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The day I started a magazine, and created a tribe

by | Oct 28, 2019 | Latest, Stories

Leading a tribe is like showing people where to go, and then getting out of the way.

It’s not an ego trip. It’s a we-go together trip.

A few years back, I was hugely excited to be given carte-blanche to start up a tribe. I was working with a private, distance school at the time, and they were looking to re-invigorate a simple, 4-page bulletin that used to be mailed out to high schoolers.

I started reeling off all the ideas I thought could be fun and valuable for the community of high schoolers, siphoning off content from staff and the parent’s magazine, and setting up quarterly, creative writing contests.

Designing and pulling together that first issue was a ton of fun for me. It came to a 30-page, full color magazine loaded with student profiles, articles from students and staff on how to get through high school, and full page ‘ads’ for new products and projects.

The school had never had anything like it before, and it was an instant hit.

Part of my pitch was to also create a website, as an online version of all that content. I wanted students to be able to leave comments and chat with each other.

Without realizing it, I was following Seth Godin’s methodology from ‘Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us:’

A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.

That online blog reached only a tiny portion of the high school community. But what happened over the next year was amazing.

The students loved it. They visited almost daily, hoping for new content. They left comments and chatted with each other. And when it came time for graduation, scores of the students who had never before met in person, now met like old friends.

I loved it. I loved the chance to create the contests, and give feedback on the stories. I loved ‘meeting’ the students through the profiles they submitted. And I loved that together, we were all creating something we all enjoyed.

I’d given them an outlet. We all shared the same energy, but they couldn’t do anything about it. I could, so I did, and then got out of their way.

From a marketing standpoint, those issues became one of our most interesting promotionals. The latest quarter would go out to all new families, as a way to demonstrate the critical thinking and creativity of the later grades.

From what I learned, it brought a new level of confidence to high school, purely because we were able to show that they enjoyed it.

When I had to move on from that job later, I didn’t realize till later how working on that project deeply inspired me. That experience showed me that it doesn’t take much to give a tribe wings. It just takes some effort, and a bunch of heart.

How about you? Any stories or experiences from building up a tribe? What’s holding you back from starting something that could bring people together?

Header image Copyright Bayley Bulletin | Seton Home Study School

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Dominic de Souza is a novelist-turned-marketer. He believes that passionate small businesses should stop with ads and funnels, and get back to the human roots of business: clarity, excellent service, and building a community. Everything you’re already good at.  Meet Dominic →

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