Hi.  Chris Michael here, the Video Advocacy Training Manager at WITNESS.  This is the second post in a series of training-related posts with an overview of what we’re up to with our new training initiatives.  All of the posts in this series will feature some behind the scenes work we’re doing – and we’re inviting you to collaborate with us by providing your feedback, suggestions and ideas to help us enhance our work.  (You can start by filling out this survey!)

In preparing for the Video Advocacy Planning Toolkit that we’re building (see my last post for an overview), we did a ‘persona’ exercise to help us narrow the primary audiences that we envision as key users.  We needed to go beyond ‘human rights activists that want to use video’ and get very specific – exploring questions such as their motivations, where they are located, what their budget is and what their current use of video is.  Now, ideally this is done through research and in-person conversations, which we’re doing as well (please fill out our survey if you haven’t already), but we wanted to get a jumpstart on the process.

The persona exercise, which is rooted in brand building and marketing, is something that we do regularly at WITNESS with our partners to support their video advocacy efforts, in our social media outreach – on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc. –  as well as when we were designing the Hub.

“Well, my video is for everybody, of course…”

Here’s a common interaction that my colleagues and I have at trainings, during presentations and via email regularly:

Me: Who is the target audience for your video?

Committed activist: Everybody, we want everyone to see it…It’s for everyone.

Now, the great thing about this response for us is that we have an immediate path we pursue – narrowing and focusing the intended audience for a video.  In WITNESS’ experience, a targeted and reachable audience is essential for successful video advocacy – knowing which eyes you’re trying to reach. (Also, we cannot forget the import of ensuring that they will actually see it, and that your content will move them to take the action you seek.  More on that soon…).  It also rings true for any content that we or any group or organization is creating.

Here are a few of the questions that quickly spark the ‘who’s your audience’ analysis:

  • Who is your audience? Why are they your audience?
  • What do they want (if anything) from you?  Do you know this (research) or are you guessing or inferring?
  • When will you try to reach them and why then (does it best support your advocacy timeline)?
  • Where can you access them online? Offline? Who do they pay attention to? Trust?
  • Why are you the best placed to provide this content? Are you providing something unique that they cannot get elsewhere? Are you sure you are providing something new?
  • How will you track if they receive your content?  How will you know if they read or watched your content?  How will you know if they took the desired action you propose in your content?

We’re not alone in adapting this process from the corporate sector and using it in the social change sector.  Many groups and organizations are using this exercise to not only narrow their audiences, but to also map out the respective audiences’ action path or ‘rate of conversion’.  For a product, this might be something like (really simplifying it here, folks):

Potential consumer sees an advertisement in Facebook -> s/he clicks the link -> learns more about the product -> buys product

Generally speaking in marketing, this is a successful path – the person bought the product.

In social change work, and with video, we might have an action path like this:

Person receives email with link to advocacy video -> s/he clicks the link -> watches the video -> follows the suggested link in the video (or text), in this case let’s say it is ‘sign this petition’ -> s/he signs the petition

In this case, the action path was successful because the ultimate goal, which was clear in the video and the text throughout the entire experience was “sign the petition”.  Now, in social change work we can have dozens of great actions – from signing up to a newsletter and following an organization on Twitter to donating money or calling an elected official.

Prioritizing and narrowing audiences

The range of applicable actions and the breadth of potential audiences make it that much more important to narrow and prioritize the folks you are trying to reach.  To ensure this blog post doesn’t go further down the abstract path, let’s look at what we have done for our Toolkit audience analysis.

Here are four primary audiences that we have identified at this stage, in order of priority.  We are narrowing them down further and further as we build out the Toolkit.  This is being done through the in-person interviews my colleagues and I are doing, as well as via the survey.  (For the sake of the exercise, let’s assume that they all share the same language and we can reach them.)

