Category Archives: Social Media

Transparent, authentic, fast: A brand new world

“Who cares wins.” For David Jones, this is not a question. It’s a new business imperative. As the CEO of Havas, one of the world’s largest integrated marketing and communications companies, Jones literally wrote the book on how social media has upended the relationship between business and customer, giving customers more access to information and the ability to demand that corporations act responsibly.

David Jones' book explains how social media has become linked to a company's bottom line. (Credit:

David Jones’ book explains how social media has become linked to a company’s bottom line. (Credit:

This month, the Collaborative Services blog is examining social media and its effect on communication. In the world of business, Jones explained that a company’s perceived social responsibility isn’t limited to philanthropic giving. Businesses need to have a broader sense of purpose now beyond just profit, and that is a direct result of millions of customers having access to worldwide networks. Through sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor, a nasty review of a product can get around the world faster than any commercial nowadays. On top of that, the Internet gives people access to more than just a company’s product. Perhaps your CEO is caught on a cell phone camera badgering a flight attendant. Or a picture of poor working conditions makes it onto an employee’s Instagram. This damage could be reflected on the balance sheet.

Jones said that companies need to be aware of how their image is portrayed on social media. He practices what he preaches at Havas, integrating digital media at the company’s core model. The England native has also worked as an advisor to British Prime Minister David Cameron and assisted former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan with his climate change awareness efforts. He is working to engage young people through social media with his One Young World organization, which aims to bring together young people from around the globe who are already making a difference in their in communities and give them a seat on the world stage.

We asked Jones about how social media has affected business so far, and where he thinks it’s headed.

1In your book Who Cares Wins, you argue that businesses must become more altruistic and positively involved in the world if they want to survive, and that social media is a key component of that. Can you explain why you think giving back makes business sense, and why you think it’s intrinsically linked to social media?

It’s not really about giving back in the philanthropic sense; it is about businesses needing to have a broader purpose than simply making a financial profit. People today are demanding it, they believe business should stand for more than just profit and they want to know about the values and conduct of businesses. What’s more, they now have the means to find out anything about [businesses]. The digital revolution has given them instant access to unimaginable amounts of information. Social media has empowered people to hold businesses and leaders accountable and to sanction and even remove those who behave in the wrong way.

We have now entered headlong into the Age of Damage, during which businesses that are not socially responsible will suffer damage as a result. The most successful businesses and leaders will increasingly be those that demonstrate the ability to add value in a socially responsible way. It’s not the old definition of ‘business as usual’ then giving something away at the end of the year, nor is it about some nice siloed CSR (corporate social responsibility) activity – it’s about putting socially responsible business practices at the core of business strategy. It has taken CSR out of the silo and onto the P&L (profit and loss) statement.

(Credit Emerald Group Publishing Limited)

(Credit Emerald Group Publishing Limited)

So it’s not about charity but actually about competitive advantage. The new price of doing well is doing good.

2. Social media is still relatively new. Can you remember a specific moment, or platform, that convinced you social media was here to stay, and would play an important role in the business world?

One of the key moments for me was when we did the TckTckTck climate campaign for Kofi Annan. We created an open-source campaign that managed to attract 18 million climate allies–and that was back in 2008 before social media had really taken off. So it really underlined its power and potential. Also One Young World, the charity I co-founded with Kate Robertson our UK Chairman is run 100% on social–that’s how we recruit the 1,200 people from 183 countries who attend every year, that’s how they stay in touch with each other and drive their projects forward, and that’s how we stay in touch with them.

Greenpeace members climbed a glacier to bring awareness to the UN"s TckTckTck climate change campaign (Credit: Greenpeace Switzerland)

Greenpeace members climbed a glacier to bring awareness to the UN”s TckTckTck climate change campaign (Credit: Greenpeace Switzerland)

And, even though social media might seem like a recent development, the scale is incredible. For example, recent figures from Intel show that in the space of one minute: 30 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube, there are more than 2 million Google search enquiries, 6 million Facebook views and, on Twitter, 100,000 new tweets.



3. How does your company, Havas Worldwide, utilize social media?

We’re very active across many platforms—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., and we try to jump on new things like Vine as soon as they come out. The structure of Havas Worldwide is unique among big agency networks: instead of silo-ing digital off on its own, we’ve integrated it into a “digital-at-the-core” model so it’s at the heart of all our agencies.

Digital/social has already been a huge disruptor in many industries—we keep seeing the Kodak vs Instagram story played out again and again—and advertising is no exception. One really revolutionary and disruptive model is Victors & Spoils, the first agency to find the best creative ideas by crowdsourcing the client’s brief, and they’re now part of our network.

4. Your One Young World organization has received a lot of positive attention. Can you talk about what the organization does, and how it uses social media to achieve its goals?

One Young World is an open source platform that brings young people together with world leaders to debate the biggest issues facing the world. They formulate solutions to effect positive change and create lasting connections with each other. We stage an annual Summit – in 2012 we had 1,200 young leaders from 182 countries gathered together in Pittsburgh USA and in October 2013, the Summit will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa where we expect even more delegates with even more countries represented. The Olympics Games is the only non-governmental event that gathers together more countries than a One Young World Summit.

(Credit Global Solutions Pittsburgh)

(Credit Global Solutions Pittsburgh)

At the Summit some really outstanding Counsellors, including Kofi Annan, President Bill Clinton, Professor Muhammad Yunus, Sir Bob Geldof, Jack Dorsey, and Jamie Oliver, join the delegates, debate the big issues, give guidance and listen the younger generation’s point of view and ideas. The Summit is just one event in each year though, after it’s over then the Ambassadors get really active, driving positive change in the communities, companies and countries. Almost 4 million people around the world have been impacted by the work of One Young World Ambassadors.

One Young World HQ in London uses social media to stay in touch with the Ambassadors and share the work they are doing across the wider network but it’s really the Ambassadors who are the experts. This generation knows more about the digital and social tools than anyone else and many of the One Young World Ambassadors have massive social media followings that they are brilliant at mobilising to build movements and help drive positive change.

Speakers at One Young World's "WoMen'Up" forum in Pittsburgh last year. (Credit: One Young World)

Speakers at One Young World’s “WoMen’Up” forum in Pittsburgh last year. (Credit: One Young World)

5. When you became CEO of Havas Worldwide, you were reportedly the youngest CEO in the history of the ad industry. What advantages and challenges came along with that? How did that affect the strategies you use to ‘sell’ social media?

The advantage is probably trying to change the status quo, the challenge is the same. When I was CEO of our agency in Australia in 1998, we launched a digital agency inside the ad agency. The reaction of most people was, “Why are you doing that? You’re not an IT or software business.” Clearly today, no one would ever admit to saying that. It was a similar thing three or four years ago with social media, which a lot of people dismissed as a fad. And I’d argue that it’s the same today with social responsibility in business, although that is changing fast. To be clear, I’m not claiming to have some special magic crystal ball that sees the future. (I very clearly told the person who taught me Twitter four years ago that I was only doing it because I had to and that I thought it wouldn’t ever catch on.)

