What I Learned About The Cultural Landscape, Branding & More at Northside Innovation 2017


The Northside Festival is a yearly event in Brooklyn that features talks, performances, and more each June. This year, I went specifically for the Innovation portion of the festival which featured a pretty great lineup of speakers from David Shing, Digital Prophet at AOL to Bill De Blasio, Mayor of New York City. What did I learn about the future of innovation, technology, media and more? Glad you asked! Below are some of the insights I gleaned during the jam-packed 3 days I spent at the festival.

Dictate what you want to see from the media with your money.

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One of the first talks I went to was ‘Transforming the Content Supply with Sasheer Zamata, Paola Mendoza, Rashem Nijhon, Sarah Aubrey, and Shannon Gibson‘which was focused on underrepresented groups reclaiming the media narrative. Sasheer Zamata made the great point that one way everyday folks can show how much they value inclusive stories is to go out and spend your money to see them. Most media companies are focused on what content will be the most profitable for them – show them that you like diversity by spending your money on content that is focused on stories about those who generally don’t get the spotlight.

Empathy has a big role in storytelling.

The above commercial was mentioned during a talk from folks at Google & Facebook. Empathy is a great way for brands to engage in conversations through their content without interrupting conversations that are already occurring. People care about thigns that they are already interested in – use those thigns to lead them to a discussion point.

Your employees are your brand.


Anyone who follows tech media knows about the battle between Lyft and Uber so of course it was brought up during one of the talks at the festival. Uber has a big branding problem right now because of the negative press it’s received surrounding their treatment of their workers. Lyft, on the other hand, has leveraged their drivers to be the main selling point of using their app over Uber. They realized that employees are the best brand advocates – the happier they are, the better your company will do.

Innovation is out, invention is in.

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David Shing had the keynote spot at the festival and his talk was called ‘Innovation is out, invention is in’. What does that mean exactly? Innovation is about change – finding a problem and creating a unique solution to it. Sounds good right? But invention is the future – not solving a problem but creating a whole new narrative in response to it.

Your brand is what people say about you when you’re outside of the room.


Kathryn Minshew, CEO & Founder of themuse.com gave an excellent talk on building your personal brand and defining your career trajectory. The above quote really stood out to me as something that could be applied to people’s personal work life as well as the view of a company brand as a whole. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is the first step to figuring out your ‘brand’.


Overall the festival was a great learning experience – I found most of the talks engaging and inspiring. I’m looking forward to attending again next year!

Check out Kelly’s post about the event for more insights and the Northside Festival site for a full list of the speakers and talks from the festival.

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