I recently stumbled upon a very impressive accomplishment in the creative services world that warrants sharing with our community of creative leaders. As Director of Communication Services for The Boy Scouts of America, Jim Wilson's typical day includes running the national internal communications function for the organization, as well as the significantly-sized Media Studio that handles publishing production for roughly 1,500 projects annually including print, web, video, and audio deliverables.

It's Jim's atypical day that made me do a double take. He also serves as the Director of the Media Center for the National Scout Jamboree (https://www.bsajamboree.org/), a two week long mega event that unites over 45,000 scouts and leaders, and attracts more than 80,000 visitors. Their most recent event was held this past August in the Washington D.C. region, for which Jim has spent the past two years preparing. I personally experienced the extensiveness of this event as I was traveling by airplane and car for three days while the event was going on, through Michigan, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. I spotted the distinguishable Boy Scouts' uniform nearly everywhere I traveled, as eager Scouts made their way to and from the Jamboree.

As Director, Jim ran the Media Center which included "150 staff members producing a daily newspaper, leaders' newsletter, web site, and photography". He also directed a "24-hour radio station, media relations, and roughly 1,000 Scouts serving as hometown news correspondents for their home newspapers, radio and television stations".

Jim described these two weeks as "busy," but it sounds like an opportunity for operational chaos to me....I was dying to ask Jim a few questions about how this whole operation gets pulled off, and he was kind enough to elaborate.

Brendon Derr: I think many of us read about what you do for The Boy Scouts and what you did for the Jamboree and envision a very stressful set of responsibilities. Yet when I speak to you about it, you glow with excitement and pride. What do you like most about your job?

Jim Wilson: I'm honored to invest my experience, expertise, and hard work into an organization that builds the future leaders of this nation. Moreover, I get to work with the current leaders of this nation who, as volunteers, are guiding the Boy Scouts of America. I'm not sure I could top that anywhere else.

BD: What was the biggest operational challenge you faced while at the Jamboree and how did you overcome it?

JW: In the Jamboree Media Center 150 team members came together, many for the first time. Less than 15% were employees, and the remainder were volunteers. We had one week on site to pull our operations together and work with several hundred other volunteers outside the Media Center on key items from facilities to food. This was our biggest challenge.

We overcame this through working beforehand via meetings, web conferences, teleconferences, detailed planning, etc. to best prepare our teams for the on-site activities. A key element was that many of our employees and volunteers were involved in the same activity for the 2005 Jamboree. Another key element was that all our staff members (employees and volunteers) are extremely talented, highly creative, and very motivated to pull everything together before the Scouts get there for the event.

BD: How did you manage the diverse and unpredictable workflow with all the forms of communication you had to publish? Did you have to change your expectations for workflow/process for this event or was your team able to follow many of the same publishing processes that you implement at the Boy Scouts' corporate office?

JW: Few of the processes implemented at the Jamboree reflected our standard corporate office processes. For example, we don't publish a daily newspaper in our normal corporate operation. The list goes on to include an FM radio station, working with Scouts to write and post stories to their local media outlets, and nearly everything else we did at the Jamboree. The diversity of workflow was handled by implementing dedicated teams for each area--newspaper had its own staff, and our leaders' newsletter did too. Was there some duplication in this effort?--absolutely. But that duplication was key to responding to the variability in the workflow, the availability of outside resources, and changing organizational demands that were encountered once the event started. Yet another key element is that most of our volunteers are experts in their particular operation-- photographers from news organizations, editors from daily newspapers, broadcast engineers and announcers--all of whom volunteered their time and expertise.

BD: What are a few significant ways that social media and the mobile device have had an impact on the way you communicate at the Jamboree since the last one four years ago?

JW: The last Jamboree was in 2005. The normal span between Jamborees is four years, but we delayed this Jamboree so that it would coincide with our 100th Anniversary. So, we had a five-year gap with the resulting changes in technology and, in particular, audience expectations. One reflection of this is that our web staff grew from 2 people in 2005 to 7 people in 2010, which this time included social media. Plus, all of our other operations were driving their own content to the web with this team's coordination. For example, all newspaper editions, all newsletter issues, along with live streaming audio content from our radio station all went on the web. A large selection of photos, videos, and additional content that didn't make it into the newsletter/newspaper also went on the web. Facebook postings were key and included getting song requests for our radio station and obtaining valuable feedback on aspects of the Jamboree and our own media operations in addition to notifying people of changes in schedule, safety issues, etc.

A note here is that a key Jamboree audience includes parents and Scouts who are not at the Jamboree. They were able to keep up to date on events at the Jamboree, often in real time (like seeing the entire Shining Light Arena Show and listening to the radio station) and, as a result, the parents felt confident that their Scouts were having a great time and the Scouts at home could at least get to better understand the entire Jamboree experience as well as participate in the Shining Light Arena Show.

Another key communication channel was texting. This was important not only for our leaders and staff but particularly for the Scouts. We were able to get critical safety messages out during the event, including cancelling a planned arena show for our nearly 9,000 staff members due to a thunderstorm that came through. It was also used to send reminders about key events.

We also used a Text-to-Screen feature during our closing arena show where Scouts and those at home could send text messages that appeared on the giant screen at the arena, in real time next to the entertainment. Lots of messages from mom to Scout and vice versa, as well as wonderful comments on the show itself.

In summary, we used every available media format-matching message and urgency to audience and desired action. There was one exception; we didn't use semaphore flags. Although I believe that semaphore flags were at least demonstrated as part of our historic Signaling merit badge program!

If you haven't already clicked through to the event page, I recommend visiting the Jamboree's home page to see the results of this massive communications effort. From the outside looking in, it really is terrific to see how a creative communications team like Jim's can help an organization like the Boy Scouts remain so very relevant and significant, not to mention the work itself is downright impressive. And while the operational aspects of this undertaking are certainly mission critical in helping Jim to lead a successful communications effort, I'm left with a feeling that it's the enthusiasm and passion that I hear in his voice (and I imagine his team's voices), that really drives this effort to be what it is. Thanks for sharing your story with us Jim!

Brendon Derr has been working in the creative industry for over seven years. As the Business Development Manager for Cella Consulting, he maintains intimate and successful business relationships with creative leaders in corporations and agencies. Brendon has gained a keen sense of the unique cultural characteristics that make the Creative Services field tick. Prior to working with Cella, he provided business development for The BOSS Group, where he established himself as a resident expert in building integrated and interactive media creative teams. Brendon developed a new social media recruiting model which is still running today. Before his work with Cella and BOSS, he worked for film and video production companies, providing TV and Corporate production services to creative clientele.