Chris Strub’s goal is simple: to grow his personal brand, to try to use that brand for social good by promoting nonprofits, and to make the world a better place. His I Am Here organization is an “umbrella” over the wide variety of entrepreneurial marketing activities he pursues around the U.S. . . . and the world. He feels the power of personal branding can be assessed through an individual’s use of Twitter and Instagram.
For his “50 States, 100 Days” project (May 15th to August 21st, 2015), Chris, a native New Yorker, traveled clockwise around the United States, starting in Greenville, SC, his adopted hometown, and ending his 4,500 mile journey in Asheville, NC. He traveled alone. In each state, he worked with a different youth-related nonprofit organization, shared all of their stories on iPhone-generated livestreaming video and Snapchat, and earned bragging rights as the first person to live-stream in all fifty states. Chris has a hunch that 50 States, 100 Days will be his keystone project – it has opened thousands of doors for him.
Chris authored the book, 50 States, 100 Days. The Kindle version of this amazing journey through 50 States in 100 Days is available on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/50-States-100-Days-Book-ebook/dp/B019J7MA3Y. The print version is at: https://www.amazon.com/50-States-100-Days-Book/dp/1483594726. Oh, and the movie? Chris admits that the quality was not the best, but you can order a screening of that . . . and get tips for nonprofits who need to “up their game” with improved technologies he has since discovered on his website at teamstrub.com.
In Fall of 2018, Chris launched GivingDayGuy.com. In this capacity, he partners with “giving days” nationwide, promoting collaborative localized fundraising events, training nonprofit organizations on social media marketing strategies, and live-streaming their stories. These efforts produce a phenomenal financial “harvests” for the nonprofits, donor satisfaction, and strengthened community ties. A win all around.
Chris was interviewed at the 2019 Social Shake-Up in Atlanta, GA, where he spoke on Visual Storytelling. He can be followed @ChrisStrub on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Meerkat at @ChrisStrub, or on his Facebook page at facebook.com/TeamStrub
ROB: Welcome to the Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast. I am your host, Rob Kischuk, and I am joined this morning live at the Social Shake-Up in Atlanta, Georgia by Chris Strub. Chris is the CEO of I Am Here, LLC, the author of the book 50 Cities, 100 Days, and a speaker here at this conference. Welcome to the podcast, Chris.
CHRIS: Hey, good morning. This is exciting. It’s cool to be here.
ROB: It’s awesome to be here. I met you here a year ago, and if anyone has enjoyed the episodes we do live at conferences, you are in part to thank for that.
CHRIS: That’s humbling. It’s cool to know. It’s fun. I tell you what, I’m sure you’ve enjoyed the experience of recording all those episodes as well.
ROB: Absolutely. Face-to-face is 10 times better than online.
CHRIS: You mentioned my company, I Am Here, and there’s nothing like being able to record looking somebody in the actual eyeballs and sitting across from them and having a face-to-face conversation.
ROB: Absolutely. Why don’t you kick it off a little bit by telling us, what is I Am Here?
CHRIS: I Am Here is the spinoff of the Chris Strub brand. We could call it Chris Strub, Incorporated if you want. It’s basically an umbrella representation of all the different aspects of entrepreneurial marketing that I’m involved in around the country and around the world. As you mentioned, I’m the author of 50 States, 100 Days, the book. I’m also a speaker. I’ll be speaking in about an hour here at the Shake-Up. I do a lot of that.
But I also do a lot of event hosting. Last fall I launched GivingDayGuy.com. I work with Giving Days around the United States, like Give STL day in St. Louis and The Big Give San Antonio. So, I do a lot of event hosting as well as training from a social media perspective for nonprofits and for-profits around the country.
ROB: Some people listening will wonder a little bit – this is the Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast; we are often talking to agency leaders. First of all, I will put to our audience that you in some phases of your life have accomplished more than an entire agency would, as a one-man wrecking crew. You also have a background in the agency world.
How did you come to this point where you are – it sounds a bit presumptive to say that you are a brand, but you are. And you don’t wield it in this arrogant sort of way. It is the truth. How did you arrive here?
