Featured Speakers

Jairek Robbins

Jairek RobbinsPerformance coach Jairek Robbins will be opening the weekend with a talk about getting the most out of your online relationships. Here, he gives us the lowdown on how digital media influences his own business, including his popular Rapid Results Retreats.

With your business model, how do you utilize digital media?

My current business model is built around digital media: staying consistently digitally connected to our community. We run a weekly YouTube show, publish an online newsletter, and stay actively associated to our community through a variety of social media channels.

Our core business is one-on-one personal performance coaching and keynote speaking, and we also have a couple different digital coaching programs online. Just last year we introduced our Rapid Results Retreat, which allows us to take people on the journey of a lifetime. We call it a “vacation with a purpose”—mixing a personal development course with a 16-day, seven-country voyage through Central and South America.

What’s your next personal goal, and what road map do you plan to follow to get there?

In my opinion, today’s entrepreneurs need to be able to tap into the old school and new school mind-set, tools, and style of starting and running a business.

Old school: Numbers can kill you, in business. If you do not master accounting and bookkeeping and keep a solid amount of o’ cash on hand, you can easily sink a company of any size. A few other “old school” characteristics that are still needed today: the love of hard work, persistence, passion, vision, consistency, the ability to stay focused, guts, and a powerful and positive mind-set.

New school: You must also be willing to let go of the office building with your name on it, tons of employees, and high overhead. In today’s digital world, we have the opportunity to run an international organization from a laptop on a small remote beach. You can lose all the overhead and run lean, giving you and your team the ability to invest the money saved into more ways to reach a broader audience and make even more of a difference. Some “new school” characteristics needed: flexibility, inner peace, and the ability to enjoy the entire journey (not just the results waiting for you at the end).

My next personal goal is making sure my fiancée and I have an amazing year of travel and adventure leading up to our wedding in October 2014. We have decided to spend the year running our business from a laptop and traveling the world together and are in the process of moving from San Diego down to Costa Rica for a few months to kick off the journey.

Everyone has his or her own challenges. What is one of yours and how do you overcome it?

A big challenge I have consistently had to face is differentiating myself from my father, who is a mogul in the personal development industry. Growing up around him and his events is one of the greatest advantages I have had, yet it’s also one of the biggest challenges I face when trying to build a brand of my own.

There was an event produced by Oneness University that was the catalyst to helping me find my own voice and true, authentic self. They asked five simple questions that helped me learn so much about myself and why I was doing what I’m doing and helped create a crystal-clear road map to develop my own personal message and voice:

  1. Who did you want love from the most when you were a child?
  2. Who did you think you needed to be in order to receive their love?
  3. Who could you never be around them?
  4. Who are you today?
  5. What would you need to shift in who you are today…to be 100% authentically yourself?

What are some of the highlights of your new Rapid Results workshop?

Taking time for my students to find their true authentic self, identifying their “ideal day” vision, and creating a personal and professional game plan for the next five, ten, twenty years to turn that vision into reality.


Kristy Sammis

KRISTY SAMMISKristy Sammis, CMO of Clever Girls Collective, will be speaking at KEEN about the evolution of native advertising. Here, she offers a bit of her own personal perspective on where social media and content marketing is heading.

 A couple years ago, you left the world of organizing at BlogHer to run a native advertising company for a pool of 8,000 bloggers at Clever Girls Collective. What prompted that career transition?

I absolutely loved being there at the beginning of BlogHer, witnessing (and shaping, where possible) the “influencer industry.” When I started, it was still kind of radical for bloggers — especially women — to be recognized for their talents, let alone paid for their work. Advertisers now know how influential these women can be, but don’t always know what to do about it. (And the whole “native advertising” push is making our industry clear as mud…)

Bottom line: Creating advertiser-influencer relationships that work for both parties is HARD, especially since social media changes every second. I’ve always wanted to help solve this problem. I’ve spent my entire career in marketing and I’ve been online since *cough* 1993.

