There is much excitement in the air as NBPC has launched the #NBPC360 open call, the first open call for new content we’ve authorized in a long time. Our goal with this open call is to find new series suitable for broadcast and for the web, as well as informative, immersive interactive projects that tackle complex contemporary issues about the Black experience. Three projects will be left standing in the end and each will receive a public media license of up to $150,000 to make their ideas manifest into a high-quality prototype or pilot episode.

As the deadline approaches (January 9th, 2015) we know all our producers are working hard to put their best foot forward, so we thought we’d put together this brief list to help you as you prepare – these are the 7 Ways Your #NBPC360 Application Could Fall Flat.

1. You Did Not Take Advantage of Any of the Pre-Application Assistance

We know you have a lot to do and this is why NBPC has made a series of online web sessions available to you that tackle different aspects of your project planning – audience development, marketing, social media, production planning, distribution, producing for the web, and so much more – in a series of seven webinars working professionals in their field take time to breakdown these complex concepts and answer questions for those lucky few who caught the live show. But if you missed them don’t fret because we’ve captured each of these seven sessions as video recordings in an easily accessible YouTube Playlist. Check them out below.

Aside from these pre-recorded sessions we also encourage you to ask your #NBPC360 questions to us directly by tweeting @BLKpublicMedia, and using the #NBPC360 hashtag. When we’re not asleep or being awesome offline we’ll definitely answer your queries. And for regular updates tailored to producers, you should definitely sign on to the Black Public Media mailing list here.

2. You Submitted A One-Off Project Idea Instead of A Series or Interactive Project

So you’ve been working on your project for a while, it’s a great independent doc, and $150K would really help you move it along. We’re proud of you. But that project is not eligible for #NBPC360. For this call our goal is to find and help build infrastructure for serial production. A lot of the feedback we are getting from potential broadcasters and distributors is that one-off documentaries present a deep challenge in this “binge-watching” digital universe of content. The trend is for content with strong characters and multiple episodes. #NBPC360 will invest in making sure Black stories are truly and authentically represented in this trend. As a result all one-off projects submitted to #NBPC360 will be automatically disqualified.

3. Your Project Has A Great Issue, But No Story

#NBPC360 exists for those ideas that the mainstream ignores or finds “tedious,” we get it. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore story! Story is still Queen over here so ask yourself before you pitch your broadcast series, web series or interactive, or anything in between – is there enough new information here to keep people coming back after one part, two, three, four? Because at a minimum that is your task, to entertain and bring new chapters into your vision for at least four separate segments. A good story will always do that, no matter the medium. And this fact also extends to character and subjects you choose to include in your project – are your characters interesting to non-media junkies? Is the story you want to tell deep enough to fill multiple segments, unfolding in an interesting way? If you overheard the story on the subway would you miss your stop because you were listening so close?

If you are hoping to pitch a multipart series, particularly a historical one, you should definitely check out Webinar #2 in the playlist above, with featured presenter Leslie Asako Gladsjo of the “Many Rivers to Cross” series with Henry Louis Gates.

4. You Wrote Your Audience Development Strategy On The Bus, Half Asleep, Eating A Bagel…

Everybody is not a target audience. If your application says your strategy is to reach everyone you’re well on your way to a very bad score. However if your application says something like “my target audience is 35-45, educated, and spends a lot of time googling atheism online,” well, we’d love you so much. A well defined (and robust) target audience will set you well on your way to a successful distribution strategy because you know where to find your “people” and better yet, you know what they will respond to. To be clear, your target audience is not a group of people you made up or guessed about, they are a living, real cluster of people out there on the interwebs, or in real life institutions with memberships.

So take the time to not only research your potential audience but immerse yourself in their ways, join their facebook groups, go to their Sunday night revivals, visit their websites and sign their guest books (which no one has done since 1995 I’m sure!) but anyway you get the point – don’t fake your target audience, be your target audience! And meet them where they live.

For more on target audience definition check out Webinars #5 and #6 featuring Jorge Rivera, as well as Webinar #7 featuring George Weiner of the Whole Whale social media marketing firm.

5. You’re The Only Person Fully Committed To Making Your Project A Reality

We know you’re this generation’s Spike Lee but no producer is an island! #NBPC360 is looking for not only great ideas but great ideas that are ready to be made real. This means you need a solid team that extends well beyond yourself – who’s your developer? Who’s your project co-ordinator? What letters of support do you have? Who are the partners that will make your distribution strategy a success? The more quality professionals who have a stake in your project, the better your chances of success. No successful project was ever made in a vacuum so reach out and recruit as many helpers as you need.

6. You Left The Distribution and Marketing Plan to the Last Minute

Market research is not artistic work, we know! But that’s why a member of your team who goes “ga-ga” over charts and numbers is the one you want writing this part of your application. Don’t leave it to the last week, or day, and more importantly don’t over complicate it. The point here is to prove that you know the universe into which your content will fit and you are producing it with an eye toward all the possible ways you can get it into the world. What platforms are most likely to bring you easy access to your target audience? How much money will you need to pay for impactful media visibility? Where does your audience take their cues from – newspapers, digital ads, banner web ads?

7. Your Video Work Sample Is Completely Irrelevant to the Project You’re Pitching

Another thing producers might take for granted is the video work sample. You might show too much, or too little. Ideally you want to present a video of the actual project you are pitching, produced to the best quality you and your team are capable, and engaging enough to leave the viewer wanting more. In lieu of a video sample of the project you want to submit “illuminating previous work.” This means you must work hard to submit previous work that showcases some style, skill, access that you believe is unique or crucial to the current project you are proposing. For example a historical documentary segment is a terrible work sample if you are pitching a web series – the lengths are completely different, and the storytelling techniques are often completely opposite philosophies. So whatever it takes you must work hard to make your video work sample relevant and engaging.

If you follow these basic rules you are well on your way to a gleaming #NBPC360 application. Now we know the goal of the #NBPC360 incubator is to help you find a lot of this information but you must come to the table with some solid idea of where you will be looking. We can bring the mentors, the seminars, and the tools but you must bring the substance.

A rookie mistake that did not make the list should be pretty apparent. Please take the time to read the #NBPC360 guidelines and ask all your questions before you hit submit. You may find the complete guidelines here.