MTM2015 | Keynote Speech – Part 4 Evil Smiley and Actionable Opportunities


Okay, so evil smiley so this act is a short act and this is about amplification of the
message amplification of the story
that is about the social action campaign component and from where I said and do this kind of work
it’s never divorced from the story Not sure if everyone loves that approach
but it is an approach I’ve used a great deal But, amplified community in a public affairs
approach to and the social issues is not just about
the campaign the important piece that I think is
sometimes overlooked in the rhetoric around this kind of idea is the idea that it’s not enough to
create the social action campaign around it you have to do a great deal of formative
research and developing research in advance to understand where is the social issue
in the first place Right, what is the media
discourse around the issue what is public opinion around the issue I like to call these in my work that I
do with participant media and some other folks I call these actionable opportunities
and identifying actionable opportunities is not archival
research simply for the sake of saying that you check the box and did
a landscape and you kind of have a sense of what’s going on Actionable opportunities means that you do
enough of the right research in advance that you understand exactly where you will be able to motivate that issue through the story and the campaign and
there are many projects that have used this kind of thinking pretty successfully and I just want to
talk about a couple and again I really could do I mean I teach on this staff, so I could do
four hours just on this topic but let’s try do the 10 second version.
So understanding the issue goals understanding the influencers understanding who the
natural amplifiers are understanding who your allies in the
mission are and importantly understanding what the issue is I can’t
emphasize that enough I see all kinds of mistakes in that area Let me just give one example not
from anybody’s past projects but from something that I like to say in
other talks If you so let’s say you’re creating a project
about fracking okay and I’m not going to take
a position on fracking today by the way So we’re doing a project
on fracking you say “I want to motivate people to do something I’m going to motivate people to call
their member of Congress” so if you had done that four, five years ago in 2010 that would have failed and the reason
that would have failed and if you had not done archival research and done this
kind of opportunity actionable opportunities research it’s because if you had
uncovered public opinion data which exists and there is a great piece of research from USC
actually from 2010 that shows that seventy percent of the american public
did not even know what that meant in 2010 and so a fracking project in
2010 would have been right to say our goal is
simply to build awareness right, and so I say that as a way you know for many of you who are
thinking about projects or have been in the sit and thinking about what kind of action you’re
gonna have around your social issue this is really crucial right, this can
mean the difference between success or not success and it’s appropriate when
occasionally your objective can be just to make people think about it
right, if you’re saying I want to make people think about it and then you do
the appropriate evaluation to see are people thinking about it and what
kind of people are thinking about it and what might they be primed to do the next
time we tell them to think about it right, that’s more effective than saying we
wanted people to call their member of Congress and the member of Congress is going to say nobody even knows what this means yet
right Sorry it was kind of kind of a long tantrum let me get to the evil smiley part I know you’re all waiting on the edge of you sits so this is the evil smiley my kids call him the scary man with eight arms. This project is ten years old and I just I can’t believe
that, where did it go? 10 years unbelievable, 2005 and let me tell you about how this relates to this idea even though it’s now retro because it’s 10 years old So in 2004 if you read the news about Walmart it was not good so in 2004 though media coverage of
Walmart being a not great corporate citizen was pretty heavy so a lot of stories about human rights
abuses about worker compensation about
environmental contamination a lot people don’t think about that when they think about Walmart you know shutting down businesses around
the country what was happening to main street and the reason that’s important even if
you didn’t care so much about Walmart the reason that’s important and still important today is because Walmart
the number one company in the world and so as the loss leader in the race to
the bottom we should care how Walmart conducts
itself right on behalf of its workers you know X
million people around the world on behalf of economies around the world
and so there was a group of filmmakers who got together led by Robert Greenwald
of Brave New Films and said you know we should make a movie about
this and we think we have identified the typical opportunity actionable opportunities around this
issue and it turns out in the case of Walmart it was a truly in at the end of 2004
beginning in 2005 when we start to make the movie it was the right moment for that story
and so it turns out that there were so many
issues to cover that am we covered all of them but we covered so many stories
and the other piece in here about amplified community that is really the
big takeaway of this project for me looking back is, you know about a year and a half before we’re
able to use Facebook and social media and to activate online around these issues this project
was able to mobilize about 5,000 screenings around the
country we had a big week of action called
Walmart week that dealt with different themes we would call them verticals today right? different topical areas:
Human rights, labor, environmental contamination.
And but while we were making the movie
we were building that community right, so we were working with interests
groups all along the way to help point us to stories to act as sources for us to
follow up, and so by the time the movie was ready there was this deep
invested community that was ready to use the project and that already thought about how it was going to use it for a tool or they had a year to develop
their own grassroots strategy and so we did, which is again this is now
a retro example but it’s one that I’ve used in a lot of
different projects since then We actually cut and this was Robert’s idea I definitely don’t want to
appear to be taking credit with the group effort but Robert’s idea was to cut many versions of the movie by verticals by
topic area so we had a 20 minute cut for
environmental groups, we had a 20 minute cut for human rights folks 20 minutes cut for the labor unions many many other groups that with that Luisa can help me
remember that I may have forgotten by now a really effective strategy because they
didn’t you know, even though we were doing the
grassroots screenings they didn’t all need the featured film They needed the 20 minutes to activate
their community or their policy change or whatever it is that they were up to, so always a good strategy to this day and
has a lot to do with a dual influence strategy right, so you’re
who do you want to use this as a tool and then the popular strategy, the
general audience what do you want them to do and feel and think Okay, so that is that example. Oh and I should
say so what happened with evil smiley? It’s the best part. Well the logo changed
for one Well I don’t know if you all remember but
the logo was a big smiley face of course, thus evil smiley.
It is now a starburst without a face, but there was a big communication
campaign from Walmart that was really interesting. But a number of
things changed over the years so employee benefits changed employee
healthcare changed a massive program to green its distribution process et cetera, et cetera. So a number of
structural changes

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