Guest Post: Engaging Opinion Leaders for Social Change

By Nina Keim

Word of mouth has always been central to documentary films. Whether in the 19th century where the Lumière brothers needed publicity for their innovative films or in 2004 when Michael Moore got people talking about his controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. And yet, documentary films advocating for social issues often struggle to mobilize a public around an issue. One major problem is that documentary films attract audiences that are already highly interested in the issue while failing to attract non-engaged audiences. This is specifically true in today’s media environment where the number of news outlets rises every day and people can tailor their media exposure to their individual interests. Moreover, there is an increased need for specialized promotion tactics for social-issue documentaries to actively engage the audience and ultimately impact social change. Documentary filmmakers are challenged to find an adequate strategy to communicate their issue to those who are not active, engaged and interested.

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