“For us, emergencies are digital” says Anita Yuen, Global Head of Digital Fundraising at UNICEF.  The ability to use digital technology has revolutionised UNICEF’s response to humanitarian emergencies.

UNICEF estimate that they have helped over 2 billion people, in 109 countries, since their inception at the end of the Second World War, through their work in child protection, survival, education and emergency response.   Their work is truly global in nature and the ability to leverage digital in three key areas has shaped their response to these humanitarian crises.

  1. Speed

The ability to move and mobilise resources as quickly as possible.  The lifecycle of an emergency has accelerated beyond recognition with the adoption of digital technology.  Emergencies are now brought to our attention through social media, through photos and videos taken by the people directed affected by the crisis and shared across the world in an instant.

UNICEF has responded to this accelerated cycle through its own nimble use of their digital assets.  Within hours of an emergency, local offices have begun resource mobilisation in a way that, even five years ago, would have been impossible.  Teams rely on this rapid ability to update their websites, place paid media on social and activate their networks whilst news of the emergency is still fresh.  90% of funds raised are now online with most of the money coming within the first 48 hours of a crisis, showing how critical this speed has become to their fundraising activities.

  1. Extend influence and reach


UNICEF has become a pioneer in its work with celebrity ambassadors to raise awareness of humanitarian issues.  They are able to leverage the huge social following of ambassadors, such as David Beckham, to reach hundreds of millions of people worldwide.  This has allowed UNICEF to reach more people than ever before, reaching into their lives, delivering news about a humanitarian crisis happening in real time.

  1. Authenticity

Digital technology gives UNICEF staff on the ground the ability to tell the authentic stories of the people affected by a disaster, directly to their supporters’ digital media feeds.   Crucially, UNICEF staff are able to visualise these stories through images and video providing that emotional context so vital to raising funds.

Having helped children in over 300 emergencies in the last 12 months, UNICEF is uniquely placed to continue to lead the way in their use of digital technology to impact on social change.

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In 2014, Eastman Kodak Co. named Steven Overman @Stevenoverman, former Nokia Marketing Executive, Chief Marketing Officer and charged him with leading the global brand renewal of Kodak. In this new role, he led the strategic development of a brand that seemed to have missed the connection to the rest of the industry with the beginning of the digital era.

At the W2O #PreCommerce summit in London, he talked about the challenges to adapt long-term strategy to an ever-changing environment and the positive impact of increased connection on our behaviour in a fire chat with James Morley, Managing Director at W2O Group.

James Morley: The Kodak business understands more than most the impact of digital technology.  Can you give us an insight into the impact on Kodak and what it has done to adapt?

Steven Overman: If we go back only a few years ago, Kodak was actually one of the most valuable stocks and companies globally. And some did not want to believe it, but the digital revolution has actually challenged a business model that remained successful for many decades. While we are now looking at platforms like Instagram and how successful it is, we still wonder what the actual business model behind it is. Consumables, as the Kodak product from the past, have been substituted by technology and non-tangible platforms. In order to adapt to this development, we have brought back technology into the family and are now bridging with B2B offerings between digital workflows and analogue outcomes.

James Morley:  At WEF last week there was a lot of discussion about the importance of innovation within business.  How does Kodak deal with this issue?

Steven Overman: Innovation is a very interesting concept, because it is actually against human nature. Within our nature we have a strong resistance to change, and look for safety and stability. However, innovation is necessary to remain sustainable in the future and true innovative ideas only thrive in a culture that brings in fresh thinking and is willing to take risk. For us, we see a lot of innovation come to life by working with our scientists from the labs. They do have this natural curiosity that you need to be creative and think beyond of what already exists.

James Morley: What do you believe will be the biggest innovations for Digital in the next 2 years?

Steven Overman: I actually see one important trend that actually involves the past, the present and the future. When we look at how much our behaviour has changed by an increased level of connectivity, we can only imagine what impact it will have when the rest (64%) of the world’s population will be connected to the Internet. I believe that in the near future everyone will be connected and with this connectivity comes great power for everyone in the ecosystem. The digital revolution not only changed the way we live, work and create today, but also our increased connection creates a conscious and a growing shared sense of what is right and wrong, which impact the way we do business in the future, but also the way we act as empowered consumers, patients and marketers. 


