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With this quote by Jack Welch, Bob Pearson finished his talk at the W2O PreCommerce Summit in London today. The President and Chief Innovation Officer at W2O Group, encouraged the audience to remain nimble to be able to adapt to future trends and changes and shared some of his insights into tomorrow’s world of brands, customers and media.

As described in his book PreCommerce, Bob sees the biggest value for brands in decreasing the distance to their customers and focus on pre-commerce phase vs. the actual point of sale: Only those who are able to listen, will be able to respond and adapt to market needs – maybe even before those needs actually exist.

The digital age definitely enabled brands to be much closer to their target audiences than ever before; however, the structures, relationships and stakeholders, as we have known them for years, will no longer exist in the future. Bob Pearson summarizes this development in four key game changing trends:

  1. Our Definition of Audience Is Changing

If we look at the 1-9-90 model, we can clearly see the former content creators and outlets are no longer as relevant in the online conversation as the 9%, which we define as brand advocates, those who spend their time inside social media channels, who are part of strong peer groups and, who add their views to existing content, that will share the future of your brand’s or company’s story. With this development, the audience is now more important than the outlet.

  1. The PESO model is flipping

As the 9% grow in importance, so does earned and shared media. This requires us to integrate a new media planning model that defines an insight-driven social media channel and influencer strategy, which roles out into campaigns, content and experiences. As part of this model, paid media amplification remains an important part to break through the “noise”, but it will follow conversations and communities more than news.

  1. Markets Don’t Wait for Campaigns Anymore

Digital conversation is dynamic and to be able to participate, brands need to be agile. Providing customers with what they need, where they need it and when they need it, is a challenge that includes our creative approach. Those brands who are able to use data and respond to trends in real-time, with content dynamically changing based on interest, will make the 365 campaign become real.

  1. Micro Segmentation Replaces “Personas”

Or in Bob’s words “We always knew that top-down persona-driven segments of “five audience types” was wrong”. With each person and each audience having their own media ecosystem, the roll-up of these ecosystems defines the media network. In order to customize content to their target audiences, brands need to understand how the audience and their attention are fragmented. Therefore, the future media leaders will excel in audience architecture.

About Bob Pearson

Bob Pearson is President and Chief Innovation Officer at W2O Group. Bob has a unique combination of social media, marketing and communications skills acquired during nearly 25 years at three Fortune BobPearson500 companies and a major consultancy. In 2011, he published his book “Pre-Commerce: How Companies and Customers are Transforming Business Together”, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. He is currently working on his next book, which will be available in March 2016. “Storytizing” will focus on the importance of creating a compelling and at the same time relevant narrative for your brand.

At today’s PreCommerce Summit, Colin Foster wanted to know from Dina Rey, Head of Digital Group at Roche, Anna Gruebler, Data Scientist and Software Engineer at Altviz, Jessica Federer, Chief Digital Officer at Bayer, and Anita Yuen, Global Head of Digital Fundraising at UNICEF, how digital has influenced the well-being of society.

Pharma_Panel

 4 Key Takeaways

  • Digital content is driven by the business and therefore it is important to prioritize the business’ value as well as its medical or commercially related objectives
  • The greatest challenge to creating an integrated digital strategy is in finding the right people. But it is also the most rewarding to find those people. As Jessica Federer explained, “Find the people who will open the doors, step through and lead it.”
  • It is crucial to have strong leadership – a digital champion – who believes in digital with or without evidence in order to open doors and be willing to innovate and disrupt the status quo. The most important factor is being able to speak both languages and being able to talk about the data from a marketing and the science perspective.  Therefore it can be irrelevant whether a digital marketer is male or female, a scientist or an engineer.
  • Digital enables organizations to engage external people to bring about digital transformations. By being able to improve touch points and interfaces with organizations and foundations, digital allows an improvement in the way we connect with the different stakeholders. This creates more traction and engagement with all stakeholders and enables us to impact well-being.

When discussing whether it is better to have people who know the business and teach them digital or have digital experts and introduce them to the business, the panel was in agreement that both types of people are needed. You need people who know the business objectives, but you need the geeks that will inform them.

