Siren Joins CSR Agency A List

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Siren Joins CSR Agency A List

-  Purpose-driven Strategy & Communication Agency Recognized at Annual PR News Awards Luncheon -

San Francisco, Calif., March 22, 2017 – The Siren Agency was added to the 2017 Agency CSR A-List at the annual PR News CSR Awards lunch at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. today. The awards celebrate the communicators, agencies and organizations working to effect positive change in their communities.

Siren was launched in January 2015 by Annie Longsworth, winner of last year’s PR News CSR Professional of the Year, with the idea of introducing a new set of principles – Purpose, People, Pleasure and Profit – for marketing authentically sustainable organizations. By collaborating with businesses to first deepen their commitment to social and environmental sustainability, Siren then brings those promises to life through thoughtful, impactful communication strategies and campaigns delivered by socially-minded practitioners. Siren’s key services include purpose-driven discovery, sustainability strategy and planning, earned and social media, and employee engagement.

“Inclusion on the prestigious Agency CSR A-List is a significant milestone for Siren,” said Siren founder Annie Longsworth. “It’s an honor to be in the company of the industry’s best, especially after just two years in business. I am grateful to work with remarkable colleagues and clients, all of whom share my intention to build an agency that cares more about its impact than its image.”

“The Siren Agency has been Caesars Entertainment’s Corporate Responsibility communications agency since it launched, and we also worked with Annie during her Saatchi & Saatchi tenure,” said Gwen Migita, VP of Sustainability & Corporate Citizenship at Caesars Entertainment. “We rely upon Siren’s daily counsel, excellent industry relationships and shared commitment to ensuring brands contribute to creating a better world.”

Siren Founder Annie Longsworth is a lifetime member and former chairperson of Sustainable Brands, and has spoken on green consumer behavior and business responsibility at numerous conferences and events, including SB15. Annie has more than 20 years of communications experience, including editorial positions with business and technology publications as well as providing strategic marketing communications counsel for dozens of companies, from start-ups to multinationals. Prior to starting Siren, Annie was CEO at Saatchi & Saatchi S. Prior to that, she spent nine years as President of Cohn & Wolfe - San Francisco, where she launched and led the global sustainability practice.

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The March for Equality

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The March for Equality

On January 21st, 2017 an estimated 4.5 million people marched to protect the rights of women and to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump. Four and a half million people! And that’s in the US alone. Amazingly, beautifully, the marches happened around the world.

While it feels like a million years ago, I think the Women’s March on January 21st will be remembered for many as the day they realized the power of the collective. Siren was there in full force - we marched in San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, St. Paul, New York and Buenos Aries. The real work comes after a march, of course, but the strength of so many unified voices is undeniable.

Sirenistas marching in San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Minneapolis, New York and Buenos Aries.

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The Tale of VersaMe

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The Tale of VersaMe

A long, long time ago, back when my kids were born, I had one wish for them. (Okay, not true, I had tons of wishes for them. Let me start again.)

A long, long time ago, back when my kids were born, I wanted with all my heart for them to love to read. To me, words, language and the joy of expressing ideas through storytelling are keys to happiness. As it turns out, language at the earliest of ages is also key to success in life. Siren client and education pioneer, VersaMe, is a startup that helps parents invest in their kid’s long term success.

Early development experts now know that babies are not just wired to communicate, they are programmed to speak. Verbal language is, in most cases, inevitable. VersaMe’s founders, Nicki Boyd and brothers John and Chris Boggiano, three Stanford graduates, have built upon that research by designing the Starling, a baby wearable that gives parents the tools to inspire language learning.

What I love most about the strategy is its simplicity – think FitBit for words for babies. The sweet little star-shaped Starling, which is BPA-free and thoroughly drool-tested, clips to baby’s onesie and counts the number of words she hears throughout the day. It works on the premise that language acquisition is actually the product of language exposure and that the more conversations occur with a baby, the more her language skills are accelerated. The Starling iPhone app supplies parents with a daily word count to help track progress, customized goals, and age-related activities designed to increase engagement.

Starling’s debut also puts to rest a common misconception about early language learning. Most of us have been raised with the impression that infants need to hear simplified baby talk in order to get a foothold in more complicated language. Not so, say researchers. Children start identifying words very early on – long before they are physically able to say “Mommy” or “Daddy” or mimic a simple vowel. The guiding influence, VersaMe’s team says, is increasing social exposure where they can not only hear language, but also engage and interact within the context of the words.

