Defining outreach

I couldn’t resist copying and pasting this quote from a page that I just came across titled “Outreach: How’s it done?” on the Native American Public Telecommunications site.

Here’s the quote:

Outreach puts you and your production in touch with the community. It reaches new audiences, adds to your promotion and marketing beyond the TV viewer, and is rewarding to the community you need to reach most.

— Frank Blythe, Retired Executive Director of Native American Public Telecommunications.

I greatly appreciate the quote and the article, both of which give a clear idea of what outreach is about, when to incorporate it in the promotional strategy for your film and why it is key to the success of the strategy. Thanks NAPT for helping us to define our work.

I wrote the above a few months ago. Now, into the first week of 2013, I’m coming back to this post to add some more thoughts on this topic.

Very often, I have had to explain this term to Spanish speakers and that indeed is a challenge. There really is no equivalent translation that I have found yet (if you know one, please let us know right away!).

That said, some English speakers that I know struggle with the term also, especially with regards to film. Why not just say marketing? Well, it’s not marketing. What you do with outreach, whether it be for a health clinic or a school or a library or, yes, for film (and particularly for social issue film), is “reach out” to the greater community, both locally and beyond. To compare with other terms that involve getting attention for your film, here are some examples: When you take your film to a festival, the festival organizers and you may do “publicity” for the film. That means that you contact press and media, with releases and photos; you try to organize interviews, you want to appear in the news, on television, on blogs. You may also “market” your film, either at the festival, or in general. When you’re marketing, you’re trying to communicate with potential buyers or an audience to raise awareness of your film as a product of value. Outreach is similar, but not the same. With outreach, you seek community–if your film is about mothers in prison, such as Mothers of Bedford, when you attend a festival, you might contact mommy bloggers, as well as organizations involved in children’s rights, activists for gender or legal rights and perhaps religious organizations. You may partner with these organizations to get the attention of their members or collaborators. You’ll hand out postcards and comp tickets. Not only will you get them to fill the seats, but you may also have these people on board with you for the life of the film, especially if you want to use it as an activist tool.

These film festival actions are just an example. Outreach is an ongoing activity, one that you can initiate practically from the inception of the film as an idea, just when you’ve got your first trailer or teasers out. With outreach, you don’t just create a fanbase or buyers for your film, you create or tap into an active community.