Outreach Primer
Homelessness How to Create Successful Outreach and Increase the Impact of Your Documentary Projects

Environmental (educational or activist) documentary projects and community outreach are symbiotic: They need each other to succeed. A good documentary can provide the visuals and the stories to inspire viewers and raise awareness of the issues. The outreach provides viewers the means by which they can take action in order to create real impact on those issues. Following is an outline to help you create a successful campaign.

I. First Things First: What is Community Outreach? A definition in progress....

A. Outreach is the variety of ways in which producers take the issues presented in their documentaries out into the community in an attempt to create greater impact around their issue(s).
B. Outreach is all about action. It is education with a purpose - and that purpose is to create action and impact through the use of a variety of outreach means and elements.

II. What are the Objectives of an Effective Outreach Campaign?

A. The primary objective of a community outreach campaign is to educate people about the issues in your documentary and enable people to take action around those issues.
B. Provide additional information on the documentary's subject matter that couldn't be included in the film, and also to reinforce the information that could.
C. Inspire viewers to take action by speaking to them about the issues in way that is relevant to them, their families (especially their children) and their local community.
D. Enable viewers to take action on your issue by providing them with a range of ways they can get involved from the very easy (send an email to your congressman at _____) to the more difficult (install solar panels for your home).
E. Allow viewers to seek out more information on their own by leading them to additional resources, books or organizations working on some aspect of your issue - particularly in their area.

III. Where Does One Start When Creating Outreach Around a Documentary?

A. If you are not an expert on this issue (and most of us aren't) - find the experts and invite them to participate in a coalition of issue oriented professionals creating outreach around your documentary and their issue. (See coalition building in chapter 6 of Making Television Matter)
B. Brainstorm with your crew and make a list of like-minded organizations you might want to partner with who are already working on some aspect of your issue. Start calling them and they will recommend others. When the same names keep coming up, you'll know you've found the right groups/people to be on your coalition.
C. Make sure your list includes groups that represent a number of diverse approaches to the issue.
Death & DyingD. Is your film airing nationally, locally, at educational sites or within activist organizations? When forming your coalition, consider whether you are creating a national, local, educational or activist outreach campaign and include those parties in your group.
E. If national, you need to keep in mind that you want to create a national campaign model that can be tailored to local audiences and issues. Choose national partners (whenever possible) that have local offices in each state. These can be private, public, government or educational groups. Choosing at least one group that has an information clearinghouse will be helpful as you disseminate information (EPA and their environmental clearinghouse, for example).
F. Invite your coalition partners to help provide the content and create the outreach elements to be used in your national campaign. Let the members know that this is their chance to speak to a large audience about their issue. Ask them what they want to say and how they want to say it. Then give them some freedom and a wide berth, as experts in their fields, to decide on the outreach elements and also help create the content for those elements. Let your coalition help you figure out how best to use your documentary out in the field. Let them help decide what sort of collateral elements you should consider creating around your documentary (see Section IV below) that would make it most useful to the groups and organizations working on your issue.
G. First and foremost, you and your coalition need to decide what outcome you want from your campaign? What do you want people to do around this issue and how do you want them to do it? Have the group come to some consensus on the goals and objectives of the campaign, and than decide how they can reach achieves those goals.
H. Remember, every good outreach campaign needs a call-to-action. Your coalition should decide what that call-to-action will be and the means by which that call-to-action will be made to the public.
I. If you are creating a national campaign, be sure, when raising funds that you include in your budget mini grants to local stations or organizations so that they can afford to create a local outreach campaign around your documentary and issue (Use Foster Care Project as example).
J. If this is a local campaign, ask your partners to help raise the funds to support the effort while also making sure that any fundraising you do for the film, includes fundraising for the outreach.
K. Keep in mind that your coalition is going to be much more enthusiastic and supportive of any outreach campaign that they have helped to create themselves. Empower them with the opportunity to speak with a large audience about their issue. Your role as producer is to support them in their efforts and help facilitate their success. You are helping them to create outreach items that they, with any luck, will be able to use in their work for years to come. This will increase the utility and life of your documentary, at the same time creating impact on the issues you and the coalition will raise.

