It's understand who your strategic stakeholders are and why they are so important to you and your organization. Find ways to connect with them that are meaningful and that help to build understanding, and in the AIDA model, they build attention, they create interest, they create desire, and ultimately, they can lead to action that is mutually beneficial for you and your organization and your stakeholders. So that's the lesson for today.
I hope you find it valuable. I really want you to get as much value out of this podcast or video series as possible, and I want to know what you have questions about, so if you have a question about public relations, marketing, organizational communication, drop me a line at mark betterprnow.
If you have a question about this episode or about the field in general, let me know. Also if you want to nominate a guest for the podcast, drop me a line. Again it's mark betterprnow. I'd love to hear from you, and finally, before we close out, I want to remind you about my transcription partner.
Just go to transcribeme. I'll catch you on the next episode. Thanks a lot. The most important thing with PR is asking your clients what business results they want to achieve. And then reverse engineering a PR program around that.
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Congratulations and welcome, Curtis. So, as we jump in, I'd like to find out about how people got into public relations, how they started their career in communication. What's happened between graduation and ending up in San Fransisco as a principal at one of the nation's leading agencies?
Well, I think what happened in the short term is I got smart. But the long-term is a much more complicated story. I went to LA, worked for Roger Corman. He's a famous B-movie producer and discovered that I just did not have the patience to pay my dues in Hollywood. And my first job as a producer was in Toledo, Ohio. I cut my teeth as a producer there for about three years rising up the ranks and even moonlighting as a restaurant critic and advice columnist.
I then moved to Huston where I worked the overnight show there. I worked there. I won a regional Emmy. And I was promoted to the executive producer. And then as I kind of ended my career at [inaudible], I was faced with the choice that I could either move to a different city, or I could change my career trajectory so I could stay with my friends.
And I gave it a long thought and determined that it would be best if I took all my skills and applied them somewhere else. I applied at a lot of different PR firms thinking that would be the best use of my skillset. And I was really surprised by the obnoxious response of a lot of people.
I got some responses like, "Oh, I couldn't possibly qualify to do PR. It was far too complex. And I didn't get a lot of encouragement. And after Chris and I had a very long conversation, she called me back and said, "I don't want to do an internship.
I want to get married. I want to hire you as our senior associate and I want to get things started. And I learned that a lot of people in PR were really good at telling clients no. And I decided that my fastest route for survival would be learning how to tell clients yes.
And I I treated clients like anyone would treat a television anchor, with the utmost respect, and I learned that really paid off well. I also learned that a side effects from botox injections in neck of times the press release material that clients were trying to get in the media was not useful for any journalist having both been a TV producer and also having been a writer.
It was. A lot of the content was jargon-heavy. A lot of the content was something that would not fit in any kind of current narrative or current story that journalists were already talking about.
It was very tone deaf. A lot of the content was just tone deaf and it was as if a bunch of marketers were thinking I want to have this content run in TechCrunch without really bothering to think well, what is TechCrunch right now?
What's important to them? And so my point to all our clients was that we needed to understand what our journalist ride safe equestrian were working on and then reverse engineer our story so we would better match their priorities.
That sounds a lot like in the startup community where people are tempted to-- they have an idea and they say, "This is a really cool thing. Let me go find a market for it. Just because I have a story I want to tell in a certain way doesn't mean that anybody is going to be interested in hearing it. That's exactly it. And that's the problem that a lot of companies have and they kind of-- the expression, of course, is drink their own cool-aid but it's kind of a reality distortion field where they seem to think that the news that's important to them will be important to other people and the thing that I try to tell our clients is that's not the case.
And I even been so much as vulgar to one client and Botox oyunu oyna türkçe said, "Knowing a plot until you masturbate [laughter]. I have. I have been able to convince a lot of clients that the crazy thing they want to do is not really what they want to achieve and I think the most important thing with PR is asking your clients what business results they want to achieve and then reverse engineering a PR program around that.
And I also counsel our clients that just because a story is published doesn't mean your target is going to see it and that you need to take that story and put it in front of your target's face so that the can actually see it.
And I think it's resonated with me more now than ever since I'm a principal at my own firm and I use PR as our principal means of business development. That's absolutely true and what you're talking about is helping them shift from focusing on tactics which is where all the bright shiny objects are to focusing on a more strategic level what do you want to achieve?
