Note From Beth: I’m on my way to Australia and New Zealand lead a series of workshops on Networked Nonprofits and Measurement, culminating with a keynote at this year’s ConnectingUp Conference in Australia, so expect to see a few interesting guest posts. I caught up with Danny Alpert at the NTC Conference in Minneapolis, MN where he briefed me on how he is using a “Transmedia” strategy to raise awareness and funding to support homeless services. He graciously agreed to pen this guest post while I was in transit to “down under.” Enjoy.
Transmedia – Making Change Across Mediums by Danny Alpert, Executive Director, Kindling Group and Executive Producer, See3 Communications
I became a documentary filmmaker to tell meaningful stories that explore social issues and inspire change. When I started out, the “broadcast, festival, and screenings” model of distribution dictated community engagement strategies that were more linear, and limited. We knew that if our film was compelling, we could break through to the people in the audience — and maybe they would help get the word out about the film and the issues it explored.
Today, it’s a whole new ballgame. The digital tools we have at our disposal are limitless — allowing great stories to reach more and more people, and providing new opportunities for recruiting advocates, changing policy, public education, and creating real change on the ground. Knowing your audience remains essential, because each platform is a new arena for expression, and a new avenue to engage different targets and users. But simply put, cross-platform campaigns are the future of documentary film, and issue advocacy.
My latest project is called @home, which explores homelessness in America through the story of Mark Horvath (aka @hardlynormal on Twitter). Mark is an e-activist who interviews homeless men and women, and shares their stories across every digital medium he can find — YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, you name it. Just like Mark, @home is moving beyond the old models of documentary film, using social media, web video, and a smartphone “game for change” to to spark a conversation about homelessness, and how we can solve it.
In a recent Pew research study, 43% of people who use social media reported that they decided to “learn more about a social issue” due to something they read on a social networking site, and 18% said they decided to take action offline. Whatever the issue, once you’ve engaged online — even with just a retweet or a $5 donation — you’re in the door, and you’re a part of the team. The more people we reach on digital platforms, the more attitudes we will impact and the more boots we’ll have on the ground to organize and advocate.
Right now, we are running a crowdfunding campaign to finish the documentary at the project’s core and develop the @home game. To build momentum and get our supporters fired up, we’ve produced a series of webisodes — hitting themes like veterans and homelessness, the power of social media for change, and the solutions we know can work in fighting homelessness. By seeding compelling content and pushing boundaries for distribution with new technology, we can deepen our impact and widen our breadth.
We live in a world where it’s increasingly difficult to keep a person’s attention, and there’s a whole lot out there competing to be seen. Effective engagement still comes down to one-on-one relationships — that’s why we’re defining audiences for each of these clips and collaborating with allied organizations and supporters who can help us tap into new audiences and opportunities. The videos we are producing create win-win motivation for distribution — they point to our partners’ successes and expertise in this field and, at the same time, are helping build our own online community.
Our newest webisode features none-other-than Beth Kanter, a long-time friend and supporter of Mark Horvath’s digital movement to make homelessness visible. Watch to see her, social media influencers, and Mark’s friend network talk about how Twitter and Facebook are changing the game for do-gooders across all issues.
We believe that we are out in front of a growing movement to tell stories across channels and platforms — not as a novelty, but as a necessity forriel upping our impact and reaching a wider audience. This “transmedia” movement has so much potential to produce wins, letting advocates like us better target, personalize, and grow our campaigns.
If you believe in the power of transmedia to make change, please support the @home campaign now — and share this cutting-edge project with your friends.
Daniel Alpert is the executive director of the Kindling Group, a non-profit documentary and community engagement production company, and executive producer for See3 Communications, which uses new media to activate people and advance social causes. His work as a producer, director, and editor has been nominated for Academy and national Emmy Awards, and has aired on PBS, HBO, and A&E. His films have explored causes from human rights and curing cancer to animal welfare and religious coexistence.