Content Creation 103
This is a continuation post on the content creation process we at Student Life go through with regards to thematic development (with special attention to how we arrived at the theme for Summer 2010, which is Re). If you missed the first two posts, you can scroll down a little bit or find them here and here. Now, it's important to not do these kind of things in a vacuum. When you do, it's very easy to get consumed with either what you're an "expert" at (i.e. what you know the best) or the thing God is currently teaching you. That's not necessarily bad so long as what you're an expert in or what God is currently teaching you is also what He has in mind for thousands of teenagers to spend a week of their life wrestling with. That's just one of the reasons for the pitch meeting in our process.
Here's who's officially involved (because many other people are giving valuable feedback just because I ask them): Randy Hall, Founder and CEO; Earl Roberson, COO and acting Marketing Director; Rick Murray, CFO and Director of Resources; Roger Davis, Senior V.P. and Director of Ministry Events; Andy Blanks, Director of Resource Development; Drew Francis, Creative Director; and myself. Don't all those titles sound super-fancy? You may notice a lack of women on that list. Let me assure you that I'm sensitive to there being the potential for a lack of female input and influence in the upper echelons of the more "conservative" branches of our Faith. Remember those other people I mentioned that give "unofficial" feedback because I ask for it and because it's important? Yeah. A number of them are female.
What happens in the pitch meeting is I typically pass around some handouts that briefly outline each theme. I talk through each one and then we discuss them. We say what we like, what we don't like. Opinions are offered on how something might work (or not work) or how a phrase sounds or could be communicated well. These meetings can last awhile (and should).
As a creative, it's natural for me to get real attached to my work. Since that's the case, it can sometimes be rather difficult to listen to critique objectively. However, it's vitally important to do so. As Content Creator, part of my job is to develop the best theme possible. In order to do that I can't just rely on myself. I've got to be open to feedback, completely open. Sure, I should push for what I think is best, but I also need to recognize that I could be wrong (and I am... every now and then... not often, though).
So, here's the feedback in a nutshell:
1. ¡UNITE! - This received more positive feedback than it has when I've pitched it in the past. We liked the idea of helping students catch a vision for corporate faith and saw what a difference it could make in youth groups and, then, hopefully, in each of their home churches. We also liked "¡UNITE!" much more than "Synergy" or "We the People." However, the conversation quickly moved on from this idea to the other two. Well... there's always next year.
2. Light the Darkness - As I've said before, prior to the initial pitch meeting this was the early front-runner. Once we got going, there was a lot of discussion about how it could play out. Everyone immediately caught a vision for it. We were spouting off examples of all the various examples in Scripture where light and darkness are contrasted and how it relates to our position in the world as God's people and ambassadors. However, there was some concern over the phrase, itself. We wondered if it was, maybe, too obvious. It kinda had this feel that it had been done before. So, we loved the content... not the phrase. If you're going to have a problem, that's the problem to have.
3. The Good Life - Once we recognized some issues with "Light the Darkness," "The Good Life" quickly rose to the top. It was easy to see how it would work at camp and the idea of spending a week with students teaching and discussing justice, merciful love and humility not only sounded worthwhile, but we also felt like we might be missing a real opportunity if we didn't do it. We were all really loving it until we hit a speed bump... the phrase. We felt like it was too similar to "Life is Good," a decently popular brand out there and then there was concern that the word "good" sounded a little... I don't know... average, I guess. You know, like it wasn't "The Great Life." It was just "The Good Life."
So, where did that leave us. Well, "¡UNITE!" was off the table, for this year at least. That left the ideas of light and Micah 6:8. I was sent back to the drawing board to work with whoever else to try to see what other word or phrases we could come up with that could "go on the t-shirt."
Trying to "title" things proves to be one of the most fun, challenging and absolutely infuriating aspects of anything I try to do. So... I at least knew my next week or two were going to be exciting if nothing else.