And then, figuring out from there okay, how do we get there? And I find that when I do that that I am providing a much more full-service approach along the PESO model where some clients will say, "Well, I really want the sense at this convention that everyone's talking about us.
What you're going to want is you're going to want to buy advertising space all over that convention so that you are the only thing people see. You're right. I remember one client wanted to have a press conference and if you're Facebook or Google or Apple you can probably do that but when you're a startup that's impossible. And so I had to work very hard to not insult the client but to convince him that that was going to provide the results he was looking for.
That is really challenging sometimes and I think that it's one of the big things that all agencies and all people of marketing really face. As you've been around the public relations world for a while you've seen people execute in ways that I'm sure are just [eyewateringly? And I'm not asking you to out anybody [laughter] but can you describe an example where somebody did something just incredibly dumb in public relations.
And the reason is I think there's a teachable moment and good lessons for all of us every time we see something like that happen. You know, I think everyone has done something really stupid that they regretted. For me, when I think of all the dumb things I have done, I think the stupidest thing I ever did is I was trying to get a story placed because I had a crush on someone and I thought that this would be helpful and I had the whole backstory with the journalist about the crush and how great it was.
And so finally the journalist coughed up the story and I was so excited about it that I forwarded the whole thread to said crush without realizing that I forwarded the whole thread to the [crush?
Got it. So flip it around. What's the most brilliant thing that you've ever done in your career or that you've seen somebody else do? You know, I will probably think of the brilliant things a lot later as I'm doing something else mundane and boring. I think one of the prouder yet smaller things I did is I was faced with this press release that needed approval from this marketing company and everyone from the marketing company had gone home for the day.
Their New York line was closed, their San Francisco line was closed and I really was beginning to panic until I realized that this marketing firm was an international marketing firm. So I called their Australian affiliate.
They were up. They were just starting their day and they managed to approve the whole thing. And while that not a, 'Oh, my God. I'm the next Einstein," sort of thing, it's that kind of thinking that has saved me time and time again where we get in the mode of thinking in just a very narrow, narrow focus and I think the more that you can expand your thinking and expand your approach the better you're going to do.
I think you're absolutely right there. You recently wrote a blog post on the [inaudible] blog about how audience targeting is changing in the age of digital transformation. In that article, you talked about turning brand ambassadors into influence. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
You know, when it comes to turning brand ambassadors to influencers it's all about increasing their reputation and their footprint. It's not just a matter of them to be kind of these solitary people who are working on their own. You really need to promote them as you would promote any brand or company. And you need to do your very best to amplify what they're saying, so that more people will see it and more people will see them as a respected third party who's credible.
That's absolutely wonderful. If you were talking to your younger self, as you [laughter] were getting ready to finish college and start your career, what advice would you give yourself? Or what advice would you give young people who are just getting started or contemplating a career in communications? I've never heard that advice before. It's usually about "Hey, take more of these kind of classes.
I take them as an important thing that you can do is take an internship because I think that everything is good in theory. But learning about something, that scholastic environment versus doing it are two different things entirely. And I think if I could have done something differently with how I was approaching that, I would have brought in the scope of my internships.
I focused very heavily on a journalism set internships. And I wish I had done a public relations or marketing internship because I think that would have given more experience in the other side. And maybe I would have started off with PR instead of broadcast news. Just because the economics that are happening now, there are so many people moving from journalism into public relations. So that transition that you did, there are a lot of people doing the same thing.
And so you look around the field of PR practitioners, and there are lots and lots of former journalists. People with journalism degrees, who, for whatever reason, made that change. And one of the things that I find is that I frequently counsel people who are looking to make the switch. And how they can do it and what they can do.
And my number one advice to media people, journalists who are trying to transition to PR, is to start doing charity work. So that you can get your toes wet, and you could really get an understanding of how it cellulite aroma zone 75006. And I also recommend that they start taking informational interviews. I think the biggest example of a kind of Icarus falling situation was with one CNBC reporter was brought in to this war between Facebook and Google over privacy concerns.
And it was revealed that the former journalist was trying to get people to place contributed content under various names of reporters that would raise privacy concerns about the two companies.
And it just blew up in a space in spectacular fashion. And I think if he had been in PR longer, that would not have happened to him. I mean, it sounds like the ethics lessons that we learned as we're studying public relations or earning our accreditation, ethics is a major component to that. And that would have helped, I think, stir that person away from whatever temptation there was to take that shortcut. I think there are a lot of marketers who want PR people to practice theblack arts.
