The Big Footprint Playbook


In early 2017, three public media organizations began work on a pilot project aimed at creating a model for producing and maximizing the impact of significant single-issue, multi-platform, cross-departmental journalism projects. With funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, these three organizations - Oregon Public Broadcasting, ideastream, and WXXI - each produced four such projects, which they dubbed “Big Footprints.” They collaborated on their final footprints, agreeing on a common topic and undertaking several joint content, branding, and marketing initiatives.

Over the course of the 18-month grant period, the organizations experimented with scores of tools, systems, and processes for planning, internal communication, content production, community engagement, partnerships, impact tracking, marketing, and branding. This Playbook reflects the best practices they discovered in each of these areas, as well as tips, templates, and examples.

While the Big Footprint model is complex and challenging, the footprint partners found it to be rewarding on many levels. They hope this Playbook will be a useful guide for other organizations wishing to adopt it.

OPB, ideastream and WXXI would like to thank the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for making this project, and this playbook, possible.

Case Study

Health disparities are a persistent and pernicious problem in greater Cleveland. With this project, ideastream wanted to take a deeper dive on the subject. Ultimately, the editorial team chose to focus on the connection of place and health (i.e. where you live matters more than your genes). They developed a framing paragraph that was shared widely across the organization as an editorial focal point. Read more

What is one key ingredient in the recipe for success for a Big Footprint?

When it comes to planning the project, be inclusive from the start to ensure staff buy-in throughout the organization.

Learn more in Planning & Goal Setting

Playbook Essential: How should you kick off a Big Footprint project?

“It is advisable to hold an all-hands kickoff meeting for each footprint, where everyone is invited to discuss the topic, give input, and start to brainstorm story ideas. Though the expectation is that each team will be talking about and planning for the footprint within their own departmental meetings, the all-hands kickoff meeting serves as an important way to make sure everyone’s voice and input is heard early in the planning process.”

-- Anne Glausser, ideastream Big Footprint Coordinating Producer

Case Studies: Big Footprint projects around a major national broadcast event

The three stations involved in this project each developed local initiatives using the Big Footprint model around the PBS broadcast of "The Vietnam War". Check out how each station presented its effort:

Playbook Essential:

How long should a "Big Footprint" rollout last?

“From our testing, [five to seven days] seems to be the sweet spot of saturation without audience fatigue.”

--Anne Glausser, ideastream Big Footprint Coordinating Producer

Funding for this project was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by the participating stations: Oregon Public Broadcasting, ideastream and WXXI.