NEW MEDIA-STRATEGY FIRM BETS BIG ON STORYTELLING, PROMOTES THE POWER OF ‘PURPOSE’

The Silicon Valley Story Lab -- with offices in Palo Alto, New York, and

Puerto Rico -- has mission of empowering the purpose-driven organization

PALO ALTO, CA; NEW YORK, NY; SAN JUAN, PR (December, 11, 2017) -- Today marks the formal launch of the Silicon Valley Story Lab (SVSL), a global media and content-strategy firm with a simple but unique mission: to empower the world’s most socially minded organizations to think and behave like the world’s greatest media companies.

SVSL is also promoting the power of “purpose,” seeking to support organizations that are committed to aligning their top and bottom lines for positive social impact, and looking for ways to meet the new communication challenges throughout the world, including Puerto Rico where the firm has an office.

“We’re living in the age of Big Content, where your ability to effectively communicate your story matters more than ever,” says Giovanni Rodriguez, co-founder and CEO. “And so many organizations recognize the power of becoming more ‘purpose-driven’ and serving the public good. The challenge: many organizations lack the resources or expertise to engage the different kinds of stakeholders required for social impact -- employees, customers, ecosystem partners, others. Our mission: to empower these organizations to communicate more effectively and at scale to make their vision a reality.”

The new firm's leadership team -- co-founders Rodriguez, Lance Gould, G. Antonio Sosa-Pascual, and Alejandro Badillo -- has years of executive-level experience at some of the world's most recognizable and influential media properties. In recent years, the team has also collaborated with some of the planet’s most powerful institutions and brands, including the White House (Obama Administration), the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, Google, Microsoft, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Though there are numerous ways to tell stories, there is one through-line connecting all of SVSL’s projects: social good.

"We are inspired by the UN's Sustainable Development Goals," says Gould, who in addition to having been an Executive Editor at The Huffington Post and Deputy Managing Editor at the New York Daily News was also the Editor in Chief of the Boston Phoenix and the Editor of Spy magazine. "The 17 SDGs are a clear blueprint for making sure that not one of the seven billion people on the planet is left behind. But the most effective way to spread the gospel of the Goals is to successfully tell one small story at a time."

SVSL’s Service Mix

SVSL’s services fall under three essential umbrella categories, which comprise a triptych of modern media services:

+The Story Lab:  our anchor program: a 30-day sprint where we work closely with your stakeholders to position your organization for value and valuation, and develop an actionable plan to execute on the new positioning.

+Story Lab Studio: a suite of content and communication services tailored to your organization's strategic objectives. Our forte: episodic content -- in the form of blogs, podcasts, and video shows -- distributed by prominent media partners.

+Story Lab Academy: an online/offline program where we educate your organization's front-line professionals -- executive team, marketing, sales, business development, customer service -- on how to best engage their stakeholders.

SVSL’s Commitment To Puerto Rico

Silicon Valley Story Lab’s commitment to aid and alleviate those in distressed conditions is evident even in the geographic composition of its leadership team. The SVSL office in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is home to The Lab's not-so-secret weapon: a team that's looking to unleash the immense talent on the island -- devastated by hurricanes in September 2017 -- and work with organizations committed to reimagining and rebuilding the island economy.

“There is a surplus of high-quality talent facing relocation, and businesses are facing a shrinking market,” says Sosa-Pascual. “Our firm aims to retain this talent, keep families together, and provide new business opportunities in larger, higher growth and income markets.”

“We are proud to serve as a bridge between talent located in Puerto Rico and the rest of the world,” adds Badillo. “Further, with our services, we seek to enable organizations in Puerto Rico to become more purpose-driven, and help them grow, combining ‘back to the basics’ with innovation as a response to the Hurricane Maria disaster and help to rebuild the island.”

About SVSL

The Silicon Valley Story Lab (SVSL) is a global media- and content-strategy firm with a simple but unique mission: to empower the world's most purposeful organizations to think and behave like the world's greatest media companies. With offices in Palo Alto, New York, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, SVSL is poised to help global organizations compete more effectively in the age of Big Content, where the quality and reach of one’s story matters more than ever. Among its services: story-driven branding and positioning; story-driven content development and distribution; storytelling training for executive thought leadership, sales, and business development.

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The Biggest Reason Businesses Care About Story (It's About Solving Problems)

by giovanni rodriguez

[this article originally was published in Forbes, where the author is a regular contributor]

As a communications consultant to organizations in both the public and private sector, I am often asked to explain the reasons why story is not only “humanity’s greatest social tool,” but an organization’s greatest social tool as well. I first start with the argument that we are wired, both culturally and biologically, to communicate via stories. I then note how collective stories -- what we sometimes call narratives -- help bring different kinds of stakeholders together. This has particular value for corporate communications and marketing people -- especially in the digital age -- who are often tasked to find effective and efficient ways of connecting with different kinds of audiences; without narratives, the work of connecting with multiple groups becomes more burdensome.

But I then explain that there’s a third and probably more important reason why story is so important in the institutional context: the three-part structure of story -- quest, conflict, resolution -- follows the solutions-based logic of selling that organizations of all kinds must embrace. In fact, organizations that take the time to study each of these three fundamental story components can gain a distinct advantage in their marketplaces because few organizations bother to do so.

Purpose

It all begins where all stories begin -- an articulation of the thing that the protagonist wants to pursue.

In the institutional setting, this often goes by the name of “mission.” In the case of the so-called “purpose-driven enterprise” (the subject of a later article), this goes by the name of purpose.  As is true of each storytelling component, the size and scope of the quest are important. Without heft -- take, for example, Google’s mission, “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful” -- the story will not matter as much. And when we say matter, in the institutional context, we are talking about the value of the organization’s offering or the valuation of the organization itself. By declaring a big mission, an organization could position itself to sell its products or services at a premium, or be acquired at a premium.

There are two other things an organization must think about when developing its mission. First, it’s critical that the mission is at the service of its stakeholders, not itself. In other words, the hero or protagonist of the story is not the organization. Going back to Google’s mission statement. To “organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful” is a statement of the value that Google aims to bring to its users, not to its shareholders. There’s a place for shareholder storytelling that’s consistent with a good mission statement, but should never be the initial focus of messaging work. Because storytelling follows the logic of selling, it’s critical that it focuses on the first class of people the organization is selling to: the users if not buyers of the product or service. Second, it’s important that the mission is known to be reputationally achievable, even if it’s audacious. Again, in the case of Google, the company chose a mission believably within its reach because of its early dominance in search technologies which emerged as the leading approach to consumer-serving information access at the time of Google’s market ascent.

Conflict

If it were all as simple as that. A good story does not end with a good mission. All good stories are driven forward by conflict.  

Outside the institutional context, this principle is well understood. Students of writing, theater, and filmmaking all learn the value of driving the plot of their stories forward by setting up obstacles to the hero’s journey. In cinema, this is widely known as Act II, and typically it is the longest act. In the institutional context, conflict is just as important. But whereas in theater Act II is long, in the institutional context, conflict may be merely daunting.

Again, a case study might be helpful to illustrate the value of this principle. In 2000, I had the good luck to work with a technology company called VMware, which at the time was a small company that sold software to engineers that enabled them to test software on a single PC but in multiple operating systems. I was part of a team that was hired to position the firm for a different kind of customer: IT directors who were looking for ways to maximize their spending dollars by getting the most out of the servers they bought and were stuck with during the go-go years of the late 1990s.  It was a pretty big mission back then. But as it turned out, the technology that VMware pioneered back then -- virtualization of simple Intel x86 chips -- was a huge challenge. VMware met that challenge with a team of scientists -- some hailing from Stanford -- and that became part of the company’s story (Act II of the story, to be precise). Lesson learned: as a well-known funk-music artist in the 1970s used to say, “the bigger the headache, the bigger the pill,” and VMware was in the business of curing a very bad headache. Today, it is one of the largest companies in Silicon Valley.

Resolution

And the “pill,” of course was Act III of the story, the resolution. There are three things worth discussing here.

First, as I have often said in client engagements, it is the journey from conflict to resolution where value and valuation are created, and in my experience, this is the biggest opportunity for organizations that are seeking to position themselves most effectively. You can have a great, outsized mission statement. You can speak to a great, almost insurmountable challenge that your customers are facing. But without a great resolution -- or, solution, as it’s known in the business world -- you will find yourself in the middle of a story with no clear ending. You will not be able to sell.

Second -- and perhaps this should go without saying -- in order to provide a meaningful resolution to the conflict, you will need to go beyond mere words and perform in deeds. This is another place where corporate storytelling often fails. A meager resolution to a great, challenging quest will feel hollow. After VMware stated the “conflict” as the virtualization of the Intel x86 chip -- a feat in engineering -- it was able to deliver in a way that made it impossible for other companies to compete in this new technology category.

Third, there’s the most elusive thing of all in corporate storytelling: understanding that this is your organization’s moment to shine. No, your organization is not the protagonist in the story. But it plays a critical role in the story: the role of enabling the protagonist to transform itself, one of the key moments in all great storytelling. In folklore and legends, there is often a sage who appears before the hero to counsel him or her on what to do. If the hero heeds the advice, the story ends well. If the hero does not, the story is known as tragedy. In the end, the sage imparts a great gift to the hero, and the act of giving creates a bond of trust.

In a world where trust is increasingly scarce, deciding how to shine at this moment in the story is a very important task. We’ll take up that task in the next article where we go deeper on the topic of transformation.