And I've always advised marketing people who brought that up that generally, there's always have a habit of blowing up in your face and just making you look bad, for lack of a better word. And I have recommended often that you should just stir away from that. That's just something that's going to haunt you. It's always the cover-up that's worse than the crime. What's your perspective on the importance of relationships in public relations practice [laughter]?
It's only the second word in public relations [laughter]. I think that media relationships are so important because they give you a sense of what you can and can't do in a story. And they really give you the reality check you need outside of your experience with the client.
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And so I make sure that I attend journalism conference every year. Your listeners may have been able to figure that out themselves by the butch tone of my voice [laughter]. But I find that being able to talk to journalists on a regular basis is the best way to inform a strategy and then come up with creative ideas.
And so I encourage every one of my colleagues to meet journalists, to take them out for lunch, breakfast, dinner, drinks, whatever. And to really get to understand what they're up against professionally and personally, as well as understand what sort of story narratives are really important. And I find that those relationships are key in really making some stories really work well for our clients. That's right. You mean, you talked earlier about knowing what stories they're following or what they're interested in.
And in reverse engineering, your plans to fit that when you only know if you're talking with them. And you can only intuit, or even better, have them tell you, "Hey, here's what we're lookin for. Do you have anything that would fit?
And during a crisis situation, having one of the journalist friendlies to go and help you with your response or your reaction. Or even as a sandbox the testing's out is critical. I think that's spot on.
When you think about this as a career, like any career, there are challenges. It's hard. It's busy. I know in every job I've ever had in communications, there's way more to do tha you can possibly get done in a day.
What keeps you inspired? When you wake up in the morning, and you think about going to work, what really gets you psyched up to go and tackle everything again, one more day?
No, I'm kidding. I think that the thing that makes me most excited is when we do something wacky or crazy that just might work, and it does. Or saying that, I love cheerleading. I like to see people excited about what they're doing. And I like to see people overwhelmingly happy and feeling realised with what they're doing, and how they're doing it. So ultimately, I'm very, I guess, platonic, if you will, in the sense that I believe the end goal of life is to be happy and if people are getting that happiness out of their work, then I'm happy too.
Yeah, I think that's right. And if you think about, sort of, the real essence of public relations, it's to help organisations have better relationships with the publics that they depend on and that depend on them, and as a result, things should be better for everybody, everybody should be happier if we're really effective at doing our jobs.
And so that, generally, is what gets me going. I think what is the challenging part of this job is that I get that what we're doing is of real value, and because what we're doing is of real value and is transformative and has the opportunity to make sales and make budgets happen, that there sometimes is high anxiety and high pressure and sometimes nerves are rattled and sometimes tempers get really, really, kind of, out of control. And so I bring that to bear when I'm working with these people who are some brilliant executives, some brilliant minds and sometimes are really needing PR to be transformative in their business designs, and I get that.
Everything [laughter]. I recently had a colleague call me and she was complaining about an email I sent that it wasn't deep enough, it wasn't thoughtful enough, and I'm not going to out her, and I said, sometimes I just suck, and I just suck because sometimes there's just not enough time to be as good as I need to be or as you need me to be. And so I think that if I had anything, it would be more time in a given day, and I know that's pretty pat and cliche, but I think that that is the one thing that you need in order to do your best work.
That said, I think the thing that annoys me the most is people who let perfection be the enemy of the good and will sit on things forever, and ever, and ever til the moment is lost. I remember one colleague who met a journalist who said she was interested in any kind of pitch, and that colleague took two months perfecting her email [laughter] to the journalist until she sent it.
And the journalist probably forgot who she was and never responded. And so I'm a big believer in get things out quickly, and fail quickly, and improve quickly. I think that's right. The nature of the business we're in, those windows of opportunity close pretty quickly. And if you're spending too much time on perfection, the window of opportunity is closed. I was a journalist and I didn't have time for you to come up with your Gettysburg Address.
I just needed someone to cobble together five sentences so I could get it out and meet deadline. And I think a lot of marketers will fool themselves into thinking that if they write the Magna Carta or something, that that's really going to move the needle for them, and it's not that which is going to help them, it's being responsive and being quick.
