Posts Tagged ‘Public Good Relations’

Sowing Seeds of Success at Social Venture Network

Posted on: April 27th, 2012 by social venture network No Comments

Written by: Lara Pearson, Rimon PC Chief Sustainability Officer & Partner

Sitting on the back deck of the home of pioneering serial socialpreneur (aka social entrepreneurJulie Lewis, I noticed a sole tree in full bloom in the middle of the woods. Though only partially visible in a sea of evergreens, the white blossoms really stood out in the Fraser.

We all want our enterprises to blossom and stand out like that tree. In the social enterprise space, the better our businesses do the greater good we can do for our people, communities and planet. Brand building is all about building relationships, no matter what industry. Social enterprises in particular can expand the reach of their brands through storytelling. This was demonstrated by the Saturday afternoon panel Creating Value Through Storytelling at SVN’s annual Member Gathering last week. The Session was moderated by Dr. Melanie Moore of See Change, whose co-panelists were Amy Hartzler from Free Range Studios and Fraser Wilson from Axiom News.

Without any prompting from me, Melanie began her introduction by explaining that her company’s name — See Change — is “totally untrademarkable” because she didn’t do her homework before adopting it and it’s used too commonly for her company to claim exclusive rights in it. I just love it when a workshop begins with a lesson in trademark law! While brands are important, Melanie said she finds stories to be even more so.

She began with a story about her discovery of her inner entrepreneur while a graduate student at the Stanford School of Education. Melanie had the good fortune of needing to land a job or a fellowship at the same time a leader in her field, Ira Sachnoff, needed help evaluating a school program via a social impact assessment. Ira hired Melanie and assured her that she would figure out what to do. She knew she had to study the stories of the kids in the program, but it wasn’t until a chance encounter with a video camera that she knew she found her calling. In Melanie’s experience, even the most metrics minded person is moved by stories. Metrics are only one part of the portfolio of evaluation, stories are the other. Melanie and her colleagues at See Change hang out and get to know people in order to provide qualitative data analysis along with a translation of the data from left brain to right brain. Before turning over the floor to Fraser, Melanie left us with this thought: Good stories are sticky like a seed; it may take a long time for the seeds to grow, but eventually they form a Forest.

Fraser ran OMNI Health Care, a long-term care business with 1500 employees in 16 homes caring for 1300 patients. He asked us to recall Chip Conley’s inspirational story about Joie de Vivre’s (JDV) bell hop who worked double shifts for three days straight when the hotel elevator (used to be a trademark but fell prey to genericide!) broke down. This gentleman was thanked for his dedication by someone in an entirely different department, which became a custom of caring and sharing at JDV. Under Fraser, OMNI elevated (ha!) that practice to a whole new level by celebrating two employees company-wide on a daily basis. This resulted in 500 stories a year, or 10,000 stories over 10 years. After Fraser sold his business, the new owner maintained the story telling policy & now has a huge bank of stories on its website, which gets 4500 unique website visits daily because it demonstrates what is possible. OMNI also sends newsletters to all of the care providers in its region to inspire them to innovate. Fraser and OMNI aren’t the only ones inspiring people to action; Amy and Free Range Studios have inspired millions to act more responsibly through The MeatrixStory of Stuff and its progeny: Story of BrokeStory of Citizens UnitedStory of ElectronicsStory of CosmeticsStory of Bottled Water and the Story of Cap & Trade, among other work of theirs.

Amy said that she drank from the SVN fire hose of intention, inspiration and action at her very first meeting (I think most of us do!) Along those lines, a founding vision of Free Range studios was to boldly and ambitiously use new tools to create broader access to the stories that will help people build the future they want. Amy and her Free Range colleagues (to whom she refers as Free Rangers) fully believe that great stories make great change, and “the next great story is yours.”SM To Amy, brands are an epic made up million different stories. The stories include the company’s engagement with its employees, whom the company should strive to make their best selves. Free Range values optimism, courage and empowerment, which is evident time and again in the way it shows up in the stories it helps its clients tell.

