The Sharp Social team attended the Northside Innovation Festival in Williamsburg last week. This conference featured discussions, panels, and hands-on sessions with an underlying theme of how technology has a great impact on our day to day. After listening to these sessions, we discovered that authentically telling a story both in front of and behind the camera is essential when it comes to brand and content development. We also learned the importance of brand and influencer partnerships as well as how the influencer's passion can drive awareness.

Transforming the Content Supply Chain

In this informative all female panel, key women in production and entertainment discussed what it means to create authentic content and the importance of having a diversity. Sasheer Zamata of Saturday Night Live, made an astute point that while it's important to have diversity on screen, it is just as important to have diversity behind the screen (i.e.: the writers, producers, lighting crew, etc.). Paola Mendoza, Filmmaker and Artistic Director of the Women's March, made the observation that "Artists create culture" thus her role as an actor is crucial to making positive strides for women. She described a moment in her career where a male producer told her that she was "too educated" and how this might hold her back in the roles that she would play. This statement pushed her to think broader about how her work shapes her as an artist and a person.

The question of "diversity quota" was raised, and whether there should be one enforced on sets and in traditional offices. Sarah Aubrey, a producer at TNT, recounted a moment where she was the only female in an all male production crew of over 300 people. While she was the boss and was well respected, she saw how the divide impacted the overall outcome of her production. When it comes to the impact diversity has on brands, it emphasized the importance of needing different perspectives and how it can help to improve the overall quality of work.

Leveraging Immersive Video for Brand Storytelling & Audience Engagement

VR and 360 videos are hot topics in the digital space. This panel featured a variety of top executives and content creators. Kyle Ranson-Walsh of Discovery Networks noted that, "Most people have a positive experience with VR, as long as it's great." This gets at the main issue with VR and 360-video, which is that it must be executed extremely well in order to be effective. So much of the beauty of this new medium is that the viewer has the agency to shift the progress of a story simply by moving their head. This kind of authentic storytelling highlights the importance of point of view (literally). As we think about how this will impact our content for brands, it's clear that this will only gain popularity over time and brands will develop their content for advertising purposes as well. Generally, 3D content is still under development and it is difficult for smaller brands to justify research and development until the space becomes less exclusive.

Brands: The New Patron Saints of Music? With Michael Angelakos (Passion Pit) and Ian Schafer (Deep Focus)

Influencer partnerships are a great way to bring a new audience to brands. Branding, in fact as Michael Angelakos notes, is all around us. For music, the brand ends up being the "influencer". With music being a great way to connect with audiences, brands have been reaching out to artists to work on projects.

Passion Pit worked with Taco Bell on a project called "Feed the Beat", which donated food to bands in need – a passion of Angelakos'. He noted in his talk "empathy is a great business model". In order to bring awareness to this issue, he partnered with his friend, a neuroscientist, who took over Passion Pit's Twitter account. Any time a related question was asked or an answer was retweeted, Passion Point would share an unreleased song and unique artwork through a direct message. This incentive was extremely motivating, Angelakos shared, saying that the outpour of support and interactions was amazing.

This was interesting approach to music partnerships. It gave an opportunity for an artist to bring light to a cause that interested them. Unique and effective partnerships like this can be helpful for brands in developing a connection with audiences and increasing awareness.