I stopped working (briefly) when I had my first child, and toyed with the idea of building an agency like Clever Girls that would focus solely on connecting brands with online influencers. Then Stefania Pomponi contacted me with the same idea AND an agency already in the works, so I jumped on board. That was late winter, 2009, when Clever Girls had about 100 members and a handful of clients. We’ve come a long way because my partners and I are passionate about the work we do and the space we’re in.

As a marketer, what social media platforms do you find most beneficial to push messaging (both your own and your company’s)?

This is an awesome question, because HA. The answer depends 100% on what your message IS and who you want championing it. If you’re a retailer, work Pinterest. If you’re targeting millennials, get on Tumblr. But to be broad, “visual storytelling” is hot right now. And because our work focuses on influencer marketing (i.e., brands tap into influential online users to amplify their messaging), we’re working more and more with women who take amazing photos and video, which works across platforms. For instance, for a new hair product, we might ask a blogger to create a cool video tutorial on YouTube featuring her using the product; she’ll then post that tutorial to her blog, along with photos that she’ll use to amplify her blog post on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Clever Girls Collective organizes a whole lot of fun paid ad campaigns for bloggers. How can a digital influencer get involved with CGC and make the most of it?

First, apply! We do vet all of our members, but we also know that influence comes in different packages–someone who may have minimal traffic to her blog might be wildly popular on Instagram (or vice versa). In fact, some folks who have huge followings on Instagram or Pinterest might not even have a blog, and that’s okay! We carefully review all applicants.

Once a member, the best way to get paid work from us is to build your audience, even if it’s niche. And while there are entire books written about how to grow your online brand, some simple truths remain: be authentic, create regular content, engage with your audience and use the tools at your disposal to make your site readable and pretty.

What sorts of risks are associated with paid influencer campaigns (both for the brand and the blogger)? What can participants do to maintain their authenticity?

I’d like to clear up a common misperception: Brands are NOT paying influencers to “say nice things” about them. That’s just not how it works. Brands engage influencers to amplify their message and/or raise awareness of a product or service. Bloggers are expected to provide balanced reviews, or develop related content — not post press releases or cut and paste marketing language.

Let’s face it. NONE of this “works” if it’s not authentic. Inauthentic sponsored blog posts may as well be banner ads.

As for risks? Brands need to understand that bloggers don’t “go crazy” when they don’t like a product. Bloggers tend only to get …touchy… when brands treat them disrespectfully. I can trace every brand-blogger blow-up to the relationship between the brand and blogger, not the product itself.

The key is to think of influencers as professional extensions of your campaigns. You are compensating them to do a job for you, with clear expectations. Then bloggers are responsible for holding up their end of the agreement. If they want to be compensated for a job, they have to perform the job. Just be sure to let the participating influencers know what is expected of them upfront — this allows bloggers to not participate in a campaign they don’t believe in and brands to only work with influencers who are excited about the opportunity.

Give us a peek behind the curtain of the future: What’s next in the marketing world?

Metrics. Better, magical metrics. The kind that answer the dreaded “ROI of social media” questions once and for all.

We know that 93% of our network has purchased something because a blogger recommended it. But tracking those purchases is still hard to do. Meanwhile, most agencies are still using some form of display ad metrics to measure the effectiveness of social campaigns, which are inherently different. We’re still measuring quantity over quality. This is changing, but real change will come as our tracking tools improve.


Daniel Bear Hunley

Daniel Bear HunleyThis week’s featured speaker, Daniel Bear Hunley, has made a name for himself as one of the top style Pinners on the Internet. Daniel, who will be talking at KEEN about placing your products and services on Pinterest, answered some questions concerning what exactly you need to know about social media’s most addictive platform.

You’ve made a name for yourself in the Pinterestverse. Why should individuals and digital marketers be paying attention to Pinterest?

There’s a significant opportunity for brands to be seen on Pinterest. The site excels in helping well-designed products gain brand awareness among an eclectic audience. It’s no secret: The site slants toward women. But that presents us with the opportunity to reach out to members of the family who typically have the largest purchasing power. Whether it’s recipes, fashion inspiration, travel destinations, or creatively designed products, people are seeking out inspiration for what will make their life better—and they’re using Pinterest to find it. And that opportunity doesn’t even account for the multitudes of style-savvy men who use the site.

