Entertainment Can Change Lives

I attended an inspiring session this morning at the 2006 IABC Heritage Region Conference. William Ryerson, President of the Population Media Center, and Esta de Fossard, Senior Advisor of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Communication Programs, spoke about using entertainment as a vehicle to communicate health and social messages to people in developing nations.

William gave examples of how serial dramas are able to significantly raise awareness about family planning options, HIV prevention, arranged marriages (in reality abductions and violations of young girls) and exploitative child labor and child slavery. He also showed where this awareness resulted in changed behavior. For example, he told one moving story where the family of a 14-year old abducted girl was reluctant to let their other daughter attend school for fear that she too would be attacked on the way to class. However, after hearing a serial radio drama discussing “arranged marriages,” they and the other villagers decided that they would band together to prevent further abductions.

Esta explained that the success of serial dramas, one of several types of entertainment-education vehicles (others include telenovelas, series, sit coms and docu dramas), lies in the identification of the audience with the characters, and in helping audience members believe that if a character can improve his or her life, perhaps they can too. Esta also provided an overview of the steps involved in using serial dramas to bring about change: Audience, analysis, access, articulation, artistry, auxiliaries, advocacy, advertising, assessment, and adjustment.

Katie Paine, who writes KDPaine’s PR Measurement Blog and will be presenting at the conference this afternoon, also enjoyed the session.


Dancing Around Landmines: Blogs and Other Communication Tools Aren’t Risk-Free

While there is a good reason we have a democratic legal system with corresponding laws that help guide societal behavior (the always debatable issue being, of course, to what degree the legal system impacts individual and societal rights), it’s bothersome when the law gets in the way and isn’t as progressive as perhaps it should be. 

Case in point is an ABA eReport article that discusses a New York State proposal that would designate legal blogs as advertising, thus subjecting them to state scrutiny and regulation:

“The storm was set off by a proposal that ‘computer-accessed communications’ such as blogs be included in New York’s definition of legal advertising, and therefore require state scrutiny. The proposal, by a committee created by the state’s Administrative Board of Courts, also suggests the state code of professional responsibility extend court jurisdiction to out-of-state legal advertising that appears in New York….

And if blog posts must be approved, what’s the point? ‘This seems to be another in a series of recent regulatory efforts by state bar regulators that seem woefully out of touch with the Internet era,’ wrote Dennis Kennedy, a St. Louis lawyer who posts at Between Lawyers.” [Read Kennedy’s post If Lawyers Can Advertise in New York, They Can Advertise Anywhere…But They Probably Can’t.]

Equally bothersome, however, is when individuals expose themselves to legal liability by doing something that appears to be intentionally stupid. I’m referring to examples provided in the USA Today article Courts are asked to crack down on bloggers, websites, such as posting false STD information about someone on Don’tDateHimGirl.com or setting up a fake MySpace.com page that contains obscene content. Not very smart — and that’s an understatement.