So there's that time component. There's also the expectation of what it is the journalist might need from us. They don't necessarily need us to write their story for them. They might just need a quote, or some facts, or something that allows them to complete their story on deadline. And I can tell you as a journalist that that's so important.
I think the other thing that I'm seeing is since I'm writing for a variety of outlets as well, I'm seeing some very lazy pitching. I had this one person pitch me this story, and she wrote, "Thought you might be interested in this," and slapped the press release, and that was it. No personalization. No doing some homework, trying to figure out why you might actually be interested in it and making that obvious to you.
I mean, in this very interview, Mark, you have shown that you have looked at my blog entries, my LinkedIn profile; you've done your homework. And this PR person did nothing. And so, I wrote back and said, "Why? And I know that that's not possible in every pitch. I know that that's not something that can scale, but I do think that a lot of our new crop of PR people are needing to put in a lot more energy and a lot more thought in what they write. And so, whereas, I'm seeing that more and more on those bar, for example, and of course I can plug my own company, I have seen a lot of people—.
I have seen a lot of people pitch me who clearly have not ever considered what a journalist would need for a pitch to be successful. You got to know what they need. It's no different than any other business.
You have to understand what problem you're solving for somebody, and then make it easy for them to understand how you can solve that problem for them. It's no more difficult than that. Yeah, it's no more difficult than that.
And yet it's still that difficult [laughter]. Yes, that's true. We talked about what kind of advice you would give to people starting their careers or to your younger self. What advice would you give or do you give to CEOs or other organizational leaders to help them be more effective in their communications?
I find that a lot of CEOs are brilliant people, and because they're brilliant people, they think in a thought process that almost comes off like an impressionistic painting when they are talking. And yet, for a reporter who is trying to write it all down into short succinct sentences and thoughts, it becomes very difficult.
And so, I find that the reporters who come back to me are the ones who've been exposed to CEOs who could speak simply and easily—like you would talk to any regular person at a bar. Is that more of a problem either sort of the brilliant people talking at a level that other brilliant people can understand or talking in search for [Bossidy?
Is that unique to the tech world? I don't think so. I think the higher up you go, the more likely brilliant you are going to be. And I think the challenge they find is that they have been used to speaking in so many different kinds of dialects if you will; professional dialects.
And sometimes, that might actually be okay if the audience speaks the same language. But if the audience doesn't, if you're speaking not to your peers, but you're trying to speak to, say, consumers, it might go right past them.
It absolutely might go right past them. And so I think that that's the real challenge is calibrating it correctly. And also, calibrating in a way that isn't obnoxious. When we trained CEOs and other executives to talk to journalists, one of the things that we do is we say, "You should put the onus of selling your message on yourself. And one of the ways that this has really kind of come up is, I mentioned we are doing PR for ourselves just like we would do it for any of our clients, we practice what we preach at [inaudible].
And so when I went in to the hot seat to do a TV interview, I really had extra pressure. I wasn't just presenting this as the executive of a company, but I was also doing an interview as a expert in how to do an interview. When I was doing that, I really had to think about how I should take an interview and what are the best practices.
And that made me super evaluate everything I did, from what I would eat that day and what I would avoid - like dairy, for example - to how I would stand and how I would react facially, physically to questions because this was on TV. And so I think that when executives are going in front of the camera, they really need to take an extra step to make sure that they are completely ready for the experience because TV interviews are the very interviews that could make you a internet meme forever if you goof it up.
If you look 10 years or so into the future, how do you see public relations and marketing changing particularly in the tech space? We already use artificial intelligence in a lot of our sales communication. And one of my clients, Conversica, for example, is telling me that probably one in five Americans have already talked to its AI platform. And that's just one company. So if we're looking at one in five Americans talking to AI right now, that number is going to increase where it's a matter of how many times a day we're interacting with AI.
And the reason why that'll be important for PR people is in their outbound communication. I mentioned the bad pitch I got from this random PR person. I suspect that if an AI platform had crafted the pitch, in about 10, 20 years, it'd probably be way better than this person had ever written.
And it would be thoughtful and filled with links. And I think that's one of the things that's going to happen is that AI will be increasingly used for outreach.
I also think that AI is going to used for analytics that make the current analytics we're using seem like caveman-like drawings by comparison. And I think that while that will be scary for a lot of people, I think that just like any sort of computer or technological revolution.
It's those people who really lean into it who are going to do well. And so my advice to my PR colleagues would be to get smart about AI and understand what it does and what does not.
