"Indians are leading the way in places where the rest of the world should probably follow," says Michael Roberts, President of First Nations. "There is a real story to be told about all the great things that are happening and the positive role models that are coming out of Indian country."
However, making that story heard can be a challenge for a nonprofit that lacks the resources and reach to share it broadly. First Nations knew what its message was — but it needed help bridging the gap between insight and access.
With Comcast NBCUniversal’s support, First Nations created and aired two public service announcements (PSAs) that have reached millions of U.S. viewers. These messages are fueling a cultural shift toward viewing Native Americans as contemporary contributors and strengthening efforts to spur economic development in Native American communities.
Promoting the work of nonprofit partners through PSAs is a key way we use our media expertise and airtime to make a positive impact in communities — and in the case of First Nations, make a difference for a group that is frequently invisible.
"We know how impactful television can be," says Charisse R. Lillie, Vice President of Community Investment for Comcast Corporation and President of the Comcast Foundation. "Whether in person or online, people like to talk about what they’ve seen on TV and how it made them feel, think, and take action. That’s the power of PSAs."
We donate hundreds of millions of dollars of PSA airtime each year and, depending on the size of the nonprofit partner, provide financial support for production expenses. We also connect organizations with the right resources to capture their vision and communicate their story.
"Our PSA support empowers our partners to tell the stories they want to tell, in their own way, with their own voice, in support of their mission," Charisse says. "We provide the medium; they provide the message."
With a $20,000 check for production costs and an introduction to a seasoned video crew, First Nations created one PSA that uses seeds to explain how nourishing traditional knowledge creates growth and solutions for today, and another that focuses on the value of self-sufficiency. Together, they build the case that Native American communities can be successful and support themselves economically when they get to do it on their own terms.
Value of airtime donated for PSAs
The initial PSA aired in 13 different markets, and the follow-up aired in 30 markets. First Nations saw an almost immediate increase in website traffic, and Michael credits the PSAs with attracting several large donations as well.
"That’s a lot of exposure that I couldn’t have imagined buying in my lifetime," Michael says. "That kind of awareness was invaluable for us." More importantly, he says, the PSAs have garnered a positive response both within Native American communities and among the general public.
"Although it’s hard to measure the effect in terms of specific numbers, many people have told me that these messages are helping raise self-esteem in Indian Country and broader interest in Native American issues," he says.
This latest PSA project is just one of many collaborations between Comcast NBCUniversal and Native American communities. We also joined forces with actor and nonprofit leader Sonny Skyhawk on several PSAs, including one starring golf analyst Notah Begay and his NB3 Foundation. That spot focuses on the importance of children’s health in achieving long-term goals.
"Comcast has done so much for Indian Country over the past few years," Michael says. "They’re not doing it for a marketing windfall. They’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do."