How Pioneers in Skirts Ran a Successful Kickstarter Campaign…and Beyond!

A Guest Post by Lauren McDonald, Volunteer, PR Outreach & Lea-Ann W. Berst, Producer, Co-Writer

KS away - JaneA documentary film depends on individuals, foundations and businesses to help fund it – and the process of applying and appealing is always ongoing. A production is always looking for money to keep it moving forward. When feature documentary Pioneers in Skirts needed to raise the funds to finish production of the film, and begin the efforts of transitioning into post-production, the producers launched a month-long Kickstarter campaign with a goal of raising $50,000.

As a Public Relations volunteer on the production team, I was ready to do what it takes to help reach our goal. As a full-time student, I had to prioritize my time!

In the end, we raised the full $50K…with only hours remaining on the last day to bring in the final donations. This Kickstarter was NOT easy for anyone involve, and I will assume they never are. The Director Ashley Maria and her Co-Producer Lea-Ann W. Berst worked 24/7 to reach the Kickstarter goal. Knowing that Kickstarters are also important for getting more eyes on the film itself, I did my best to help increase awareness of, and drive excitement for, the film and its Kickstarter.

As a writer for Her Campus Chapel Hill, I wrote and published an article explaining why this film is so important for college women and why they should want to help spread the word and support the film. This article was in the Top-Viewed article listing for almost a week! That was a real success in the college community.

As part of an effort to get smaller blogs to write about the film, I contacted blog owner, Jamie Bullock, of Project:Women and told her about the film. I suggested she post a story that we would write, to not only help the film – but to help her add valuable content to her blog about women going after their dreams. Jamie loved the idea and instantly signed on! Throughout the entire process Jamie was helpful and upbeat; always excited to hear from me.

Not only did this blog post help to broaden the reach of the film, it demonstrated the true camaraderie of women supporting women. It was great boost of encouragement to me and our team to see how supportive other women are of Pioneers in Skirts.

Prior to and during the Kickstarter I brainstormed on how I could share the Kickstarter link with everyone I knew. As a PR student, I know the importance of social media so I used my personal social media accounts to engage with friends and influencers; retweeting and reposting the Pioneers in Skirts social media accounts whenever possible.

I tweeted to anyone I thought would be interested in supporting the film. I posted on my Facebook page and told ALL my friends and family why they should support the film. I encouraged people to do the same! I challenged my sorority sisters and fellow classmates. Tagging and hashtags became the norm in my month-long effort to help drive up donations and awareness for the film.

 It was a well-planned effort

Thanks to many passionate individuals all over the world, the word about the Kickstarter began to spread. Our team (several volunteers from around the country) couldn’t have been successful without starting the effort long before the Kickstarter ever began.

First – the producers put together a plan to:

– build an audience who were either influential or can afford to donate to the film

– research past campaigns

– line up initial backers who would be willing to donate during the first few days of the Kickstarter

– line up the “right kind of” press, create buzz and excitement leading up to the launch of the Kickstarter

– develop Kickstarter Reward content that would not only incent people to donate, but would also represent the brand and tone of the film.

During the campaign our team convinced small bloggers to continue posting articles about the film, social media posts to be shared and engaged with, online radio shows to interview the producers, and backers to tout how proud they were to support the film! The producers made sure each person on our team would personally thank each donor, publicly – like on Facebook, after we received a donation from a friend. We weren’t allowed to simply post a list of names. We had to either post a fun picture with our friend, or write a poem / something engaging and funny. We learned quickly that when we did that, donations would spike!

As a professional marketer in her full-time career, Lea-Ann ran the entire marketing effort. She kept the entire team on schedule and phoned us individually to check in with us. Knowing that images are key for getting noticed in social media, Lea-Ann led the efforts to create meme’s we could all use. Meme’s used quotes snagged from the interview transcripts and key marketing messaging. One of our meme’s was picked up by Forbes and used in an article they ended up writing about the film! That article was posted on Oct. 18 (a month after the Kickstarter ended) and has about 8,000 views to date!!

As a professional filmmaker and director of the film, Ashley led the efforts to develop short videos aimed to encourage people to want to help with the campaign. (Many are still viewable online here: The goal was to create short content for social media (no longer than 15 seconds long) and content for Kickstarter updates and challenges. Prior to the launch of the Kickstarter Ashley had the idea of creating a virtual reality video that explained why she wanted to make the film. She pitched her idea to VRIDEO and convinced them to donate the gear and the work effort to splice the footage together. When it was completed, this Pioneers in Skirts update video turned out to be the first Kickstarter video update to be in virtual reality! Needless to say, we saw a spike in website hits, as well as donations, when the video was released!!

Our campaigning continues after the Kickstarter

POMI’ve learned that planning is so very important before, during, and after any marketing campaign – and the Pioneers in Skirts Kickstarter campaign was no different. The timing for when tactics happen is critical. One of the “after” tactics in our marketing plan is to be named Indiewire’s Project of the Month. This would be a huge win for the film. If we win, Indiewire will write about this documentary film. Big influential eyes will be on the film; resulting in opportunities to raise more funds to finish the film, awareness of the topic and the film, and distribution options that will lead to more eyes seeing the film when it’s done. Wish us luck! And vote – vote for Pioneers in Skirts!!

A little more about the Pioneers in Skirts Team …

Ashley Maria headshotAshley Maria, Director, Producer, Co-Writer:  With over 10 years of experience in film and television production, Ashley Maria is a writer and director, as well as a freelance production sound mixer based in Los Angeles, California. She is an award winning director; winning awards at highly acclaimed film festivals around the world. Additionally, Ashley Maria was awarded the prestigious Directors Guild of America award for her film, FridayNight Fright™ in 2010. In 2014, Ashley Maria was featured by the DGA as a director who represents “the future of women in film.”
Lea-Ann-Berst headshotLea-Ann W. Berst, Producer & Co-Writer: Over 13 years ago Lea-Ann founded Raleigh, NC-based Sleddogg Marketing Management, a consulting practice that specializes in strategic marketing and activation management. With decades of corporate and consultative experience, Lea-Ann works with clients who have been in business for awhile and need to make a change, or who need to be more proactive with their marketing approach. She leverages her brand building and project management experience when marketing and producing Pioneers in Skirts.
LaurenMcloseup-300x194Lauren McDonald, Volunteer, PR Outreach: Lauren attends the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in Journalism with a concentration in public relations.She works with the Pioneers in Skirts producers to help create publicity for the film, as well as promote the film to the college-aged audience.