"Planning for engagement is a balancing act. While you have to fulfill promises made early in the process to key funders and partners, you also have to stay flexible enough to take advantage of emerging opportunities and new technologies."
- Anne Harrington, Director, Interactive Media and Outreach, WETA
Creating an engagement plan is an iterative process; your team, your evaluation, your strategies, your timeline and budget will all form and reform during this phase. Ultimately, you will need to come to lock on some parts of the plan, as this will keep you on track during the implementation and sustaining phases.
Many public television and radio stations support youth media training. Amaris Bailey’s work with Illinois Public Media boosted her confidence academically and as a budding journalist.
Form your engagement team.
Include yourself, at least one field producer, your web manager, your lead communications person and an engagement expert. You should also include representatives of partner and funding organizations, and if possible, people who stand in for end users, such as station personnel, teachers and evaluators. If the project is complex, you may wish to create a subgroup that is advisory only, and does not get involved in operational issues. The point is to involve all the key players in planning from the start of your project, and keep involving them as the work unfolds.
Develop engagement strategies.
Keeping in mind your target audiences and hoped-for outcomes, brainstorm the ways in which you can get real people involved with your content. Screenings, summits, contests, meetups, call-ins, geo-cache scavenger hunts, story sharing, crowdsourcing – be open to any idea on any platform. Remain cognizant of the manner in which different people use media, and how they relate to each other online and in person. Think about the high-touch possibilities that local stations, teachers and community organizations can provide. Take advantage of what your partners are already doing nationally and locally. (Some producers conduct working summits with partners during the rough cut stage, to generate excitement and ideas.) Ultimately, your list of ideas will be winnowed down by the realities of your available resources, but brainstorming may elicit ideas so compelling that they inspire additional support from your funders.
In this video by Working Films, funders, partners and producer talk about
Create an evaluation plan.
The organizations that have funded your content or engagement work will want to be accountable for the investments they’ve made. Even if they haven’t asked for one, a professional evaluation is an excellent idea. Not only will it strengthen your engagement planning and execution, it will enable you to demonstrate real impact to current and future funders.
An evaluator will help you to refine target audiences and desired outcomes; identify indicators of success, such as changes in knowledge, skills, attitudes and behavior; create instruments to measure impact, such as surveys and focus groups; and help you define the audiences and the uses of the evaluation itself. (In fact, your partners and funders know a lot about outcomes measurement and may be willing to conduct or pay for the evaluation.)
Create a 36-month timeline.
As a producer, you now have more ways in which to reach, excite and involve audiences than ever before, and to do so before, during and after a broadcast. We’ve estimated a 36-month timeline for most projects, embedding engagement work in the planning, execution and sustaining phases. If you are working with advocacy groups, remember that distribution through public media offers a powerful opportunity but is constrained by strict editorial standards. Use your relationship with public broadcasting to best effect and at the right time in your engagement continuum.
Create an engagement budget.
Only you know the amount of your overall budget. Engagement activities should probably represent no less than 25% of the total. With the emergence of new social media tools and new forms of content distribution, a higher percentage may be appropriate. We have created a sample budget worksheet that includes many types of engagement; modify as needed.
Now that you’ve completed the planning phase, it’s time to implement your engagement.