I work with organizations on innovation approaches, audience engagement, cultural intelligence, and media/storytelling strategies. At those links/below, find examples of work I’ve done in each of those four areas.
You can also find out more about my work via my bio and elsewhere on the site. Sign up for my occasional newsletter about my work here or via LinkedIn, and please don’t hesitate to be in touch if there’s something we might work on together.
I’ve worked with a range of companies to develop the strategy for—and implement—new (or revised) organizational focuses/models, new lines of business, and new innovation initiatives. Here are a few examples:
- For Paramount, I helped design and implement an “organic growth initiative” funded by the parent company at their publishing division, Simon & Schuster. With my co-founder, I designed and operationalized an approach for how Simon & Schuster would discover, vet, acquire, and support the development and publication of books in new, research-informed ways. This included envisioning a new “cultural intelligence” function in the organization, implementing a range of research services to benefit editorial and marketing teams, creating new workflows with editorial and marketing teams, exploring new data science products to assist publishing decision-making, and helping recruit a 20+-person team that helped pilot this approach. As part of this endeavor, we launched a new imprint (Tiller Press) that tested these approaches before being implemented for other parts of the company. Tiller Press grossed more than $1 million in sales in 2019, around $4 million in sales in 2020, and netted more than a half-million units sold before reaching its second anniversary. In all, in 2.5 years, the pilot imprint published more than 120 books.
- For Univision, I helped establish the Center for Innovation and Engagement for Fusion Media Group as Univision’s Innovation and Engagement VP. We helped teams across a growing portfolio of digital publications and television channels design and implement innovation projects and connected academic labs, start-ups, foundation-funded ventures, and other external initiatives with internal sponsors to carry out pilot projects, based on our “slow innovation” philosophy.
- For MIT, I co-founded and acted as project manager for the Convergence Culture Consortium, a research initiative that partnered with organizations like Turner Broadcasting, Viacom Media Networks, GSD&M, Petrobras, iG, Fidelity Investments, Yahoo!, NAGRA, and The Alchemists to produce six Futures of Entertainment conferences, as well as a range of retreats, research reports, and other publications studying innovation and transformation in the media and marketing industries. This research led to my 2013 book, co-authored with Henry Jenkins and Joshua Green: Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture.
- For WNYC/New York Public Media, I worked with the CEO and other company leaders to identify and articulate the organization’s vision for serving its local news mandate in the 21st Century, in light of significant changes in the culture, the media environment, and the local media ecosystem. This vision was used to shape the organization’s priorities and strategy moving forward and to articulate the organization’s priorities to its Board.
- At AccelerateKY, I have spearheaded a set of projects connecting Kentuckians to one another—and establishing a dialogue between Kentucky innovators and various labs at MIT. These efforts led to Kentucky becoming the first U.S. region ever accepted to MIT’s Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program and, ultimately, the formation of our nonprofit, AccelerateKY, for which I act as executive director. As part of this work, I helped co-author the formative whitepaper, co-coordinate the formative summit, co-organize the launch strategy session, and led the creation of the website for the new nonprofit organization the Metals Innovation Initiative (MI2). MI2 focused on bringing stakeholders together to engage in projects that enhance Kentucky’s centrality in innovation in the metals sector. The formation of MI2 was a central focus of AccelerateKY’s first year, and I have personally continued to support the organization since formation by helping guide its storytelling strategy, working with MI2 leadership, the core support team, member companies, and strategic partners.
- For Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, I helped establish/oversee the Rural Journalism Innovation Lab, where we experimented with several different approaches to discover sustainable approaches to drive revenue and reader engagement for small news organizations serving rural communities, ultimately sharing what we learned at Columbia Journalism Review and in other venues. This work received the 2018 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Research Prize for Professional Relevance.
- For the Western Kentucky University Innovation Campus and the nonprofit organization headquartered there that develops economic development initiatives—the Central Region Ecosystem for Arts, Technology, and Entrepreneurship (CREATE)—I’ve co-led the development of a range of new programs from their headquarters at an adaptively reused 285,000-square-foot old mall in Bowling Green and beyond. Learn more about those programs from my Fall 2022 piece in WKU Spirit magazine.
