High Five!

20 Inspirational Quotes to Kickstart the New Year

This morning I woke up early. Like really early. The kind of awesome early when (if you have kids) you can relish the time it takes to brew a hot cup of coffee, sit down at the computer and be to your own thoughts. I took some time to meditate and then I sat down to write down my goals and objectives for 2015. I don’t always do this, but this year, I hope to add clarity to my vision for 2015. I found myself seeking inspiration online. As I started to dig around I realized that I tend to gravitate toward certain quotes that help me stay motivated, inspired and focused throughout the year. I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you. I hope you find inspiration in these quotes and that they help you find your own clarity of vision to ensure a prosperous, healthy and fulfilling new year. I always feel that careful planning always works better than bombastic resolutions. **HIGH FIVE**

1. A man should never neglect his family for business. – Walt Disney

This one resonates deeply with me. As a father of two amazing little girls and an entrepreneur, finding that work/life balance is difficult, but I always put my family first.

2. Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. –Thomas Edison

This one keeps me going. There have been some very dark moments in this journey. When you realize that there have been great men that have faced similar, and more often than not – greater adversity it helps to stay focused on the prize.

3. Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations. – Steve Jobs

I’ve found that as an entrepreneur you need to keep failing. Failing often works. It hurts, but if you do this, recover and learn you will continually grow. Thanks Steve.

4. I like thinking big. If you’re going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big. – Donald Trump

The Donald can be a polarizing character, but I love this quote. I’ve been able to see the biggest success in my career by reaching and reverse engineering the answer. It’s a terrifying process, but once you think big and execute you’ve exercised that muscle, and you will be able to do it again, and again and again.

5. The only way around is through. – Robert Frost

This quote makes me laugh at the memory of my dog growing up. She had an electric collar that would limit her to only our yard. When she would see a rabbit run outside that line, she would keep going, head down and take the shock from the collar to enjoy the chase. I guess that says it all – put your head down, and keep pushing forward. If the prize is really worth it, you’ll endure any pain to get there.

6. Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them more. – Oscar Wilde

This is probably the most difficult thing I’ve had to do in my professional career. I know it’s petty, and I know it’s small of me, but I wrestle with it. Hell, I’m human and I have revenge fantasies just like the next guy – but you have to let it go.

7. Your time is precious, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. – Steve Jobs

My brother and I are very different. He’s a lawyer and I’m not. For a long time I thought I had to work in a profession like law to be taken seriously and have fulfillment in my life. I’ll be 40 in February and I’m fully 100% comfortable in my own skin. Living your own life on your own terms is the only way to find your flow.

8. The NBA is never just a business. It’s always business. It’s always personal. All good businesses are personal. The best businesses are very personal. – Mark Cuban

This one is so on point that I want to high five Mr. Cuban. For those who say “it’s just business” haven’t experienced the pain of being let go from a job and having to explain that to your wife and children. They’ve probably never felt the sting of rejection in sales either. It’s all personal, and it’s all business. One in the same.

9. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose. – Dr. Seuss

I think Dr. Seuss can stand on his own without my commentary.

10. Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. – Thomas Edison

I see this everyday. E-v-e-r-y day. I don’t know if it’s because I allow myself to be available or because I’m a ridiculously good listener, but people love to tell me how hard it is to do …whatever it is they say they’re passionate about. I always call BS. Hard work is the only way to get what you want. There are no short cuts. None. Get to work, and please stop complaining. Your Grandfather would be embarrassed.

11. Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid – Einstein

I liken this quote to EQ vs. IQ. I believe that we’re going through a mindfulness transformation in our business lives. I think the world is ready for different types of geniuses. Those who can intuit certain things and are less analytical. I think the lesson for me as an employer has been to identify the strengths of my employees and allow them to excel without boxing them in.

12. Do or do not. There is no try. – Yoda

Just like Dr. Seus, I think I’ll shut up here.

13. Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. – Bill Gates

Businesses love to tell me how social media is a bad idea for their business. They explain that they tried social media and they only saw complaints. I enjoy calling BS here. Since when did businesses become so precious about hearing complaints? Who’s to say that you won’t gain amazing insights into holes in your business through an unhappy customer experience? I’ve lost clients before, and I can tell you unequivocally that I’ve learned something positive from each experience. Keep your eyes and ears open as they head out the door, and make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice.

14. The problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat. – Lilly Tomlin

I hate the rat race. I really hated it when I was in it. I didn’t leave by choice. I strongly recommend that if you have a need and a desire to become an entrepreneur that you keep your day job, but take every effort to leave said rat race. On my worst days as an entrepreneur I can always land on the idea that this is my dream I’m sweating for, not someone elses.

15. If you’re going through hell, keep going – Winston Churchill

Keep going has been the key to my success. Just keep going. Man, I love Churchill.

16. Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential – Winston Churchill

I may not be the smartest guy in the room, but I’ll out hustle you every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

17. Who seeks shall find. – Sophocles

I love this one, and find that it’s inspired me to create a different kind of summit than my agency has produced in the past. In the past 2 year’s we’ve create 3 nationally recognized events for digital marketers. Lately I’ve been experiencing a renaissance in the way I approach business, money, meditation, and my life. Spring boarding on the energy I’m feeling currently in Tech and Marketing circles by those who embrace mindful business practices, I purchased the URL Seeker Summit and will produce an even in the very near future that will encompass meditation, mindful business, yoga and the like. For all “seekers.” Seekers of higher power. Seekers of knowledge. Seekers of something more in their life

18. Opportunity does not knock, it presents itself when you beat down the door. –Kyle Chandler

When I was 10 I took tennis lessons. The instructor explained to the group that he also coached boxing. At the conclusion of my first tennis lesson he asked that I take boxing. I like to beat down doors. I recommend you beat down a few doors this year. It’s cathartic.

19. It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. –Confucius

Keep. Moving. Forward.

20. Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. – Thomas A. Edison

I think you can see a pattern here in my philosophy on business and life. As long as you are clear in your vision and in line with your “why”…all you need to do is not give up, keep moving and great things will happen.

Please share your favorite quote below or tweet it to me @chrisdessi

Happy Thanksgiving from Silverback Social

Thanksgiving is a time of showing gratitude and appreciation. The first 11 months of every year bring the ups and downs of happy memories as well as hard times. Thanksgiving is our opportunity to reflect on the past year and share what we’re thankful for. silverback thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for community. This community isn’t necessarily made up of family or friends, instead the people in our lives who we cross paths with on a regular basis. For me, it’s the 6:30 AM class at my local gym, our office neighbors, the mailman, the people who work at our local coffee shops and favorite lunch spots. Our relationships may be a smile and a few pleasantries but you can’t underscore the impact a smile and some kind words can have on someone’s day.

– John Zanzarella, Chief Marketing Officer 

I want to give thanks to all the social networks out there, especially Twitter. The announcement that Twitter will introduce native video capabilities to its services will definitively provide further insights into real-time events. We will be able to consume breaking news by way of video, which will lead to an unfiltered and unbiased look at events worldwide. We no longer will have to rely on a news outlet’s version of events, we now will be able to see for ourselves what is really taking place.

– Josh Fenster, Senior Brand Strategist

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for those who adopt pets, especially senior animals. I adopted my first pet (a senior cat) last autumn and then adopted a senior dog this past spring. It breaks my heart that animals end up in shelters for whatever reason and I’m very happy that there are special families out there that are willing to take an older animal into their homes. Every time I see a post for an animal that needs to be adopted, it breaks my heart – I just want to take all of them home. So thank you to all those who rescue animals!

– Daniela Raciti, Community Manager

I am most thankful for my supportive family, friends, co-workers, and beautiful girlfriend, Lauren, who all help me to see the light during these especially dark times, where racism and police brutality unfortunately still exist in America. I’m blessed that the people who I associate with are socially aware and help to make life beautiful amidst tragedy. We’re fortunate to live in a world where everyone has a voice, whether it’s social media or word of mouth. With that being said, let’s all take some time this holiday season and onward to appreciate what we have and use our collective voice to make a positive change in society, so that the next generation will not have to experience the same injustices.

– Brian Levine, Project Manager

I’m thankful for having such quick and easy access to the tools and resources that enable me to learn and grow in many different aspects of my life. Whether it’s researching information on a topic I’ve developed an interest for, or practicing a new skill while watching a tutorial video, I’m grateful to have so many opportunities right at my fingertips to expand my abilities and my knowledge.

– Brian Funicelli, Senior Community Manager

I’m thankful to work with employees who came up with the inspired idea to share what they’re thankful for.  I think we’re all blessed to do what we love with people we love.  

-Chris Dessi

We wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving and a safe holiday weekend!

3 Ways to LifeHack Work Productivity

If you have a full-time job, you’re spending the majority of your time, effort, and brainpower at your place of employment. A grueling 40-50 hours of your week is spent slouching at your desk, pretending to look interested in meetings, or trying to get that damn printer to work. Yet even after all that time cranking away at the office, there never seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish what you need to get done.

Here are a few ways to help you get the most out of the time you spend at your job.



One of the biggest pain points I deal with on a daily basis is email. I find myself getting sucked into it from time to time: back-and-forth correspondence with clients, sending and receiving files to and from my coworkers, and constantly refreshing my inbox to make sure I haven’t missed anything (that last one’s a tough habit to break).

