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Corey Dubrowa: Today’s Kaufer “Follow Friday” Featured Profile

With the holidays here, I’ve lagged a bit with my blogging this past week but I’ll be picking it up next week, with one of my major 2011 New Year’s resolutions being to blog on a more consistent basis (4-6 times per week). So be prepared to hear more from me in the upcoming year!

Starbucks VP of Global Communications (and Oregon Ducks Alum) Corey DuBrowa can be found on Twitter: @coreydu

My final Follow Friday Featured Profile of 2010 is Corey Dubrow, Vice President of Global Communications for Starbucks (and fellow Oregon Duck School of Journalism alum). Corey is another great example of the power and potential of social media and how relationships can be formed and built using it. Even though Corey and I both are PR grads from UO (a year apart) AND worked at the PR powerhouse Waggener Edstrom (many years apart) our paths had not yet crossed until I came across him on Facebook when his name and picture kept popping up as “someone you might know” (because we had so many similar connections through Waggener Edstrom, Seattle PR circles and of course, Duck alums and friends). I reached out to Corey and introduced myself through Facebook and he accepted my friend request. I’ve since enjoyed getting to know him through his tweets and Facebook posts – he writes about a variety of topics ranging from music (more on that below) to Ducks Football (naturally).

Given our busy schedules, Corey and I have yet to meet IRL to date – but we’re both hoping to connect while we’re both in Arizona cheering on the Ducks in the BCS Championship game. I’m looking forward to it. In the meantime, enjoy the column – Corey was kind enough to agree to an interview and provides a ton of really interesting and useful information. Thanks to Corey for his time!

Which social media networks do you use consistently?

Twitter, Facebook, to some extent LinkedIn. Used to be on MySpace too but nuked that page when I got off the rock writing train late last year.

What was your “Aha” moment regarding social media (when/why did you decide to become engaged)?

I’d been dabbling for a couple of years but really where it all came together for me was when (in my “sideline” life as a rock critic) Magnet Magazine assigned me to cover SXSW a couple of years ago; I’d been attending as a “civilian” for years. I posted at least an entry a day (with photos and sometimes music links) and decided, for whatever reason, to put them up on my Twitter and Facebook pages too — and was blown away by the response, particularly what hashtags ended up generating on Twitter. Something that had the power to scale but also the intimacy to provide that kind of 1:1 feedback had to be the harbinger of a complete communications transformation, right?  Here’s a sampling: http://www.magnetmagazine.com/2009/03/21/sxsw-report-panda-monium/

How has Social Media impacted you personally? How about professionally?

I suspect like it has everyone else, personally it’s rendered things like “class reunions” obsolete (my high school graduating class discovered FB en masse last Christmas, people I hadn’t seen in decades who were now sharing recipes and other such digital detritus). Professionally I guess it’s made what we do as PR professionals a little more understandable — the standard joke used to be that none of us had parents who understood our jobs or how we made a living but that seems to have changed somewhat given that PR is no longer only in the “background” but thanks to social/digital media has moved a bit closer to the foreground — we can participate rather than just orchestrate/support.

It seems that you use your accounts almost exclusively for personal use – have there been times you’ve crossed over and used them professionally?

Sure — LinkedIn is almost exclusively a professional medium (at least insofar as I’ve been using it), and Twitter also seems to lend itself to that sort of crossover.  The idea I’ve been pursuing with  social media over the past few years has been to eliminate the imaginary line between “work me” and “offline me” and just render them all “me.”  Hopefully that’s the evolution that’s occurring.

Starbucks is widely perceived as one of the corporate leaders when it comes to incorporating social media into its marketing and communications. Can you give us a sense of how this impacts your role as VP of Global Communications?

I’ve never seen a more passionate, empowered online audience than the friends/followers we’ve generated on the various Starbucks digital channels.  It’s amazing to behold and frankly makes my role a lot more interesting; on any given day it’s possible to engage a blogger and member of the mainstream media with equal vigor.  And My Starbucks Idea has evolved into a robust “digital idea box” forum that has produced some very real, customer-facing programs since it began a few years ago. But leadership in this space is only as good as your latest work, and I know that our digital team is constantly thinking about new ways to engage and how to make these channels as vibrant and compelling as possible.

You’ve had leadership roles on both the PR agency as well as corporate side – can you talk about some of the key differences working in each environment?

One thing I’ve noticed in two different client roles (Starbucks and Nike) is the degree to which you have “skin in the game” on decision-making that you don’t necessarily have in an agency environment. I’ve been lucky to work on some terrific brands over the years and in environments where in-house and agency teams operated as one, and yet, owning and living with the decisions you make as a client is a unique feature of that particular role.

You’re a huge music buff and like to tweet about music. Do you also Blip? When are we going to start seeing some of your personal favorite songs/acts shared via social media?

