Using Television and Film to Advance Your Cause (No Ad Budget Required)
August 08, 2016
A well-told story can help people understand an issue in a visceral way, enabling them to feel fear, stress, elation, and other strong emotions as it unfolds. When characters in the HBO drama Treme showed us the courage of New Orleanians struggling to stabilize their lives and rebuild their city after Hurricane Katrina, the importance of resilience and economic inclusion felt less hypothetical — and more like real issues affecting real people.
At the Rockefeller Foundation, we understand the power of stories to influence opinions, change attitudes, and motivate people to work for the good of their communities. In 2014, we deepened our investment in cause-focused storytelling with the launch of Hatch for Good, a suite of tools and resources designed to help social-change organizations share stories that drive social impact.
Of course, no one tells stories better than Hollywood. That's why we're supporting AndACTION, a pop culture hub that gives social-change organizations a heads-up on film and TV shows in production related to their causes, allowing them ample time to develop campaigns designed to stimulate discussion and drive action. We're intrigued by the idea of leveraging popular entertainment to encourage interest in topics like resilience and inclusive economies. And with AndACTION, social-change organizations now have an opportunity to tap into the passions generated by compelling stories delivered via screens large and small and ride the wave of public enthusiasm — because they know ahead of time the wave is coming.
The fact is, organizations need stories if they hope to win hearts and minds. Yet few groups use the many powerful stories that are told on a regular basis on TV or in feature films. AndACTION is helping to bridge that divide. For example, organizations seeking to mobilize public support to address climate change could jump on AndACTION's website and learn more about Deepwater Horizon, an upcoming disaster film that examines the dangers of deepwater ocean drilling. Or they could read about Leonardo DiCaprio's upcoming The Sandcastle Empire, a dystopian tale set in 2049 that depicts human society at a breaking point due to climate change, coastal flooding, and overpopulation.
Superstore, Deepwater Horizon, and The Sandcastle Empire are just three examples among many of the kinds of well-crafted shows and film that nonprofits and foundations can leverage to advance their work. And once organizations are made aware of pertinent narratives, AndACTION will work with them to develop relevant campaign materials, virtual and real-world discussion forums, and events tied to the release of the show or film that tap into the buzz around the show or film and drive eyeballs to their action pages.
Getting audiences to engage with an issue is easier if that audience is approached when it is already thinking and talking about the issue. All too often, however, people lack the critical information that a cause-focused organization can provide. When audience energy is combined with timely advice and guidance, good things can happen.
That's why we're working with AndACTION, and it's why we're supporting, along with Atlantic Philanthropies, the Open Society Foundations, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, and others, this innovative strategy. We encourage you to take advantage of AndACTION's resources and spread the word that help is on the way.
Neill Coleman is vice president of global communications at the Rockefeller Foundation.