CHRIS: We had a great conversation about this last night, Rob. If we want to talk about personal branding for a second, everybody here at this conference – everyone – is a brand, whether they like it or not. The question is, how powerful, what is the magnitude of the brand that you’ve built?
I had some great conversations here at the Marriott Marquis bar last night, just asking people to show me their Twitter account or their Instagram account, where you can really assess what somebody’s personal brand is. I spent the last 5 years really trying to establish and trying to deepen the gravity of the Chris Strub personal brand. That led to the launch of I Am Here on January 1st, 2017.
I’ve been very blessed to be able to, as you very kindly mentioned, accomplish quite a bit in the space over the last few years, but doing so in a well-rounded fashion. I think that’s really the key. I don’t feel like a true specialist in anything. I’m speaking this morning about visual storytelling, so I’ll be talking about Instagram Stories a little bit, but sometimes at a conference – like last year here, I presented about livestreaming video. At Social Media Marketing World, I presented about Twitter.
So, I’ve really tried to not overspecialize and not over-niche down . . . and try to approach everything from the perspective of trying to do it all. Again, that limits your ability to do something exceptionally well, but it also gives you the freedom and the flexibility to do what you want, when you want, which is quite a cool feeling.
ROB: For sure. You need to decouple the skills from the medium. You’re not, thankfully, the Meerkat guy. You’re not the Vine guy. But so many of the Vine folks were able to take their skills and pick up and adapt into the YouTube ecosystem. It’s a medium rather than a total niche.
CHRIS: That’s a battle that you fight as an entrepreneur, as a speaker, because for quite a while I was the Snapchat guy. And that’s fine, but I don’t think it’s ever really smart to fully tie yourself to any particular platform – unless, of course, that platform is cutting checks to you. I’m happy to be the Snapchat guy if the Snapchat team wants to call me and have me come speak about my work on Snapchat and stuff like that.
But you’ve got to think about what’s in it for you. You’ve got to think about the value that you’re getting out of being on a platform. For me, it’s about the value of being on a whole bunch of different platforms because I don’t get paid to represent Instagram stories or Twitter or anything like that.
Again, it always comes down to, who are you looking out for and what are you trying to accomplish? For me, it’s about trying to grow the personal brand and trying to use that, ultimately, to create some social good and make the world a better place.
ROB: What led your journey to make a living directly on the basis of your brand rather than within the context of somebody else’s business?
CHRIS: I mentioned right before we started recording that I do actually come from an agency life. Before I even worked at an agency, out of college I worked at a newspaper. I worked at the Press & Sun-Bulletin up in Binghamton. This was, to date myself, ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’10, ’11, and ’12.
This was the formative years of Facebook and Twitter, and then Instagram was launched. I was kind of the young guy in the office that everyone turned to and said, “Man, we need a Facebook page. Let’s make Chris do it” or “What do we do with this Twitter thing? Let’s ask Chris.” All of this experience has been figure-it-out-as-you-go, let’s establish what these best practices are.
Then in 2011 and into 2012, I realized I wanted to do more of this social media stuff, and that’s when I stepped into agency life. I was recruited, basically. I was headhunted, if you will, by an advertising agency called Ad Elements up in Binghamton, and I was brought on to be their social media director and their sales manager. I was selling ads for a print magazine that they still publish. My job was 50/50. It was half social media and half “sell these ads.”
By the time I left 2 years later, my job was 98% social media, and we had grown our clientele exponentially. We were doing dozens of accounts. It was like a six person agency, and we hired a person and a half, and I basically had full editorial control over the intern, so you might want to say two and a half people at a six person agency to come on and help support the work that we were doing on the social media side. From a percentage perspective, that’s it. That’s the game, man. We were making a lot of money, and it was great.
I told this story on a livestream yesterday at Hartsfield-Jackson, which was that the reason that I got connected to all of these social media conferences initially was that I was on a webinar for Social Media Today back in the spring of 2014 with Robin Carey, who was the late CEO of Social Media Today. She was encouraging participation and engagement on this webinar.
I ended up being the most engaged individual, and she offered me a free ticket to come to the Social Shake-Up, so I did. I drove down here. I had never been to a social media conference before. To give you a Seinfeld reference, yada yada yada. Five years later, here I am speaking here for the third consecutive year. Always trying to make sure to credit Robin Carey – who was killed in a car accident a couple years ago, which was terrible.
