Starry Blue Brilliance

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Brilliance@Work: Brian Robinson Tells a Great Story at Universal Pictures

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a series of profiles about stellar people and their best practices at work. We’re kicking off 2017 by featuring brand, design and marketing strategy experts to help you “thrive in the new brand reality.”

Brian Robinson

Brian Robinson

FUSE 2017 presenter, Brian Robinson, Executive Vice President of Creative, Design and Development at Universal Pictures, spent 10 years in retail, leading brand strategy and new partnership ventures. Over the last four years, he’s been a brand leader in the entertainment world, building and cultivating brand and creative teams at DreamWorks Animation and now Universal Pictures.

As a preview to his presentation “DO NOT OPEN: A Tale of Resiliency, Imagination, and the Power of Curiosity,” Brian shares his insights on how unbridled imagination is at the heart of innovation.

Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC: How did your previous work in retail and brand strategy translate into success in the entertainment world?
Brian Robinson:
Have a seat and let me tell you a story, a great, grand story. But first, tell me yours.

Listen to the rhythm of culture, hear the dreams, ideas and aspirations of your fans and build an undeniable empathy for those that love what you do. This understanding, this empathy, will allow you to tell great stories, and great stories are the great connector. Whether campaigns, design, product development or innovation, the combination of empathy and great storytelling will always deliver success.

PB: How do your leadership values support your creative work and the work of your team?
The culmination of my leadership values – courage, authenticity, resiliency, respect –are intended to unlock the most exciting and purest forms of creativity, while encouraging individuality.

PB: What is the creative process you follow to bring your ideas to life?
The most unadulterated form of my personal creativity is free-form writing and is always the beginning of my creative process. Followed by editing, challenging, story-arching, and ultimately, pitching the idea.

PB: How do resiliency, courage and imagination drive your quest for innovation?
Life is a quest and trying to innovate within my own life journey means I’m living. I’m failing, I’m learning, I’m living, I’m failing, and in this cycle, it is my own personal resiliency, courage and imagination that continually drive me forward.

PB: What do you see as the next phase in the movie entertainment industry?
Phases no longer exist. The speed at which change takes hold is breathtaking. In the great renaissance of storytelling, one’s relevancy is the single most important idea in the entertainment industry and dare I say all industries. You must have compelling, empathetic stories that connect to culture, but unless you can make your stories relevant, they don’t exist.

PB: What will people gain from attending your conference presentation?
They’ll experience the amazing, courageous art of getting knocked out and the resiliency and determination to get back up and keep on fighting.

Want to hear more from Brian? Join us at FUSE 2017. Learn, network and share best practices with the most influential leaders in brand, design and marketing. Stay connected at #FUSEdesign.


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Marketing Analytics & Data Science Insights from San Francisco

Golden Gate BridgeGolden Gate Bridge photo by Pixabay

As I reported last month and confirmed in person this month, learning opportunities are blooming in Marketing Analytics & Data Science.

Here’s a brilliant collection of marketing analytics and data science insights from the Marketing Analytics & Data Science Conference in San Francisco.

Please read and share these stories so we can all learn how to deploy marketing analytics and data science to drive our businesses and organizations forward.

All of these stories are featured on The Market Research Blog.

Thanks to Edmund Balogun, Conference Producer; his fabulous team; and Amanda Ciccatelli, Content Marketing & Social Media Strategist, for inviting me and for producing and promoting an outstanding conference!

Special thanks to Carl Bieniek @sqltigger, for helping to keep the #MADSCONF socialsphere active! 🙂

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Brilliance@Work: Video Communications and Webcasting Expert Michele Wolpe


Swirling Stars

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a series of profiles about stellar collaboration professionals and their best practices at work.

Michele Wolpe

Michele Wolpe

Michele Wolpe is Director of Employee Communications at Autodesk, a global software design company headquartered in San Francisco, California. She has over 20 years of experience in leading employee communications at Fortune 500 companies including The Walt Disney Company, Barclays Global Investors, Charles Schwab, DHL Worldwide Express and Silicon Graphics.

Michele is fluent in French and Spanish and is a certified Executive Coach. She loves employee communications because it helps employees understand and engage with the company they work for and supports leaders in inspiring employees.

Join Michele at the Advanced Learning Institute’s Strategic Internal Branding Conference, April 19-21 in Scottsdale, Arizona as she presents “Engage and Inform a Global Workforce by Strategically Aligning Your Brand through Video Communications.”

In the meantime, read on to learn more about Michele and her insights on engaging employees through video and webcasting.

Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC: What are you most interested in and speak most enthusiastically about?
Michele Wolpe: I am most interested in talking about ways to creatively deliver business news and information to employees as well as the importance and value of leaders communicating face to face with employees.