How did you jump on board Pinterest in the first place and build such a captive audience?

I jumped onto Pinterest with every intention of pinning on the site like a normal user. I collected pictures of things that I thought looked good. Like most people in the beginning, I would spend chunks of time on the site, combing through picture after picture of industrial loft spaces and natty men’s clothing. I’ve got a unique aesthetic, a keen eye for what people would probably find interesting, and a background in digital marketing. All of the pieces came together without me realizing it and my page started to grow and grow.

Why do you think people are so interested to see what Daniel Bear Hunley is going to pin next? 

My style is pretty unique. There are plenty of more feminine-focused pins, but I bring in a man’s perspective. The recipes I share are what a red-blooded Southern-bred boy wants to cook (and drink). The men’s clothing I share are what I feel like a Southern man who balances a respect for the traditional and the trends would want (without going over the top). It isn’t high fashion. It’s what well-dressed men from Jackson, Tennessee wear, which is where I’m from. A “New South” perspective. People seem to like it, so I’m rolling with it.

Many social media platforms seem to have a shelf life before being overshadowed by the next big thing. What other platforms do you have your eye on now?

When I look onto the horizon for what we’ll see next in social platforms, I can’t help but feel that Google+ will work its way into prominence. As Google continues to invest in the next generation of tech, leading the field in consumer-ready wearable computers, we can expect that their social platform will be seamlessly integrated to create an online social experience that we haven’t had before. I don’t know if this is necessarily the next big thing, but my gut tells me that it will definitely be a big thing that will dramatically impact the social landscape for users and the brands that want to reach them.

What’s the craziest thing that’s resulted from your Pinterest celebritydom?

I was in Publix right after I moved to Nashville from Chattanooga. This was during the first round of media frenzy surrounding Pinterest, and I was then ranked as the second most followed dude on the site.  In the next aisle over, I heard a mom tell her teenage daughter, “Look! There’s Daniel Bear Hunley. You know he moved to Nashville?” It was surreal and, fortunately, it hasn’t happened again.


Shannon Smith

SHANNON SMITHBeautySmith founder Shannon Smith is a top beauty expert focusing on education and services as well as consulting for spas, celebrities and skincare professionals around the country. Her clientele includes high-profile actors, models, musicians, athletes, and politicians, but we’re most impressed by her philosophy: “Your face is your business card.” How KEEN-appropriate is that?

You walked in Virgin Group founder Richard Branson’s shoes—literally—for a social good campaign to help the homeless. How did that come about?

It all started with my Tweet that said I’d like to spend the day in Richard Branson’s shoes…to my surprise he responded, “sending shoes!” It wasn’t long before the shoes found their way to me from Sir Richard’s private island, Necker. I wore them during the holidays while volunteering at a California homeless shelter, which later triggered the #Shoeathon fundraising on Twitter. Virgin donated money for each Tweet, and we were able to raise $2,000 for the shelter. It’s pretty amazing what one little Tweet was able to achieve!

You used digital media and social avenues to create your BeautySmith brand. Aside from the big players like Twitter and Facebook, are you using any new applications or platforms to expand your business?

I enjoy photography, and therefore Instagram was a natural platform for me. I was an early user, having signed up just a week after the app was released. My Instagram feed includes everything about beauty, travel and living. [Editor’s note: Shannon is being incredibly modest here; check out her posts from various Ritz-Carlton stays!] read more here

KEEN attendees will be able to take advantage of one of your products, HydraFacial, in our Refresh + Recharge Lounge. What makes this product different than others that are currently on the market?

The Refresh + Recharge Lounge is genius! I look forward to sharing the news about the HydraFacial technology. This machine, in the hands of a trained and certified technician, can resurface and hydrate skin in a very short amount of time. It’s an internationally known brand/treatment that both celebrities and people like you and me can use.

In terms of leveraging social media to mold a career, what’s the one tip you would pass on to young job-seekers looking to enter the marketplace?

