One Piece of Advice from the DMEF Rising Stars

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Life, Marketing | Posted on 01-06-2011


I was recently honored to be nominated alongside Avinash Kaushik, Shane Atchison, Steve Froehlich and Megan Pagliuca as a 2011 DMEF Rising Star.

The awards dinner is coming up in June, but ahead of that date I asked each of the Rising Stars to contribute the single most important piece of advice you would give to someone just embarking on their career in marketing/communications?

I’ll start to kick us off:

Keep learning. Every single day. Students and new professionals have never had access to so much information that can expand their lives and careers.

Join Twitter and follow smart people, start a Google Reader and subscribe to a range of blogs and RSS feeds, visit news websites every day (or read the paper over breakfast!), subscribe to some quality magazines like the Atlantic. Read some books!

The more time you spend now absorbing information the more you’ll expand your worldview, your career prospects and your strategic thinking doing the track. And it’s like eating right or going to the gym – you need to make it a part of your every day routine to get results!

Avinash Kaushik, Analytics Evangelist, Google

Draw a Venn diagram.

Circle one contains the things you are really good at and passionate about. This requires far more soul searching than you might imagine, in the end you have things you LOVE doing.

Circle two contains things your audience (co-workers, Twitter followers, etc) really care about, things they value. This means asking questions, listening, asking follow up questions, listening some more.

What’s at the intersection of those two circles? Is there anything you are passionate about (also good at) and what your audience values?

Build a career doing that.

You’ll live a life of bliss. Your audience will cherish you. Everything good in life will come from that.

Megan Pagliuca, VP Display Media, Merkle

The advertising industry is going through immense change, an evolution from an offline world to an online world. Immense change enables immense opportunity, both for ambitious young professionals and for new visions and innovations to make the advertising world work better than it did before. A few pieces of advice for someone starting out:

1.       Break the Rules – In school, breaking the rules did not work to your advantage.  In the business world, breaking the rules is a critical piece of success.  Breaking current processes, creating new ways to do things even when you’re given a million reasons why they can’t be done, is how you innovate.

2.       Believe in the Vision – In order to be successful, whether it’s delivering better results, creating a new technology, or generating efficiencies in the marketplace, you must believe in what you are doing and do it with passion.

3.       Take Calculated Risks – The consequences of doing nothing is greater than the risk of failing at something you want or believe in. Take the job at the smaller company where you’ll gain more experience, challenge your competitor to a head to head test, or build the product that you know will win in market.

Steve Froehlich, VP Membership, ASPCA

My first response was only 4 words: “you gotta burn to earn,” but I thought this sounded better:

As a direct response marketer in nonprofit fundraising, we should recognize that we are standing on the shoulders of giants who were writing direct mail copy and delivering data on tapes to service bureaus when I was just a baby.  As technology continues to evolve, it comes as little surprise that the basic principles of RFM segmentation, urgent & emotional creative, efficiencies of scale, meaningful mass personalization, and prompt acknowledgments remain at the core of what we do. Fundraisers who see a dip in performance can (and do) often blame external factors like the economy, natural disasters, or even their agency… and while it has taken me some time in life to understand the difference between what is urgent and what is important, the best advice I’ve ever received was from a dear friend who told me, “you’re a fundraiser: spend the most time on what raises the most money and spend the least time on what raises the least.”

What’s your best tip for young professionals? Leave a comment!

Delivering Happiness at SXSW

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 12-05-2011


A few months ago at SXSW I jumped on the Delivering Happiness Bus to shoot an interview with Tech Cocktail’s Frank Gruber on charity: water’s digital approach.

Readers of this blog will know I’m a follower and a believer in the Delivering Happiness movement, and I’m quite stoked with how this video turned out.

Take a look to see a quick snapshot of the world of charity: water from my perspective:

Check it out and let me know what you think!


Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Internet, Life, Marketing | Posted on 26-03-2011


Right now I’m reading Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel – essentially a quick history of civilization and the role geography plays in shaping our past, present and future.

