Month: June 2013

An Interview with MeLissa Gavarrette About Writing, Comedy and Social Media

One of the many joys I had while being a creative director was meeting new talent and watching them grow in their craft.  About five years ago I had the opportunity to meet and become friends with comedian and writer, MeLissa Gavarrette. Now when it comes to funny people, I put them in two categories. First, there are people who say funny things and second there are people who say things in a funny way.  Personally, I think the latter of the two is what separates the amateurs from the professionals.  MeLissa definitely falls in that second category.   In this interview, MeLissa was kind enough to share her creative process, thoughts on the future of her craft and her views on social media.

How did you get started writing comedy?

Using humor to wow the masses is something I started doing when I was little, doing my own renditions of children’s plays for my fellow classmates instead of working on phonics. In middle school, I wrote a comedic comic book to sell to new classmates and in high school I was popular for one week after I wrote our Senior class play for Homecoming. I didn’t get serious about writing comedy until halfway through college. I was writing a lot of live stuff for student camps and what I would later realize were stand-up bits.

Erin McGown (left) and MeLissa Gavarrette (right) of Erin and Melissa.

I realized that I could be funny on the fly, but I could be really funny if I really constructed my words to pack the maximum punch. When my writing partner, Erin and I started shooting videos regularly, we started writing out everything. It was really something I learned out of necessity and trial & error. I mean, I’m sure there were people who said things like, “are these shows scripted”, to which we’d say, “no”, to which they’d respond “they should be…”. To them, I roll my eyes and then I thank them profusely because they were right for insisting. Being funny doesn’t necessarily make you a good comedy writer.

Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?

I am super inspired by other people who are working hard and making things happen. People who invite you over for game nights are awesome, but if you’re going to game nights every night of the week, when are you getting stuff done? I love to hear about the things my friends are working on (regardless of the field) because you walk away feeling like you have a chance too and sometimes that’s the only thing that keeps you moving forward with your crazy ideas.

In “On Writing” by Stephen King (which I recommend to EVERYONE regardless of whether or not you ever plan to be a writer), he says, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcuts.”  I watch a LOT of movies. I read a LOT of books. I see a LOT of shows. Some I love, some I hate, some I knew nothing about walking into it. These are the things that fuel creativity, give you perspective, help you see what’s possible. Try to take as many opportunities to expand your knowledge of pretty much everything. I promise it’ll help.

You made the jump from Nashville to LA, why did you move and how has it impacted you creatively?

LA felt something that was becoming more and more of a possibility, but then I read this article by Jenna Fisher from The Office. She said, “My first piece of advice to someone who is serious about being a professional television or film actor is: move to Los Angeles.” Now, I didn’t necessarily want to be a film or television actor at the time (though it’s always been an option), but I realized that it only made sense for me in my stage of life to be where the industry was and the film/tv writing industry lives predominantly in LA. I worked as hard as I could where I was (Nashville) until it felt like it was time to start building a foundation where the industry is.

If you’re serious about a field, surround yourself with those people. That’ll help you decide if you really love it or if it’s just a hobby…

Let me tell you that it has been the best/worst/hardest/most growing experience of my life. It’s like being the only kid in your area who can play a violin. You start to think you’re the only person on the entire planet who knows anything about violins. You might even think you’re the best violinist that history has ever known that wasn’t born when men still regularly wore wigs. Then your mom signs you up for music camp and you’re surrounded by violin players. Two things happen: 1) You realize maybe you are not the best violin player in history without a wig. 2) You feel like you found your people. You meet people who are better than you make you work harder. You make people who are newer to writing that remind you of how far you’ve come.

If you’re serious about a field, surround yourself with those people. That’ll help you decide if you really love it or if it’s just a hobby (which, it’s okay if it is just a hobby, but let me not recommend you move to LA where you will likely live in a closet for $700 a month just for the sake of a hobby. Stay wherever you are. Live like a king. Email your stuff from that castle to wherever in the world you want.)

Do have a process for writing? Is it sporadic (when the mood strikes) or is there a schedule? If there is a schedule, what does it look like?