SOLUTION: Google Documents

At Silverback Social, we relieve those pain points by using various software and applications, such as Basecamp, DropBox, and Google Documents. The most valuable, is Google Documents.

This free, web-based app is an incredible solution to the frustrations that come with email. Google Docs allow you to create text documents, spreadsheets, and slide show presentations, share them with whomever you’d like, and collaborate with others on the projects in real time. The documents are accessible from wherever you can get online, and any edits that are made happen instantaneously. No more sending drafts to a client via email, only to receive a different email from the client with edits to those drafts, after which you need to send another email with the revised, final version. With Google Docs, you can insert your drafts right into the document, and the client can see it from wherever they are and make the appropriate adjustments at their convenience. This eliminates the back-and-forth, and saves both you and the client a ton of time.

Google Docs are also useful for internal projects. My coworkers and I can collaborate on a task by having each person’s individual workload aggregated in a single document. So instead of each employee sending an email with his/her work to every other employee in an endless chain of CCing and forwarding, everyone’s work is collected in one place as each person is working on it.

Here’s the best part: Google Documents are free for anyone with a Gmail account to use. Give it a try for yourself here.

PAIN POINT: Unproductive meetings


This is a pretty common issue regardless of your industry. Nobody likes to be in a meeting where nothing gets done. Meetings that last for 45 minutes with 10 – 15 people included can seem like waste of time, and that’s because they are. This is where the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen” comes to mind.

SOLUTION: 20-minute meetings (or less)

In most cases, meetings lose their productivity after the first 15 or 20 minutes. If you can’t cover everything you need to within that window, you’re probably wasting time. At Silverback Social, we make it a point to keep our meetings short and sweet: establish the topic, discuss that topic’s status, and establish next steps and responsibilities.

BONUS TIP: Don’t bring your computer or your phone to meetings. Your emails aren’t going anywhere; they’ll still still be at your desk waiting for you when your meeting ends. And the relentless barrage of notifications from Twitter and Candy Crush will just distract you from staying productive during the meeting. All you need is your pen, your paper, and your focus.

PAIN POINT: “Zombie Mode”


When you spend the majority of your day in front of your computer screen, it’s easy to get “wired in” and crank. Most of the time, this might make you feel like you’re being super productive: “I just RAGED on (insert task here) for like 3 hours straight, I’m a beast!” Depending on the task, this can be dangerous. While you’re chugging away on a single project for an extended period of time, your mind runs the risk of going into “zombie mode.” The project becomes a rote task, and your brain starts to give preference to speed of completion rather than quality of work. Creativity and innovation suffer as a result, and your finished product, while it might be completed a day or two earlier than expected, is not as high-quality as it should be.

SOLUTION: Teamwork

Don’t fall into the habit of taking on more responsibility than you can handle. Look to your coworkers for help. If you’re in a position to delegate certain tasks to other team members, let them share your workload. If you’re not in that position, take a minute to ask for a quick tip from a fellow employee. This is a great way to get a new perspective on the project at hand. That “brick wall” you keep running into (writer’s block, repetitive copy, lack of creative ideas, etc.) is much more easily sidestepped with a colleague’s fresh eyes and brain to help you.

BONUS TIP: Before you ask your boss or manager for feedback on something, rehearse the conversation in your head. Try to predict the advice he/she will give you, and incorporate that advice on your own, proactively. You’ll save yourself time, and you’ll appear much more competent in the eyes of your superiors.

Some of these tips may not apply directly to your particular job, but the three main themes can be helpful in any work environment: Collaborate, stay focused, and don’t hesitate to ask for advice. Keep these concepts in mind, and before long you’ll be looking forward to Mondays as much as you look forward to Fridays.

Thanks for reading! If you found these tips valuable, I’d love to hear your feedback. What did you think?

Four Steps to Becoming a Great Public Speaker

Chris Dessi

Merit Direct Co-Op July 11, 2013

In 2006 I spoke in front of an audience for the first time, and I was horrible.

I was sweating.

I spoke too quickly.

I didn’t consider what my audience should get from my speech.

I only thought about how I would be perceived. Cringe.

I was so self absorbed that when I heard someone in the back of the room whispering to another person it took me a good 5 minutes to get back to what I was speaking about. I’d completely lost track. I crashed and burned, but I had to start somewhere.

The one thing I did right was that I was pushing myself. I wanted to eventually get paid to speak. So I started small and began to volunteer my services. I got out there and spoke and spoke and spoke and spoke. If you want to be a great public speaker I recommend you do the same.

Here are four pointers that will help you get a better start out of the gates.

1. Prepare

I’ve been on stage in front of 500 people, and I’ve spoken to a class with 3 people. Each time I realized that fear is not real. It’s a product of our imagination. Fear is a choice. So is success. I decided that I wanted to speak publicly, and I went about working on my craft. I live and breathe digital media. I blog about it, I attend conferences, heck I even produce conferences. I’m always reading, and listening to audio-books. I’ve listened to just over 20 audio books already in 2014. I listen when I work out and while I’m commuting. I’ve created a state of constant preparation.

Books about business.

Books about public speaking.

Books about being an entrepreneur.

Books about body language.

Books about leadership.


Books about success and mindset.

Books about personal magnetism (seriously, it’s fascinating).

They all prepare me for when I hit the stage. If you’re prepared you’re fear will evaporate. So prepare, practice, & speak to someone you love and trust who will give you feedback. Did I mention practice? Practice like crazy. Practice whenever you can,for as long as you can. Practice in a mirror. If you’re just starting out ask that they record you while speaking. Make sure that you analyze the video. It’s not easy watching yourself speak, but it will pay off dividends.

2. Breathe

This is a tough one. I generally run hot, and I tend to sweat on my face, particularly on my upper lip. Not such a big deal when I’m on a stage, but horrible when I’m being broadcast nationally in HDTV. I’m also very excitable. I’m super passionate about what I do and I tend to take shallow breaths when I speak. Sometimes this is ok if you’re communicating excitement, but be aware that these non verbal cues can make you and can certainly break you. If you’re not breathing, you’re going to get anxious. If you’re anxious you won’t be able to think on your feet. If you can’t think on your feet, you could get distracted. If you get distracted you may panic. If you panic you may sweat, wring your hands etc. If you sweat, wring your hands etc, you will lose the audience. They will think you don’t know what you’re speaking about and will automatically tune you out. My friend Jack Nazarian gave me a great tip recently. He uses a breathing technique that is utilized by military sharpshooters.

Take a deep breath in.

Hold it.

Let it out s-l-o-w-l-y.

Repeat as needed.

3. S-l-o-w – d-o-w-n

Slowing down is a funny thing. I talk fast. I’m a New Yorker, it’s just the way I’m wired, so I probably shouldn’t even be giving this advice if I have trouble following it myself – but maybe that’s why it’s so important. It’s hard to slow down.

R-e-a-l-ly hard.

You have so much to say, and you want to make sure you cover it all. You want to impress. You want to flex your intellectual muscles.


The last time I spoke I stopped speaking for about 7 seconds. It felt like an eternity in my head. To the audience it drew them in. I was communicating a point. I needed there to be silence in the room to articulate a powerful moment in my life when I could not longer speak. So slow down, allow for silence throughout the course of your speech. It will only make you nervous, and it will draw the audience in.

4. Face the Audience

This may be the most obvious one, but if you’ve ever done any public speaking, you know what I mean. You need to express yourself in front of an audience,so make sure you square your shoulders and face the people you’re addressing. I learned this the hard way. I was conducted a social media seminar in a theatre in New York City. At the end of the event, the owner of the theatre let me know that he felt the content of what I was speaking about was great, but that I lost the audience when I would lose eye contact. He then proceeded to get up and imitate me, looking down at my shoes, and walking from one end of the stage to the other. Head down, shuffling my feet and speaking to the floor.


Square your shoulders, body erect, breathe, face the audience and speak! What did I miss? Add in the comments below.

Like this post? Follow me here  for notifications when I post new content.

Contact me here to hire me to speak at your next event.

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3 Steps to Taking Control of Your Life

A few weeks ago I gave a speech during Catalyst Week. My agency Silverback Social was co-curating the week’s events.

I wrote a post on Linkedin entitled “What’s the ROI of Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project & Catalyst Week?” sharing my thoughts about the amazing team at Catalyst Creativ, and the whole energy surrounding Catalyst Week. I was impressed with everything about the whole week.

Chris Dessi Catalyst Week

Chris Dessi Speaking during Catalyst Week

Today I’d like to share that speech with you here. If you don’t have time to view the video below (13:28 minutes), here is a loose outline of what I covered. This three step process has helped me in my life, I hope it helps you too.

Step 1. Admit to yourself that you’re a loser.

You will never be a winner and a chooser, until you admit to yourself that you’re a loser. I was unceremoniously fired in 2009 from my job at Buddy Media. When it happened I was so stunned I couldn’t speak.


No words.


In slow motion I gathered my things and left. The Director of HR escorted me past a gauntlet of gawking colleagues and into the elevator. I felt naked. The elevator doors closed and it dawned on me. Stunned, I turned to her and blurted out,

“My wife is pregnant, what will I do?”

