Listening and Empathy

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Sam Ford.*

"Listen. Engage. Repeat." That's our mantra here at Peppercomm. We have recalibrated our agency to put listening at the center of how we think.

2108531675-5That's why we are the proud primary sponsor of an upcoming conference at MIT which will bring together 50 thought leaders on innovation in media, marketing, and storytelling to talk about the Futures of Entertainment. (Full disclosure: it's also a conference that I help organize.)

We've seen time and time again that the ways in which people engage with popular culture eventually help shape and drive how they engage in all their facets of life— not just as fans but also as customers and as citizens. (There will be a panel at the conference that looks explicitly at how engagement with entertainment connects with political engagement via activism.) So we're of the firm belief that keeping up with shifts in popular culture is crucial to anyone in the marketing and communications space.

This year's event— the sixth iteration— launches with a focus on "Listening and Empathy." And, throughout the conference, the participants will explore how listening and putting yourself in the audience's shoes does or should reshape the way companies approach engagement.

Panels focus on truly understanding the role audiences play today in curating and recirculating media content, on how companies must "combat the shiny new object syndrome" by putting strategy before hype when considering new technologies and platforms, and on how the concept of copyright has to be reconsidered in an age where spreadability is a primary way that media texts circulate. And there are particular sessions looking at what lessons might be learned from the innovations made and issues faced by storytellers in sports, video games and public media.

This year, FoE features managers from the Google Culture Lab, the AT&T AdWorks Lab, the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, and Harvard's Berkman Center. It features noted voices on digital culture such as Jason Falls, Maria Popova, Grant McCracken, and Henry Jenkins. It features Xbox co-founder Ed Fries and father of mobile entertainment Ralph Simon, as well as Boston Celtics head of digital Peter Stringer, legendary music producer T Bone Burnett, Continuum Chief Innovation Officer Lara Lee, and The Responsible Business author Carol Sanford. Oh, and they're even letting people like myself and Peppercomm consultant and Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us author Emily Yellin on stage with such luminaries.

We believe that the only way to really stay on top of where our clients' audiences need them to be is to put our focus on listening. That's why we place a premium on understanding what's happening in culture. Peppercomm created The Innovation Mill— a newsletter focused on tracking cutting-edge trends in storytelling and audience engagement across marketing and entertainment that was a finalist in this year's PR News Digital PR Awards.

And one awfully good way to listen to what's happening in culture is to bring together insightful people who have their ears to the ground. Tickets are still available. We hope you can join us! We promise it will be worth your time, and then some.

*Sam is also a research affiliate with the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT and the Popular Culture Studies Program at Western Kentucky University, and co-author of the forthcoming book Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture.

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