  1. Charlotte the Curious Campaigner
  2. Monique the Media-Making Advocate
  3. Adriana the Aspirational Advocate
  4. Connie the Connector

Friendly reminder: The Video Action Planning Toolkit is WITNESS’ newest training initiative.  Based on the WITNESS video action plan, the Toolkit will be a multi-lingual, interactive and open-source toolkit designed to help advocates develop a successful video advocacy strategy.  Designed for both online and offline use, we are working to ensure it reaches an even greater number and range of activists through a streamlined, customizable and self-directed learning experience.

For all user types, it is important to understand…

All users will:

  • Be able to use the Toolkit online or offline;
  • Determine if video is the right tool for them;
  • Evaluate and be able to enhance their existing campaign objectives;
  • Get exposed to video advocacy best practices and case studies;
  • Be able to evaluate what goes into creating a strategic, effective advocacy video – have a self-assessment;
  • Develop a comprehensive video action plan;
  • Complete exercises to create budgets, roles & responsibilities, shot list for content, etc.;
  • Be able to save and return to the toolkit at anytime; and
  • Be able to share their completed VAP and worksheets with allies, funders, etc.

Currently, users will not:

  • Get coached or get direct feedback from staff or mentors;
  • Get how-to production skills or insights via the toolkit itself (though there will be ample other resources);
  • Be able to connect with other users (it is not a social network);
  • Get a WITNESS certification or accreditation; or
  • Get funding or sponsorship directly via WITNESS for their video production.

Charlotte the Curious Campaigner

Charlotte works for a nonprofit or is a very active community organizer that is involved in a current human rights campaign.  She and her allies have identified video as a potential tool to help bolster their existing campaign.  They know their audience and they change they want, but have not created video before – either for advocacy or personal use.

Current campaign (yes or no): Yes

Advocacy efforts: Direct lobbying and working on policy change.

How she found the Toolkit: Heard about WITNESS through an ally and searched for WITNESS online.

Internet use: She has a personal computer with decent internet access (she can watch videos on YouTube).

Online presence: The group does not have an online presence, but is interested building one.

Experience with video: Never made a video, but interested.

Reason for wanting to make an advocacy video: To support their campaign by using video in a presentation and meeting with policy makers.

Access to video camera: Does not own a camera, but can get access from family or friends.

Editing experience: No editing experience.

Budget considerations: She can allocate $500 for the project.

How s/he is connected to community: Either s/he is

a) a member of community;
b) working directly with the community (staff/volunteer) or
c) has no connection, but cares

Time constraints: She is very busy and is lucky if she can find one full hour to dedicate at a time to this project / Toolkit.

Needs: Help in understanding what video-making entails, how video can be a good advocacy tool, and best practices and case studies.  She also needs help with developing a budget and roles and responsibilities.

Monique the Media-Making Advocate

Monique works for a nonprofit or is a very active organizer that is involved in a current human rights campaign.  Her role in the group is to manage the multimedia use of the group’s work – documentation, saving and sharing multimedia content.  She has done short videos before, but they were more to ‘raise awareness’ about an issue for the general public or the group’s stakeholders.  She is now in charge of developing a video strategy to support the group’s primary campaign.

Current campaign (yes or no): Yes

Advocacy efforts: Has made short videos to raise awareness among general public or group stakeholders

How she found the Toolkit: Direct outreach from WITNESS

Internet use: She has a personal computer with decent internet access (she can watch videos on YouTube).

Online presence: The group has a website and a social media presence (YouTube, Facebook and High5)

Experience with video: Has made short videos before.

Reason for wanting to make an advocacy video: To support the organization’s primary campaign and incorporate raising awareness of a particular bill legislation.  The project is time-bound.

Access to video camera: Has access to camera

Editing experience: Has editing experience and access to editing equipment

Budget considerations: $5,000

How s/he is connected to community: Either s/he is
a) a member of community;
b) working directly with the community (staff/volunteer) or
c) has no connection, but cares

Time constraints: She is very busy and is lucky if she can find one full hour to dedicate at a time to this project / toolkit. Must have video completed in time for bill legislation.

Needs: Better understanding of the best practices of video advocacy.  Doesn’t need help with video production, budget or roles.