About Steven Overman

Steven Overman was previously VP Global Head of Brand Strategy and Marketing Creation for Nokia, and is founder of Match & Candle, a brand strategy consultancy. In 2014, he published his book “The Conscience Economy: How a Mass Movement for Good Is Great for Business”.



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Ever wonder why a new initiative, such as a product launch, a cost-cutting measure, a business strategy, an M&A integration, or even a turnaround effort didn’t succeed or even take hold as expected? Believe it or not, it probably has nothing to do with the initiative itself, but rather the way your organization chose to communicate it.

Our latest issue of Common Sense for the C-Suite explores common challenges and best practices in the development and implementation of effective corporate initiatives.

Common Sense Volume 4 Issue 3 Cover 8.28

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There is one universal fact when it comes to hosting a party: no matter how well you decorate or where the music is playing, everyone inevitably ends up standing in the kitchen. The draw of the kitchen is like gravity, an inescapable force that brings everyone together for a shared experience and a shared conversation. So, how do companies capture that same effect? How do they engage their community and share in a lively conversation? At BrewLife, we partner with companies to bring this concept to life. Every brand will have its own definition of success (Who is in the kitchen? What are they talking about?) as well as its own approach, but really the underlying process is the same.

First things first, you need a kitchen.

The kitchen represents your company’s platform, where you want to bring people together. And it shouldn’t just be a single location. In this digital and social age, a company’s platform may consist of interlinking social channels, an unbranded awareness website, a corporate blog, and several other touchpoints. The point is that these elements must be coordinated, easily findable, and simple to navigate.

Start the conversation.

As people start to trickle into the kitchen, it’s important to engage them in conversation before they get bored and wander back off. To pique and keep their interest, your platform needs to be populated with content that is relevant to your audience. Serving steak to vegans isn’t going to get you very far and neither will using highly scientific terms and complex concepts while talking to a non-expert, patient audience. It is vital for you to know who your guests are and what matters to them so you can continually steer the conversation to what is most interesting and timely.

Work the room.

While parties are a great place to meet people, it’s easy to fall into familiar patterns and only talk to the people you arrived with. A good host needs to work the room, introduce people with common interests and make connections. Similarly, a company must always keep an eye out to expand their conversation and introduce new voices. This can be posting the CEO’s perspective on an industry issue on the corporate blog, creating a documentary to shed light on a little-known condition to help share personal stories and unite the community, or as simple as helping connect a patient with a reporter to share the real-life impact a disease can have. While the company may be coordinating these efforts, the community is always what remains at the center of the experience. The goal is not to have the company dictate all communication, but to connect people with one another and help them engage in conversations that matter. This isn’t just a two-way dialog, but a lively and passionate conversation between a dozen people crowded around the cheese plate.

Remember, it’s never goodbye.

In this analogy, at some point the party must end and your guests will head home. But if the party was a success, your guests will have exchanged numbers or maybe they are heading out somewhere else to continue the conversation. This means that strong connections have been made and the dialog will continue beyond what is being driven by the company. But, keep in mind that interest can wane over time so it is critical to never say goodbye to your guests. Always have a plan to see them again, to evolve the conversation, and remain aware of their changing interests and needs. And always be thinking and planning for the  future, it’s easier to make plans to see someone next while they are standing in front of you rather than waiting until they are gone and playing phone tag to re-connect. A strong engagement plan is well-thought out in advance with specific touchpoints. It doesn’t always have to be a big bash, but remember to at least send a text now and then to stay in touch.

And if you get a new recipe, or remodel the kitchen, be sure to throw another party!

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As many brands focus much of their attention on producing content for other social properties, corporate blogs tend to fly under the radar. Building an effective corporate blog takes time and effort, but it also offers a huge unique set of benefits. In today’s content-everywhere world, you have to make your company blog relevant.  That means establishing  your company blog as a true news source for reporters and customers alike.

How do you get there? Publish newsworthy content. Publish official company statements to it, use your blog to elaborate on official statements published on Twitter or elsewhere on your company’s website. Arm members of your comms staff with them when these statements are live so they can use them when following up with reporters online or off.  If the information you post to your company blog is useful to reporters, it’s likely that same information will be useful to customers.

