When we last caught up with Attitude Group, which creates documentaries telling the stories of Kiwis living with disabilities in October last year, it had reached 16,000 fans on Facebook, and less than six months later it’s now reached 100,000 followers, quickly growing its audience by spreading its inspiring stories far and wide.
Attitude Group started as a TV production company back in 1992 and has been broadcasting on TVNZ since 2005. It has the largest back catalogue of disability content in the world, having made over 400 documentaries since 2005, which it shares through its website Attitude Live.
All of the content is freely available, and Smith, Attitude Group’s head of digital says it’s hugely valuable to its audience.
“There’s a huge number of people who are affected by disabilities and their friends and family also find it valuable,” he says.
So, how did it manage to grow its audience so quickly?
“We have a highly engaged base, our top centres are Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Hamilton followed by a huge amount of growth through the US, UK and Australia, and that’s a mix of organic growth and some targeted advertising.”
He says in the States there is also a huge number of setup online organisations, Facebook groups and blogs, which it pushes through its Facebook page. He also cites the Paralympics as being a traffic driver.
Just this week TVNZ and Attitude Pictures announced plans for more than 180 hours of coverage dedicated to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games held from 7-18 September this year with support from NZ on Air and with ACC as the broadcast sponsor. Coverage of the event will also be available through Attitude Live.
Attitude Group also runs the Attitude Awards, acknowledging the hundreds of thousands of Kiwis who live with a disability.
But while the government has helped out in terms of funding, it has proved difficult to get corporates on board.
The programme that's broadcast on TVNZ is supported by funding from NZ on Air. And while those documentaries feature on the website, Attitude Live doesn't have an ongoing funding model and funds the editing and social media itself.
ACC and MSD are very supportive of the site and the ministries of Health and Transport and Housing New Zealand are also using it as a way to share information with the community.
Last year, Attitude’s founder and chief executive Robyn Scott-Vincent said the disabled community was an under-recognised demographic and she believed the business community was missing a big opportunity to connect with—and develop products and services for—it.
And because Attitude Group has so much experience telling their stories, she said it was well-placed to help companies provide solutions or even develop them itself.
“There was a report done by the Return on Disability Group. In short, generally people hear disability and they think of the cost to the public sector, but if you frame it as a consumer segment it’s about 1.3 billion people.”
According to the report, the emerging disability market is the size of China. Friends and family add another 2.3 billion potential consumers who act on their emotional connection to people with disabilities.
Together, people with disabilities control over $8 trillion in annual disposable income, the report says.
“And they are very prone to spending with companies that are shown as being empathetic,” Smith says.
“For example, Uber is about to roll out a disability friendly service. We see high value in re-framing that discussion away from the cost, as there is significant value for companies that can get it right.”
Smith also says there is a misconception where some people view those with disabilities as not being able to contribute to society or as being less employable.
“But there are some really interesting employment studies coming out and in terms of attendance and staying with a corporation for longer, there are a lot of areas where disabled people add value and bring a different insight,” he says.
And this is one of the values of Attitude, he says, as it attempts to break down these stereotypes.
“With any kind of social issue or misunderstood segment of society, it’s just a matter of [people] learning [and] getting a better understanding of what disabled peoples’ lives are like and their stories and not just ones that are cherry picked by the media,” he says.
“It’s about helping develop people’s empathetic capacity.”
He says if its social media growth is anything to go by, there is certainly an appetite globally, not just locally, and he says we’re seeing more sound bites in media about people with disabilities and niche content compared to other media platforms.
“We focus on a set demographic and it seems to be working really well,” he says. People will often post issues they’re having at home with friends, family members or themselves and the community helps.”
So what makes Attitude such a good resource?
“We offer a free public service with online information tools for every sub category of the disability sector, so as a social enterprise you need to make that free service work as well,” he says.
"There are a number of ways to appeal to this segment. Traditionally it's been within the corporate social responsibility sphere, however developing a more inclusive employment policy and ensuring their product offering is also accessible to the community."
He says Attitude Group aims to reshape the conversation so the community is seen not as a cost to the public purse but a huge opportunity for both the public and private sector. "If we can incentivise positive social development then that's a bonus."
“Personally, it would be another New Zealand success story if we could be the largest online audience for this sector, that would be a dream. And if we could just continue producing our content.”