And I think that's going to be the real challenge PR professionals face in the next 20 years. I think the other challenge, of course, is going to be just the variety of outlets. We always hear about outlets shuttering and outlets closing and people being laid off. And I think that that's going to continue to be a part of the PR landscape.
And that's also going to be why social platforms are going to continue to grow importance as they replace in some instances the media content that new sites used to have.
Is there anybody out there right now that you're aware of who's leading the charge on using AI for either analytics or for outreach? I would say when it comes to outreach, one of the companies that is leading the way is a client of mine, and it's called Conversica. And what Conversica is, is a sales assistant.
And it will send people emails or text messages about something that they showed interest in. So if you were looking at a car, for example, on a website, you might get an email from someone who says, "Hey. I saw you're looking at this Lexus. And I was wondering if you'll be interested in a test drive? We can schedule something. I think that it's going to take some further sophistication before we get to the point where a journalist gets a story like, "Hey.
I saw you wrote about Battlestar Galactica. I thought you'd be interested in this prequel. Would you like to go and see a reel. Can you see a day when bots are pitching bots [laughter]? That there's AI on both ends, and we don't even have to be part of that. I do see that.
And I think that's interesting. And I'm not sure what we'll get. But I would very much like to see that experiment take place. I know that not all AI has worked out.
I think the biggest example of AI that kind of blew up was Tay. And that was too bad. It did blow up because of humans were mean. But I think that bots pitching bots will happen. I think the question is, will they produce anything that people will find interesting to read.
On a day-to-day basis, what tools do you use? And these could be hardware or software. What do you rely on to be successful every day? Caffeine, and more and more caffeine. The other tools I rely on-- I really love email [laughter].
And I know it actually sounds very old school. I find it is effective not only as a means of communication but as a means of a public record, and as a means of organizing projects. And so I can follow a project from start to completion by an email thread. And I can make sure that things happen in a timely fashion. And so I know that there is a rush to go into all sorts of project software.
But in my estimation, or at least for me, that seems like an extra step. Whereas the email thread is a perfectly fine way of following a project on how it's going. But I find that when it comes to looking at resources, I'm fond of Harvest.
I think Harvest is a very easy way for us to track where time is being spent. It's also good for expenses because who's going to want to get all your receipts. At some point of the day, it's much better to expense as you go. And so Harvest is a great tool for that.
I'm very fond of Zoom, and any kind of video conferencing service. And I find it to be so much more superior than any kind of pure audio conference. Because looking at people physically gives you clues and ques. I can tell when someone wants to interrupt me. I can tell when people are bored with me. And that's very useful for someone who probably is on a lot. I think that the big question that PR people have to face is not the coming AI invasion. It's really going to be what people read, and how people absorb information.
More and more young people are reporting that they are just visual. And they are following Instagram. And they're getting a lot of their content from that. And so as PR people, I think the big challenge is how do we make an impact when words seem to matter less and less.
And I think that's why video is going to have a Renaissance. Because if younger people are focusing less and less on words and more and more on pictures, then the best way to reach people will be through video. And that's what I see as important as the years go on. Curtis, this has been a fantastic conversation.
I tell you what, I've learned so much from you. And that was Texas coming out right there. Thank you so much for being on the Better PR Now podcast. And I look forward to hearing from you in the future. And maybe having you back on. Mark, I would absolutely love it. And I would love for you to talk to my PR colleagues, too. So let's see what we can work out. Thanks for joining us for episode 14 of Better PR Now. He wrote a wonderful note expressing how he was using the podcast as complementary material for his students.
He also noted how the podcast was bridging a gap between academia and the professional world. And that really is part of the main intent. Thank you so much for listening and sharing the podcast Enrique. TranscribeMe is the official transcription partner of this podcast.
They really do terrific work. And the turnaround is super fast. If you enjoy this podcast and find it useful, please pay it forward by sharing with a friend so they can get some good news too. I'll see you next time on the next episode of Better PR Now. This is the first podcast ever recorded in a Wholefoods Supermarket, and I know it's the first podcast recorded in the Wholefoods Supermarket in Pentagon City, Virginia. The reason we're here today is there's a tap takeover by breweries from Richmond, Virginia, and I'm joined by Jason Anderson, somebody I've known for a long time who is a really fantastic communicator.
