Name: JJ Scott
Position: Director of Web
I work with the web team to plan, strategize, and creatively make sure that all of the content, the copy, imagery and things like that are sort of on point and match the customers brand. Hopefully that will translate to a lot of sales from their website strategy. I basically oversee the website projects from start to finish alongside the copywriters, designers, and developers who are performing the work.
You started in this industry as a writer, what made you so interested in writing?
I think that more than anything, marriage has taught me that I am kind of an internal processor. I'm not one to talk through things ideally. I sort of take something in, process it, and then can give an answer. So I think writing kind of goes hand-in-hand with the ability to be calculated with how I how process things. I used to write stories in the summers. I remember like three years in a row I had like a story for the first day of school about things that happened over the summer. I don’t know why I wanted to do unsanctioned homework over the summer breaks, and volunteer to present it…it just came naturally. I would make this little book with all of these pictures that I had drawn because I used to like to draw a lot. One year I had one where we killed a tarantula with a BB gun with my cousins and it was like a monster in the story. So I don't know why I did that, but I would always come back from summer break with stories like that and then volunteer to read them. I studied a lot of different things in college. English, economics, pre-law stuff and through that I pulled together an associate's degree in business. I didn't really like any of that management stuff, so I bounced around a ton and then finally ended up as a history major, which is like all reading and writing. Then I was like, “I’ve got to do this forever,” so then I started doing this.
Tell us how you started at Primitive Social.
I was a freelance copywriter in Amarillo and Kade and I had a mutual friend. I guess Kade was looking for somebody, and then I was on a ladder painting on one Saturday and got a phone call from him. He said, “Hey, this is Kade. We have a company in Lubbock and we’re looking for somebody to help us write blogs and social media posts for this new client,” and I said, “Yeah I'm interested. I'd like to meet you, but I don't know when the next time I’m going to be in Lubbock is.” He said, “Well, can you meet us in a couple of hours in Amarillo at Roasters coffee shop?” So that was my first introduction to how quickly Kade likes to move, and we've been working together ever since. That was spring of 2013.
When Kade reached out to you, were you looking for a creative writing opportunity?
I was already doing that for a lot of small one-offs here and there. I did instruction manuals for a couple of companies and newsletters, so I was kind of just trying to kick up a lot of work. I actually worked with Kade as a freelancer for probably two years before I came on full-time. So yeah, I had really found a niche because it's not just creative writing that I do. There's a really heavy research component of it that I like as much as any of it, and so just trying to find different applications of “How do I learn as much as I can about something and then sort of spit it out in a really concise way?” That’s the fun of it to me.
What did you do when you first started at Primitive Social?
I kind of built social media calendars and it was usually like five to seven posts a week. Then, I also wrote three to seven blogs per week for maybe about seven or more clients at any given time. The thing with Primitive Social is it's just gone up and up and up. So initially, I was doing something with really like one client. Then two months later, it’s two. So I really grew from being a freelancer to a full-time employee.
What was the first Primitive Social office like?
It was in a little strip mall on 50th Street across from a carwash. It hadn't taken on the downtown sort of vibe yet, but then about two-and-a-half years ago when it moved over to downtown, that’s added like a whole new aesthetic. That's been interesting to see.
What is it like to know how far Primitive Social has come?
It's been really interesting and exciting. It’s always something new, especially if you’re leading a team. Before, I've stayed at a job for maybe three years and then done something else just because you hit a ceiling and there’s not as much to learn. That's never been like that here. It's always kind of like a new challenge, so that's what really is exciting about it.
What do you think is one of the reasons it grew so fast?
I think there's really been a startup attitude and mentality here, where people are really open to doing other things than their main role. So there's still a young culture here, and it's not like all-the-way corporate. I think that makes it easier for everybody to be a part of it, just knowing that there's so many different things that they can do here. The fact that Kade can bring us anything and we'll figure out how to do it makes us and him grow.
How do you encourage creativity in your work and others?
It's so crazy, as it's gotten bigger and bigger it's gotten a lot more difficult to know everything that’s going on. I really like just keeping an open dialog around the floor. I think one thing is having an understanding that all creativity is very similar in some instances. I mean we're all just speaking the language of emotion to the effect that we can.
A lot of creative people come in here and they don't really have a lot of professional experience, so writing is really about being creative and having fun. It is fun, but the fun comes in sort of different ways. As you become a seasoned professional with it, it's not just creative. The creative part of it is, “How do I sound more like this client and less like myself?” That translates to really everything that we do here: from a sales pitch to a video script. I have just so many interests too when it comes to looking at art, films, or reading and I think that helps too. That helps me be the creative spirit animal at Primitive Social.
Do you feel like you’ve grown in your knowledge since you started this role?
