and community-building tools you can use to connect with a worldwide audience.

The popularity of interacting and connecting with other people online has given rise to many different networks, therefore you have a choice in the way(s) you interact with others.

However, bear in mind that the information you post and the community of fans and followers you build on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. ultimately belong to those platforms. Therefore, social media should always be used in conjunction with a personal website, e-mail list, or blog.


6. Education: Education can be an important tool for historians, although not as important as producing a strong body of well-researched and well-presented work.

If you went to graduate school and have a masters or doctorate in history, mention this fact on your website about page and in the byline for your published work.


7. Volunteer Work: People love people who give back to their communities.

If you have helped a local historical society put together an exhibit, led the quest to save a local historic site, or have participated in some other community-minded organization let people know about it.

You can highlight Uncle_Samthese humanizing activities in your social media profiles, website about page, or bylines.

Additionally, volunteer work will help you network with people the old-fashioned way: by placing you in direct contact with other like-minded people. Your fellow volunteers may become your friends and biggest supporters when it comes time to spread the message about the history you study and write about.

Although volunteer work can serve as a powerful tool in your platform, you should only undertake it if you have a passion for a cause and want to better your community.



social media - internet networking conceptA platform comprises a suite of tools you can use to make your ideas, research, books, and projects visible to the world.

This post has outlined seven different elements that you could use to build your platform.

You do not have to adopt and cultivate all seven elements, but you should build a professional website.

As you consider which of the above planks you want to use to build your platform, think about how each element will help you showcase your authority and whether they will give people a good reason to follow you and your work.

Choose elements that will help you highlight your genuine character and humanity. People like to follow and support genuine and helpful individuals.

We have just scratched the surface of platforms.

Over the course of 2015 (and maybe 2016), we will explore all of these platform elements in greater detail because we need to build better platforms if we want to convey our historical knowledge to the large public of history-lovers.

Please let me know if you want to know more about a specific platform element. I will try to write and schedule requested posts sooner rather than later. E-mail Twitter | Facebook  


BooksHere are three books about building professional platforms that I recommend:

Chuck Sambuchino, [simpleazon-link asin="B00FGVWODY" locale="us"]Create Your Writer Platform: The Key to Building an Audience, Selling More Books, and Finding Success as an Author[/simpleazon-link]

Michael Hyatt, [simpleazon-link asin="159555503X" locale="us"]Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World[/simpleazon-link]

Seth Godin, [simpleazon-link asin="1591842336" locale="us"]Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us[/simpleazon-link]


How Historians Can Re-purpose Conference Papers & Lectures

Otis RepurposeHistorians spend a lot of time writing conference papers and lectures. Often we use this content to serve a singular purpose and then we forget about it.

But what if you could turn your conference papers and lectures into something more? Something that helps you promote your work and generate more interest in it?

In this post you will learn how you can repurpose your conference papers and lectures into video and audio content that will build your platform and help you reach a wider audience.

How to Reach a Wider Audience

A great time slot on a conference program may allow as many as 50-100 people to hear your paper. Often attendance will be less than that.

You may experience similar attendance for one of your public talks or lectures.

But what if you could repurpose and reuse the material in your conference papers and lectures to reach a wider audience with minimal work, would you do it?

Technology has made it possible for you to make all of the content you produce accessible to a wider audience.

You could transform your conference papers and lectures into blog posts, feature articles for online and print newspapers and magazines, podcast episodes, or educational videos. All of these mediums will help you spread word about your work to a wider audience.

In particular, videos and podcasts make up some of the most shared media on the internet. These media types will help you attract an audience who loves history, but doesn't necessarily have time to read or the ability to attend a conference.


Video ContentCreating Video Content

Using software like Screenflow or SlideShare and a lavalier microphone, you could record your conference papers or lectures as you give them.

You could also use these tools to record your work from the comfort of your home or office.

Software like Screenflow captures whatever you show on your computer screen.

A lavalier microphone clipped to your blouse or lapel will capture your voice as you deliver your paper or lecture. You can use this audio recording as a podcast episode and/or add it to your Screenflow or SlideShare file to create a narrated slide show presentation.

Uploading this audio and video content to your website will make it accessible to all of your followers, students, colleagues, potential publishers, and other people interested in your work.

You can also link this content to your web-based CV or resume to draw attention to your capabilities as both a scholar and a public speaker, a great resource for those interested in hiring a speaker.



Below you will find a video recording of “Memory, Community, Loyalty: Albany, New York, 1763-1776,” the paper I presented at the 2014 Conference on New York State History. I recorded the video using Screenflow and a [simpleazon-link asin="B00BHN05H2" locale="us"]Rode Smartlav Lavalier Microphone[/simpleazon-link].

I have posted the video of my paper with 3 goals in mind:

1. To provide people who did not attend my panel with the opportunity to hear my paper.

2. To spread the reach of my work.

YouTube is a powerful search engine. By uploading and tagging my video with relevant search terms, I hope to increase awareness about my research using the power of Google and YouTube search.

When people search for Albany, New York, the American Revolution, the French and Indian War, the British Empire, the British Army, or the fur trade, perhaps Google and YouTube will present my video as an option.

3. To enhance my online CV.

I have linked the title of my conference paper to this video so that anyone who peruses my online CV can view my presentation.



Historians spend a lot of time creating conference papers and lectures. By repurposing this content into audio and visual presentations we will increase the likelihood that interested persons will find out about us and benefit from our research.


What Do You Think

Do you repurpose your conference papers and lectures? If so, how? 


"Memory, Community, Loyalty: Albany, New York, 1763-1776”