Challenges & Lessons Learned
Keep things focused. One of the key reasons this project was so successful was because the subject was narrow and focused, and there was great synergy among all the elements.
The timing of educational outreach resource production was not optimal. Many of the educational outreach partners wished the Web site had been launched earlier (it was launched a few weeks before the premiere). The short videos were completed after the series premiere, because they were based on series footage, which couldn't be accessed earlier.
The model community RFP process was arduous but effective. Sites were required to send in an "intent to apply" letter a month before their proposal was due. WGBH then worked with them before they sent it in to make sure their project was rigorous and thorough.
By being fairly specific in the basic requirements on the model community RFP, Building Big got the reach it needed, while also giving communities room to customize. In the past, WGBH has found that fairly open-ended RFPs yield very uneven results that are impossible to measure. In general, being proscriptive when developing partnerships (local or national) works well. It helps build the relationship because all the participants know what's expected from them, and there are fewer misunderstandings and miscommunications.
Building Big sent all model community applicants all the resources they gave to the 10 sites that were ultimately chosen, except the stipend and training. All of them launched educational outreach efforts anyway, a third of them quite extensive.
Building Big provided its partners with many materials electronically, including photos, logos, a demo of the Web site, and an interview with David Macaulay to create press materials. Most importantly, partners were sent a PowerPoint presentation that stations and engineers could use to train other engineers. This proved very effective.
The Building Big poster, produced through WGBH's promotion department and distributed primarily as an enclosure in the teacher's guide to project partner ASCE, model sites, and at conferences, wasn't particularly useful as an educational outreach tool. Posters with pretty pictures but no educational content, which simply promote the broadcast, are not an effective way to spend educational outreach dollars.