(Credit KULA)

(Credit KULA)

But I think if you remain open to new ideas, it will help your clients and your own business do better. And it will help you avoid making mistakes. We’ve all seen the famous video of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer laughing at the iPhone being launched.

6Can you cite any examples of companies that have followed your advice? How were they successful?

We’ve seen a number of companies that have become outstanding examples of “doing well by doing good.” The most successful have constructed their entire business model around core values like sustainability or social responsibility. What Unilever CEO Paul Polman is doing right now is absolutely brilliant—he took a huge risk and very boldly said he was going to halve the environmental footprint of the company while increasing sales, and he’s proven he actually can do that and also grow as a business.

Other great examples are Patagonia, who are so serious about their commitment to sustainability that they actually ran an ad on Black Friday urging customers not to buy their clothing, and instead encouraging second-hand use; and Chipotle, whose “Back to the Start” commercial was one of my favorites last year.

Outdoor clothing and gear retailer Patagonia encouraged customers to give rather than receive on Black Friday last year. (Credit: Patagonia)

Outdoor clothing and gear retailer Patagonia encouraged customers to give rather than receive on Black Friday last year. (Credit: Patagonia)

7. Have you ever seen a company experience any unintended consequences from the use of social media?

Yes. Time after time. The new rules of social media are the same as the new rules of running a business today – transparency, authenticity and speed. When faced with a problem, the old rule was often ‘don’t respond to it’ as you will turn it into a bigger issue but that is now one of the biggest mistakes you can make. The new rule is ‘presume this is going to be a global issue within five minutes’, but not everyone’s been so quick to grasp that.

There’s a new story every week of companies getting into trouble because they either underestimated the power and speed of social media or were just taken by surprise. For example, HMV was completely taken by surprise when an employee who was about to get sacked along with many of her colleagues during downsizing hijacked its Twitter account. By the time the company had caught onto what was happening, its dirty laundry had already been extensively aired in public.

A great case study for how to bounce back from disaster is Domino’s Pizza. A video had surfaced, and quickly gone viral on YouTube, showing employees doing disgusting things to customers’ pizza. Domino’s felt immediate fall-out, but managed to turn the situation around and launched a successful campaign based on transparency, asking customers what they really thought of the product and then improving it.

8. You write in your book that a key component to successful business today is transparency. Why is this more important now than ever? Is a negative Yelp! review or Tweet really that devastating, or is it something else?

One bad review or tweet is not necessarily that devastating, but we’ve seen plenty of examples of late of companies or figures that have had their entire reputations destroyed because of what the transparency of social media can reveal. Look at fashion designer John Galliano, who was immediately fired from his post at Dior after a YouTube video revealed him having an anti-Semitic rant. But Dior’s reaction actually enhanced their credibility and the respect people had for them.

(Credit: Automotive Digital Marketing)

(Credit: Automotive Digital Marketing)

We are living in an open world where transparency, authenticity and speed are the most important rules; where people can and will find out everything about your brand and share it with each other; where they want to know what a company stands for; and where brands are defined by what people say to each other about them, not what brands say about themselves.

Far from being bad news, this represents a huge opportunity.  In the past century we built brands through marketing, in this one, we will build them through behavior.  Smart companies will out-behave the competition – and act before someone acts on their behalf.

9. You’re an ad man, and a cynic might say that some companies want to make “doing good” part of their brand, without actually doing much. How can companies really give back, and prove it?

If companies are not genuinely making an effort then they will soon be found out and will suffer the consequences. Today it is not possible to have a gap between a company’s image and its reality. Someone will soon expose it and share it with the world. It’s about genuinely making an effort and heading in the right direction; people are not looking for perfection – they are looking for honesty.

In terms of our own industry, we are brilliant at using creativity to change people’s purchasing behavior. But you can also use creativity to encourage behaviour change for good. I believe this is not only an opportunity but also an obligation for those of us in the creative industry and that we can use our talents to address some of the bigger issues facing the world.

Companies are careful to advertise corporate citizenship. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

Companies are careful to advertise corporate citizenship. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

Business is such a phenomenally efficient organism – if the biggest businesses in the world set out to be really socially responsible, they’d have an enormous impact on the world.

At a simplistic level, in the last century NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and charities had great intentions, but not always great execution. Businesses had great execution, but not always great intentions. This century needs to be about, and can be about, great intentions and great execution.

Business can be a major force, in fact, the major force to drive positive change in the world. It is in a unique position.


Thank you David, for taking the time to share your insights. We’ve long heard that the customer is always right, but through the power of social media, customers can now demand that corporations act “right” as well. After all, if someone is going to like your brand on Facebook, you can’t turn around and embarrass them on YouTube. Increased transparency continues to change the relationship between business and communication.

Elizabeth Malloy, Associate

Collaborative Services, Inc.

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True or false: 90 percent of the data in the world was created in the last two years?

True. That’s right, the Egyptians, Romans and Ming Dynasty combined have nothing on us when it comes to generating data, or “content” as it’s often called now. The 4th Estate’s “news” is social media’s content generation. Look around you, everyone is doing “it.” They are blogging, posting, tweeting, emailing, texting, Instagraming, forwarding, sharing, liking. The desire to tell one’s story is as old as time, illustrated in cave etchings throughout the world.

(Credit: Mike Chum)

(Credit: Mike Chum)

Previously, your story – if it was covered at all – had to “make the news,” meaning it had to be determined worthy of coverage by TV, radio and newspapers. The Collaborative Services blog focused on the news – the 4th Estate – last month. This month, we focus on part of its family tree that is expanding rapidly – social media.

Not all social media is traditionally newsworthy or up to the journalistic standards that the 4th estate demands, but it’s a driving force in the progression of news bypassing papers and journalists and being broadcast directly by the people creating new content.

How we communicate affects how we participate in everything – relationships, communities and government.

To this topic we welcome the insights of Dr William J Ward, a professor of social media at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication. Known on his website and social media as “Dr. 4Ward” (sounds like “Dr. Forward”), Ward’s field of study is a relatively new phenomenon, but it’s impact has already been massive.

Since the first “weblogs” began appearing about ten years ago, Ward says there has been a fundamental shift in the way people communicate, and it’s continued to grow and evolve. A sort of hybrid of the website and chat room, blogs allowed people to write whatever they wanted, and readers to respond and connect in the speed of the invisible WiFi that now connects us all to each other. This has been taken to even greater heights with platforms like Twitter and Facebook, making us even more accesible, and the evolution toward our brand new social media world all the more immediate.

