This post has been sitting in my draft folder for months. I hesitated hitting ‘publish’ because I did not want the tone to sound jaded or become a rant. While re-reading the post outline, I felt I was being too harsh and not recognizing the various stages of an organization’s social media and community engagement maturity. And then yesterday, I understood why I was so exasperated with people looking for the easy button. Why? Because I was that person and it was a puppet that gave me a dose of my own medicine.
As part of a mother-daughter bonding experience, I registered my nine year-old daughter for a puppet information/creation workshop. The event was marketed as a family affair, but my daughter was the only person under 25 in the audience. For three hours we heard from a master puppeteer about how to create beautiful puppets for film. The instructor took us through character development before sketching and the questions requiring answers to identify all the materials needed before making the puppet to prevent finding out (later in the creative process) you did not have the proper direction, investment or resources. We learned about the structure of the puppet and how to create and deliver the unique character for yourself or a client.
Towards the end of the workshop, the instructor demonstrated how we could create our own patterns based on the knowledge of the previous two hours. He had us creating our own patterns. There were no right or wrong ways to create the body, head, arms or hands. I could not grasp this free form art experience and I underestimated my daughter, thinking she did not grasp the complex pattern making. So, I asked the dreaded question:
“Is there a resource online you would recommend for downloading patterns we could easily follow”?”
I saw the puppeteer’s expression darken and turn sad. It was an expression I recognized. My face contorts in this fashion multiple times a day.
“What you are learning today is what no one talks about. These lessons were passed down from master to apprentice. There are no go-to patterns,” he replied.
Instantly, I knew the fear and confusion felt of those people who listen to me drone on and on during conference calls about policy and playbooks. I was the person looking for the easy button. I was the person looking for the lite version and the solution requiring little original thought, but great reward.
And I was disappointed in myself.
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
The novel or the Cliff’s Notes?
The theory or the Spark Chart?
Alright, perhaps, the latter two questions are easy to answer. So why are so many people skipping the writing, reading of the long novel or determining and experimenting hypothesis to jump immediately to a lite version? Why? Because it is so easy to skip to the end of the book. When we flip to the final page, we miss what makes the character tick. We do not understand the motivation and jump to our own conclusion unsubstantiated by research. The structure of the hero and challenge are not realized. We read the end, but we cannot visualize how this event came into being.
For some organizations, social media and community is a big playground and creative freedom reigns. For others, social media and community engagement is explored because the organization thinks it is the next step and the white picket fence to make the company whole and similar to others in the neighborhood. Knowing what you want from an online community and preparing for the foundation of growth is a key ingredient for creating the character of the community and extent of the community lifecycle.
Miss Piggy came to life in the mind of Bonnie Erickson first. Then she burst to life on paper. Finally, she was molded into the 3D Muppet who stole our (and Kermit’s) heart. In this interview, Erikson addresses the creative process of creating a puppet character:
What does it take for a character to become a legend, as happened with Miss Piggy and the Phanatic?
Well, there are three factors. First, you need a good designer and a good concept. And in the case of puppeteers you need a really good performer. And then the client has to be very thoughtful and use the character well. When you put all these pieces together you have at least a shot at creating a character people will be drawn to.
We focus so much on the performance, we forget about the design and concept. We want to follow the dots for a quick and easy solution for a creative and unique product. We crave a pattern. We want the lite version.
There is no lite version. The pattern is one you have to create. You create the process to put the pieces together. You are the master of design. You are the puppeteer.