I don’t Blip but have been sharing favorite personal songs, acts, opinions, etc. for years — I had a thirteen year sideline as a rock critic and I’m sure that experience has colored the way I listen to music and share it with others.  In fact, to my way of thinking about it (and observing my twelve year old and his friends in action), YouTube has emerged as something akin to the New MTV and seems to be a great tool for sharing new music and ideas, particularly when paired with other social media formats.  In some ways it’s served as a record label in an era when the traditional music business has faded in importance and influence; a DIY outlet for new bands, new music, new recombinant genres that currently don’t exist.

Do you think marketing/PR professionals should be thinking about using social media to help build a “personal brand?”

I know there are mixed opinions about this subject but what’s undebatable to me is the notion that marketing/PR professionals now have (via the Internet) a forum for sharing ideas, opinions, counsel (and soliciting feedback for the same) that previously didn’t exist — at least, not at scale or with this kind of velocity.  So this does lend itself to the need to be more mindful about one’s personal “brand” than may have been the case previously — which includes what you do in your “personal” life too.  Back to my previous point: these tools are now rendering the imaginary line between professional/personal completely obsolete, so forewarned is forearmed! Rather than worry about this dynamic, we should just run to the light and embrace it.

What advice do you have for others who are still not convinced about the value of social media? Just look at what Starbucks has done with its Facebook pages (nearly 20 million “friends” on all the combined sites around the world) or its 1m+ follower Twitter page — the ability to share ideas, information and things of value with audiences of that size and commitment is invaluable.  And what we get back in return — you’d have to have a giant, 24-7 global call center to achieve even a portion of that authentic connection.

Who is a better tweeter – you or @bradnelson? (note: Brad manages the @Starbucks account)

Not even a contest.  Brad is pretty much a digital barista and total Twitter pro.  I’m still a dilettante.

What is your most memorable social media experience?

At Starbucks, we’re all required to spend at least a week in one of our stores learning about our customers, the core of our business, and getting instruction from the best in the business, our baristas.  Hard work!  But great fun.  At the end of my training week, I posted a Twitpic of the partners in the store where I’d trained — and gained the most followers I’ve ever generated in a single day simply because Brad retweeted the photo from the @Starbucks page. To put it mildly, I was blown away.

You’re a big-time Oregon Ducks grad and fan like me – how surreal is it to you that the Ducks are in the BCS National Championship Game?

For those of us who sat through some pretty grim seasons (and in some echo-empty sections in Autzen), back in the day, it’s almost unthinkable. What Coach Kelly and this year’s team have done is nothing short of magical. I can’t wait for the Natty!  Will you be down in Arizona, too?

Best/most memorable Oregon Ducks football game? I could pick a bunch out of the hat, but beating Oklahoma (and Adrian Peterson, who was their starting RB — he was injured in that game, if memory serves) a few years ago at our place and watching their fans spin immediately out of control about refereeing and there inherent “unfairness” of Autzen was a signal to me that perhaps we were on our way to a different level of play and achievement.

Who is your All-Ducks football team?

There are far too many to name them all here!  But among those who would be on the squad might include our NFL HoFers (Gary Zimmerman, Dave Wilcox — knew his family from Junction City! — Norm VanBrocklin, Dan Fouts, Mel Renfro), the coaching fraternity that came from UO (John McKay, Jack Patera, John Robinson, Norv Turner), Ahmad Rashad, Jonathan Stewart, Haloti Ngata (total beast), Joey Harrington, Dennis Dixon, LeGarrette Blount (tearing up the NFL right now), current NFL guys like Jairus Byrd, Patrick Chung and TJ Ward, the entirety of this year’s squad (too many to mention but Nate Costa would get a special shout out) and of course, Kenny “The Pick” Wheaton. I feel like I’m just getting started!  How much more time do we have?

Predicted score of BCS Championship?

I’ll take the Ducks, and the over. 🙂

How much are you going to miss The Pit (University of Oregon’s McArthur Court – which is hosting its last game this weekend after serving as home for Ducks basketball since 1927)?

A ton. I was lucky enough to see some great games there, to be part of the Pit Crew once upon a time. It’s a special place that can never be fully replicated — maybe it’s best that it not be! I hope the U sells some memorabilia — I’d definitely buy an old gum-gunked seat if it became available.

Funniest Social Media moment?

There have been a number of them — it probably doesn’t qualify as a “moment,” but I had a lot of love for David Rees’ Get Your War On strip.  To me, as a longtime Doonesbury fan, it was the logical extension of Garry Trudeau’s brief as social commentator in chief-dressed in the wolf’s clothing of cartoonist.

Biggest Social Media pet peeve?

Any chain mail my mom shares with me online. Delete. Sorry mom!

Any parting shots?

Go Ducks! Win the Day!

We were both in U of Oregon School of Journalism in the late 1980s – given there were only like 4 guys in the PR program, how the hell did we not meet there???

I was in the advertising program from 84-88 but certainly took a number of PR courses… I also ran the school’s undergrad peer advising program for a few years.  Are you sure you were a student there? 😉

DK response: Yes Corey, I was a student, but only from 1985-87 (I transferred from Portland Community College). And I’m sure it was because I was so incredibly studious that our paths never crossed in Allen Hall. But I have a feeling someday we’ll still share a beer at Rennie’s Landing!

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