On Sunday it will be six months since we launched the Gorilla Highlands Experts platform — and based on lessons learned we are about to chart the way forward.
First of all, let us remind ourselves about the guidelines we set for ourselves: storytelling to inform, de-stress and entertain our members.
This article is part of a 6-month Gorilla Highlands Experts evaluation that also includes a story with Miha’s personal perspective.
Originally just a way to offer eager members updates on a daily basis, it has grown into something quite special. We have provided an outlet for great local talent, discovered new voices and, hopefully, begun painting an intriguing world that not enough people know. 22 authors have taken part (they all got handy little bios this week) and 117 articles have been published.
At the outset, we had two legacy blogs with timeless stories that we wanted to mix with fresh content, and that has all been successfully consolidated. The editorial policy of the first six months could be summarised as “a variety of stuff (updated and brand new), at least one gorilla item per week, and as much country balance and as many local authors as possible”.
Now, with the foundation established and most experts introduced, we can become more focused, and ambitious!
Every month we will be making a digital magazine meant for responsible travellers who wish to maximise their positive impact and avoid rushing through our region and missing its riches. The daily articles will be part of something bigger that we will release monthly (we are still looking for the best technology to deliver it).
Funnily enough, before we even started Gorilla Highlands Experts, we were discussing within the team what old-fashioned paper magazines used to mean to us. We collected these thoughts:
- anticipation and excitement before the next edition
- latest information unavailable anywhere else
- an invitation to take quality time for yourself
- an orchestrated experience that makes you feel something
- part of a like-minded community
- exclusivity and a sense of intimacy
Let’s make a magazine compatible with today’s digital world that is committed to bringing about all of the above!
Our unique take on online courses was planned to be the main attraction of Gorilla Highlands Experts. Because it was meant to be video-centred, it was always going to take ample time and energy …
In those busy ancient pre-Covid times we recorded hours and hours and hours of video footage that was idling on dozens of hard disks. It was seriously calling us to eventually do something with it, and with In-Sights we finally did it!
Or at least scratched the surface of it with the first four In-Sights:
Members’ feedback has assisted us in the process of adding all kinds of non-video materials, and if you haven’t checked In-Sights very recently, do have a look. They are not merely about moving pictures anymore …
… There is so much more to show, and record. But something has gotta give. So for the rest of 2021, we will be adding materials at a slower pace.
We have had two Online Picnics and two Live Q&As. The Picnics have been recorded and covered in quite some detail before, and the current Covid-surge limitations are blocking us from properly planning more of them. We will return to this subject another time.
Live Q&As are a different matter … For those who haven’t participated, it’s hard to imagine what actually took place. The magic of “live”!
The session on photography with Marcus Westberg turned into an interview. The host had a load of questions for Marcus, a friend he knows too well, while other participants listened attentively and enjoyed Westberg’s latest shots from South Africa. Nobody had a question, not even one! But they said they loved the experience.
The gorilla tracking session was, on the other hand, extremely interactive and fun for everyone involved. We had experts from two countries and three national parks, we had members with very specific questions, and it was quite simply a blast.
We will certainly proceed with Live Q&As on a monthly basis.
Groups, Personal Messaging & Member Connections
Most of the groups were started at the end of April, were briefly active … and then became relatively dormant. That may well be a result of the pandemic coming back with a vengeance, making planning summer African trips a bit unlikely. We will see how the groups perform in the future, with a new better defined role — they are becoming the one and only way to personally contact experts. As we noted in today’s group announcement: “Posing and answering questions in groups will help us share what we know better; being a knowledge base is certainly one of the core purposes of the Gorilla Highlands Experts platform.”
Concurrently we are turning off personal messaging and member connections. They never truly caught on, and have become a tricky proposition. It’s easy to imagine a member trying to message an expert who is seldom on the platform, creating a disappointing experience. If an issue is raised in a group instead, more eyes will see it and the Gorilla Highlands Experts team can attend to it better.
The Weekly Companion is the one thing we dropped, because it was honestly too time-consuming. The idea was to produce a couple (or a load) of informative video minutes every Friday. We tried different concepts out, and the product was not bad at all. You can watch the collection on YouTube, and we may convert that footage into something else one day.
Back to the Main Thing
Have we been successful informing, de-stressing and entertaining? … That’s honestly hard for us to judge! Please reach out to us in the comments below, in an email, a Zoom call or through any other means — we would love to hear from you, our members, because we are here for you!
Our new introduction to it all: