Combining Innovative Measures and Methods for Understanding Entertainment’s Influence
Each entertainment project, developed for public service or profit, is grounded in a mission. Rarely is an entertainment creator’s goal solely based on financial gain, and while there are internal departments and external firms set up to assess rate of return, HI fills the oft-unfulfilled role of assessing entertainment’s potential to inform, persuade, and motivate the public.
HI evaluates the influence of entertainment through an innovative method of assessment. By combining tools from the academic, non-profit and commercial worlds, its research illustrates for entertainment creators and their partners the reach and effect of a project on individuals, communities, institutions, and policy. This framework for evaluation is a critical component of HI’s mission to increase awareness of the role entertainment can play in impacting pressing social and environmental issues.
Narrative has the power to move audiences and re-frame or expand the dialogue around a social issue. In addition, it often produces a ripple effect by directly and often indirectly influencing society. The HI Evaluation Methodology combines information collected from multiple indicators and research methods to offer a well-rounded view of the influence of entertainment. This methodology is both customizable and scalable, fitting the diverse needs of today’s media landscape.
While assessing the mission of an entertainment project, HI looks at how its goals fit into three broad categories of narrative effect: Comprehension, Attitude, and Response. From these categories, media makers determine their priorities, working with HI to build a case study that reflects accurate measures of their project’s influence.
• Attitude focuses on measuring the emotional and cognitive effect entertainment has and how it influences opinions around a social issue.
• Response focuses on measuring changes in individual or community engagement and actions, and how individual behaviors influence the larger issue.
In the past, entertainment evaluations have routinely measured ticket sales, reception by a select group of critics, and the degree to which a project has maintained public interest over a short period of time as indicators of success.
While these measures are valid, HI has devised a method for understanding the immediate outcomes and longitudinal influence of a film by assessing the content of entertainment, then mining secondary sources to provide valuable information on its ripple effect. By charting multiple influence indicators, both internal and external to a project, HI offers entertainment creators and funders a nuanced view of their influence. As entertainment radiates out, measures indirectly associated with a project, whether available in the short-term or years in the future, can be taken into account to create a complete view of its success.
The graphic below illustrates the HI process for evaluating entertainment. Beginning with formative research, HI surveys the current state of a social issue and the level of public concern prior to a project’s release. Researchers then work with entertainment creators and their partners to decide indicators of influence meaningful for understanding the short and long-term outcomes of a project. Results are then compared, revealing key connections or differences. Based on these findings, conclusions and implications are written up for each research focus.
For example, researchers may attempt to understand a movie’s message efficacy by monitoring how often a metaphor used in the story is repeated in press coverage or audience commentary. By using multiple methods, such as content analysis, focus groups, online trending, and/or a survey, researchers reveal whether audiences understood or were affected by the metaphor. The conclusion may suggest immediate changes for marketing strategies, or offer best practices for future approaches to entertainment that looks to communicate decisive social issues to the public.