ROB: She was a really neat individual. I’d met her at these conferences. She’s a neat lady.
CHRIS: Oh my gosh, the whole reason that we’re all here is because of Robin, even years after her passing. There’s an award that’s named after Robin that’s given out here year after year. It’s really a credit to, again, not just Robin, but really the idea of an individual who has a big vision, who wants to execute on something that creates a platform for other people.
The more you identify and the more you analyze where all these agencies are coming from and the genesis of each of these companies – this is the same with many of the nonprofits that I’ve worked with around the country as well – these bigger nonprofits come from years and sometimes decades of hard work towards a big vision. And ultimately, that’s what the Social Shake-up is, that’s what 50 States, 100 Days was, and that’s what I Am Here is.
Again, when I walk off this earth someday, I want to be remembered as someone who left the world in a better place than when he got here. That may take 10 years, 20 years, 50 years. It may never happen. But as long as you’re constantly working towards that goal and that vision.
That’s the same advice that I would give to any agency owner that’s listening to this, too. Just remember what got you into the industry in the first place, and always, every action that you take, remember those values and move in that direction. And ask yourself, is what I’m working on today – is this action that I’m taking, is this meeting that I’m taking, is this podcast that I’ve created – is this helping me move in the direction of what I envisioned when I started this?
ROB: I think it’s worth rewinding a moment. When you start any new venture, there’s a lot of preconceptions that we carry in from people we know, people we see, people we admire, and advice that we get. I find sometimes the entrepreneurial journey is peeling back some of those layers to find the intersection of who you are with what you’re doing.
Are there any things you can think of along the way that on Day 1, you felt like you needed to be this or do this to be the person who is speaking, the person who is in this ecosystem, the person who is I Am Here?
CHRIS: I’m going to nitpick your question there for a moment, because you’re asking about Day 1, but Day 1 for me obviously – August 23rd, 1985, I was born. Is that Day 1? Or is Day 1 the day you decide to go to college, or the day you graduate from college? When is it?
I’m on this panel about visual storytelling in a little bit, and a big part of my role on that stage is going to be talking about this idea of real-time story creation. What does that mean? We live in the Instagram Stories era. We live in the Snapchat era. We live in this age of ephemeral storytelling where things are told and then they disappear.
What we’re doing now is we’re memorializing and we’re creating this conversation, and by having this nice little mobile audio setup – which is great; it’s so cool to see – we’re able to preserve this conversation and share it with others around the world forever.
Again, to go back to what we’re saying about Day 1, I think a big part of the equation here, Rob, is deciding when Day 1 is for you. For me, Day 1 I guess was May 15th, 2015, because that was the first day of 50 States, 100 Days. But Day 1 really, I guess, was around this time 5 years ago when I quit the agency that we were talking about and decided to go all-in on the Chris Strub brand. And it wasn’t known as I Am Here, LLC when I quit, but it’s always been about trying to build that personal brand and trying to create content and stories and magnify this effort in that direction of taking advantage of these new storytelling skills that are out there.
I think to answer your question in a roundabout way – and I’ll talk until 4:00 this afternoon – but I think a big part of it is deciding that today is your Day 1. To give a little shout out to Joel Comm, who’s doing a video series now which is called “Day 1,” every day he does a video called “Day 1,” which is awesome. But that’s really what it is, right? Today is the first day of the rest of your life, and it’s about deciding that you want to do something big, and then figuring out, as Madalyn Sklar would say, “Ready, fire, aim.”
Go start and then figure out what you’re doing wrong and fix it along the way. But if you don’t get started, you’re never going to get where you want to go.
ROB: Right. This is a good moment, I think, to dive into 50 States, 100 Days. I had the privilege – thank you very much –
CHRIS: You’re welcome. Thank you.
ROB: Of previewing a short film that you made about that journey. Tell people about what 50 States, 100 Days is and what came from it, the memorialization of it as well.
CHRIS: I think in the grand scheme of things – I always try to answer this question a little differently, because I talk about this project – I’m very blessed to have spoken about this many times. I think that 50 States, 100 Days ultimately is going to be my keystone project. It’s like the conversation starter. It’s like the thing that has opened thousands of doors for me over the years. It’s my baby. It’s this thing that we can talk about, but also other people can talk about, because it’s nice and easy and simple to remember. 50 States, 100 Days.
For your listeners who aren’t familiar with the project, from May 15th to August 21st, 2015, I traveled solo from Greenville, South Carolina to Asheville, North Carolina the long way, so clockwise around the United States. It’s about 14,500 miles. Most importantly, I worked with a different youth-related nonprofit organization in all 50 states, and I used livestreaming video and Snapchat to share the stories of all these different organizations along the way.
It sounds crazy. It’s not really digestible when you first hear it. But it was something that I decided that I wanted to do and that I wanted to be remembered for, and it was something that really brought an extraordinary amount of value to all the people that I connected with and has helped inspire – and you shared some of your own kind words after the film yesterday – about encouraging people who come across this project to think bigger and think differently about the work that they do, and how their work can help make this world a better place and benefit the greater good.
That’s what I was trying to accomplish, to inspire, to educate these nonprofits about how to use these technologies the way that we do as digital natives, and ultimately to create something that was special and meaningful and was kind of the signature project of my life.
When I die someday, again, what am I going to be remembered for? I’ll be the 50 States, 100 Days guy, and that is really special for me to think about, not just because I accomplished this project, but because, as you saw in the film, because of all the people like Kim Brown and Abby, the six-year-old girl from Wyoming who wants to be our first girl president – all of the people that are represented through that project – it’s really special to be able to talk about and be able to represent.
At all these events that I go speak at and all these different places where I go work with clients, I do it all to try to raise the profile of that project and make it something that is meaningful and stands the test of time.
ROB: The concept is bold, it’s memorable, it’s well-branded. What I would ask, though, there are a lot of things you could’ve done in 50 states over 100 days. You could have gone to a baseball game. You could have eaten the best hamburger, eaten the best pizza in every state in 100 days. What was it about the nonprofits and the youth organizations that made you want to do and invest that way?
CHRIS: This is a great and really relevant question. I referenced my work with an agency in Binghamton from 2012 to 2014. I quit that job in May 2014. The trip that we don’t often talk about is the precursor to 50 States, 100 Days. Actually, in the summer of 2014, I took a 48-state road trip in 90 days in the same car, and I did a lot of those self-serving tasks that you just referenced. I went to a ton of different baseball stadiums. I visited a lot of Hooters. I had some of the best burgers in the country.
All of those things that we might think when you go on a road trip, this is the “fun stuff,” this is what you want to do, go out and taste Americana and live the bachelor life – I did that. When that trip was over, I had a very empty feeling.
It’s kind of ironic; I referenced being here at the Social Shake-Up in 2014. That conference used to be in the fall, and now of course, we’re here in the spring. After my 2014 trip, I spent a couple weeks thinking about life and where I wanted to live. I decided I was going to move to Greenville, South Carolina, and of course, Greenville is right up the road from Atlanta, so I drove down to Greenville, I got an apartment, and I came down here to Atlanta and I came to the Social Shake-up.
This confluence of events – coming to an event like this after that first road trip, where I thought I was going to be Casey Neistat and I thought I was going to be this big social media superstar and I wasn’t – I said, wait a second. The part of this trip where I went out and was just sell-indulgent and tried to live life to the fullest and all this stuff, that didn’t really work.
But what did work was this concept of road trip marketing. What I loved and what I think really resonated with the audience was going from state to state and making these little trips from Savannah to Jacksonville and so on and so forth. So in that fall of 2014, after coming to the Social Shake-Up, I really started to think about wanting to go again and “do it right.” Not that there was anything wrong with the first trip, but it wasn’t emotionally satisfying and it didn’t leave something really positive for the world.
So in fact, 50 States, 100 Days was my second road trip around the United States. I failed fast and failed forward, if you will, if you want to use all the different clichés, but I tried something in visiting all the different continental states. It kind of worked a little bit, but it really didn’t. Then I did it again, and 50 States, 100 Days – again, kind of worked, but it kind of didn’t. It cost me my life savings, but it’s also been a brilliant conversation starter and it’s been a great jumping-off point for my brand and working with these Giving Days and working with the Salvation Army and all these different people around the country and around the world over the last few years.
Sorry, Rob, I will just talk and talk and talk, man.
ROB: It’s great. You’re hear to talk. Everybody hears my voice every episode. They don’t hear you, and that is what’s really enjoyable.
I think it’s always interesting to look back at our past experiences, and even the ones that we might’ve done differently, we can grow from. I would say to a certain extent, the first road trip you did showed you what was possible. There was an underpinning. You knew what it was like to go through the lower 48.
CHRIS: It’s tough. [laughs] It’s not a cakewalk. But again, you and I talked a little bit about this last night as well, this concept of road trip marketing – which I really should trademark before we even publish this podcast. I think that road trip marketing in this era of artificial intelligence – obviously here at the Shake-Up, it’s a huge topic. How can we automate and how can we build chatbots and all this stuff?
Road trip marketing is all about that human-to-human connection. It’s about connecting with people where they are. Again, my company is I Am Here. So this idea of going from place to place to place and bringing people together, whether you work for Arby’s or the Boys and Girls Club or – name the brand, any brand that has a national or even an international presence, I think, can benefit from positioning an influencer – and it doesn’t have to be me, and it probably shouldn’t be me, because I’ve always described myself as a trailblazer.
I want brands to hear this and say, “Wow, road trip marketing. It’s brilliant. Let’s go do this.” Again, it doesn’t have to be with me. Find someone or rent out a VW Beetle and put four influencers in there, pack a camera crew in there, and tell the stories of traveling from place to place to place and create a compelling storyline that allows your audience to connect with those influencers and connect with the overall story on a national or an international and a local basis.
Look, I will preach about this idea of road trip marketing until I die, but I think that some brand out there – and ultimately, I think more and more brands – are going to want to explore this idea of getting out there on the road and taking advantage of these real-time storytelling tools that allow you to create something magnificent in real-time.
ROB: It’s so fresh and tangible in a time where we are used to pushing buttons to make something happen on the internet. I think it’s really helpful in that way.
CHRIS: Get out and do it
ROB: There’s a guy who was a founder of TrendKite, if you know the company. PR platform. His next venture, he’s selling caffeinated water. I don’t know if caffeinated water is the best thing in the universe, but I think there is a temptation in all of us to revert back to things that are tangible, that we can touch, after we’ve been so digital for so long.
CHRIS: I can’t imagine anything more tangible than a road trip, especially now. Baseball season is underway. This is the time of year when people go on road trips. We’re approaching Memorial Day weekend. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. It certainly doesn’t have to be 50 states, 100 days. If you’re a brand listening to this, it probably shouldn’t be because that’s been done already.
But the idea is, think of something easy to digest that’s memorable. I talk about this in the film – it’s not the “12 states in 22 days” trip. It has to be something that has that hook and that angle, that element that’s really memorable and is simple to remember.
But generally speaking, the idea of, again, dispatching either an influencer of a number of influencers to visit your locations – or even not visit your locations, to go out and do so on behalf of a boring brand and then just put a watermark on the screen and say “This trip powered by XYZ.” Of course, you want to align it to your values and what you’re trying to accomplish as a brand, but my gosh. It’s interesting, in a world where we want to follow people and we want to see how things are playing out – what could be cooler than wanting to keep track of a road trip of some sort on a national or an international level?
ROB: I think it’s underutilized because people don’t know how, and that’s probably where they should talk to you. I think one thing you also proved is that it’s not the endeavor that some people would expect from an investment. What does it take to record this? People would picture let’s pack up a van, let’s pack up three film crews. When I was talking about how much you are capable of, you did all of the things, basically, right?
ROB: You brought the video, brought the photography…
CHRIS: Yeah. I’ve been very blessed to work with Scofield Digital Storytelling out of Indianapolis to produce 50 States, 100 Days, the film, which is a beautifully curated approach to all of this messy, on-the-go Meerkat footage and Snapchat footage and all of this stuff.
Again, when we talk about 50 States, 100 Days, it’s far from perfect, but it’s done. [laughs] If I were offering consultation to a brand that was thinking about road trip marketing, yeah, of course you want to think about the technology that you want to bring, but it has to be within balance.