Data, or more specifically Big Data, was the focus of Anna Gruebler’s talk at the #PreCommerce Summit in London today. While we may be aware of its omnipresence, it is its use that is of interest; most of us are not even aware of what is at our disposal, especially in the area of healthcare.

For example IBM’s Watson Health, one of the world’s biggest ‘super computers’, aims to give healthcare professionals better access to data to support the delivery of patient care. This computer strives to combine ‘Explory’s technology with IBM’s powerful Health Cloud and Watson’s cognitive capabilities, to expand the reach of health insights so that big data can finally be used more easily to transform healthcare.’

ANNA                                      ANNA2

However we must also remember the challenges that data in the healthcare sphere poses.

  • First and foremost, the sheer volume of data that is out there, it all needs storing.
  • Secondly, data’s velocity. We are taking, sharing and storing more and more.
  • Thirdly, data’s variety. Pictures, text, data mining, audio, the options are endless.
  • Fourth, and potentially most crucially, veracity. Is the data that we are collecting and storing actually accurate? Does the data that we have gathered reflect the actual user behavior that we’d like it to? How do we ensure that it is accurate?

This is especially crucial regarding the UK’s proposed Care.Data scheme. An opt-out scheme, this will save an individual’s personal health data in order to make it accessible to the likes of healthcare practitioners. While this may be useful if my pharmacist needs my doctor’s notes, it would also mean that my potential health insurer would know all about my medical history… And what if, when considering veracity, that data isn’t accurate?

We still have a long way to go…

In Texas, we would say “Nancy Zwiers?  Yeah, she’s done a few things in her life”.  Typical Texas understatement, of course.  Nancy has held multiple executive positions for Mattel, the #1 toy company in the world; she led worldwide marketing for Mattel’s $2 billion Barbie doll brand; she re-launched Polly Pocket and grew the #1 Cabbage Patch brand.  And she has advised clients ranging from Disney to Hasbro to Spin Master about the area of kids and play.  Yeah, Nancy knows a few things.

So we thought this Millennials Unplugged should be an interview with Nancy to learn more about youth marketing and what it all means.  Here’s excerpts from our talk.

Q: You were selling over 100 million Barbie’s a year, inventing new Barbie’s and learned a lot about what matters.  What did you learn about how we think as kids? 

A: I like to say that we had big data before there was big data—with so many transactions, we were able to see patterns that others missed that helped us develop our understanding of “Core play patterns.” These play patterns are amazingly consistent across time, geography, and culture.  We have concluded that play comes from the inside out.  It is a biological drive.  If you tap into these core play patterns, you are more likely to be successful in engaging kids.

 Q: That’s fascinating.  We always think we are so unique.  Why are we actually so similar?

A: Play is nature’s way to ensure we learn what we need to learn to survive.

For example, the original play pattern is “exploration & discovery,” which starts at birth—or maybe even before.  It’s innate in us and it drives us to explore our environment.  As we grow up, that same play pattern is fueled by curiosity and the little thrill that goes with each new discovery. 

Q: Very cool.  What are some examples we can relate to?

A: Reading flows from this play pattern.  Our desire to travel is a form of exploration & discovery.  Scientists feel like they are playing as they are driven to explore their scientific fields.  We want to learn in order to survive and we play to discover and learn.  The second play pattern we all share is “challenge & mastery,” which is at the heart of sports and most game play.  It drives us outside of our comfort zone to help us grow.

Q: How is entertainment viewed compared to play?

A: Entertainment flows the opposite direction of play.  It comes from the outside in.  That said, the new “discoverability” of entertainment content is a manifestation of exploration & discovery.  Further, the more entertainment is interactive, the more the lines are blurred between entertainment and play. 

Q: We realize it’s hard to ask you what your favorite toy has been…..but we will……

A: My favorite toy of all time is Barbie.  And the most innovative Barbie dolls are the ones that I like the most.  We created the first radio-controlled Barbie (Dance n Twirl Barbie), Becky the first “differently abled” friend for Barbie, the first mass customized doll (University Barbie) and even Barbie’s baby sister, Kelly, so we could facilitate the nurturing core play pattern.

