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Our Gang: Girl Rising

Today, we start a Q&A conversation with Anne Zeiser, author of Transmedia Marketing, which we will finish next week. Pay attention, documentary filmmakers: Anne is revealing some great tips from her book.

Q: Anne, I’m excited about reading the case studies in Transmedia Marketing, such as Mad Men or Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence. But can you share a good example that’s closest to the budget and experience of documentary filmmakers?

A: Girl Rising, also profiled in Transmedia Marketing, has some excellent lessons for documentary filmmakers. Girl Rising began with a Facebook page to seed a social movement about educating girls in the developing world to alleviate extreme poverty. Later, it followed with a documentary film about nine extraordinary girls and their struggles to attain quality education. This project’s genesis is important. By first cultivating an active audience around the issue, the documentary had a passionate and deeply engaged fan base when it debuted.

And the project wisely included those fans to help co-promote and co-distribute the film—vastly expanding the project’s reach and budget. Using Gathr, a theatrical on demand platform, Girl Rising gave its fans the power to crowdsource theater screenings, choosing a local venue, date, and time to screen the film in their areas and invite whomever they liked. Once they’d secured a minimum number of reservations, the screening became a reality. As a result, the film had almost 6,000 theatrical screenings, 778 campus screenings, and a worldwide television broadcast on CNN Films. The project received more than 4.8 billion “earned media” impressions, 777,000 social media followers, 988,000 YouTube views, and 1,500,000 Web hits.

But the most important thing Girl Rising did was develop a clear strategic plan from the beginning. The project enunciated three major social change goals and everything it did paid off on one of those goals:

  • To change minds by raising worldwide public awareness about the importance of educating girls

  • To change lives by increasing resources directed towards girl-focused programs globally

  • To change policy through partnerships with policy leaders to influence governments and global institutions to advocate for laws that support girls’ education

Five years after its Facebook page launch, Girl Rising became one of the top-grossing documentaries of all time and one of the most powerful social media success stories of its era. Today, world leaders recognize girls’ education as a key solution to improving health, justice, and economies in the developing world.

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