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Chapter Six: From the Broadcaster’s Corner

© 2000 Benton Foundation



Of Special Interest:

To Producers

To Broadcasters

To Funders

To Community Leaders

Model Campaigns

Chapter 1:
POV's High Impact TV

Chapter 2: Television Race Initiative

Chapter 3:
Take this Heart

Chapter 4: Positive: Life with HIV

from Partners

Chapter 5:
For Filmmakers

Chapter 6:
For Broadcasters

Chapter 7:
For Nonprofits

Chapter 8:
For Grantmakers

Strategic and
Practical Advice

Chapter 9: On Media

Chapter 10:
On Evaluation

Case Studies

Contact and Resource List

A Success Story in
Coalition Outreach

by Kristi Laguzza-Boosman

As the Community Outreach Coordinator for KCTS, the Seattle PBS station, I had the privilege of working on a number of successful outreach campaigns, the largest of which was The Foster Care Project created around the documentary, Take this Heart.

The Foster Care Project was my first experience in creating a large, coalition-based outreach effort. My previous campaigns had involved working with one or two primary partners around a chosen documentary issue on a campaign of either my or the station’s design. We were fortunate to have had some good ideas, adequate funding and technical support, so these campaigns were  successes as well. However, in the world of PBS outreach, good ideas abound, but adequate funding and support often do not. For this reason, and several others, I am convinced that coalition outreach campaigns are the way to go if you are looking for real impact. Below are some  suggestions on forming successful outreach coalitions–and the advantages of doing so.


The idea behind a coalition campaign is simple. Basically we (local PBS outreach staff) are rarely experts on the issue at hand, whether that be the environment, addiction and recovery, foster care, diversity, etc., so it’s important to bring those experts on board if we want to conduct a fact-based, high-impact, outreach campaign. Finding the right experts to participate in your coalition is a critical task–one that can make or break a campaign–so make it a priority, and begin this work as early as possible.

Fortunately, with most large PBS Outreach Campaigns, outreach staff are usually given a list of local contacts, or at least a primary contact, to start with. Call that person, meet and begin to brainstorm whom your coalition should include. Then start making phone calls. One person will recommend another person, and often, the same names will begin to come up. You should attempt to get as diverse a group as possible within your issue area. Having varying perspectives on a subject matter represented within your coalition will help increase both the depth of your campaign and its potential reach.

With the Foster Care Project, my primary contact was Rosemary Unterseher, then the Director of the Seattle Division of the Casey Family Program–a private foster care agency. She and I met with Susan Weiss, from the Casey Family National Headquarters, 10 months in advance of our air date, to brainstorm who should be invited to join our coalition. Together, we came up with 80 foster care experts representing 80 different private and public, local, state and national agencies, who were working on the issue of foster care in the Seattle area. Most were either directors or managers of their organizations. The group was large enough that we needed to form a decision-making steering committee to guide the coalition’s work. With smaller groups, this extra step is not necessary.

Here I should note that, while it is true both the lead time and size of the Foster Care Coalition may seem unusual for the average outreach campaign, they are not prerequisites for success. I have also used this same model on campaigns with as little as 10 weeks’ lead time and less than a quarter of the group size. Simply tailor the model to your needs.


The next idea around a successful coalition campaign is that we (local PBS outreach) need to relinquish a certain amount of control of the final outreach product in order to empower our chosen "experts" to do their jobs. I think many PBS outreach staff unwittingly make the mistake of doing too much of the work themselves. To relinquish some control can be difficult in our business; however, I have found that people work much harder on a plan of their own creation than on a plan that was prescribed to them by someone else. A well-formed coalition naturally takes on a certain ownership and responsibility for the implementation, outcome and sometimes even the funding of a plan that they themselves have created. People are simply much more motivated to act upon their own designs than someone else’s.


At the first meeting of a new coalition, my opening line (after the normal introductions and project overview) is to say, "As experts in the area of ____, this is your opportunity to speak to a large television audience about this important subject matter. What is it you would like to say–and how would you like to say it?" For the nonprofit and government organizations that have made up most of my coalitions, having access to a large audience is a very exciting opportunity–and they take it seriously. Despite sometimes deep divides, the coalition members are very motivated by the potential to finally get their messages out there. All of them have been able to put past grievances aside and work as a team to craft both a message and plan.

In the case of the Foster Care Project, we had such a large group of strong-minded individuals that deciding on a plan took some time, patience and effort. To achieve our goal of creating a high-impact outreach campaign, we hired Angela Tarah, a consultant who was an expert on coalition building and large group dynamics. With Angela’s assistance, we narrowed the goals of our group down to an achievable three, using small group discussions and a final, simple majority vote. From there, we divided up into committees around each goal, and each committee came up with a plan to achieve its goal. Then the committees themselves assigned tasks and were responsible for crafting and implementing their plans.


