The name of the game

Oct 21 2015

So the past few weeks have been absolute bananas.

By that I mean that my group is now on the (super) fast track to making this “thing” an actual product. Birthing an idea, like a baby, is one thing. But actually helping it grow in a matter of weeks is an entirely different situation. My teammates, Whitney Harris and Caroline Lamb, and I have been sending a surfeit of emails and making phone calls to a variety of people, talking to them about our political publication and website.

Caroline Lamb proudly holding the patent to "The Constituents"

Caroline Lamb proudly holds the patent to The Constituents. Photo taken by Mariah Barksdale.

“What do you want to know?” is a question that we have typed no fewer than a kajillion times over the last couple of weeks. It is always so worth it to talk to the people who would be our potential customers. Their feedback has been truly vital to our progress, allowing us to home in on exactly what our publication will actually be. Whitney was recently able to procure some incredible feedback and advice from a member of the Carrboro Board of Alderman. Whitney texted me and Caroline on Wednesday night after getting off the phone with the board member, and although it was just a text, her excitement was palpable. It honestly is the most incredible feeling to be able to reach out to local government officials and their constituents and talk to them about what they truly care about. Their passion and belief in our idea really drives us to also feel passionate about the publication. Once I was able to get past the awkward voicemails I had to leave (which believe me, y’all, there were quite a few), we were able to get some fantastic feedback and get our momentum back.

But now what?

We prototype, and we prototype hard.

After our weekly Tru colLABoration lunch, the three of us discussed what this publication should look like exactly. What is our vision for the publication’s aesthetic? The website’s? How many pages should we include? Should we tailor specific publications (say, a specific edition for a school board member would be different from an issue catered to the mayor) to different politicians? Once we fleshed out these questions, we decided to make a few different prototypes, so we can have one go to the Board of Education with specific issues pertaining to it and one go to the mayor’s office. We will be working on articles ourselves and drafting up these prototypes so that we can get them out to local officials as soon as possible just so they can see clearly what they will even be receiving. As John Clark, the Reese News Lab’s executive director, says, a tangible product really allows people to see what exactly we are even talking about and either want it more or give us some critical feedback, all of which we welcome. Maybe even more importantly, building a physical product will allow the three of us to see what our idea even is and see what else we need to add to make this publication actually come to fruition. Now we that we (kinda) know what we are doing, Caroline, Whitney, and I are ready to go and start building something.

This was exemplified in the Lab as Caroline and I were tinkering around at the computer, trying to work WordPress and make a website to show constituents a solid idea of the platform they will be using in order to directly communicate their local issues to their government officials. A few days ago, we had come up with the idea of a name for our product: The Constituent. The name was simple and bold, and it absolutely exuded the tone of what we wanted our product to be and represent.

So of course, we told John. We were hesitant at first because he always says to not name things preemptively, as an idea can be killed in a second. Unfortunately we were basically married to the name (sorry, John), so we were hoping that it would be The Constituent regardless. Luckily, he said he liked the name, and if it got past him, then I thought we were golden.

However, when John typed TheConstituent.com into a patent website for domain names, the name was already taken, and we would have to buy it for $4,000.  I almost passed out. It felt like the end; what could we do now? Back to the drawing board, I suppose. I guess that was just the name of the game.

But then, Elly Penning, a genius from another Reese group, said, “Why don’t you just add an ‘s’ to the end of it? Like, The Constituents?”

Let me tell you this: when we typed the new name in and saw it was available, Caroline and I shouted to the heavens. John bought the domain name for hot, $21, and we are now in business as The Constituents. It was such an incredible breakthrough day for our group; yes, you may think it is just a name, but really, it is our brand. With our name, The Constituents, our idea is coming to life, and I am so pumped to continue working on it. Now, the tone of our group and our idea have changed. There has always been excitement, but now it is more focused and more driven. I am ecstatic to see what happens next.


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