Blog

We just completed an awesome series of events during SXSW in Austin.  We heard from leaders of key companies (Intel, Verizon), leading online companies (Twitter, Google),  leading thinkers (David Kirkpatrick/Techonomy, VJ Yoshi), leading innovators (Witricity) and leaders in media (Al Roker, Bloomberg).

We created this content capsule with our friends at NextWorks so that we could share the presentations, blog posts, videos and photos with you directly.  This is designed so that you can share it internally with your teams or simply share it with your network via social channels.

On behalf of our partners at Sysomos, DataSift, Clarabridge, Business Wire, SprinklrBayer and Synthesio, we hope you can join us next year at our PreCommerce Summit, GeekFest and Geek-a-Cue.  In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the summary of what we have learned from some of the smartest people in our business.

Enjoy, Bob




mike marinelloAs I mentioned in our set up post for our PreCommerce thought leader series, we will be interviewing several of our speakers in advance of our events the week of March 9. Next up is Mike Marinello, Head of Global Communications, Technology, Innovation and Sustainability at Bloomberg.  For more information about our events during SXSW, go here.

Michael is a member of Bloomberg LP’s corporate communications team, currently responsible for a cross-platform positioning and reputation effort that he created for the Technology, Innovation and Design organization at Bloomberg (R&D and Office of the CTO). He recently also created and now leads Bloomberg’s Brand Integration efforts, working more strategically and pro-actively with the entertainment industry. Before moving to Bloomberg LP, Michael managed the brands and created the communications operations and social and digital platforms for both Bloomberg Philanthropies and the C40 Cities Climate Group (at the time Chaired by then NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg). Prior to that he was at Microsoft for four years, working in communications for Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA), and then running communications and analyst relations for Office (enterprise).

Now onto the interview:

You’ve had an interesting journey career wise including stints working in politics and a VERY large software company. Can you tell us about your journey?
It has been an interesting journey. I never started out with a specific plan. Well I actually had one initially. From the time I was in seventh grade I wanted to be an architect. I took private study and all types of classes and went to Lehigh University as an architect major… But when I actually started to study to become one – for real – I didn’t like it at all. So I dropped it and moved to International Relations. Yeah, that was the last time I ever had a real defined career plan. But I digress… Seriously though, while my path does not look linear on paper, each experience led to the next either directly or indirectly. So for me it has felt like a natural career path from the US Senate, to a Microsoft consultant, to building my own agency practice at GCI and then head of Corporate Development, to starting the corporate PR function for Becton Dickinson, to being in-house at Microsoft and now my transition from creating and running comms for Bloomberg Philanthropies and C40 to my current job at Bloomberg LP. While not initially intended, the one constant has been creating, building, growing and expanding a communications operation. Those experiences have really taught me the business – and business value — of communications. Not a lot of people get that chance. But I have led a professionally entrepreneurial career, love that part of my work and have enjoyed (almost) every minute of it. My Mom once asked me why I do what I do, and I told her “because I get paid for being me.” Which doesn’t suck. (That was her response…)

Your talk at PreCommerce is going to focus on turning communications outcomes into business values. Can you give a preview?
Well, it goes back to what I was just saying. Having had a long history of building and running communications operations, I have learned great lessons about the business of and business value communications brings to a company, a brand or a client. And I think that gets lost a bit. I stumbled on it, so trust me I’m no genius. Maybe just fortunate to have learned it early. Our discipline – primarily those new to it – should think of ourselves as business units not strictly service centers. So I hope some of what I talk about will get folks – even if just a few – rethinking their approach to creating business value, not just communications outcomes.

What are your thoughts on the rising importance of Storytizing (using the art of storytelling via paid, earned and shared channels)?
Well you know me, and I have always been a huge fan of storytelling so it is not new to me or more important than say a decade ago. However, what is exciting to me is that we have so many different ways to tell stories and reach our audiences directly and unfiltered. That is exciting and something that constantly challenges me and my team – to be more creative and innovative in our approach because we now have so many tools and outlets to tell our stories. The trap to avoid however is telling the same stories on multiple channels, or at least trying to tell them the same way. What works on Twitter, might not work on our blog or Facebook, or it might work but it needs to be retooled for that audience and platform. That is the challenge we face every day – what’s the platform, what’s the audience, how do we tell the best story keeping both in mind…

How do you see the world of communications evolving over the next five years.
Wow. No idea. Really… What I’d like to see though in five years is a whittling down of social media platforms. There are too many right now, and I think there is a lot of noise and activity and not a lot of outcomes. So I’m hoping in the next five years we have a shake out of the platforms that really matter and those that don’t. Sure there will always be disrupters. I love that. But I just don’t want to see more of the same… Honestly though as practitioners –no matter the number of platforms– we still have to understand the different platforms and utilize the ones that are most relevant to us either because of audience or business objective. So even though I’m hoping to see fewer platforms (does that make me lazy? old? both?) our need to understand them and utilize them accordingly won’t change.