This is another thing that I’m going to talk about this morning on this panel – the idea of real-time versus right time and how much technology is really necessary. We’re sitting here chatting with an H4n Pro microphone set, two handheld plug-in mics, and you could fit this in a fanny pouch, basically – and yet you can accomplish the same idea that you would with a giant soundboard that you can’t travel with at all. You know what I mean? Float in these mics that are projected from the ceiling and all this stuff. You don’t need all of the big tech.
Directly to my right here is a brand new travel pack, a Pelican Case, that fits in a carry-on, and it has everything that I need – tripods, lights, microphones – all of this stuff that I could just walk down the street with and be able to create something using Switcher Studio and using the tools within that Pelican Case that mimics what you would see on television.
ROB: It’s liberating. I hadn’t even really thought of it in its entirety until you just mentioned it. A year ago, when I was at this conference, I was thinking about recording this podcast at conferences, and I was thinking exactly what you’re saying. I was thinking “I need a booth, I need to get the sound and the DJ out of there, but that’s going to mean a booth and a setup, so I think I need a sponsor.” [laughs]
CHRIS: Yeah, think about all the costs. That’s abhorrent.
ROB: It takes something you want to do and it makes it so complicated.
CHRIS: Simple is always better, man. We live in a world where Instagram Stories I think are really the way of the future. Of course there’s ways that you can make those look better and make it fit your brand, but it’s also done on the clock. Time is ticking. Can you spend a week building the perfect Instagram Story? Sure, but now you spent a week doing that.
I would rather watch content from a brand that is committed to telling us their story or contributing content to the stream or feeding their audience, so to speak, on a regular basis as opposed to something that is curated perfectly that may never exist.
ROB: It seems like there’s a hunger to create this sort of thing, as you have done. There’s another guy out there – I don’t remember who it was; you may remember – he bought something at every Starbucks in Manhattan in one day.
CHRIS: That’s a good one.
ROB: He took his bike around, and he did it not on behalf of Starbucks. We are interested in these stories. People want to see, hear, listen to these stories, and people want to create them. What do you think prevents that intersection of a brand actually creating this simple-to-create, potentially, story that people want to create and people want to consume? And they’re doing it around brands sometimes. You had your “Honda hotel” that you sometimes slept in on your trip. This guy did a whole story around Starbucks without any engagement from Starbucks.
CHRIS: I think it’s important for me to emphasize not being gimmicky. I think when people hear 50 States, 100 Days, it strikes you a little bit as a gimmick. If you don’t know – and I’ve had people tweet to me and say, “I’ve known about you and I’ve known about this trip for a while, but what I didn’t realize was that you were working with nonprofits all around the country.”
This is exactly what we were talking about before. I’ve taken two of these trips. I talk about one of them at social media conferences all around the country all the time. I’ve written a book, and that’s what’ll be on my tombstone. The first one didn’t have that philanthropic element to it, and I never talk about it.
It’s about remembering what your morals and your values and your goals are, like we were talking about before also. What got you into the space in the first place? Why are you doing what you’re doing? Do we want to raise a million dollars for the Boys and Girls Club? Sure. Then let’s go on a trip where we’re going to try to collect donations, we’re going to dispatch these influencers to these different places, and we’re going to put up a countdown clock and we’re going to put up the thing on the screen that’s like “here’s how much we’ve raised.”
It all has to align to what your goal is. For me, visiting 50 states in 100 days – again, it could’ve been aligned to a bigger, better goal, either personally, like I’d like to be able to make a living from this, and/or philanthropically, like yeah, I’d like to raise a million dollars for Girls on the Run or whatever the organization might be. At the end of the day, the failure is always going to be not aligning your work with that bigger vision.
I think that’s a problem that a lot of organizations here at the Shake-Up run into. They think that they have to be on Snapchat, they have to be on Twitter because everybody says they need to be on Twitter. That’s the wrong way to approach it. The right way to approach it is, what is my goal in my organization being on Twitter? What am I going to accomplish by giving my social media person 8 hours a week to create a Snapchat strategy? What is it that you’re trying to accomplish? Then we’re going to allocate resources to get there.