Q: What’s the importance of nurturing as it relates to toys? 

A: Girls, especially, are irresistibly drawn to nurturing play—whether a baby doll or a pet.  Girls are also drawn to toys that let them explore what beauty means to them—think fashion dolls and arts & crafts. Frozen’s famous star Elsa personifies girls’ beauty fantasies.

Q:  What happens when we grow up? 

A: Our behaviors change but the drive behind them stays the same, so instead of Chutes and Ladders or Candyland, now we play with X Box or Minecraft.  You know, boomers didn’t have as many opportunities to play with a wide range of toys.  We only had a few TV channels*, but we were ok with that.  Now, kids and millennials have a wide range of toys and they see play as digital or physical.  Plus, they have an expectation that we can personalize our play experiences.  Customization and interactivity are the big things.

Q: When we think of the movies, what is happening when we love a character?

A: We find that you need an aspirational lead character that is also relatable.  Aspirational means “I want to be like her/him.” and relatable is “He/she is like me.”  These are the characters we most want to play out fantasies with. The real life Princess Diana illustrates this.  She was actually a princess, she was beautiful AND she had flaws.  Having a weakness makes us love characters more.  Think of Superman and kryptonite.   One quick note:  In the key imaginative play years of children from 3-6 years old, they will often fantasize with a toy/character that often reflects gender stereotypes.  Many adults think this should change but it is part of an overall process of developing one’s identity. 

Q: What is the future of the toy industry?

A: 3D printing will have a big impact on the toy industry…..digital (and physical arts) and crafts will grow…..kids are getting more focused on wanting to express themselves more……the need to differentiate from our peers is growing….customization and personalizing experience is important.  The Internet of Things will have powers we never realized.  Imagine a new 3D view master with augmented reality or having Siri-like interaction with dolls?  Or learning how a child is using a toy and then suggesting what else they may like based on sensors in the toy itself, sending back data to headquarters that is meaningful. 

Q: Nancy, what was your favorite toy growing up?

A: It was my microscope.  I loved it.  I still remember what my hair looked like under the microscope.

Thank you Nancy, this was fantastic.  Very insightful!

Brittany Pearson (millennial) and Bob Pearson (boomer)

*Bob’s favorite Saturday shows were Speed Racer and Jonny Quest. 

Social media is my quickest way to discover my world daily. I use it as an aggregator for work-related knowledge, client monitoring, traditional news, my personal interests for everything from tech to fashion, my boys’ schools and sports teams, networking, my close friends and more. There is a reason behind each like or follow.

I always tell people to consider the websites they visit each morning. Maybe you go to the New York Times, Amazon to see the deals of the day, your kids’ school page and ESPN. If you have all of those in your Facebook feed and/or a Twitter list, you would have one source to see all the things that interest you. Build out your interests in one place. It’s a huge time saver – think your news in real time.

As social media became popular, billions of people shifted their habits. For example, as Facebook became a go-to, brands wanted to be there telling stories just like the Wall Street Journal is. And brands can have a two-way conversation with people versus marketing via TV, for example, which is one-way. This was all fascinating to me and quite relatable. I see social media for brands as the modern newsroom to create stories – perfect as content consumption is still on the rise. And for one’s personal brand, brands have a unique opportunity to give the nine-percent sharable content.

For context, I initially hated that my major at Xavier University would be in “Electronic Media.” What’s electronic media? I was focusing on television and radio, but “electronic” seemed so odd. In the years to come, I would simply tell people that I majored in communications with a focus on television to avoid the confused look on their faces. Now electronic media makes total sense. So ironic.

Television news was perfect for me right out of school. I can remember the high of constantly scouring the newspaper and feeds for a story – thinking it through to make the content relevant to our audience. The news feed was never-ending and in real time. There was always something to read and learn. Who knew how this would prepare me for a life in digital marketing of the future? And I’m especially grateful for the skills that I honed using video and pictures to help tell my stories.