I know you attended SXSW last year since you were at a number of our events. What was your biggest takeaway?
My biggest take away – and I’m serious here – is that the Pre-Commerce event proved to be a great “community event” re bringing like-minded comms professionals together to listen to and learn from one another. That was great.  So I would love to see a “comms startup” community spur from this year’s event. Quarterly maybe? Bloomberg/W2O sponsored? Also, my biggest takeaway was that I should have paid more attention to the gaming thingy going on in the room. I paid no attention and ended up coming in like second place. Had I actually paid attention maybe I would have beaten that dude from Coke. Did I just say that? Is this mic still hot? Wow, I’m just riffing now and failing miserably at everything I ever taught in media training classes… Next question.

What is a trend that you expect (or hope) to see talked about most at SXSW this year and why?
Not sure, but I just pray it isn’t “Big Data” – I’m “Big Data-ed” out quite frankly…

There are three certainties in life… death, taxes and the fact that our company, W2O Group, will once again be hosting some awesome events during SXSW Interactive. Unless you live under a rock, you know this is one of the largest interactive conferences on this planet. Over 100,000 of the top digital, social and mobile minds from around the world haling from companies large and small, agencies, startups, etc. come to Austin, TX to network, attend panels and catch up on the latest trends. Many of these attendees are influential bloggers, senior marketing and communications professionals and journalists who report back on who is doing what in the interactive space.

Because a significant number of our clients at W2O Group (WCG, Twist and BrewLife) are now involved with SXSW Interactive, over the last six years we have developed a series of events during SXSW that complement all of the activities that go on during that time. Our signature event, the PreCommerce Summit, takes place on March 12 (Thursday) from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and is packed with speakers from well-known brands like H&R Block, Google, Twitter, Verizon, Intel and Bayer. We will also have thought leaders from companies like Techonomy, NBC and Bloomberg providing industry insights. Did we mention that we are honored to have none other than Al Roker, co-anchor of the Today Show, and a special fireside chat between Tech moguls, David Kirkpatrick (author of The Facebook Effect) and Vyomesh “VJ” Joshi (former EVP of printing at Hewlett Packard)?

We are interviewing a number of these speakers on our blog here.

ALRoker

Jon Harris (former head of comms at Hillshire Brands and media personality), will be interviewing Al at our event. You can hear more in our Live from Stubbs interview with Jon here on what he and Al will cover.

This event will be attended by about 400 plus customers and other industry thought leaders. A cocktail reception will follow. The event is complementary, but invite only. If you are interested in attending, please email us at info@w2ogroup.com. In that email, be sure to provide name, title and company. We will also be live streaming the event via UStream if you can’t physically be there. Registration is open to the public (RSVP here).

We will also host a digital brunch at our (not so) new office located in East Austin. If you like food trucks (hint: Gordoughs will be one), music, cocktails and lost of interesting people, you will enjoy this.

Every SXSW, we do our best to cover “what’s next” in digital. This year, we’re planning to host our first GeekFest on Saturday at The Austonian between 10am – 2pm. We have 12 speakers including Becky Brown, VP of media at Intel and TK Keanini, CTO of Lancope to give 15 minute talks with some time for Q&A every 3-4 talks. We will have no more than 70 people in attendance. This event is being sponsored by Synthesio.

In addition to our PreCommerce Summit (selected talks from last year’s event), Digital Brunch and Geekfest, we will also host our sixth annual Geek-a-Cue Saturday night at the historic Charles Johnson House (on the Colorado River). This is the house MTV uses to host its SXSW Music parties so you know it’s good. We were sad to not host our Geek-a-cue for a fourth time at world famous Franklin’s BBQ, but with their new expansion we simply ran out of room. Not to worry, however, because we are pleased to bring you one of Austin’s newest gems, Terry Blacks. While we won’t pretend anyone can cook brisket like Aaron Franklin… the Black brothers (their grandfather is Terry Black who opened Blacks in Lockhart 83 years ago) come pretty damn close.

Oh, did we mention that we have two AMAZING bands this year as well? For openers, we’ll have Austin favorite, Monte Montgomery. And then for our main act, we are featuring Black Joe Lewis (yes, that Black Joe Lewis that has appeared on Letterman and countless music festivals).

Check out my 2014 wrap up post to get a better flavor of the awesomeness you will experience this year.