IV. Examples of Outreach Elements You Might Consider Using

A. At a minimum, create short informational tag at the end of your documentary that drives viewers to a 1 800# or a web site where they can get more information on the issues you've raised. For example: For more information on controlling toxic pollutants in your area call 1 800 ….or visit www.cleanwater.org . You can either create your own web site around your documentary (see below) or partner with another organization and use their site instead (least expensive option). But make sure the information (yours or others) has a list of additional resources and some suggestions on how to take action around the issue at hand. Use the opportunity to lead people to a course of action that can positively impact your issue.
B. Create a documentary web site. Promote in your doc. and on all outreach and promotional materials. This web site would typically include information on the documentary, where it is being shown and when, allow viewers to purchase copies of the documentary - and also be used as an outreach tool where viewers can find more information on the subject at hand, link to organizations working on the issues, locate a list of books or other resources, download copies of teachers' guides, viewers' guides or any other print associated with the documentary and outreach campaign that can be downloaded. If you have a national air date, you also might consider linking viewers through local stations with what is happening in their state or local communities around that issue and include a list of ways people can get involved - both large and small - in making a difference around that issue. Check out Web sites listed in Resource Section in item IV. for examples.
Migrant WorkersC. Create an educational print piece around the issue that can be requested by calling the 1-800# or downloaded off your web site. Print pieces could include an educational brochure, viewers guide, teachers guide, poster, a list of resources, etc…Use your coalition to decide which print piece(s) would be the most useful, and then have them help create the content for the piece. Choose your print well so you aren't destroying a lot of trees for something that doesn't get much use. Be sure and use recycled paper and soy-based inks in any print piece that involves an environmental documentary, and also post the content on your web site. Think through with your coalition, which type of print would be the most useful in the field, have the longest shelf life and create the most impact. Tie the print to the issue rather than the documentary (though you can brand the film or supporting station onto the print), which will ensure it's utility after any single airdate or event around which it was created. Make as many copies of your outreach elements and documentary available free to the public as possible. Make this your legacy. Free distribution of outreach materials and copies of your documentary is fundable and will benefit you, your distributor, your coalition and the issue. List your coalition members as supporters and contributors on your print pieces. This not only is a benefit to the members of your coalition, but also will give the piece more credibility out in the public. (Show Choices & Changes poster, Take a Step Guide, Foster Care Project brochure as example).
D. If you can't afford more elaborate print, at the very least, work with your coalition to create a one-page list of resources that viewers can use to find more information on your issue. The one-pager could include a list of books; videos, web sites and organizations working on the issue at hand, plus a short list of ways viewers can take some personal action around that issue. Post the one-pager on your web site (if applicable), and distribute it with your documentary (Show Morrie: Lessons on Living example).
E. Hold a prescreening event at your sponsoring station where you invite key members of the Addiction community to preview the documentary. Possible invitees may include educators, government officials, environmental groups, religious organizations and members of the community. Think through with your coalition, all the groups and individuals to invite to such an event. Provide some print pieces invitees can take with them to show others. Ask them to help promote the documentary to their constituencies. Provide a press release they can easily incorporate into their own publications, on their web sites or use through their own means of communicating with their supporters. You could also partner with a stakeholder on your issue to host a prescreening event. Make your outreach materials available so that these groups can start putting them to use in their work around your (and their) issue.
F. Have a panel discussion after your prescreening event using a group of experts on the issue - some of whom will likely be members of your coalition.
G. Create a short overview of the documentary (8-20 minutes long) that focuses on the issues and includes a strong call-to-action message. The purpose of such mini docs. is for use as an outreach tool by groups working on that particular issue. As mentioned above, get a grant to provide copies of this outreach doc. for free or make it available on your web site for a nominal fee. These call-to-action mini docs. are highly valued by activist and educational organizations to provide important visuals at their own events. You can mention the documentary and your web site - but tie the mini mainly to the issue, which will help guarantee it a long life out in the community well after your documentary has aired.
H. Create short on-air educational spots that are, once again, tied to the issue rather than the documentary. The spots can have a common look or logo that ties them to the outreach campaign, but their purpose is to educate viewers and create a call-to-action that can be used as possible PSA's well after the documentary has aired. Make sure your documentary promos have the same look and feel as the outreach pieces so that they are all tied to the same campaign.
I. If your documentary is going on-air, consider setting up a phone bank of volunteers or experts on that issue that are available to take viewers calls. That number can be scrolled at the bottom of the documentary. This works easier as a local outreach event rather than a national - but it could work for a national event as well.
J. Produce and air a local follow-up program around a national documentary that speaks to your community's specific issues and concerns. Airing this in tandem with a phone bank of local experts and 1 800# where people can call to get their questions answered or be sent more resources, is even better.
K. Advertise your documentary production and outreach package in trade magazines or publications read by your target audience (educators, activists, parents, etc…). Give away what you can for free and make the rest available for a nominal fee. Think through with your coalition how best you could get your work into the hands of those that would use it - then write a grant to support that distribution.

