Viral Media Fundraising:
Growth Hacking That’s Here to Stay with Pete Winters

Pete WintersPete Winters is a 30-year veteran of the communications industry having started with print, innovating through cross media, digital media and his present specialty, viral media.  Pete focuses on helping nonprofits, causes and foundations increase their chances of going viral.

Pete says:

Many organizations have the potential to go viral, but not 1 in 100 know how.
For an organization, the benefits of going viral are out of this world extraordinary.
Campaigns that have gone viral leave clues.  Those clues can be turned into replicable strategies and tactics that organizations can use to increase their chances of getting there.
This discussion will walk through the what, and the how, of going viral including suggestions of what Causes can do to assess their chances of potential success.



Read the Interview

Hugh Ballou: Greetings, welcome. This is The Nonprofit Exchange. I’m Hugh Ballou, founder and president of SynerVision Leadership Foundation. Every week, it’s been seven years now, we interview somebody on a topic of interest to nonprofit leaders and clergy. Sometimes it’s stories of people working in the trenches and have something to share. Many times it’s business professionals teaching us some business principles we can use to run this tax-exempt business we erroneously call a nonprofit. The topic of today’s interview is fascinating. It’s viral media fundraising. The subtitle is “Growth Hacking that’s Here to Stay.” Pete Winters is my guest. I’m going to ask Pete to tell you a little bit about himself. Pete, welcome.

Pete Winters: Thank you so much, Hugh. It’s a pleasure to be here. Very blessed for the friendship you and I have created over the last four or five months.

My background is I started in the world of printing as a print salesperson in New York City back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. It became apparent to me in the late ‘90s and early 2000s that print was going to be changing. I began what was an odyssey of diversifying into cross-media. 15 years later, this led me to social media and having the aha moment with nonprofits, causes, and foundations. It was a match made in heaven, but also why isn’t anybody doing it right? There is an opportunity to go viral, and most organizations weren’t taking advantage of it. This is my passion today. I eat, breathe, and sleep viral media fundraising on behalf of causes.

Hugh: Love it. Pete and I were connected through a mutual friend. I was connected to another mutual friend, and you showed up because he couldn’t be in that meeting. We struck up a friendship, decided there was some heat, synergy, and collaboration. Since I have known you, I have seen the value of your work and that you bring to many people.

Let’s focus in on some of the important things that we need to be telling people about viral fundraising. It’s viral media fundraising. I’m not sure if I Google that what I would get. It’s an unusual category. How did you get started with that? Say more about the benefits of going viral and what does viral mean?

Pete: Let me give it a definition first. We have all seen many examples of campaigns that have gone viral. When an organization goes viral, it is the opportunity of a story that is growing dynamically so there are many more followers, many new sources of donors, and in some cases, tremendous amounts of funds raised. When a story catches on and grows like wildfire, we refer to that as a viral event. I do realize we are in a pandemic age, but it hasn’t changed the meaning of viral media marketing.

In the fundraising community, there is certainly an opportunity for nonprofits to take advantage of it. The problem is most of the time organizations treat digital media (social media, online presence, mobile marketing) like traditional media. If you are going to attempt to do something in a viral-like manner, it requires a different set of rules.

Let’s talk about some of that if you want to ask me some questions in regard to that. I can try to define that further if you like.

Hugh: Sure. It’s a mystery. We think it’s some magic bullet or pixie dust that we send something out and everyone in the world will be interested. What are some of the elements that help some posting, some video, something go viral?

Pete: This goes back to my aha moment. I’m going to say this is probably five or six years ago. My cross-media portfolio and consulting was growing and diversifying. As I was looking at social media nonprofits, I could see this was a match made in heaven, but most organizations were missing that chance to go viral. I began to look into campaigns that have gone viral and try to describe at least for myself at the time some of the common denominators of campaigns that went viral. You can look at four or five components of things that tend to be parts of things that go viral.

One is when you and I see something that inspires us, something that compels us, something that makes us feel part of a tribe or community. Sometimes it is something that makes us laugh. More often than not, you can categorize all of these into what I would call a humanized attribute. When it’s humanized, there is more of a tendency for it to be inspiring and compelling. In order for organizations to move in that direction, there are a couple of components to get there.