I was “pushed” off the cliff but I refused to let myself fall. Reaching as far as I could, I set a new goal: I’d never let anyone else have control over my income or my future. I felt like a loser. I bet you’ve lost at some point in your life. I want you to think about the times you’ve lost. I want you to take yourself there, and I want you to get angry.

Step 2. Get Angry

Harness your anger. Throughout my entire career I’ve been told that I should never get angry. I’ve been advised that it’s a negative emotion that shouldn’t enter the workplace. However, when I look back at my biggest wins, my most impressive accomplishments have all started with the same common denominator. We all have fear. Some is innate, activating our fight or flight instincts. Some fear, however, is learned. That fear is insidious. It seeps into our unconscious paralyzing us to the point where we choose “safety” over pursuit of our passions. I believe that “learned fear” is the disease of our time. Battle it by taking baby steps. My first step was silent contemplation, and meditation. Another was obsessive note taking. The last step was challenging myself to dream as big as I possibly could, imagining that money was no object, and stepping toward that challenge. I had nothing to lose. Neither do you. Don’t ask for permission to take your life to new heights.

Step 3: If You’re on a Mission, Don’t Ask for Permission

You have the power. It’s up to you and whatever you can conceive. The Technology is free. I wanted to work in social media so I purchased the URLFacebookshouldhireme.com I wanted to launch the Westchester Digital Summit so I bought the URL, Westchesterdigitalsummit.com – I surrounded myself with the right people and made it happen. I was supposed to run the NYC ING Marathon, but Hurricane Sandy had other ideas. I was hoping to run through the streets of New York with other New York City Marathoners, and cheering fans. Instead I was running in circles on a track by myself. I had raised money for ALS research because my Father is living with the disease, and I felt obligated to fulfill my end of the deal with the friends and family who had written checks. I decided to run the marathon anyway. By the time I completed the marathon my family, along with random bystanders were on their feet cheering me on. There may have been 25 people there, but to me it felt like a stadium full of supporters.

I challenge you.

  1. Gather up your defeats, and wear them with honor. They have forged your character.
  2. Let yourself get angry about some things, or some circumstance, and focus that energy on creation.
  3. Stop asking for permission, and run anyway.

Get busy becoming yourself.

Three Reasons Why the Analysts Got it Wrong with Twitter Stock

Chris Dessi on CNBC

Chris Dessi on CNBC

On Monday I was asked to visit 30 Rock Studios and chat with the closing bell team on CNBC about Twitter’s earnings. I’m “bullish” on Twitter stock. The analyst David Seaburg of Cowen and Company is obviously a very smart guy. In his view Twitter is a “one trick pony.” I disagreed. It made for great TV, but I thought I’d articulate exactly why I’m bullish on Twitter, and why I think Wall Street Analysts like David miss the mark when looking at social media networks.

Firstly, I own Twitter stock, and I’m not an analyst. Frankly I’m about as far from a finance guy as you can get. I’m a sales and marketing guy that owns a social media agency. I’m a student of social media, but the key differentiator is that my agency is platform agnostic. We only use technology that will further the agenda of our clients. If Twitter didn’t work, we wouldn’t use it. Period.

Here are the three reasons why I believe Wall Street analysts miss the mark on Twitter.

1. Twitter generates conversions for my clients

CNBC has me on their show because unlike an analyst, I actually USE Twitter. I use it for my personal life, my business life, and on behalf of my clients. The most compelling way I use it is for said clients. When we select where we’re going to spend media dollars I’m beholden to nobody. We spend money where it will help to generate the most money for my clients. Twitter converts. Twitter cards work. Twitter has account managers that help my agency understand how to leverage their ad platform. Twitter works. Twitter works, and oh yeah, Twitter works. Phew.

2. Twitter allows for real time engagement between brands and customers

So when our client Bluerock Energy based in Syracuse NY wants to parachute into a conversation on Twitter about energy, in their local geographic area, in real time – the most efficient way to spend their media dollars is on Twitter. Bluerock can answer questions, engage and help to inform potential customers in real time.

3. Twitter should not be compared to Facebook. Ever.

The other part of the argument that always confuses me is when Wall Street Analysts decide that they want to compage Facebook with Twitter. I think it’s because they don’t understand how different these social networks are. They don’t use them, but they have to put them into a category. This is a HUGE mistake. It makes them look very silly in my opinion. It just makes it even more apparent that they don’t use the platforms, and they have no real understanding of how they make money through advertising.

So take look at the video, and let me know what you think in the comments.

Am I off my rocker?

Am I oversimplifying things, or is Wall Street overcomplicating it?

