Let Our People Go Camping

Will Feichter - September 18, 2013

“The goal of climbing big, dangerous mountains should be to attain some sort of spiritual and personal growth…”

― Patagonia CEO, Yvon Chouinard, in his book Let My People Go Surfing

At Myriad Media, we’re driven to use our company to make a difference. It’s instinctual, really… natural as an eager pup tugging at the end of a leash. For us, making a difference begins with nurturing the skills and creativity of our people. Do that and you’ve got the building blocks of a workforce that is engaged, signed on for the long term and prepared to create ideas that contribute to the wellspring of the world.

Seems simple: A list of continuing ed classes + a credit card = mission accomplished. That works well in many companies, but here it’s relatively weak sauce. Myriad Media folks like to learn by collaborating/debating with teammates, wondering/wandering around thorny challenges and being free to take chances—even make mistakes—on stuff that counts.

Our challenge has always been to do this while also managing a burgeoning base of work from the clients we love and who depend on us. Ya know, the folks who pay the light bill. Of course, we’re constantly thinking of our clients’ projects as a way to learn and to do something that’s never been done before, but only within the scope of meeting their specific needs.

In sum, finding a way for our people to grow in their careers, produce work that makes a difference, AND simultaneously serve our clients is a bit like having our cake and eating it too… calorie free.


So, how to cut this knot of hope, expectation, and desire? Our answer is a novel effort we call Campsite. In its simplest form, Campsite is an ongoing series of videos we produce to stretch our skills, help others and have fun… free of client budgets, their goals, and resulting constraints. It’s not unlike efforts at Google, 3M and others where employees are given “on the clock” time to pursue any idea they chose.

As a metaphor, Campsite speaks to a series of short expeditions to different places with an ever-changing band of travel mates. Similar to an actual camping trip; just you, some buddies, a couple of tents and the inclination to go somewhere different this time.

While Campsite projects are free-form, they’re also serious, have expectations (always) and Myriad Media’s cash (frequently) behind them. This structure encourages discipline, which makes projects more likely to be completed and the overarching goals of the effort to be accomplished. It’s also important to note that Campsite includes contributors from all walks at Myriad Media, not simply those on the production team.

Coffee & Vegetables Are Good For You

While just over a year old, Campsite has had significant success. In late 2012, a branded content marketing video for Slingshot Coffee and the delightful Jenny Bonchak provided 250+ hours of learning opportunity for a crew of nine Myriad Media co-workers.

It also led to five individual Addy Awards (including an area gold and regional silver) and some amazingly good coffee consumption. A win-win by any definition…:-)

Of course, the pull to make a contribution to a better world through our work is strong too, so we’ll sometimes use Campsite projects to help others through pro-bono services. This spring, a team of roughly six MMers worked with Activate Good to produce a video for the Raleigh City Farm—a selfless and hardworking effort if there ever was one.

Myriad provided roughly 100 hours of contribution to this effort and received valuable creative nourishment in return.

That’s not to say Campsite hasn’t had its challenges. Getting everyone in the company to participate is a work in progress. Perhaps most vexing has been freeing up time to take part during the workday as client deadlines loom. However, this challenge has actually been productive, as it’s forced us to streamline our workflow to create breathing room in our schedules. This will pay powerful dividends for all Myriad Media projects, whether for Campsite or those of paying clients.

A Trip To Babylon

Our most recent Campsite project is the effort in its most rewarding form: A music video for Daniel Cook, our senior editor, for his passion project, New Reveille.

I love this because it combines a coworker’s deep personal interest, the creative skills of our people and a little seed money to produce something off-the-meter bold that we’ve never done before:

The project also fully extended the Campsite effort to external contributors with the inclusion of the multitalented David Hambridge and a group of aspiring filmmakers such as Kyle Messina, George Duke, Brian Korrf and Todd Leonard. The shared value created for those involved is exponential and profound.

The “skippy on this peanut butter cookie” is our clients will benefit from all this: The ideas dreamed up, arguments had, production plans obsessed over and long hours logged.

In sum, the diverse collection of folks known as Myriad Media wants its work to count for something. This was true in 1993 when Tony Cope, Alan Ashe and I first flicked on the lights and it’s true today. Campsite is a fractal extension of our culture and business strategy. It’s also proving to be the causeway towards the objective of giving our people a safe place to gain the experience and skills necessary to, indeed, make a difference.

Wanna go camping with us?