SOMETIMES I LAND A PUNCH, OTHER TIMES I'M JUST SWINGING.
With a mix of excitement and fondness, some news: today is my last day working for Sony.
While many people were shocked when I told them I was leaving, when I gave some context they got it. So…some context.
On a summer humpday in July, 2008 I was working at Toyota USA’s corporate headquarters in Torrance, California. Browsing the Internet like a typical 24 year old would on a summer day in Southern California, I came across a conversation thread in a Prius chat room which ended up impacting the trajectory of my career. You see, I had just been given the job of developing all the powerpoint presentations for Toyota’s top executives, bringing their speeches to life in front of press, dealers, and consumers. A very scary thing for a kid who just learned Photoshop and Powerpoint - but I thank my manager who believed I could step into the shoes that needed to be filled.
This forum thread was on fire - literally. Someone’s Prius had reportedly blown up and caught on fire. Photos were popping up, speculation was rampant, and customers on the forum were stating to panic that their vehicle might be next. No one knew what to do or where to go for information.
After a lot of internal conversations we decided to start an account on the forum and get involved. The lead PR manager stepped up to the keyboard, cracked his knuckles, and typed it out of the park. We waited with nervous anticipation - then the replies started pouring in:
The emotion inside our makeshift “command center” was palpable. If it were to stop there, I would have said “job well done” and we need to talk to the customer service team and hand this over to them to figure out - then back to my Powerpoint. But then the owner came back onto the thread:
Toyota corporate was fantastic and sent inspectors over yesterday to look at the car and then they called me today. (and just a side note that l.a. arson investigators went yesterday as well and came to the same conclusion).
Have to say, i was really impressed with how seriously Toyota took the matter and with the care i received from corporate. I will definitely be replacing my Prius with another.
It was that moment that I realized we had just dealt with a situation that traditionally would have been “owned” by 4-5 departments. It was bigger than customer service…and I wanted to figure out how to fit this puzzle together. I put down the Powerpoint and picked up Twitter.
Since then I have continued to work inside of some of the world’s largest and most respected companies to bring the many encounters happening on the edges with customers into the core of the business. I truly believe we can help each other more if we get to know each other better (works for people and with companies because after all, companies are made of people). This journey has taken me from Toyota to Sony Pictures to Sony Corporate. It has been a wild ride, and have experienced first hand the joys and frustrations that comes with systematic change. Notably, my last nearly two years at Sony Corporation of America has been especially fruitful. I have yet to work with a cross company, cross disciplinary team more dedicated to changing how things are done than this crew. Sony is at an interesting time in its history, and I am confident that the way forward is forged with vision and collaboration - and this team is fit to lead the charge.
But for me, it’s time for a shift. I still believe that the capacity to change comes from the willingness and decisions of those within it, but I also believe that sometimes the catalyst for change needs to come from outside the system.
So with that, I am heading to one of the most innovative, exciting groups I have seen a long time, Sub Rosa, to build out their communications practice. They believe, just as I, that the medium is not as important as the message. They focus on understanding the fundamental truths of brands to help them explore, learn and grow through design and innovation. It’s a small team, which is a welcomed change after having been sandwiched in multinational conglomerates.
I am still continually amazed by how, in such a short amount of time, social media has completely revolutionized the consumer/company relationship. Early on we could see that the level of empowerment connected networks enabled “regular people” to have was something that must be understood, and I am excited to work with a nimble, creative team to dream up how to channel that power. Exciting times.
As I have said before, I believe social media is not a department but a discipline, and I am excited to have the opportunity explore this philosophy with more companies and brands at Sub Rosa. While I’m eager to see what the future holds, I will always be indebted to the amazing in-house teams at Toyota, Crackle, and Sony who were bold enough to dream, explore, and work tirelessly to create something new.
Minutes after the Great East Japan Earthquake, Twitter was on fire. I watched from Tweetdeck as #PrayForJapan shot to the top of the worldwide trending topics, hanging there for weeks. I remember sitting there proud and heartbroken at the same time; proud at the outpouring of global compassion and humanity, but heartbroken that the people in need of those prayers would most likely never see them.
We launched a program last Friday that aims to solve this: it is called Message to Japan. It is a global platform where people can submit a message of hope and encouragement for the people of Japan to help inspire and emotionally fuel the rebuilding process. While this idea is nothing new (Google, Toyota, and others had similar ideas), we wanted to go one step further. To me, supporting someone emotionally is only valuable if they actually experience the intention of your heart; figuring out a way to close that feedback loop was vital.
To address this, the messages submitted here will be broadcast and streamed here. Working with partners on the ground, we are setting up display screens at charity events, local businesses, and hopefully displacement centers. This is just our first step in this program - but we aim for this to be a sustainable and replicable system that can be turned on in the event of another global disaster. Social media can be used to narrow the gap that geography creates; never is there a time more vital for words of compassion and prayer to be heard than in a time of crisis. #communityFTW
UPDATE: Photos from some of the on the ground installations can be found on the Sony Facebook Page.