I will never stop recommending people read Stephen King’s “On Writing”. He talks so much about discipline and writing regardless of how you feel. Steven Pressfield talks about it in “War of Art”. He says that writing whether or not you feel like it was separates the professional from the amateur. The amateur writer has the luxury of saying “I don’t feel like writing today, so I won’t.” The professional writer has deadlines and expectations to meet. The professional writer writes regardless of how they feel. So I decided for myself that I would be a professional writer. This means no excuses. I don’t necessarily get up every morning and write at 5 AM (though, I probably should and I definitely have in the past), but I definitely set deadlines for myself.

The professional writer has deadlines and expectations to meet. The professional writer writes regardless of how they feel.

I try to have at least a couple of projects on my desk all the time. I keep a serious “To-do” list of creative projects on my wall where I can see it, in order of importance. I also set deadlines with no wiggle room. If my first instinct is “this will take me 2 weeks to finish”, I’ll set a deadline of 10 days. I communicate that deadline to whoever needs to know because I think it’s absolutely not okay to turn in a project late. Maybe a little early, but otherwise, always on time. We have this bad habit of giving ourselves plenty of time and the majority of that time is spent thinking about how you’re going to work on whatever it is later. If this art form is what you love, why would you not push yourself to be doing more often than not?

Where do you see the future of comedy going?

For as old as comedy is as an art form, I think I love it because it’s not maxed out. Everything hasn’t been played out and I think that’s because comedy is so unique to the person performing it. Shakespeare jokes are different from Mark Twain jokes, which are different from John Cleese or Adam Sandler or Kristin Wiig or myself. Everyday it’s new. I see the future of comedy kind of like a great frontier and I’m a tiny biracial Starship Enterprise.

With the technology we have today, we have the freedom to make whatever image we have in our heads something tangible for anyone anywhere else to see and that’s freaking amazing. So if you have a weird idea to make a laser-light puppet musical with live streaming images on the backdrop (that idea is free to the first interested party), now iss your time, now is your dance! Do it! You have no excuses! And trust me, there are people who want to see it! (I expect my ticket to be comped). Can you imagine what sort of renaissance could happen if people start to really realize they can? I mean, for sure there will be a lot of garbage to wade through (not everything you do is a work of art, Michelangelo), but that feels like a risk worth taking.

I see the future of comedy kind of like a great frontier and I’m a tiny biracial Starship Enterprise.

I also see comedy doing what it’s always done in a grander scale and that is talking about tough things that are important to us. There’s a lot I have issue with on this planet, the mistreatment of the natural environment, human rights abuses, poverty, greed, our glorification of famous people. Comedy is allowing us to bring these issues to the masses in a way that makes sense and doesn’t shut people down. That has to be exciting for humans.

How much does social media factor into what you do?

Social media has to be a tool. I mean that in a couple of ways.  First, it’s free and it gets what you’re doing out there, so don’t be a weirdo. Go register your username and make it work for you. Second, It can’t control you. You are not (supposed to be) the tool. If you’re letting likes, retweets or shares determine whether or not you should be an artist, well… I think you have bigger questions to answer. While there is a certain amount of feedback you definitely should take into consideration, your ability and worth as a human being cannot be based exclusively on how many followers you have. You’ll make yourself crazy that way. Decide that you love what you do and the people who feel the same way will respond. How? By discovering it via friends and social media, of course!

Decide that you love what you do and the people who feel the same way will respond.

Personally, I use my Twitter for jokes and sharing stuff I think is important (like links to good articles or work my friends are doing that I think everyone on the planet needs to know about). Facebook is a little more private to me, but I use fan pages for the projects I work on (Erin & MeLissa Show, Land of Unicorns are a couple of them). Those entities also have their own Twitters but it didn’t make sense for us to make them their own Instagrams and Vines (for example).