Unsurprisingly, many of the people who attended Meaningful Media: Access, Engage & Mobilize (about which I wrote here) also attended this session. Rich Cohen from sustainable packaging company, Distant Village, launched the interactive part of the discussion by asking whether there is a formula for unfolding your story, in terms of where to start as how to build it. Melanie responded that although she usually is hired to tell stories to funders and investors, she starts with the stories from inside the organization first. Amy emphasized the importance of recognizing that half your brand story is told by your audience with which you must engage. Fraser said that telling stories daily helped OMNI create stakeholders in the stories & influenced fresh and open dialogue.

The panelists then were asked to explain how they work with social media. Everyone agreed that content is important. Amy described how none of us create relationships with organizations; rather we create relationships with people. Having a personality that’ is presented in a way that’s consistent is really vital, Amy said. Free Range tells its clients that they cannot control the story. If you’re not living the truth of the story you tell people won’t want to engage with your brand.

Maggie Kaplan, Founder & Executive Director of Invoking the Pause, shared 3 terms she coined to measure metrics she calls Right Brain Measures of Success: ROR – Return on Relationships; Collateral Delights (instead of collateral damage) and ROC — Return on Collaboration. Maggie asked us to be critical consumers and really consider the stories we’re being told. Maggie and Melanie agreed that at the end of the day it’s about what we choose to value and measure. Melanie added that if you can measure it quantitatively and do not, that is irresponsible but first you must be able to measure it qualitatively.

Lance Laytner from Public Good Relations asked how to invite people to join the conversation. Fraser said he helps his clients identity themes by interviewing employees and finding those who are doing good work. Amy said it is important to speak to your audience’s core values and to do something to help people embody them, whatever that means for them (sure sounds simple, or not!) Melanie said metrics tell you whether you are making a difference, but not how. You need stories to understand how so metrics and stories are a stronger way of evaluating impact.

Melanie gave an example of stories effecting stakeholder engagement when after the Seafood Summit — during which business and activists come together to discuss sustainable seafood – the stories shared at the event inspired Wal-mart to commit to selling only sustainable seafood. Fraser said it is hard to put a value on culture but we all know that when the culture is better the outcome will be better. Malachi Leopold from Left Brain/Right Brain Creations shared a story he heard about Dunkin Donuts (DD) sources an enormous amount of fair trade coffee and has since 2004, though this was not something it advertised. Enter the sustainability movement and DD decided to promote its fair trade practices. This, however, led to a consumer backlash who found fair trade it to be inauthentic to the DD brand. DD has continued its responsible sourcing practices but doesn’t stopped advertise them since that is not what its consumers want to hear. One suggestion made was to create a blog theme and then source the content from experts outside your organization, which extends both parties’ audiences creating low time commitment and free of cost win-win for both parties.

Eric Friedenwald-Fishman of Metropolitan Group who co-wrote Marketing that Matters with Chip Conley said he and Chip found that people who bought into authenticity and transparency tended to put out too much data and forget that emotion trumps data. We all need to remember what we are trying to accomplish, and if it’s brand development then stories are more valuable than data. Amy said stories are a meaningful mechanism to allow our stakeholders to be more who they want to be. We are bombarded by messages by put if a story resonates with someone they will not only react to it, but they also will want to share it with everyone, which is magic. Fraser said that during normal days we are busy running our operations and can forget the purpose we serve. OMNI’s daily stories reminded him what he was doing to serve, even when he was consumed by working on/in the organization.

One attendee who earned a degree in social media admitted that social media feels inauthentic when it comes to promoting her services. Amy responded that it’s important to speak not only with an authentic voice but also in an authentic way, via whatever means works for you.

Terry Gips of Sustainability Associates asked about things didn’t work. Amy said a video her team created for the Alliance for Education flopped despite having done their homework (ha!) and involving kids in the creative process. Fraser said because they work directly with organizations there has to be a spirit of trust and authenticity between his client and his team and in one case where there wasn’t he withdrew. Melanie shared a story about a video she created for a community that treated a dynamic issue as static ultimately mis-portraying the situation as time passed. One pervasive theme of the discussion that emerged during this session was the need to understand the relevance and context of your story to your audience.

We all want to blossom and stand out in the crowd. The main lesson from this panel was the ability of genuine stakeholder engagement and storytelling to help our brands extend their reach, which in turn helps our organizations increase their positive impact.

Making Media Moments at Social Venture Network

Posted on: April 21st, 2012 by social venture network No Comments

Social Venture Network (SVN) is a membership organization comprised of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs – or, as I call us, socialpreneurs — who are working to create positive impact through their enterprises.  This weekend is SVN’s Annual Spring Gathering where SVNer’s join together to inspire and challenge one another.  Along with TED, SVN is my favorite conference.

