The We First Blog.

Collaborative Social Storytelling: How the UN Foundation Builds Global Movements

April 17, 2014 Comments

Under the leadership of Aaron Sherinian, VP of Communications & Public Relations at the UN Foundation and We First ’13 speaker, the UN Foundation has become known for its deep understanding of social storytelling and cross-industry collaboration. Here are four lessons from Aaron on how to inspire people around the globe to actively support your brand’s or nonprofit’s mission:

Build partnerships to scale impact   For example, one of the UN Foundation’s major partnerships is with Walgreens, one of the most prominent pharmacies in the country. Walgreens is well known for making it easy to get flu shots at their stores and the UN Foundation has partnered with them to create the “Get a Shot, Give a Shot” campaign, which donates a flu shot to a child around the world who would not get access to the vaccine.

Co-create stories with your audience  Aaron has found that the best ways to craft storytelling towards a specific goal or objective is to allow current advocates to tell their own stories. Instead of bouncing ideas around in a closed internal meeting, you need to get out and talk to the people actively participating in the cause. That’s how you’ll get honest, powerful, and shareable stories that will inspire others to get involved.

Engage different communities on different platforms  Which medium is the best way to share brand stories? Is it pictures on Instagram? Or videos on YouTube, or articles on Facebook? To all this, Aaron simply says, “Yes.” Yes, to all these networks because in today’s interconnected online world, bringing a story to life across multiple platforms using many devices, is a necessity for storytelling of any size. The framing of your story will dictate how content is shared and how the message is brought to life on a specific platform.

Admit your mistakes  The reluctance to admit when one is wrong, whether a small business or a Fortune 500 company, is difficult on any level. But when a brand makes a mistake today it is instantly available for all to see. That’s why it’s so important to admit when you’re wrong, in a transparent and public manner. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s a key to success in this current climate driven by tech-savvy citizen activists.

As We First founder Simon Mainwaring often says, “Technology is teaching us to be human again” and the UN Foundation consistently shows us how collaborative digital storytelling and partnerships can power global impact.

Join us Oct 7-8 at the 2014 We First Brand Leadership Summit for two days of hands-on training on how to define, frame and share a brand story through social marketing that empowers your company to lead business, drive sales, and shape culture. Early-bird pricing ends May 31, 2014.


6 Steps to Unlocking Employee Passion and Propelling Your Social Purpose

April 8, 2014 Comments

In Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, Wharton Professor Adam Grant examines the correlation between personal contribution and professional productivity within large organizations. In doing so, Grant examines an issue at the heart of the future of business: how to inspire employees to bring their best and full selves to work in ways that have a positive impact on the planet and our future.

For too long, the majority of huge corporations have overlooked their greatest untapped asset, the full potential of their employees. Many people who work inside large organizations are either unmotivated or dispassionate about working for the very company that takes up so much of their life. But when a company connects with an employee on an emotional level, they reap dramatic returns on productivity, satisfaction, and long-term support of the company itself.

One of the most powerful ways to unlock this potential is to provide employees with different ways to make a contribution within the company. Some choices include mentorship, blogging, or contributing to one of the company’s social impact programs. Simply by asking what they care about and how they would like to contribute, you can inspire otherwise demoralized employees to become engaged and active participants in the future well-being of the company.

With this in mind, here are six simple steps to unlocking greater potential in your employees:

1) Clearly articulate your company’s social purpose, and share that story internally.

2) Offer employees a choice of how to participate or contribute towards a cause they personally care about.

3) Incentivize employee participation by gamifying the employee experience and offering perks and rewards.

4) Demonstrate to employees the tangible positive impacts of their efforts.

5) Encourage employees to give feedback and contribute more ideas on how to bring the company’s mission to life.

6) Regularly update employees as to how their combined efforts have increased the well-being of the company, including its reputation in relationship to competitors.

By following these six steps, an organization can unlock the enormous untapped potential of its workforce and inspire employees to serve the social purpose of the company. In doing so, the company will mitigate the risk of reputation damage, and position the company for category leadership within the social business marketplace.