Like anything in life, you should first set up your goals, and from that point all you really need to do is to make sure your actions are helping you to get closer to that goal. In the same way that what an athlete eats the day before a game affects their game day performance, your actions, words and posts will affect your ability to achieve your goals. Have in mind that what you post out there on the social sphere will probably stay out there for a long time, sometimes way longer than you might want. At all times be thinking about your goals while creating content, whether it’s a Facebook post, a Tweet, or an Instagram photo. Don’t forget that you are your own brand and your content is your marketing. The same way the name Ritz-Carlton creates an image of luxury and first-class service or Harley-Davidson renders a picture of a bad boy living on the edge, you want your name to reflect the image you need to achieve your goals. So decide what that image is and project it.


Scott Johnson

Scott JohnsonAward-winning journalist and KEEN speaker Scott Johnson recently published his memoir, The Wolf and the Watchman, a painstakingly honest examination of his relationship with his CIA agent father and a chronicle of his time working in war zones—Mexico, Afghanistan and Iraq—as a bureau chief for Newsweek. Scott answered a few questions with us over email.

How has the field of foreign correspondency changed with the evolution of social media?

Well, it has and it hasn’t. On the one hand, technology has changed everything. You have rebel leaders in Syria, for instance, using Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to relate their latest exploits or even break news. That’s a huge change. And in a conflict like Syria, in which several Western reporters have already died and where the danger levels have surpassed what many western news organizations are willing to tolerate, that level of global presence by the victims and perpetrators themselves is indispensable, and altogether novel. Social media, in that sense, has become sort of a global forum where, as Ben Smith of BuzzFeed has pointed out, “news happens.” So that’s also a change.
The Muslim Brotherhood might announce its latest position via Twitter, a new artistic movement in Egypt might make its debut show via Facebook, and so on.As a foreign correspondent, you have to be tuned into technology and social media if you want to stay on top of things. That said, being a good foreign correspondent is still really about the basics: stories and people. And no matter how technology develops, nothing will ever come close to the real life human exchanges where stories take shape. There’s no replacement for being there.

You’ve spent the past two-and-a-half years exploring mental health issues in Northern California. Do you plan on diving back into the world of international journalism at some point?

Yes, I’d like to. I still keep a foot in the door whenever possible. Last year I went to Argentina to do a long story on a woman who’s fighting the scourge of human trafficking in Latin America. And the year before that, I spent a couple of weeks tracking Joseph Kony in the jungles of Central African Republic. I began my career doing international journalism, and it’s really where my heart lies, so if I can find ways to keep doing it, I will. The trick, of course, is finding the outlets that will send you overseas to do those stories. They’re still there, but there seem to be fewer of them, and they have fewer resources. The upside is that with the web, new outlets are emerging all the time, and one exciting recent development is a number of new sites that want to specialize in long-form digital journalism, which is a wonderful intersection between the old world and the new, and one I’d definitely like to be a part of.

You’re moving from the Bay Area to Los Angeles. Where will we find your writing now that you’re gone from Oakland Tribune?

I’m working on a new book, and I’m also exploring some options in Hollywood, which I guess is what you do in L.A. Joking aside, there are some real possibilities for turning some of the journalism I’ve done and continue to do into adaptations for TV or movies, which is pretty exciting. And I’m ramping up my efforts to do more freelance journalism. It’s an exciting time. I’m trying my hand at a lot of different things and seeing what works best.

A good amount of your work seems to rely on face-to-face communication. How important do you think real life networking (versus Internet contact) is to the success of your career?

In journalism, I’m a big believer in real, face-to-face interactions. Call me old-fashioned, but there’s nothing that beats it. When you’re sitting down with someone, you can take the time to explore his or her life in great detail. You can tease stories out that might not emerge in any other way. You can read body language, which as you know often says far more than words. You can get the context of a person’s story by the setting, by who they’re with and what they don’t say. And you have the great advantage of serendipity. When you’re with someone, you never know what might happen. A friend comes along and sheds some more light on the story, or gives you an even better one to work with. A mother, a father, a brother stops by and you flesh out a back story. You get the smells, the sounds, the flavors of the life you’re trying to understand. And you might get invited to dinner! So, that’s for journalism.
As far as career success more generally, I tend to think the same applies. It’s fine to introduce and meet someone over email or Twitter or whatever, but take it that one step further and get coffee and the interaction evolves to a new, and in my view much more rewarding level. You’re not just an anonymous digital imprint, you’re a flesh and bones human being with a story and a life, and that leaves a longer and more substantial impression than any email can.