To increase the possibility of going viral, to me, would be to increase the possibility of the stories being more humanized. I will talk about puppies and kittens; that is a good place to start if you are in the animal rescue business. For most of the rest of the causes that are in human services or earth services, the ability to realize what your organization is doing, or if you are a board member sitting on a board, what the organization is doing to serve people. if you can begin to imagine the people on the receiving end of that service, the gratitude those people experience, the miracles that those people on the receiving end are getting, their expressions of emotion typically would be far greater than what we could do as founders, directors, board members, marketing/communications people, development officers. That first magic ingredient would be changing the author, such that the person on the receiving end is the one doing the storytelling. They are much more likely to be compelling or inspiring.

Hugh: Change the author. You lost me there. Say more about that.

Pete: Changing the author. If it was a food bank, there is a conversation around a food bank. One of my clients works in food and security focused on adolescence, kids of school age who are not getting enough nourishment or nutrition. Imagine a food bank that is serving parents and children of school age who are less argumentative, more able to focus, more able to concentrate in their studies, not going to bed hungry at night. A food bank could initiate a conversation around the gratitude that parents experience as a result of what the food bank is doing. If it was an anti-human trafficking organization, there is an opportunity for women who have been rescued and are going through the rehabilitation process, even if they still have a long way to go, to be participating in a conversation of, “I matter,” or something as dramatic as, “I’m not a mistake.” It can be done in an anonymous way where their identity is protected. For them to be able to have a conversation about, “I am not a mistake” after all they went through.

We could take breast cancer as an example. Having a conversation of what gives me hope. Myself and all of my sisters having conversations about what gives me hope, and other people can start to participate in that conversation. Siblings, spouses, children, everyone participating in what gives them hope in regard to their sister or mother.

Changing the author is the people who are having the conversation, not the institution. It’s a very subtle but dramatic shift in what we prescribe typically for these foundations, causes, and nonprofits.

Hugh: The people who have experienced the impact of the mission are the ones telling the story.

Pete: Yes. The same could be said for those who are on the serving side. The people who are on the serving side of a food bank or people on the donor side that are doing something on a monthly basis. People who have a pay it forward card app where 2% of their purchases are going to a foundation. Maybe it’s only $35 a month or $15 a month. To be able to have a conversation around what it feels like I’m contributing, that I’m having a social impact, that I am donating in some fashion. That is also an example of changing the author that can be invaluable. I have some pretty good examples of humor if there’s time.

Hugh: Let’s do that now. In troubled times, we need some humor.

Pete: I have a client north of the border in Canada. One organization they work with is the Professional Bullriders Association of Canada. I was asked to do some preliminary work that is in the making. I was looking through all the existing digital posts for this organization. One image that caught me is a 3,000-pound bull. The thing was gigantic. It was just about to chuck a bullrider off its back. The legs are up seven feet in the air, and the head is down around the mud with its horns out. The bullrider is about to go flying off. As I see there is a number of bulls who are part of this association who are all stars like baseball or basketball. Bulls are all stars, too. They have hundreds of thousands of raving fans, like WrestleMania or NASCAR. There could be a conversation around if this bull could talk. I’m just having a conversation. Then have the fans fill in the answer to that conversation. There are lots of different examples of things that are humorous.

I have a client who is in the homemade stationary business. It’s a husband and wife team in Asheville, North Carolina. They are a wonderful couple. They talk about pulling their hair out and the trials and tribulations of creating from scratch and all the fulfillment they do. We are setting them up with GoPro cameras. If you can imagine the half-hour reality show The Ozzy Osbourne Show that was on when reality shows were first getting popular, they have this in their den. They are such a cool, eclectic couple. We are putting GoPros in their shop and having someone mash up the videos to further stimulate this story about this couple.

There is a variety of ways to do it. Notice I don’t say, “Saving lives one mind at a time.” We’ve seen that. We feel that again and again. Suppose if you change the author for a suicide prevention organization, and that organization were to start a conversation around the notion of one good day. Think of all the people around the world, the hundreds of millions of people who are experiencing isolation today at levels never before. For some people, each day is a struggle. To have a conversation around one good day and to let the worldwide community contribute to that conversation is an example of changing the author.

It could be serious, humorous, or grabbing at the heartstrings. It generally comes down to those four or five rubrics that humanizes content.

