With a desire to build audience, community, underwriting, and relationships, SDPB re-vamped the production of its 25-year-old program, Dakota Life, last season. The program has moved from a collection of stories from various locations throughout the state to a laser focus on one community per episode and South Dakotans—and those who used to call South Dakota home—are loving it!
The Dakota Life staff carefully selects nine communities from distinct regions of South Dakota to ensure that we represent our diverse communities, landscapes, traditions, and industries. Community Conversations take place in each town at a popular gathering spot, and we invite SDPB members and the entirety of the area to attend to enjoy a refreshment, learn more about SDPB, and pitch their story ideas. Conversations lead to story development and additional visits to hold interviews, capture video and further engage. While the stories could go directly to air, the Dakota Life team goes one step further and premieres the episode in the selected community first. Ads are placed in local papers to support local journalism and bring in a crowd, and the SDPB Magazine, which features that month’s episode, is dropped to every address in town. It includes a customized letter promoting membership with SDPB. Premieres are hosted in movie theaters to community centers throughout the state, and the featured communities get to see their stories played out before anyone else. The premiere events have been an enormous hit in places that aren’t used to seeing themselves on the big screen.
Throughout the Dakota Life process, long-term relationships are formed as producers and staff don’t stop in a community once; they do so multiple times and invest in relationships. This current season of Dakota Life sees nine new communities being featured, but those past communities are not forgotten as staff are going back to last seasons to follow up on their stories.
Dakota Life has created a safe place for voices that are not typically heard to be celebrated and shared across all SDPB platforms. These relationships have created new avenues for all content producers across SDPB to connect and tell in-depth stories they may not have had access to previously, highlighting the unique, the diverse, and the unheard in powerful ways. To quote Julie Overgaard, Executive Director of SDPB, “Dakota Life helps me find joy in being South Dakotan!” and it will continue to do that for all of South Dakota.