I Scrapbook. I admit it. It was only natural, since I am a graphic designer and the family archivist. But I don’t think of myself as a “scrapbooker”, I like to think of myself as a ‘Memory Preservationist’.
But it’s wasn’t always easy. Mainly, because I am a guy.
Since being introduced to the scrapbooking community in 2005, I rarely have had time to actually sit down and scrapbook. All-day events, crop clubs and other group settings, have been my only way of having time to work on albums.
My wife became a consultant for Creative Memories October 2007. I convinced her to take the leap after a year of talking her into it. We are a team. I do all the back office work while she is the pretty talker. Before she was a consultant and we met our wonderful team members, being in an all-day event was extremely difficult for me, the only man in a room full of women is unsettling.
You tend to feel out of place and, at times, it seems like all eyes are on you; trying to figure you out and why your there. It wasn’t so bad when my wife was able to join me at the events, at least it put an answer to one particular ‘unspoken’ question, that I am sure a few of the women may have had, but when a girl scout function or other volunteer activity called her away, it was sometimes awkward being ‘alone’.
Our Consultant at the time, Pam—who is now our leader, was a godsend. She always made me feel comfortable and not out-of-place. Even when the occasional, “Ladies can I have your attention” would slip out, it wasn’t so bad (Old habits die hard, I know). We would often joke about it. You couldn’t help but feel comfortable in Pam’s bubbly presence.
Since I have been apart of Pam’s team and have met the other team members, and their clients that attend the all day events, I have been accepted as “one-of-them”.
I can now attend an all-day event and not feel out of place. I can hold conversations about the newest products or share tips and tricks and not feel awkward about it. Nowadays, I am usually the go-to guy for tech questions. “Should I get this hard drive or that one?” “How do I backup my files safely” “My Memory Manager Program isn’t working right.” I get those questions from consultants and clients alike.
Once they found out I am a graphic designer, I started getting digital questions as well regarding the tools of the trade (“Which camera is right for me?, “Is Memory Manager comparable to Photoshop?, ‘What is the best way to fix exposure?”) and questions regarding Creative Memories’ own software products, like “How did you make that DVD cover in StoryBook Creator Plus?”
It’s a nice feeling. Being able to do something you enjoy and not feel awkward or self-conscious about it. But there are still times that I wish that I wasn’t the only guy there. I really feel like too many men are missing out on a great opportunity to reconnect with their families, through album making, and grow as a person in the process. Some, like me, can even have special time with their significant other sitting right beside them working on an album. In our busy schedule, sometimes that is the only time my wife and I have to ourselves, it’s like a ‘play date’. She brings her projects; I bring mine and we work on them together.
There is nothing like working on your child’s album and knowing that some day, when you’re gone, they will hold that book and remember the times spent with you. It may help them grieve your passing when the time comes, or cheer them up when they need it and your miles apart. They may even use it as a parenting guide when they have their own children, to make sure their kids get to experience the same things they did growing up.
It’s therapy, plain and simple, and it’s much cheaper. As your children grow, and you yearn for those days when they were smaller, you get to rediscover their first moments. From birth, their first steps, to their first sports win. You get to experience those moments all over again.
I think too many men are missing out on all of that. So what can we do to change it? What can we do as consultants, spouses and fellow album-makers to get more men involved on what we already know is such a rewarding past-time, and for some, an even more rewarding career?
I don’t know if I have the answers to that, but I have some thoughts on it. I know for me, this has become my goal. I want to sound the horns and rally the troops; or as they said at National Convention, “Shout it from the roof tops!” But it’s going to take some work and I know I can’t do it by myself.
So, what have I done to reach my goal? Well, over the past year, I have observed. I have watched men put to the scrapbooking test. I have seen men scoff at the thought, I have seen eyes glaze over and on one occasion, I have even seen a “macho” man, who I thought would never even try, make a paper album and end up pushing their spouse and kids to the side so they could have the final say on those embellishments! So there is hope.
But in my observations, I noticed something else. A few factors that could inadvertently be pushing men away and I think it is those factors that we need to focus on if are going to get more men involved and share this unique opportunity with them. I want to share my thoughts with you.
First, I believe, is atmosphere. When the thought of a room full of women, who probably already know much more about this whole ‘scrapbooking thing’ than they do, is put to a man I think their masculinity starts to feel threatened. For most men, being surrounded by women, may not sound like fun. Add to that a craft or past-time that they may know nothing or very little about. It can seem daunting. Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do there until we get more men to attend these all day events.
So how do we do that? Well, I think language is the key to that answer and another factor to consider. In away it also plays apart in atmosphere.
When we create an invitation, a flyer or an advertisement, we need to be careful how we word it. We can’t just appeal to one demographic (any good marketer knows that). We want to appeal to a wide audience to get the most turnout. So, using catchphrases like “Digital-Divas”, “Digi-Chicks”, “Scrap Gals”, or other female-only monikers tell the men this is a “female-only” gig. We have effectively shut them out without even getting one foot in the door.
In print isn’t the only place either. We also need to be mindful of how we verbally communicate an event, or product or how we address things in a group setting. Too many times I have been at an all-day event, a convention or regional meeting that the language used has been very female-friendly. Things such as, “Ladies, can I have your attention!?” “Oh ladies, isn’t this darling!?” or “Look how absolutely adorable this is!?”
It’s hard for a guy to get into a product when it is being pitched as being ‘darling’, ‘fabulous’, ‘oh so cute’. To them, we’re putting up the “girl’s only” sign and we might as well be speaking in a secret code. Even though women are probably the majority of our attendees, if we’re serious about getting more men involved, we need to start working on our language now. It needs to appear more inviting and not “club house” like.
