May 7, 2020
Today’s guest is none other than Branden Harvey!
Branden is a storyteller focused on the good in the world. He’s the host of the podcast Sounds Good, the creator of the Goodnewspaper, a printed newspaper full of good news, and the founder of an online community with more than 250,000 world changers with his company Good Good Good. He’s helped brands like Disney, Square, Southwest Airlines, and (RED) tell meaningful stories with heart all over the world. He’s been written about and featured by media including The Washington Post, Seventeen Magazine, Fortune Magazine, and Mashable. He’s been dubbed the “Instagrammer who’s on a mission to change the world.”
We chatted with Branden about how to make a real difference in the world when such horrible, tragic, and heartbreaking things happen all around us. We talked about the overwhelm that can come with seeing bad news every day and feeling helpless when it comes to knowing how to actually do something that makes a difference. He gives practical actionable steps YOU can do right now to be an influence for GOOD, in your life and business, no matter how many followers you have.
This episode will inspire you and 100% bring a smile to your face. We need MORE people in the world with hearts like Branden’s and in today’s episode he’ll tell YOU where and how you can start.
We interviewed Branden before the coronavirus really hit and affected everything really hard, which is why we don’t talk about it in this conversation. However, our chat with Branden and what he is doing with his company, Good Good Good, could not have come at a better time. Since the interview with Branden, Good Good Good has risen up, done what they do best, and has been leading the charge in putting out good news in the midst of this global pandemic. It has been so incredible to see how Branden and Good Good Good have continued to spread hope, light, and positivity in a world filled with chaos and fear right now. Since recording his interview, Good Good Good has been featured in the New York Times and Miley Cyrus herself had Branden on her Instagram show, Bright Minded. We are so honored to have had him on the show spreading hope and positivity to you. We hope this episode fills you with peace about our world and the good that is truly all around you if you look for it.
Branden had the unique privilege of becoming a professional photographer when he was 16 years old. He says this isn’t an indication of his skill level, but rather an indication of how small his town was. It gave him a huge boost of confidence early on and a head start on understanding what it is like to run a business and do something you are passionate about.
When Branden moved from his hometown in Washington State to college in Portland, Oregan it was a big shift. He tried to take advantage of everything he could in the big city. He leaned into everything the city had to offer that his small town didn’t like non profit organizations. He began to volunteer taking photos and even walk around the streets photographing strangers. He wanted to get to know people in a way that was different than he had before. All of that eventually led to a point where these same non profits and people he met on the street were starting to hire him to take photos and tell stories not only in Portland but eventually in other parts of the country and around the world.
Along the way, he got to see all kinds of stories and meet all kinds of people who were creating incredible solutions to the world’s greatest problems. He saw a lot of heartbreak, pain, and injustice, but everywhere he went there were people working to combat those things. Oftentimes they were using their creativity to do so and Branden was able to tell their stories. When he came home, he realized it shouldn’t just be the donors and existing supporters to those nonprofits that get to hear the stories. He began to share those same stories on his Instagram. He realized this was too narrow and created a newsletter he could send out each week. That led to a podcast and then to a print newspaper called GoodNewspaper.
The Goodnewspaper is focused on the stories Branden was seeing first hand all across the world. There are stories of heartbreak, pain, and injustice in the world but ultimately it is about the stories of people who are creating solutions to those problems and celebrating the fact that those people are doing good in the world. Every page has action steps of how all of us can get involved in becoming a part of the good in the world as well.
When we are confronted with bad news, we all do one of two things. We either bury our head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. Or, we pay so much attention to it that we become cynical. The problem with both of these things is that we become frozen and unable to actually do something about the problem that is very real. If your head is buried in the sand and there is a heart breaking problem around you, it’s not just going to go away. We all have the opportunity to do something about it if we can pull our head out of the sand and get unstuck and take action. It’s easier said than done.
We need tools, people, community, and inspiration to pull our head out of the sand and make a difference.
For some reason, Branden really grasped onto the idea of storytelling when he was in highschool. He remembers seeing other photographers in town taking these 90s era photos. Year after year he was seeing the same photos and there was no storytelling involved. It was all the same studio, same lights, and same photoshop. He set out to figure out what it looks like to tell somebody’s story through photos.
As Branden transitioned into the humanitarian photography space, he really got into the ethics of storytelling in photos. You can tell any story you want with photos. Often people think that photography always tells the truth, but there is a lot of lying that can be done in photography. There were a lot of nonprofits that would photograph kids that were the worst, the most sick, or struggling the most. They would use this to prey on people’s guilt. Branden never wanted to tell that story because that is not what he was seeing when he was on the ground there. Maybe for some people that is the reality, but that is the beginning reality. The beautiful thing is that these nonprofits are doing incredible work to combat those problems and provide solutions. Early on, Branden was inspired by Esther Havens or Jeremy Snell, and he knew he wanted to focus on the other end of the story. The end where people are experiencing solutions and have already gone through the transformation that the organization is promising.
Branden sought out to photograph people who are healthy, happy, and further along in their story than they were before the non profit came into their life. He focused on capturing human dignity and telling a story that is focused on possibility, not hopelessness.
A big part of this storytelling was making it personable. Around that time, Branden had accidentally grown a following on Instagram and had a big audience. It was a place for telling personal stories. Branden wondered what it would look like to document people in the same way he would document hanging out with his friends.