In earlier posts, I discussed how to build relationships with reporters online, and how to use new tools to stay on top of industry news going on around you. Why do those things matter? Because they will lead to links to your company’s blog, and links are the life blood of blogs. By design, blogs are outward-facing. At their best, they connect to external sources. Those sources can be things you encounter during your daily reads, comments or tweets you’re reacting to, or ideas that validate points you’re making or ideas you agree or disagree with.

In this context, there are two categories of links: inbound and outbound links. Outbound links are hyperlinks from a blog post to another source. Pay closer attention to this next time you read a corporate blog post. Many posts don’t contain a single outbound link. Some will contain links to a company press release, maybe a company-sponsored whitepaper or links to general information pages on the company website. While links to company sources are a start, you need to go further. Links to customer tweets (you should embed those tweets too), a specific comment in a blog or article comment thread, or a link to the third-party post/article itself is worth much more than links to company resources.

Inbound links are hyperlinks from other blogs or sites directly to your content. When I said links are the life blood of blogs, inbound links are the top of the hierarchy. The more inbound links a blog earns, the more important it is in Google’s rankings. Driving quality inbound links is still the most effective way to improve your blog’s SEO—something that’s critically important. Inbound links happen in various forms: sometimes, an outlet may embed a statement or other social content from a post like this recent Recode article where the author embedded this video from the SpaceX YouTube channel. But the goal should be to have your company blog post be the source for the news.

Take a look at this recent Windows 10 post from the Verge regarding how Microsoft will roll out the operating system starting July 29. The Source section at the bottom of the image below shows Microsoft as the source. It links to this Terry Myerson post on the official Windows blog.

Windows 10 July 29 rollout

Another recent example: TechCrunch’s coverage of the Google Trends redesign where they linked to the Google blog post (see image below) where the company explained the redesign in more detail. Google’s News Lab post was another source for many media outlets.

Google Trends - Official Google Blog

One reason I’ve defended long-form content in the past: SEO benefits. Sure, paying attention to keywords, adding tags and writing good headlines help the cause, but it’s links from other sites that drive SEO much more significantly. That’s something that’s been fairly consistent even when Google makes changes to their search algorithms. When I ran the Dell blog, things worked best when we found the right balance of content. That means starting with things that matter to customers and connecting your brand to broader trends in the industry. Doing so effectively builds credibility, which leads to trust. In today’s noisy content world, it’s not surprising many content creators jump right into Marketing mode. The reality? You will be much more effective when you earn your way in.

Credibility Builders

It’s one thing for big companies like Apple to drive news cycles with a few tweets or others like Microsoft and Google with a blog post. But you don’t have to be a multi-billion dollar corporation to develop a blog into a news source. It just takes patience, a bit of an appetite for risk and some discipline.

What Matters to Customers:

It’s easy to make the assumption this means using a blog for issues management. While that is important (systemic issue-related posts we published on the Dell blog were always among the most popular posts for a longer period of time), it can also mean blogs about corporate updates like quarterly earnings or business strategy updates. Speaking of business strategy, many companies these days are facing big changes. It’s during those times of change that your customers and employees have lots of questions about the company’s future. Use a blog post to answer some of those questions over time. Your customers and employees benefit from a deeper understanding of your company’s strategy. If your business strategy posts offer solid perspective on where your company is heading, chances are good that reporters will find it useful. If it’s useful enough, those same reporters will link to it and write their own articles and posts in reaction.

Broader Trends Impacting Your Industry:

This takes effort, both in terms of finding relevant content, and especially seamlessly adding company perspective to an ongoing narrative. When done right, it can be very effective. It’s important because no matter how good your storytelling capability, customers are more interested in the broader context. No matter how loyal your customer base may be, they don’t check your company blog on a regular basis. They do however, execute Google searches about products and topics. Even after Dell’s corporate blog Direct2Dell had been established for several years, by the time I left in 2013, almost half of the total traffic to the Dell blog was the result of Google searches. That means if your company blog posts don’t rank in the first page of search results, many customers are not going to get to your company blog in the first place.

