Optimizing Influence For Years To Come

You’ve mapped out your allies in the Ecosystem of Change, and your audiences in Beyond the Choir. As you learn more about systems and attitudes, start planning for long-term impact.


How can a story be shared so that it has maximum impact, but also protects the storyteller’s creative perspective and rights? Obviously, it should have the widest possible reach, but that doesn’t mean that it should be streamed online as soon as it’s completed. Quite the contrary! A smarter approach is often a cone-shaped rollout, moving from allies and “influentials” to ever-broader audiences.

guiding questions for engaged distribution: Creatives lead the way

How and where will the film be seen? How can each platform* attract audiences, and what are the social change opportunities that each offers? How does this align with the storyteller’s intention and business model?
Who should have early access to this story in order to help build interest and even endorsements among thought leaders?
Do you seek to engage people with slightly different or undecided perspectives (Beyond the Choir), even opposing views (Way Beyond the Choir)?
For example, could a group of potential donors take an early peek to decide whether they will contribute? Should the staff of a think tank have an opportunity to discuss the story, building allies and “buzz” before the general public can see it?
What unusual venues might help build an audience? Consider sneak-peek screenings at conferences, the halls of government, or wherever your stakeholders gather.
What are the bigger but still realistic distribution platforms? What will it take to apply to festivals, appeal to streaming services, even make it to the big screen? How can this help reach Beyond the Choir?
Many stories can become a catalyst for dialogue, training or coalition-building for years to come. Who in your Ecosystem can give you advice and open doors?


Social movement needs stories. And thanks to technology, stories today have multiple outlets, from streaming services, to suburban multiplexes, to smart phones, and many screens in between. (DVDs are still the only way many groups can screen content!) Some stories are getting shorter and more shareable for social media, or are available in different versions that work for a range of audiences.


That’s good news for the filmmakers and other storytellers in the Ecosystem, who should always take the lead on designing their Megaphone. That’s because they are often dependent on money from sales, downloads, etc. (See Prenups for Partners.)


But the flip side is that these outlets release a dizzying amount of content that vies for people’s limited attention and time. You’ll have a greater impact and save money and time if you strategize about the best means of engagement at each level of the Megaphone. And don’t forget to estimate target dates for each platform you use.


The Megaphone is highly customizable. Let’s say your story is about a controversial issue that might resonate with people who are Just Beyond the Choir. You might choose to premiere it in relatively neutral settings—film festivals, libraries, community screenings—because you want to stimulate cross-cutting conversations. Or you might want to come out of the gate to promote an advocacy agenda at an organizers’ gathering. Whatever your strategy, what kinds of partners or programs might offer that kind of exposure, and how can that work for everyone involved?



Pictured right: From Jose Antonio Vargas’ Documented, 2013.


Take note of the yellow strip just under the Megaphone: this contains all the companion resources and versions that will make a story relevant, user-friendly, and accessible for years after those initial “thought leader” screenings.