I have been eager to join the conversation that has been happening all over the US regarding policing. I love living in Sacramento, the least segregated city in the US according to a recent census, but we are by no means a city that has achieved equal opportunity for its citizens. After the events in Ferguson, we have to ask ourselves if young black men in Sacramento are similarly vulnerable. I hope to attend many events that bring together diverse members of our community, and to broadcast the conversations we have regarding important and contentious topics.
The first event is hosted by Village Square Sacramento, an organization that seeks “to create a fun, inclusive and comfortable forum for civic engagement on matters of local, state and national importance.” Their event on February 26th is titled, “Are We Safe? A Neighborly Conversation Beyond the Headlines” and includes panelists, Daniel Hahn, Police Chief, City of Roseville; Dr. B J Davis Co-executive Director, Strategies for Change; and Beth Hassett, Executive Director of WEAVE Inc.
Back in May, I had my first meeting with the Pacific Crest Trail Association, the non-profit that works to preserve one of the greatest wilderness trails in the world. A big Hollywood film starring Reese Witherspoon had already finished shooting on various locations of the PCT–a 2,650 mile trek from Mexico to Canada–and the marketing machine at Fox Searchlight Pictures was gearing up for a six month promotional marathon ahead of the holiday release date. The challenge for the PCTA was not merely to cope with the attentions of the movie-going audience, but to capitalize on it. They needed a consultant who could bridge the gap between their mission as an organization and the aspirations of a young, female audience. Easy, right?
I am always surprised by the intersections that happen between my life in the academic world, and my life in advertising. In 2011, I was in Washington D.C. for a literary conference, (AWP) when I attended a panel with Cheryl Strayed, the writer of the best-selling memoir, “Wild.” Like everyone else present, I fell in love with Cheryl. It was the voice in her writing that captured my attention. Here is a married, mother-of-two, writing candidly about drug addiction, desire, and infidelity. She has a profound level of trust in her reader, and it pays off. Cheryl Strayed’s fans feel like they are the author’s trusted confidante and friend, and they rally behind her endeavors. I wasn’t surprised to see Oprah Winfrey pick up Wild for her book club the following year.
In my pitch to the PCTA I argued that if we captured the same qualities of honesty and directness in our messaging, the formula that made Cheryl’s book such a success, we would recruit a new generation of young women to the trail. We could empower women to feel confident in the wilderness, and to be ready for the challenges that arise, whether completing a day hike, or a longer stint. We settled on the tagline: “Forge your path on the PCT. We’ll make sure it’s there for you.”
The months that followed our initial meeting were among the most interesting and rewarding professional experiences of my life. I joined a hiking group and experienced real terror during an ill-planned first outing in the Sierras. I met with inspiring professional women who attributed their success to time spent alone in the wilderness. I had conference calls with the incredible marketing team at Fox as we aligned our efforts around the release of the movie trailer, screenings at Telluride Film Festival, and promotions with corporate partner REI.
Now the finished microsite is live at www.pcta.org/wild. When I first showed the design concept to Liz Bergeron, the Executive Director and CEO of the PCTA, she said it gave her chills, and I still feel that excitement every time I visit the page. I love seeing Cheryl’s face, dirt-stained, determined, alongside the quote, “…I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.” The project gave me an entirely new understanding of the sophisticated ways we can communicate with an audience, and listen to that audience, as we collect stories from fans who submit their experiences on the microsite and with hashtags.
“Wild” opens on limited release December 5 before a nationwide roll out.
Evan Clayburg and Lauren Cole Norton started Third Space Media, a full-service boutique marketing and branding agency in 2014 after collaborating on several successful ventures including Third Space, an urban regeneration project that converted an abandoned warehouse into a vibrant, multi-purpose workshop and venue space. Third Space Media brings the same spirit of creative entrepreneurship to the digital world.