What You Want to Promote:

You probably already have an established process for telling stories about your customers and employees on your company blog. You probably publish posts your company culture and shed light around your company’s commitment to CSR efforts large and small. There’s a place for all of those things, but this is where balance is important. Product posts are probably another type of content you  typically publish. In my experience, product posts are most effective when they are useful to a range of customers. Let’s say you’re a brand that sells smartphones. It’s not hard to see that customers spend a lot of time looking for information on the latest version of the iPhoneSamsung’s next Galaxy Note device, Google’s next Nexus smartphone or countless others. When it’s time to confirm availability of the next hot device, give your customers context by linking to third-party initial hands-on previews (like this LG G4 hands-on from Engadget), and augment the post later with the more in-depth reviews that always follow once the smartphone is available (here’s Engadget’s full LG G4 review). Doing so broadens your post’s reach by connecting your blog to influential third-party sites, but more importantly, you will create a resource that saves customers time by centralizing details into one useful post. That means customers will be more likely to share this kind of post to their friends on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or elsewhere. Finding good third-party reviewers may require a bit of research, but there are definitely ones that rise to the top. Besides the Verges and the Engadgets of the world, there are a number of blogs that do great in-depth product reviews: sites like, and their Google equivalent, PhoneDog,com, and TechnoBuffalo to name a few. Besides linking to those reviews, it’s probably worth embedding a YouTube video review from someone like Marques Brownlee (also known as MKBHD). I consider Marques one of the best product reviewers on the web. Lisa Gade from also does great in-depth video reviews, as does the team from’s YouTube channel.

Regardless of what category of content you’re writing for, focus on making that content useful to anyone who reads it. Many times, that means providing unique insight that a customer or reporter is not going to see in a company press release or elsewhere on your brand’s website. Getting there may require a change in thinking. Think of blog communications as iterative communications. In traditional comms, before the rise of social in the corporate space, it was common for companies to hold onto news until certain milestones were reached or things culminated into an event, or some other splashy thing occurred. That could mean months before any element of the news was shared externally. However, these days, with options like a company blog, brands can share news in an iterative fashion, instead of holding it until all the pieces line up for one big announcement.

This concept can be useful when articulating business strategy like I discussed before. Another area where it applies is acquisitions. You’re probably thinking that communications around acquisitions are tightly controlled, and you’d be right. But think about what can be confirmed when an acquisition is announced. Even a small bit of context is useful to reporters and customers then. Once an acquisition settles, start thinking how you could add to what execs are saying to the media with a blog post. Maybe it’s an expanded statement from an executive, or it could be a YouTube interview with execs where they shed light on new strategy as it relates to an acquisition posted to your company’s YouTube web page. Embed that interview into a blog post that provides context of the news, and link to several media sources that have written stories on the topic before.

All of these things probably require more effort than you’re putting in now. It may mean more collaboration with other groups in your organization, and may translate into an extra layer of approval or editing. But here’s the good news: once you establish your company blog as a news source for reporters and customers, the momentum can carry you through for years to come.

I love helping brands on this front. If you have questions or comments about this post or others, feel free to reach out to me via @LionelGeek on Twitter, here on LinkedIn, or drop me a line in the blog comments.

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A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting a few BrewLife clients who were exhibiting at the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetrics (ACOG) conference, one of the largest conferences for women’s health professionals.

Acessa TMWhile at ACOG, I caught up with Halt Medical, the company behind the Acessa Procedure, a safe, effective and minimally invasive procedure that’s seeking to replace hysterectomy as the standard of care for fibroid treatment. Many women prefer to avoid hysterectomy because it’s a significant surgery with long recovery times and a track record of post-procedure complications.

BrewLife began workiAcessa1ng with Halt Medical over a year ago to ready the Acessa brand for a two-market test campaign focused on raising awareness of the procedure among women with uterine fibroids. This included developing strategic positioning and messaging, a creative campaign, a new website, and marketing collateral in both digital and print formats.

Starting at the beginning of 2015, BrewLife’s “A Woman’s Story” campaign has rolled out across a variety of marketing channels in the two markets, and despite the campaign’s young age, there has already been an uptick in the number of procedures being performed.

“A Woman’s Story” highlights the physical and emotional toll that fibroid symptoms, and the decision to seek treatment, take on women. Told through the first person, “A Women’s Story” focuses on a particular woman, her struggle living with a specific fibroid symptom and the positive impact Acessa has had on her quality of life post-treatment. The friendly and empathetic tone, colorful infographic style and use of stylish avatars instead of generic stock photography sets Acessa apart from any other campaign currently in the market in this therapeutic area.

Acessa2The campaign rollout encompassed an integrated array of tactical components including:

  • Website Development
  • Testimonial Videos
  • Patient Directed Materials
    • Print Advertisements
    • Digital Advertising
    • Social Media
    • Print Marketing Collateral
  • Physician Directed Materials
    • Print Advertising
    • Print Marketing Collateral
    • Trade Show Graphics
    • Practice Development Materials

At ACOG, I was proud to be associated with clients doing such important and innovative work in women’s health and to see our marketing materials drawing a crowd to Halt’s busy booth.

In addition, the Acessa Procedure was recently featured on The Doctors, to learn more about the procedure, click here.

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One of the most challenging – if not the most challenging – aspects of a CEO’s tenure is the ability to catalyze an entire organization around its purpose and strategy. The former solidifies value and meaning while the latter dictates priorities, focus, and plans to achieve success.

Knowing that, why is organizational clarity or the ability for individuals to comprehend and act on corporate strategy still a major hurdle? Much of this challenge is directly related to the level of distraction in business and society. Drawing a line of sight between individual employees’ jobs and the marketplace they operate in with the backdrop being the company’s strategy results in a clear picture from which to achieve organizational success.

But what if your business strategy is actually the problem?

A well-known purveyor of fast food, is a case in point. It’s the former CEO who is getting the blame for the company’s sales lump and corresponding stock price decline, which in large part is due to its business strategy. Faced with new and broader competition, the company – which literally invented the fast food industry – had chosen a complex and contradictory strategy that neither played to its strengths nor plotted a new space to occupy. For all intents and purposes, the company tried to be all things to all people; continued to expand an already bloated menu; not properly addressed consumer wants for a legitimate set of healthier choices; and failed to clearly establish a signature menu option.

As such, consumers, critics, employees and the like have attempted to navigate through and around this approach leading to the situation now faced by the company. To prove the point, marketing and communicating effectively against such a distracted strategy has proven even more troublesome.Image for Gary

For this fast food business and companies in similar circumstance, business strategy must be clear, coherent, and directional giving people a pathway to achievement by cultivating the right behaviors including: customers = purchase; consumers = trial; employees = performance; media and influencers = belief.

It must reflect the current reality and avoid being too tethered to history. In this case, the company has millions of customers and brand loyalists looking to be unleashed and a solid track record of innovation to reinvent the entire category. Further, assimilating how the marketplace and workplace react to your strategy is the first indication for how well it is being interpreted, understood, and successfully executed. Unfortunately, the company attempted to execute a strategy that did more to confuse than clarify its ecosystem and paid the price.

Its new CEO will look to reorient the business strategy along the lines of simplification, clarity, and organizational strength including customer insights and innovation. The goal being to re-establish its leadership in the category it created.

It will be interesting to see if such a move directs the business again to a more successful future.


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A word of caution to PR, marketing and communications professionals everywhere:

The next generation is coming and they are going to eat your lunch.  

syracuseRecently I was able to join a team of W2O executives at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University to spend several days teaching classes and meeting with students and professors as part of the Social Commerce Days. Through W2O’s partnership with the Center for Social Commerce, each semester a group gets to make the trip up north with a purpose of teaching, sharing, learning and networking. My first visit to campus, this trip came right during the time of year when many of us are heads down focused on the last big push of client initiatives for the year.

My first event was to sit during open office hours and review resumés.  I met three students and learned about their backgrounds, interest and course work.  I also was fortunate to teach a few classes about the application of analytics and influence, and got to meet several dozen motived students in the process. Here are some attributes of the typical junior year student:

  • A resumé that includes first hand account experience working on behalf of a local nonprofit
  • Research experience that includes social conversation analysis, influencer analysis and content strategy – in addition to the surveys, focus groups and interviews
  • Graphic design class experience, which helped their resumés look sharp
  • Experience in social media, not just from personal use but working on behalf of a brand or organization
  • I met several students who had launched their own startups in passion areas, such as sports marketing or fashion, and had hands on experience building communities and building influence
  • Solid profiles on LinkedIn with a clear understanding of personal brand and online social etiquette

I know many communications pros who themselves are getting to know the digital landscape in order to adapt. Understanding online conversations and digital influence models is core to what we do. Brands are publishing engines. Content is king, context is emperor.  You’ve heard the prognosticators. There is a clearly race to the middle where advertising, PR, marketing, market research, software vendors and even the big consulting firms are colliding and competing like never before.  Our industry has been changing for years. These students are not only ready; they are leading the charge.

I’d hire just about every student I met knowing they are going to excel in a changing digital landscape. These students are hungry, empowered, diligent, adaptable, eager and focused. Look out – these students may not have started the revolution but they are going to finish it, and maybe create one of their own.

A big thank you to the professors and administrative staff at Newhouse and the Center for Social Commerce for welcoming our W2O Group team in your classrooms, and thanks to the students who joined us for the inspiration.  Looking forward to a future visit.

image credit: Chris Becker via Flickr

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Kelly McGinnis

McGinnisLast week I had the opportunity to see W2O Group President Bob Pearson in conversation with Kelly McGinnis, Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer of Levi Strauss & Co., at The Holmes Report’s In2 Innovation Summit. Discussing the topic of leading business transformations, McGinnis shared five core principles that have helped her drive organizations to the next level.

At BrewLife, I work with entrepreneurial firms that, yes, are at a very different place in the business arc than Levi’s. But McGinnis’s principles also provide great food for thought to those looking to build a business from the ground up. Below you’ll find a recap, along with a few thoughts from my professional experience.

McGinnis_1Principle 1: “The right team: Combine optimism, pragmatism and courage. Layer with resilience and expertise. Add a splash of fun.”

In lean organizations, where everyone wears multiple hats and ambiguity is high, the traits McGinnis listed are more important than ever.  I’d add one more attribute to her list though, which is candor. As products are shaped and strategies formed, founders and early stage CEOs are best supported by employees who feel they have the agency to freely give opinions and question the status quo. Being surrounded by those whose only choice is to acquiesce to your vision runs the dangerous risk of complete alienation from real market need.

McGinnis_2Principle 2: “Message matters: Align your narrative with the big picture. Select the words. Don’t waver.”

McGinnis is talking more to the communications function here, but it’s the concept of keeping an unwavering focus on the big picture that speaks to me. It’s challenging in any business to understand where to focus, let alone in a business where there’s no roadmap and funding depletes every day. This is where a strategic north star comes in handy. Defining (In words! And then hung somewhere in the office!) the ultimate purpose of your company’s existence and what you want to be known for is key to keeping priorities straight. Your north star will serve as a benchmark you return to time and time again to stay focused on the big picture.


 Principle 3: “Sands will shift. Be ready to jump, tumble and roll. Hang in there (it’s ok to arrive early).”

I’m probably preaching to the choir when I write that it’s just crazy out there. Blockbuster and Blackberry are two examples of once hugely successful companies blindsided by a shifting marketplace, but this happens all more frequently at the start-up level. If there’s not someone out there trying to bring to market a product with a similar value proposition, you can bet there’s a substitute. Be the pacesetter, and keep at the forefront of innovation in your industry.

McGinnis_4Principle 4: “Bring the outside/in: Know your audience. Own insights. Build credibility. Drive strategy.”

Entrepreneurs today have a wealth of data at their fingertips to help hone in on unmet needs and to tailor marketing strategy. Said plainly, bringing the outside/in minimizes guesswork. For entrepreneurs who aren’t yet at the stage where formal analytics are in the budget, get out there and conduct one-on-one discussions with your current, prospective or ideal customers. It will bring a new depth of insight to your decisions.

McGinnis_5Principle 5: “Embrace the new: Innovate. Take risks. Lead.”

At our parent company, W2O Group, our method of innovation is termed pragmatic disruption. Yes, disruption can be an inherently uncomfortable state (even the pragmatic kind), but what’s the alternative? By only going forward down the clear, charted path, what opportunity, revenue source or untapped customer segment are we neglecting to see?

I think we all are served well, no matter what our business, by keeping McGinnis’s principles close at hand. In fact, I have her principles on display near my desk, both as a reminder on how to best serve my clients, and of how my clients can best set themselves up for success. To leave you with her parting words, “Challenge yourself. With the appropriate care, transformation can be rewarding.”

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