New Job: Publisher at Burning Man

After contracting with Ablaze Interactions for three event cycles, Burning Man Project has offered me a new employee position with the organization, and I have accepted. This formalizes a transition that began in February. My new title is publisher.

Since I’m going from de facto full-time to for-real full-time, will be cutting back on client work. Thank you so much to all my clients, colleagues and friends who recommended my services and enabled me to support myself as a freelancer for three great years.

I have loved running a consultancy and working with such awesome clients and collaborators. I learned a ton. Three and a half years ago, I almost got my first content strategy job, but I wasn’t selected because I had no experience working with clients. That’s what sent me down the road to starting Ablaze Interactions, and only now do I realize how critical that experience was.

Working with clients on their own communication challenges requires a kind of translation — a skill I did not learn in my previous editorial work. Every client has its own vocabulary and mannerisms. Consulting for clients small, medium and large, I learned how to translate. After I landed Burning Man Project as my biggest client (by a lot), I realized this kind of translation is also needed to coordinate communications work across diverse teams within a single organization.

That was a nice day. (Photo by John Curley)

After three years consulting, I finally speak the languages of Burning Man Project’s many staff and volunteer teams, not to mention those of our participants. As publisher, my job is to set and uphold the standards of quality across all our public multimedia channels without compromising that diversity of voices.

It’s a common saying in this organization that if we’re doing our job right, no one should know we exist. I think that’s especially true on the Comm Team. Our team patch depicts the Man itself holding up that quintessential Burning Man communication tool, the bullhorn. The Man represents all of Burning Man: its participants, its volunteers and its staff. The bullhorn? That’s my team, and in the grand Burning Man tradition, that sucker’s just lying on the table, up for grabs by whoever wants to be the star of the show until someone else takes it away.

The metaphor breaks down (as all metaphors eventually do) when it comes to that quality piece. Every Burner knows the fun part of megaphone artistry is that it makes you sound like shit, loudly. Over the past few years, that charming-yet-ragged aspect of Burning Man Communications has changed alongside the structure of the organization itself. That’s why we built a new website and publication. Next up for renovation on the publisher’s list is the Galleries, followed by a deep rethink of the Jackrabbit Speaks email newsletter and its relationship to our [too] many other email channels.

While the event in Black Rock City remains the janky work-in-progress we’ve always known and loved, our organization and its work reach far beyond that event now. The output of our culture is worldwide and year-round, and the next phase of our development at Fly Ranch hasn’t even been invented yet! This is going to mean more growth and change on our team and in our organization, and I’m really happy my turn has come at this fascinating point in our history.