Cat John, Marketing and Communications Manager at Watershed in Bristol has been finding that in order to make a difference, you have to work!
Here at Watershed we’ve been working hard to get to know our audiences better – and taking part in the Audience Diversity Academy has shown me just how much more work there is to do. Increasing diversity in both our audiences and workforce involves consistent on-going work – and is not something that can be fixed magically overnight.
Our first ADA experiment in October centred on an opportunity we run for young people – the British Film Institute’s Film Academy, which is part of a national scheme to encourage 16-19 year olds to get a foothold in the film industry.
Our aim with this experiment was to encourage applications from two different under represented groups – young people from BAME backgrounds and young people from low income backgrounds. We recognise that these are two distinct groups with different needs.
To reach our goal we did two central things – we reviewed and updated our marketing materials and online content, and we also simplified the application process. We worked as a cross-departmental in-house team on this experiment – with input from comms, web development, content creators and engagement teams.
Firstly, our Film Academy website was refreshed to include fresh video content – which is an obvious step for a project about film and the ‘moving image’! We feel this helped to make the site much more dynamic and compelling to a younger demographic.
Another aspect of the refresh was for us to review the language used on the website – we asked some young people what they thought, and they felt the tone was a bit too ‘academic’ – so we updated it to make it feel more ‘fun’ and less like school. We changed the visuals too – we searched for more diverse images of past Film Academy participants and used these instead – both online and in the print flyer.
My mentor Sara Devine was very insightful with her advice and it was great to subsequently meet her in person at the Digital Marketing day in London in December. I talked to her about our initial ideas and she helpfully suggested undertaking longer term work in different communities which we are also doing, although there wasn’t enough time to make significant progress for this round.
We’ve just done the number crunching on the stats for our BFI Film Academy – we saw applications from non-white British applicants increase from 14.1% to 26% and applications from people who have received free school meals increase from 11.7% to 18%.
In total, we received a massive 135 applications this year, with 128 equal ops responses collected. Last year (2015) we had 47 applications, so the increase is very encouraging. Comparing this to the general Bristol population, the percentage of non-white people in Bristol is 22% and 23% of young people receive free school meals.
Looking back, we think that perhaps this time we inadvertently made the application form a bit too simple, meaning that the interview panel had a tougher task to select applicants, based on far less information. So this needs some fine-tuning – we need to keep the process accessible yet also ask for all the information we need.
Also running concurrently through the Autumn was the BFI Black Star blockbuster season with plenty of scope for attracting more diverse audiences.
I found it so helpful to be already working within an organisation that is signed up to the case for diversity – for the past two years we have hosted the ACE No Boundaries conference, which has already helped focused our minds. So I didn’t have to fight any internal battles, which was heartening – but we all know there’s more work to do.