ROB: I think to even ask that at a deeper level – because I think some people can say “we’re doing this marketing channel to achieve this particular objective,” but I don’t think many brands know the deeper why. If you ask them, “How are you hoping to serve your customer? How can you tie your potential road trip marketing through to that?”, do they know that enough?
CHRIS: I think to bring it back to road trip marketing again, road trip marketing is really a great way to provide value to – Mark Schaefer calls them your alphas. They’re your people like Rob, who, when they get a text message that’s like “Hey, I’m showing the film upstairs,” they’re like, “All right, I’ll be right there.”
Your alphas are your top fans. They’re the people that will ride the unicycle around Manhattan to go to all the different Starbucks because they love Starbucks so much. They’re the people that will join the Sweet Talk Twitter chat for Cinnabon. Your alphas are that creamy top 1% of your audience that want to shout from the rooftops about how much they love your brand and how much they love your message.
Road trip marketing gives you the opportunity to build more alphas. “Come meet Rob in Charlotte on…” It’s like a concert. That’s 50 States, 100 Days. There was a t-shirt that resembled a concert t-shirt that’s like “This is where we’ll be and when. If you want to come out and connect with us” – kind of like a conference like this, right? Come on out, let’s connect, let’s shake hands, let’s chat for a bit.
Ultimately, when we tie it all back to the idea, Rob, that we are all famous to a few people, a tiny bit of time or attention from a brand can lead to a lifetime of loyalty and a lifetime of being an alpha on your brand’s behalf. That’s, I think, where a lot of brands are missing the boat right now.
When Wendy’s tweets to somebody – and they’re tweeting hundreds of times a day, but when Wendy’s replies to somebody’s tweet and they roast them or whatever that tweet might be, that’s 1/250th of what Wendy’s is doing on that day, but that person might – I’ve seen my friend Vincent Orleck order this thing where you get these tweets etched in a piece of wood and you print that out and you put it on your desk.
One picture that you take with your fans, one conversation that you have, one phone call, one tweet, one Instagram comment, can mean everything to somebody. Imagine Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus replied to something that you said on Twitter. My friend Hannah Drake in Louisville got quote retweeted by Michelle Obama, and she will tell that story forever and ever and ever.
Because of the way that social media allows us to be participatory with the people and the influencers in our space that mean the world to us – that’s the world that we’re living in these days. It’s no longer like “I’m going to go sit in the sky level at the Bon Jovi concert and see him and wave to him.” I’m going to send a tweet to Bon Jovi, and then Bon Jovi might hit like on my tweet, and now that’s the equivalent these days of fainting when Bon Jovi throws you his guitar – guitar pick I guess would be a better metaphor – at the concert.
ROB: Really interesting. You probably have 10 different ideas rolling around in your head of stuff you might do. What do you hope we’re sitting here and talking about back here in a year at the Social Shake-Up? What so you hope will have happened in the I Am Here world, or maybe industry-wise too?
CHRIS: Personally, my goal is to work with more Giving Days around the United States. I’m really focused on partnering with Giving Days like The Big Give in San Antonio, Give STL Day in St. Louis, and Give for Good Louisville up in Louisville, Kentucky, because I see that as a great niche to dive into.
Again, these Giving Days, which are 24-hour online events in these various communities that I’m referencing, they’re representative of hundreds and hundreds of nonprofits coming together and representing their community on a broader scale. There’s Giving Days all the time. Yesterday was Give NOLA Day. Especially here in the spring, there’s dozens of these Giving Days every day.
ROB: Do most cities that people are in have a Giving Day and they may not even know it, kind of thing?
CHRIS: There’s an excellent chance that there’s a Giving Day in your city and you might not even realize it. It’s crazy to me how low the overall awareness level is of these events. Even in San Antonio – I’m not from San Antonio, and I’m down there and we’re just walking down the Riverwalk with the team, and I’m trying to talk to random people that are along the Riverwalk like, “Hey, tomorrow is the Big Give. Do you know about this?” “No, what’s that? I’ve never heard of it.”