Prehistoric etchings from the Magura Cave in Bulgaria (Credit:

Prehistoric etchings from the Magura Cave in Bulgaria (Credit:

What this means is that people are more connected now than ever before, and have a world of information at their fingertips. In the 1990s, chatrooms were amazing because they allowed you discuss the latest Microsoft software with strangers across the world. Twenty years later, Twitter connects directly with Bill Gates himself.

As to how this matters, Ward says you only have to look at the Arab Spring to see the potential of social media. Most Americans may still think of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and other platforms as a tool for broadcasting opinions on food and funny pictures of cats, but Tunisians and Egyptians used it to help overthrow dictators.

Bill Gates Twitter

Social media was born and raised in front of a mass audience. We’ve all watched interfaces like Friendster, LiveJournal and MySpace take off like a rocket, only to be discarded like a late night Tweet when something new came along.  Gaining a perspective on a relatively novel and ever changing technology can prove an illusive prospect. But Ward has dug in and studied social media like few others, incorporating it into teaching, examining how its been used in ads, and testing its limits. He said he still sees untapped potential for the technology, and believes it will continue to change our world.

Dr. Ward spoke with the Collaborative Services blog about the past and future of social media, sharing what he thinks social media says about communication in the 21st Century.

Social Media seemed to come on the scene really suddenly about ten years ago, and transform how people spread and receive information. Can you talk about what you see as the origins of Social Media? What do you consider the first Social Media platform?
Blogging was one of the earliest forms of Social Media.  Web 2.0 and RSS allowed people to connect with people by subscribing to their blogs, commenting on their blogs, and even adding people to blogrolls creating a conversation and social network around blogging. Twitter was introduced as a micro-blog when it first came out in deference to the importance of the blogging concept around creating, sharing, and engaging around content.

We’ve seen a lot in the news about how political campaigns are utilizing social media to keep their supporters engaged. Can you think of any other forms of civic engagement where Social Media has played a major role, particularly in engaging people who may not have otherwise gotten involved through other means in the past?
Social Media helps people to do digitally what they already enjoy doing in the real world… connecting, learning, communicating, creating, collaborating. Thanks to Social Media people are becoming more aware of causes and opportunities that they may never have heard of previously and then are able to organize around what is most important to them.

What did you see as the tipping point for Social Media – when did it penetrate mainstream culture?
The tipping point of Social Media was during the Arab Spring when mainstream media began reporting on the importance of social communications for change, rather than just for sharing silly memes.

Protestors in Egypt during the Arab Spring.Credit: NATO Review

Protestors in Egypt during the Arab Spring.
Credit: NATO Review

What significant changes have you seen – positive or negative – in the way people communicate, and/or disseminate information as a result of the advent of Social Media?
People used to write in longer form a lot more when blogging began. People were writing 1,000 words on blogs. When we moved to status updates on Facebook our posts became shorter. Then micro-blogs like Twitter came along and shortened our updates even further to 140 characters. Now we are even skipping words altogether and moving towards more visual communication with social-sharing sites like Instagram, Pinterest and Vine.

Credit: PCWorld

Credit: PCWorld

We are also being overloaded with data. According to IBM, everyday we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data–so much so that 90% of the data in the world has been created in the last two years alone. Data analytics is one of the ways people are using to sort through the fire hose of information to transform data to actionable insights.

What are some examples of successful marketing campaigns that have utilized Social Media?
Social media has become integrated into internal and external communications. Companies that are transforming their cultures to harness the advantages of social media will be the real winners. Ford is an example of a company that has been a leader.

Credit: Online Social Media

Credit: Online Social Media

What were some early lessons people took from Social Media when it was still in its infancy? What are some more current lessons users are still learning?
Blogging, social media, new technologies are really just about people connecting. Some people get caught up in the shiny tool or the data and forget that it is about people.

As a Social Media professor, you are obviously very engaged in Social Media, both personally and professionally. How do you find it helpful to you? Do you use it to communicate with students and colleagues? For self-promotion? Both?
Social Media allows me to connect with and learn from the smartest people in the world every day. It allows me to learn with industry thought leaders and innovators to keep up on best practice and see what’s coming next and then integrate this learning directly into the classroom. Social media makes me a better teacher because I never stop learning and experimenting and I am able to help students learn how to do the same. Digital and social technologies will continue to change and many will come and go, but lifelong learning never stops. We need to teach students how not to be afraid to experiment. Social Media is part of a teaching and learning paradigm shift as the world literally became our classroom. Classrooms are as big as we allow them to be. I try to create a sense of fun and adventure to help students be fearless in trying new things and by seeing trial and error as part of the learning experience.

Students at Syracuse University (Credit: Syracuse University)

Students at Syracuse University (Credit: Syracuse University)

You have a presentation called “Teaching with Twitter.” Can you describe how you teach with Twitter?
Social Media is about continuous learning and collaboration. With Twitter we have a class hashtag that we use as a live back channel during class and as a way to share and stay connected outside of class throughout the week. We also use Twitter advanced search to find innovators and thought leaders to follow and connect with. Twitter lists help us to organize the fire hose of information and we also use data analytics to measure the impact of our efforts on Twitter such as Tweetreach, Social Mentions and Hashtracking and social influence measures like Klout and Kred. We use Twitter but also use many other social tools and digital platforms from LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ to content curation platforms like Pinterest, and Pearltrees. We use the Hootsuite social media dashboard continuously to integrate all are social media channels and students earn Hootsuite Social Media certification as part of the class. Twitter is a great way to share ideas.

Credit: Texas Tech University

Credit: Texas Tech University

As a social media consultant to a lot of industries, do you see it more suited to some sectors than others? Are there any industries that don’t use Social Media that should?
Business-to-business (B2B) has been slower to adopt social media than Business-to-consumer (B2C) but has even more potential because B2B is built on relationships. Social media is about finding the best tools and digital platforms for connecting with a specific audience. There is no one size fits all.

Credit: Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies

Credit: Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies

How does a company measure return on investment (ROI) through Social Media?
ROI for social media depends on the strategy and what you are trying to accomplish and needs to be measured against those goals.  ROI could be based on awareness and engagement or it could drive consideration and sales. At the end of the day, if bottom line sales do not happen then a company will eventually be out of business.

Where do you see Social Media headed? How will it continue to morph with more traditional marketing and communication techniques?
Social Media will become integrated into all our communications, devices, and product experiences and will just be a part of how we connect and communicate. Social Media will become just how work gets done and cease to be talked about as a stand alone channel or tool.


Thank for taking to the time to share your insights, Dr. Ward. We look forward to moving 4Ward with you as social media continues to evolve.

Elizabeth Malloy, Associate

Collaborative Services, Inc.

