Archive for April, 2016

Everyone Needs a Red Team

I’m a big Aaron Sorkin fan. You probably remember him from great shows like Sports Night and The West Wing, and as the screenwriter for The Social Network, Moneyball, and Steve Jobs.

And then there was that one time he did a “walk and talk” with Liz Lemon on an episode of 30 Rock (“Wait, did we just walk in a circle?”).

I recently caught up with another of his shows — The Newsroom — starring Jeff Daniels as network news anchor, Will McAvoy.

Throughout the second season we follow the reporting team as they investigate a big story. It entails all the usual drama, conflict, and a twist. As the project shows hints of going sideways, someone suggests to MacKenzie, the senior producer, that she get McAvoy involved.

“No,” she says. “I need him for the Red Team.”

Of course, this is where the comment is left — dangling. This is how Aaron Sorkin writes. He wants me to shout at the tv screen, “WHAT THE HECK IS A RED TEAM?”

So I did a little research, and it turns out that a Red Team refers to a group of people with no prior knowledge of the story who approach it with skepticism and an intent to challenge its assumptions.

Wikipedia defines it as “an independent group that challenges an organization to improve its effectiveness.”

In military training, the Red Team is the opposing force sent in to test a unit’s readiness for battle. In digital security, the Red Team is the hacker hired to test an organization’s security strength.

Red Team Jen

In your business, I’m the Red Team who looks at your story with fresh eyes. I test your assumptions and poke holes in your jargon. I ask hard questions and play the skeptic. I challenge your love for the product to make sure you’re not just going through the motions.

In other words, I don’t just produce a video for you. I make your story bulletproof.

Don’t fall into the trap of writing your own script or producing your video in-house. You might think this saves you money, but without a Red Team to challenge your internal perspective, your story runs the risk of confusing your customers.

Whether you sell a product, provide a service, sell to consumers or businesses, or just have a Great Idea to explain, we work together as storytellers (that’s us!) and content experts (that’s you!) to make your brand stand out against the competition.

Have a project in mind? Get in touch.

So You Have a Great Idea… What Now?

Great Idea What Now

I love what I do. I get to meet great people, learn about great products and ideas, and then I get to help other people fall in love with those products and ideas.

When we take on a project, we assume you also love what you do, and that you’re just as excited about what you’re putting out into the world.

That’s why we’ll be great together.

Whether you sell a product, provide a service, sell to consumers or businesses, or just have a Big Idea to explain, we work together as storytellers (that’s us!) and content experts (that’s you!) to clearly explain what problem you solve for your customers.

But first, you have to tell us about that great idea…

Things I Do When I Should Be Writing

Clutter Cat

  • Eat a snack.
  • Organize MailChimp lists.
  • Write long and thoughtful Facebook comments on posts that are three months old.
  • Go through all our Asana projects and come up with GREAT IDEAS for how other people should get their work done.
  • Eat a snack.
  • Pluck my chin whiskers. Variations on this include: filing my nails, clipping hang nails, and Googling eye shadow tutorials.
  • Declutter my desk.
  • Eat a snack.
  • Mark a bunch of Asana tasks complete to see how many unicorns I get.
  • Write a GREAT post… for my personal blog.
  • Oh look! It’s lunchtime!

Oh, but I’ve TRICKED you! These aren’t distractions, but participants in the mystery of creative inspiration and the writing process.

Jack Donaghy calls it The Shower Principal.

Dennis Palumbo — a Hollywood screenwriter turned psychotherapist — writes about this phenomenon in his book, Writing From the Inside Out, and in this article, In Praise of Goofing Off.

It’s during activities like the ones above that allow our thoughts to “percolate” or “simmer,” as he puts it, which is just as necessary as actually writing. “Think of it this way,” he writes. “You’re not watching the entire first season of Mad Men merely to avoid working. Rather, you’re allowing the part of your brain that creates to labor away unconsciously, filtering and sorting, selecting and discarding.”

I often forget this in the middle of a constipated effort to create something out of nothing. But the moment I throw back my chair in frustration and find something else to do, inspiration comes.

For this reason, I agree wholeheartedly with Palumbo when he says, “The creative process is goddamned mysterious.”