Jose Vila, social media manager for Doctor Who on advising BBC Media Action’s new TV drama in the Palestinian Territories.
Life’s full of surprises. I was sitting at my desk in London on a grey afternoon when I received an unexpected email. BBC Media Action required my experience managing social media for Doctor Who to help them launch a new youth TV drama in the Palestinian Territories. I was eager to help.
Dandara is an expression used by Palestinian youth that roughly translates as ‘constructive chaos or confusion that brings hope’. Far from the sci-fi world of the TARDIS and Daleks, the online drama’s six-minute episodes tackle very real issues affecting young people in the Palestinian Territories - conflict, unemployment, housing, disability and relationships. Despite their problems, the central characters are entrepreneurial, determined and ambitious. They are striving for a better future.
A punchy, start-up drama
My mission: to provide a ‘crash course’ on social media for the Dandara production team, taking my experience of managing social media for a global brand with millions of followers – and applying it to a punchy start-up drama in the Palestinian Territories.
I worked with Hassan Jaddeh, a fellow social media trainer with in-depth knowledge of the audience. A self-starter, Hassan is the perfect example of the role models that Dandara aims to portray. Dissatisfied with the social media analysis available in the Palestinian Territories, he took it upon himself to launch his own social media agency and hasn't looked back since.
“For Palestinian youth, social media is the only platform to express themselves freely,” says Hassan. “Most young people are on Facebook…social media linked to the drama will help provide a space for discussion, and hopefully help encourage greater tolerance and understanding between young Palestinians living different lives in Gaza and the West Bank.”
The Dandara production team, scriptwriters, journalists, editors and camera crew, arrived at the training early and were keen to get started. They had a show to launch and wanted to create and maintain a social buzz around it. Team members focused on film production learned the importance of putting the key moment into the first five seconds of a promotional video, adding an ‘end-card’ with a call to action (to get people subscribing to your channel or watching more of your films), and including subtitles for people watching on their phone without sound. Those working on scriptwriting concentrated on the importance of hashtags, succinct copy and taglines to help draw in the audience and generate conversation.
We also discussed the importance of creating a detailed plan that shows the scale of the social media campaign, identifies who will deliver what – from trailers and teasers to the images and GIFs – and when. This is one the most obvious, but often overlooked aspects of a social media campaign – tools which have served me well when planning the launch of the latest series of Doctor Who.
When I met with Tawfiq Abu Wael, the Supervising Director of the drama on my second day, I asked him what sentence encapsulated the idea of the series. In my efforts to better understand the project, I wanted to have a tagline that I could refer to while discussing the social media campaign with the team. Tawfiq said “Dandara means living in hope under the shadow of the wall. It may be difficult, but we don't give up”. These words still echo in my head. Like Doctor Who, Dandara aims to entertain – but it also aims to inspire young Palestinians to dream of a better future.
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