Hugh: It really does. Some of the underlying leadership principles which you’re not talking about but are revealed in the strategies you’re talking about, many of us feel like we’re running this organization, so we need to have all the right answers. We see ourselves telling the story because that’s what we do. What you’re doing is turning that paradigm around. It’s getting out of our boss mode. I have to know all the answers. I have to do it all. And enabling other people to share their passion. In this particular instance, not only share the passion from their perspective about what happens but be able to participate in sharing that story with others. That is an interesting picture behind you. Will you tell us about it?

Pete: Sure. When I was thinking about launching viral media fundraising as a full-time pursuit, this is an image I had come across that really expresses the notion of one person telling their story, which becomes three friends. I told two friends who told two friends who told two friends. If I could get my inverse correct, one person becoming many that are contributing in that story. The essence of virality is what’s on the chalkboard. It’s not my hand.

Hugh: Big hand.

Pete: In that respect, it’s real.

Hugh: It’s about being very intentional. This is a part of an overall communications strategy, which we don’t give much effort or thought into. If we really sat down with any segment of our culture—our board, our volunteers, the people we serve—and had a conversation about can you define the results in quantifiable terms, I bet you we would learn some things. I started leadership coaching and organizational development work about 32 years ago. The first people who hired me were smart because they figured out what I did when I didn’t know how to tell them. I decided, I don’t know how to tell people. I am going to interview people about what the results were. No matter where people are in business or nonprofit, I recommend they talk to the people they serve and get a perspective from them. This is not entirely a foreign concept. In doing this, we will learn things that we don’t know about what we ourselves are doing.

Pete: I was given an assignment in preparation for meeting with a client. It was a melanoma organization for melanoma awareness, treatment, and prevention. I am scratching my head. I am dreading the assignment because I am thinking to myself, where am I going to come up with something that has anything to do with virility as it relates to melanoma? I approached it like a term paper at the 11th hour. I have to bear down and find something here. As I started to go through all of what I could find on that particular organization, the results unveiled themselves to me.

They did 5K walks. I saw an image of a mother with a two-year-old son on her back, piggyback-style. The kid said, “I walk for my dad.” I thought to myself, Boy, there is a two-year-old who looks at his dad like a superhero. The notion started to dawn on me of the concept that even heroes can get melanoma. It doesn’t have to be a two-year-old. It can be a spouse or adolescent or sibling or neighbor or parent looking at their child and describing them as a hero, everyone participating in that conversation.

But the results kept pouring out because I saw another example of a couple where their backs were turned to the camera. The man had his arm around the woman. They both had baseball caps on. She was bald. She looked like she had gone through chemotherapy. They both had on black T-shirts and black jeans. They were looking at some water with a black reflection. It was a beautiful picture. Looking at them from behind in this stillness, you could see in this couple the fact that they were grateful for life. As a result of what the melanoma organization had done to contribute, the old phrase of “A picture is worth a thousand words,” you could see in the picture the gratitude these people have experienced.

One more example is they had a model applying some sunscreen on her face. That gave me the idea about, Did I miss a spot? Just being really stupid and facetious with suntan lotion covering my entire face with it and not really rubbing it all in. Obviously I have missed eight spots. When you look at the results of these organizations, their own stories unveil or reveal the opportunities that exist. As long as they are willing to innovate, as long as they are willing to put on a different set of glasses and take the leadership lens off and ideate on these miracles that these organizations are producing, from the miracles comes the inspiring, compelling, tribal-like stories we so enjoy.

Hugh: You spoke about humanizing the story through changing the author, the person who is receiving the value or being a part of that process actually creates the story and not you. But that is humanizing the story. The secret in social media connecting is building relationships with people. How do you create the relationship factor? How does that play into things going viral?

Pete: I’m going to ask you to frame that question again. I’m going to give you a response here. Then we’ll talk about framing the relationship. I want to point out an example of a platform that had gone viral. Then we can weave that relationship question into it.

There was an Instagram site that was developed a long time ago at the early ages of Instagram. The site was Humans of New York. In my early days of Instagram, looking at this profile, my daughter had turned me onto it. I remember time and time again this person would go around New York City with a camera and take pictures of people on park benches. The tendency, in my mind at least, was this person was taking people of people who were long lost souls. The cameraperson was asking these people something about their parents, a lost love, siblings, a regret they had in life. Many of these people as it turned out, when you read their snippets of stories, were long lost souls. The only living person in the world that was related to them was one sibling, but they haven’t talked to that person for 27 years. Or when they expressed a love they had and a regret. You would see these stories over and over again.