For these nonprofits, this is the Super Bowl meets Christmas day meets Lollapalooza. This is it. Every year, one day a year. We’re all familiar with Giving Tuesday, which is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. These Giving Days are really a spinoff, so to speak, of Giving Tuesday on a local level. A lot of them, again, are in the spring because it’s far away from Giving Tuesday, whereas a lot of other communities hold a Giving Day on Giving Tuesday. Nothing wrong with that either.
But for me, my goal – I would say success to me would be let’s book 15 Giving Days to go host on these livestreaming videos in 2020. For me that really represents the opportunity to get out and connect with as many nonprofits as possible to help them understand and truly embrace their stories and understand what makes them special, and represents this idea of communities coming together to show the best of St. Louis, to show the best of San Antonio, to show the best of New Orleans or Roanoke or Montana or wherever it might be. These Giving Days are these nonprofits’ days to shine.
Again, as you were referencing in your question, yeah, there’s a lot of things I’d like to do. I’d like to publish at least one more book before we get back here next year. I’d love to book some more speaking engagements. I’d love to redo my website. I’d love to find another brand to go do another road trip with, nationally, or I have some feelers out even internationally. Who knows? I might be back in the “Honda hotel” or in another type of vehicle.
But I think the biggest emphasis for me right now is these Giving Days, being the Giving Day guy, and wanting to partner with as many Giving Days as possible to be able to help amplify these Giving Day events around the United States and even around the world.
ROB: I am not aware of the Atlanta Giving Day.
CHRIS: I’m not sure that there is one in Atlanta.
ROB: If there’s not, it sounds like there should be. If there is, we should’ve heard of it.
CHRIS: I’d be surprised if it hasn’t at least been discussed. But the concept works anywhere. I’m sure your friends, your listeners here in Atlanta would say, “Yeah, why not? What are we doing? What are we waiting for?” When we talk about San Antonio raising $5 million in a day for their nonprofits, that’s a lot of money. Some of these nonprofits are raising upwards of $100,000 for themselves in a day.
When you mix in the prize matches and the peer-to-peer fundraising and all the different ways to raise money in a 24-hour period, it’s a model that is very quickly expanding around the United States, and it’s something that I think really fits every community around the country.
ROB: That’s a good thing for the year ahead. That’s a good purpose. Chris, you’re a super interesting social follow. You mentioned your website. When people want to find you and I Am Here, where should they look to find you online? Everywhere?
CHRIS: I’m glad you added the word “online.” I always answer that question tongue-in-cheek, like come see my keynote at Social Media Day Houston on June 27th. You know, Rob – and hopefully you can see – I’m very much about this in-person experience. My company is called I Am Here for a reason. I’m here in Atlanta right now, having this conversation with you, and it’s been fantastic, and I thank you and I appreciate this opportunity.
But come out to events. When you see me on social media – and again, you can follow me @ChrisStrub across all my social media channels – but I literally am everywhere. Hopefully I’ll be in your community if you’re listening at some point, and I want to meet you. I want to shake your hand. I want to have that conversation, because again, that’s where this relationships really come from. Listening to a podcast is great, but it’s a vehicle to be able to meet people in real life, like we’re doing here at the Shake-Up.
So it’s great to connect online, but for me, the way that I use social media – if you follow me on Twitter or you follow me on Instagram, you know that it’s all about trying to make those in-person connections. I’ve been very blessed to make a lot of friends around the country and around the world by following that model, and that’s the goal that I hope to continue.
ROB: It’s very exciting. Chris, I’m going to let you get going to get ready for your talk.
CHRIS: I appreciate it very much.
ROB: You must have your stuff together for that talk, since you’ve been here talking about something else beforehand. No last-minute prep there.
CHRIS: Never any last-minute prep. Everything is planned 6 months in advance. [laughs] No, it’s a blessing to be here back at the Shake-Up, speaking here for the third straight year, and I’m very grateful to PR News for inviting me back and very grateful, again, to you for having me on, and grateful to all your listeners for listening all the way through.
ROB: Perfect. It’s a pleasure. Thank you for your time, Chris.
CHRIS: Appreciate it.
ROB: Thank you for listening. The Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast is presented by Converge. Converge helps digital marketing agencies and brands automate their reporting so they can be more profitable, accurate, and responsive. To learn more about how Converge can automate your marketing reporting, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit us on the web at convergehq.com.