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“A new way of thinking”

Follow Scott Lewis on Twitter (@vosdscott) and you’ll wonder how he has time to get anything done. Regularly tweeting dozens of times a day and engaging in spirited exchanges with followers, Lewis appears to live much of his life online. He does get plenty done in the real world though, often to the chagrin of San Diego’s civic leadership. The Chief Executive Officer of the non-profit news site Voice of San Diego, Lewis views himself as a watchdog first and foremost, taking a hard look at local government, schools, infrastructure – anything that spends your tax dollars.

(Credit: HollisBC)

(Credit: HollisBC)

To Lewis, his presence on social media reflects the larger mission of Voice of San Diego (VoSD), which is less about breaking news than generating a discussion. All of VoSD’s reporters are encouraged to engage in social and new media, sometimes offering a stronger point of view than people might be used to hearing from the traditional media. In the changing media landscape, Lewis said this kind of approach is imperative. People curate their news more, using social and new media to read only what their interested in. In order to attract a new reader, a more interactive approach is vital.

Lewis spoke to the Collaborative Services blog about how he uses social media, and how believes it’s changing journalism in general. As a non-profit, online only news source, VoSD has always been different than your traditional newspaper or broadcast outlet, and therefore may have had a head start on embracing new media, but he said he sees no reason others can’t utilize it as well. And as more and more leaders and organizations use social media to circumvent the usual outlets, he said they better get on board.

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Your news organization, Voice of San Diego, is unique in its own way because it’s an online-only, non-profit news site. Can you talk about how Social Media has helped your unconventional site get attention and readers?
As you point out, we’re non-conventional. Our goal isn’t necessarily just to get readers to our site. As a non-profit, our mission is to do investigative journalism and provide San Diegans with information they need to be advocates for good government and social progress. So really, we are free to use social media not just to link to our stuff, but as another tool to carry out our mission. Often that can simply mean using it to report news or information alone.

Can you talk about how you engage readers on social media? How has it been effective for VoSD?
All of our reporters use it to share their work, links they think are important, insights they have on all kinds of issues and to ask for sources or information in their reporting. In addition, the feedback we’ve gotten on social media has led to stories, or even to important corrections or things we’ve had to hold ourselves accountable to.



Are there any ways it isn’t effective?
Social media can be so engaging that you have to remind yourself it doesn’t necessarily represent the view of the entire populace. It’s like a dashboard for the community conversation but it’s still not ubiquitous.

How can it be effective for more traditional news outlets, like a paper, a TV station, and their respective websites?
People are creating their own personal bundles of information using social media. For instance, they are no longer just watching a channel and letting it serve them what it may. They’re DVRing shows they want to watch. The same thing is happening with news. Twitter and Facebook are allowing people to subscribe directly to the journalists they want to follow. It’s allowing them to store stories they want to read for later. It’s allowing them to construct their menu of news more perfectly for their interests. So if you produce any kind of content or information, it’s not like social media is a different medium you’ll have to manage, it’s a new way of thinking and you will have to be a part of it. You can’t rely on people simply to just watch your channel or listen to your station (except in the car, but even that will be disrupted by on-demand listening – twitter for radio!).

What is the most significant way you’ve seen social media change the news industry?
It’s hard to say. The most interesting thing I saw was when the Israeli Defense Forces tweeted their bombings and propaganda. It was mesmerizing. Twitter has so transformed news it’s really impossible for me to decide what’s most significant. It’s now the blood informing and framing thousands of major discussions every single day.

The Israeli Defense Forces tweeted during a military strike last November. (Credit: Slate)

The Israeli Defense Forces tweeted during a military strike last November. (Credit: Slate)

Most of VoSD’s reporters have an active presence on Social Media, especially Twitter, often discussing stories they are working on. How do you balance this with the competitive nature of the news industry, where most reporters are trying to “break stories,” and be the first to report on something?
Scoops are really not the top priority. We strive to deliver the best service, not necessarily the fastest. Yes, it’s a rush to get something first sometimes but this is not a concern for me. I prefer they take the time to engage with their audience and to cultivate trust on social media.

An important part of Social Media is personality, and “having personality” often means offering an opinion. How do you balance that with the ideals of reporter objectivity?
We recognize and accept that our journalists are human and have views. We don’t believe in objectivity. Our bias is for a better San Diego. The schools can be better, the roads can be better, the environment can be cleaner and the economy stronger. We demand they be fair and that they listen to their detractors. But yes, social media only works if you treat it like a conversation, not a writing exercise. You write as you would speak, knowing that it’s an open mic and your words can travel very far.

In general, what journalistic standards should apply to Social Media? Has it created any new standards?
You shouldn’t have different standards for social media. At all. It’s simply a form of broadcast with amazing avenues for interactivity.

VoSD has a different format and business model than print or broadcast, but it’s still “traditional” in that it has reporters and editors. You’ve spoken before about how much of the power of Social Media is in how it allows people, companies and other organizations to go around traditional media to broadcast their message. In that context, what do you see as the role of traditional media moving forward in a world where leaders don’t need it to broadcast their stories?
With resources diminishing to public service journalism, we can’t be stenographers for people trying to transmit information. They will have to learn how to transmit their own information more and more. Journalism operations need to focus on what people won’t do: Investigate themselves. Our role is to a) make sense of what people say and b) find out what they don’t want to say. The only way professional journalism survives is if it proves itself as such a vital, interesting and beloved service that people are moved to pay for it. Advertising, simply, isn’t cutting it any more.

A Voice of San Diego "Meeting of the Minds" informational event in December, 2012. (Credit: Voice of San Diego)

A Voice of San Diego “Meeting of the Minds” informational event in December, 2012.
(Credit: Voice of San Diego)

Since most Social Media outlets are free, a lot of people use  them. How do you break through the white noise of Social Media?
Have a niche, a specialty and a unique voice. Work hard to interact and be valuable but not redundant and obnoxious. Like a radio broadcaster or a writer, success on social media is also about talent. It takes practice and it’s like a game in many ways. You have ups and downs and you try to progress.
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Thank you Scott for sharing your insights on the rapidly changing and often connected worlds of social media and journalism. We look forward to following the Voice of San Diego as it continues to engage its readers on the web and in everyday life.

Elizabeth Malloy, Associate
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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The News From Your Home Turf

Arguably the most profound effect that social media has had is this – it has changed media from sending information out into sending information back and forth between customers, citizens and the media. Restaurants can’t advertise on Yelp! without risking the wrath of a disgruntled customer. Celebrities can’t plug their new comic book movie without fans on Twitter demanding to know why the hero’s hair color has changed. Reporters know when they publish a story, their research is subject to scrutiny in the comments section.

Some companies have been wary of the back and forth that social media generates. But for, it’s part of their DNA. The network of hyper local news websites relies heavily on user-generated content like photos, blogs and breaking news updates.



In 2007, disappointed in the lack of online news about his neighborhood in Greenwich, Connecticut, then Google executive Tim Armstrong teamed up with his colleague Jon Brod and media veteran Warren Webster to create Patch Media. The team generated an innovative business model in which all editors and some contributors are trained journalists, but much of the content comes from engaged residents who are invested in local issues.