I attended a morning session named Meaningful Media: Access, Engage & Mobilize. The Session was hosted by SVN’s Erin Roach and included three panelists:

Lance LaytnerPublic Good Relations

Malachi LeopoldLeft Brain/Right Brain Creations (LBRB)


Lance began the conversation by explaining the journalism in his DNA. His father was a journalist for 60 years, and several other immediate family members also were journalists. Lance has been published in six languages in 38 countries and always had a passion for journalism.  That was until September 11, 2011, after which most news outlets focused on stories of dread and fear, operating under the principle, “If it bleeds it leads.”  This caused Lance to create a new paradigm: “If it feeds it leads.”  To successfully create press for one’s enterprise, Lance suggests that socialpreneurs use this equation: Work PRESS Angles.  In this context, PRESS is an acronym for People, Regional, Event (turn what you’re communicating into an event), Stories*, Sensational, and so long as you include these element in your press pitch, you should capture the attention of your intended audience. Lance also encouraged everyone to communicate their cause in the most exciting way possible.

James was the last panelist to introduce himself.  James’ organization, Purpose gets press for important causes and helps stakeholders answer the oft-asked question, “What can I do?”  Purpose’s purpose, if you will, is to organize people to take action to solve the world’s biggest problems. Purpose was born out of two highly successful social experiments: GetUp! Action for Australia, which was loosely modeled on MoveOn here in the U.S. and, which is the largest social action political organization in the world. Purpose is a crowd funded model that works through two primary models: partnerships & incubation. Recognizing that movements have mobilized millions to act, Purpose helps people find movements and take action.

The panelists then proposed that we collectively discuss a case study from a real live SVNer in hopes of helping them change meaning into action. Josh Knauer from Rhiza Labs suggested that we study a for profit organization instead of a non-profit and, after thanking Josh, Manish Gupta jumped at the opportunity. Manish introduced people to his company, Handmade Expressions, which creates beautiful sustainably made products, while paying fair wages to its producers in India. Manish’s challenge is convincing consumers that purchasing responsibly manufactured products from another country promotes sustainability at home as well as abroad. He asked the group for feedback on how to shift consumerism to make people care how the products they purchase are made & delivered.

Bryan Welch from Ogden Publications (and author of the recently published book, Beautiful and Abundant) stated that since we connect with stories sharing the real story about the real person making the product is important.  Bryan also suggested that we all need to expand the focus of our marketing, and cease marketing solely to our community (to which he referred as “the ghetto”), which he sees as really dangerous. Next, Matt Reynolds from Indigenous Designs, which sells high end fashion to mainstream consumers, shared how his company aims to bring its simple yet powerful message to the masses via apparel hang tags. Indigenous developed a traceable technology QR code to use on hang tags so that consumers who scan the code will see how the garment was made. Indigenous wants to share this technology with other social enterprises, including Handmade Expressions.

Josh said that only 6% of the population knows how to use QR codes & that use of these codes has flat-lined. Matt responded that Indigenous believes it will hit 10% QR code usage due to its target market, even though the generally accepted average is indeed 6%.  Josh then suggested that we all need to mimic the marketing tactics of big corporations, so long as it doesn’t compromise our values.  Matt recommended that Manish try to get consumers to think about how their purchases affect others, but cautioned that to do so successfully you can’t solely promote your own product. Matt also emphasized that to have a successful sustainable company your product (or service) has to be exceptional.  In the apparel industry, most successful brands have one successful sku and that carries the entire company.

Rich Cohen from Distant Village, a sustainable packaging company, also wants to help elevate brands in this space by showing how and by whom their products were made so he’s having some of the artisans he uses write diaries which they share with consumers. Malachi suggested that Manish aim to craft value for folks to engage with his brand beyond the sales transaction. He suggested that Starbucks presents a good model for creating opportunities for dialogue that work beyond the sales transaction to engage consumers. Going beyond the transaction is key, according to Malachi.