We’ve kind of just grown into what we needed versus getting all these platforms and managing them poorly. I do recommend getting someplace online that you take care of well, whether that be a blog (for you writers) or a Twitter (for you comedians), an Instagram (for you photographers) or a regular ol’ website (for anyone and everyone, including your grandma). Have a place you’re proud of to send people when they say “What do you do? I want to see some of your work!” Because hopefully they will, and because you’ve already decided you’re a professional, you’ll be ready.

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p id=”yui_3_10_1_1_1389752699942_144671″>MeLissa Gavarrette is a human being living in Los Angeles who partakes in jokes, writing, singing songs about bellies and creativity of all sorts. She is 50% of the Erin & MeLissa comedy super team. She has neither an iPad or a husband. Find out her thoughts on outdated things at Twitter by following @OhDarlingGirl.

What Jimmy Fallon Can Teach Your Church About Social Media

The late night talk show circuit is a cut throat business. Becoming a late night talk show host is a rare feat but staying on top even rarer. One person that has managed not only to survive this business, but also grow and build their own audience is Jimmy Fallon.

How difficult was it for Jimmy Fallon? Well, first he was replacing the wildly successful Conan O’Brian, who had a loyal following. Second, Jimmy had never hosted a show like this before. Now most comedians would have cracked under that type of pressure, however Jimmy didn’t. In fact Jimmy Fallon has done so well that he is schedule to take over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno in 2014.

Now you might be thinking, good for Jimmy, but how does this apply to social media and my church?

Well, as I have watched Jimmy Fallon grow in his craft, I began to see some similarities between what he was creating for late night television and what churches create for social media. Much like churches, Jimmy had niche audience that he had to build and maintain a relationship with. How did he do it and what your church learn? Here are some takeaways for I believe could help your church with social media:

Jimmy Provides Interesting Commentary

A lot of people use social media to comment on current events or life in general. In fact, for most people that’s what social media is, commentary. People are commenting on daily activities, what they see on television or maybe what their coworker said. Well, I think we both know that is pretty mundane and boring.

Jimmy Fallon comments as well. However, Jimmy provides commentary in manner that is interesting and unique to his audience. For example, Jimmy noticed something interesting about Justin Beiber’s twitter account and decided to employ one of his writers to have some on Twitter.  See the interesting results below:

See how Jimmy comments on what could have been a mundane topic and instead makes it interesting for his audience?   What is going on your church that needs an interesting spin?  Is there anything that mundane that needs some interesting commentary?

Jimmy Knows How to Curate for His Audience

Curating for audience not only helps establish your church as an authority, but it makes your church a resource for your audience. It’s pretty clear that Jimmy understands this. During E3 week (a huge electronics expo) Jimmy brought on the Xbox and Playstation on respective nights to demo their product to his audience. Why? Well, Jimmy understands his demographic and what they care about. For Jimmy’s audience it’s videos games.  See an example below:

Now, you might not care about the Xbox, but Jimmy Fallon’s audience does.  Are you delivering content to your church members that they care about? Find out what your church memebrs cares about and deliver it to them.

Jimmy Knows How to Create for His Audience

Creating original content is probably the most difficult thing to do. However, Jimmy accomplishes this task well with original videos that are geared towards his audience. By creating original content, he gives them something to share.

Note that not only does Jimmy create original content, he gives it away for free on Youtube. You can easily view the content and then share it with a friend. This helps builds audience loyalty and keeps them engaged.  See this recent video the Jimmy created along with Brad Pitt:

Is the content that your church is creating original and engaging?  Is it easy to share with others?

So what does Jimmy Fallon do well?  Jimmy provides interesting commentary,curates content and creates original content.  Does your church needs to be able to do all of these things to be successful? No, but if you can do at least two of things well your chance of connecting with your church audience on social media is much more likely.

Question: How does your church comment, curate and create?  Click here to comment below. 

photo credit: ElizaPeyton via Compfightcc

One Quick Way to Protect Your Church’s Online Identity

Protecting your church’s online identity can be a difficult task. Every day it seems that there is a new social media network or online service popping up on the internet. Of course, you can’t join them all, however if one of them does spike in popularity (i.e. Instagram, Vine, etc…) it would be nice to know that you have your church’s online identity reserved.