For me, without intending to do so, and if it was intentional, it was a stroke of genius that cameraperson was building relationship because he or she kept on showing authenticity of people. The people that you were viewing, there wasn’t any kind of voyeuristic sense that you might have, any kind of mortality sense that you had, any kind of relationship sense that you might had, any kind of love and inspiration sense that you had. You could see yourself in different pockets of these stories.

In this Humans of New York platform, they did an amazing job of building relationship. They didn’t have an ulterior motive. They were not going after fundraising. They were not a tagline off a foundation. They were just building relationship for the sake of building relationship.

Another example of that is I remember years ago when I was first getting into social media coaching for nonprofits. Back in 2008, Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon professor who had stage IV cancer with several months to live, was delivering his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon. They had started a series called The Last Lecture. It became a national bestseller. He was interviewed on Oprah Winfrey. A marvelous person, gifted intellect, in great physical condition. He was doing one-arm pushups while he was telling his class, “I have two months to live, but I can probably do more one-handed pushups than most of you.”

The reason I’m talking about him building relationship, that got 20 million YouTube hits back in 2008. For a non-celebrity in 2008, 20 million hits would be the equivalent of hundreds of millions of hits in three days for a celebrity. What you got from this, why so many people gravitated to this, is you really got to see that level of mortality.

I’m going to give you one more example, and then we can talk about trying to do it on purpose. About two years ago, in an urban area of Dallas, in a public school system, once a month they had breakfast with dads. The school administrators noticed every month that 20-25% of the kid population would show up to these breakfasts without a dad. Whether he wasn’t available or he was somewhere else, who knows. The school called, “We need 50 dad volunteers to be surrogate dads for these kids who are missing breakfast.” 650 guys showed up to volunteer for those 50 spots.

My answer to you is I don’t think that relationship is built on purpose. I think by the very nature of the word “relationship is.” I don’t mean to be esoteric or evasive, but it is. In building relationship on purpose, there is the common phrase, “the it factor.” A relationship is an “is factor.” If there is something there, if that can be produced and distributed in such a way that it is, it will build relationship of itself. That really is the essence of going viral.

I go back to human trafficking. I have two wonderfully gifted, blessed people and organizations I am dealing with in human trafficking. I am speaking only for myself: I have heard the words “human trafficking” for 20 years. I ‘ve heard it so often that for me, call me obtuse or ignorant, but for me, when I’ve heard this phrase, I’ve heard it so often that it goes in one ear and out the other.

What I’m doing with these two organizations is I am trying to tap into the essence of what it is. These are people, some of them, not a very high percentage have been rescued. They have these amazing lives, amazing souls that are saved. They’re people. There is something there. For each of these organizations, it’s a very delicate answer to building relationship. I can tell you it is. These are people. Some of them have been rescued. Some of them are being rehabilitated. Some of them have a story to share. All of them have a story be it shareable or not, and it can be done in an anonymous way.

That’s my answer. I’m almost feeling spiritual in answering relationship is. It can’t be contrived. That’s my answer.

Hugh: I agree. There is another aspect to that. All of that, the underpinning of leadership is relationship. We can lead people if we’ve spent time getting to know them and being in relationship. We will receive money from them if they know us, trust us, and we have spent time building relationship. There is intellectual capital, mental capital, and financial capital. The bridge to that is relationship capital.

Let’s explore another piece of relationship, which is you and I are on LinkedIn. I am sure you get a lot of people who hit you up, telling you they can do a new website for you. I don’t need a new website. And who are you? Let’s do SEO. I can build traffic for you. I don’t need this. People don’t know me. I don’t know them. It’s ludicrous for me to think they could believe I would hire them without knowing anything about them. The relationship piece is how do we connect with people? My posture on social media is it’s not for posting. It’s for having conversations about things that matter. How do we build enough relationship with people, no matter how we connect with them, so they will actually look at what we want to share?

Pete: I am going to give you an opinion on building relationships. I will talk about the relationship of one. Then we will go back to the viral relationship on a communal basis.