Like news, social media happens in real time. Brands can’t wait until tomorrow to react, because the trend will probably be old news or in modern terms “not trending” anymore. I help brands to plan out their posts in an editorial calendar, but leave room for agile, responsive content. Think of it in terms of how CBS has “60 Minutes” for stories that they have more time to develop versus the evening news each night. Both are important. Both are agile though.

A newsroom approach is a shift for brands who are often still chained to traditional marketing mindsets full of TV commercials, banner ads, etc., or working in silos within the organization. Telling stories with a newsroom approach partially means not just telling stories about yourself. Nobody “likes” that guy, brands; he gets defriended. It’s more about working the conversation at a cocktail party, or with your boss, asking the right questions and adding to a great topic with your point of view or related experience. If your story is good enough, others will want to go research it more and share it. Think water cooler conversations. Influencers talking about a brand is always better than the brand saying it themselves.

For activation of the influencer, there is not a day at work that goes by that I don’t utilize my television newsroom skills, which led me into PR, marketing and technology. I need the story or point of view to be sharable to live on. When social media was born, I felt like somebody rolled together all the things that I loved into one. Brands are still evolving with the change in mindset. I feel lucky to coach them on thinking social and digital first as the social assets can’t just be chopped from that multi-million-dollar TV commercial. For influencers and targeting of content, social also now requires the funding that traditional marketing has paid for years for influence. Yes, that means paid social that’s smart thanks to analytics for a laser-focused ROI. And shifting marketing dollars for social because you get what you pay for even in social. And what about employees as brand advocates – have you tapped them?

It’s a very exciting time to work with brands. They are being reborn in a new space that changes quickly. Early adoption and being flexible to try new things has never been more prevalent and necessary.

The fruits of my efforts are literally at your fingertips for you to consume while second-screening during a movie on Netflix, while waiting to pick your child up from ball practice, picking a restaurant from a food blogger, while Googling brand info during that pre-commerce moment and so many other places. I love change. My job won’t be what it is today in five years, but it’s my duty to be ahead of wherever we go. Influencers will continue to influence more as people consume more content than ever. I’ll find new ways to serve creative whether that’s on SnapChat, Tinder, Vine, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or who knows what. It’s the first thing I do when I wake up each day and the last thing I do before I fall asleep. I’m watching and thinking about what we should do next.

On September 14th, during London’s Social Media Week, a global panel of social experts from across industries will converge in London for the #PreCommerce summit, hosted by W2O EMEA, with a special focus on how we work, live and create in the digital time. If you’re on that side of the pond, don’t miss it. Thanks for learning how social media has forever changed my world and your world through our clients. Keep evolving. You’ll always have a new story to tell.

headshotColleen Hartman, a 1993 “Electronic Media” graduate from Xavier University, can be found on Twitter at @Miss_Colleen and on various other social channels. Be sure to see her LinkedIn profile which documents her journey from newsroom to PR to marketing to sports to technology to the combination of all of those which she now calls social media. She is a director for W2O Group where she finds success helping brands use sharable, visual social media with a newsroom mindset.

Snapchat has increasingly become a topic of discussion among brands in terms of driving business value and ROI. It has evolved since our initial evaluation of it in 2014, citing it’s lack of data tracking and its ephemeral nature, but it still has some gaps to fill. Our team has some strategic ideas around optimizing the platform currently and some that could hopefully come to life in the near future. You can view the complete list of insights here and below:

 

#1 If Snapchat can provide full transparency on users of their service, advertising can be done in an appropriate and highly focused manner. The data can be anonymized to respect privacy, while still achieving targeting goals. This data must be accessible to the brands advertising. It cannot be held only by Snapchat, since it is critical for planning.

  • IDEA — Open up a limited API, ala Facebook’s 30 days of data – brands must be able to access anonymized data to plan. Facebook has shown the way on how to do this and still preserve the integrity of the data.

#2 – Work with brands to develop relationships with Snapchat Stars – we all know the power of influencers. The stories feature of Snapchat is where influencers are emerging that have major impact for a brand. These stars are similar to what is occurring on YouTube, Vine, Instagram and other channels. For example, if BRAND X focused on beauty brands and emerging influencers for make-up tips, how- to’s for skin care and other related topics, this increases authenticity, supports the drivers of Snapchat traffic and helps your brand understand who has influence in Snapchat vs. other channels.

