Across The Fences

“What if around the country, hundreds of sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, mothers and fathers, mentors, friends and more and more shared the type of messages with loved ones that they’ve never shared before?” This is the question posed by a multi-platform public relations campaign to promote the movie “Fences,” based on the August Wilson Play. Entitled “Across the Fence: Telling our Story, and Building Strong Bonds,” this campaign is timed to coincide with the many family gatherings that take place during the United States (U.S.) holiday season.

Families across the U.S. are struggling right now to understand implications of the 2016 Presidential Election. Some are doing so in an abstract sense—reframing the American idealism to which they have grown accustomed. Others are doing so in a literal sense: Developing practical plans for possibly separating from loved ones should the President-Elect’s campaign plans come to pass. As families turn inward, I focus this week on familial ties within the context of public relations in popular culture.

The goal of “Across the Fence” is to build stronger bonds between families. Its strategy is to foster connections through face-to-face interviews that young people record with loved ones. Individual participants are expected to drive the tactical aspects of the campaign. For example, Across the Fence provides an online platform to showcase interviews, photographs, original artwork, and songs, that individuals share, and people are invited to use #AcrossTheFence to exchange family stories via social media.

“Fences” is directed by Denzel Washington, who also stars with Viola Davis. As a result of this Academy-Award Winning actor’s long-time  partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of America (a group that provides programs and services to promote and enhance the development of boys and girls with no adult care or supervision via safe spaces that instill a sense of competence and belonging)—it was natural that “Across the Fence” would team up with the Boys and Girls Club along with other organizations that promote family, faith, and fatherhood.

“Across the Fence” partners include Values Partnerships (which works with faith-based, ethnic, and other influencer groups for measurable results); the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (a network to ensure growth of those committed to improving the lives of Black men and boys), and the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women. Howard University, Morehouse College, and The American University comprise academic partnerships.

“Across the Fence” supplements traditional film media relations efforts, such as actors’ talk show appearances. While film-goers and fans are the primary audience for the movie, families are the focus of the publicity campaign. Both groups can benefit from the nostalgia of this time of year. “Across the Fence” provides a welcome distraction from the everyday reality most families in the States are living today.

—Cheryl Ann Lambert, Ph.D.

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