So a funny thing happened on the way to a sponsorship.
I was talking last year with Chris Pirillo, the tech personality and enthusiast, about his first ever VloggerFair, dedicated to the YouTube video community. VloggerFair is a place where fans meet video bloggers. It sounded like a cool event. Video blogging and YouTube are the rage (check out this month’s cover story in Fast Company). Chris was planning another VloggerFair for Aug. 16, 2014, and I figured, maybe we can donate and throw a banner with our logo on the wall: You know, how companies always do when they sponsor something.
But then Chris kept talking – if you know Chris, that’s a surprise 🙂 and thank heavens he did. I had just assumed the audience for VloggerFair would be like Chris’ famous Lockergnome events, where the typical audience member was a young guy in his 20s. But Chris said a huge number of popular video bloggers share about topics like fashion and makeup and family. As a result, a huge percentage of the people attending his first VloggerFair were girls of middle and high school age. That was news. I’d been thinking that VloggerFair was a techie event. In fact, it’s a family event, focused on teens.
And that’s when the light went on: if the audience was teen girls … what a great place to confront the subject of cyberbullying.
Comcast is a strong supporter of causes that promote digital literacy. To my mind, a big piece of being literate as you move through cyberspace is how you handle the huge influx of negative comments that can come on you in the digital sphere. And of course a lot’s been said about the high cost of cyberbullying, so I don’t have to explain that. This post is long enough!
Anyways, I had no experience with a sponsorship related to cyberbulling. Thus began several months of investigation: What could we sponsor at VloggerFair that would be of some use in the sometimes overheated world of cyberbullying?
I talked to some experts who offered to come speak, but that just didn’t seem right for VloggerFair, which doesn’t have speakers. It’s a big meetup, not a set of panels. People of all ages are coming to actually meet celebrities like Tyler Oakley and ijustine. The audience is always on the move, and certainly not there to get some big lecture. There’s an industry of people and groups out there who will come talk to people about cyberbullying; but this wasn’t the right venue for them.
The light dawned when two doctors from Seattle Children’s Hospital met up with me and Katherine Parra, Comcast’s summer communications intern from the University of Washington. Drs. Ellen Selkie and Yolanda Evans, who treat young women in the adolescent medicine clinic, suggested a booth that emphasizes how you can choose kindness in your digital messages. That got Katherine thinking and she handed me her phone, which had a picture of her 13-year-old niece at a photo booth, posing with friends and funny signs. Clearly, the young woman and her friends were celebrating each other and joy. And kindness, joy, and celebrating friends are what sustain us when digital life gets difficult.
And so the #VKind photo booth was born. I should quickly add that this has been a team effort, and you can find members of the team here. I’ve been so grateful for people who embrace this message of Kindness, including Chris himself and then Lynn Edwards who runs Proper Planning, which organizes VloggerFair. My colleague here at Comcast, Community Relations Manager Diem Ly did the actual work of designing the booth – while I was ranting about this or other high concept, she’s made the booth real. Steve Kipp, our VP of Communications, said yes to this whole thing, which does have some cost, and offered his own ideas.
So this Saturday, anyone – certainly not just young ladies – is welcome to come by the booth and have their photo taken with any of the fun signs. The message is simple: we’re all about being #VKind.
To my delight, the research team from Children’s is going to have some people there offering a survey to youth 14 and older. The survey will ask the youth what they’d do if they saw someone experiencing cyberbullying. The team hopes to use this information to get a sense of what teens are doing now, and how the medical community and others can help. I used to work at the University of Washington Health Sciences Center, so it tickles me that the Comcast booth can help in some incremental way in adding to our understanding about cyberbullying.
And will people want to be #VKind? We sure hope so!
Because the audience will be packed with middle and high school aged girls, we didn’t announce this booth with a news release. That’s so 2008. No, we asked teen video blogger Riley Williamson to be a host at our booth and to announce what we’re doing. And that’s what she did. You’ll find her announcement below.
If you call up Riley’s page and say something like “What the heck is this?” then you’re not familiar with video blogging. Time to get tuned in. This is a new wave of social communication. You’ll find a list of VloggerFair participants here. Check them out.
To wrap up … If you had told me a year ago that Comcast would be sponsoring a photo booth with funny signs in pursuit of digital literacy and have it announced by a 15-year-old … no, nope, I would not have laughed at you. I’ve been immersed in social media too long to say anything’s unlikely. I would have grinned at you and said, “I can’t wait to see that happen.”
And now I really can’t wait to see that happen! Keep an eye out for the hashtag #VKind on Saturday. And Saturday or later, click here to see what images and messages get shared.