A chapter on technologies role in history yielded this interesting tidbit of info on the QWERTY keyboard that says a lot about human rationality and the power of vested interests:

Unbelievable as it may now sound, that keyboard layout was designed in 1873 as a feat of anti-engineering. It employs a whole series of perverse tricks designed to force typists to type as slowly as possible, such as scattering the commonest letters over all keyboard rows and concentrating them on the left side (where right handed people have to use their weaker hand).

The reason behind all of those seemingly counterproductive features is that the typewriters of 1873 jammed if adjacent keys were struck in quick succession, so that manufacturers had to slow down typists. When improvements in typewriters eliminated the problem of jamming, trials in 1932 with an efficiently laid-out keyboard showed that it would let us double our typing speed and reduce our typing effort by 95 percent. But QWERTY keyboards were solidly entrenched by then. The vested interests of hundreds of millions of QWERTY typists, typing teachers, typewriter and computer sales people, and manufacturers have crushed all moves toward keyboard efficiency for over 60 years.

PdF Audio: Using Social Media for Non-Profit Fundraising

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 09-03-2011


Last week I was the guest of the Personal Democracy Forum as they hosted one of their series of PdF Network conference calls, this one looking at charity: water’s success in online fundraising.

The PdF team were good enough to share audio of the event, and Micah Sifry put together a quick outline of the call I’ll share here:

  • Money is a by-product of great connections and great content. Again and again, Paull explained how charity: water focuses on serving its supporters with content that is worth paying attention to, and on insuring that their experience working with the organization is “filled with delight.”
  • There’s no “donate” button anywhere on charity: water’s Twitter or Facebook presences. Instead, those channels are used for what they do best, to help spread messages and build connections. Don’t view “donors as wallets,” he said. They’re people with whom to build rewarding relationships.
  • Pay attention to (and share) all the great stories that your members may have to share. Paull talked about Riley Goodfellow, an 8-year-old supporter of charity: water who convinced her friends to eat rice and beans for a month, and then got their parents to donate the money saved on food, and who carried a water can to school each day to understand what it felt like to have to walk to a well each day to get clean water. (Her whole story is here.)
  •, the group’s distributed fundraising platform, has enabled thousands of people to build their own personal fundraising campaigns, many of them around donating their birthdays.
  • This approach has to be embraced from the top of an organization or it won’t work. Hands-on training for leadership can help a lot, otherwise people tend to reject methods they don’t personally understand. Also, charity: water is very much a “digital start-up,” Paull noted, with something like a third of its core staff devoted to online organizing, web design, coding, etc.

Podcast for: Using Social Media for Non-Profit Fundraising- charity: water’s Success

-download podcast here or visit the PdF site to stream the audio.

Quora: What Digital Tactics Have Been Most Successful in Building charity: water’s Online Audience

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 17-01-2011


I was asked the following question on Quora about charity: water’s online approach. For those of you not on Quora yet (you should be), I thought I’d share here as well.

What digital tactics have been most successful in building and engaging the charity: water audience?

Firstly, I must point out that looking at digital tactics in isolation doesn’t tell you much – there’s a real need to understand the digital strategy they are a part of to best understand our online success… but that’s for another question.

Some key tactics that have helped us build and engage our audience include:


The importance of compelling content cannot be understated. We focus on producing entertaining, informative and inspiring content each and every day.

Video content has been particularly powerful for us (to get a good feel for this view the videos at and is a continued focus for us.

Likewise, photography is important for our brand. We regularly share beautiful pictures from the field online as a way of helping our donors understand the change they can make in people’s lives.

The written word is important too – we have a full time blogger on staff who adds new content every day ( and also writes longer stories to showcase on our site (…)


Not exactly a digital tactic, but the simplicity of our messaging is key to our online success.

Simple, compelling messages allow our audience to easily share the importance of the water issue:

  • 1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water
  • 4,500 children die every day from water related diseases
  • More people die from lack of access to safe water and basic sanitation than all forms of violence, including war
  • $20 can give one person clean water
  • $5000 can fund a water project that can provide safe water to 250 people

These messages are simple for our audience to absorb and share. Because of this, I’ve seen 8 year old kids do a better job of telling the water story than I ever could.

