P.O.V. collaborated with Active Voice/TRI and the Independent Television Service to launch an extensive outreach campaign around Promises. Vigorous outreach efforts resulted in 61 events taking place around the country through 19 station partnerships, 10 community partnerships, and scores of screening and discussions at events sponsored by community-based organizations. An estimated 6,000 people took part in events, tens of thousands were contacted via tune-in messages and announcements in organizational newsletters, and the Promises Web site registered over 500,000 page views during broadcast months.
Challenges & Lessons Learned
Promises was an extremely effective tool for much-needed cross-cultural discussion about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The events of September 11, 2001, tragically made the film even more timely. With a December 2001 broadcast, the demand for the film as a centerpiece for post 9/11 events was extraordinary.
Fortunately the outreach team had already determined that events built around a screening of the film would require a full array of facilitation and educational materials, so they were well-prepared to meet the demand. These materials were key to the success of this project. If the film had not been designated a key P.O.V. special long before 9/11, the outreach team would not have been able to complete their materials in time and the opportunity might have been missed.
Anticipating the potential controversies around the P.O.V./PBS broadcast of the film was also extremely important. Positioning the film well in the press, as well as vetting the film with a diverse range of experts and commentators from more conservative as well as progressive political and academic backgrounds, allowed the outreach producers to stand behind their materials and PBS to stand firmly behind the broadcast -- despite pressure from some very conservative sectors who felt, for instance, that any positive images of Palestinian youth was inappropriate. All the materials were vetted as well -- including the Web site, the timeline, and the facilitation guide -- to make sure that the language was balanced, fair, and accurate. This allowed stations to have confidence that they were working with materials that had no political or ideological agenda. Viewers would arrive at their own conclusions.
The outreach team strongly encouraged the use of facilitators and panels of experts for the often-emotional screenings. It was important that event planners not underestimate the intensity of some of the discussions that might ensue after screenings.
In the future, the team would hope to identify resources sooner to be able to support a much larger number of events at more than the usual $1,000-per-event mini-grant average. Also, they would like to be able to produce a national community Town Hall on this important topic for stations to air after the original program.