Getting WIRED: Keep Falling

WIRED It wasn’t any ordinary Tuesday. Word on the street scoped May 12th to be a scorcher – destined to hit ninety degrees in the afternoon sun. Fortunately I got to spend most of the day in an overly air conditioned conference space with hundreds of tech innovators, journalists, start up groupies, founders and other proud techstars. Yes, the 2015 WIRED Business Conference was all that – and way less nerdy than I expected. Tech is so chic these days, all the cool kids agree.

I was invited to attend on behalf of one of my favorite nonprofits, United Women in Business (UWIB), a start-up foundation in its own right dedicated to fostering education and community among female entrepreneurs and changemakers. The day’s content was truly diverse, covering everything from cannabis capitalism, gender diversity in tech, and street skateboarding as environmental hacking, to crowdfunded social architectural design, Instagram’s backstory, the future of finance, and how to go pro without losing your soul.

Watch/listen to the whole conference here but first, here are my top highlights:

  1. The head of engineering for Pinterest is a total #GirlBoss – Tracy Chou.
  2. DJ Patil (not a DJ name, it’s real) is the US Government’s Chief Data Scientist (we have one!), working on new ways to leverage data for improved healthcare and personalized medicine. One day we could be using bioinformatic data to create custom individualized treatments for conditions and injuries based on genetics.
  3. Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram, taught us that #DogMom was trending on Mother’s Day while #OnFleek is also on the rise. He’s all about the power of UGC – citing Instagram’s 300 million users each month who upload 70 million photos a day. He’s passionate about how a photo can start on Instagram and make it’s way to the cover of TIME. Krieger’s biggest hope is that the platform will create more empathy across the world and strengthen human connection, citing the #NepalPhotoProject as a prime example. What’s next? Private messaging will become easier to use, and a new feature will send notifications when your favorite accounts make updates to keep you in the loop.
  4. Did you know Anna Todd wrote One Direction fan fiction on Instagram while working at an Austin make-up counter? Her work has since developed into a NYT Bestselling novel after finalizing her writing on Wattpad, the YouTube of ebooks. She used Wattpad to crowdsource pieces of the plot and even her book’s cover art.
  5. Financial advising startup Wealthfront predicts that all of us will utilize an automated financial service within the next 5 years and cites 20-30 year olds as the most financially empowered generation.
  6. I met the VP of Product at Frankly – which offers What’s App-type tech for any kind of custom, branded app experience you can imagine! Check out what they did for Victoria’s Secret.
  7. Defy Ventures was the stand-out session with a surprise intro by legendary Seth Godin. Catherine and three EITs captivated the entire audience, likely enlisting a whole new cohort of volunteer coaches. Much deserved, MDC Partners presented Defy with their 2015 Humanitarian Award. Plus, I may or may not be in Coss Marte’s documentary (they have my release form).
  8. BIG – (super) cool architectural firm based out of Copenhagen presented on crowdsourced social design and groundbreaking projects they’re leading around the world. Have you heard of a court scraper? It’s a combo of a courtyard and skyscraper – currently underway on the Westside highwayin Manhattan behind Hell’s Kitchen. Get ready. What about building a 10 mile dryline (watch this, seriously), protective wall around downtown Manhattan to protect the city in the event of another hurricane?
  9. Brendan Kennedy of Privateer Holdings spoke to the continuously surprising nature of working in the retail cannabis industry (you can imagine). He says the end of prohibition is inevitable, and that there will be global cannabis brands within the next 5 years with federal prohibition ending in the US within the year. Keep an eye on Tilray, Marley Natural (yes, THAT Marley), and Leafly – all Privateer subsidiaries.
  10. Chad Dickerson, Etsy CEO, spoke to going pro without losing soul and how the company is approaching it’s 10th birthday fresh on the heels of its recent IPO. He plugged the benefits of being a B Corp, and how their team is SO Brooklyn that employees volunteer each week to bike-deliver the company’s compost out to a farm in Red Hook. Did you know Etsy sellers can opt into wholesale deals with Whole Foods and Nordstroms? Plus 86% of Etsy sellers are women – go girls! Think on this: if you come up with an original creative concept but use a 3D printer to create it, can your item still be considered hand-made?
  11. Pro-skater Rodney Mullen’s final words of wisdom sum up entrepreneurship best: “Most of what we do is fall – the best skaters are the best fallers” and “Whatever you do, don’t think about it too much.”

