At Prime Time in Ottawa a few weeks ago we provided an update to delegates about a National Promotional Strategy to raise awareness about the great on-screen content produced in Canada. While there are a number of initiatives underway, (creating a platform for access and discoverability, branding), the working group that I co-chair with Barb Williams from Shaw Media has a very specific mandate— and that is to promote the success of Canadian TV, film and second screen content in terms of shows, its creators, talent and economic value.
Our working group is made up of a cross-section of industry experts who are focused on coordinating communications promotion— not regulatory or policy issues. We are at the point right now where we have identified two specific projects, both aimed at promoting the success of Canadian content. The first project involves using social media and online tools (and you as experts and audience) to build a buzz about success stories by reaching a critical mass of grassroots supporters. The longer-term project will involve work by a sub-committee of broadcasters to look at how to use their facilities to promote success on the screen.
But we need your help, if we are going to reach a critical mass. The intent of the working group is not to become simply another permanent body reporting out to government bodies—there are lots of those around. We are not focused on asking government to act but for to act ourselves by executing promotional activity without permission. We simply want our initial ideas to be catalysts for grassroots movements and engagement in creating and promoting Canadian success stories.
At Prime Time we promised that we would reach out to you as institutions, groups or audiences to ensure the social media exercise would be an inclusive one. The time to begin is now.
So what do we mean by success stories?
The stories can be economic or financial in nature. For example we can take data available from resources like Profile: An Economic Report on the Screen-based Production Industry in Canada to find important nuggets of information to share. For example…Success: Did you know the screen-based industry created 132,500 jobs last year?
Other kinds of data can be made into short stories from ratings information. For example… This fall Rookie Blue scored higher in the charts in Canada than Big Brother or CSI New York.
And the more we can create success nuggets of 140 characters or less the easier it is to promote.
Award ceremonies are also a good source of the kinds of success stories we are talking about. For example…The Oscar-nominated Rebelle wins 10 awards at the Canadian Screen Awards.
Of course news about stars, directors, writers, etc. are also success stories. And you can’t have populist support without a star system. The information is generally available; it’s just not well catalogued or easily accessible.
Those are just a few examples of what success stories could be about. But we are looking for your ideas and some other sources, like newsletters or Facebook pages already dedicated to Canadian content. And we need advice on how can we collect and collate such information? What groups in the country may already be doing this kind of work, how do we find and include it? How do we build and engage contributors so this is not a top-down initiative, but taps into the grassroots, and fans of Canadian content?
So, what do we mean about promoting our success, and how can you help?
- In our view it is easy to start by creating the kinds of success stories I illustrated above in 140 words or less and tweet and retweet them through a network of producers, broadcasters, creators, funders, etc. Facebook pages or newsletters are also great ways to tell the stories in longer format. But how do we roll that over to audience engagement and participation because only then does such an exercise take off?
- There is an exercise underway right now at CMF and Telefilm to create a common brand to cover a range of activities that has the potential to connect a lot of activity under a unifying umbrella. How do we coordinate efforts?
- Is Twitter the best place to start or other social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn etc.?
- How do we avoid reinventing the wheel and figure out what parties actually are already out there doing promotional work and increase collaboration amongst all these groups?
- Where do the success stories come from? “Profile” and provincial funders have great regional sources and CMF, Telefilm and CRTC have tons of data. As would the Academy running the Canadian Screen awards. Film and online festivals have info as do associations/organizations like CMPA, ACTRA, APFTQ, DGC, WGC and CAFTE, just to identify a few institutional sources.
- How do we collect, curate and store such info so it is accessible in a “commons” like environment?
- Do we require a wiki to be our central repository and can we make it more sophisticated so it can be searchable and aid in the discoverability of content rather than simply its promotion? How could we make something like this self-funding?
- How do we create something that can either reflect many cultures, regions and communities both physical and virtual, or can be easily replicated to promote unique interests and perspectives?
- And most important, how do we transfer this from a working group to a collective of institutions and individuals that may all want access to the info but have different ideas as to what to promote and how? Because we believe success comes from the ground up not through a command and control structure. That to us is the essence of audience support and engagement.
The good news is that there are an incredible number of Canadian success stories and not merely in Canada but internationally. Our films win countless awards in international markets, we are recognized as a hub for digital/transmedia activity, our children’s programming is world leading and our lifestyles and dramas are available in markets around the world. But who knows?
The challenge is to create this community of communities on a shoestring basis by relying on volunteers like homegrown creative talent, producers and broadcasters of shows and innovative success stories and anyone who wants to be part of a loose affiliation of people promoting good news for the fun of it.
So while we wait for a brand to ultimately help connect us all, please give us your ideas on these questions by replying to this blog (comments section) or via Twitter @hennessycmpa. Hopefully some of your advice can help find us a better home for this phase of the exercise.
And you don’t have to wait to get out there. If you have a show, film, web series or creative talent you want to promote, just start. No permission required.
PS. ideas and tweets are welcome but there is no budget to buy software to drive this so business proposals, no matter how cool will not be considered—at least for now.
So let’s get started. We have a lot of stories to tell.