LDS Public Affairs manager talks PR strategy behind ‘Meet the Mormons’

LDS Public Affairs Senior Manager Scott Trotter visits with David Archuleta behind the scenes at the "Meet the Mormons" premiere. (John Dye)

LDS Public Affairs Senior Manager Scott Trotter visits with David Archuleta behind the scenes at the “Meet the Mormons” premiere. (John Dye)

There is a critical difference between amateur campaign and highly effective campaigns — a well thought-out and implemented strategy. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ “Meet the Mormons” campaign, which rolled out summer 2014, is one that exceeded its goal.

The film reached 350 theaters nationwide and was ranked No. 10 in box office sales the weekend it premiered. The box office sales totaled just under $6 million. These achievements qualified the movie to reach its end goal of becoming featured on Netflix.

LDS Public Affairs Senior Manager Scott Trotter shared insights from the movie’s campaign during the October Utah Valley Public Relations Society of America luncheon on Oct. 21.

The purpose of the Meet the Mormons campaign

“Meet the Mormons” was originally intended for the Church’s many visitors’ centers worldwide. But the Church discovered the film had much more potential after showing the film to a number of focus groups.

“The whole purpose of the movie was to make people laugh, have a little fun, and tell them a little bit about our church,” Trotter said.

Theaters in Utah were full, and box office sales soared for "Meet the Mormons." The premiere, as pictured here, was held in the first of 350 theaters during the run of the film. (John Dye)

Theaters in Utah were full, and box office sales soared for “Meet the Mormons.” The premiere, as pictured here, was held in the first of 350 theaters during the run of the film. (John Dye)

Necessary strategic planning for campaign success

To get a film of any kind on Netflix, there are certain requirements. This typically includes proving the film has demand through significant box office sales and theaters showing the film. “The first goal was to show it in 100 theaters,” Trotter said.

The “Meet the Mormons” campaign team pinpointed three specific objectives to reach its overall goal: motivate church members to request their local theaters show the film, encourage church members to share the campaign with their friends and invite church members to experience the film.

Trotter stressed the importance of strategically disseminating messages in a campaign. Otherwise, the effort put into creating messages can be wasted.

“Whenever you come to a communications plan, think through the strategies,” he said.

Tactics used to implement the strategy

Stephanie Nielson and her husband, Christian, greet other attendees at the "Meet the Mormons" premiere. Nielson was among many prominent bloggers invited to the event. (John Dye)

Stephanie Nielson and her husband, Christian, greet other attendees at the “Meet the Mormons” premiere. Nielson was among many prominent bloggers invited to the event. (John Dye)

The “Meet the Mormons” campaign team used several tactics to motivate targeted publics to act on its messages. The primary channels used to deliver the messages were social media and word-of-mouth and only limited paid advertisement was used.

“We wanted to make a big deal out of it so the media would pick up on it,” Trotter said.

The team members  created a Facebook page for the movie that remains active today. They sent letters to church leaders in every region of the U.S. announcing the film. They also started a hashtag, #MeetTheMormons, to create buzz. David Archuleta, who got his debut on the seventh season of “American Idol,” covered a popular religious song, “Glorious.”

The team invited influential church opinion leaders to the film’s premiere including Imagine Dragons and Shay Carl from the popular YouTube video blog, Shaytards. Then, those who were invited to the premiere were encouraged to talk about the event on their various social media platforms.

The social media influence from these celebrities promoted the film and the premiere, giving the opening weekend the boost it needed for box office sales.

“I never thought that I’d be dealing with Netflix in my career,” Trotter said, “But you never know what’s going to come your way.”

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