Producing a high-impact media project can be a befuddling prospect. What starts as a germ of an idea—“Let’s fund a film about X to solve Y!”—quickly snowballs into a social media campaign to reach Z, an app to accomplish A and B, and so on. And then there are all those outcomes to track for each platform. How are funders and grantees supposed to keep this all in their heads?
To dig into these challenges, I’ve been working as a senior fellow at the Media Impact Project, located at USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center. During my fellowship, I developed a pair of new tools: a deck of cards to help you map out and assess different strategies, and an associated symbol font. Watch this video for an overview of the deck (aka the “Impact Pack”).
I first set out to understand how media makers and funders can best assess media projects on emerging platforms. I quickly realized, however, that part of the problem was a gap in shared language around impact models and outcomes. So I began to develop the font to fill in that gap, and we used it to design the cards. The finished product is meant to help producers, funders and developers of media projects that aim to have a public interest outcome.
How does the Impact Pack work?
The deck is divided into multiple parts—a Core Deck focused on the question “How do you engage your audience?” and Expansion Packs designed to help you dig further into content strategy or work directly with your audience members to prototype projects.
Different “suits” are organized by color. The core deck features suits that answer these questions:
- Who are you trying to reach? (Audience cards are red)
- What platforms are you using? (Platform cards are chartreuse)
- Why are you making this media project? (Outcome cards are black)
- How is your project designed to connect with users? (Engagement Model cards are light aqua)
In addition, the Core Deck contains Connectors (peach) that help you build and edit strategies or impact stories, and Key Concepts (aqua) to consider as you go.
The Connectors allow the deck to work a bit like an equation—you can begin with the factors that that you already know (either a desired outcome or a starting platform) and then build an impact story from left to right.
Or, if the media project involves multiple platforms with discrete outcomes, you can stack or stagger strategies. The cards are meant to be flexible to reflect the many different creative approaches that media makers are taking.
The cards can be used in multiple settings: by individual media makers and funders for planning or assessment; by a team to articulate and debate next steps; or in a conference or classroom to prototype different media projects. Many common platforms, outcomes and social tools are included, but a few blank cards allow you to customize the deck for your own needs.
Using the Expansion Packs
Each of the expansion packs is available separately, or you can order the full deck to get all four:
- Rising digital content types cards (burnt orange) help you think more deeply about how to use newly popular content types—such as data visualizations or podcasts—within digital plaforms.
- Individual response cards (gray) help you think through different ways emotion might prompt action. They can be combined with the Outcome cards for strategizing, or used directly with audience members to prompt discussion.
- Sense cards (purple) prompt you to think more broadly about the sensual experiences users are having with media projects and how to enhance them in surprising ways.
- Social media cards (green)—help you identify which tools to use and why.
Many of the impact concepts explored in these two decks have been informed by my research and writing for the Assessing Impact of Media section of our site, as well as my conversations with funders and makers at various MIF events.
Are you a funder who wants to know more? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk through your scenario.
Jessica Clark is MIF’s Director of Research and Strategy, and a senior fellow at USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center.