by Laurie Trotta Valenti
A year ago, MIP Senior Fellow Jessica Clark unveiled a hands-on tool for helping media makers and funders map outcomes of a project: the Media Engagement Strategy Deck.
The cards work along the lines of a tarot. Different suits help users puzzle through key concepts for engagement, such as the who, what, why and how of a project, represented by symbols and colors. Connector cards allow users to construct a layout almost like a math equation: “You can begin with the factors that you already know (either your desired outcome or your starting platform) and then build an impact story from left to right, or right to left,” Clark says. “The language around media impact planning can be intimidating,” she explains. “The cards are designed to be friendly and intuitive, a way to plan and evaluate an engagement campaign.”
Clark designed the cards to help producers and funders conceptualize the trajectory of an engagement campaign, and then use the decks to talk to their teams about project goals, shared outlooks, and differences between the two that might exist. The cards are meant to be flexible and reflect the many different creative approaches that media makers are taking to draw communities into issues.
MIP checked in with Clark during this anniversary season to learn about the deck's reception among her colleagues in nonfiction storytelling, academia, funding and beyond. We wanted to learn about the different contexts in which the cards are being employed and whether they are proving useful.
“We’ve had enthusiastic response from people in newsrooms and documentarians,” Clark reports. The cards are being used in different ways. One Sacramento journalist used the deck on a documentary project, A View From Here, which looks at a range of social issues over time, such as food insecurity, immigration and housing. The editor used the cards to help journalists embrace more community engagement inside the newsroom. “We were trying to move the journalists toward a mindshift,” Clark says. “We’ve been in dialogue about the theory of change for the organization, the line between advocacy and journalism, and the cards help illustrate the concepts.”
The range of places and organizations employing the Media Engagement Strategy Deck include: among media makers at AFI Docs and Double Exposure; at funder gatherings such as ComNet and Philanthropy Workshop; in classrooms around the globe, including Central European University, the University of North Texas and SUNY Purchase; by journalism outlets and conferences such as Capitol Public Radio and the Online Newsroom Association; in media venues overseas, such as the Jakarta Global Forum for Media Development; with PhillyCam, a media literacy training program, and in one-on-one sessions with funders, researchers and media makers. The cards are also being adopted more rigorously by some groups: The Solutions Journalism Network has worked them into their training curriculum, and Greenpeace International’s digital trainers have ordered several decks.
Last summer, Clark issued an updated version of the deck that includes two new cards: trust and collaboration. The “trust” card is based on “the many conversations we’ve been having around the country on lack of trust in the media,” and falls into the “outcomes” category of the deck, Clark says. The collaboration card grew out of a need to add partnerships as an option in the connectors category, she adds. One of the more unusual suits reflects the growth of experiential media, such as virtual and mixed reality. “The cards are for the senses, the experience of the user; they chart the eventualities of an engagement campaign. They are a living expression of the world.”
Want to try the cards for yourself? Purchase decks here.