Fortunately, with the Foster Care Project, we were able to start with a $20,000 outreach grant. But the coalition members donated hundreds of hours of their own time to our campaign, and some even funded crucial unfunded aspects of it. However, with other outreach coalitions, I have only had a few hundred dollars in seed money, while the coalition members themselves came up with funding in one case, over $18,000 needed to implement their outreach plan! Many nonprofit and government agencies (private and public, city, state, county and federal) have small pools of money in their budgets for education, media, outreach, advertising, etc. I have found that they are much more likely to part with these funds in order to implement their own plan, than to implement someone else’s. And, if they do not have funding themselves, they often know of organizations who do. You may end up with a dozen funders–but you will have a funded plan.


Though most coalitions are small enough that everyone is actively involved, that is not always necessary. With the 80-member Seattle Foster Care Coalition, not every member did or could participate in the coalition’s work on a regular basis. However, each coalition member was an important aspect of our outreach and communications network. The beauty of a large coalition is that its size alone allows you access to a larger audience. By providing all coalition members with copies of the materials we had created, we enabled them to use these materials to get the word out about our documentary and the outreach work around it.

Each coalition member belonged to an agency or organization and was able to use inter-office communication (memos, e-mail, bulletin boards, newsletters, etc.) to spread the word about our work. In addition, each agency had its own constituencies whom it also communicated with about our coalition’s work. In the end, we were able to cast a very large net, and Take this Heart received twice the normal rating that a documentary usually would in its time slot.

In addition, on a grassroots level, our numbers also served us well. Coalition members succeeded in giving more than 30 public presentations reaching nearly 2,400 individuals. They distributed nearly 5,000 local brochures, partnered with a local commercial TV station to include our materials in a 15,000-piece mailing, and set up a toll-free foster care information clearinghouse (still in existence) to more easily involve the public. The result was that hundreds of individuals in our viewing area contacted the clearinghouse to make offers of assistance to foster children and foster families. The coalition saw that, through their cooperation and efforts, they had had a real impact on this issue.


With the Foster Care Project, we were able to leave a campaign legacy of a state-wide informational clearinghouse on foster care that was eventually incorporated into Washington State’s foster care network. It is now a state-funded foster care information and recruitment agency managed by one of our coalition members.

Creating an outreach effort that actually impacts how your state does business around a certain subject matter, is, admittedly, an unusual legacy. However, there are other more easily achievable ways to leave an important legacy of your campaign. One way is to create outreach materials that are timeless in nature and not too directly tied to the broadcast. In this way, the members of your coalition can continue to utilize the materials that you and they have created, long after you, as an outreach person, have had to move on to other issues. This is a wonderful legacy to both your station (be sure to brand your station logo onto the print materials) and to the community, which can continue to benefit from the hard work that you and the coalition have done.

In most cases, my coalitions were able to turn the materials we had created over to a clearinghouse organization associated with the subject matter (usually a coalition member), who would continue to distribute any remaining materials to the general public both during the campaign, and after it had ended. In some cases, calls for outreach materials were still coming in years after the campaigns had been completed. By creating materials that are timeless and speak to your local issues, the good will that your coalition and your station have created in your previous campaigns will continue to live on.


KCTS, foster children, Foster Care Coalition members and the general public all benefited by our coalition’s work around Take this Heart. For KCTS, there was hardly a person at the station who was not somehow impacted by this project. Our outreach campaign took on a momentum of its own, with station staff and management wholeheartedly supporting the effort. We all learned a tremendous amount about foster children and foster families and were proud to have had a positive impact on this issue. Many of us became involved outside of our work by donating time, money or materials to help a child, or help children in foster care.

The Foster Care Coalition, once a disparate group of sometimes feuding organizations, left the campaign as an organized, empowered and effective coalition ready to tackle other problems in the foster care system. Foster children benefited by an increase in goods, services and public participation in the system. And the public benefited by an increase in knowledge about this vulnerable group of abandoned and neglected children–and how they could help.


By increasing the number of people you work with in an outreach campaign, you can accomplish a number of things: You can increase your reach into the community; you can spread the work-load to a larger number of individuals and organizations; and you can harness the energy and resources of a motivated group around an issue of great importance to them. By forming a successful coalition, you encourage the sometimes disparate members of your group, who have often toiled alone in their efforts for years, to all move in the same direction with a common voice on a common project. The result is often the creation of a powerful outreach campaign that can capture the public’s attention and create real impact–on both them and you.

Kristi Laguzza-Boosman was the Learning Services and Outreach Coordinator at KTCS in Seattle from 1997 to 1999 and is now a consultant.