V. Measuring Your Success: The Hows and Whys

A. Funders will want to know how you plan to measure the effectiveness of your efforts, so, at the beginning of any project, you should ask yourself, "What is the outcome I expect from my efforts and how can I measure that?"
B. Your measurements should include both quantitative and qualitative information - the former being much easier than the latter.
C. On the quantitative side, you can measure the ratings you received in each area the documentary aired, you can count the number of hits to your web site, number of calls to your 1-800#. the number of viewers guides or videos you distributed, mini grants you gave out, number of public presentations or prescreening events given, you can track the publicity the documentary or outreach effort received in earned media (radio or print interviews of either the producer or a coalition member, issue articles in various publications where you or your coalition are mentioned, etc..).
D. Qualitative is more difficult. Some ideas are to include a post card that viewers can fill out and return that include questions on how or if their perceptions of the issue were at all changed by your efforts and what, if anything, they would consider doing about it (give them a list of options). Ask attendees at any events you hold to complete a survey measuring the same things. Include an interactive survey on Pollutionyour web site, if possible where you take viewers input.
E. One of the best ways to show that you have actually impacted your issue is to have some sort of before and after campaign indicator that you can measure showing behavioral change. Having a coalition partner that collects that sort of data would be ideal - for example, if you're doing a documentary on pesticides in food, I would recommend partnering with a health food chain or local health food stores to see if they show any increase in sale of organic produce after your documentary and campaign has aired. If your documentary is on toxics in the air, can you partner with someone who can measure that for you at certain intervals. If you want people to use public transportation more, can you partner with the local bus service to measure ridership before and after your campaign. Taking pre and post public awareness polls is also good, but expensive if hired out.

VI. Community Outreach: Why Should You Care?

Transportation

A. Simple: Funders love outreach. They want to know that their dollars spent on your project are going to create impact - and the best way to create impact is to have an effective outreach campaign around your documentary project that can lead people to action. Funders I've spoken to want to see at least a one to one ratio of money spent on the documentary and money spent on the outreach campaign, ergo, I would highly recommend that your outreach proposal be half of your fundraising grant.
B. If you are going to go to the time and trouble to create an inspirational documentary, why not go the extra step to insure that it has a longer life and greater impact? A simple outreach campaign that provides viewers with some direction for the inspiration and desire to act you have generated, will increase the utility of your work to the community you are speaking to, and the impact of your work on the issue being addressed.
C. In the absence of even a simple outreach campaign that can help lead people to information and a course of action, producers inadvertently engage in what I refer to as the "dump & run" phenomenon, whereby all they've really done is dump a load of bad news on viewers and kept them wondering what to do about it and how to clean up the mess. Don't waste an opportunity to create real impact on your issue by failing to create outreach around it. When you think, "activist documentary," think, "outreach and impact."

VII. Resources Helpful Web sites when creating a campaign

http://www.benton.org/MTM/
(KLB's article on forming successful outreach coalitions is on pg. 50, chapter 6)

http://www.mediarights.org/toolkit
(Cost: $125.00 to access entire outreach toolkit online) - Excellent Resource.

http://www.roundtablemedia.com/pemc/
(Great suggestions for producers and non profits on how to engage the public).

http://www.itvs.org/
(Independent Television Services with producer resources, program descriptions and web site/outreach links)

http://www.benton.org/Practice/Toolkit/thinkthru.html
(How to design and fund and effective communications strategy)

http://www.spinproject.org/
(Using PR and media strategies ("earned media") in your campaign)

http://www.fenton.com/resources/nht_report.asp
("Now Hear This" - Tools, tactics and opportunities for changing hearts and minds). Examples of Outreach Campaigns:

http://www.nationaloutreach.org/Pipeline.html
(Web site for the PBS National Center for Outreach and a list of the PBS primetime documentary line-up through winter of 2003. Includes description of docs., suggested station outreach and available outreach materials plus web sites. Created for PBS station outreach staff).

http://www.pbs.org/pov/specialsites/index.html
(links to web sites of POV documentaries and their outreach campaigns)

http://www.pbs.org/conscience/
(Good web site design and materials)

http://www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/
(Excellent outreach web site for inspiring action)

http://www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/escape/index.html
(Web site for Escape From Affluenza - Follow up to Affluenza)

http://www.pbs.org/tradesecrets/
(Effective, high voltage web site of a Bill Moyers documentary, Trade Secrets)

http://www.itvs.org/external/babyg/resources.html
(Very good example of broad-based, web site resource list with links)

See: Outreach Bio & Services and Non Profit Organizations for a list of services and examples of her work.
Home   About KLB   Documentary Producers  Outreach Bio & Services  Non-Profit Organizations   Outreach Primer    Graduate Research 

Kristi Laguzza-Boosman, Outreach Consultant
KLB Community Consulting
PO Box 51544
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
Ph: 509.670.7225
Email: kboosman7@gmail.com

Web Design by
Medicine Wheel