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When the United Nations called for help in translating critical public health messages on Covid-19 not just into different languages, but into different cultures and communities, the BBC brought its global StoryWorks team together in a series of creative brainstorms to share their experiences and ideas.

This was done to ensure that BBC’s creative approaches resonated on both global and local levels, as the public service broadcaster understood that when it comes to dealing with the pandemic, that no two experiences are exactly the same.

As Kate Moriarty, senior content strategist in the StoryWorks Americas team, based in New York, tells The Drum:

“The UN brief featured several distinct campaigns; our first task was to analyze the messages and determine which would be best communicated across BBC platforms and resonate most with our audiences,” she explains. 

“We recognised that a few of the key campaign messages - such as knowing the symptoms and myth-busting - were already being tackled highly effectively by the BBC News team in its ongoing coverage of the situation, so we opted to focus our brainstorming efforts on concepts of kindness connecting people, physical distancing, and personal hygiene.”

She adds: “We were very enthusiastic about the creative challenge set forth by the UN, and immediately recognized interest across the global BBC StoryWorks network. We set up a series of creative brainstorms over video call across time zones and invited all members of the BBC StoryWorks global team interested in contributing to attend - that includes our experts in content strategy, design, social media, research and insights, and more.

“The goal was to incorporate diverse perspectives, regional and cultural considerations, and expertise from across different storytelling skillsets to optimize our creative approach.”

The team came up with two campaigns. The first, ‘Maintain distance. Maintain community’ explores what physical distancing looks like and means around the world, and highlights the similarities, differences and connections across continents and cultures.

The second campaign ‘Kindness connects us. Pass it on’ features a video chain of positivity moving around the world. By inviting creators at home to share examples of kindness, the campaign combines user-generated content from people all across the globe to share a message of positivity.

 
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“In these sessions, our team discussed how our communities were responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and how we had been personally affected,” explains Moriarty’s colleague, Julianne Rooney, a project manager for StoryWorks EMEA, who is based in London.

“Having input from colleagues across the globe was extremely valuable as we wanted these films to reflect the diverse circumstances in which communities were adapting to new social distancing measures and public health recommendations.”

To ensure the ‘Maintain distance. Maintain community’  message resonated globally, the team worked with The Smalls filmmaker community to identify animators from all over the world, and asked them to bring to life what physical distancing looks like to them, explains Moriarty.

For the second campaign, the team worked with The Smalls to tap creatives around the world to capture footage demonstrating meaningful acts of kindness in their own communities, and brought them together to build an inclusive narrative that could resonate across age groups and regions around the world.”

“Inspired by recent social media trends, we stitched the footage together and incorporated a passing motion to connect the stories, forming a ‘daisy chain’ of positivity and demonstrating the core message of the campaign in action,” she says.

“For both campaigns, we leveraged BBC World Service translation services to offer in-language content experiences and developed long-form and short-form versions of the creative to optimize across social media, web, and TV, maximizing the messages’ reach and impact.”

Rooney explains that the team approached the animation as a story comprised of seven chapters, each set in a different geographical region and depicting various examples of physical distancing. By structuring the film through individual chapters, they were able to publish each of the shorter clips on social media. 

Rather than convey the message of physical distancing in voiceover, the team outlined scenarios that demonstrated physical distancing without relying on dialogue. This allowed for the film to be easily translated into regional languages.

“In developing each animation scene for ‘Maintain Distance, Maintain Community’, we collaborated closely with The Smalls, who acted as creative producers for the film, and the seven animation artists who contributed to this project,” says Rooney.

“We wanted to hear from them what physical distancing looked like in their communities and how people were working together to care for each other. Together we finalised seven examples of physical distancing and each animator brought a unique visual style to their chapter.”

She adds: “We also partnered with Universal Music publishing group who generously offered to assist with the soundtrack for the film. We were delighted to be able to use the beautiful ‘Somewhere Out There’ by Rae Morris, as we felt the lyrics perfectly encapsulated the hopeful tone of the story and the theme of maintaining community.”

The team claims to have received feedback that the films are hopeful and inspiring, which they say is the best feedback that they could ask for. They hope the encouraging tone of the films reminds viewers that they are not alone in the pandemic and that each individual effort is a crucial element in the fight against Covid-19.