Here are eventbrite links/descriptions of the events:

  • Friday, March 13th: Digital Brunch (400+ director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)
    • RSVP Here (no password required)
    • 3000 East Cesar Chavez, Austin
    • 10:00 AM – 2 PM
    • Food trucks, music, innovative demos, coffee, brunch, and mimosa/Bloody Marys to fuel your first festival day
    • Shuttles available from the Stephen F. Austin Hotel starting at 9:45am
  • 6th Annual Geek-a-cue: Saturday, March 14th:  (800 director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)
    • RSVP Here (password required – email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
    • Charles Johnson House – 404 Atlanta Street, Austin, TX
    • 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
    • Roundtrip shuttle available from the Stephan F. Austin Hotel starting at 4:45 PM
    • To RSVP contact info@w2ogroup.com (space is limited)

As you can imagine, space is limited at these events so please make sure to RSVP soon. And if you do RSVP and decide after that you can’t make it, please be courteous and let us/me know that your slot is available.

We are over-the-moon excited to have Sysomos, DataSift, ClarabridgeSprinklr, Businesswire and Bayer as our sponsors this year. We greatly appreciate their support.

When I was in journalism school in New York, in the 1990s, one of my classes took a field trip to Bloomberg News, then an upstart wire service. After our tour, we had a q-and-a session Bloomberg’s editor in chief, Matt Winkler. The first question to Winkler was a good one: what was Bloomberg’s best scoop in its young history. Winkler’s response was immediate: one of his reporters was the first to report that tobacco companies were in settlement talks with state attorneys general. As I remember Winkler’s tale, the reporter had literally tracked down top attorneys general in the woods, hurried back and filed the story on a Saturday night. It was hours before the competition matched the news, a major feather for Bloomberg.

“But wait,” my classmate interjected. Who, exactly, was reading the Bloomberg wire at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night? Or, to be cliched about it, if a story breaks in a forest and there is no one to read it, does it really matter?

The famously tempestuous Winkler’s face reddened. “You’d better believe Ted Turner is watching our wire on a Saturday night.” Pause. “Or he pays someone to watch us!”

Winkler’s point was simple: important people read what Bloomberg had to say. Readers paid tens of thousands of dollars to be in the know, and Bloomberg was 100 percent dedicated to serving that small group. They didn’t need a million eyeballs. All they needed was the attention of Ted Turner and a handful of other moguls, execs and investors. And for those folks, the tobacco scoop justified the cost of the content.

I’ve been thinking back to that early interaction with Winkler lately as the evidence has piled up that the future of the newspaper industry will be funded on the back of digital subscribers: those who have anted up (or will ane up) to be let through a paywall. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellent in Journalism says that 450 daily newspapers in the United States have a paywall in place. And Newspaper Association of America said that digital-only subscription revenue jumped 275 percent last year. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a business model.**

This has major implications for how we can examine influence online. There’s still an assumption that the valuable content is the content that’s shared (for an in-depth look at the future of viral news, check out the New York profile of BuzzFeed), but creating viral isn’t the only way to success. The other path, the Bloomberg-esque path, is to create content that’s so valuable that people will pay for it. The knee-jerk reaction used to be that, in a world of nearly infinite information sources, no content was worth actual cash money when there were free alternatives. But that thinking is out the window, disproved by the 640,000 New York Times digital subscribers, the 1.3 million Wall Street Journal digital subscribers, and the thousands of readers at smaller papers who are also voting with their pocketbooks. (Heck, the Rutland (VT) Herald has 5,200 digital subscribers. Not bad for town with a population of 4,954.)

This is good news. It frees newspapers, somewhat, from the tendency to serve up stories that are “viral” or “shareable,” which is altogether different from what is influential, in the traditional sense of the word. As I write this, the most-shared Buzzfeed post is a series of photos of a baby surrounded by bulldog puppies. The New York Times’ most-blogged content over the past week, in contrast, was a preview of President Obama’s budget. People who follow the Buzzfeed trends are likely to be popular with their friends on Facebook, but are going to have a limited impact on society. Those who are reading paid content, on the other hand, those are the people who will be busy moving the world.

(Of course, paywalls are porous and, of course, nearly all web content remains free. But in an era where quick decisions and in-depth information are increasingly prized, those who find workarounds to search for information will be at a disadvantage to those who have it delivered, fresh and unrestricted, to the device of their choice.)

The rise of paid online content and, more important, the rise of an influencer class that is consuming this information, has the potential to re-shape online authority, putting power back in the hands of those with the credit cards. In 1997, when the Bloomberg settlement story broke, the most influential people in the tobacco world were the ones who paid thousands of dollars to have a Bloomberg Terminal on their desks. Today, as in 1997, if you want to be an influencer, you’re going to have to pay for it.

** I’m ignoring the fact that the growth in subscription revenue doesn’t come close to offsetting the still-plummeting advertising revenue. There will clearly be more pain in the years to come. But it’s also clear that subscription dollars are likely to be a stable source of revenue for the foreseeable future.