Now, more than 1,000 communities have a site. Whether it’s a school committee decision, a power outage from a storm, or your neighbor’s tips on gardening, Patch aims to capture the spirit of a community from the ground up. So much so that its news is termed “hyper local.”

The Collaborative Services blog spoke with Patch co-founder Warren Webster about how his company is expanding in an age when most news organizations are contracting, and how social media has made their business model possible.

In recognition of the rise of social media, Time Magazine named "YOU" the person of the year in 2006. (Credit: Time Magazine)

In recognition of the rise of social media, Time Magazine named “YOU” the person of the year in 2006. (Credit: Time Magazine)

1. You began your career in the print newspaper and magazine world. In what ways is a Patch site like a traditional newspaper’s website, and how is it different?

Our goal from the beginning of Patch has been to add something new and needed to a community, not just to recreate the local newspaper.  Patch offers residents the most important news stories and events, which is similar to what a newspaper site does, except that our news and events are a blend of our own original reporting, contributed content from residents, and curated news collected from other sources.  A newspaper tends to be a one-way conversation: Reporter to reader.  Patch is a community platform where there are many opportunities for conversation:  resident to resident, business to resident, resident to Patch, etc.  Patch is also different because it is real-time, 24/7, and if something important is happening in a Patch neighborhood – storms, power outages, school closings, for example – you’ll know about it immediately.  Our mobile sites and emails are among the most popular ways people use Patch, so you might even say that we’re not simply a website.

2. What is the significance of the name “Patch”?

The name Patch represents your home turf, your patch of land, the place where you live.  Plus it’s kind of fun, and that’s an important element of our brand.

3. How does Patch use social media in its reporting, marketing, and reader engagement?

Social media is intertwined throughout Patch.  For example, each Patch site has a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, and these are substantial sources of traffic.  We use social media to promote our best content and things like contests and polls.  To us, social media is just another way for people to interact with Patch, in addition to the site, mobile, email, and so on.

4. Are there local issues you think Patch sites are better suited to cover than traditional news media, including local community newspapers?

I believe Patch has done some of its best work when something is happening fast, in real time, because we can react extremely quickly to keep people informed.  This happens every day on Patch, but one notable example is Hurricane Sandy.  More than 300 of our Patch communities were affected by the storm, and we had over 450 Patch editors and contributors covering it.  Our staff posted over 12,000 storm-related articles, including essential power, traffic and shelter updates on the site, on mobile, and through social media.  Residents themselves added over 50,000 comments and updates, and over 5,000 photos.  When power is out, Patch is still on, and we saw a 300% increase in mobile traffic and a 700% increase in mobile app downloads that week.  Patch is truly a lifeline. helped East Coasters share what was happening to their communities even when the power went out during Hurricane. (Credit: The New York Times) helped East Coasters share what was happening to their communities even when the power went out during Hurricane Sandy last October. (Credit: The New York Times)

5. When it comes to getting the word out about local events and issues, what methods has Patch found the most effective?

One of the great things about Patch is that people can interact with it however is most convenient for them.  Some people think of Patch as local email updates, while others use the site.  I think it’s the combination that is most effective.

6. To what extent does social media engagement drive what you cover? If certain stories are getting more comments or Tweets, are more resources put into it?

We definitely monitor closely what might be a hot topic on social media sites, and our editors are actively engaged in conversation with residents on these sites, so I would say yes, it definitely drives coverage to some extent.

Twitter helps editors track interest in stories (Credit: Twitter)

Twitter helps editors track interest in stories (Credit: Twitter)

7. Many Patch contributors are local residents who are invested in their community, but may or may not be trained as reporters. Do you think this was possible before social media?

Most, if not all of our local editors are either experienced journalists or journalism school graduates, or both.  But I would say that their ability to navigate the world of social media is a critical and necessary skill for our staff.  Contributors who are not full-time Patch staffers (such as bloggers, for example) might not have the same journalism credentials but bring a fantastic variety of voices and expertise to the sites.

8. What are the incentives to using residents as content providers? Are there any challenges?

Our local editors and the regional editors who manage them are all paid, full-time employees.  In addition to their original reporting we actively encourage contributions from residents in the form of bloggers, or simply allowing people to upload events, photos, videos, and other types of content directly to the site.  When we built in the blogging system, we were amazed by how quickly it was adopted.  We now have over 35,000 bloggers signed up.  There are many people in every community who value the opportunity to share their thoughts, ideas or expertise on things with a wider audience, and that is the primary incentive.  That said, we are always working to remind and encourage people to contribute more often, as it makes the sites more vibrant and active.

(Credit: Santee, CA Patch)

(Credit: Santee, CA Patch)

9. News organizations have historically had a difficult time convincing advertisers that ad space on a website is just as valuable as in print. How does Patch attract advertisers? How do you convince perspective ad buyers that online and mobile ads are valuable? Does social media play a role?

News organizations made a mistake early on, in my opinion, by devaluing their online offerings, giving them away in many cases as added-value or bundling them with print.  So it has been an uphill climb for them to drive up the value of their online display ads over time.  For us, it really comes down to one thing:  ROI for the advertiser.  If we can show a business owner that advertising online will drive offline, local behavior — visiting a store, buying something, attending an event, whatever action they are looking to inspire — we will have a customer for life who is willing to pay to be on Patch.  And we’re seeing significant success.  Our ad revenue more than doubled and is on a great trajectory so far in 2013.

10. How does your company decide when to give a town its own Patch? Is it based on population, engagement, something else?

Ultimately we feel like every community needs Patch.  When we first built Patch back in 2008, we knew we could launch anywhere.  As a start-up, still privately funded, we wanted to be very smart about where we went first.  So we looked at the elements of a community that would likely make us most successful as quickly as possible.  It was both an art and a science.  We built a 52 point algorithm weighing factors like household income, retail spend in the town, density of businesses, ranking of the local public high school (a strong school system likely has a very engaged group of parents supporting it), voter turn out and population.  We ran every census tract in America — all 66,000 — through the algorithm, plotted them on a map, looked for clusters (important for the way we manage the sites) and that gave us a list to start with.  Our first three towns, launched in February, 2009, were Maplewood, South Orange, and Millburn-Short Hills, NJ.  And now we have over 900 in 22 states.

An award-winning photo from the Huntington, NY Patch (Credit: Huntington Patch)

An award-winning photo from the Huntington, NY Patch (Credit: Huntington Patch)

Elizabeth Malloy, Associate

Collaborative Services, Inc.

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Our One Year Anniversary

Happy Birthday to us! This month, we are proud to celebrate one year of  delving into the people, technologies and techniques that make outreach possible.