Lance suggested that Manish could become friends with consumers on social media and potentially bring some of his artisan producers to fashion week in NY in order to get people to care. Malachi chimed in that to get people engaged it’s important to look for low barriers to entry by doing simple, fun things like getting consumers involved in selecting product design. He emphasized that if you begin by asking people do something small to support the company and product, then you can return to them with a bigger request to which they actually are more likely to agree once they’ve already taken some action on behalf of your cause (who woulda thunk?!). Erin asked us also to consider how we as business owners address consumer’s limited time.

Jared Levy of Guru Media Solutions who worked with Indigenous through its QR code creation process said it’s important to recognize that lots of people don’t care about supply chain; they simply want to look good and be recognized for doing something good — be acknowledged for their good deed. Jared said there are 2 kinds of press – story press and marketing press. Given this, every one of our brands is a media organization in its own right. While Jared didn’t say it (or if he did I missed it cause I was typing), by conducting ourselves as if we run a media organization dedicated to promoting our cause (be it for profit or non-profit), we can use that role to craft compelling communications that create community around our brands.

Caryl Levine from Lotus Foods said that her business experiences taught her that consumers are selfish, wanting to know first, “What’s in it for me?”  Lotus Foods’ messaging addresses that self-interest first by focusing on the fact that it’s more nutritious (consumer benefit), before sharing that it’s also better for farmers and the planet through sustainable farming.

Denise Taschereau from Fairware shared that her company’s packaging uses custom packing tape that tells its story. They also sell reusable cups with facts about the issues with disposable cups but since they’ve added “-1” to show their consumers the impact they’re making, the campaign has had more success. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that reward is a better incentive than punishment, but that’s not always obvious.

Malachi suggested four things Manish can do to achieve his goal: 1. focus on rewarding & recognizing his consumers; 2. engage in partnerships – e.g., partner with Kiva; 3. Tell stories, perhaps by creating a series of 2 min documentaries to show way his products improve lives and 4. Work with folks to engage people to make this as big as possible.  Lance said recently he read the book Willpower Instinct, which he recommends. One thing he learned from it is if you ask people to do good, the number of those who will do so will plummet, but if you appeal to people’s sense of identity you will fuel growth.  Rich Perl from Teracycle said that any company trying to tackle this by itself has an uphill battle and recommended that Handmade Expressions align itself with allies.

Malachi suggested everyone watch the Kony 2012 campaign video created by the organization Invisible Children makes the invisible visible. The group’s goal was to expose Joseph Kony leader of LRA by making him famous and making the issue known. It worked because they understood their viewers and was able to empower him to change someone’s life, making the viewer a hero. People have short attention spans if you’re boring or irrelevant to them. If your message is relevant, interesting & entertaining, they will watch. Malachi suggested beginning with the end in mind – ask yourself what do you need to accomplish and who do you need to accomplish it?

James suggested focusing on quantity and strategic quality. He also believes that iconography is really important to success. Raising awareness is good, but at the end of the day you need people to act. The goal has to be to create new norms. He drew our attention to the TED community as an example of a group that has recognized & capitalized on the value of early adopters.

Amy Hartzler at Free Range Studios encouraged us to consider that there is a difference between people being selfish and wanting to self-actualize. Most people want to do something good. We must recognize that every touch of our brand must tell a single story; if there’s incongruence people will see it and distrust the brand. If you live the truth and you’re interesting, Amy believes you will succeed.

Duane Peterson of SunCommon felt compelled to stand up for “our ghetto;” he said we can’t ignore our base as we develop a relationship with mainstream consumers. Duane believes that only with the help of our early adopters can we grow into the mainstream. At Ben & Jerry’s, marketing money was spent on hardcore evangelists to build brand but would encourage us to focus on our hyper consumers and giving them engagement opportunities was invaluable.

Mary Anne Howland from Ibis Communications recommended aiming our marketing communications at folks with 9th grade educations, taking the complex and making it simple. She used John Hardy jewelry as an example of a beautiful product that also has a social mission. John Hardy also creates touch points by doing trunk shows at high end jewelers and getting people to contribute photos of themselves wearing his products on Facebook, though which he created a community around his brand. His social mission to most is just a plus; first and foremost, have a really good product.

To conclude, James encouraged Manish and the rest of us not to have a ghetto mentality because our stories are really exciting and we shouldn’t be afraid to take the spotlight, cause that’s where we belong! Malachi said creating strong consumer engagement takes a ton of hustle that begins with figuring out how to say what you want to say to get people to do what you want them to do.