Adriana the Aspirational Advocate

Adriana cares about water issues in her community.  She wants to make a video about water issues she and people in her community face and encourage people to pressure their elected officials.  She’s not sure if she should make a video for them or for the media or for another audience.  She’s never made a video before, but has access to a camera with video.

Current campaign (yes or no): No

Advocacy efforts: Wants to make video about water issues she and people in her community face; use video for lobbying power.

How she found the Toolkit: Searched online for video activism and found WITNESS. (She also read a blog by Connie the Connector.)

Internet use: She goes to an internet cafe or friends’ houses to get online.

Online presence: She has a Facebook profile and uses email once or twice a day.

Experience with video: Never made video before, but has access to camera w/ video.

Reason for wanting to make an advocacy video: Draw awareness to issue, rally the community to take action and support lobbying efforts.

Access to video camera: Yes

Editing experience: No

Budget considerations: Costs must be under $500

How s/he is connected to community: Either s/he is
a) a member of community;
b) working directly with the community (staff/volunteer) or
c) has no connection, but cares

Time constraints: She has time and this is important to her and she is able to commit the time it will take.

Needs: Introduction to video advocacy, audience and video production.  She also needs some information on how video has been used successfully and how much time it takes and how much it costs.

Connie the Connector

Connie is a plugged-in, independent activist and grasstops, early adopter – not necessarily going to make a video herself, but likes being on the cutting edge of social media and sharing tips with her community (mostly via Twitter and her popular blog). Connie is more of an influencer to drive people to the toolkit, not so much as a user of the toolkit itself.

Current campaign (yes or no): No

Advocacy efforts: All non-media related; goes to protests, signs petitions and blogs about issues online.

How she found the Toolkit: She follows WITNESS on Twitter, has made an uploaded videos for her YouTube channel (but aren’t advocacy videos)

Internet use: High internet use – online all day all the time.

Online presence: Pretty much always online when in front of desk, and is regularly checking email and Twitter on her mobile phone.

Experience with video: Yes–more ‘media savvy’ in terms of social networking sites.

Reason for wanting to make an advocacy video: N/A

Access to video camera: Yes, she has a DV camera and can get access to friends’ cameras if needed.

Editing experience: She uses iMovie regularly for home movies.

Budget considerations: N/A

How s/he is connected to community: Either s/he is
a) a member of community;
b) working directly with the community (staff/volunteer) or
c) has no connection, but cares

Time constraints: She probably isn’t going to go through entire toolkit, but will read and explore areas she’s interested in (particularly audience and distribution sections), and will share her thoughts and the Toolkit via her blog.

Needs: She’s interested in reviewing the Toolkit and sharing her thoughts on it with her community and groups she thinks would be interested.

What are your thoughts?

So, what do you think of our approach and use of this audience persona exercise?  What are we missing, and how do you think we could approach this better?  Lastly, if you have done this exercise before for your social change efforts, or seen it documented, please do let us know via the comments below.

11 thoughts on “Training Series: The Primary Audiences for the Toolkit (and How We Identified Them)

  1. I realize that exposing human rights abuse is absolutely essential to advocacy, And I do not discourage anyone using this strategy, but I would also like to mention that there are many ways to be a human rights advocate and use technology. Really what is needed is a change in conciousness, not only about human rights, which most people do not even know what human rights are, but also a shift in thinking about what behaviors are acceptable as human beings. Here are some of the questions I would frankly like to see discussed more in media. Why is violence accepted as a cultural norm and why do we allow this to continue? What are the easiest ways for people to create social change? Throughout history, governments have told us who we should and should not hate, one group to another, why do we not recognize this? Genocide is highly preventable , most genocide occurs because we as humans generally stand by and do not speak out. Why is this? In my opinion advocacy is also about asking questions.

  2. Sounds a good idea, am interested to know about the idea. How did you come up with the concept? did involve the community in developing the toolkit? Because it basic and community centered when it comes to documentation of community concerns. Am thinking of adopting the same concept to our programs back here in Nakuru. Anyway good work keep it up.