If someone was serious about marketing on LinkedIn, and they were to reach out, “Hey Pete, I see we have a lot of connections. I think we would have a lot in common. Let’s explore the opportunities,” and say the same thing to you and 100 other people. In building relationships, it would be better for that person to take the time that they take to reach out to 100 people and research and investigate one person 100 times if you will to then say, “Hugh, I happened to notice that you at one point in your career were an orchestra conductor. You matriculated that into professional coaching.” And you have a deep-dive, modular sense of how you bring this about. “I could notice the symmetry between conducting orchestra people to now conducting organizations. I’m really intrigued about how you took that from that part of your life into what you are presently doing.” If I were to spend and invest the time into knowing one person and reaching out to that one person 100 times what I would have invested if I just sent you my trite message, a person would do much better on LinkedIn.

As relates to doing this on a viral basis, what has worked for me with organizations is similarly working on that organization until my brain hurts. Trying to look at every single aspect of that organization and building a white board exercise, a mind mapping exercise of all of the possibilities that might come along to start to get- We have 15 ideas. It took 20 or 30 or 40 hours just to get to these 15 ideas. These two or three seem like they could see the light of day. Similar to what I was talking about, invest all of your time in one person on LinkedIn, and your chances are much better than spreading it to 100. If an organization were to do a deep dive into who they serve and the outcomes these people will receive, I think they have a much better chance of launching a conversation that has the possibility of going viral. Deep self-reflection.

Hugh: Very good. I have gone off script and asked you some rogue questions. You’re stepping right into them.

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Pete, this is quite helpful. We’re exploring the relationship part of this because like the art of war, you had just talked about knowing the people, you want to know who people are before you even approach a conversation. I just talked to you about people who want to hit me up to buy something from them, and they don’t know anything about if I even need that. People are more prone to look at what I send them if we have a conversation and establish that I even have some things in common with them. Do you want to say more about that? Give us some more examples about good viral campaigns.

Pete: It was a little bit of an experiment accident that went viral. I have a client who produces calendars where the proceeds from the sales go to various nonprofits. It retails for about $35. At Staples, you can get the same kind of calendar for $5 or $10. A lot of it goes to the nonprofits they support. They have been doing this for about seven years. They have their act together in terms of marketing these calendars.

They keep track of what is called a return on advertising spend. For every dollar they invest in Facebook advertising, they expect to get a 3x return based on their numbers over the years. When they changed the narrative, the second ingredient that we could be talking about, and began to focus on the outcomes that these nonprofits were achieving, they went from a 3x return on advertising spend to 35x return on advertising spend, which is an astronomical shift in moving the needle. For every dollar they spent on Facebook, they were getting $35 in commerce. A rather extraordinary example.

Going back a little ways, I did some work with a good business friend of mine for the New York chapter of the Special Olympics. I had attended an event on a Saturday that was the Special Olympics for that region. It was a track and field event. They did events in the fieldhouse or gymnasium. I was blown away by these accomplishments of these Special Olympians. Someone running 400 meters, and at the end, you could see the light of accomplishment, and the face going back into an Asperger’s mode shyness if you will. That instant recognition of having accomplished a 400-meter run. Or someone bench pressing 135 pounds, jumping off the bench like they’d won the gold medal. There were so many examples of achievement, incredible feats of accomplishment for these Special Olympians that we began to have them change the focus of the camera. That resulted in a 9x increase in funds raised for that chapter. They practiced that going forward, much more emphasis on the outcomes as opposed to the stories.

There are many other examples of that. I have done it myself, Hugh, on accident, on purpose, in responding to a LinkedIn thread. The way I responded, I was intentionally sheepish when I said, “I know the answer to that question. I actually have a cross media marketing blueprint if you want to have one. Let me know what you think.” I knew I had the goods. I knew it was valid. I wanted to position it in such a way that the person on the receiving end of this, a college administrator in admissions enrollment who was looking for a cross media blueprint, the way I answered the question with a shift in the angle in the conversation, that was a thread that continued for two and a half months on one of LinkedIn’s largest groups.

I’ve done it with branding. Naming a brand, giving the printing industry a brand name of Marketing Services, that was a name that caught on worldwide as printers were beginning to morph back in the early 2000s. There are quite a few examples of where this occurs time and again.