Jason, welcome to the show. Now you've had a really fascinating career. We'll talk about your education, and then you worked for CNN. So tell me about how you got into communications and what drove you towards a communications career to begin with?
I actually had an opportunity to attend USC for a broadcasting degree but decided that I wanted to really get the fundamentals of a hardcore political background. Because really my goal at that time was to get into political journalism. And that ultimately fulfilled itself by joining CNN for about 10 years where I literally started as what they called a video journalist, a VJ, at that time.
Killing it. And there we did everything from running the camera to running the teleprompter with paper scripts. Which is something in this day of digital age if you think about it. And even robotic cameras, which we didn't have back then. But there I saw a number of fascinating things, really cut my teeth on what journalism was.
Learned how to edit videotape, learned how to produce a segment and did a whole number of things with them, but ultimately decided after a number of events, ultimately concluding with the Monica Lewinsky episode in Washington DC, that I decided it was time for me to move on and pursue some of my more personal goals along with journalism. Which was at that point thinking about the environment. That's wonderful. And so after a decade or so at CNN where you focused on political and other reporting, you moved over to the non-profit world.
Tell me about that transition. So I saw an opportunity at an organization called Conservation International, which does international, non-profit environmental work in communities all across the world, and the opportunity was to take my journalism skills and apply them to public relations.
How do we take the things that we do as an environmental non-profit and translate them into actually what news is, and serious news not just marketing, and talk to reporters about covering that news? So I did that actually for a division of Conservation International which was called the Center for Environmental Leadership in Business, and it was really thinking about, how do we work with corporations to reduce their environmental footprint, to contribute to the things that we were doing at Conservation International and translate that all into good.
You know ultimately, the public relations part in a sense was marketing, in a sense was how do we drive fundraising, how do we drive other corporations to do good things? How do we put pressure on the organizations that we're working with to do more good things? But ultimately, it was a really fascinating experience. I did. At that point after 10 years of working at the global sphere and working with Fortune companies like McDonald's, like Starbucks, like Walmart to change their footprint and actually do some interesting marketing things with them.
I really wanted to focus more in on local communities. And I found a small organization doing really fascinating things called Rare. And they would actually run marketing campaigns in local communities and these are hyper-local communities.
Places you've never heard about or can't even find on the map in Indonesia, in Africa, throughout Asia. And what they would do is, they had the ability to take over the radio, take over the newspaper, create mascots around essential message because you have that hyper-local opportunity to not talk about a product, but to talk about environmental conservation. And perhaps it's water, perhaps it's a species, perhaps it's pollution.
And you get folks really thinking about ways they can change their practices locally and using mass-media to do that. It was fascinating to watch how that would happen. Now again my job wasn't to do that work. We had specialists with a whole theory of change and the use of psychology, but my job was to get people interested in what we were doing.
So again Behaviour change, exactly. That was at the core of it, which you can do in a place like that. Much harder where we are in Pentagon City to get people to recycle the cups that they were drinking from these fine, Virginia breweries. But you can do it in these awful places and getting donors interested in thinking about that was part of my job. Sure, so we worked in a village in The Philippines where they essentially had no fish, which is a problem when fish is what you rely on to eat.
So we had to really go in We needed to change the behavior of over-fishing. So we created a mascot called Malloy. And Malloy was sort of central to this media campaign. He appeared in billboards. He appeared in local restaurants. He appeared in the newspaper. He appeared in local parades that you might see down our main streets. And eventually people got the message.
I need to think about the fact that I can't go out every day, hour days, and fish. I need to think about okay, how do I fish responsibly with everyone else who needs to feed their families and also maybe some of the companies who are coming in and using us to buy fish to sell to distributors?
And eventually, the metrics showed an uptick in that particular region in terms of number of fish available but of course fish take a couple of years to spawn and reproduce and create a viable colony. But we are starting to show that halfways to guess that was happening.
Then you move [inaudible] to Capital Impact Partners. Different mission, but also in a nonprofit world. Tell me about their missions. Capital Impact was sort of my way to come back home.
This is after the great depression, after the big financial crises that we all faced. And I thought to my self, certainly, there's a great [inaudible] outside of our boundaries, but then, in the United States, we have a lot of communities that are suffering, and how can we help them recoup from what has happened to them. And so I joined what's called Capital Impact Partners, it's what's called the community development financial institution, which is a long-winded way of saying, "Where are the good guy bankers?
