Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tell stories that inspire people to become fearless

Layla Revis
SVP - West Region Social Media Practice Lead, San Francisco Digital Practice Lead
San Francisco

Training and influences

I’ve worked for over 15 years in several related, yet slightly different marketing and advertising disciplines. I began my career working in the entertainment industry at Creative Artists Agency in the Literary Department and then Warner Brothers Studios. Shortly thereafter, I was signed by an agent for my writing and also became an advertising executive where I wrote, pitched, and produced television commercials, screenplays, and copy for Fox, Bravo, and History Channel, to name a few. Throughout this time, I also wrote regularly for magazines and websites like Art + Living Magazine, GenArt, Town & Country, and Moving Pictures Magazine, with regular columns in Los Angeles Confidential Magazine and DaySpa Magazine.

When, around 2006, I began to see that my clients were dedicating more money to digital communications, I decided to attend Graduate School at the London School of Economics to specifically study emerging technologies and communication. I didn't want to get left behind once the digital age descended upon us and, although print and prose may always be like a first love, I've never looked back.

In terms of my influences, I was heavily influenced by communication for social change, the work being done by the Rockefeller Foundation, media practitioners and theorists like Jürgen Habermas, Adorno & Horkheimer of The Frankfurt School, Lilie Chouliaraki, one of my professors at LSE who wrote about the media's portrayal of Distant Suffering, and Paolo Feire, who looked at communication as a means to liberate the oppressed, educate communities, and advance societies. I take these learnings and enjoy applying a larger world view and more critical thinking to the brands and companies I work with in an attempt to instill positive programming. Ultimately, the goal should always be that individuals, whether they are consumers or co-workers, bring more humanity, enjoyment, and loyalty to their teams and communities.

Guiding principles

My guiding principles at work revolve around giving immediate feedback, whether that’s positive or constructive, and living life and work with copious amounts of warmth and creativity. Sometimes I feel as if too many people spend their lives building up emotional walls to protect themselves, rather than building bridges between others. I’m not sure what they’re protecting exactly because I always perceive these walls as a sign of fear, but life is hard and humans are, ultimately, always struggling to become stronger emotionally. As Rocky Balboa once said, “It ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done.”

So, it’s not always easy to break down the walls or speak one's truth, but leaders who avoid addressing tough situations, make excuses for them, or pretend they’re something they’re not, ultimately fail. I try to get my team to live their work lives as the open creative souls that they are. I try to inspire them to perform their very best and not become lazy or complacent. I want them to believe in themselves because I do.


I like to tell stories that inspire people to become fearless, stories that challenge gender stereotypes, stories that make people laugh, and stories that call into question the paradigms we’ve grown up seeing around us; whether that’s related to sexuality, religion, politics, race, or culture. Our minds recall a a good story 22x more than a fact, so I believe that the best stories are the stories that touch the heart or the funny bone… and usually both.

Measure success in work

I measure success in my work several ways. Obviously, I measure success in financial terms first. Have we grown the business? For my clients, it’s measured similarly, but it often revolves around a more complex ROI as the KPIs with social and digital communications are quite different and varied because there isn’t always a clear path to purchase or means to track every single action when you’re dealing with brand affinity, awareness, or share of voice in social. So, we look at how well we’re perceived in the marketplace, how many people are talking about the brand, product, or campaign, how are they talking about us, who is sharing our content, or have we engaged and grown the audience.