Early into the film, “Who We Are Now – Joplin One Year Later,” it suddenly hits you. The people who you see on screen and who you first might think are “just like us” — are anything but. Instead they are survivors of a catastrophic tornado that hit this Missouri community in 2011, and whose stories are both an inspiration and a further call to action.
Produced by the Missouri Foundation for Health’s communications department, the film is the first in its 2012 “Reel Change” series, created to showcase its work to support the health and well-being of people throughout the state. As part of that effort, “Who Are We Now” shows how the foundation has been helping organizations and health providers work together to build a healthier community.
As the Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Public Life Project, Lee Rainie routinely stays on top of how the internet is affecting the lives of Americans. Recently, Rainie shared his thoughts with the Communications Network about how the changes being wrought by the internet on society are also causing foundations to rethink and retool how they communicate with external audiences.
I once remember asking an art director for an advertising agency whose firm produced a winning poster in competition designed to deter teens from driving after drinking what motivated him to enter.
His response, “No one ever asks us to use our creative skills for something like that. Especially not something that’s all about saving lives.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is hoping to similarly tap both the heads and hearts of the creative community to help change the narrative on foreign aid.” As part of a special “Grand Challenges” competition, the foundation plans to fund up to 10 “game-changing ideas” that creatively use communications to “motivate the public in the wealthy countries of the world to change their minds about aid, and take actions to demonstrate their support.”
At the Communications Network, we get a lot of questions from people new to foundation communications. Whether it’s someone who just crossed the bridge from the corporate communications world, a recovering journalist or an ex-staffer fresh off a stint on the Hill, one day the reality about the new job suddenly hits and the questions start to flow: Where do I begin? How do I define the universe of strategic communications for this organization? What mistakes do I want to avoid?
The list goes on.
Over the past several months, the Communications Network has had the great privilege of working with the Council on Foundations on creating a new version of its long running Wilmer Shields Rich Awards for honoring excellence in foundation communications. Finishing touches are being put on the new awards program, which will spotlight how communications strategies can help achieve program goals and further organizational missions. A call for entries for 2013 will be issued shortly.
One of the people who has helped guide the discussion about the awards and why it’s essential for foundations to make effective use of communications to advance their missions has been Jeff Clarke, who is concluding his term at the end of this month as interim president and ceo of the Council.