Any other books in the works? It seems you have quite a few stories left to tell!

Yep, a novel. It’s a love story about a boy who goes to Iraq and comes back damaged and the girl he comes back to. There’s more to it than that—think war crimes and flight to Alaska—but that’s the general thrust. And I’m tinkering around with a couple of non-fiction ideas, as well.


Every edition of this newsletter, we will spotlight a speaker, sponsor or attendee who we think you should know about, and in keeping with this week’s student theme, it seemed obvious to feature our diligent intern coordinator, Alexa Rae Johnson, a social media power user who graduated from San Diego State University in May.

Alexa Rae Johnson

Alexa Rae Johnson


La Verne, California

Major: Communication; International Studies minor

Tell us about you: I’m a recent graduate, currently looking for a position in writing and social media management. My passion for travel has taken me to 39 countries so far, with Sweden being my favorite. My blog, Zaagi Travel, will launch in August; Zaagi means “to love” or “to treasure” in Ojibwe—and I’m one-eighth Ojibwe from the Chippewa tribe up in the Great Lakes—which is how I live my life. I didn’t grow up directly in the Chippewa culture, so Zaagi will be a way for me to further explore it and feel more of a connection to my heritage. Through Zaagi, I want to inspire people to travel in general—and while the focus will be on travel, I’ll also talk about food and recipes and things here and there that are part of my own personal life, such as Southern California, where I’m from, or Semester at Sea, which gave me a global perspective in the first place.

Favorite social media network: I enjoy photography, so I find Instagram to be the most fun. I’m a really visual person, and in all social media, people tend to just show the good things about their lives—they try to market their best self—but I think Instagram is interesting because it gives a more in-depth look into a person’s actual life. It also allows a lot of creativity that the others don’t—like the filters or enhancing an image via other apps such as A Beautiful Mess and Snapseed. At the core, Instagram helps people tap into their own creativity.

You’re 22 and truly a child of the Digital Age. What was your first social media experience?

I joined MySpace back in middle school when I was just 13, and then I remember finding out about Facebook when I was visiting a friend in New Jersey—Facebook picked up on the East Coast long before the West—so I was one of the first people of my circle of friends in California to hop on board as soon as they allowed non-university users to join. I’ve always had an interest in social media. I like keeping track of the trends and being one of the first people to have it and check it out and see whether it’s something that has the capability of becoming popular.

You’ve the classic early adopter. What’s the next big thing—app or social media service—that’s on your radar?

A couple students from my voyage with Semester at Sea have been working on Fipeo, a video chat feature where you could find people all over the world and strike up a conversation with those that have similar interests. As someone learning sign language, Fipeo could be a really cool way to connect with other signers around the world.

Why do you want to come to KEEN to network face-to-face rather than digitally?

Face-to-face networking is an awesome method for building connections. Going to KEEN will put me in front of experts and professionals who would be difficult to meet and collaborate with otherwise. I’ve always thought that one of the keys to success begins with active, intentional movement. Getting out and doing things IRL is definitely one of these!

What’s been your most interesting IRL (In Real Life) experience that was born out of a digital connection?

I sailed on Semester at Sea’s Enrichment Voyage after connecting with KEEN co-founder Kristin Luna through a mutual Facebook friend. Taking Kristin’s travel writing and blogging workshop onboard the MV Explorer as we sailed through Northern Europe was an incredible experience that I will never forget—and we became close friends as a result, too.

You’re currently searching for full-time employment. What would be a dream position?

Something that allows me to travel a couple months out of the year, while also expanding my writing abilities. It’d be great if that job were also in social media. Or, in a dream world, I’d love to have a travel TV show like Samantha Brown!

Copyright © 2013 KEEN Digital Summit, All rights reserved.


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