Protect Online Identity
 

Today, I am going to introduce you to a tool that will help you reserve your church’s online identity. It’s called KnowEm. What’s so special about KnowEm? Well, with KnowEm you can check to see if your church’s online identity is available on over 500 social media sites.

How does KnowEm work? Here is a quick tutorial:

First, go to KnowEm.com and enter your church’s name in the following area highlighted below, then hit enter.

After you hit enter you will see a list of results for the top social media networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc…).  KnowEm will show you which identities are still available and which ones are taken. The results should look something like this:

Now if you really want to secure your identify, scroll down and click link entitled “CHECK OVER 500 MORE SOCIAL NETWORKS”, you can then see if your identity is available on more websites.

While 500 sites may seem overwhelming, it’s a good opportunity to find new social networks and services you might never heard of or find a few that you may forgotten about. (Note: Not only does Knowem check social media networks and services, it also checks domain names and trademarks as well.)

Are you actively protecting your church’s online identity? Give KnowEm a try and start protecting your church’s online identity today.

Question: What tools do you use to protect your church’s online identity? Click here to comment below.

How to Create a Church Website that Attracts Visitors

When I first visit a church website, one of things I look for is how easy it is for a visitor to navigate.   What I usually find, is that the most important information for a visitor is usually buried under announcements, events and large amounts of text.  This is interesting, considering the fact that most churches want to attract visitors with their website.

You might think that that your website is immune from these practices.  However, take a hard look at your website.  Does your church website really invite visitors to come and see you? You might think that it does, but unless you are taking the following steps below, you could be missing out on potential visitors.

Clearly Outline the Where and When

The two most important pieces of information that visitors want to know is where you are at and when do you meet. Look at your website and see how many clicks it takes to get to that information. It shouldn’t take any clicks to find that information. It should be visible from the moment when you load the homepage of your website.

Produce a Call to Action for Your Visitors

When visitors come to your website, make sure they know what you want them to do. This means, providing clear call to actions letting them what the next steps are when visiting your church. (Click here to see an example.)

Provide Compelling Visuals Vs Text

Recently a study came out stating that people only read 50% of an article online. I would argue that if studied your Google analytics, you would find that people spend a lot less time on your website than you think. So if people are jumping in and out of your website, why spend time crafting paragraphs of text when you could be using a compelling photo instead?

Remove Heavy Church Language

Recently, I heard someone say: “Internal language becomes external language” and the same holds true for your church. A lot of times we use language internally and eventually it becomes our external language for our visitors. For example, which is better for your visitors: “Theological Statement of Beliefs” or “What We Believe”? I think the choice is pretty clear.

Feature Staff On Your Front Page

The quicker you are able to establish a face with your church, the more human your church will appear to visitors. Try adding the pastor’s photo the front page or at least on the page that is most highly trafficked by visitors.

Of course there is a lot more that can go into getting visitors to your site, however the list above should give you a head start into making your site more visitor friendly.

Question: What do you do to help first visitors on your site? Click here to comment below.

photo credit: Éole via photopincc

Nine Ways Your Church Can Beat a Content Drought

If you have been creating content for a while you know how easy it is have a content drought. Your social media is humming right along and then one day you ask yourself, “What’s next?” and you are realize you don’t have an answer.


A content drought can hit you at any moment. It can cause your church’s social media to stray off  message, lose  voice, or mindshare with your audience. How do you avoid a content drought? Well, here are eight ways that I know will help you beat a content drought:

Crowdsource from Your Church Members

You church members can be the best source for social media content. Have some fun with your church members and let them take over some social media channels. For example, what if you let one of your students run your Twitter account? I know that sounds dangerous, but with some precautions put in place you might be surprised.

Do a Recap of the Year So Far

Were there some big moments in your church in the last few months? It might be time to give your church members a reminder of how God has moved through your church in the last year. Take some time to capture testimonies, quotes, and collect photos to celebrate where God has taken your church.