I schmoozed up a storm (without losing my voice, yay!) and plugged Praytell as much as humanly possible. All in all, the day was inspiring and knowledge-filled. It was amazing to rub elbows with the future of tech. It felt like being in the right place at the right time. After all, I was happily representing the future of PR.

WIRED

How to Make (Marketing) Magic

ImageUnremarkable means nothing special, not particularly interesting or surprising. Advertising seeks to draw interest in products, people and services that lack magic on their own. That is the age-old question anyway, isn’t it? What does it take to create something that is truly magical on it’s own? The un-marketed, surprise-released Beyonce album (see: #obsession) comes to mind. That record-breaking release required some groundwork early on for sure, perhaps for years prior dating back to the early Destiny’s Child days.

 Advertising can make or break a brand or an idea in general. Creative strategy and content marketing, if executed thoughtfully with a clear long range goal in mind, can literally change the world. This promise continually drives my personal interest in the field. Look at what’s going on with the green/sustainability trend–it’s all over fashion, haute cuisine and all the rage in tech hot spots like San Francisco (composts bins all over the place with recycling and pushes to go-organic everywhere you look). What if advertising and amazing content strategy could help change people’s perceptions on such a wide scale that the populace actually takes it upon Imageitself to address critical environmental and social issues that the government and corporations don’t necessarily solve?

Social and creative content are the new guard of tools for marketers seeking to change how the world communicates and the way brands can become humanized. Social is undoubtedly the future, especially with regard to video integration and ever-increasing personalization capabilities. Never before have brands had this much potential influence and personal engagement with their intended audiences. Across social, consumers can relate to brands like never before. There is great power in this humanization, notably the promise for greater consumer independence and empowerment with real-time information. Social represents the crossroads at which brands and consumers can create the future together and in doing so, change the way business is conducted and the way perceptions are formed altogether.

Why All The #Hashtags?

EarringsI can’t remember the first time I used a hash tag but I think at that moment I sensed my life would never be the same. Suddenly I felt like I was speaking the language I was always meant to speak. The world finally made sense, talking back to me one abbreviated thought at a time. Immediately, I was in love.

I was super late to the Twitter party because, quite frankly, I wanted to stick with what I felt good at (who ever thought you could be “good at” social media?). When Facebook enabled hashtagging, it was game over. I was off to the races. Armed with a penchant for penning all-too-lengthy mantras, I even started taking them out of posts and using them straight up in my text messages. Friends beware: a new era is upon us.

Somethings are just better communicated in short code. Like Twitter’s 140 characters, hashtags command a certain simplicity and straightforwardness that might otherwise get lost in, I don’t know, a complete sentence or narrative. Try tagging old vintage photos of people’s families or friends as little kids with things like #newswag, #thuglife, #stuntin, #hyphy and don’t even get me started on where that could really lead. At times it can get pretty #treal.

For all you late bloomers out there, don’t fret, there is help for optimizing your hashtagging! To become more seasoned in what will most certainly continue dominating social, get out there and practice. It’s meant to be fun. Get creative and try communicating with people in new ways. That’s what this is all about. Find new things that interest you using images and posts you’ve hashtagged in the past and see what other people are tagging similarly. You might be surprised at what you find and what new connections arise. What is your mantra? What are you known for? Claim your brand.  At the end of the day, social is all about building connections between the people and ideas that inspire us. Welcome to the party.