Updated on April 11, 2017
Story by Andra Brichacek
In the overarching story of what it take to make a difference in the world — whether that means helping the little guy, saving the planet or tackling huge issues like homelessness — corporations are often cast as the villain. Some big companies have been trying to flip that script, however, by leveraging their considerable resources to do good and to reach people with inspiring stories that make a real, positive impact.
For storytellers like the students and alumni of the UO School of Journalism and Communication, this new trend of ethical brand storytelling represents a whole new realm of opportunity.
Joshua Trujillo, a key creative for Starbucks’ new “Upstanders” web series, visited the SOJC in Portland on March 7 to lead a conversation about the innovative storytelling that Starbucks and other companies are doing to build ethical brand identities and engage with communities.
“We are delighted to be hosting this conversation with Josh Trujillo,” said Regina Lawrence, executive director of the UO SOJC’s Portland programs. “His impressive career and pathbreaking work on the ‘Upstanders’ project show how journalistic and storytelling skills can elevate socially responsible branded content to make a positive social impact.”
Trujillo’s career as a filmmaker and photojournalist has focused on innovative ways to engage community sources and cover important news events as well as everyday stories from Seattle to Afghanistan. As Starbucks’ senior manager for photos and video, he oversees much of the company’s visual storytelling and is a major contributor to the “Upstanders” web series.
Through short stories, films and podcasts, “Upstanders” shares the experiences of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities. By showcasing stories of meaning and inspiration to do real good in the world — rather than just look good — the series is a leader in the growing trend of socially responsible brand communication.
Trujillo’s talk, which is sponsored by the UO SOJC’s Portland-based professional Multimedia Journalism and Strategic Communication master’s degree programs, will focus on the growing opportunities on brand communication teams for multimedia storytellers who want to make a difference in the world.
“There are brands out there that are capable of and willing to tell and share authentic, real stories, much in the same way that you would do if you were working for any news organization,” Trujillo said. “Often these stories can touch on social, environmental and even political issues. Many of the people in corporate leadership have recognized that this kind of storytelling has faded from traditional sources, such as newspapers and long-form television shows, and they are looking to step up and see what they can contribute in the social issue space.”
According to Trujillo, corporations are uniquely situated to make a positive impact, as long as they do it in the right way. “These companies have megaphones of tens of millions of social media followers, and if they use those megaphones responsibly, ethically and with authenticity in their storytelling, they can open eyes and hearts and minds,” he said.
Andra Brichacek is the SOJC Communication team’s writer, editor and editorial content planner. She has nearly 20 years’ experience creating content for print and online media and has specialized in education since 2008. Follow her on Twitter @andramere.