We’ve been excited to explore the art of storytelling through interviews with people as diverse as scientists, marketers and bargain hunting moms. We asked about the difference between green, clean, and plenty of other words when we focused on how word choice affects a message. We spoke with people who aren’t afraid to Think Big, looked into different points of view on getting voters to the polls, celebrated the holidays around the world, and learned about public participation from modern Utah to colonial Boston. Most recently, we watched the watchdog with our peek into the changing world of the 4th Estate.

In addition to celebrating our blog’s birthday we also want to celebrate and thank all of our contributors from the past year:

  • Rich Cherry, Executive Director of the Balboa Park Online Collaborative
  • Jon Franklin, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper reporter
  • Ashley Kingsley, Co-founder of Daily Deals for Moms in Denver
  • Nedra Kline Weinreich, Professor of social marketing at UCLA’s School of Public Health and Founder and President of Weinreich Communications
  • Kendall Haven, a Senior Research Scientist, Storyteller and Author of the book, Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story
  • Caren S. Neile, the Founder and Director of the South Florida Storytelling Project at Florida Atlantic University
  • Peter Sokolowski, Editor-At-Large for Merriam Webster
  • Grant Barrett, a lexicographer specializing in slang and new words, and who co-hosts the public radio program “A Way with Words,” which is heard by a quarter-million people each week
  • Dave Wilton, who runs a website, called
  • Hiram Soto, an online multicultural marketing expert and content strategist at Captura Group
  • Alan Perlman, Ph.D., a forensic linguist
  • John Chew, the co-president of the North American Scrabble Players Association
  • Kristin Hansen, Sustainability Analyst at the University of California, San Diego
  • Christina Milesi, PhD., Research Scientist at the Ecological Forecasting Lab at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field in Silicon Valley
  • Cara Pike, Director of Climate Access
  • Daniel Tynan, Technology Writer and Contributing Editor for PC World and InfoWorld who also recently launched a new geek humor website titled eSarcasm along with partner JR Raphael
  • Scott Murray, an organic farmer and president of San Diego Slow Food
  • Jay Porter, owner of The Linkery, a popular farm-to-table restaurant in North Park, San Diego
  • Gary Bradski, Senior Scientist at Willow Garage, a robotics application incubator in Menlo Park, who also contributed to the blog
  • Virginia “Ginny” Greiman, the Risk Manager and Deputy Chief Counsel for Boston’s Central Artery/Tunney Project, known to all as the Big Dig. She’s now an Assistant Professor at Boston University, focusing on Megaprojects and Planning.
  • M. David Lee, a Partner with Stull and Lee Inc., a Boston-based architectural and planning firm.
  • Gianni Longo, the founding Principal of ACP Visioning + Planning
  • Ken Morgan, Chairman and CMO of Venger Wind, the company that constructed the nation’s largest rooftop wind farm at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City
  • René Poché, a public affairs official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District
  • Heather Grondin Manager of Communications and Issues Management for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation
  • Robert Brumley, the Senior Managing Director of Pegasus Global Holdings, the firm behind the so-called, “Billion Dollar Ghost Town,” which is actually named the Center for Innovation, Testing And Evaluation
  • Chrissy Faessen, Vice President of Communications and Marketing for Rock the Vote, which has been encouraging young people to register and vote for 21 years now
  • Rebekah Hook, a Public Policy Assistant here at Collaborative Services who volunteered as a poll worker in the June primary election
  • Jonathan Louth, a Political Scientist and Lecturer at the University of Chester in England who spoke of the merits of compulsory voting in elections
  • Scott Tranchemontagne, a representative for the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch, NH who spoke about this community’s great American voting tradition of being the first in the nation to cast their ballots at midnight at the resort
  • Martin P. Wattenburg, a Professor of Political Science at the University of California Irvine
  • Debbie Petruzzelli, Public Relations Manager for Balboa Park, who plays an essential role in the planning and execution of the annual December Nights festival
  • Jenelle Eli, Communications and Development Officer for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
  • Robert Carr, a former State Department employee who shared with us his experiences celebrating winter holidays in the many foreign lands where he has lived.
  • Gordon Kovtun Principal of KCM Group,
  • Kevin Fayles, Community Relations Manager for Envision Utah
  • Emily Curran, Executive Director of Boston’s legendary Old South Meeting House, the spot of some of America’s most famous debates, including the debate that launched the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution.
  • Larry Schooler, President-Elect of IAP2 USA. Mr. Schooler wears many hats, he oversees community engagement, public input, and conflict resolution projects for the City of Austin  and has also worked as a mediator, author, teacher, and reporter.
  • Jonathan Thompson, media-relations manager for the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
  • Angela Greiling Keane, president of the National Press Club
  • Philip Meyer, author of The Vanishing Newspaper

We look forward to continuing our dialogue in the months to come. This blog has reached more than 100 followers, and we encourage your feedback, comments and interaction. The key to outreach is reaching out!

Collaborative Services, Inc. Blog Team

Going Global Without Leaving Your Home



In February, we set out to meet the press, whoever that may be in 2013. For hundreds of years, the 4th Estate has been an integral part of democratic societies around the world, rooting out corruption, exposing injustice, and giving people the facts they need to make informed decisions in their communities and the voting booth

Recently though, the 4th Estate has undergone some drastic changes. Traditional business models are collapsing, and the idea of just who is a “reporter” has become scrambled. The Internet ushered in much of this change as it became prevalent in the mid 1990s. In fact, the first place to publish the name Monica Lewinsky was not CNN or the Washington Post, but the website Drudge Report.

A Drudge Report headline from Jan. 17, 1998. (Credit: Drudge Report)

A Drudge Report headline from Jan. 17, 1998. (Credit: Drudge Report)

Then, as the millennium turned and the squeals and squawks of dial-up modems gave way to lightweight wireless notebook computers and eventually smart phones, a whole new platform emerged that would make the dissemination of information quicker and easier than ever before: Social Media. Also called New Media. Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, YouTube and thousands of other sites made it easier than ever for the observations, opinions and photos of just about anybody to make their way to you. Traditional news outlets have worked to incorporate these technologies, with comments sections, iReporters and hashtag promotions. Others, like have gone even further, and built it into their business model.

Citizen journalists, or "iReporters" have become a staple on CNN, bringing a personal take on major stories. (Credit:

Citizen journalists, or “iReporters” have become a staple on CNN, bringing a personal take on major stories. (Credit:

It goes beyond journalism. Social media has allowed people, organizations and businesses to get the word out and generate a following directly. No newspaper, no reporter, no nobody needed for your story to be told. A global coffee shop bulletin board, new media enables aspiring musicians to reach a wide audience without label and radio support, politicians to speak directly to voters without costly advertising buys, and home craft makers to sell their goods around the world. Social media also makes quantifying the reach of a message easier and more scientific; counting clicks and likes is more accurate than estimating eyeballs on a TV screen.

