There are many ways to capitalize on pop culture’s attention to your issues. Here are some basic ideas to help get you started:
Share it up
When there’s a storyline about your topic, make sure everyone knows. Tweet, retweet and share Facebook posts from the show or the filmmaker. It’s a quick way to connect your work with a pop culture moment people are already talking about.
Influencer Family Tree
For social impact organizations, it’s important to understand why and how artists are becoming more attuned to activism. That way, when your issue appears in TV or film, you’re prepared to join the conversation. Take, for example, Ava Duvernay who is using her film “A Wrinkle in Time” to partner with the JetBlue Foundation and promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for young girls. Alyssa Milano, who elevated the #MeToo movement, is now launching a #StateoftheDream initiative in support of DACA recipients. Nonprofits should keep a list of pop culture influencers who are in support of their cause and stay in the know by following them on their social media platforms.
Connect the dots
In addition to sharing content from a film or show, take the extra step to connect it to your own work. Some examples: Groups that work on disability issues can tweet to fans of “Speechless,” reminding them that if they care about JJ (a character with cerebral palsy), then they also care about the millions of other disabled Americans whose lives are improved by the efforts of your organization. Offer links to your site where viewers can find more information. Do make sure that you aren’t parachuting into fan bases with tone deaf info. You need to be part of the community to engage in it.
Put a meme on it
Adding a visual to the conversation makes the point even more strongly, and posts with simple visuals are usually more popular in social media. You can do something as simple as taking a quote from a character and presenting it alongside something happening in the real world of your issue.
When a TV episode or a film broadcast connects to your issues in a meaningful way, cover it by live tweeting. This can be done with a new episode of a hit show or a repeat of older movie. For example, groups that work on bullying could live tweet during reruns of classics like “Back to the Future,” “The Karate Kid” or “Mean Girls,” adding links and information to commentary about what Marty McFly, Daniel Larusso or Cady Heron are experiencing.
Create your own content about what you’re seeing in pop culture. If your organization has a blog or a podcast, mix it up with coverage of a relevant film or TV show. You can do short videos, listicles, fact-or-fiction posts or Q&A with fans.
Break the ice
It can be difficult to start conversations about controversial or emotional topics, but when pop culture serves it up first, it gives you a starting point. Give your members and followers tools to help them use stories as conversation starters. For example, marriage equality might be too delicate a topic to discuss at holiday dinner, but talking about “Modern Family” is easy. If grandma says how much she likes Jay’s character, that’s the perfect time to talk about Mitchell and Cam’s relationship.
If you’ve found a spot-on film or TV episode, ask your members to hold viewing parties. Blog about those gatherings or share them on social media. For a more ambitious event, like a public screening, see our how-to guide for how to host one.
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good
Chances are when your issues are portrayed in popular media, they won’t check all the boxes you normally ascribe to your work. Characters are flawed, and entertainment is largely the product of people who are not experts in your field. That’s OK! You can still use the opportunity to cheer what they got right and educate viewers on the rest. For example, the contestants on “The Bachelor” talk a lot about protecting their hearts before the fantasy suite date but never mention protecting themselves from STDs. If you work on sexual health issues, that’s the topic of a blog post right there.
Layer it in
Include pop culture references in earned media and op-eds to get people’s attention and align your issue with something that helps them connect to it. When readers come across a scenario they are familiar with in the context of a broader social issue, they will be more likely to try and understand the information you are sharing.