Give a History Lesson

Do your church members know how your church got started? I bet if you took a poll, a lot of your members couldn’t tell you (unless you are at a new church plant). Take some time to share a little bit of your church history with your members.

Share What We Believe

It’s never too late to circle back and reintroduce your church members to your church’s Articles of Faith. Are there some theological areas that members don’t understand that you can help unpack?

Give a Look at the Year Ahead

Is it time to get people excited about how God is going to move in your church? Take some time to highlight big events or traditions coming up this year for your church. Explain why your church is doing these events and how you hope that God moves through them.

Transcribe Your Pastor’s Sermons

Your pastor’s sermons can be a wealth of content for social media. You can pull quotes for Twitter or Instagram (here are a few examples) and transcribe the sermons to blog posts with new insights from your pastor.

Run a Hashtag Campaign

One way to get content from your church members is creating a #hashtag campaign for your sermon series. For example, this month our church is doing series entitled “JourneyOn at Home” to launch our family ministry, so we are appending all of our social media conversations with the hashtag “#athome”.

Host a Social Media Tutorial for Your Church

If you are trying to get social media content from your church members, you might want to consider hosting a tutorial at your church to help your members join the social media conversation.

Create a Social Media Content Calendar

I have written before about the importance of calendaring out your social media. When you do this simple task, you are able to see when a content drought might strike and you can prepare in advance.
Next time you hit a content drought try one of the suggestions above and see if it helps you get back on track.

Ozyman via photopincc

Three Great Examples of Churches on Instagram

Previously, I wrote about four ways that your church could use Instagram.   On Twitter, DJ Chuang asked for some specific examples of churches who are  doing it well, so I thought I would show you some examples.

Churches on Instagram  
Here is list of three churches that I think are doing a great job of using Instagram and some of examples of how they do it.

Three Great Examples of Churches on Instagram

Mars Hill Church

Mars Hill uses their Instagram account to visualize Mark Driscoll’s sermon points.  As I have written before this is a great way to re-emphasize and expand what happens on Sunday morning.

mars-hill-instagram-1mars-hill-instagram-2
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Why Your Church Should Use a Social Media Content Calendar

Planning and social media don’t always seem to go together. Since social media is seen an in the moment activity, planning can often be see as a hinderance to social media’s spontaneity. However, without planning your social media can lose it’s voice and momentum. How can planning help prevent this from happening?

One planning tool that can help is a social media content calendar. Essentially, this is an excel grid where you map out all of your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest posts. This may seem time consuming, however the time you spend it on it will be well worth it. I can say that it has helped me in my role as a Social Media Director. Here’s a few reasons why:

It Keeps Social Media Going

A social media content calendar can help prevent our staff from forgetting Social Media. I know that may sound silly, however there have been times when we are in a meeting or worship service and realize, “Oh, we really should have put that out on Twitter”. The social media content calendar allows us to take a look at the week ahead and strategically think through what goes out from our social media channels. We then can plan for those events and what key social media moments might happen.

It Keeps Your Church on Message

If your church focuses on a few key themes every month, then you want your social media channels to reflect those themes. By planning ahead with a social media content calendar, you ensure that will happen. A calendar helps you look at the landscape and see what messaging is coming out of your social media channels and if it aligns with your overall strategy and themes.

It Keeps Your Media Team on the Same Page

You might have multiple people running your social media accounts. If so, you know it can be sometimes difficult to make sure that content is timely and on message. A social media content calendar ensures that every one knows what is flowing out of your social media channels and when it is coming. This is also helps if you have built a volunteer social media team who cannot meet regularly.

Prevents a “Slow News Day”

There are moments in church life where you might think there isn’t anything social media worthy going on at church. With a social media content calendar you make sure that something is always constantly flowing from your social media accounts. (Note: In this situation, a social media content calendar along with a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer is an very effective.)

So do you think you are ready to use a social media content calendar? If want to give it a try, jump over the resources section and look at some of free templates that I have found online for you to use.

photo credit: photosteve101 via photopincc

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