10/28/2011 12:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Creating Movements and Cause Marketing Dreams Can Come True

I was so very honored to be included in Ketchum's Respect the Internet one day conference in New York City. The line up of presenters was unbelievable, and the opening keynote from David Weinberger was different from anything I had heard before and still has me thinking. You can watch the keynote and other panels here. David said "the internet is not the medium, we are the medium", which to me translates to "the internet is still a human experience that just happens online." One of the many reasons I love Jeff Pulver and Chris Brogan so much is because they make the internet human. As marketers (we are all marketers at some level) we must never forget people are human and thus, so is the internet.

Respect the Internet II

Photo: Ketchum PR

Being candid, speaking at this conference had me a little intimidated. So much so that I was actually studying movements every spare moment leaded up to the conference. Normally I speak to a social media crowd, or homeless services, or a leadership, motivational type event. Ketchum is one of the top players in the PR/marketing field and being asked to speak at this level was an amazing honor.

I had never met Marty Cooke or Kristen Engberg before, but we connected right away like we had done this several times. Right away I was impressed by Marty. When we were introduced he started to talk about and how much he liked the interviews. I was blown away that he took the time to visit the site and his genuine encouragement meant the world to me. (If you didn't pick up on the huge marketing gold nugget in the last two sentences I thought I would point it out: It's not about YOU) When Kirsten arrived and the three of us started talking, now this was about a 1/2 hour before the panel, we all started to passionately engage in conversation about movements that continued on right through us being being prepped for the stage. Ben Foster, VP Digital Strategy at Ketchum, noticed our chemistry and for the most part just let us go. The end result was one of the best panel experiences at a conference I have ever had. Gosh, I could talk to Marty and Kristen for hours, and hope to someday spend more time with each of them. Please watch and share this video about movements and cause marketing.

Too me, relationships are so vital to any personal and professional success. How you respect the internet is respect people -- always! One huge change our all being connected has caused is that now EVERYTHING MATTERS! Everything should have always mattered, but with social media now more than ever everything matters. To help bring in this point please allow me to share a little history on how I ended up on stage at a Ketchum conference speaking with such amazing people.

A few years back I was in a very serious financial crisis. I was in the process of losing my house to foreclosure and every job seemed to last only a very short time until I was laid off again, and again, and again. I had just started using social media to help with , but at the same time I had zero income and life was very scary. I literally was eating $1 pizzas because that was all I could afford. I saw a tweet about Social Media Club LA holding an event at Universal Sheraton for $10 and there was food. Knowing the Universal Sheraton a little I figured it would be a classy event with much better food than Ralph's 10 for $10 cardboard pizzas. Honest, I really went to my first social media event to get better food. I have to say it was an interesting evening, some drama broke out and before I knew it I am connecting with Jessica Gottlieb. Not sure why, maybe Jessica has a fondness to Muppets, but we became friends. Jessica behind the scenes has done so much to support me in the fight against homelessness I will be forever grateful. It was through Jessica that I first connected to Ketchum. Jessica told Nancy Martira about and then Alan Danzis. Last year I was visiting New York City and I stopped by to say thanks and bring Nancy and Alan cupcakes. I honestly believe it's so very important to say "thank you" as often as possible. As Ketchum was looking for people to present Alan introduced me to Jonathan Kopp, and the next thing you know I am speaking at Ketchum's event.

During 2009 & spring of 2010 over twenty two people died homeless in Anchorage, Alaska. I desperately wanted to go help our homeless friends tell their story, but I had no idea how I was going to get there. Alan and Nancy connected me to a Ketchum client, Hertz Car Rental. Hertz underwrote my whole trip to Alaska, yet they never asked me for anything in return. When you receive a gift it's only natural to say something good about the giver, so I talk about Hertz often, and General Motors, Delta Hotels, Petro-Canada (Canada) , Murphy Oil (United States), Hanes, TubeMogul, Pitch Engine, and Virgin Mobile Canada, All have helped me fight homelessness and have never asked me for anything, which makes me want to say great things about them even more. The end result is homeless friends like Kim, Mark and Luke helped tell the story of life in the streets of Anchorage. A little news media helped keep the horrible situation in the public's eye. And I was personally changed when Anchorage Police allowed me to ride along while they visited a tent city.

At the time Hertz didn't even have a social media presence, so you may be asking what's in it for them? Well, the immediate return on investment was and still is Hertz employees loved that Hertz was helping me fight homelessness. And the team in Anchorage, who normally may not get much attention, grabbed on to my visit and it was amazing. One thing I did forget to mention in the panel was the positive impact cause marketing has on employees. Recently I was in Pittsburgh doing a branded event with a local GMC dealer. As I was driving in the dealer started to post photos to their Facebook page of employees filling a truck with donations.

When I started I had a dream that to change the story of homelessness and get people into housing we would need to partner with new people and reach new stakeholders. Part of that dream was building relationships with major brands that would not only help validate the importance of the need to fight homelessness but would also offer tangible support.

What happened in Pittsburgh is the start of a dream come true. The local GMC dealer, #1 Cochran Automotive, raffled off Pittsburgh Steeler tickets to help fill a truck with donations that went to the Pittsburgh YMCA that operates two men's homes. Here is a video of GMC event and a slideshow, and while the Ketchum conference was still on my mind I taped this interview with the GMC dealer and local YMCA:

I really think the best way to go into any relationship is asking "how can I help you"? The best way to keep those relationships is being truthful in everything you do.

What are your thoughts about brand/cause relationships and creating movements?