The We First Blog.

Apple, Earth Day, and The New Demands of Leadership

April 22, 2014 Comments

On Monday, Apple launched a new ad outlining its environmental responsibility. In doing so, Tim Cook firmly placed his imprimatur of the future of Apple, going so far as to provide the voiceover for the ad himself just as Steve Jobs had done for an early version of ‘Here’s to the Crazy Ones’.

Tim Cook demonstrated his passion for addressing climate change at Apple’s shareholder meeting in February stating “If you want me to do things only for [return on investment] reasons you should get out of this stock.”  Cook also publicly committed Apple to using 100% renewable energy in all of its facilities as soon as possible. To that end, Apple enlisted the services of former head of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, in 2013 to oversee its sustainability efforts and, after an initial reversal, committed the company to using green materials in its computers under the EPEAT Standard. Now Greenpeace spokesman and ‘Clicking Green’ Report co-author, David Pomerantz, states, “Apple has done the most of any data center operator to make its part of the internet green,” and as of yesterday, Apple revamped the environmental page on its website to celebrate the energy savings of its iMacs and its carbon-free new campus clearly stating, “We believe climate change is real.”

Such bold statements by Apple do invite scrutiny, however, as they do for any brand. Questions remain about what happens behind its very private supply chain ecosystem, the sustainability practices of its Chinese manufacturer, Foxconn, and Apple’s philanthropic record. Meanwhile the ad itself is emblematic of this journey. More corporate in tone and imagery, it is less accessible than many of its popular product ads.

Moving forward, Apple has the opportunity to incorporate three strategies critical to social storytelling:

1. Brands must be the celebrant, not celebrity, of their customer community: Social technology is teaching us to be more human in our relatedness with stakeholders and that should be reflected in brand storytelling, especially when addressing issues as important to everyone’s future as climate change, renewable energy, and sustainability. This involves a simple but important shift from focusing on what Apple is doing itself, to celebrating how that work is making a positive difference in the lives of others.

2. Customers want to coauthor the brand story: There is no shortage of passion for Apple’s revolutionary products but as the company seeks to position its brand around shared values, there will be a greater expectation from all stakeholders to play a greater role in shaping the brand’s sustainability commitment and story. This is great news for Apple as there is such an enormous reservoir of passion for the brand to tap into once it commits to balancing control with inclusion to achieve the common goal.

3. People rise to the conversation you create around them: Apple’s undeniable expertise, resources, and innovation capacity equip it to be a leader in the sustainability space. That privilege, however, is also a responsibility. As Apple further integrates environmental responsibility throughout its supply chain, product line, and retail marketing, the onus will fall on the company to shape the alternative energy and sustainability conversation beyond its own walls. Only when Apple actively extends the cultural conversation will it be positioned for true industry leadership.

Lisa Jackson writes on the Apple website that, “We have a long way to go but we are proud of our progress.” In the ad itself, Tim Cook repositions their core commitment to “better” as an ideal that hinges on values and actions that benefit people and the planet, rather than a product feature alone. If these are any indication of a new imperative at Apple, it is indeed cause to celebrate. Apple’s success has always been driven by its ability to hold itself to a higher standard, and if this is applied equally to sustainability, we can expect true leadership, innovation and impact in the years to come.


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 0 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 …

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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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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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