PB: What are some of your past and current projects that you are most proud of?
MW: I’m proud of leading the webcasting project at Autodesk and taking it from zero to a fully integrated company-wide solution that is used regularly at the company by all of the business organizations.

I’m also proud of the Vision Project I ran at Autodesk, which resulted in a vision statement for the company, as well as the Vision Map project I ran that involved creating a visual map of the company’s business model transition and plans to accomplish its strategy.

PB: How does video communication support internal brand strategy?
MW: Video (and webcasting) can bring a brand strategy to life just by the nature of the medium. The storytelling power of video, via images and people, is much stronger than other media.

PB: What will people gain from attending the Strategic Internal Branding Conference?
MW: It’s always great to hear from colleagues in the field about what they are doing that is new and exciting and making a difference. For me, conferences like these are ideal ways to get new ideas and to meet people who become part of your professional network.

PB: What is most important for people to understand from your conference presentation?
MW: That implementing a webcasting solution for a company can be a very effective, powerful and cost-effective way to strengthen employee communication, leadership visibility, and to build engagement, especially in global companies and those with widely distributed offices and/or operations.

PB: What is your contact information for questions, comments, ideas?

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How to Tell Your Story in a New Media Landscape

Cambridge SunsetPhoto: Sunset over the River Cam in Cambridge by Andrew Dunn. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

“In the end, we’ll all become stories.” – Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist and environmental activist

Storytelling is at the heart of our existence. That’s why it’s such a powerful way of communicating. Here are two posts to help you tell your story in a new media landscape:

Learn more about storytelling, audience engagement, content development and more. Join me Feb. 1-3 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the Institute for International Research’s Media Insights & Engagement Conference. Together we’ll learn about the future of media, new media disruptors and partnerships for success.

Dubbed “the Golden Globes of the media industry” by Tom Ziangas, SVP, Research, AMC Networks  Inc., this three-day event will set you on course to navigate the new media landscape of 2016.

Please share this information with your networks. The Twitter hashtag is #MediaInsights16.

In the meantime, watch for my conference posts on The Market Research Event Blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Starry Blue Brilliance.

I’m looking forward to attending this event with you!

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Celebrating One Year of Starry Blue Brilliance

1024px-Van_Gogh_from_Space*Photo: Van Gogh from Space, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Credit: USGS/NASA/Landsat 7, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Thanks to your encouragement and loyal readership, my website turned 1 this week.

I started Starry Blue Brilliance one year ago as a resource for learning and sharing corporate communication best practices to help our businesses and organizations succeed.

With your support, it continues as a “masterpiece” in progress that we create together as shown by these stats:

  • 63 total posts
  • 405 subscribers
  • Viewed by 96 countries

and these comments:

“Peggy, when I met you several years ago I recognized you as a great mom to my student Chris, but also as someone who was a great communicator. I only learned later that it was in fact your career. When was launched, I was blown away. As you remember, I recommended that you should not only be writing, but should be consulting to companies. Peggy, you are great. Let’s let the world know.” – Bill Bryson, retired businessman and teacher

“Thanks Peggy for continuing to provide such great info time after time. I don’t know how you do it! You’ve created a unique blog that is a must-read for communicators looking for insights and tips that are immediately useful. I especially appreciate the many templates and forms you’ve made available for download including the Storytelling Feedback Tools and the Perfect Fit questions. You always have great content, great links and great artwork. Congratulations! I’m looking forward to the next year. Keep it coming!”Paul Barton, ABC, Principal Consultant, Paul Barton Communications LLC

Thank you again for making this important milestone possible!

“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me  a story and it will live in my heart forever.” – Indian Proverb

*Photo description: In the style of Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night, massive congregations of greenish phytoplankton swirl in the dark water around Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea. Phytoplankton are microscopic marine plants that form the first link in nearly all ocean food chains. Population explosions, or blooms, of phytoplankton, like the one shown here, occur when deep currents bring nutrients up to sunlit surface waters, fueling the growth and reproduction of these tiny plants. To learn more about the Landsat satellite, visit

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Brilliance@Work and the Stars Who Make it Happen: StoryBranding 2.0 Author Jim Signorelli

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a series of profiles about stellar communication professionals and their best practices at work.


Jim Signorelli

Jim Signorelli is a marketing thought leader, speaker and expert on the subject of StoryBranding. His articles and interviews are featured in magazines, newspapers and on radio talk shows throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.

During his 35-year advertising and marketing career, Jim worked at highly acclaimed agencies throughout the U.S. on major accounts including Citibank, General Electric, Toshiba, Kraft Foods, Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, The American Marketing Association, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and many others.