I’ve worked with a range of organizations to develop new models and strategies (and guide implementation) for engaging their audiences across communication platforms. Here are a few examples of that work:
- For strategic communications firm Peppercomm, I helped establish the agency’s digital communication approaches and services, working substantially with clients like EY, Steelcase, BBC America, Genworth Financial, Food Network, Suddenlink, Lincoln Financial, Nikon, Neuberger Berman, and Kyocera, among others—work which led to the honor of being named PR News Digital Communicator of the Year in 2014. I also led efforts to build social media and community management strategies for a range of B2B and B2C clients—helping Siemens find new approaches to recruiting and supporting military veterans, Puget Sound Energy craft their guidelines for using social media channels to identify customer service needs, and insurance clients explore appropriate initiatives within their regulatory environment, for instance. This contributed to being named 2011 Bulldog Reporter Social Media Innovator of the Year and a 2014 PR News Social Media MVP. And we piloted various new service offerings, such as an “Audience Experience” offering designed to help companies like MINI, EY, and Whirlpool see their communication across platforms from the audience’s perspective.
- For Fusion, one of Univision’s newsrooms, I piloted, recruited, and managed a new position called “community liaison.” The role sought to build deeper, ongoing relationships between Fusion’s newsrooms and a range of organizations and online creators whose areas of focus and interest had significant connections to issues on which our journalists were often focused. This position helped internal teams better consider the communities they sought to reach with stories, conducted outreach, coached members of individual news teams to do more audience engagement work, helped connect teams across Fusion and sister newsrooms looking to reach similar communities, and acted as an ambassador for the organization at in-person events (for instance, spearheading a 14-stop college tour to consider what the phrase “As American As” means in the 21st century.
- For Lowe’s Hardware, I worked with a chain of smaller stores on the West Coast called Orchard Supply Hardware to revamp their community engagement and local philanthropic endeavors—an approach meant to help rethink and pilot how each store could act as a resource to their local community in meaningful ways—and worked with regional and local teams to design new approaches to utilizing social media channels for more meaningful engagement with customers.
- With Columbia University’s American Assembly, I helped design and implement a new Civic Assembly approach to partner with newsrooms to engage their audiences in a conversation about what they would like to see change to improve their community. Pilots in Kentucky with The Bowling Green Daily News in 2018 and with Louisville Public Media in 2020 included both a “Virtual Town Hall,” using a platform called Pol.is, and in-person gatherings. More about what we learned from these initial pilots at Slate.
- For the Alabama Media Group, I designed and managed a pen pal project connecting people with different opinions about gun safety and legislation to one another through our moderation, around the organization’s larger “Guns: An American Conversation” initiative with Spaceship Media, Essential Partners, and other organizations. More than 150 people across the U.S. responded to the pen pal call by filling out a form meant to share their feelings about guns with a stranger who feels differently than them. More than 30 pairs engaged in ongoing dialogue beyond swapping initial answers. And, ultimately, 11 pairs asked to be directly introduced after several back-and-forth exchanges facilitated by us. More on the overall initiative in Spaceship Media’s book Guns, An American Conversation: How to Bridge Political Divides.
- For the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, I acted as co-chair for their Ethics Committee and a member of their Board of Directors. This work included engaging in dialogue with the Federal Trade Commission and other regulators—as well as a range of professionals throughout the marketing, advertising, and corporate communication industries—to discuss industry best practices for how to transparently engage audiences with native advertising and with proper disclosures when social media content is being generated because of a paid relationship. In related work, I also partnered with leaders from various public relations firms to drive a conversation about ethical corporate interaction with the Wikipedia project. (More at Harvard Business Review and PRWeek.)
- For the American Press Institute, based on my research and experiments around local news, I helped curate a guide to meaningful community engagement through live events for the Institute’s set of resources for journalists, Better News.
