There was once a time when companies could effectively tell their story through a traditional advertising or public relations campaign. Companies would disseminate their pitch to consumers in hopes of converting them into customers. Number of sales was usually the only metric that mattered. The role of CCO has evolved significantly, creating an environment where companies are dependent on numerous metrics, including share of voice, brand recognition, message penetration, customer and community engagement, and yes, sales.  

In today’s world, building a brand requires fostering a strong community of brand advocates whether they are a virtual community online or fans in the stands. Authentic communities not only engage target audiences, but they build an emotional connection with them to the point that they can convert participants into brand advocates as well. Amassing a base of these loyal brand enthusiasts can be effectively cultivated by building an emotional connection through authentic and transparent storytelling opportunities. People connect to people, so putting a face on your brand is important, but they have to be true believers and users of your product, or part of your team.

Both internal and external enthusiasts play important roles in the storytelling cycle. Utilizing both audiences allows the information to pass organically to new audiences via trusted sources. The key is to ensure the story you are telling is authentic and relevant to each enthusiast community so that consumers can relate to the brand either directly or through aspiration. This allows them to create their own narrative in line with the brand, as well as disseminate and amplify your story through the many available tools, including social and traditional mediums.  Much like fans of a sports team, these enthusiasts will don a company’s branded merchandise, and share their story, with unmatched passion, with those within their realm of influence because they have developed an emotional connection.

Take for example the LA Galaxy. They have successfully built a fan base through not only the accomplishments of their team but also through the connections fans have made to individual players. In my work with LA Galaxy sponsor Herbalife Nutrition, I see first-hand what goes into building their brand and the authenticity behind it. Sure, the players are interviewed on TV and have social media profiles, but they also are out in the community forming connections on a regular basis. For example, Gyasi Zardes recently joined Herbalife’s CEO to surprise college-bound students in East LA with laptops. These students are the first in their families to go to college, but hearing Gyasi speak to them about his own experience helped them put their fear aside. They were inspired when Gyasi talked about his pride in recently graduating from Cal State Dominguez Hills and the challenges of completing college while being a professional soccer player and father of young children. Through his honesty and sincerity about his own experience, he made a true connection with those students that converted them, and their teachers, nonprofit and corporate staff, into fans on the spot.

Special Olympics has also grown into such a powerful movement by creating those emotional connections between volunteers and athletes, building communities as they go, changing the lives of athletes and their families. Special Olympics athlete Dustin Plunkett will join us to share his personal story and it will move you. He has touched so many with his experience that he was invited to become  a guest commentator on ESPN, a guest in the White House, and was presented with an Honorary ESPY at the recent awards night. Dustin has done so much to help build the Special Olympics community, that they hired him as a Global Messenger and he now oversees a team of athletes.

Building trust and a relationship with your enthusiast communities is not much different than building trust and a relationship with an individual - be authentic, be honest and transparent, and create opportunities for people to connect and engage with your brand.

There’s No ‘I’ in Team panel discussion at this year's Page Annual Conference will include Chris Klein, president of the LA Galaxy; Bill Shumard, CEO of Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC); and Dustin Plunkett a Special Olympics athlete and spokesperson, to share their stories of how they go about building a fan base, and a community respectively, and how they retain them.

I have the pleasure and opportunity to work with both organizations, through Herbalife Nutrition’s sponsorship of the LA Galaxy and Special Olympics International, as well as a board member of Special Olympics Southern California, having seen first-hand how supporters are drawn in by the athletes, their impact in the community and their personal stories.

This is a great opportunity to showcase the power of authentic engagement and bringing organizations to life by connecting to people individually. Hope you can join us in San Diego for this great conversation