Jim is the founder and CEO of eswStorylab Marketing, cited as one of the top 25 agencies in Chicago by Crain’s Chicago Business and was named to the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing independent companies in the U.S. for three straight years. His agency is dedicated to helping clients build strong brands based on the process outlined in his award-winning book “StoryBranding: Creating Stand-Out Brands Through the Power of Story.”

Jim’s second edition, “StoryBranding 2.0: Creating Stand-Out Brands Through the Purpose of Story,” was published in February. Read on to learn how Jim’s StoryBranding technique can help you create a meaningful purpose for your brand and gain customer loyalty:

Peggy Bieniek, ABC: How did you come up with the title for your book?
Jim Signorelli:
 Actually, “StoryBranding” was not the original title. I wanted to title the book “Storyselling,” because I thought it was clever. However, my publisher found out that the word Storyselling is trademarked. Not being able to title the book “Storyselling” was a blessing in disguise. I soon realized that my effort to be clever instead of clear could have created a huge misunderstanding. Storytelling can be an effective sales technique, but both “StoryBranding” and “StoryBranding 2.0” have less to do with storytelling and more to do with story principles applied to the process of creating engaging brands.

PB: What is the main message you want your readers to understand?
JS: The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing. It feels like a story. One of my favorite quotes is by Hannah Arendt who said, “Stories persuade without getting in their own way.” As I discuss in the book, many marketers trip themselves up by telling people what and how to think. People would rather be given things to think about. The latter is what stories do and what marketing should do to become more effective.

PB: What kind of research did you do for this book?
JS: I read everything I could on story logic, character development, plot and theme construction to better understand the mechanics of narrative. I attended storytelling classes conducted by Doug Lipman, an excellent storytelling coach. I attended seminars conducted by Robert McKee, the famed author of the book “Story.” I interviewed Kendall Haven and Annette Simmons, who are regarded as authorities on the subject of story. And I used what I learned to draw the parallel between stories and brands. I’m still not done studying. This subject has become an endless source of fascination.

PB: What did you learn from writing this book?
First and foremost, I learned how much my wife must love me. Writing a book while running a company can put a strain on any relationship. However she was incredibly patient and supportive. I don’t think I could have done what I did otherwise. Second, I learned a great deal about myself. I say in the book, “If you have a birth certificate, you are a brand. And if you are a brand, you are a story.” Writing helped me to get in touch with the story I’ve become and the one I will hopefully grow into.

PB: What were your goals and intentions for this book?
A friend of mine who I greatly admire is Joey Reiman, owner of BrightHouse, a global consultancy based in Atlanta, and the writer of numerous books, including my favorite, “The Story of Purpose.” In it, he says, “A brand with a purpose is no longer distinguished by a point of difference, but by a point of view.”

The more that marketers can understand what he means, the more positively they will be able to contribute to their bottom lines while also contributing to our economy and our society as a whole. Joey and I are big fans of the notion that it’s time to put the tricks away. The most successful marketers have learned that there’s a very big, untapped market for meaning.

PB: What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
Hopefully it’s more than its bold black and red cover designed by my colleague, the astoundingly talented Joe Pryzbylski. (Sorry, I had to plug him since he worked endlessly on the design.)

Storytelling has become marketing’s new hammer and everything is a nail. There are plenty of books, articles and blogs that talk about the persuasive power of storytelling. However, storytelling to me, is a communication technique – albeit a very powerful one – but a technique nevertheless. My purpose is to go beyond the use of storytelling as a selling device – to use story function as a branding tool.

PB: How can organizations use StoryBranding in communication programs?
JS: Two words need to be fully understood by anyone who communicates for a living. The first word is “story.” What I found in a book titled “Story Proof” by Kendall Haven is that “story is the scaffolding for a narrative about a character dealing with an obstacle to achieve some goal.” Brands work the same way. A brand’s challenge can be overcome and insights can be won by defining each of the story elements Haven identifies.

For instance, if we cast our brand in the role of the character, who is he or she? What is his or her motivation? And how does that motivation manifest in what that character does? What are the obstacles to be overcome to achieve the brand’s goal? And what is the best goal that any brand should set out to achieve?

The second word is “relationship.” The more we can relate to prospects and customers, the more likely we will establish a relationship with them. However, many marketers believe that relating to their targets is telling them how wonderful, cool, sexy, or powerful their brand is. Brands, governments and anything else you might risk calling an “organization” relate to their constituents on the basis of shared beliefs, values or ideologies. If there is little or no sharing, what we have is an acquaintance, not a relationship.

At the heart of every story is an intention to relate to its audience. The logic of story is a learning laboratory for understanding how relationships are created and sustained.

PB: What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about advertising that they need to know?
Advertising cannot change attitudes. It’s not that powerful. Rather it works because of confirmatory bias, which refers to our tendency to believe what we want or need to believe. No matter what the facts, nobody is going to change our minds unless what they communicate can line up with our truths. Seth Godin puts this very well in a quote I borrowed from him for my book: “The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure and reminded that they were right in the first place.”