I have helped several organizations develop (and implement) new approaches to listening to the culture outside their walls, and bring that knowledge to bear on their strategies. Here are a few examples of that work:
- For Simon & Schuster, I helped design, recruit, and manage a new, ongoing “Cultural Intelligence Analyst” function for the large trade publisher. The intent of the role was to engage in multi-method quantitative and qualitative research to uncover and follow cultural patterns; to help discover and vet book ideas; and to ultimately support the creation and marketing of books at our pilot imprint, Tiller Press, and at other imprints throughout the company. Research methods included data from social listening, digital content performance, podcast performance, search queries, book industry sales, and larger online retail–as well as a range of qualitative research approaches. The team helped discover, vet, and support the publication of well over 100 books with Tiller Press by the end of 2021, and worked regularly with various other teams across the company to support acquisition and marketing decisions.
- For Microsoft, I researched and produced case studies on several transmedia storytelling practices–from HBO’s True Blood and Fox’s Glee to the history of storytelling across platforms in daytime soaps and professional wrestling. These case studies were meant to help inform Microsoft’s understanding of, and development around, story worlds and narrative efforts.
- As a research affiliate with MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing, I have overseen a range of research projects studying, for instance, changing media consumption practices, emerging methods of fan engagement with media properties and marketing brands, and how audience practices are changing media industries models. This work has led to the publication of two book projects: 2013’s Spreadable Media (co-authored with Henry Jenkins and Joshua Green) and 2010’s The Survival of Soap Opera (co-edited with Abigail De Kosnik and C. Lee Harrington). It’s also led to the publication of more than 25 academic essays on media fandom, transmedia storytelling, professional wrestling, soap operas, the marketing and communications world, and a range of other subjects.
- For The BLK+Cross, an Atlanta-based “multi-sector consulting and change agent ecosystem, I helped lead a project focused on understanding the underlying narratives driving COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among communities of color. Much of the research we conducted on understanding vaccine hesitancy narratives—and creating counter-narrative frameworks—led to work that is featured on The BLK+Cross’ community outreach platform Alive & In Color, under the “COVIED” tab. COVIED—or the COVID Vaccines Information Equity and Demand creation program—was funded by the CDC Foundation and includes several other partners like Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia College, the National Association of Community Health Centers, the National Association of County & City Health Officials, and RIWI. More about the project here.
- For The Coca-Cola Company, I participated in an effort to better understand the contemporary cultural landscape, changing customer behaviors and expectations in a digital communication era, and where the various teams in marketing and communication around the Coca-Cola Company’s various brands might fit within that changing space.
- For Peppercomm client TJMaxx, I helped lead a review of emerging trends likely to change the landscape of marketing, public relations, digital communication, and technology. The project combined a review of the practices of 20 retail competitors, media coverage of top competitors, and PR/marketing industry trade news/awards programs with a review of emerging innovation best practices and interviews with more than 25 experts, to highlight key changing industry and cultural patterns around which TJMaxx’s teams might consider adapting.
- For the U.S. Department of State, I contributed to an initiative from the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy on bots, echo chambers, and disinformation campaigns entitled Can Public Diplomacy Survive the Internet? Conducted in 2017, the initiative was meant to uncover larger trends/changes in the culture, and highlight how those engaging in public diplomacy work for the U.S. around the world might consider these changes in their larger strategies and their daily work. In addition to our collective work around the subject, in particular, I led a look at larger changes in the structures of digital platforms/digital publishing that could contribute to these issues.
