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Think Like A Showrunner: Week 2

What can the social good space learn from television shows?

Last week we explored the four P’s of a brand and discussed what the social good space can learn from television shows. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at the different factors that make a TV show (and a social good organization) a hit. This week, we’ll consider case statements.

Case Statements in Showbiz
I have a secret. Every showrunner, producer, writer, director, and actor has kept this hidden—I think it’s time the world knew. From Broadway to game shows, every production has an internal case statement. Audience members might never see a formal case statement, but showrunners need one to stay true to who they are and want to be. In show business, internal case statements go by another name: the Uta Hagen Technique.

Before she was the pioneer of internal case statements, Uta Hagen was a Broadway actress and influential teacher. While teaching, she developed a character-building questionnaire called “6 Steps.” What she didn’t realize was that these questions (now known as the Uta Hagen Technique) are applicable well beyond the stage, affecting all of us in the social good sector, as well.

The six questions are:
  • Who am I/How do I perceive myself?
  • What are the circumstances?
  • What are my relationships?
  • What do I want?
  • What is my obstacle?
  • How can I achieve my goal?
Hagen understood that in order to win the audience over, we must first understand ourselves. This is the reason why we as audience members root for characters (or organizations). We believe in them because they believe in themselves.

Social Good Case Statements
What can we take away from this technique? Answer the 6 Steps for your organization. Who is your organization (what is your brand)? What are the circumstances (what is the problem you’re trying to solve)? What are your relationships, and what do you want (what are your mission and vision statements)? How can you achieve your goal (with your supporters)?

I’d add one question to this list to suit our needs in the social good space: What is our impact, and what is the impact of a donor’s support? Answer this question in every piece of communication from your organization.

By answering all these questions, you can start to develop a strong case statements to use internally or externally. Look at Netflix’s simple internal case statement as an example. As you read, pay attention to the language, the style, and the description of impact.

Expect the Unexpected
Greg Daniels, the producer of The Office, was adamant about hiring actors skilled in improvisation—even though the show had a script. Why? Because improv actors know how to handle any situation as the character they play. Think of your case statement as an informal script, and you are the actor. Your case statement can help you speak to your audience, whether you’re phoning prospective donors or writing a grant application, in which all the key points are gathered in one easily accessible document. No question or concern should catch you off guard. You’ve already thought it through while following the Uta Hagen Technique.

What’s Your Catchphrase?
Catchphrases are powerful tools in the hand of a character—they can help cement an idea for years to come. We repeat these catchphrases (like “Did I do that?”) so often we sometimes forget their origins. While phrases like “Serenity now!” are funny, they can say a lot about a character (or an organization). These phrases are a mechanism to help distinguish the characters for the audience. Maybe you’ve never seen Game of Thrones, but when you hear the phrase “A Lannister always pays his debts” you can quickly assume the giving capacity of this family.

What’s the catchphrase for your organization? It could be one of your top core values or a summary of your mission. Let us know in the comments!

Ready to create or improve your case statement? Join the Organizational Best Practices: Fundraising—Case Statements workshop.

Test Your Knowledge
Let’s see if you can match the catchphrase with the television show. No cheating!
Catchphrase   Television Show
Suit up!   Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
What you talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?   Seinfeld
You got it, dude!   Star Trek: The Next Generation
Good news, everyone!   How I Met Your Mother
Is that your final answer?   Diff’rent Strokes
Resistance is futile.   Futurama
Hello, Newman.   Full House

Posted by Jenny Toledo on May 23, 2019 12:54 PM America/New_York

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  • Posted Wed 17 Jul 2019 02:23 PM EDT