Hugh: We’re coming to our last 15 minutes, and I want to dig into a couple of these things you’ve mentioned. We have mentioned some ingredients for going viral. Give us a summary of the key ingredients for going viral.

Pete: I am going to answer that in two ways. The two key ingredients are organizations really need to focus on what are their opportunities to change the author, and how they might change the angle of the narrative or conversation. A very subtle shift in the way something is said, it sounds and feels and reads like marketing, it hits my brain like marketing, to hmm, that’s thought-provoking. Changing the author and changing the angle of the conversation, those would be two ingredients to start with.

There is a third: Don’t start with the platform. Don’t start with the media type. Leave the media type and method for last. Think about the miracles that you’re producing and the outcomes. Everyday things that these organizations do, imagine the gratitude the recipients are experiencing. That will change the ideation of the author if you will.

Hugh: We’re attracting people. There is a triage here: time, talent, and treasure. The pitch is similar for time, talent, and money. We want people to do all three ideally. Not just give us money and say good luck. Here’s some money. How can I be helpful?

You mentioned in the past IQ. But it’s not normally what we associate IQ with, is it?

Pete: No, it isn’t. It’s a good follow-up to the previous question of what are some of the magic ingredients. I discovered this a long time ago. IQ is Innovation Quotient. When I was talking to nonprofits around 2014/2015, any notion of treating digital media differently than the fundraising methods of the past, I would run up against a brick wall invariably. I really had to begin looking at where are these nonprofits, foundations, and causes that are more likely to innovate? That led me to board members. An older aged board member community tending to be innovation-averse, risk-averse if you will.

If you are an organization that wants to evolve and maneuver digital messaging to the way we expect to have digital messaging today, it will require you to think newly and act differently. It would behoove you to know that your board has an acceptable IQ, an acceptable level of Innovation Quotient, to move in that direction.

Hugh, I would tell you and your head would nod. If I said to you on average, if you looked at a dozen board members, on average, two or three of them might have that IQ I am referring to out of 12. That would be about the ratio. With the exception of a younger board, that would certainly tend to skew much higher on the IQ scale. Risk aversion, low innovation quotients. Those are the death knolls for organizations trying toe volve.

Hugh: We are recording this in early January 2021. We’re still in the pandemic here in very uncertain times. We are talking about innovation. We have been pressed against the wall. Some who were risk-averse and not innovative have been put into a new place where it is now a requirement to be innovative. We really have to think outside the proverbial box. Even though you’re not innovative, it’s time to get that tool and come together. You have put it to the board, which is so appropriate to what we teach here. Our board are partners in creation. When they are partners in creation, they will be partners in implementation. Am I getting the message?

Pete: 100%. There is a tremendous opportunity for board members to be participating in organizations going viral. Board members tend to have spheres of influence. It could be within the employee community, their affluent neighbors, their standing in the community. The fact that people tend to follow or participate with that board member. For a board member to hop on board to participate in the evolution of the organization can have a tremendous impact.

Imagine instructing a board member’s handlers into what the handler should do. By the way, that could be a code word for their grandchildren. Tell the grandkids to do this. They told me to get this TikTok app. Can you tell me what to do with it, and have your grandkid help you? Extreme, but not too far.

Hugh: We’re seeing more millennials on boards these days. The smartphone is an appendage. That’s great.

You have your email up here: That is your website. Did I see an assessment?

Pete: Yes. has an assessment. I know that’s a great way to conclude. I can distill the assessment down into two points. If you fill out the form on the website, I receive a notice. It will take you about two to five minutes to complete.

If you are going to self-assess your ability to go viral, it comes down to two things. 1) Who is on the receiving end of the benefits of the services that you deliver? 2) What might they say? You’re going to intrinsically begin to know the answer. Wow, if they were talking about what it is they’re deriving as a result of their relationship with our cause, I think you reach that is factor I was so esoterically referring to before about relationships. If you think about, “That really is a powerful thought, I am so busy running my organization every day. I never really gave voice to that person’s gratitude. There really is something there.”

