Presented by The Fledgling Fund
The Fledgling Fund believes that films and other media can and do have social impact, and obviously, would not be funding in this area if we thought otherwise. In our view, a well-made documentary film—especially one with a compelling narrative and well-crafted outreach plan, can serve as a catalyst to change minds, encourage viewers to alter entrenched behaviors and start, inform or re-energize social movements! Likewise, compelling photographs, short videos, radio and web-based media can be key tools in raising awareness and engaging viewers in social issues. However, we also believe that the social impact of media, particularly documentary films, is often difficult to assess and needs to be better understood and documented. In our December 2008 paper, Assessing Creative Media’s Social Impact, we put forth a framework, drawn from a combination of case studies, interviews and other research, which we will use to help us think about and assess the impact of our funding in creative media. While the complete paper is available on our website, this abridged version outlines some of its key elements.
While there are many examples of successful outreach campaigns, we focused on three in our paper: Blue Vinyl’s My House is Your House Campaign, National Legacy Outreach Campaign and The New Americans Campaign. Each illustrates how effective community engagement and outreach campaigns can magnify the social impact of documentary films. These and other examples make clear outreach campaigns do not all look like. They can be short or long term, local, national or even international in their scope. Tactics can include TV and print advertising, the use of digital and consumer-driven media, repurposing footage, social issue partnership development, celebrity involvement, facilitated discussions, an educational strategy, penetration into new venues, and clear calls to action. A hearty online presence through the film’s website is imperative for films seeking to engage audiences in sustained and meaningful social action. In addition, filmmakers should be expanding this digital outreach to social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Youtube and Twitter to draw in new audiences that may have not seen or even heard of the film before. Analysis of these and other case studies as well as various conversations with key outreach providers including Working Films, Outreach Extensions and Active Voice, point to certain determinants of successful campaigns. These include:
Obviously, all of these factors are dependent on the type of outreach campaign being undertaken and they all need to fit together into a coherent whole. For example, the ability to achieve the stated goals will be guided to a great extent by the campaign’s timing, having the right partners on board, and the appropriate level of resources. Likewise, measures of impact need to flow from the goals, plans for each target audience, and the phase of campaign. Figure 1. Outreach Versus Film Promotion provides an overview of some of the different types of outreach. We make a distinction between traditional marketing, which in our view has revenue as the key goal, and the use of film as a vehicle of social change. Each campaign will have a different set of “moving parts” and will thus be customized and unique. A strategic campaign can move people from awareness to action and in some cases help to build or strengthen broad social movements which in turn can lead to social change.
As a funder of outreach, The Fledgling Fund pays particular attention to the goals of a film, where the issue is in the public consciousness, what audiences it is targeting and what kind of change is reasonable to expect. For each project, we strive to determine what type of outreach will be most effective given the issue addressed in the film and the film’s narrative.
To read more, click here to download the PDF >>
Barrett, Diana and Sheila Leddy. “Assessing Creative Media’s Social Impact.” The Fledgling Fund. 2008.