Nov 7

BSR Conference 2014: Finding (and Using) Your Voice

Emily Semmelman

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2014: Transparency & Transformation. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference on this blog.


“This is a tangent, but I just want to say I’m addicted to Twitter,” Ford Foundation President Darren Walker addressed the BSR Conference audience, “Many times a leader’s voice is created by corporate communications - and it sounds so constructed! Social media lets you find your voice.”


Darren Walker is the president of the Ford Foundation, a leading, global organization committed to social change. He joined the 2014 BSR Conference as a plenary speaker to share his and the Foundation’s views and commitment to alleviating inequality, preserving human dignity and the intersection of corporations and non-profit organizations to advocate for social good.


Some lessons he shared:

  • Collaboration is Key: No one has the resources to get everything they want to accomplish done on their own. Walker urged everyone to improve in their ability to embrace partnerships. He remarked on how business and nonprofits need to come together to create partnerships for social good. There is a new paradigm where business and society come together for justice and inclusion.
  • Embrace the Power of Storytelling: Walker urged the BSR crowd to get on board with the storytelling to make a real impact. Storytelling tends to be underappreciated at foundations. As Walker frankly put it, “Some foundations will take really exciting things and just deaden them!” Stories carry more weight than hard data; meaningful, humanized messages change hearts and minds.
  • Use Your (Authentic) Voice: Anyone can, and should, be a storyteller. In addition to advocating for tapping social media to create an authentic voice, Walker urged leaders to stand up and speak up for their values and investments. As he proclaimed, it’s time for executives to forget jargon, stop relying on messaging and find a genuine voice.



Nov 7

BSR Conference 2014: Shifting Focus to the Long Term

Katy Reddin

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2014: Transparency & Transformation. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference on this blog.


BSR Conference 2014 was a strong call-to-action for business leaders, with PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi’s impassioned presentation being the primary example. Arguing that capitalism has been hijacked by short-term thinking, Nooyi posited that the system cannot function at its fullest potential when such a large number of people cannot contribute, and when the resources on which the system depends are being depleted so quickly.


Nooyi called upon leaders to write a second chapter of capitalism that focuses on short-term profitability and long-term sustainability, using examples from PepsiCo’s own work to demonstrate this mindset.  She stressed, however, that this second chapter cannot be written until the evaluation of business performance is altered, calling for a strong convener to create a global scorecard that all companies can utilize.


Finally, and perhaps most compellingly, was her insistence that business executives and other leaders remain “lifelong students,” reflecting upon her own roots in a water-deprived village in India and how this has enabled her to approach this issue with a “heart, head and hands” mentality. The importance of feeling an issue to the core in order to run a global enterprise that successfully incorporates sustainability is one that the audience instantly reacted to, and an idea that will likely be reflected upon more throughout the conference.





Nov 7

BSR Conference 2014 Kicks Off

Katy Reddin

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2014: Transparency & Transformation. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference on this blog.


“If we want things to stay as they are, things are going to have to change.” BSR’s President and CEO Aron Cramer shared this line from the Italian novel The Leopard to kick off the 2014 BSR conference, which took place this week (Nov. 4-6) in New York City. This idea resonated through each of the plenary addresses from distinguished C-suite executives as well as the panel sessions with notable decision-makers across industries, with all speakers reflecting on the conference theme of “Transparency and Transformation.”


The conference opened with commentary on the necessary advancement of sustainability and inclusive economies, broadly and specifically to Africa:


  • GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty, reflected on the importance of staying dynamic and actively shifting business models to reflect ongoing changes in culture, tying this to the extension of his company’s work in Africa to not only develop vaccines but also create training programs to cultivate much-needed frontline healthcare workers.  Witty recognized that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa recently highlighted this deficiency.
  • Actor Jeffrey Wright pointed out that the epidemic revealed unsettling biases in our attitude toward Africa that have potentially limited our willingness to help. 
  • Maersk Group CEO Nils S. Anderson also spoke of his company’s work in Africa but through a different lens, presenting compelling data that demonstrated the many ways that trade can enable people from poor backgrounds to become a part of the global economy.




Nov 3



Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2014: Transparency & Transformation. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference on this blog.


This week, members of our Social Impact team are in New York City attending the annual BSR Conference. This year's conference focuses on Transparency & Transformation and will explore how transparent business practices and transformative thinking can help lead the way to a more sustainable future.

 How to Follow Along

  1. Check Out the Storify: We’ll be weaving together the best tweets from the week so you can check out what’s happening at the conference in one stop. Check it out below or follow along here.
  2. Connect on Social: Our team will be sharing insights all week on Twitter @WSSocialImpact Join the conversation on our handle and #BSR14.
  3. Tune in to the Livestream: BSR will broadcast much of the conference, including plenary and I3 speakers and the Take10 and Collaboration in Action sessions. Visit the conference homepage to learn more.

 We're proud to be a sponsor again this year, and to partner with BSR on its strategic communications work. We'll be sharing insights throughout the week, and if you are at #BSR14 be sure to look for EricEmily and Katy.



Oct 9

Your story is worth telling. Here’s how.

Lia Albini

We all know a good story when we see one. From your go-to cocktail party anecdote to a moving account of overcoming the odds – stories make us laugh, educate us and often compel us to take action. 

Storytelling is a critical component of nonprofit communications. And while many cause-focused organizations have compelling and exiting stories to share, they often lack the resources and staff bandwidth to do so effectively.

In order to help nonprofits better share their stories, Georgetown University's Center for Social Impact Communication and the Meyer Foundation recently released Stories Worth Telling: A Guide to Strategic and Sustainable Nonprofit Storytelling—a comprehensive set of research and best practices designed to build storytelling capacity among small nonprofits.

So what makes a story compelling?

There are five essential building blocks:

  • An Effective Character - Stories should contain a single, compelling character that is relatable to the audience and who is comfortable relaying specific details, memories and experiences.
  • Trajectory - Stories should chronicle something that happens—an experience, journey, transformation, or discovery—but they don’t need to be a linear, sequential recounting every time.
  • Authenticity - Stories should show, rather than tell, the audience about the character’s transformation, using rich details and featuring the character’s own voice, devoid of jargon.
  • Action-Oriented Emotions - Stories should convey emotions that move people to act, and marry these with clear, easy-to-find pathways to get them to take action.
  • A Hook - Stories should capture the audience’s attention as quickly as possible, giving them a sense of whose story it is and what is at stake.

Effective storytelling is one of the greatest challenges facing small organizations, but resources like this can go a long way in helping nonprofits demonstrate their impact in long-lasting ways.