So we make loans to other nonprofits essentially, hospitals, healthy hood ventures, education, or people and organizations that are really trying to change the paradigm in their communities. But because they're operating in low-income areas, big banks won't finance them. So you can't build that house center, you can't build that grocery store that'll sell healthy food, you can't build the apartment that'll have affordable housing.
Big just won't support it. We will, that's our mission. That's the risk we take, and in fact, we don't measure our end of the year success by our profit, we measure it by how many desks are being built for students, how many more affordable housing units have been built. What drew me to it is, they were interested as more than just a lender because they [saw all of it? So we had to be [inaudible] so we had to bring research, we had to bring a team that would develop programs that addressed this systemic issues being faced and think about how to do it differently, how can we do it this way and instead of the old way.
A classic example that we use is around the nursing homes system. You put people into institutional nursing homes, nothing changes, people grow old, they get sick, they eventually pass away. What we've decided was, there's got to be a better way. So how do you go in, and develop a different type of nursing home that's as a community where you'll have your own room, where you go to a kitchen that feels like your home, where you communicate with the outside world?
It's called the greenhouse model. We were able to deploy it in multiple states across the country, and it's become a real success. But it really shows that money is one thing, creating systemic change is a whole different paradigm, and that's what really drove me to the organization. So how do you tell that story in a way that's going to [inaudible] and engaging to people who either might be in a position to support it or might be a potential customer or beneficiary?
It's something I struggle with each and every day because we don't just working agent, we work across seven sectors. And how do I tell that one story to people in seven sectors, whether they want to borrow money from us, or change a program, and then how do I elevate that story to Is it possible to tell a story that reaches different audiences and is equally compelling across different sectors, and people who have maybe different motivations, and [inaudible] paying attention, or do you have to tailor the story based on your audience?
So I approach it from literally story telling. What is good storytelling? And that begins with someone who really has to overcome a barrier and how do they overcome that barrier, which is, if you think about any Hollywood movie, and I just took my kids last week to see Black Panther.
How do they overcome that barrier of the mineral that they are trying to mine and save the world? Are we saving the world? So one of the things I did was when I came into the organization about three years ago was to create a story section to the website. It doesn't market our learning activities, it doesn't market any of the other kind of programmatic activities we do, what it does do is tell the stories of the people it was serving. So in the greenhouse model, we literally sending a photographer, journalist.
He spent a couple of weeks with these residences, and he told their stories to a series of photo captions. And it's sort of that heart versus brain effects.
How do I [inaudible] in your heartstrings to really get you understand this is what you're doing at this kind of visceral level. And we know. I mean, we know from theory that we also know from the experience that you can make a really, really good logical argument that makes perfect sense to the brain, but if doesn't have that emotional impact, it doesn't matter, people might not even pay attention to it. So if you don't make that emotional connection, you need to be able to follow it up with a logic.
But sales are made through emotions. Donations are made through emotions. People care about emotions. They want to follow it up with logic to prove to themselves there's nothing else that their emotions were sound if that makes sense. So [inaudible] make an example of that. We could talk about the greenhouse model as here are 10, 12 group homes with individual rooms, it serves maybe 30 to 50 percent of the residence around Medicare.
That's great. I mean, honestly, that's a fact that's excellent. Again, there was a guy named Ervin who we talked to. His wife, basically, she didn't have the capabilities of living in the same room because she could become violent.
So what he would do is he would go while she was sleeping and literally cuddle up with her at night, and sleep with her, and then wake up in the morning, get up, and go back to his own bed.
And she wouldn't know but now we have this opportunity to show this individual who is still able to be with his wife in their old age at a time when they went to the traditional nursing home.
She actually might be institutionalized, but this was not the case. All right. So now I'm ready to make a donation which is sort of [inaudible], right? I mean, you want to make that emotional connection, and want to get somebody walk into your want to understand it and feel it, maybe feel it first. Then understand it, then get involved, and support it. So, thinking about when you were going to school, when you were starting your career, what do you know now that you wish you had known then?
I think it is the personal aspects of what I do. Drilling down into emotion and storytelling. I went to a school that valued-- I went to Claremont McKenna College, which was mostly an economics school. I was sort of an outlier as someone who wanted to do nonprofit work.