  • IDEA– Enable a brand to work directly with influencers in a category – this leads to more targeted earned and paid media; it helps the influencers gain additional influence; and it adds much needed authenticity for any advertiser. It is widely believed that advertising alone will not be accepted by the Snapchat audience, so new models of partnership are key to success.

#3 – Create a “Snap to Buy” feature – we need ROI. If Snapchat creates a “snap to buy” feature where users can purchase products or download important buying information for later use, we can better track funnel activity. This can work for a brand by partnering with emerging stars, “map” them discussing a topic, provide the option to buy direct (within the chat), and deliver directly or to a local outlet. For consumables, this scenario could generate simple couponing or co-marking opportunities.

#4 – Develop new content partnerships between talent, media networks and brands – a traditional ad won’t work in Snapchat. However, new models can open up opportunities. In other words, brands will sponsor other brands. Snapchat’s new media service called Discover, which will host branded propertieis for Yahoo, People, Cosmopolitan, the Food Network, Daily Mail, Vice, CNN and others.

  • IDEA – an example can be given for a TV show and a BRAND X brand. BRAND X works with the talent on a TV show. The talent on this show then Snapchats on a key topic that also includes the BRAND X brand. This would be a powerful way to integrate great content, keep the topic aligned with Snapchat user’s interests and work in a brand appropriately.

#5 – Innovate in geo-location – Snapchat is already innovating with picture filters automatically uploaded from your location.  Since interaction with geo-location based content is already accepted by Snapchat users, we think of new ways to build value.

  • IDEA 1– this is purely a matter of creativity.  We could create a contest based on geo-location use of certain backgrounds.  Once a certain level of use is reached, prizes are made available.  New filters that are highly topical could be provided by BRAND X brands, e.g. Olympics and any sports-related shots for certain sports, however the backgrounds feature the local athletes for that user to make it more personal. Or BRAND X sponsors Movember with idea that men are all shaving in the near future.  And on and on.
  • IDEA 2 – align Snapchat content from brands down to the store level.  If the retail networks of a country are aligned to geo-location, BRAND X can offer unique content and coupons/offers at the zip code level and you can snap to buy and it goes right to your closest store.

#6—Improve how “Stories” is handled within Snapchat – the “Stories” experience does not appear integrated with how users typically use the app, which is to interact with friends.

    • Stories are essentially paid content from brands in the Snapchat app
    • Most of the time, people use Snapchat to interact with friends
    • Stories do not appear “inline” when you interact with friends, but rather only if you go to Explore —> Discover in the app, which is a couple clicks off the beaten path
    • This is like moving paid content on cnn.com off the front page and into a section called “Paid Content”
    • If brands are having success, that’s what matters — but it’s an odd way to integrate paid

#7 – Partner with users to create a “brand studio” – populate the studio within Snapchat with brand content (images, video, quotes and other content) that can be used by anyone.  And encourage users to add their own ideas, make requests and participate in making each brand studio as cool as it can be.

  • IDEA – co-create content with communities directly.

Innovative ways brands are using Snapchat:

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

All the best,

Bob Pearson

gayleAs I mentioned in our set up post for our PreCommerce thought leader series, we are interviewing several of our speakers during our events the week of March 9. Next up is Gayle Fuguitt, CEO of the Advertising Research Foundation. For more information about our events during SXSW, go here.

Gayle became the first woman to lead The ARF when she became CEO and president in April 2013. She spent 32 years at General Mills, where she was lauded for bringing the voice of the consumer to the decision table. She has served on the board and executive committee of The ARF from 2005 to 2012.

[Aaron Strout] How is the advertising industry changing (beyond the obvious)?
[Gayle Fuguitt] The future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed”  (William Ford Gibson). We are obviously in a fragmented, dynamic, complex world filled with new fears like bots and fraud, but it’s more important to see the amazing opportunities that have been created for marketers today, and I’d like to make that distinction:  The c-suite is asking “do my marketing dollars drive growth and sales?” and “where should I spend my next dollar?