I think one of the things about a growing organization is that in the beginning they really need people who can grind it out until 2:00 a.m. sometimes. I’ve worked at a lot of young, small companies in a lot of different industries and they never really outgrew needing me to grind until 2 a.m. But being here at Primitive Social, it has passed that phase. More and more I think, people can know their job and responsibility with real clarity. So it's kind of learning how to ebb and flow in and around other people as they're having their own responsibilities.
What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?
I really like the projects that aren't necessarily the ones where a client says we have open liberty and creative freedom to do whatever we want to on this. Again, there's a lot of reasons why I don't like that kind of project. I think the challenge of it is not necessarily to see how creative you can be, but for me when somebody gives me some pretty tight boundaries I like to do something new and fresh. Finding the room for creativity within that is the challenge to me. So a lot of bigger clients who have a really big presence out there are those ones that have more specific needs and requests. While all those are longer projects, they're more fun for me because we really get to help the client get exactly what they want. Those are the clients who aren't expecting us to have creative freedom or see some sort of creative thing happen. So it's always really fun to give them exactly what they asked for and then it have include other layers of richness. So they have more challenges than like easy wins, but I like that a lot because at other jobs that I've had didn't have that.
What do you like about the culture?
The culture is really kind of who all’s there. It’s a place where I think people can come and be themselves. I feel like there's a culture of trying to be open and honest, and that comes from the top. I think that makes people feel more comfortable to make mistakes. Our culture also changes with each new person, like Audra Coffman. She requested Third Eye Blind or Oasis on the radio, which is like 90s alternatives music that's never been a thing here...but they threw it on. Now it's Audra’s contribution to the culture.
Why are you committed to Primitive Social?
I think that there is a commitment from Jimmy, Kade and Jerred to everybody. If that wasn't there, it would make it difficult. Even still, I feel like Primitive Social really has a lot of people who are internally motivated. So I just want to keep on getting better at what I'm doing, and this is a place where I can do that. It's really a place that has not had any ceilings really, and it’s a place that has allowed me to grow in the ways that they needed me to grow and the ways that I’m looking to grow. At Primitive Social, you can always do something here.
Anything you’re excited for in Primitive Social’s future?
I'm just continually excited. The web work is a lot different than the other departments because pretty much every other department gets to know their clients and the programming of the media you're creating and then you just go and tweak. With the web team, it's kind of always different so it's like there's really no sort of ability to get comfortable in what you're doing. Every new project is just exciting, and we onboard two or three clients a week. I've worked in a ton of different industries in different capacities, so it's like, “How can I bring that knowledge into this?” So you get to really leverage things you’ve learned before.
Okay, now let’s talk more about you. What’s your daily routine?
I usually wake up like a long time before I get out of bed. When I first wake up, I'm reading a lot of news and stuff like that. Then, as soon as my feet touch the floor, it's like a fever-pitch pace to get out of the house and up to the office. At work it usually starts with emails. I go check and make sure nothing is on fire, and then it's just working though the normal things like wireframing, a lot of research and some copywriting. What we're focused on for web is making the custom approach to design and creative scale so that we can serve more clients. So that means new tools, it’s new processes, it’s a lot. It's kind of overwhelming to have to use a different tool every week, but I'm making pretty good progress there. Then lots of other stuff comes up throughout the day. So really I have about four hour tasks that need to be created and done every day that usually take like 10 hours to do just because there's some other little things that pop up. After I leave, I really like to go home and mix a drink. So I usually go and make that for my wife and me and then I like cooking and listening to music, just to sort of decompress. I need like a little bit of silence, like 15 or 20 minutes when I'm cooking or making that drink to mentally unpack everything. Then after the drink and dinner, it’s cleaning up, reading, writing or doing any work that I have to do (which is usually not a lot). I also talk to my dog Perry. He gets lonely whenever I'm gone and he has a lot going on in his mind. Whenever I get there, he’s the one who is asking me too many questions. I'm just like, “Let me decompress before I hear about the squirrels.”
What’s your favorite kind of music?
I really like a lot of different stuff. I got these speakers and they're amazing. So now I'm not really listening to any genres as much as I'm going to see who has like these high fidelity recordings. The first thing I listened to on this new setup was Sam Smith, and on these new speakers it was just like I just could not get this smile off my face. You could hear every little thing and my wife is just like, “Golly, I never knew how much you would have loved having these in here...I don't know why we didn't do it sooner.” I really like going and finding some new album, like I listened to this country artist yesterday named Ashley Monroe. She sounds a lot like Alison Krauss and has a really good recording recorded by Dave Cobb. So last night we just pretty much turned it on and then turned off everything and read and listened to it over and over. That's my favorite thing to do.
Do you have any favorite TV or Netflix shows?