  3. Am interested to know more about video advocacy, simply because am a human rights trainer and defender working with community in the informal settlements and as you know this are the marginalized communities who cannot access very basic services like water, sanitation, health care, education, and the most shelter. i learned of video advocacy through one of our international forum and i liked it

  4. I would mention that the toolkit should also address the policy issues that lie behind choices of formats. I would suggest that the toolkit should advocate for using of VP8, OGG.Theora CODECs given their free licensing. See http://bit.ly/c8xizgfor more detail at a conceptual level.

  5. I'm Adriana, the Aspirational Advocate – or a close cousin. I want to inspire people in a creative way to run to raise awareness and money for WITNESS, and figured video would be an appropriate approach, given video is what WITNESS is all about. But I've never made one before, and raising awareness for WITNESS is my first real advocacy effort. While I'll be working with someone who has worked in educational video for years, reviewing these basic marketing questions has helped me better define what I would like to achieve. I just have one question – I found (was it on the Hub? need to re-look!) where there were very basic training videos for effective filming (e.g. filming while walking)…are these, and other practical filming tips going to be included in the toolkit?

    1. Thanks for your note Philly, and desire to help raise awareness about WITNESS and its work (let me know if you embark on the path of a video for WITNESS!). There are quite a few resources out there on best practices for filming, which we'll incorporate into the Toolkit. However, the bulk of the Toolkit will focus on the planning aspects of video advocacy – an often neglected aspect. For now, you can see some of the core video training materials WITNESS has created, as well as some great resources via this WITNESS Training site.

  6. In response to Tina Penn – although I agree with the concept, and have seen some good examples of this actually happening, there is a danger of not uncovering many of the social issues that exist all around us, simply because those who live in poverty, homelessness, unemployment etc. do not have the resources, or the awareness, to do what is needed. Sure, there is a bunch of technology available, but how do you a) get that technology in to the hands of those who, as you suggest, would benefit from it, b) how would you teach them to use it effectively and c) how would you motivate them to take the time and effort?

  7. Totally agreed with the need to target an audience. The added wrinkle, these days, is the need to make it clear that there is something in it for the audience to watch what you are showing. With a massive volume of still and video content portraying every facet of human suffering, the general population has become hardened to the repetitive nature of many of these productions.

    By focusing on a specific audience, and making it easy, even entertaining for them to understand what they can do to make a difference, a producer will have far more success in achieving his/her goals.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Michael – and your great documentary, Beyond Elections on participatory democracy decision making and democracy. We are of the same mind with the challenge of content saturation and the challenges one faces with ensuring an intended audience not only sees an advocacy video, but that it inspires them to take the desired action. To address this, with the Toolkit we are heavily focusing on the import of identifying and narrowing not only audiences, but developing the optimal story that will best support the advocacy message. Additionally, as we have seen in our own work with our partners, we'll really focus on how video can be one of the great advocacy tools that can be employed – used alongside other advocacy tools and efforts.

  8. I, as an activist am actually more interested in teaching those that are being oppressed how to tell their own stories using technology. If I depend on on my own knowledge and research to drive my work, I guarantee you I am missing a lot of information. Real social change happens from the bottom up. It's like they say you can feed a man or teach him how to fish. This may not work in very underdeveloped countries, but I guarantee it would work in the United States that has vast technological resources.

    1. Thanks for your points, Tina. WITNESS has always focused on supporting and building capacity of folks that are on the frontlines – confronting issues and designing and executing strategies to address them – to use video in their social change work. A few things that I'm excited about with the Toolkit are designed to amplify the lessons learned and experiences of frontline human rights defenders that have successfully integrated video into their advocacy efforts. The case studies and insights throughout it will feature video work by activists, not professional, hired filmmakers. Also, we will cover the technical, security and logistical challenges they faced and creative solutions. Lastly, with full recognition that content online does not mean universal (or safe) access, we are going to have a robust offline distribution so the Toolkit will be a plug-in and go via a USB stick (most likely – we're still finalizing that).

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