September is Central African Republic

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Current Affairs, Internet, Life, Marketing | Posted on 09-08-2010


charity: water was born in September – and every year in September we ask our community to fundraise together with us to make a huge impact.

This year, we will be raising $1.7 million for Central African Republic to provide clean and safe drinking water to 85,000 people – including ALL of the Bayaka people.

The campaign launches August 16. If you’re birthday is between August 16 and September 30 please get in touch! I’d love you to donate your birthday alongside us. If you’re not in that window you can still spread the word. For starters, like us on Facebook for exclusive access to info and content, and right now check out a sneak peak of this year’s September story:

september campaign teaser from charity: water on Vimeo.

Why Central African Republic? Check this snippet from a recent Foreign Policy report:

Over the last year, we led a research team that conducted perhaps the most extensive survey on the impact of violence on the Central African Republic’s population. The results, which will be published in the Aug. 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, reveal a country besieged by violence and extreme poverty. We asked 1,879 adults in five administrative areas of the country about their lives, their security, and their experience with conflict. More than three-quarters said they had either witnessed or personally experienced traumatic events during the wave of violence that began in 2001, and more than half met criteria for depression or anxiety. The monthly death rate was five per 1,000 individuals (in the United States it is 0.7; the average for sub-Saharan Africa is 1.3). Put another way, 6 percent of the country’s population is dying every year.

More to come next week.

You can help. The people of Central African Republic need you. If your birthday falls between August 16 and September 30 then I want you!

For more background on September, check out last year’s trailer:

The story of charity: water – The 2009 September Campaign Trailer from charity: water on Vimeo.

Speaking: DMEF I-Mix and BlogHer Business

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 03-08-2010


Quick update from an Amtrak train en route to Baltimore – I’m speaking at two awesome conferences this week: DMEF I-Mix and BlogHer Business.

I’ve been helping the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation out with some social media advice for the last year or so. It’s a pleasure to help their mission to unite college students, professors and employers in the marketing realm. Check out their great new blog authored by my good mate (and one of the smarter young marketers I know) Andrea Derricks.

Tomorrow I’ll be speaking at their Interactive Marketing Immersion Xperience to a room of marketing students undertaking a week long crash course on all things digital marketing. I’ll be taking a lead on the social media element, making bad jokes and generally being misunderstood due to accent issues.

I'm speaking

Thursday I’m back up to NYC and I’m really excited to be speaking at BlogHer Business as a Converseon fellow alongside my former client Ilana Rabinowitz of Lion Brand Yarn.

I attended the first BlogHer Business in 2008 and it’s still a stand out conference for me due to the great vibe and heavy case study focus. I’m expecting more of it this week and I’m excited to catch up with some old friends and the many inspiring women who make up the BlogHer community.

Finally, and on a completely tangental note, since I’m riding Amtrak & enjoying their free wifi – I feel I’ve gotta point out how smart I think their cheeky advertising in airport security line bins is:

Old People Use the Internet!

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Internet, Marketing | Posted on 29-07-2010


I’ve been on a bit of a Clay Shirky Binge lately, but the stuff he covers is so clever I’ve gotta share it.

The latest piece of Cognitive Surplus I’ve bookmarked during my Subway reading, this section on why we’re continually surprised by the spread of online communication – even amongst seniors:

No one wants email for itself, any more than anyone wants electricity for itself; rather, we want the things electricity enables. Similarly, we want the things email enables – news from home, pictures of the kids, discussion, argument, flirtation, gossip, and all the mess of the human condition. The surprise behind those “Old people communicating with each other online!” articles came from a focus on the technical means rather than on the social opportunities of that communication.

He goes on:

Many of the stories we tell ourselves about the tools we use are really stories about human motivation. We grossly overestimated the degree to which email would always seem futuristic and hard to use, we grossly underestimated the technical talents of older people, and we simply ignored the basic truth of technology: if a tool is useful, people will use it. (Surprise.) They will use it even if the tool is different from what existed before, provided it lets them do things they want to do. The mystery isn’t why older people started emailing each other; the mystery is how we could have convinced ourselves that email use was mainly about technological novelty rather than social continuity.

Fixing Your iPhone and Apple Customer Service

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Humour, Life, Marketing | Posted on 08-07-2010


I’ve been an iPhone user for three years, and like many iPhone owners I’ve cracked my screen (twice). And also like many iPhone owners I’ve had many a horrible experience with Apple and ATT’s arrogant approach to customers.

I knew that the Apple store would charge me an arm and a leg, despite the fancy decor and Genius Bars. So I typed ‘fix iPhone’ into Yelp and found Dr Brendan near me in the East Village who would fix it for $60.

I entered his small East Village apartment to find a bunch of people lining up, two friendly blokes fixing phones and a phone ringing off the hook. To my surprise they’d been featured on CNN today and a legion of similarly disaffected Apple customers had found salvation.

The bigger story here: can a brand like Apple really get away with treating its customers so badly they’ve created a black market in customer service? Dr Brendan’s service was great, but I must admit climbing four flights of steps to a small East Village apartment had me feeling like I was doing a drug deal.

The quote to sum it all up comes from one of Dr Brendan’s other customers today, a hospital employee with a cracked screen:

“Apple’s a total asshole to me. The one time I went in there I scheduled an appointment, you have to wait, they tell you they can’t fix it…”

My advice – if you’re in NYC with a cracked screen or other issue see Dr Brendan. If you’re in the market for an iPhone: buy something else.

Word of Mouth Super Genius July 20 NYC

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Events, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 01-07-2010


Word of Mouth Supergenius WOM for Water Project=

You should attend the Word of Mouth Super Genius conference in New York on July 20. Learn from the best in the business, get hands on knowledge from people who are ‘doing’ not just talking, and best of all: support charity: water.

Register for the conference and use the code ‘paullismyhero‘ to get $101 off the registration fee… or you can donate that $101 to the events’ mycharitywater fundraising campaign. By doing so you’ll provide clean water to 5 people in the developing world for 20 years.

I’ve attended dozens of social media and word of mouth conferences over the past few years and I rarely get truly excited for them – Word of Mouth Super Genius is a rare one that bucks that trend. The sessions all focus on short, sharp ‘how to’ information, not the standard ‘social media bingo‘ highlights: ‘customer service is marketing’, ‘social CRM’, ‘United Breaks Guitars’ etc that you’ll hear at each and every conference.

The speaking line up speaks for itself: Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh keynoting, Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void fame, my friends Geno Church from Brains on Fire and Lindsay Lebresco at Converseon and big brand speakers from the likes of National Geographic, General Mills, Makers Mark and Yelp.

Plus yours truly sharing the charity: water word of mouth story – a preview of which you can listen to via this interview:

How charity: water is using social media tools to connect with their cause’s biggest believers — live with Paull Young from GasPedal on Vimeo.

So are you in? July 20 in New York City. Register here and use the discount code ‘paullismyhero’ to donate $101 to charity: water. See you there!

Beware Your Corporate Partnerships

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Current Affairs, Marketing | Posted on 28-06-2010


Choose to partner your brand with another and you’re buying into their corporate reputation… and this might not always be what you expect:

Beware of your corporate partnerships!

Going Viral: Reddit Helps Maggie’s Sweet 16 Build a Well

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 24-06-2010


One of the coolest things about working in digital with charity: water is the sheer power of the creativity of our fundraisers at mycharitywater. This struck me in a big way last week when Maggie’s Sweet 16th fundraising drive raised enough to build a well via the support of social news aggregator Reddit.

Last monday I checked out our Google Analytics and noticed a big traffic spike on Thursday and Friday. Digging deeper it turned out thousands of visitors were hitting Maggie’s page from Reddit. Looking at the comments we could clearly see this traffic was converting to donations – even anonymous users donating $160 with comments like “Happy birthday Maggie from Reddit! Your concern and dedication for others in the world is inspiring. Please stay exactly as you are!“.

Inspiring to see yet another example of the online community doing good, and more inspiring to hear from Maggie that the experience changed her life.

My colleague Mo Scarapelli did a great post for our corporate blog on the campaign, some highlights here:

Your campaign exploded right after your dad put a his post on reddit. In three days, you had 5,000 people hit your campaign page! Were you surprised? Especially that so many strangers donated?
I was shocked!!! I didn’t expect any response because I didn’t think strangers would care about my campaign, much less donate to it. Then, I started receiving anonymous $16 donations, and some were donating $160, and I was completely shocked! People were leaving such thoughtful comments, trying to help me reach my goal and it showed me that there really is a lot of kindness in the world, even from strangers, and proved that people will rally around a good cause.

Your cause really impacted others… how did the campaign really impact you?
My grandmother passed away four years ago, and I was really close to her. When my aunt heard about what I was doing, she said that my Nan would be so proud of me. This really touched me, and made me cry. Running this campaign has changed my life. I’m a teenager, and so I never thought I could actually do something influential that could make a difference in others’ lives. But this campaign has completely proved me wrong. The feeling you get when you know you’re helping others is the greatest feeling in the world, and definitely the best birthday present I could have ever asked for.

Thanks for the inspiration Maggie!

Twitter Growth By The Numbers

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 19-05-2010


As a data-driven communicator, one of the very first things I did in my new role with charity: water was to dig deep into our Google Analytics and immerse myself in some numbers.

With Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics 2.0 in one hand and my mouse in the other I first looked over the long-term trends in the data and key referrers to see what stood out. Amongst the many interesting things I found there’s a standout I’d like to share here: The story of Twitter’s emergence, as told through our data.

Now charity: water does Twitter extremely well. We were the first charity to reach one million followers. We were the focus of the first Twestival that raised over $250,000 for water projects. Twitter holds us up as an example for other non-profits. Hugh Jackman donated $50,000 last year after asking his Twitter users to select a charity. Many of our staff tweet – we’ve even got a screen streaming Tweetdeck in the middle of our office!

So without further ado I’d like to share some traffic stats, in the interest of knowledge sharing, to give some background to the highlights above:

May 2008 – May 2009

  • Traffic from Twitter only equates to 1.55% of total traffic
  • Facebook sent 50% more traffic than Twitter
  • August 31 & September 21 2008 were two of our best traffic days of all time – on these dates we had only 1 visitor from twitter (but whoever they were stayed for 17 minutes!)

May 2009 – May 2010

  • Visitors from Twitter increased to 7% of site total (8 times as many visits as the year before)
  • Twitter becomes the top referring site, with more than double the visitors than Facebook
  • November 2 2009: Helen’s Story, a beautiful piece by my fiercely smart colleague Becky Straw, goes viral on Twitter and recieves over 5,000 visits on this day alone
  • March 22 2010: charity: water marks World Water Day by launching the Unshaken campaign for Haiti. We have our second best traffic day of all time and 20% of visitors come from Twitter

Just a few interesting tidbits for now – I’ll aim to share more data and insights moving forward. And here is where the ask comes in: I’m looking for a true Google Analytics guru who would be interested in volunteering some time to work with me and my team to deepen, extend and amplify our Analytics backend to ensure we’ve got a measurement backbone on par with the smartest data-driven organizations out there. Rewarding work for a great cause – if you know someone (or even better ARE someone) that fits the bill please give me an introduction!

I’m Joining charity: water

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Internet, Life, Marketing | Posted on 10-05-2010


Two years ago I gave up my September birthday to a new-to-me non-profit named charity: water, little did I know this would eventually turn out to be a life-changing event.

Through this process I learned the full extent of the shocking truth of the world’s water crisis. I learned that close to one billion people lack access to clean water. I learned that unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation caused 80% of diseases and killed more people each year than all forms of violence (including war). And I learned that via charity: water and their 100% model (with every dollar heading directly to water projects) that $20 can give one person clean water for 20 years.

And today, I’ll make this mission the purpose of my work life as I join charity: water’s executive team as Director of Digital Engagement and Fundraising.

There’s a host of reasons I’m ecstatic to join the charity: water team, and not the least the amazing people I’ll be working with, led by our Founder Scott Harrison.

If I had to narrow my motivation down to 3 key items though, it would be the following:

1. The Cause: 1 in 8 people in the world lack access to clean water. It’s a problem that can be solved with the right mix of ingenuity, hard work and cold hard cash. It’s a gigantic task, but there’s few out there more worthy of taking on – the gift of water can truly transform lives.

2. The Model: Every single cent donated to charity: water is used to fund water projects. No waste. Administrative costs are covered by other donors: everything from our team’s wages to the ink in the office printer. No confusion. It’s a new approach to charity.

3. Proven Digital Innovation: A website that looks better than nearly any corporate. Every well that is built is marked on Google Maps. 1.3 million people follow them on Twitter, they were the focus of the first Twestival and they’re even held up as an example by Twitter for other causes. In short, this non-profit is a true digital organization.

Paull Young charity: water from Paull Young on Vimeo.

And the best part of all of this? YOU can help. I want your money, your sweat, your voice and your brain… or any of the above :)

Your Money - Make a Donation

The most important element for the millions without water is access to your money. As I said, as little as $20 can give one person clean water for 20 years. The first thing I’ve done as a charity: water employee is to ‘eat my own dogfood‘ and launch my own fundraising campaign – so if you were going to say congratulations remember there’s no better way to do so than by contributing $20 in my name! (and please do report back on the donation process – there’s nothing like feedback).

Your Sweat – Run a Fundraising Campaign

There’s only one thing I’ll love more than our donors in my new role, and that’s our fundraisers. There’s many ways you can raise money for the cause, you could give up your birthday for the cause just like Alyssa Milano, you could climb a mountain, heck, it’s so simple an 8 year old can do it! The only bounds are your creativity, and if you plan to fundraise for us do be sure to let me know!

Your Voice – Follow us Online and Spread the Word

Even if you can’t donate or fundraise right now there are a range of other things you can do to support us – importantly you can help spread the word and introduce us to your network. Please check out the links below and stay connected:

Your Brain – Share your ideas, your connections, your organizations

Please feel free to reach out to me with any of your ideas or thoughts on how you can help. I’ll always have time for you and every piece of support is valuable.

I know many of you are marketers or corporate folk – I’d love to find ways to get the support of your clients, your employers and your coworkers. Likewise I know I’d like to draw on your professional expertise no matter what your background and skill set.

So if you’re interested in lending your professional support now or down the track please leave a comment or drop me an email, at least then I’ll know I can reach out to you in future without fear of being needy.

I’ll be trying to blog regularly here and share insights on how we continue to develop charity: water’s digital program. I hope you can all subscribe and come along for the ride!


My mate Joe Ciarallo over at PR Newser covered the move, and my former CEO Rob Key wrote a nice post bidding me farewell over at the Converseon blog.

Get Me Facebook and Twitter!

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 04-05-2010


On a recent flight I read a New York Times article with a quote that was so perfect an illustration of the current state of corporate social media that I had to share it. And it wasn’t from the business section… social media is so mainstream these days that it even rears its ugly head in a Napa Valley article in the dining section.


Mike Grgich, the founder of Grgich Hills Estate, distrusted computers so intensely that for decades he insisted on handwritten accounting. No more. At 87, Mr. Grgich recently bellowed to his staff: “We have to upgrade everything! Get me Facebook and Twitter!” recalled Ivo Jeramaz, a vice president at the winery who is also Mr. Grgich’s nephew.

“We nearly fell off our chairs,” Mr. Jeramaz said.

This sounds like so many brands I talk to these days. They’ve got the social media laundry list: Facebook Page (Check!), Twitter account (Check!), YouTube (Check!), Blog (Check!). Much more rarely will they have a real strategy, nor specific and measurable objectives (and I’m taking nothing away from Grgich Hills Estate here, in fact I applaud their forward thinking).

Yes there are a huge amount of potential benefits social media and new web tools can deliver to organizations… but only if you realize that they are just tools. Without the right strategy and without the internal readiness to really listen to your stakeholders then they’ll be as useless as tits on a bull (to share a great Australianism ;)).

So from now when I’m assessing corporate social media efforts I won’t be looking at their Facebook fan count (likely inflated with media dollars and freebies). I won’t be looking at the cool design on the background of their Twitter page. I’ll be looking for them to tell me about the changes they made internally to properly use the tools, I’ll be asking them to talk about how they measured impact on business objectives, and I’ll be hoping they can tell me how the tools they selected fit into their wider communications plan.

I find myself echoing the thoughts of my Converseon CEO Rob Key here, who recently shared a word cloud in iMedia Connection generated from the online conversation around the term ‘social media’ and found the same situation:

Rob says it well:

The conversation is dominated by technologies and platforms. Perhaps not surprisingly the primary words are “Facebook” and “Twitter.” Not far behind are a range of tactics and pithy statements (ideally fewer than 140 characters). This is not a strategic conversation. It is, frankly, reflective of a relatively immature discussion.

A funky Facebook and Twitter page certainly has ‘cool’ factor, but in the long run I think you’ll find measurable impact on business objectives to be a fair bit funkier.

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