We watched The Looming Tower on Hulu, which is about the lead-up to 9/11. The characters are well developed and really good, and it's just the interplay between the FBI and CIA in those days. It like really unpacks everything that was happening in different sort of silos, and if there were no silos that you know it probably wouldn’t have gone down that way. It's really weird. I mean I kind of geek out on it a little bit. After we finished it, I've been sort of unpacking it and it really shows a difference between the world pre 9/11 and post 9/11. It nails that tipping point.
What are some of your favorite books?
I really can't stay away from nonfiction. I really like reading memoir essays, humor type stuff and so I kind of always gravitate towards that. But right now, I'm reading like a couple of cookbooks. I read this burger one recently and it was about regional burgers. They have a crazy one called “The Goober Burger” and it has peanuts and mayonnaise. It's really popular like in Mississippi or something like that. So I read that and that's pretty good, but I'm also reading a David Sedaris book that’s really funny. It's called Me Talk Pretty One Day and he's just talking about how he like got pulled out of class to go into speech therapy. It's just him recounting it humorously. I always say I need to read more fiction, but I never do. I always end up reading that kind of stuff.
What do you like to do outside of the office?
I'm always going to be exploring art and deconstructing it to figure out how I can make my own work better, so it's always going to be around that. That's what drives me to unpack music, movies and even photography. I like taking photos, writing my food blog, and cooking.
Tell us more about your interest in food.
I have a food blog called I Came Here for the Food. Obviously I like to eat and I like to like eat new, delicious stuff, but what is interesting about food and why I chose to start writing a blog about it is because it's really the intersection of life. I mean, you can take the subject of food in a general way and take it in a hundred different ways: like here’s this new chef opening up this new restaurant, or here's the history of how people ate in the 1880s when the railroad had to deliver everything. There's just so many different ways to explore the general theme with food, so I really like cooking. That's what draws me to the cookbooks, but more and more I'm realizing that in order to write about it, you really learn a lot from cookbooks. My wife has tons of them, and every time we've moved from a different location it's like, “Can we throw some of these cookbooks out? We can always look on the internet.” But Pinterest recipes really suck, and there's such interesting stuff in these cookbooks that I started like getting down and going through them. With that burger book, that was really breaking down the perfect structure of a burger. It matters so much, because if the buns too hard then it’ll affect the meat. So there's all these little tidbits I'm collecting in terms of food.
What is something not everyone knows about you?
- I can draw and won some awards for it growing up.
- I play guitar.
- I brew beer.
- I can pick a lock because I was a locksmith for three years.
- I can do carpentry. I built cabinets and did trim carpentry for a while.
- I did landscaping and project management in construction for a time.
- I cooked in two restaurants. I also make bread.
- A book I ghostwrote recently got picked up by an agent and published.
- I wrote film reviews for a blog in Austin for a couple of years.
- I have cancer.
- I am adopted, and I'm one of five kids.
- I've only owned one vehicle my whole life.
- I have two blogs.
- I am an introvert.
- I can work from home for probably about 3-4 weeks before I need to have some kind of face-to-face time with people I know.
- I love guns and knives.
- I rode a Greyhound bus to Wyoming a few years ago and went backpacking for eight days.
- I did pest control for three years.
- I absolutely cannot read just one book at a time, so I can’t finish a book shy of two months.
- I almost got my major in economics, which means I'm about eight credits away from not ever getting to know anyone at Primitive Social.
- I used to read my dad’s Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton books in like the 4th grade. I barely understood any of it, but I finished them and loved using the dictionary and context clues to try to gain understanding.
Who do you admire?
So one of the things about working here, the team is always up here at the office trying and that’s really admirable because a lot of people don't have that. Then, one of the things I like about Aaron in the video department is his sort of like playfulness, and I really admire that. With Kade, I really admire his determination and sort of doggedness. For me, I'm such a sort of expert that as soon as somebody says, “This is the goal,” all of the calculations and logistics start adding up in my mind. I'm like, “Okay you’ve got to do this, this and this but if you do this you have to have a B plan because this goes wrong often. So it's like I have like a different sort of approach, and that really makes me admire him. I just really appreciate what everybody brings that’s different.
What is your secret to success?
We deal with a lot of interns and people who it’s their first jobs in marketing and first time doing this kind of work. You see a lot that people think they're going to be valued for their knowledge and expertise. I was the same way. But really nobody cares how much I know or how good I am at “turning the knobs”. The things that end up mattering more is how well I listen to a client’s problem. How well I communicate what I can deliver. How well I stay on the same page with my teammates, etc. It’s all the other stuff, besides the skill I thought it would be. So you’ve got to learn to really collaborate and pull out these nuggets from people that you didn't really expect to find. A lot of times in our work this happens between the teammates. If a designer asked for somebody’s opinion on something, you don't have to take it. All you have to do is take it and maybe analyze it a little bit and pull the nuggets out of it. That way it's never about how much you know. Your work is never going to stand on its own. It's always going to need a little bit of context, salesmanship, and service-mindedness. So I think that the secret to success is to collaborate with everybody.