On The Record Online

Geno ChurchIgniting movements of brand ambassadors involves tapping into what your constituents are truly passionate about. According to Geno Church, the charismatic Word of Mouth Inspiration Officer at Brains on Fire, it means rolling up your sleeves and discovering what will make your fans’ lives better. Why? Because a true fan will propell and defend your reputation, long after your marketing campaign has subsided. They have a sense of ownership and shared identity, and your success and their success are aligned.

Drawing on his experience building a community of Fiskateers and reaching out to save teen smokers in South Carolina, Geno Church talks about igniting a community of brand ambassadors, the difference between passion conversations and product conversations and his new book by the same name, Brands on Fire.
Recorded at the 2010 PRSA International Conference in DC.


01:37 Creating community among young people in order to combat teen smoking was a movement that changed Geno Church’s career 10 years ago. Today, his message is that communications strategies shouldn’t focus on social media tactics and tools, but instead on learning from people and empowering them to carry the message for your brand or organization.

03:31 A look at why it isn’t sustainable to approach social media like marketing. Traditional media messages don’t ignite communities--you have to go directly to the people to engage the conversation and they will discover how to become a brand ambassador.

05:11 A brand audit by scissors-maker Fiskars showed an emotional disconnect between the brand and its customer. Geno shares the out-of-the box approach used by Brains on Fire to ignite and engage the Fiskars’ community and the non-traditional involvement it required of the marketing team.

09:49 Understand the conversation going on in your community before you start thinking strategically or tactically. Why do your customers and employees value your brand? Before building online community, uncover everything you can about how your customers use your product in their lives.

11:06 The crucial differences between a campaign and a movement.

12:27 A discussion about drivers that can activate a community and talking with a target community to identify how to ignite that community. The importance of focusing on the human element in customer engagement whether online or off.

16:00 Discussion about the use of negative emotions to activate a community vs. positive emotions and the sustainability of both approaches.

17:17  How to build a sustainable online community that stays positive and is able to police itself.

18:55 The differences between activating communities around policies and ideas vs. igniting communities for selling product. A discussion of Love146, an organization devoted to abolishing child sex slavery and exploitation.

22:22  New report reveals how social media is being used and viewed in different countries. Geno and Eric discuss fear and greed as motivators in mature markets vs. developing ones, including a discussion about challenging circumstances in Johannesburg, South Africa.

28:57 The methods for tapping passion in developing and maturing communities are different, but igniting community always revolves around talking with people and walking with them in their lives to find out what they need and what value you can provide in their lives.

30:27 The role of community mentors and the value, importance and methods for keeping community mentors inspired, engaged and motivated.

33:23 Geno’s hard-won advice on how to prepare for the digital world of parenting.

37:19 End


@EricSchwartzman provides online communication training, strategy and social media governance to public relations, public affairs, corporate communications and marketing specialists. He has extensive experience integrating emerging information technologies into organizational communications programs through public speaking, hands-on training seminars, consulting and the development of corporate policies on social media usage.

His clients have included Boeing, BYU, City National Bank, Environmental Defense Fund, Government of Singapore, Johnson & Johnson, NORAD Northcomm, Southern California Edison, UCLA, US Dept. of State, United States Army, US Embassy of Athens, the United States Marine Corps and many small to medium-sized companies and agencies.

Eric is the instructor behind PRSA’s top-rated social media and emerging treads training seminars, the Social Media Boot Camp and the Social Media Master Class, which are offered monthly in the US.

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