If you have ever experienced in-home hospice services, if you have a loved one who is going to be passing away at home, in those final few weeks or days, a hospice community member comes in to be with your loved one during that time. There is a conversation to be had. That conversation for the hospice community is angels among us. You don’t have to do a lot of conjuring or imagination to think about angels among us. You’ll know if you have experienced a hospice support mechanism in your home at some point in your life.

Hugh: Are you willing to entertain an audience question?

Pete: Absolutely.

Hugh: Burke Franklin, open your mic. I’ll let you ask personally.

Burke Franklin: You were talking about the story of to be viral, one must feature our customers, our customers’ stories, and have that relatability. On the flip side, maybe I’m being cynical, my testimonials are from people sending postcards and emails, but how do you know what someone is saying is real? How do you have an authentic testimonial? What are the ingredients for one that would be real and inspiring to people?

Pete: That’s a great question. I need to say this with a caveat. What I’m saying is not absolute, but there is a truism related to digital media. Testimonies is the old media version of a point of reference. Testimonies tend to be branding. Testimonies tend to be about the organization. It’s someone talking about you or the organization. What I am talking about in going viral is how to develop a conversation or movement where they are talking amongst themselves. Big difference. I could be talking about myself to people I want to donate. I could have people talking about me to help convince people to donate because of what they are saying about me from a testimonial perspective. What I am referring to here is them talking amongst themselves, having a conversation that perpetuates of its own volition. You happen to be the one that was part of participating in the instigation and the management of that conversation and the ownership of the platforms on which that conversation was occurring. But you are stepping aside. You are letting them have the conversations amongst themselves.

The way we have done it, we are applying old media tactics to new media. That is a no-no. it is a very different thing. Great question, and awesome way to capture a key point. Let them talk amongst themselves. Step away. Let them have the conversation. That is the essence of going viral.

Burke: I presume we would use social media to enable that. I don’t have a place on my website with a forum.

Pete: It could be platforms, mobile messaging, you name it. Not you about yourself, not others about you, them amongst themselves.

Hugh: Thank you, Burke. That is so helpful. Pete, you mentioned clients several times here. They do an assessment. What is it you actually do? What’s your role in serving people?

Pete: Thank you for asking. There are two things I do. Typically, phase one is findings and recommendations. Findings is making recommendations on what it is they can do. They can take the ball and run with it from there. That is a two-month process. Maybe it’s a month. Somewhere in one to two months of back and forth, where I am investigating, validating, and coming up with some formulas and suggestions for what to do.

The other thing is I walk the journey with them. That other phase would be implementation services. Getting conversations off the ground, where we are doing a soft launch, testing the conversation, engaging the feedback, modifying or tweaking that conversation or imagery or phraseology and doing a more expanded global launch.

Findings and recommendations is the first part. Coaching them in that direction. Then holding their hands as they really move into live implementation. Usually, their staff is doing that outbound where I am providing a coaching or guiding role as if I am riding shotgun in a car.

Hugh: You obviously bring a lot of value to the conversation and awareness of things I have never thought of, and I have been doing this for quite a while. You can see by my gray hair.

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Pete, what do you want to leave people with today?

Pete: The providence of showing Frank Shankwitz on the front cover, I met Frank at a C-suite network hero club event here in New York City. I went up and shook his hand and said, “Frank, my brother claims that his son,” my nephew, who has since passed away of muscular dystrophy, “feels that he has one of the greatest Make a Wishes here of all time.” Frank is the founder of Make a Wish Foundation. My nephew and godson, Tyler, who passed away was the recipient of a Make a Wish, where he got to participate in the Atlanta Olympics NBA All-Star dream team. This was the dream team of dream teams. They all took him under his wing and carried him around afterward. They went away with the gold medal. “Frank, I can’t do enough for you if there is an opportunity to pay it forward. He pointed me to one of his many partners, Broadway Hearts. I got to work with some people there before the pandemic.

My closing comment is it is so providential that when you show Frank on the front cover, I went up and said to him, “Frank, anything I can do to support you?” I would say that to anybody who listens to this. Whenever you listen to this, if there is something I can do to support you, shoot me a message. If I can help you, I will. If I can give you some pointers, I will. I am here because I feel compelled to serve, to support organizations. I was born and raised with a lot of gits, and it is my time to pay it forward.

Hugh: Pete Winters from Thank you so much for being our guest today and giving us great information.

Pete: My pleasure always.


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