Kate Ward of One Day Entertainment on digital creators and their role as world builders
Kate Ward is undoubtedly one of the most interesting people I’ve gotten the chance to talk to about creator culture. Her perspective is unique and fascinating, as is the journey that led her to become Director of Operations at One Day Entertainment, a digital talent management company where she works closely with the likes of Yes Theory, Airrack, and the Cheeky Boyos.
Throughout our thirty-eight-minute chat, we spoke about Kate’s emphasis on ideology within creator culture, her understanding of digital creators as educators and world builders, and how she envisions these massive digital communities impacting the future.
Is pop culture the great equalizer?
For years, education was Kate’s career focus, first building an educational research center studying behavioral economics and gamification. She was intrigued by the idea of making the student experience more engaging than that of the traditional classroom.
From the educational research center she moved on to working in a 4th-grade classroom, and it was there she realized how little the kids engaged with her teachings, and much they engaged with DJ Khalid’s Snapchat account and the app Music.ly.
While it was still the early days of social media, even then, in a low-income school with 99% poverty, all the 4th-grade kids had phones.
“I realized maybe the great equalizer was pop culture, not education. If DJ Khalid is dropping these great knowledge bombs on these kids and they're listening to them, then maybe that’s more impactful than what I’m doing in this classroom.”– Kate Ward
Creators as educators: making truth accessible
Having realized the immensely influential power digital creators held, one that likened their role in society to that of educators, Kate decided to be part of it. She wanted to work with creators as educators, captivating young minds with their messages and ideas. “Whether or not they want to, creators with huge distributions are already educating the masses on something,” she said.
As for the kinds of creators Kate was looking to fulfill this educator role, it boiled down to finding genuinely good people who would work hard at delivering necessary messages to the masses in entertaining ways.
“I thought, hey, if I work with these people in this digital realm I can meet those students I was working with before and potentially hundreds of thousands more.” – Kate Ward
‘Making truth accessible’ is a phrase Kate uses often with creators, emphasizing the power of the creators’ role and influence over society, as well as their unique ability to communicate ideas about living and being human in fun, exciting, and accessible ways.
“If these creators are good people spitting good ideas and young people are attached to them in entertaining ways but are getting seeds of something really real inside, that’s the winning combo because that helps to rewire their mindset for the way the world works. It gives them hope and potentially teaches a level of personal agency...school is not always giving you the resources you need.”– Kate Ward
Changing the script at One Day Entertainment: ideology first
At One Day Entertainment, Kate and founder Zack Honarvar, work with young digital creators Yes Theory, Airrack, and the Cheeky Boyos.
One Day is a boutique management agency, but Kate says they envision themselves more as a business, acting as partners to the creators in their roster and assisting them in pushing their vision and their subsequent businesses out into the world.
The audience before the product
This partner mentality goes along with one of the most central pillars of One Day’s approach to talent management: ideology.
Rather than starting with a product and then vying for community, One Day helps their creators push their ideologies out into the world, which fosters community, and they build businesses out of that community.
“I think a lot of what creators are doing is using the tools of today to repackage and repurpose these ancient ideas that have existed forever into a kind of map to truth and the human experience.”– Kate Ward
With creator culture expanding so rapidly, this is not as much of a revolutionary concept anymore, but One Day Entertainment was one of the first to implement the strategy as a management company.
Finding talent: what qualities are important?
I was curious to know what qualities Kate values in digital creators, so I asked her to list the top three things she’d look for if she worked for a brand interested in creator partnerships.
Here’s what she shared:
According to Kate, this is number one. Pretty much all successful digital creators have an innate and fundamental understanding of how to tell a captivating story to their audience. Even if you, the viewer, aren’t necessarily fascinated by the topic, something about their presentation keeps you emotionally engaged in the content.
Along with the ability to tell a good story, you also need a shining star of a personality, something Kate refers to as ‘the sparkle,’ or that intangible X-factor quality.
From the perspective of a brand, Kate told me good packaging (i.e. how the creator presents their content by way of thumbnails and titles) is essential. It’s not enough that the content itself is good, you also need to want to click on the content because of how it’s presented.
Because the creator is ultimately responsible for marketing their brand, making sure they can do so well is important.
Building worlds of the future
As Kate explained to me, there’s been a general shift from institutions to individuals. Especially over the last year, we’ve seen a lot of people lose trust in societal institutions, and place more trust on individual people and personalities.
This plays out well for digital creators, who are hard at work building entire worlds and communities for people to interact with.
What’s important for them to ask themselves is what are they educating people about? What reality are they creating? “There’s a huge moral and philosophical question there,” Kate explained, “and part of what excites me is the idea that you can use digital media to attract a certain community, and then you can get that community to go do things in the real world.”
For Kate, the big question is, how do we take these digital communities offline?
“All the attention is headed towards digital and you can leverage that attention to do powerful things in the world, not just build businesses and make money, but impact people's lives through these digital communities forming around creators.”– Kate Ward
From her perspective, the future of digital creators might hold potential similar to the massive enterprise that is the world of Disney, one that has wired our brains to think in specific ways since its inception.
While the future of digital creators may not be on a macro-theme-park-level quite like Disney, Kate thinks we might see something akin to that through the real-life application of these creators’ micro-worlds, communities, and ideologies.