ESPN Dominates Social Media, Here’s How

Gabe Goodwin is the Coordinating Producer of Social Production for ESPN. Gabe leads SocialTV production for multiple shows, including SportsCenter, SportsNation, First Take and Numbers Never Lie as well as specialty shows for NFL, NBA & MLB.  He spoke at the Westchester Digital Summit.  I had the pleasure of chatting with him moments after he stepped off stage. He shared some incredible insights regarding how ESPN has been so successful in social media.

I asked Gabe about how much social media informs the producers about content they’ll put on air. He mentioned that there is some value in pivoting on a story based on what’s breaking in social media, but that the real news comes from the newsmakers – ie, the athletes on the field.

He shared that ESPN leverages Mass Relevance to help his team look at real time marketing and breaking content as the show airs. They use them to review a data point to see if the sentiment is in line with the production run down for that particular day. They may give some more attention to something that will show up on the report. So for example – this story line may resonate more than the lead story line. But he makes it clear that a seasoned producer will never be swayed by social media. They review data points. They add social media to the pie, but it’s only a percentage of the audience. They’re also those who choose to be vocal. Gabe explained that you want to reward clever content, but you don’t want to get away from the host of the show to feature fans on social media.

See the whole Video here:

Purchase a ticket to next year’s Westchester Digital Summit in advance.

3 Ways Heineken USA’s Newcastle Brand Wins in Social Media

Chris Dessi & Quinn Kilbury

Heineken USA’s Quinn Kilbury sits with Silverback Social CEO Chris Dessi

On May 15th, 2014 I sat with Quinn Kilbury, Brand Director Newcastle at Heineken USA just moments after he stepped off stage at the Westchester Digital Summit. Quinn sat on a panel titled “Navigating the Digital Landscape” along with colleagues from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, ESPN, and The Financial Times.

I chatted with Quinn about his role at Heineken USA’s Newcastle brand and how they have evolved to be a powerhouse brand in the world of social media. He shared three compelling points that I’d like to share with you, and I think will help your social media strategy.

1. Understand that it’s “just marketing”

Quinn made it very clear that you can have a huge audience in social media, but if the audience isn’t going to buy your product, it means nothing. He pointed out that ESPN’s content is inherently social. Heineken (Newcastle) needs to work a lot harder at that. They can’t pretend that a beer is ESPN. It’s not inherently what people want to find online. Kilbury noted that If they’re going to invest money on a social media platform, they need to have a marketing objective and plan. Quinn also pointed out that the social platform must have an age gating system.

2. Give the Internet what it wants

Quinn stressed that as a major brand, you need to know what you mean to your consumer, and you need to give your consumer what they want. The consumer certainly doesn’t want to be drinking beer through the Internet. Stressing that you need to know what you mean to your consumer. Your content can be compelling and fun, but geared toward the wrong target and that could lead to disaster.

3. There’s a time to pay and a time to not to

Everyone on the panel agreed that you need to be in social, but the rules change every day. They’re spending the most of their time figuring out how they can keep up with the changes. They’re also figuring out how to work with the large social platforms. Understanding that there is a time to pay for media, and a time not to pay and allow for your organic distribution to work for you is paramount. Quinn noted that the major social networks like Facebook and Twitter will work very closely with you to help you and your brand better understand this delicate dance. He even noted that Facebook has office hours in our office every week. Noting that “If you want to have success you can’t fight what they’re doing.” referring to Facebook & Twitter and their consistent changes to algorithms etc. He stressed to work with them. Partner with the big social platforms that you leverage.

See the full interview below:

Purchase a ticket to next year’s Westchester Digital Summit in advance.

Creating Your Own Business Playbook: How Networking Equates to Opportunity

People often ask me what my favorite part of my job is.  My answer is always quick and consistent:  it’s that I am lucky enough to meet so many brilliant, driven individuals who are continually disrupting and positively changing the world. Many of these encounters come through meetings that I take with Chris Dessi. Chris and I are similar in that smart people fascinate us. We ask a lot of questions, we get excited, and sometimes we get scared that people are functioning on such a level. Mostly, though, we get inspired.  

One of these individuals is David S. Kidder. Before I met David, Chris described him as “the smartest guy in the room in nearly all rooms.” I think Chris is brilliant, and Chris thinks David is brilliant; Chain Rule –  I knew David was brilliant.

