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I’ve been meaning to write about this for ages. Late last year – in December – Sandra Buffington from the Hollywood Health and Society Research came to London and visited with my team. Her work is so similar to what we do and I really admired the work that they do that I was so excited to have her share her work and results in the hope that the team could see how much potential there is in our field.

I love what they do, it is something I’d love to do more of, which is put social messages into popular mainstream programming like Law and Order, Greys Anatomy, ER, 90210. And it’s everything from HIV/AIDS to biopolar disorder. To top it off they have the stats to prove that this stuff works. People seem more likely to take in a message when it’s put into an entertaining format, or in a situation that they can relate to.

It’s what I aspire to do with Staying Alive and all other MTV SR programming and I think we’re on the right track, with Shuga, Tribes and Not to Me – if you don’t know, you better google it!

I also think it’s the way to go in Africa. To often Africa gets programming in the form of documentaries, newspieces and PSAs. Yes Africans are probably more into news type content than other young people in other continents, but its just information in a one dimensional way that sooner or later gets boring. Making the issue more three dimensional through holistic programming, especially through fictional characters and storylines to address ‘taboo’ subjects drives the message home.

This is way I’m especially proud of my brother, Fred Phiri, for using his talent to write and produce the drama series Club Risky Business in Zambia. To see the whole series go to the Club Risky Business Channel.

Enjoy

Final day of our strategy for the staying alive campaign and i’m shattered. It was good, but i’m beat. Not even sure if today was a productive as the other days. We re-did our mission statement and set goals/objectives for this year. We even managed to think up some ideas for our on-air programme this year. It wasn’t easy.
TV trends are changing. There is scripted reality, drama, documentary, all sorts of formats you can use, but which one really works the best? I know we should probably get more research on this issue, but discussing it among ourselves was a useful first step.
Next week i’ll pull together the full strategy and hopefully we can get our workplans together and start looking for funding. i think this is going to be a good year.

We figured it out – we now know who our clients are! It seems like an easy enough task, but when you think about what we do – produce content, funded by different organisations, and then distributed to broadcasters to air, for young people to watch – well any of those could be our clients. Then you break up what we do, how we do it and who it serves and then you figure out who the clients are. It was a really interesting process and the debates led to even more understanding.

From there we’ve done (or will do by tomorrow) three half days of strategic planning. It’s been really interesting as we’ve done a SWOT analysis – both internal, and external, identified our competitors and even our core competence (you can see i’m putting my MBA training into good use). The good thing was getting the input of the whole team and not just leaving it to ‘management’. And it’s a pretty good team – they get along, they’re passionate about the issue, they’re ambitious and they’re constantly striving to be better!

The candid discussions made us all think that as a campaign we’ve lost our edge a little bit and now we’ve got some distance to go to get back to being the absolute best – which is of course what we always strive to be.

Hmmm what will tomorrow bring?

Happy New Year everyone! It’s exciting to be in the new year. It’s another opportunity for us to reflect on the previous year and attempt to do better and not make the same mistakes. It really is a lot harder than it sounds.

The year in my team begins with planning what we want to do and accomplish this year. I’m doing it a little bit differently this year, but it’s led us into a debate about who our clients are. I’m tempted to say it’s the audience who watch our programming that are our clients, but we don’t get our money from them – we get it from our funding partners who want to reach our audience, so are they the clients?

It really is a crucial question that needs answering because it ultimately affect the products we produce. If you have any insights into how we identify this I’d be more than happy to hear it.

In the meantime – as I promised in one of my blogs way back, here is the first episode of Club Risky Business – the now award winning series, created and produced by Media 365 in Zambia (a company I am one of the directors of).

last night i went to a panel discussion on how you can measure the success of digital projects. of course this was of interest to me because with us living in such a ‘digital word’, it’s important that our sexual health campaigns have a strong component that uses digital properties, such as websites, twitter, facebook, youtube etc.
while this adds to our multi-platform offering, there’s also a struggle to figure out what is success – in a meaningful way other than just x thousands/millions of people visited the site over a period of time. and let’s be honest those figures can be subjective too. what they were saying last night, and i really felt was spot on, it’s got to be about engagement. how are users engaging with the campaign, with the brand?
this could be measured by anything from the amount of time they spend on the site – if they’re spending time on the site they’re engaged by something – to things like how they’re commenting, what they’re commenting on – basically it’s got to be about the user experience. Ultimately if we seek to identify the actual human interaction on the site – or whatever the digital offering is – then we can see a level of ‘customer satisfaction’.
it was based on commerical projects and tv programmes, but i thought this was interesting for HIV/AIDS projects that use digital media as well. after doing a google search i found there weren’t that many sites for the user on HIV/AIDS anyway – the user being young people that is. the other day i really struggled to find a site for young people that explained MCP in a way that was relevant to them.
this led me to thinking – how can we do educational campaigns without having this information readily available for young people in a language and a medium that’s accessible for them? yeah you have unaids and avert, but really, are these sites young people want to go to?
and that was another thing that they said on the panel – don’t focus on bringing the people to your branded site, instead take the content to where they already are. and make it easy to find.
i think at staying alive we are using digital in a good way, we have some really strong online properties, but we also have the challenge of figuring out how to capture that new audience – so that we’re not preaching to the choir – and engaging with them.
so far we’ve seen some success with our blogs, but definitely with facebook and twitter. i have to admit, i’m not on twitter – i just don’t get it (from an personal perspective) – but it works, it’s a great tool to keep people updated and even sending them to our various websites.
where i think we’re falling short is the information we give out. yes, our strength is not in the actual information, but i think we have a real opportunity where young people trust us as a credible and cool source that we should be giving them more of the hard information. to be fair we are doing this a bit better with our blogs for our ignite project. they’re written by young people themselves and they talk about various topics relating to sexual health, which i think this is a good thing. they talk about relationships, one night stands, getting circumcised etc, stuff that we want them to know about about, putting across information while entertaining the user.
we still have the challenge of getting those users to leave comments, so that we know that we’re doing something right or what we’re doing wrong.
so i do believe that now, more than ever, whether you’re addressing young people in Africa or young people in Europe, you need digital components to your projects. you just need to figure out how to make sure its the user experience in mind – and not about your brand – whether you’re an NGO or a UN agency or a company with a CSR agenda. and there’s nothing wrong with going to someone with more experience – like us!