In November VersaMe announced a partnership with the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), a nonprofit organization that encourages education through family participation. The NCFL has led much of the conversation around early literacy training, so by engaging with VersaMe, it can now more effectively measure core programs. For VersaMe, the partnership is also a huge step forwards towards a company goal to “help all children reach their full potential” by giving low-income families enrolled in NCFL’s Detroit literacy and education programs a chance to use the Starling.

According to NCFL, kids in low-income households can be disadvantaged by a lack of exposure to some 30 million words by the age of 4, as compared to kids in mid- to upper-income families. We already know that educational access has a large bearing on a child’s future success, and this research drives home the fact that early literacy programs - blended with smart technology options and family involvement - can offer some interesting opportunities for breaking that social barrier.

Every Saturday morning my daughter and I go to the local branch of the San Francisco public library to exchange one pile of books for a stack of fresh ones. (Side note: did you know you can have 50 books checked out of SFPL at once?!?!?) I am grateful my kids love to read as much as I do, and value VersaMe for building a similar appreciation of language for families all over the world. 

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The Election Spoke Loud and Clear

Like so many people, I have been reeling since Tuesday night when we voted to elect a highly unqualified, totally repulsive man to lead our country. In the days since I have shared articles via Facebook, commiserated with fellow Hillary supporters, and been through the roller coaster of emotions – from anger to deep sadness to fear to shame to hope and then back again.

I haven’t landed in a place that allows me to accept Donald Trump. Doing so simply requires more than I am capable of right now – more compromise, more generosity, more grace. (That same distance is, thankfully, not directed at Trump voters. Towards them I feel empathetic - they chose a leader they consider the lesser of two evils whom they don’t seem to particularly like or respect. Trump’s presidency will, I fear, be yet another disappointment. The inequity of life in America is profound and addressing it needs to be a cornerstone of the next four years.)

A portion of my thoughts have been focused on the language of the election. Just as it can be used for good, language can also be used for evil. In many ways, communication is the underlying story of this election and is worth further thinking and analysis. Think about the words used in Trump’s campaign – “crooked,” “liar,” “FBI,” “investigation,” “wrong,” “nasty.” And then all over again – “crooked,” “liar,” “FBI,” “investigation,” “wrong,” “nasty.” In our world of furiously fast social media and limited attention spans, his idiotic repetition wormed these words into people’s heads and left them to fester.

The media fell for it too. The more Trump pointed a finger at them, the more they proved him right. Exactly one national newspaper, USA Today, endorsed Trump. So many others radically risked reputation and readership to share a truth they believed in – that Trump is beyond unqualified, he’s dangerous. Now, post election, as the same media scrambles to point out the things they didn’t say, as they posture for continued faith among their loyal followers, they are acting exactly like the puppets Trump accused them of being.

Sadly, Hillary did not employ language with the same ferocity. She refused to stoop to the same level as Trump because “when they go low, we go high,” a message that can not be even temporarily forgotten no matter how trivial or silly it feels right now. She also didn’t find the right words to engage people, to pull in millennials and, it seems, astonishingly, women. She spent too much debate prep time creating a personal shield against Trump’s verbal slings, and not enough of it building her own oral artillery.

Language also became a scapegoat for Trump. His terrifying admission of assault on women in which he bragged that his fame and fortune allows him to meet women and “just grab ‘em by the pussy” was dismissed by so many as “locker room talk.” I saw countless interviews in which men wearing ridiculous “Make America Great Again” hats dismissed women’s fears by saying “those are just words.” I promise you, those are not just words – that is a man telling you who he is. 

What Trump says next will be consequential and I, for one, will be practicing my listening skills. 

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Water & Wine: Working with Jackson Family Wines

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Water & Wine: Working with Jackson Family Wines

I spent a good portion of this week with the sustainability team at Jackson Family Wines in Sonoma. I know, sucks to be me, right?

I’ve been working with JFW, makers of well-known wines like Kendall Jackson and La Crema, as well as smaller brands like Cambria and Hartford, for almost four years. It started back in the Saatchi & Saatchi S days when we were brought on to help organize the JFW sustainability story for the sales team. Since then the work has expanded in really exciting ways, including the launch of the family-owned company’s inaugural Responsibility Report.

As an agricultural company, one of the most urgent issues JFW faces is water. The concern is heightened in California where we’re headed into year five of a severe drought. More than 80 percent of the country’s wine is produced in Northern California, so water conservation – and the opportunity that it presents – is often at the center of the sustainability discussion.

Jackson Family Wines, which has 50 wineries in five continents, was started by the late Jess Jackson in the 1980’s. Sustainability has been baked into the company from the start. The majority of the land owned by the Jackson family is left in its native state, for example, with just a fraction planted with grapes. Water conservation practices have been in place for many years, allowing for an enviable business stability when the drought got serious. And a long standing commitment to protecting native habitats has led to some remarkable projects, like the release of 2.3 million gallons of water into Green Valley Creek to help migrating Coho last year.

JFW is also known for innovation. It’s why Tesla tapped the company as an early pilot for on-site battery storage. It’s why JFW is constantly testing new technologies, like sap flow monitoring from Fruition Sciences, wind machines for frost protection, and rainwater harvesting using existing infrastructure.

Since 2008 JFW has reduced overall water use in the winemaking process by 31%, and water intensity – the number of gallons of water used to make a gallon of wine – by 41%. Today JFW uses 5.4 gallons of water for every gallon of wine, which is a third less than the industry average, and has a goal to reduce by another third over the next five years.

Communicating sustainability to wine lovers is also an opportunity for innovation. As we hear over and over, millennials want to actively engage with brands that share their values. One of those values is transparency, so brands willing to talk openly about big issues like water garner respect with millennials, many of whom are newly of legal drinking age and have not yet established loyalty with one brand or another. With a heritage of responsible business, environmental conservation and community stewardship, JFW has the creds as well as a willingness to share the journey.

The next five years will be exciting times for Jackson Family Wines – the company has set a bold list of goals set for 2021, including an exciting ambition to pilot at least one innovative project each year that helps advance the resilience of California’s sustainable wine industry.

So raise a glass – be it water or wine – to JFW as we honor the past, celebrate the present, and prepare for the future. 

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Siren’s New Client: Ramblers Way

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Siren’s New Client: Ramblers Way

This summer Ramblers Way Farm, a sustainable clothing company, joined Siren’s growing roster of super cool, inspiring clients. It’s exciting for Siren and, in many ways, a full circle for me.

Ramblers Way was launched by Tom Chappell, founder of Tom’s of Maine (TOM), whom I’ve admired for a good 20 years. I first met him about a decade ago when I was with Cohn & Wolfe; TOM had just become the cornerstone clients of our budding sustainability practice. He was no longer CEO then as the company had just been sold to Colgate and Tom had stepped down, supposedly to retire. But we met one evening in Kennebunk. I was there for a meeting; Tom and his wife Kate were out for a stroll around town after dinner when we ran into them.

For me, it was like meeting an eco-rock star. Tom Chappell pursued his personal passion for nature and turned it into massively successful personal care business! Tom Chappell challenged the American Dental Association, helping the world to see that animal testing isn’t the only way to analyze the efficacy of a product! Tom Chappell introduced the revolutionary idea that toothpaste doesn’t have to be made with controversial ingredients like saccharin and SLS! Swoon.

In the beginning, Tom’s refusal to subject animals to product trials meant that his early products had to be sold without the FDA’s stamp of approval. One of his biggest challenges, therefore, was to grow the customer base from a small, uber committed core – I believe we called them Tree Huggers then – to a larger, more mainstream audience. The shared trait among the early users and the millions who’ve tried Tom’s of Maine products since is, of course, a commitment to ethical standards and a willingness to give a cheeky new company a try.

Ramblers Way, which offers timeless sustainable clothing made from natural fibers like wool and cotton, coalesces many of the lessons learned from Tom’s of Maine: a) anything is possible if you have the patience and persistence to look for solutions; b) consumers will support businesses that go the extra mile to demonstrate purposeful values rather than take the short cut; c) a family business is a strong business.

To launch Ramblers Way, Tom established a sustainable supply chain that adheres to high standards, uses ethically sourced materials, and supports unique American suppliers. Like Tom’s of Maine, Ramblers Way challenges our concept of what kind of ingredients a product needs in order to excel – and, in this case, in order to be super comfortable. (Believe me, slipping into the super soft Rambouillet Marino Eva – RW’s version of a LBD – will disavow you of any preconceived notions you have about the itchiness of wool.)

Ramblers Way is not without its challenges. It will have to prove that investing in ethically and well-made clothing offers a more sustained return than the mass-produced T-shirts and tank tops from overseas textile mills. It will need to demonstrate that purpose-driven apparel is also chic and fashionable. And it will need to be smartly positioned so consumers recognize and appreciate the lifestyle it promotes – one in which moving from work to play is fluid and doesn’t necessarily require a change of clothes.

Of course cost is so often at the forefront of what drives consumer decisions. And as we have seen with the organic food industry, it takes years – decades, even – to build an affordable, sustainable supply chain. Thanks to organizations like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which developed the Higg Index, and emerging global constructs like the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), change is happening slowly but surely in apparel.

Actually, clothing industry standards have changed significantly faster in the last few years than in the past 20. Global issues like forced labor, human rights abuses and climate change require designers and manufacturers to innovate faster and better. And brands are stepping up. Levi’s has been setting standards for years and continues to raise the bar in every way; H&M is working hard to become a less wasteful business; Eileen Fisher is actively communicating its values as a way to inspire new customers. 

One of the things about Ramblers Way that I love most is that it’s a family business. Tom and Kate both come from textile families – Tom’s father ran a wool mill in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, and Kate’s family company, the Cheney Brothers, was the largest manufacturer of silk and velvet in the U.S. Now two of their kids play key roles at Ramblers Way – Chris as head of marketing and Eliza as lead designer for women’s wear – and their son-in-law Nick leads the supply chain.

Working with a family business is a unique experience, and one that I love. The day-to-day has a different tempo - rooted in a deep appreciation of each other. Perhaps it comes from the knowledge that they’re all in it together, no matter what. Perhaps it just comes from love – of each other, of the planet, and of the idea that to come full circle means we get to begin again. Keep an eye on Ramblers Way. 

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Siren Goes Swimming: the Cloverdale Swimming Challenge

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Siren Goes Swimming: the Cloverdale Swimming Challenge

When we decided to spend two weeks in Cloverdale, California, which is the northernmost town in Sonoma County, I created the Cloverdale Swimming Challenge, or CSC. The two rules for the CSC were pretty simple: one, swim in a new location each day for 14 days, though not necessarily a different body of water, and, two, be allowed to change the rules if needed. The only real bending of the rules that was necessary was that upon our arrival on Saturday July 2, our only submersion was in the hot tub at the house we rented, which probably didn’t really count, but we decided to use it as our starting swim anyway.

So, here’s the low down of thirteen (fourteen if you count the hot tub) places to swim within an hour (ish) of Cloverdale, California. (Caveat: I am quite directionally and distance challenged so I tried to add links to everywhere we went. Definitely do your own mapping if you go to any of these spots!)

Day One: As discussed, hot tub under the stars. Quite lovely as the evening got chillier than expected. Yes, we submerged fully so it really was swimming.

Day Two: Yorty Creek, which is part of Lake Sonoma Wildlife Area and can be accessed by car or boat. It’s about 15 minutes from downtown Cloverdale, and yet feels miles away. We went Sunday July 3rd and the main swimming beach was PACKED by the time we arrived at 11 am. All good, though, as the beach offers little shade and we instead found a nice spot under a tree a short walk away on the left bank. From there we swam (duh), rented kayaks and a paddleboard to explore the area, picnicked and spent a full day hanging out. The bottom was either totally muddy or totally rocky near the edge, so getting in and out of the water from where we were planted was slow going. But once in, it was a beautiful and spacious place to swim. Two notes: there is no fresh drinking water available at Yorty Creek, and dogs are not allowed at the main swimming beach.

Day Three: The Russian Rover via the Cloverdale River Park on the Fourth of July was a bit crowded, to say the least. This was our closest-to-home location, and what with bingo at the local celebration in the park and getting ready for fireworks, we didn’t have a ton of time for the CSC this day. That said, we may have chosen the wrong access point because it led us to a very small beach front already packed with people. The water was murky from all the action, pretty shallow, and not all that pleasant to swim in. The best part of this location, though, was the sign in the parking lot that gave us distances to all the other Russian River access points in the vicinity.

Day Four: The Secret Spot in Healdsburg turned out to be not so much secret as private, and was one of our unanimous favorite CSC locations. There’s not really an address, which is what makes this one tricky, but essentially you park where Redwood Drive meets North Finch Mountain Road in Healdsburg. There are only about two - maybe three - legal/safe spots in this weird triangle of pavement where the two roads fork. The rest of Redwood Drive is private parking only – made abundantly clear by the signs at each driveway. But after you park, walk down the road maybe ¼ of a mile to a stairway on the right, and the path leads to a large rocky beach and the Russian River. It was shallow but the current was strong enough to move you along for a nice calm float. The houses along the private road have access down to the river so you may start having fantasies about making the secret spot your own…

Day Five: Lest you think the CSC was limited to natural swimming holes, we spent the fifth day at the Pool at the Coppola Winery. We rented a “cabine,” which in and of itself is not worth it – just a small shower room that locks – but it also comes with four reserved deck chairs, which is the key to a good day. From your assigned chairs you can order food and drink (I highly recommend the vodka, lemonade, champagne slushy) and spend a fully relaxing day next to two pools attached by a fountain feature. The music mix is good, the people watching/listening is great, and there’s wifi so you can stay in touch and work if needed. It’s open 11 – 6, which was just about right for us. Important hint: while the website says the place is sold out through October, new reservations open on Tuesdays so that’s the day to get online and see if you can reserve a cabine. Also, there’s other stuff to do at Coppola – tours, tastings, a nice restaurant. We didn’t do any of that – just the pool.

Day Six: We headed west on Rt 128 from Cloverdale towards Yorkville, Boonville and Philo in an attempt to find the Navarro River at the Philo-Greenwood bridge. After stopping in Boonville for a run through the old fashioned hardware store (where I added a coyote and a rooster to my cookie cutter collection), and an ice cream cone at Paysanne, we very handily missed the turn to the bridge, which meant we just kept going all the way to where the Navarro River ends a narrow spit of sand away from the Pacific. It’s a beautiful drive through Redwoods, and also a true 20 degrees colder – 55 rather than 75 – than inland but in the name of the CSC I jumped into the freezing ocean. Pi swam in the slightly warmer Navarro River, so that counts too.

Day Seven: In need of an easy and close option after the unexpectedly long windy drive to the coast the day before, we opted for the Cloverdale Pool. It cost $3 per person to get in and, while it was nothing too fancy, it was a clean, deep and refreshing YMCA pool. Plus there were about 4 other people there so unlike the Copolla experience, we had plenty of room to play. Free swim is 12 – 5 in the summer.

 Day Eight: A Saturday, so an opportunity for a longer adventure, we decided to head for Johnson’s Beach. Bad idea - turned out to be Ironman weekend in Guerneville so it took forever to get there through super slow traffic, and, after finding parking and walking half a mile to the beach, we learned that dogs and beer are not allowed. What?!?!? Anyway, the ranger recommended we go another five miles up River Road to Monte Rio, where there’s plenty of parking, a large riverfront beach, dogs are allowed (to the right of the bridge), and you can take your own beer. So we did – and it was a great choice. A wide spot on the Russian River, not super deep but plenty of room to play and just hang out.

Day Nine: We rented a pontoon boat (call ahead!) and spent the day exploring Lake Sonoma. While it was a little windy on the main lake, we found little coves to pull into for swimming adventures. It’s a beautiful lake, and a very fun experience, though we wished for more friends, a better picnic and maybe a fishing rod or two. Also of note is the fish hatchery at the visitor’s center – the fish weren’t jumping when we stopped in but still an interesting exhibit on the plight of the Coho and the attempts to save them from extinction.

Day Ten: Again looking for something not too far away, we headed north to Hopland in search of Russian River access at the Hopland Bridge. Alas that was a bum steer – and maybe put us a little too close to land we shouldn’t have been trespassing on – but an inquiry at Real Goods, founded in 1978 for people who want to live off the grid, at the Solar Living Center set us straight. (Note – a trip to the Solar Living Center is worthwhile – a kooky and thought provoking place that’s fun for kids and adults.) There a local woman told us about the swimming holes off Comminsky Station Road, which is a sharp right turn off highway 101 when going south from Hopland to Cloverdale. You hike down a slightly steep path that may or may not be infested with rattlesnakes, and eventually arrive at some little pockets of access to the Russian River. Sadly the shoreline at Comminsky was pretty littered, and some of the people we saw looked like they had set up permanent camp there, but the water was lovely. Deep with a current strong enough to move you along, but not so strong you can’t swim back up against it.

Day Eleven: Having already gone North, South and West, we decided to take our chances on East for the eleventh day of the CSC. Specifically, we headed towards Geyserville to look for the Russian River, which was not as easy as expected. Some of the bridges just don’t have anywhere to pull over safely or, if they do, there’s no clear path to the water. We found our spot, though, at the Healdsburg Bridge. (I don’t actually know if it’s called the Healdsburg Bridge or not - that’s what someone told us but there was no sign. It’s on Rt. 128 between 101 and the Jimtown Store, and there’s space to park at the western end of the bridge on both sides of the road.) You climb down a small but steep path, again accessing a wide rocky beachfront. The best current was directly under the bridge, so you hear the cars going by. Good spot, especially for people with goggles who want to count fish.

Day Twelve: Having figured out where we went wrong on Day Six, we again headed west on the uber windy Rt 128 towards Philo. Just a mile or two past Gowan’s Oak Tree Fruit Stand in Philo, take a left on Greenwood Road towards Elk. (If you pass the Navarro Vineyard you’ve gone too far.) There’s a one lane bridge just a little way down – park on the far side of it. From there find one of the many paths to the Navarro River and claim your spot. There are lovely deep pools, as well as shallow areas full of humongous tadpoles in various stages of growth. There are also some rope swings to be discovered – a kid-friendly one that lets you jump from a rock and a scarier adult one hanging from the bridge. This was a top three in the CSC challenge, especially when you add in a stop at Lauren’s in Boonville for a delicious and simple dinner on the way home. (Of note: we all felt a little burned out on steep paths, rocky shorelines and rivers by this point in the CSC. Not ready to give up, but the “challenge” part was starting to kick in.)

Day Thirteen: Ah, the Healdsburg Pool, open 1 – 4 on weekdays for free swim. There’s a diving board, a small water slide, a lovely lawn and plenty of chairs. Tons of kids, lifeguards, easy and familiar like childhood.

Day Fourteen: Happily, the last day of the CSC was my personal favorite – an ideal ending high point. Back on Day Ten when we learned about Comminsky Station, we also heard about a local favorite swimming spot called The Rock. It was originally called Squaw Rock, and then the name was changed to Frog Woman Rock to be politically correct. Either way, it’s a little hard to miss as you travel North on 101 from Cloverdale to Hopland in Mendocino County. It’s a massive rock formation that looms on the left. To get to it, we took a right turn off the highway just after mile marker 5 into a rock shop, then crossed back across the highway heading south, and pulled over into a large (unmarked) parking area on the right side of the road. (Honestly you can probably pull into any of the roadside areas between Hopland and Cloverdale and find a path to the Russian River canyon.) After climbing (in flip flops though sneakers would’ve been better) down the path we had our choice of wide rocky beaches, and then spent hours diving into the cool pools, floating down the river, and climbing back up across boulders on land. The best (for me) was a short rapids area that was well-enough hidden by trees and around a bend that the first time I swam it felt like a super double dare. Such a blast.

And there you have it, the results of the Cloverdale Swimming Challenge. Piper and I completed it in full. Johnny had one sick day – he missed the ocean – and John opted out a couple of times for the sake of his sanity. I appreciate you, my little family, for indulging my obsession with swimming. Thanks also to Barry Owen, Susan Nelson, Julien Gervreau, Eleanor Ludwig, Evan Markiewicz and Lily Fanguinoveny for their ideas, inspiration and willingness to play along. 

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Sailing to SB16

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Sailing to SB16

Sustainable Brands 2016 kicked off last night. It’s the 10th anniversary, making it a particularly special celebration. It’s also the last year the event will be held at the lovely Paradise Point in San Diego; next year we move to Detroit. When I registered yesterday, one of the questions asked was “how did you get here – drive or fly?” My answer? Sail.

Jeff Mendelsohn, founder of New Leaf paper and endlessly ingenious social entrepreneur, has been talking about sailing to SB for the last five years. This year he made it happen. He offered the trip to all the people on the SB Advisory Board, of which I am the outgoing Chair. It was broken into three legs – San Francisco to Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to San Diego. I joined, along with five others, for the final leg.

We met at the harbor in Marina del Rey on Friday at noon. Three of us traveling together had been charged with grocery shopping, so in addition to our luggage, we loaded in a supply of fresh fish, vegetables, cheeses, snacks and drinks. After a quick safety overview – good to know what to do if someone goes overboard – we motored out of the harbor and then set sail for Catalina.  

The 72 hours from leaving my home until arriving in San Diego were remarkable. This trip was a reminder of the vastness of our world and how much I love to explore it. It was about recognizing that the ability to respond in the moment is as important as planning ahead. And mostly it was about knowing I left the dock with six people I hardly knew and arrived with people I now consider life-long friends. Which is exactly what Sustainable Brands is all about. 

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SIREN AGENCY FOUNDER ANNIE LONGSWORTH NAMED CSR PROFESSIONAL OF THE YEAR

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SIREN AGENCY FOUNDER ANNIE LONGSWORTH NAMED CSR PROFESSIONAL OF THE YEAR

San Francisco, Calif., March 17, 2016 – Annie Longsworth, founder of The Siren Agency, was named CSR Professional of the Year at the PR News CSR Awards lunch in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. The award recognizes her role as a sustainability communication trailblazer, and for her ongoing commitment to creating positive change through responsible business practices.

“I wanted Siren to be a different kind of agency – one that cares more about its impact than its image,” says Annie Longsworth. “This recognition is a win for our clients, my colleagues, and the partners who have helped us have a great first year. It gives me confidence that the work we’re doing is making a difference.”

Annie launched Siren in January 2015 after three years as CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S with the idea of introducing a new set of principles – Purpose, People, Pleasure and Profit - for marketing authentically sustainable organizations. By collaborating with businesses to first deepen their commitment to social and environmental sustainability, Siren then brings those promises to life through thoughtful, intentional communication strategies and campaigns delivered by socially-minded practitioners.

"In the three years Jackson Family Wines has been working with Annie, she's helped us organize and communicate our sustainability strategy to be effective for multiple stakeholders, including our sales and leadership teams, and our consumers," says Katie Jackson, Vice President of Sustainability and External Affairs at Jackson Family Wines. "She provides ongoing counsel that is both inspiring and practical, and is a key partner who links together the sustainability and communication teams at JFW." 

Annie is chairman of the advisory board of Sustainable Brands and has spoken on green consumer behavior and business responsibility at numerous conferences and events, including SB15. She has 20 years of communications experience, including editorial positions with business and technology publications, and strategic communications roles for dozens of companies. Prior to Saatchi & Saatchi S, Annie spent nine years as President of Cohn & Wolfe - San Francisco, where she launched and led the global sustainability practice.

About Siren

Through a combination of purpose-driven discovery, sustainability strategy and counsel, earned and social media, and employee engagement, The Siren Agency’s mission is to connect brands and people to create a more sustainable future. Current and past clients include Caesars Entertainment, Jackson Family Wines, Johnson & Johnson and Maker’s Common. www.thesirenagency.com

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The Budget / Blog Balance

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The Budget / Blog Balance

Since launching Siren a year ago, I can tell you one of the hardest parts (for me) is finding a balance between operations and thought leadership. I think of myself as agile and intelligent enough to do both well – the hard part is doing both simultaneously, or even in a given week or month. And, sadly, while the creative, thoughtful work of writing a blog, for example, is much more satisfying, the balancing of the budget is often much more urgent.

Therefore, I am taking the easy way out by sharing a few “thought bites.” They all could be independent blogs, but for now – it’s end of month! Time to pay the contractors and invoice the clients! – provocative but incomplete ideas will have to suffice.

Turn Down the Lights

The 10th annual Earth Hour will take place on March 19th between 8:30 and 9:30 pm. While turning off the lights for an hour won’t solve our problems, it’s an opportunity for individuals and organizations to symbolically demonstrate their commitment to our planet. Mostly I admire the tenacity of WWF for remaining committed to Earth Hour – it’s an easy, accessible way to raise awareness. And the communication for Earth Hour gets better and better every year, too.

Park This, Baby

Yesterday I had a real moment of Capitalism Disgust. I took my daughter to a downtown mall to get presents for two friends. We parked across the street in a garage that I, historically, have a strange affection for – it’s easy to get in and out, it’s cheap, it takes the ick out of going downtown for a quick errand. (I do realize it’s odd to have affection for a parking garage at all.) Inside the mall we made a quick pit stop in the bathroom, bought the two gifts, treated ourselves to frozen yogurt, and left 30 minutes later. Back at the garage I realized I had lost the parking ticket – it was probably on the floor of the public bathroom. The bored-seeming cashier behind the counter told me that in order to exit, I needed to show my car registration and driver’s license, which I quickly retrieved. After he filled out a short form, which took approximately 30 seconds, the cashier then issued me a Lost Ticket and an “inconvenience fee” of $34. When I explained that I had only been there 30 minutes, and surely he could verify that on the cameras if he really needed to, he replied “You’re the one who lost the ticket.” Yes, exactly my point – I was the one who was inconvenienced so why did I have to pay the cost equivalent to a full 24 hours of parking?

I was stomping mad – I felt trapped by greed, screwed by a system that exploits its customers simply because it can. In my mind someone who loses her ticket is already being punished – why add a ridiculous fee to make it worse? Yes, I get that this “solution” is designed for the cheaters who might claim a lost ticket if the fee wasn’t punishable. But in our world of technology, cameras, apps and mobility, is there not an entirely different solution that puts the customer first?

We’re Screwed

Yeah, that’s pretty much the full thought. All you have to do is watch a single debate, read about Mitch McConnell trying to break the law because he’s running scared, track global warming trends, or read any of the content in the “Trending” column on your Facebook page, to realize that we, as a society, have some serious issues that are incredibly hard to resolve.

I’m Hopeful

Pollyanna-ish though it may be, that’s the other thought I wake up with every morning. We may soon have a new president who is both a woman and a smart, capable, experienced leader. COP 21 sparked new hope and new innovation for addressing our global energy needs. Sustainable Brands 16 is just around the corner, which means a fire hose of ideas and inspiration. And through my clients and my work I get daily confirmation that good people are working towards creating a better future.

Okay, that’s all for now. Back to the spreadsheet…

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On Purpose

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On Purpose

Last August Carol Cone visited me while on vacation at Cape Cod. We sat in my little rental cottage and ate snacks I pulled at the last minute from the fridge – some turkey, crackers, cheese and fruit. It was a pretty humble offering to a woman I had so long admired, especially since, when I had imagined our get together, it involved mint iced tea, fresh blackberry scones and other delicacies way beyond my limited culinary capabilities. No matter – it was the conversation that was delicious.

Everyone knows Carol. Well, everyone except me, up until that point. Of course we’d crossed paths, been at the same events, heard each other’s names in our small industry. But we’d never really spent time talking about our experiences working with purpose-led brands over the years. With every story there were agreements about amazing people we’d both worked with, shared frustrations about world-changing ideas that got lost along the way, new business pitches we didn’t know we’d competed in… it was one of those conversations that could just go on and on because we should’ve been having it over many years instead of concentrated into a couple of hours.

Fast forward to today, when I am so proud to share that Siren is one of the partners in Carol’s new venture, Carol Cone on Purpose (CCOP). The curated group of CCOP agencies are a marketer’s dream – together we offer everything from branding experts to award-winning filmmakers to millennial researchers to consumer insight experts. And we all see the world through the lens of Purpose.

Like “brand,” many think of Purpose as an esoteric idea, which it is, on some level, because it requires activation of an intangible belief system. But the very tangible benefits of being a purpose-led organization are clear: stronger, more cohesive leadership, deeper consumer engagement, higher social impact and higher profits.

Last August as Carol was getting ready to drive away, the last thing she said to me was “We’re friends now, you know.” Like all friendships, CCOP will strengthen over time as the smart, creative people involved work together to tackle big problems with big solutions. We’ve all been doing this work individually and within our agencies, but if ever there was a case of “better together,” this is it. Let’s get going.

 

 

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Them's Fighting Words

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Them's Fighting Words

We’ve all heard the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword,” though sometimes, like after last Friday’s unspeakable act of terrorism, it’s hard to believe that could be true. It’s fascinating, therefore, that mixed into the analysis of past, present and future foreign policy, immigration laws, and our overarching fear of what’s next, is a conversation about the importance of language.

The word “Daesh” is essentially a slur on ISIS. It’s meaningfully insulting, which is why we should use it every time we reference the group that killed 130 (and counting) people in Paris. To a member of that group, being called Daesh, according to writer Zeba Khan, can mean ‘to trample down and crush’ or ‘a bigot who imposes his view on others.’ As Kahn said on KQED today, “The US should be leaning into the narrative and the worldview of the people that we’re supporting, and not the narrative of the terrorists.”

We will fight back with guns, missiles, bombs and every other weapon you can think of. We can also fight back with our words.

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