In 2021, I am actively working on several original creative IP projects across video, audio fiction, and book formats, with a particular enthusiasm for emerging practices for utilizing these spaces, for bringing stories (and story worlds) across formats, and for implementing transmedia, test-and-learn approaches to building narratives. As those projects get further down the development pipeline, I look forward to sharing more about them. Meanwhile, previously:
- During my time at the Fusion Media Group at Univision, I facilitated and/or project managed a range of approaches/partnerships for telling stories that were new to the organization. This included Rigged, an investigative journalism television documentary from Fusion in partnership with mobile gamemaker Hitcents; 1,300 Men, a video series partnership between The Root and multimedia journalism project Striking Voices; working with The Naked Truth team to draw on unlikely voices (pro wrestler Hillbilly Jim and porn star Lisa Ann) to help audiences understand shell corporations as part of their part in the Panama Papers investigation; Rise Up: Imagine Health & Justice, a partnership between Fusion’s Rise Up: Be Heard California journalism fellows and USC Civic Paths to imagine the California of the future they want to see and then consider how to get there from the present through their reporting; data journalism partnerships between Fusion and entities like the Internet Archive, the MIT Media Lab’s Laboratory for Social Machines, and Witness; a student journalism/newsroom project to tell stories from the U.S./Mexico border between Fusion and the University of Southern California; and a partnership to bring results from the University of Chicago Black Youth Project‘s GenForward surveys of Millennials to audiences at The Root, Univision, and Fusion; and helping coordinate a meeting of North American musical styles by bringing legendary music producer T Bone Burnett together with Mexican singer-songwriter Lila Downs and Puerto Rican rapper Residente for a special performance of Calle 13’s “Latinoamerica” to close out Univision’s RiseUP as One concert on the U.S./Mexico border.
- For Simon & Schuster’s Tiller Press, I helped coordinate a range of projects that adapted or expanded projects from other media formats into book form–such as Video Palace: In Search of the Eyeless Man, which expands the story world of AMC/Shudder’s fiction podcast Video Palace through an anthology of horror short stories; Appalachian Fall: Dispatches from Coal Country on What’s Ailing America, which adapts multiple years of radio reporting from a team of public radio reporters across three states into book form; 1,001 Voices on Climate Change: Everyday Stories of Flood, Fire, Drought, and Displacement from Around the World, which adapts a journalist’s interactive collection of personal audio accounts about the effects of climate change from people across the world into book form; Guns, An American Conversation: How to Bridge Political Divides, a book case study/culmination of an in-person and digital initiative (and related newsroom reporting) bringing Americans with diverse views on guns together to talk with one another; and Midland: Reports from Flyover Country, which brings an initiative called Between Coasts, featuring writers based in states throughout the middle of the U.S. writing about issues happening in their places, into book form.
- For strategic communications firm Peppercomm, much of my work with agency teams and clients focused on strategies for how to rethink of companies as digital publishers, telling their company’s stories in ways that stretch beyond traditional marketing. This work included emphasizing the importance of “showing, not telling;” the importance of “rediscovering your company’s humanity;” thinking about “the story of their digital footprint;” emphasizing the importance of providing value rather than selling in B2B corporate storytelling; and considering best practices for B2B transmedia storytelling.
- For WD-40, I partnered with Appalachian digital development firm Bit Source to work with the company’s global marketing teams on a new video series—stretching across global industry sectors—to answer some commonly asked “How Do I…” questions that WD-40 DIYers and professional audiences often pose, based on search data the WD-40 teams had access to from around the globe. This endeavor to begin with frequently asked questions across the globe for WD-40 was a new approach for the company’s marketers, as was engaging not a traditional marketing or video production firm but rather a digital development entity in the Appalachian U.S. populated with employees that mirror many of the company’s target customer types.
- For Lowe’s Hardware, I helped the marketing team at their West Coast chain of stores Orchard Supply Hardware develop a storytelling-driven “newsroom” approach to identifying and telling stories that customers might care about, as an effort to build on longstanding marketing and communication efforts centered on promoting current sales.
- For the USC Civic Imagination Project, I have worked with the team to explore how their methodologies might help diverse types of groups and projects understand how imagining and telling stories about the future might help find common ground and new approaches to solutions. Find more about our work via the MacArthur Foundation, Practicing Futures: A Civic Imagination Handbook, the West Virginia Public Broadcasting podcast Us & Them, my colleagues Henry Jenkins’ & Sangita Shresthova’s 2022 SXSW talk, and our Civic Imagination Incubator in partnership with AccelerateKY and the WKU Innovation Campus.