While the marketplace becomes ever more enamored with new technology, the companies that lead the future will be those that recognize their greatest asset is the people.


How Conscious Capitalism is Driving Business and Social Change

April 1, 2014 Comments

Each year, the Conscious Capitalism Movement holds an event that provides marketing leaders with insights on how to marry purpose and profit in ways that build their business and a better world. I’m thrilled to participate in one of these practicums this year, sharing best practices and case studies around the art and architecture of customer community building.

The fundamental premise behind the Conscious Capitalism movement and the training event, is that the private sector is facing an increasingly urgent responsibility to play a positive role in society. Raj Sisodia, who earlier authored a book called Firms of Endearment, and John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, have lead this movement, bringing its core principles to life in actionable ways through their own book, Conscious Capitalism.

The rewards of embracing conscious capitalism are many and include the following:

Risk Mitigation: By defining, framing, and sharing the story of the social purpose of the brand, a company protects its social license to operate in the face of rising consumer activism. This will become increasingly important given compounding social crises that include obesity, chronic disease, healthcare, access to education, and clean water, among others. One notable example is CVS, which recently banned the sale of tobacco products across its national chains because it felt inconsistent with the future of the brand and its desire to lead the healthcare debate.

Reputation Enhancement: As a function of the web, smartphones, and social media, today’s consumers are aware of the social crises that threaten their well being, and as a result, are demanding greater social responsibility from brands. This is especially true of Millennials and Gen-Z, who go so far as to say they would not buy a product, recommend a product, or even work for a company that does not reflect their core values. Such marketing trends are detailed in depth by the 2013 Cone/Echo CR Report.

Word of Mouth Advertising: While many mistake social media and mobile phones as ends in themselves, they are merely new channels and tools through which to generate the most valuable marketing of all, word of mouth advertising. This extends to motivating employees to become advocates for their company, and to customers that can become powerful brand ambassadors using their own social media channels to promote or recommend a brand. The most effective way a company can generate this is by aligning its storytelling around shared values and inspiring all stakeholders to work towards a common purpose.

If you’re interested in how you can bring conscious capitalism to life in your business, large or small, I invite you to visit their website and hear from other business leaders that are going through the difficult, but necessary, transition to becoming brands that don’t just build their bottom line, but also create a better world.



Why Integration is the Key to the Impact of a Brand’s Social Purpose

March 24, 2014 0 Comments

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of keynoting at the annual ACCP conference, the Association of Corporate Contribution of Practitioners. This event brings together corporate responsibility and Foundation leads from many of the country’s largest F500 brands …

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Coca-Cola On How Brand Story Shapes Brand Leadership

March 19, 2014 1 Comments

Tom LaForge, Global Director of Human & Cultural Insights at the Coca-Cola Company, sat down with us after speaking at our 2013 Brand Leadership Summit and took us deeper into the ideal that brand story shapes brand leadership, and how …

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3 Reasons Why Vine Will Be Part of the Future of Social Marketing

March 13, 2014 5 Comments

Vine was launched way back in January of 2013, and since then its popularity has exploded across the social world. By April it had become the most downloaded app in the iOS store. What started as a fun and exciting …

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5 Reasons to Activate Employees Around Your Company’s Social Purpose

March 7, 2014 3 Comments

In today’s climate of intense customer activism powered by nimble mobile and social technologies, brands must now define and lead with their social purpose in ways that build customer trust, loyalty, and sales. Yet many organizations miss an element that’s …

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Brand Awakening: 3 Key Steps To Ensure Your Company Survives

February 21, 2014 0 Comments

In January of this year, Edelman released their annual Trust Barometer Report and distilled the 2014 learning down to one single phrase: “Business to lead the debate for change.” It’s in this context that three recent strategic moves by major …

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About Simon Mainwaring

We First training and consulting helps the world’s most innovative brands tell the story of the good work they do in ways that build their reputation, employee productivity, sales and social impact.

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