The fundraising platform has been incredibly successful for us, raising over $6 million in its first 15 months in operation.

Beyond just fundraising, mycharitywater plays an important role in building our online audience as each and every fundraising audience is also a Word Of Mouth marketing campaign.

Every fundraiser shares our content and our mission with their closest friends and family, a powerful way for us to connect with new audiences. The 6,000 fundraisers to date at have formed a grassroots movement that has taken our message and content and shared it with audiences we never could have reached otherwise.


1.3 million Twitter followers attests to the importance of this channel for our cause. Twitter is an incredibly important venue for us – it’s where we share our latest news, launch online campaigns, connect with influencers and converse with our supporters.

In addition, Twitter is one of the favorite social networks of our supporters and one of the main places they share our content and promote their own fundraising campaigns.

Twitter has been one of our top 5 traffic drivers for the past 2 years.


While for most the charity: water brand is synonymous with Twitter, Facebook is also a favorite venue for us and continues to become a more important site for us to engage with our supporters.

We use our Facebook page to talk to our inner-circle of supporters and try to give them a closer look into our day-to-day operations. During our September campaigns we posted behind the scenes videos on our fan page every day. In addition, the good folk at Buddy Media donated their Facebook platform to us, which has enabled us to expand our presence to add virtual gifts and other interactive elements.

As with Twitter, Facebook is also a favorite social network for our audience. Since the launch of the Open Graph in mid-2010 our Facebook traffic increased over 1000%. And as an example of how our audience can use Facebook on our behalf, we saw our greatest traffic day ever in September 2010 when Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith posted about their partnership with us ( to their 10 million + fans.

In 2010, Facebook was our top referring site, only behind direct traffic and Google search, and for the first time outstripping Twitter in terms of unique visitors.

Happy to delve more into tactics and share other numbers, so please leave a comment if you’d like me to add any more thoughts

Delivering Happiness: Non-Profit Perspective

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Internet, Life, Marketing | Posted on 13-10-2010


I try not to read too many business books. I have a constant stream of business info heading my way via Google Reader and Twitter. And any time I’m reading a business book I always think I’m missing out on working through the classics or another piece of great fiction that might extend my world view.

So it’s rare I’ll really enjoy a business book. It’s even rarer one will instantly produce a significant shift in my thinking. Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh managed to do both.

Reading Tony Hsieh's 'Delivering Happiness' on the bus to work - seems fitting right @dhbus?

Tony Hsieh and Zappos are renowned for their approach to customer service and company culture. Delivering Happiness looks at both through the frame of Tony’s personal experience and outlines the core thinking that led to Zappos eventual billion dollar acquisition by Amazon.

As I read Tony’s story I found more and more similarities with my work at charity: water, and also got a glimpse of how our organization can take a Zappos approach to charity and change the world while we’re at it.

We deliver clean water to developing nations, Zappos delivers shoes to westerners – how could there be a link?

It boils down to this: all online shoe vendors are basically the same. It’s not a sexy business, nor groundbreaking. The point of differentiation for Zappos is in making customers go ‘WOW’ and sparking a deep relationship with the brand. In practice this looks like:

– Free shipping for deliveries AND returns
– A real person on the phone, every time
– Upgrades when possible to next day delivery
– Most importantly, a deeply held commitment to doing right by the customer

As a non-profit charity: water doesn’t necessarily have ‘customers’. And we don’t have a ‘customer service’ department. But we’ve got something even more important: donors, fundraisers and supporters.

The question for me is how can we build a culture that can deliver that WOW factor to all of them. What is the equivalent, for a non-profit, of free shipping and next day delivery of a pair of shoes?

In the case of charity: water – it’s reporting.

We already focus on this more than most – we send 100% of donations to the field and we’ve always marked every water project we’ve built on Google Maps to prove the impact. And it’s right here, the connection AFTER our donors have committed funds, when we can ‘deliver happiness’ to our supporters unlike any other cause, and in doing so turn them into lifelong fans.

The biggest adjustment for now: ‘reporting’ has moved to the core of our digital strategy (headlined with a phrase stolen from Zappos: ‘Deliver WOW through service’). And here is an example of how reporting can WOW – check out this video we made Will and Jada Smith to show them the well they funded (they’ve since become two of our biggest supporters).

For now, grab yourself a copy of Delivering Happiness and have a read. In the meantime, check out this video featuring the Delivering Happiness crew visiting our office at charity: water last month:

And for one final piece of happiness for you – leave a thoughtful comment and I’ve got a copy of Delivering Happiness on hand that I’d be most happy to send to my favorite commenter.

Social Media Week Panel on Entrepreneurship

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Events, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 30-09-2010


Last week I appeared on a video panel for Social Media Week hosted by the State Department. I joined Rachel Shechtman of TOMS Shoes and Oren Michels of Mashery to discuss entrepreneurship.

Video here, the sounds isn’t great but the content was pretty solid. Was a lot of fun – especially fielding questions from Argentina, Colombia and Benin thanks to the reach of the State Department.

Also, I’ve gotta take kudos for the set design – Rachel and I were locked in a storage cupboard at the Passport Office and had to wrangle together a backdrop out of what we could find in the room… hence the giant American Flag sitting behind us!

2 Golden Rules of Digital

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Humour, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 21-09-2010


There are two golden rules that underpin my approach to all things digital:

1. People are inherently good, and will do good if you let them
2. People are inherently lazy, and will be lazy if you let them

Some of the World's Laziest People

Launching the September Campaign

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet, Life, Marketing | Posted on 16-08-2010


I’m extremely proud of my team at charity: water today as we launch our annual September campaign – an online movement to raise $1.7 million for Central African Republic in order to provide access to clean and safe drinking water to the Bayaka people.

Since 2007 charity: water has asked people to give up their birthday and ask for donations instead of gifts, with 100% of money raised directed to water projects. This was how I first met the charity, donating my September birthday back in 2008.

This year is our biggest campaign yet. My coworkers at charity: water have been doing work that is nothing short of amazing. In addition, Razorfish and Golin Harris have donated time, energy and brain power pro bono to help our campaign along – I’ve been incredibly impressed by the smarts of our agency team.

We need your help to spread the word. Please spend a few minutes to watch our campaign video, and then I have 3 asks for you.

Give Up Your September Birthday

Are you born in September? Then please give up your birthday and fundraise with us. 100% of donations will fund clean and safe drinking water projects in C.A.R. (we even pay back the credit card fees).

Not born in September? You can still fundraise!


$20 gives one person clean water in C.A.R., donate at

Donate Your Facebook Status

The good folk at Buddy Media have donated us their platform, so on the charity: water Facebook page you can send virtual jerry cans, do a quiz on C.A.R. and see more videos and photos. Every day we’ll be posting a behind-the-scenes video from the field that only fans will be able to see.

Help us spread the word of September, the Bayaka and charity: water on Facebook by posting this video to your Facebook status:

charity: water unsubscribe page

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Humour, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 11-08-2010


We’ve been stepping up our email marketing efforts at charity: water thanks to the generous pro bono support from our partners at Silverpop.

As we move onto best-in-class technology (the Silverpop tech and services really do rock – I can’t endorse them highly enough) we also want to clean up our list and make sure all our subscribers are completely happy. So in a recent mailing we placed a prominent ‘unsubscribe’ link at top and bottom of our mailing, and pointed them to this page:

The users choice – unsubscribe, OR watch this video featuring our fearless leader Scott Harrison getting the clean water treatment:

The results so far:

  • over 70,000 emails sent
  • around 100 unsubscribes
  • 740 views of the video

We’re pretty happy with an unsubscribe rate at close to a thousandth of a per cent, and that over 7 times that many watched the video and stayed with us. Plus, we love another chance to have a personal touch with our network of supporters.

If you would like to opt-in to our occasional emails and help us provide clean and safe drinking water to the 1 billion people living without it, just click here to sign up.

Many thanks to the folk at Groupon for sparking this idea!

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