The problem of toxic polarization is a hard one to solve. At Starts With Us, we are motivated to overcome it because we know that left unchecked, it can lead to genocide, fascism, war, and oppression.
Media, social media, and politics worsen the problem because they benefit from amplifying extreme voices. So how do we pull America back from the brink?
Research shows that storytelling is a powerful and effective tool. When people see someone they agree with, respect, or identify with reaching across social divides, it breaks through their cognitive bias of us vs. them narratives and shows a different path. We know we must change the narrative to change the culture.
With almost 40 years of collective experience casting unscripted film and TV, we were confident we could find just the correct stories to move hearts and minds. It didn’t take long to realize we were up against some unique challenges. Because of our media environment, these stories are much, much harder to find than we first thought.
It’s the willingness to consider your ideological enemy as your friend. And that is genuinely a needle in a haystack. We spent months talking to people and looking for the best stories to share with our growing movement.
And then we found Pati and Maurice. Two people who came together and became best friends… because one TROLLED the other on Facebook. But their story is an incredible example of overcoming differences to create genuine, respectful relationships.
Pati should HATE Maurice. She should scorn him. We would all have her back. But she sought him out to understand him. And in doing so, she saw someone who reminded her of her lost son. And Maurice, discovering the truth and depth of Pati’s experience, became one of her biggest cheerleaders. These two people found each other in one of the most contentious spaces (Facebook) and built an authentic and honest connection based on understanding and, eventually, love.
Their gift is to show us an America where we don’t hate our neighbor, build bridges instead of walls, and come together to solve our toughest problems. And our gift was being able to find them and tell their story.
We optimized the final video creative to be native for each distribution channel, and, generated optimal cuts and formats across Instagram, Tiktok, Stories (FB/IG), Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and TikTok to show our audience two people with different opinions being an example of reaching across the divide.
We have a process for examining every aspect of the video creative including, copy, thumbnails, format, and structure of the video narrative to heighten the storytelling aspect of our mission.
Furthermore, we used paid social to amplify the organic content posts, generate earned media through consumer press outreach, and leverage our network of highly influential movement partners with large social presence to distribute the episodes. In addition, for this episode, we conducted a Twitter Spaces around the episode “Unmasking Online Conversations: Gun Violence Victims & Gun Advocates” hosted by Joe Walsh along with Fred Guttenberg, Pati and Maurice.
Pati and Maurice’s UN/DIVIDED episode drove over 636K+ video views, 1MM+ impressions, and 10.8K engagements – our best-performing UN/DIVIDED episode to date. The episode was shared by influencers including George Takei, Joe Walsh, Fred Guttenberg, Leon Ford, Ed Krassenstein and Brian Krassenstein.
We saw the audience take hold of this story and resonate with it. Our community's response to our content is how we know it is working and we were so glad to see comments like the below show that this story was changing the outlooks and feelings of many: