As I geared up to attend my first-ever NewCo festival, I knew the list of 166 SF-based organizations would be overwhelming if I didn’t have a specific goal in mind. Then again, when else would I get an opportunity to get inside all of these inspiring business? I decided my own true north would be to learn more in my chosen field of communications. With that in mind, I set off alongside the 2,000+ other NewCo-goers attending festival sessions in the city by the bay.
Day One found me beating the streets of downtown SF. In four short hours, I made my way from Off the Grid near the ballpark, to the SF Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation in City Hall, to Slack Technologies on 5th Street. It felt like anything but slacking off – moving around the city is harder than sitting for hours in a ballroom – but it’s the effort of NewCo that make the lessons learned that much more valuable.
At Off the Grid (OtG), colleagues, coworkers, and NewCo participants restedand rejuvenated in the sunshine over delectable food and drink. All of the attendees had spent the morning in sessions at NewCoSF, and I heard exclamations like “I’m so inspired!” and “I can’t wait to take that idea back to my team at work!” My first communications-focused “lightbulb moment”? Refreshment and sunshine are an important addition to anyone’s workday, giving folks valuable opportunities to pause, reflect, and communicate. Thanks, OtG!
From there, I made my way to San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement. It was a treat to get inside SF City Hall, long one of my favorite buildings in the world. I joined 40 other engaged NewCo-goers in learning about SFMade, an SF-based nonprofit which supports locally-produced goods. SFMade’s mission is “to build and support a vibrant manufacturing sector in San Francisco, that sustains companies producing locally-made products, encourages entrepreneurship and innovation, and creates employment opportunities for a diverse local workforce.” Their work highlights the important role civic organizations play in amplifying local business’s communications locally, nationally, and internationally, ensuring their success.
Next on my docket, a peak inside the wildly successful Slack Technologies. There, Anna Pickard, Director of Editorial, playfully revealed that it takes a team to raise a tweet. For Slack, online communication between workmates requires information to be concise, clear, and playful. How does Slack succeed in finding a human voice? Collaboratively. Slack Technologies passes around tweets to their editorial staff for insight and feedback. Do they work together to find the perfect Slack voice? As Anna says, “Absolutely!”
Day Two quickly hit the same fevered pitch. First Stop, NewCo HQ in the Presidio. CEO and co-founder (and my boss) John Battelle took a very packed room on a tour of the internationally-focused organization’s mission to support innovative businesses, connecting them and their missions both at NewCo festivals and through media (media like the newly launched NewCo Daily).
From the Presidio, I zoomed Downtown to NerdWallet. Finances may be the company’s modus operandi, but the lens through which they communicate is all about video (not numbers). And that’s a good thing, since Millennials–NerdWallet’s main demographic–love video. NerdWallet’s video projects live in three buckets: outbound to media, outbound tutorials, and internal / HR. Like at Slack, clarity and concision are key components of the video-based communication tools used at NerdWallet.
From NerdWallet, I moved on to WIRED’s SOMA office. Long an innovator in how technology and culture intersect, WIRED’s mission is “to tell readers something they’ve never heard in a way they’ve never seen.” It was a real treat getting inside an organization whose work I’ve been following for nearly two decades. Their session’s most valuable lesson for me as a professional communicator? Whether one’s story is published online or in print, it’s important that you asked the smartest question first, before anyone else.
Day Two ended about as quickly as it began. That’s what happens when there is so much to see and do and so many people to connect with at each stop. My key takeaway? Concision and clarity are key components of solid communication in a connected, global city like San Francisco. Of course, taking a moment to pause and connect in person wins every time.