David is the author of the Start Up Playbook. Naturally, my next move, after Chris had lunch with him, was to read it. I couldn’t put it down. It’s described as “Secrets of the Fastest-Growing Startups.” It’s a compilation of stories from over 40 CEO’s. It tells about their success but articulates the full story and not just the end result. There were bumps in the road, moments of fear and panic and valuable lessons that came out of them. The way it’s broken up allows the reader to pick it up, read an excerpt, attain valuable insight, put it down, and rinse and repeat. It’s one of the few books that I go back and re-read portions regularly. When I first started at Silverback Social, this book was literally my bible. As we experienced growing pains, I realized we were going through the same things so many others had already gone through. It became common for Chris and I to tell each other “we are doing all the right things, stay the course”.  That course was outlined in the Start Up Playbook.

John's Tweet I had the pleasure of meeting David at the Westchester Digital Summit where he gave the opening keynote (*worth noting, he was my mom’s favorite presenter. Sorry, Gary V., you won WDS1). The day was a blur for me, and I neglected to ask David one of the questions that I really wanted to – “How did you get such in depth access to so many brilliant/successful CEO’s?” Luckily Chris and I are on the same wavelength, and he had already asked it. David’s response was simple: he “met them over the years through networking, leaned on them as advisors and resources, and offered value to them when he could.” Simple, made a ton of sense, and I didn’t think too much of it.

Fast-forward to two weeks ago, Chris and I were in Downtown Vegas for Catalyst Week, in conjunction with the Downtown Project. For those not familiar, Chris does an excellent job describing it here.  For someone who likes to meet smart innovative people, this is equivalent to an 8-year-old at Disney World.  After four days of inspiration and a ton of valuable knowledge, our minds were racing on the flight back to New York. That’s when Chris mentioned to me what David had said, and the puzzle finally came together for me.

A lot of times, we get caught up in the day to day. We flow from meeting to meeting, project to project, and don’t have a minute to pull back. Last night, I was with a friend who recently started for CommonBond. When he was making the move from big corporate finance to a start-up, he asked for my opinion. I told him to do it immediately. I told him to follow David’s advice: network, ask for advice, bring value to the table, and build relationships. One day, we will both be on our second, third, fourth, or fifth project, and we will have relationships with some of the smartest entrepreneurs/CEO’s in the world. With that will come tons of opportunities, good, bad, ugly and life changing.

Whether you work for a start-up, corporation, you’re a singer or athlete, David’s message rings true. Make the time to create these relationships.

I am fortunate. The list of smart and successful people I meet could go on for days. Here are a few that will one day make my start-up playbook whom I have met in the last month. They are doing and will continue to do amazing things for a long time to come:

Michael LaiMinerva Project

Amanda Slavin and the entire Catalyst Creative Team (Danielle, Katie, Mike, etc.)

Shilpi KumarProgression Labs, Qualifyor, Venture for America

John FazzolariRevivn

Robyn Allen – Energy Entrepreneur

Idia Ogala* – NBA and hopefully back to Silverback Social one day

John GuydonThe Lassy Project

*I didn’t meet Idia in the last month but he’s impressed me too much not to mention.

Follow me on Twitter @johnzanzarella 




What’s the ROI of Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project & Catalyst Week?

Chris Dessi

Chris Dessi

I don’t normally cry in public. But there I was, under the hot lights on a stage in Las Vegas speaking at Catalyst Week and I was crying. I felt a twinge of embarrassment, but I knew that I was in a safe place, and sharing like this was encouraged. I ended my talk, felt the warm applause wash over me, and I knew I had done the right thing. I’d just shared a very personal journey that led me to where I am today.

A few weeks prior to speaking at Catalyst Week I was perplexed. My company was co-curating the week, and I still wasn’t even 100% sure what we were getting ourselves, and our colleagues into.

All I knew is that I trusted the vision of Tony Hsieh. I had enjoyed reading his bookDelivering Happiness, and I was very impressed with the team at CatalystCreativ. I trusted them. When I inquired about Catalyst Week to my colleagues who had been there, I kept hearing the same thing:

“You have to experience it.”

Ugh. All I wanted was some sort of idea about what I had committing to. But I understood that this one time, for this to work I had to let go of preconceived notions. I committed to letting go, and letting it all happen. I’m thrilled I did.

Let me explain:

Back in November of 2012, while promoting our inaugural Westchester Digital Summit, one of my star employees, Josh Fenster stumbled across Catalyst Week. We then connected with Amanda Slavin the CEO of CatalystCreativ. She found out about our summit, and we discussed that we were interested in possibly producing a Las Vegas Digital Summit. So she asked if we would be interested in co-curating a weeklong event in Downtown Las Vegas. She explained that CatalystCreativ is

… a community design firm that builds community for cities, brands and movements through educational and inspirational events”

We discussed the Downtown Project and she explained that it’s

…a group of passionate people committed to helping to transform Downtown Las Vegas into the most community-focused large city in the world.”