In some countries, social media has even been the catalyst to revolution. Graffiti with words like “Thank you Facebook!” was scrawled around Cairo and Tunis during the Arab Spring of 2011, with protestors using new media platforms to communicate and stay one step ahead of the regimes that had oppressed their countries for decades. Revolutionaries credited social meeting with helping them circumvent the state run media that dominated everyday discourse, and broadcast both the location of rallies, and the ideas that drove them to people who were hungry for change, but couldn’t previously express it.

Twitter Cairo

This month, the Collaborative Services blog will delve into the brave new world of New Media. We’ll find out who uses it well, what they’re doing, and how it’s changed the game when it comes to outreach. While its effect may be most pronounced on older forms of media like newspapers and television, in truth social media has changed the game for anyone who has a message to get out. If that message topples a dictator, creates a flashmob at the local mall or let’s you know where your kids are around the clock, it’s a remarkable phenomenon in an increasingly connected world.

Elizabeth Malloy, Associate

Collaborative Services, Inc.

Changing the World One Story at a Time

Can storytelling do more than entertain us? Does it have even greater, more substantial powers? Can stories change the world, change our world, change us and even change our day-to-day behaviors? Yes.

An example: Cigarette smoking. It was once an accepted behavior. People smoked in restaurants, in college classrooms, in sports arenas. People even smoked in hospitals.

Tips from a Former Smoker Campaign
(Credit: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)

But all that changed as campaign after campaign was introduced to warn people of the dangers of cigarette smoking. And some of that was done by storytelling, including powerful images of people who suffered horrible consequences from smoking. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently started a campaign called, Tips from Smokers, which includes a man who had his larynx removed because of cancer. Here’s a link to the story.

A person who is incorporating the power of storytelling for social change is our next guest blogger, Nedra Kline Weinreich. Nedra teaches a course on social marketing at UCLA’s School of Public Health and she’s the founder and president of Weinreich Communications, a firm that is living up to its tag line – “Change For Good.” Weinreich is an expert in the field of social marketing. She is the author of the book Hands-On Social Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide and a prominent blogger on social marketing issues at the Spare Change blog.

Since 1995, the firm has helped a broad range of clients, including state and local health departments, nonprofit organizations and federal agencies. With the power of social marketing and storytelling, she has tackled health issues such as reducing tobacco use, preventing unintended pregnancies and protecting against domestic violence, as well as environmental issues, such preventing pollution and promoting alternative fuel vehicles.

We’re pleased to introduce you to Nedra and her thoughts about storytelling as a social motivator in marketing and communications.

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Your firm’s expertise is in helping people adopt change to improve their lifestyles. That’s sounds challenging, to say the least. How does storytelling help?
Getting people to change their behavior for the better is definitely a challenge! Storytelling is one approach of many — but a very powerful one! — that can make it more likely that someone will take action. Our brains are wired to respond to stories, and they can influence our thinking and behaviors in several different ways. When we read someone else’s story, we vicariously experience their challenges and learn by seeing the consequences of how they try to resolve the problems – both positive and negative. Research has found that our brains light up in the same spots as the actions taking place in the story! When the character runs, the brain’s “running center” is activated; when she is in danger, our own brain becomes more alert.

This means that characters modeling positive behaviors in the story and being rewarded for it, or overcoming common setbacks, can be very effective. Stories can also establish or reinforce social norms that support the behavior you are promoting; if the characters make healthy food choices or put sunscreen on over the course of the story, this can create the feeling that this is just what people do and so they should too. This is especially effective when the reader/viewer feels that the characters are very similar to themselves.

A recent randomized study of African American men with high blood pressure had one group view DVDs featuring videos of people like themselves telling their own stories of how they coped with having hypertension and keeping it under control. The other group watched DVDs with health segments from a TV news program. Those who had uncontrolled hypertension and watched the story-based DVDs achieved a drop in their blood pressure as significant as for those receiving medication in other trials. Now, that’s powerful!

Your firm uses something called “transmedia storytelling.” Can you explain what that is? It sounds a lot more than just a bedtime story.
Transmedia storytelling basically means telling different parts of a story across multiple platforms and media. It’s a way of making a story more immersive and interactive, turning the audience into participants rather than just passively reading or watching the narrative. Many movies and television shows (as well as marketers) are now using this approach to draw people into their story, on whatever platform the audience happens to be using. Shows like Heroes, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and movies like District 9, the upcoming Prometheus and others purposefully seed different story elements across media to draw people into the story in different places. So, a show might have some of the characters tweeting or posting to Facebook in real time, writing blog posts, uploading short videos to YouTube or sending text messages to participants; it might create a faux website for a key company in the story world, distribute business cards, put on a live event or offer an online game that gives you clues to get to the next part of the story.

I’m most interested in transmedia storytelling as a way of creating an immersive experience that makes positive health or social change more likely. To grab people’s attention, we need to have an engaging story with characters our audience can relate to. To spur action, we need to use proven behavior change models that provide a framework for the elements to include in the story arc. When we can make the different parts of the story appear where our audience spends its time, the characters can start to feel like trusted friends, and we can provide opportunities for interaction and participation. Social media is a great place to do this, with character tweets showing up in our audience’s Twitter stream, videos posted on their Facebook pages, and even things like a LinkedIn page that provides some backstory for a character or a Pinterest board that highlights the character’s interests and rounds them out to make them seem more real.

So I take it social media is vital for storytelling?
Social media has opened up many storytelling opportunities, particularly for non-profits, because of its ease of use and low cost. But it is by no means vital! Storytelling has been around since cavemen sat around the fire telling each other about the mammoth that got away. All you need are two humans, and the storytelling can happen. Face-to-face storytelling is certainly powerful, but so are books, videos, audio, comics and any of the other myriad ways people communicate with each other. When you combine different media, and tell stories from alternate points of view, it gets even more interesting.

Can you give me an example of a campaign you created that used storytelling?
I’ve been involved with UCLA and Health Net in developing a health-focused online social network for teens called T2X, for which we created an ongoing transmedia series called Club. We worked with a group of talented teen actors at a local performing arts high school to create a series of video episodes highlighting different topics related to health care literacy in a fun way. The story followed a fictional group of students who were in the school Health Club, and was shot in the mockumentary style of The Office. From those videos, we pulled out different story elements that augmented and provided more details related to the plot. For example, in the first video, one student is asked to search for some information online; we created a separate screencast with that student narrating as he “looked at” different websites and talking as he tried to figure out which were trustworthy. We created a humorous faux website for the doctor in one of the videos, complete with a working phone number and voice mail message. One of the students wrote and performed a song about whooping cough in a video, which tied into part of another episode. The characters all had accounts on the T2X social network, and posted updates that other characters and teen participants commented on.