PB: What are your current projects?
One that I’m truly excited about is a research methodology that I’m developing in conjunction with a consultancy in Boston called SixQ. One of the things I talk about in my book is the use of archetypal analysis as a way to asses a brand’s character persona. However, to my knowledge this type of analysis has not yet been operationalized or validated. We are in the last stages of an assessment tool design that will help brands (and people) better understand what I refer to in the book as their “inner layer” or the belief structure that is responsible for all behaviors. In the next month, you’ll be able to read more about it on my company’s website

At the same time, I’m working on an audio version of “StoryBranding 2.0.” This should be completed by next month and available on

PB: What are some of your favorite resources that inspire your work?
JS: In addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned, I’m now reading a lot of fiction, with greater appreciation. For instance, I’m reading Ernest Hemingway and developing a greater understanding of what he referred to as the “principle of the iceberg.” For me this principle has tremendous application for advertising. We don’t need to be told everything. In fact, it’s often best to leave it up to our audience to fill in the blanks.

PB: What is your contact information for questions, comments and ideas?
Jim Signorelli, CEO, eswStoryLab Marketing, 910 W. Van Buren, Chicago, Illinois 60607; email: jims@eswstorylab; websites: and

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Transform the Way You Communicate

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Chicago Buildings” photo by Dasha

Next week, communicators from all over the globe will come together to learn and share ideas about reinventing their organizations’ intranets.

If you are unable to attend next week’s 2014 Intranet & Digital Workplace Summit, check out these pre-event stories to help your organization create digital workplaces that drive productivity, innovation and measurable business results.

How is your organization integrating social, mobile and video tools to evolve a traditional intranet?

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Use Storytelling to Transform Your Intranet and Your Organization

Pop_transformation_(1444124191)_1024Photo: Feliciano Guimarães from Guimarães, Portugal

Great stories can help you:

  • Create meaningful connections with your employees
  • Transform your intranet into a key collaboration and idea platform
  • Improve your organization’s productivity and profitability

Need some inspiration on why and how to tell great stories? Read “Three Tips to Telling a Persuasive Story” by ePals CEO Katya Andresen.

To learn more about how to increase collaboration and employee engagement to drive business results, register for the 2014 Intranet & Digital Workplace Summit.

While you’re there, be sure to check out “How to Use Your Digital Workplace to Drive Collaboration, Build Trust and Transform the Way You Communicate” presented by James Warda, Chris Catania and Steve Cohen of the Corporate Communications team at Walgreen Co.

The Walgreen’s story will help you understand how to:

  • Build (and sustain) the business case for an enterprise social network
  • Give employees a place where they can become better informed, connected and engaged
  • Build partnerships across the company, which is vital to the success of any intranet initiative
  • Focus on key metrics to measure the success of your intranet

How does your organization’s intranet incorporate storytelling?

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Create Authentic Brand Identities Through Storytelling


Photo by paul bica

I believe in the power of storytelling and you should too. Why?

There are many examples of how great storytelling evokes emotion, which causes your customers to take action. Here are just a few that I’ve written about recently:

Ready to learn more? Here are some key resources to help you get started:

If creating authentic brand identities through storytelling sounds intriguing to you, be sure to join Daryl Travis, CEO for Brandtrust, at the Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit this week in Miami, Florida as he presents “Using Emotional Energy to Make Your Customer Experience Programs Easier, Faster and Smarter.”

There’s still time to register! Go to for details.

Stay connected with TCEL:

  • #TCEL14
  • Customer Experience Leaders

How does your organization create an authentic brand identity?

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How to Recognize Your Employees through Storytelling


Photo by paul bica

“People may take a job for more money, but they often leave it for more recognition.” – Dr. Bob Nelson, best-selling author and motivational speaker

According to Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit (TCEL) session speaker Janet LeBlanc, “Customer-centric companies know how important it is to reward and recognize their employees.” Creating a relevant story with the employee at the center of the recognition goes a long way to unlock higher performance and engagement.

A story that lacks a unique perspective will create the opposite effect as described in “How to Ruin an Employee’s Big Moment” by Jeff Haden.

Great recognition uses great storytelling as its foundation. Learn how to effectively recognize your employees in “Transforming Company Culture through Storytelling” by Darcy Jacobsen.

Join me in Miami next week (April 9-11) for TCEL and hear more about employee recognition from Janet LeBlanc during her session, “Employee Recognition Programs Energize and Strengthen Customer-Centric Organizations.”

To learn more about the event and register, go to Stay connected with TCEL:

  • #TCEL14
  • Customer Experience Leaders

How are you using stories to recognize your employees and strengthen your organizational culture?