How MTV Uses Its Connection To Kids To Push Social Change

images (1)

From Fast Company:

In between monitoring unannounced celebrity cameos at the VMAs and overseeing the creation of the next hit TV show, Stephen Friedman, MTV’s president, prioritizes a company-wide dedication to social responsibility. When he hears statistics about high teen pregnancy rates, Darfur’s mass genocide, or the frequency of depression among youth in the U.S., he sees an opportunity to impact MTV’s audience for good. Fascinated by the media’s ability to catalyze change, Friedman joined MTV in 1998 to kick off the company’s first department of Strategic Partnerships and Public Affairs. Now that he is president, business and social responsibility are a fluid entity. Friedman’s generosity is deeply embedded, it’s simply part of his core, and he works tirelessly to ensure that the social values MTV was founded upon–and which parent company Viacom strongly support–are amplified.

As head of the Strategic and Public Affairs department, and later as head of mtvU — MTV’s college network–he realized that college students could be united and mobilized in a powerful way. In 2004, when students on university campuses were outraged over the conflict in Darfur, Friedman took advantage of MTV’s unique position among this young demographic to empower them to make a difference. Friedman went to college students and crowd-sourced the creation of a viral video game that would educate players about the conflict, a risky idea that MTV backed. Upon the game’s release, it received a great reception with millions of plays and translation into multiple languages. By putting faith in the Darfur Is Dying game, Friedman and his team not only validated his audience’s voices but also helped spur a massive conversation. MTV was awarded the Governor’s Emmy Award, one of media’s most coveted recognitions, gaining the nation’s attention and prodding other media outlets to step up their game. “That was a powerful moment of trusting the audience,” Friedman said. “Also the idea that this little channel, mtvU, that people hadn’t really heard about, had suddenly raised this awareness in a much broader global way based on a video game.”

Continue reading the rest of the story on Fast Company