T2X Website

Were you able to judge success?
The final evaluation of the T2X program, which will link use of the site and engagement with the transmedia series with actual healthcare utilization, is not yet complete. However, we do have some preliminary results based on some pre-post surveys linked to the Club content. We found that for the T2X members that engaged with the transmedia series, there was a 37% increase in health care literacy knowledge and 23% increase in intention to make a positive health change.

Do you have a favorite campaign? (It doesn’t have to be one of yours.)
One of my favorite examples of transmedia storytelling is the non-profit Invisible People (of which I am a board member). Mark Horvath, its founder, has single-handedly made a bigger difference in the issue of homelessness than many large organizations, simply by telling his own ongoing story and helping people who are homeless tell their stories through social media—in online videos, on Twitter and Facebook, via blogs, and on other sites. From a budget of essentially zero, Mark has inspired real change through the power of transmedia stories and attracted sponsors and extensive media coverage.

I also love what the Harry Potter Alliance is doing to extend the Harry Potter storyworld into the real world by harnessing the energy of fans to fight for social justice using analogies to events in the books. Its Deathly Hallows campaign took on seven real-world “horcruxes” to destroy, including child slavery, bullying, depression and more. Through its Imagine Better initiative, the HPA is now reaching out to other fandoms for social activism, starting with its current Hunger is Not a Game campaign.

What brought you into this line of work?
My background is in public health, and I’ve been working in the field of social marketing to create health and social change for about 20 years. Though communications are just one piece of a comprehensive social marketing approach, I’ve seen the power of the media to influence knowledge, attitudes and behaviors, and I believe stories are a powerful tool. As part of my work with the Entertainment Industries Council, we’re partnering with the entertainment and news media to influence attitudes toward people with mental illness, and the research we’re doing just reinforces how critical this piece of the puzzle is for creating lasting social change.

Would you know of anyone else who is using storytelling in a unique way?
There are many exciting projects going on right now that center on transmedia storytelling. Lina Srivastava, who coined the phrase “transmedia activism,” is doing some interesting work. The Tribeca Film Institute has been funding innovative transmedia documentaries and hosting related events. Many more fascinating people and projects are sharing what they’re doing in a Facebook group I founded called the Transmedia for Good Network, which everyone is invited to join (we currently have 440 members!).

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Mike Stetz, Senior Writer
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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The $4 Billion Mom Brigade

Ashley Kingsley is a social marketing whiz. It’s probably best to list the things she doesn’t do. Hmm. We’re stumped. She’s a social media marketing strategist, viral and grassroots marketing campaigner and renowned for her abilities when it comes to social networking and business development and start-ups. She’s also a writer, blogger, event planner and public speaker.

She co-founded Daily Deals for Moms in Denver, which grew into quite the enterprise and is now found in more than two dozen markets throughout the nation, including Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas and here in San Diego.

She’s a big believer in the power of storytelling and its use in social media marketing efforts. Her personal story is quite inspiring in itself. A mother of two children, she started Daily Deals for Denver Moms to help families on tight budgets get some much-needed spending relief and to support neighborhood-oriented small businesses at the same time.

The combination Ashley put together of storytelling, community-oriented economic development, and social media is why we asked the Denver resident to answer a few questions about her story and how she went from reaching one neighborhood to reaching a country of neighborhoods:

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Talk about being on the forefront of the social media world. You co-founded Daily Deals for Moms in Denver in 2010 and now it’s in 26 markets across the United States. How were able to see the potential in this?
I launched Daily Deals for Moms soon after Groupon and LivingSocial made an appearance. As a Mom, I knew, the deals that were being offered through the bigger channels were ones I couldn’t relate to. I was warming bottles and changing diapers, I didn’t need a ‘skydiving adventure.’ I needed deals on things I could relate to. Moms are the most powerful consumers in the world. I assumed there were a lot of Moms across the nation who were on the same page and wanted to save on things they needed.

Daily Deals for Moms Website
(Credit: Daily Deals for Moms)

You targeted moms. Why?
Moms are responsible for 4+ Billion in annual spending and make at least 85% of spending decisions for the household. It is the power of the purse!

Have you been able to incorporate storytelling techniques into your social media endeavors?
I always aim to create content into my social media strategies. People don’t want to just be “sold to.” They want to relate and typically buy into a way of life, or an idea based on content and presentation.

Was there a particular story that was compelling to your target market?
When I launched Daily Deals for Moms, I was determined to support small business all across the country. While building the company, day-by- day, I made certain that I didn’t run deals with big box stores and large conglomerates. Keeping capital local while sharing great deals with Moms and families across the country was my main mission. When this story was woven, and told, it was incredible how many people gravitated to it and its mission. We weren’t ‘just like everyone else’. We were doing good while offering something that people needed. This story was the fabric of our company. People love this story and we received a great deal of press because of it.

And what story did mom’s respond to the most/least?
We always made certain, that no matter what stories we were telling and sharing, that we used HUMOR. It was vital to the success of our company, our growth and to getting through to our audience.

Our audience did not respond to simple sales strategies and messages. If we didn’t engage without our Moms through conversation of some sort, sales didn’t convert.

Is it difficult to do?
I find it fairly easy to do, because I believe that transparency is of upmost importance. If I am honest and lay it on the line, there are no question marks. As a business and a person, I think it is imperative to ‘be who you say you are’ online and off.

In your opinion, what’s makes stories so powerful?
I believe the power of story unfolds in how relatable and accessible it is to the audience. A perfect stranger can touch the lives of hundreds and thousands, with relatable content.

Take the story of Zappos:
Zappos is an online shoe store. Carries all brands, sizes, colors. Simple. How can shoes be this interesting?

But the owner did something different…

Tony Hsieh, Founder of Zappos wanted not only to sell shoes, he was passionate about customer service, corporate culture and happiness. When Tony was asked, “what does happiness have to do with selling shoes?” He replied ,”At Zappos, our higher purpose is delivering happiness,” said Hsieh. Now this is a great story. And he is an amazing storyteller. “Whether it’s the happiness our customers receive when they get a new pair of shoes or the perfect piece of clothing, or the happiness they get when dealing with a friendly customer rep over the phone, or the happiness our employees feel about being a part of a culture that celebrates their individuality, these are all ways we bring happiness to people’s lives.”

Hsieh is a storyteller and he is also transparent which serves him very, very well. Hsieh has been able to turn shoe sales into a top rated experience and something really unique and special. He has done this through sharing stories, presenting, building his brand and staying true to his company culture, which celebrates the spreading of happiness.

He recently sold his company to for $928 Million.

You’ve left Daily Deals for Moms after giving it such a wonderful head start. So what’s your next project?
I would like to take everything I have learned in social media over the last eight years and bring it to companies who are eager to master the art of transparency and storytelling. There are a lot of companies out there who are not part of the conversation and really need to be. I would like to be that bridge.

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Thank you, Ashley. We look forward to hearing how your story continues.

Mike Stetz, Senior Writer
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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