And so there it was research, it was analytics, it was data. Which was great, because it got me thinking about those things, because I never really thought about those things. But somewhere I knew deep inside me that there was still emotion and story that drives us. Maybe that was I was drawn to USC, because of their film elements and all of their production elements.
Toss up whether I should've gone there or not, but ultimately I think that now is what makes me a successful marketer, is driving story versus data. Because I could easily talk about, we're a lending institution at our heart. Before I prothese mammaire naturelle pnf unes, we talked about, oh we financed this building.
Oh, it's 26, square feet. Government data, and I can't remember. I can't think of it, because it doesn't drive me.
I wanted to [inaudible] that building. Who goes to school there? Who now has a home there? Who's getting health care in that building? That's what I care about. And one person's personal story can negate reams and reams and reams of paper of statistics and facts.
Absolutely, yeah. And I do think that you need to back it up, with the ultimate, we have the great story of Irwin, but I could tell you any number of stories. There's a woman who was once homeless. She went to a health care center that we helped finance in San Francisco. Well, there are huge amounts of homeless people in San Francisco who have no access to equitable health care.
Now it's part of the mission of this-- now she got off drugs, she got off alcohol, and she has now literally a board member of this hospital because they want a certain amount of their patients to be on the board. That's not data, that's a story, that's a person's life who has changed. But the data ulitmately, we still need to talk about. This hospital went from an alleyway to a building that serves 20, patients, who are uninsured possibly, and so they now have healthcare. That saves X amount of health care dollars.
Yeah, so you need that data to back up the story. So for somebody who's an aspiring storyteller, regardless of the medium that they're interested in, what are the things that they need to know, what are the skills that they need to develop?
You need to be emotionally involved in your projects. One, the word I always give to people when they think about communications and all of the things and the tactics and all of that is what is your authenticity?
You can have your strategy, you can have your tactics down, you can have everything to a T, but if you're not authentic, it's not going to resonate with people. And ultimately, that's going to you may get a-- the phrase is, "Fool me once it's on you. Fool me twice it's on me. You may fool a donor or funder or an investor a couple of times but ultimately they're going to get it. So make sure you have an authentic story to tell.
And then don't be afraid to tell it from the rooftops. Just yell it, scream it, promote it, put it on video, put it on social media. Don't be afraid to be hyperbolic. If it's authentic, it's real. I think that's really wise council. What tools do you use that you absolutely can't do without? Well, I'm old school, so I use a lot of pen and paper.
We've been experimenting with a tool called Trello which is a kind of electronic tool for project management.
I think you do need an editorial calendar of sorts because it allows you to be proactive versus reactive, especially for someone like me where I have multiple sectors to promote. And all those sectors need to ramp up into corporate objectives around social and racial justice. I need to think ahead about, "All right. We've got this day coming up. We've got this conference coming up. We've got this project coming up. So that the messaging can be funneled up to, kind of ultimately, what we're trying to talk about.
What advice would you give for somebody, who is either starting school or starting their careers right now, who's interested in following a path similar to yours? So I may be antithetical to most people. I did not get a background in marketing. I did not get a background in communications or any of this stuff. I'm not saying that's not valuable.
I got an education in what I loved and what I believed in. At that point it was government and literature. Now if you think about it, I know work in finance so-- and with a stop over, a 15 year stop over, in the environment. So I was just say be passionate. Which also comes with a lot of self learning reading everybody else's e-newsletters, websites, understanding what they do.
And there was some self learning about what does the consumer journey look like. What is the donor persona look like? All of those things so that I could apply kind of what I had hints of in my brain and make them very [tactical? That's wonderful, so these last two questions are sort of fun ones. What's the dumbest thing you've ever seen somebody do in communications and marketing?
So off the top of my head I can't think of the dumbest thing I've seen. But I will say that it's funny watching an organization I left, and I will not name them, reuse a tactic that we used. And used to sort of minimal effect. It felt like an organazation that was out of ideas and was just trying to think about, "All right, estomper rides bouche just reuse that in a different way," Without really undersanding what can be we actually achieve with this.
It was a social media campaign about investing in a certain project and who knows in terms of the actual tangible value of it? And I'll pick another which is another organization that I work with, do a multi-million dollar campaign. Des montagnes himalayennes aux Cap Horn en passant par les pistes du désert mauritanien, partez à la rencontre des aventuriers modernes! No"Ëlle" : une liste de rêve pour la gâter à Noël Diaporama Un jour, un cadeau.
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