I was fascinated, and thrilled to be a part of something bigger than Silverback Social. This was our chance to give back, learn, and network on a deeper level than ever. We were in. But truth be told, it was a tough sell to get our network to attend. I mean, how do you explain that you’ll be the guest of a visionary billionaire who is revitalizing a forgotten part of the United States in the most unusual and compelling way?

  • That you’ll be expected to participate, engage, and experience what they affectionately refer to as “collisions” throughout your time in Las Vegas?
  • That you’ll meet people who not only impress you, but also change the way you view the world?
  • That you’ll experience a company (Zappos) that excels at shattering convention – all with a smile while truly delivering happiness to everyone they encounter?
  • That you’ll find yourself locked in such deep and meaningful conversations at such a high frequency that you find yourself texting your loved ones & colleagues “you have to experience Catalyst Week.” oh the irony!!!

You can’t explain it. You can only share what an experience like this has done to you. This isn’t a normal experience.

Nope, not normal at all. Odd in fact.

The oddest experience I’ve ever had in my career.

But let me be clear – odd is a good thing. Odd doesn’t happen enough. Oddballs are rampant in the halls of Zappos, throughout the Downtown project and certainly at CatalystCreativ, and that’s a gloriously good thing. Silverback Social is oddball central! The oddballs are welcomed there, and I dig it big time. Glorious, lovable, intelligent, engaging, and fascinating oddballs like Caleb Edison (pictured below) who gave us our tour of the Downtown Project and spoke of the initiative’s three Cs:

  1. Collision
  2. Colearning
  3. Connectedness

He also pointed out that the Downtown initiative has unintentionally taken the shape of a Llama (Tony Hsieh’s favorite animal, because…well, they’re awesome). Odd.

Caleb Edison

Caleb Edison Downtown Project


Odd stories like how Tony gave restaurateur Natalie Young her initial investment to launch her downtown restaurant called Eat. Her story is odd in the most random, and inspiring way. Hearing her story in the video below may inspire others to open restaurants in Downtown Las Vegas. That would be the true ROI of the Downtown Project. A true Ripple OImpact..

Odd encounters like colliding with John Guydon of The Lassy Project in the pool at the Ogden who explained to my CMO John Zanzarella and I that he is changing the way the world will prevent child abductions. We’ve been encouraging everyone we meet to download the APP. It will save children’s lives. Imagine the first child’s life that’s saved because of this technology. That would be the true ROI of the Downtown Project and Catalyst Week. A true Ripple OImpact.

Odd and magical stories like the one told during a Catalyst Week workshop given by Leisa Peterson of Wealthclinic. Leisa shared her moment of clarity about her life that came to her during a random shooting. Powerful, and odd, and glorious. I re-told Leisa’s story to friends over dinner this past weekend. I was encouraging our friend to take the plunge into becoming an entrepreneur. Imagine if she does because of Leisa’s story? That would be the true ROI of the Downtown Project and Catalyst Week. A true Ripple OfImpact.

Odd bursts of mutual admiration for colleagues. Like when Robyn C. Allen organized other Catalyst attendees in an effort to offer a small gift at our closing dinner to the CatalystCreativ team. Which triggered a series of heart-felt thank yous, and applause. Like the speech Katie Vander Ark gave in honor of her boss Amanda Slavin. Public praise and admiration of colleagues? Passing that along to others, bringing a deeper level of humanity to our work? That is the true ROI of the Downtown Project, and Catalyst Week. A true Ripple OImpact.

It’s a rare thing to experience something that you know will change the trajectory of your business. Even more rare still is to experience something that will change your life. The unique five-day experience they call Catalyst Week, changed me personally to my core, and has effectively changed the trajectory of my business.

ROI = Ripple of Impact.

The week has influenced the way I view my business, the way I interact with my wife, and the life I lead at home and in the office. I’m typing this now and I’m welling up with the joy of knowing I’ve made friends I’ll have for life, and that my network will be better with these people in it.

True change is elusive. Bureaucracy slows it. Indifference is the fuel of stagnation. While the Downtown Project may not be perfect, and may not be for everyone, there is m-u-c-hmore positive than negative happening in a place that was previously left for dead. American cities need more Catalyst Weeks. Our world needs more renegades like Tony and more people who dive headlong into the fray like Amanda Slavin and her team at CatalystCreativ.

I encourage you to learn more about the CatalystCreativ Team (Amanda, Danielle, Robert, Mike, Katie, Cindy, Reyna, and Nicole). Keep up with CatalystCreativ on Twitter, Instagram (@catalystcreativ) or on Facebook.

Have you been to a Catalyst Week or Creativ Week yet? The Ripple OImpact will be felt for years to come, and I’ll do everything in my power to help along the way.