We have an amazing opportunity through our measurement mandate to embrace and advance new technology for better business decision. Media buying and planning is more sophisticated than ever before.

At the end of the day, it’s important to get down to our number one ground truth, first declared by the ARF in the early 60’s and then again in 1989:  Advertising Works.

[AS] Where do you think we are headed?
[GF] New technologies will catch up with the consumer today, but in pockets, and we will need to find the best of the best and evangelize and scale them across industries to drive the kind of business sales growth that our C-Suites are demanding.

The best insights will still come from a keen understanding and quantification of  “heart”:  What consumers’ values are and what they value that can be translated into brand value. We will get better and better at those insights, but the exciting breakthroughs are in the measurement of how the “heart” and emotional reactions connects to the head. Our second Ground Truth:  Brands are built in the brain, so we rely on neuroscience to unlock deep insights and predict sales growth better than ever before, to the feet where sales data can now be more easily aligned to media delivery.

[AS] If you had one piece of advice for marketers, what would it be?
[GF] Set aside 10 percent of your budget for pure experimentation and give it to the next generation to design and execute.

[AS] What are your thoughts on the rising importance of Storytizing (using the art of storytelling via paid, earned and shared channels)?
[GF] There’s nothing more important than a powerful story to drive personal connectivity to behaviors. Word of mouth is more important today than ever before. Consumers want and need to be connected, they seek each other out for ideas, inspiration, affirmation and solutions.

[AS] If you’ve attended SXSW in the past, what was your biggest takeaway?
[GF] I’m not even at SXSW, and I’m already blown away!

[AS] What is a trend that you expect (or hope) to see talked about most at SXSW this year and why?
[GF] Growth and Innovation, Art and Science combining to drive to new, never seen before solutions. Storytelling of successes AND failures, experimentation, trial and error. These are exciting times, and there’s never been a better time to be in marketing advertising or insights and analytics. Our time is now.

Jim Weiss (CEO and Chairman – W2O Group) and Cathy Baron Tamraz (CEO – Businesswire) kicked off this afternoon with a PreCommerce Talk about Business Wire, which is the leading global commercial news wire.

Here is a summary of highlights of their discussion.

Cathy talked about how Business Wire now uses Content Capsules to share visual content along with news.  She talked about the importance of Business Wire’s reputation, much in keeping with the philosophy of their owner, Berkshire Hathaway and, of course Warren Buffet.  It is clear that Cathy treats the news of its clients as a treasured asset to be protected at all costs.  Right on.

The press release, by the way, is now 101 years old, according to Cathy.  Jim asked if the news release is still as important as it has been in the past.  Cathy gave the example that Apple utilized Business Wire to introduce its new watch.  Great way to answer the question succintly.

Jim discussed how W2O is partnering with Business Wire via NextWorks, led by Tim Bahr.  Cathy said that Intel is using the capsule, as well as Xerox, Cigna and more.  The key is that people are staying on the site for more than five minutes on average, which is far more important than counting clicks.  This portable website allows people to consume content anywhere, anytime and get the full story without having to travel to other locations.

In the Q&A, Cathy was asked “what about small companies who no one knows…what do they do?”  Cathy said you should not make the assumption that no one is watching….a release can be a great idea to get the word out for small businesses.  In fact, Business Wire built its business serving small companies that have grown up over the years, such as HP.  Jim added in that you can also identify the right influencers and keywords, so you help people find your story, which is important for any size company.  So if you are building a company out of your garage, Business Wire is an important part of your arsenal.

Jim ended with discussion of the concept of Storytizing…..and emphasized it is really about what others say about you, not what you say alone.  This speaks to the 1 and the 9 of the 1,9,90 model.  Empowering our audiences to tell our story is always the most powerful way to go.  Business Wire gets the word out….and great stories take it from there.  The fundamentals remain clear and simple.  The hard part is creating compelling content.  That’s on all of us.

Best, Bob

For more information on our SXW2O events and our speakers, please visit our website: http://w2oevents.com

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…