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.

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