Fall 2018 Social Commerce Days in Review: The Power of Storytelling in a Digital Age

Written by Center for Social Commerce
Published on December 19, 2018

By Leah Cooper and Kris Mascolo

Social Commerce Days returned this fall, drawing strong crowds for a special lineup of events at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. This semester’s focus: the power of storytelling in a digital age. The two-day program was headlined by Jim Olson (Newhouse ’91), chief communications officer of Steward Health Care, who has formerly headed up communications at notable organizations like Starbucks, United Airlines, US Airways and Nissan.

Olson’s keynote presentation kicked off by challenging attendees to always start with the why. Through compelling anecdotes, Olson illustrated the important role communications professionals play in identifying and shaping stories that help organizations better connect with their customers and break through the noise in a crowded digital environment. Olson’s experience across multiple industries, including food and beverage, health care, and transportation, has informed his strong belief that every brand has an important story to tell about its purpose. A series of heart-rending videos had quite a few people in the room fighting tears and feeling inspired by stories of organizations who gave back to people in need.

By the end, students learned Olson’s secret ingredient to storytelling: the best stories are those that highlight the power of human connection. The keynote presentation concluded with an informative Q&A session moderated by Center for Social Commerce co-director, Professor Maria Russell. Students shared quotable moments via dozens of tweets using the hashtag #SocCommDays throughout the event.

The learning didn’t stop there. Day Two of Social Commerce Days continued with more classroom visits and workshops hosted by W2O Group staff members David Witt, Alan Chumley, Meriel McCaffery, Lauryn Botterman and Brett Kleinberg.

In a roundtable with Hill Communications members, students and W2O staff engaged in a candid discussion around client management and the opportunities and challenges that come with working in an agency environment. Students took away useful perspective and advice they could apply to their own client teams within Hill Comm.

An interactive workshop on content strategy rounded out this semester’s events. In tune with the storytelling theme, students learned best practices around content development, and how to maximize great content by repurposing it across digital and social channels. Working in groups, students developed creative content approaches to transform a mundane topic into something that audiences would find exciting and relevant.

As always, a very special thanks goes to Jim and Audra Weiss for continuing to support the W2O Center for Social Commerce and bringing hands-on learning and networking opportunities to Syracuse students each semester.

If you are a current Syracuse student and would like to get involved with the W2O Center for Social Commerce, consider applying for the 2019 Ambassadorship program, including a summer internship at W2O Group. Learn more and view application details at socialcommerce.syr.edu.