Sam Ford on Spreadable Media, storytelling and audience engagement

Meet my new guest, Sam Ford (@Sam_Ford), on the feisworld podcast! As the Director of Audience Engagement at Peppercomm, Sam works with companies to better listen to, empathize with, understand, and serve their customers and other key audiences through communications and storytelling.  There are three major components to Sam’s job:

  1. Client consulting
  2. Design thinking (and how it applies to communication)
  3. Writing, speaking, and being on industry board (-> this one is probably my favorite!)

If you can’t see the media player controls above, here are other ways to listen:

Sam was introduced to me by Josh Green, remember Josh from Episode #2 back in November 2014? Sam and Josh co-authored the book Spreadable Media: creating value and meaning in a networked culture. 

SpreadableMedia

When you hear the word "media", you may already be thinking about the other word "viral". But viral indicates or hints at that people don’t even have to try to pass that content around. That’s not how culture works, that’s just how a virus works.

One of the many interesting POVs from this book confirms:

"The act of sharing, critiquing, passing along are profoundly creative. It also gives people a great deal of pleasure and drive people’s engagement." - Sam Ford

So the first question I had to ask Sam: What was the process like for Sam to combine his knowledge and experience from academia, consulting, journalism (in pop culture) to do what he does today? Furthermore, how did Sam navigate his career path to become the Director of Audience Engagement?

Whether you are already in marketing, advertising, consulting, or running your own business, working in other industries, Sam’s words of wisdom speak to all walks of life. It was a tremendous learning experience for me.

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did. If you can't t finish this interview in one sitting, make sure that you come back to the second half when Sam reveals his prediction and analysis for what’s next for the social sphere beyond Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Quora, etc.  This is a popular question clients often ask Sam. We also dove into the idea of collective intelligence (crowdsourcing) which can be very powerful but also terrifying at the same time. "Everything is a tradeoff" Sam says, "and that tradeoff fascinates me."

If you’d like Sam to further elaborate on topics mentioned in this episode, please drop me a note via this blog post, or Facebook, Twitter.

To learn more about Sam, you can follow him on Twitter (@Sam_Ford). Sam is also a Professor for the Pop Culture Studies Program at Western Kentucky University.

Show Notes:

  • What’s the process for Sam to combine his knowledge and experience from academic, consulting, journalism (in pop culture) to do what he does today? [11:30]
  • Why should you be interested in getting back to storytelling, content creation as a participatory relationship? [14:00]
  • What makes a piece of content engaging (put it through the “holy smoke test”)? What are the secret ingredients? [15:00]
  • What are some of the brands Sam sees as successful in engaging their audience ("show not tell!")
  • Why does Sam believe that company's internal communication deeply impacts external communication? [16:00]
  • How did Tom Casiello become an even better soap opera writer after the Writer's Strike in 2008? [22:30]
  • How does Sam combine all his skills (and other tools and resources) to bridge the communication gap between companies and their audience? [26:00]
  • What has conditioned Sam to do what he does today? What was Sam’s secret origin story? [33:00]
  • Why is it important to be an active listener in digital communication and media in transition? [35:00]
  • Career advice from Sam [37:00]
  • On "Spreadable Media" - a book co-authored by Sam and his friends from MIT [41:00]
  • Topix.com: from Section 8 Housing, to the girl who works at Wendy's, to solving murder cases [50:00]
  • How does technology facilitation communication? The good and the ugly with collective intelligence [55:00]
  • Sam on the popular podcast "Serial" from a journalist's POV [58:00]
  • What’s coming up next in the social sphere beyond Facebook, YouTube, Quora, etc.? The idea of influence. [1:02]
  • Why should companies show, not tell? [1:04]
  • Sam's Visitor Guide to Kentucky [1:15]

Favorite Quotes:

"The act of sharing, critiquing, passing along are profoundly creative. It also gives people a great deal of pleasure and drive people’s engagement."

"You could argue the ways in which the audience has changed the path of circulation for media may be more fundamental than change."

"Everything is a tradeoff - what you lose vs. what you gain. The tradeoff is what fascinates me the most."

On the podcast "Serial" from a journalist's POV: "What happens when you turn private people into public figures, what’s the ethic around that sort of process?"

The idea of influence: "People I pay attention to rarely publish anything themselves. They become a filter for smart thinking and smart stuff."

"The way people initially engage in their leisure time dictates how they engage in their professional lives. Executives are doing this on a regular basis. What seemed edgy, crazy is now the standard, everyday communication."

Consumers expect companies to: "Show me that you are thinking by writing and posting about X. The company needs to show what it invests in and that is hard to fake!"

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