Also, we shouldn’t call them out in a crowd either. Using terms like, “Ladies and man, can I have your attention”, or “we are privileged to have a guy with us today!” just makes them even more self-conscious and want to shrink lower in their seat. We are slowly pushing them away and making all eyes focus on them. Not too many men want that. They already probably feel ‘weird’ and don’t need anymore help. [And yes, I have been in that situation before.]
So, changing our language can change our atmosphere and make it feel more open. Instead of advertising or having “Digital Diva’s”, we should have “Digital Peeps” or “Digital Gurus”. We can make it fun and make it “Digi-Peeps” or “Digi-ru’s” (okay, maybe not that last one).
Notice there is no “adorable”, “absolutely fabulous” or “oh how cute is this” terminology? We can still use the occasional “gorgeous” or “lovely”, but we need to make sure we know our audience and when it is appropriate.
It’s also difficult when language like, “Bring your Husbands” or “Calling all Men” is used in print. It makes it sound like they were an after thought. In some cases, we are almost telling the woman to drag her man along. That won’t work. The guy needs to feel invited, not forced or feeling like you may have said, “oh he can come too”. Instead, we need to use terms like, “Calling all album makers”, “Come one come all”; items that don’t specifically rule out one sex over the other.
Those items alone, though, won’t do the trick. We need to get the men comfortable with the product. We need to get them into a male-friendly setting where they can be themselves and experiment and ask their questions and not feel dumb for asking. They need to feel knowledgeable before they will probably be at an all-day event with a room full of women, so they feel they can “hold their own”.
Hosting events like a “Guy’s Crop Shop” or a “Technical Review” for guys only, will allow them to find out what this “stuff” is all about. They can ask questions, get answers and feel comfortable doing so. Now, I know I just contradicted myself. I said before we shouldn’t do a “Calling all men”, and really we’re not. As long as we phrase it the right way and make it appealing to them, it can be a success.
For my first “Guy’s Crop Shop”*, I made an invitation that had a grungy garage look to it. I chose fonts that were bold and chunky, I used technical illustrations of tools as background graphics or items that would make them pause and read what I sent out. I told them in the invite that I would provide the ‘beer and chips’ and they just needed to provide the photos.” I kept the language engaging, yet simple and things that I felt would peak their interest. [*I titled it “Crop Shop” to be similar to a “Chop Shop” a term a guy would probably understand. A “chop Shop” is where they take a car and dismantle it for its parts.]
Now, my results weren’t astounding, I will admit. It was partly due to me not following up on the invites…I had college mid-terms and completely forgot. But, even with my small turn out, just reaching a few males was enough. One particular male, was my brother-in-law.
He showed up with no photos, he just knew there was going to be food there. I happened to have some of his football photos in my Memory Manager and I had a laptop setup with StoryBook Creator Plus on it, ready to go. So I sat him down, loaded in his photos and showed him how to start a 7x5 Football Pre-designed book. He went to town. With little help from me, he was color coordinating his text (something I didn’t show him) to match his jersey uniform. He was using embellishments and writing catchy page titles. He didn’t get to finish the book, but constantly reminds me he needs to get back over and finish it, and when am I going to have another ‘Crop Shop’. He was one of the few that I had figured would never get into album making (it shows you too, to never pre-judge!)
That is where I lead to my next point. Digital is key! Let me tell you a little story. [I know, this post is already too long, but bear with me.]
When Amy and I went to our first National Convention with Creative Memories, we had a bus that would drive us from the hotel to the convention center. On the very first day, we were sitting behind a husband and wife team, they both were consultants. A consultant sitting across from us was asking the husband how he came to be a Creative Memories Consultant. Something he said made a profound impact on me and made me really think. He said, “I find it is much easier to talk to other guys about digital products, than talking about cutting up pieces of paper.” He was definitely on to something. It made so much sense to me. Most guys are in to gadgets and tech toys. So why wouldn’t they be into this cool, easy to use software that we have? What man could resist a drag-and-drop, easy-as-pie to use application? No needing to learn about shape makers, paper albums, picfolio, inspired surroundings, power palettes and other tools, just how they can make something remarkable in such a short time, with little effort.
And ya know what? It’s been working. I found the greatest success in showing them StoryBook Creator. When they see how easy it is to us, how quickly they can create something, and how they don’t need to invest a lot of time and money to create an album, they like what they see. No more glazed-over look, no more scoffing. They start to ask questions on how it works and what kind of system they need. I have even had a few turn to their spouse and ask, “How come you didn’t tell me about this?” (The wife usually states that she did, but he just nodded and said, “uh-huh dear.”)
If they only stick with digital, is that so bad? No, because all that matters is that they are preserving memories that mean something to them or someone they care about. So if nothing else, if we can get them interested in digital, maybe will we start to see more men entering through the doors of all-day events with their laptop bags on their shoulder, instead of just women with their totes.
Again, it’s all in the presentation (language and atmosphere) and how we introduce the product to them. Just like we do with our female clients, it’s also about listening to them and understanding their need and finding what is right for them.
Finally, my last thought. We need more guy-oriented products for them. We need embellishments in the shape of nuts and bolts, hammers, screwdrivers and wrenches. We need papers and power palettes that are garage driven and grungy. We need overlays of tire tracks and bullet holes. Artwork of cars, fishing, engines, boats, and snowmobiles. We need the tools to create our own storybooks that shout, “This is me and this is who I am as a man.”
So, those are my thoughts, and I hope that they help me (and perhaps you) in the goal of getting more men involved. It’s time to share the secret.
[These are my opinions on the matter. I haven’t done any scientific research. I have just observe and these are my thoughts.]