Note: Part two. Part one is here.
This entire piece is about saving shows that are either in eminent danger or are already gone. The best piece of advice I have is, don’t wait until it’s desperate. We all want to just sit and enjoy our shows without having to work for them, but the unfortunate fact is, if we love a show, we need to be fighting for it from its premier date. Genre shows are notoriously low rated and susceptible to cancellation. If a new show impresses you next season, consider the impact a bit of activism could have while it’s still trying to find its feet.
- You’ll need a headquarters, preferably an actual website. Some central place to send followers for detailed instructions and updates. You’ll also need an “official” Twitter account. Tumblr can also be an effective campaign platform.
- You’ll need a dedicated leadership team, acting as a unit. This isn’t something that can be done by one person. Don’t be highhanded with your followers. All it takes to lead is one step forward, but people will balk (and you’ll deserve it) if you fail to respect them. Stay humble and earn their trust. You don’t need a large following or to be well known to the fandom. The Fringenuity team were all nobodies with a few dozen followers when we started. I had approximately twelve. But we were the nobodies who stepped up.
- Don’t overextend into doing too many different things, stay focused. The only way this can work is through unified energy. If your efforts are too diffuse, you’ll lose cohesion and fizzle out. If a faction wants to split off and do its own thing, be gracious about it. See if they’re willing to work side-by-side. Whatever you do, don’t resort to infighting, there’s plenty of room out there for ideas, and factionism is a cancer on any fandom. Give your followers an open forum for suggestions, listen to what they say, and if you don’t think something will work, explain why.
- Recruit the creative among you for support: artists, videographers, musicians, writers. Ask them to create support materials for your campaigns, and ask everyone else to share the crap out of them.
- Strike while the iron is hot. You’ll need to get organized, but don’t wait too long before getting things off the ground. Studio execs have short memories, don’t let them forget about your show, or assume its audience has forgotten and moved on.
- Stay positive, but keep it real. Be honest with your fandom about your odds of success, and keep your followers in the loop. Report on the success of your efforts, and if they don’t succeed at first, ask them to try again. Remind them that this is as much about family as saving the show, and that every single supporter is necessary and appreciated. This kind of effort, whether or not it succeeds, is a hell of a bonding experience and a great way to make life long friends. That’s a beautiful thing all its own, and should be celebrated as such. Focus on the love, for each other as well as the show, always.
- Do not be angry, even if things don’t go well. I saw a tweet earlier about a canceled show that was probably meant to be tongue-in-cheek but came off as bitter and vaguely threatening. That’s the opposite of effective, not likely to win you any sympathy from anyone with influence. Remember that a lot of the time, studio executives actually like the shows they have to cancel, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have investors to answer to. They’re just people with jobs to do, who endure an annual barrage of abuse from the disappointed fans of shows that weren’t turning a high enough margin. Be kind to them, as you would to anyone else, and let them know you appreciate the time your show did have, even if it dies untimely. One season of Firefly is a hell of a lot better than never having sailed in a Firefly at all.
- Don’t send piles of vaguely show related things to studios. It costs your followers money and is more of an annoyance than anything. Instead, if you want to send something, send portfolios of collected notes from fans, campaign reports, or receipts for donations raised in honor of the show.
- Don’t plead. It’s a turnoff for anyone, maybe especially for people who can’t answer pleas even if they’d like to. Instead, show them what you can do. Make them pay attention and just maybe rethink things, by creating a unified, tangible ripple of effect.
- Make sure the main social media account for the show is aware of your efforts, but don’t harangue them. The folks who run those accounts are often big fans of the show themselves and may gladly give you a retweet, if you’re nice about it and not demanding. If you start making some waves, they might even be able to convince the studio to give you a boost.
- Incorporate charity efforts wherever possible. It’s a great way to gain visibility while doing some actual good with your momentum. In my time as a geek fundraiser, I’ve been awed over and over at how much good fans can do when they come together for a cause. We really can #BuildABetterWorld when we harness our passions for a purpose.
- Petitions will not work. There’s nothing wrong with them in addition to other tactics, but if your entire strategy is “sign this petition, let’s get to xxxxx signatutres” you might as well pack up and go home. Studios don’t care about petitions, you have to show them something they do care about, like audience engagement.
Hashtagging was far and away our most successful vehicle, but we tried a few other things that got good responses. Thanking the advertisers may not have had much direct impact, but they appreciated it and their occasional retweets tended to help, due to their generally large followings. There are any number of other ideas that could work to gain visibility. We tried sponsor support days, where we’d visit a sponsor en masse, and tweet them photos of our receipts. The glorious Where is Peter Bishop video was organized on Tumblr and was made before Fringenuity was even born. It got a ton of well deserved attention from fans and show makers alike, due to the unmistakable outpouring of love that went into it. Some lunatic even painted her car windows with Fringe promo and drove it that way for two years. The only limits are those on your creativity. But whatever you do, do it in celebration, not desperation.
Some of that stuff is obviously outdated, I don’t think GetGlue even exists anymore. But the bones are there, and all of our research is freely available to anyone who wants to try and use it. You, the one sitting there wondering if you could step up for your show: I promise, you can. If I can, you can. I believe in you. All you have to do is love it enough to be a little brave and a little (maaaybe a lot) bonkers. The hardest part is that first post, asking people to follow your lead. It will take a lot of work, a lot of planning sessions, and no small amount of time. But if you’re doing it right, you’ll find yourself creating joy, and that, all by itself, is worth it.