Oftentimes we look at places that are far away as just so “other” and foreign. When you are on the ground and having conversations with people you realize how connected we are. We are all just people looking for the same things. We are looking for safety, stability, and love and looking to be a part of something that is bigger than ourselves.
Branden’s natural inclination was to lean in to telling their story and talk about people in that way. The goal was to make everyone feel a little less “other” and allow everyone to connect with other people.
We would all do anything to support a friend or someone we know. If we can help connect more people and establish a deeper sense of empathy with people who are a little different than us, but not that different than us, we would have the power to really make a difference and move the needle.
A lot of Branden’s storytelling comes down to the idea of how he can trick others and himself into caring about something that is hard to care about. He is constantly searching for the stories that would make him be less selfish in his daily choices and actually make a difference for others.
We all have friends we would do anything for because we love, support, and know them. How can we create that connection with someone across the planet that has a problem?
Marketing can do a lot of things. Marketing is just competing for our attention to take action. If the action you are trying to get people to make is some form of good in the world such as donating, volunteering, or being an advocate you have to get really creative to compete against these other brands.
This is such an energizing idea for Branden. It’s a fun challenge to try to make a difference in the world. We have an unfair advantage when we are trying to make a difference through our business or marketing and it really can move the needle.
Obviously social media is here to stay, but there are so many problems with it. There are a lot of downsides to social media, but there is also a lot of good. Although Branden has 99k followers on Instagram, he doesn’t feel any more capable of making a difference in the world than someone with 1,000 followers.
One of the trends we are seeing on social media right now is influencer marketing. The influencers with millions of followers aren’t getting the same ROI on their posts when brands hire as they used to. Brands are starting to put more of their money towards micro-influencers, those in the 1k-100k range. Brands are paying a lot of attention to these folks because they know that these are the actual influential people. The people with smaller audiences are actually connected to each person they talk to.
No matter how many followers you have, you have incredible power to make a difference and to influence the people in your life to use social media for good. To be honest, you have more power if you have less followers. Don’t feel like you have to wait until you have 100k followers or a million to make a difference. You have so much power now.
It comes down to what we specifically care about. Find what you want to make a difference in. This can be the upcoming election, a certain cause or solution that is already out there, or what really breaks your heart or overwhelms you. You have the opportunity to help other people feel less alone in that struggle and also figure out what the best solution for that problem is and advocate for that.
Some of the most successful people who make a difference come from a genuine place of heartbreak and pain and allow that to be the driving force for their empathy and action.
Once you know what you want to make a difference in, come back to the idea of marketing. With an extra step of intentionality and thoughtfulness of making a difference for a cause. Instead of posting just one time about it, brainstorm and figure out a way to talk about it over the next year. Find ways to educate your audience and bring them through a journey. Then you can invite them to join you in making a difference in a unique way. Don’t just make a one off post, focus on the whole story.
If everyone listening to the podcast took the initiative of taking on one issue, solution or cause that they care about and starting sharing with their audience consistently over x amount of time, just think about how much of a difference we could all make. Everyone who is on Instagram would be learning, feeling less overwhelmed, and feeling more capable of making a difference.
It’s easy to get obsessed with the next big number, but it’s so encouraging to know that we all have the ability to impact one person. If you get the opportunity to do that again and again, what a beautiful thing. One person at a time really makes a difference.
The closer we can get to one on one conversation, the better the outcome, especially with controversial ideas.
While working at a coworking space in Nashville filled with amazing creatives he had a conversation with a group of people with all different skill sets. They brainstormed a few ideas for more things to support the community that Branden had built online.
The biggest thing they kept coming up against is the idea that bad news is stickier in our brains than good news. Bad news sticks in our minds like velcro and good news seems to slide right off like teflon. That’s why bad news hits us so much harder and negative comments stick with us so much longer. Their brainstorming session was focused on how to trick people into paying attention to good news, when scientifically our brains don’t really like it.
They knew the internet is filled with bad news and that is hard to compete with, but they wondered if they could pull people away from the bad news and into a place where there is only good news. The first thought was to make a good news magazine, but then they realized how expensive magazines are to print. They needed a cheaper option and something they could make a ton of. That’s where the idea of the Goodnewspaper was born. It started as a crazy idea and a “what if”. They continued to brainstorm for a long time and eventually decided to put it out to the world to see if anyone was interested in the idea. Branden put it on Kickstarter and hoped and prayed they would find some like minded folks who would believe in the idea.
Wildly, within 52 hours they were fully funded. Within 30 days they doubled their initial campaign goal. It blew Branden’s mind.
They figured out how to print it and bring it to life, with a lot of hiccups along the way! It’s inevitable to run into bumps along the way, but if you really believe in an idea and see the power it has to make a difference in peoples’ lives, those things won’t stop you.
It all comes down to loving and supporting people the best way you can. Start with the people closest to you and work your way out. For Branden, his number one priority is to make sure that the team he works with is doing well, thriving, feeling supported, and liking the work they are doing. This allows them to create an amazing product that helps the next group of people: the community and those that care about the ideas.
A lot of businesses forget to focus on that first circle of people. You have to focus on your team before focusing on the people affected by your product.
The circles of focus are as follows: family, team and coworkers, then people bought into the GoodGoodGood mission, and finally the people they haven’t reached yet.
It can feel so overwhelming to try to know what to do. There is so much happening to the world. It can be hard to pick what to do. The first step is to ask yourself what breaks your heart. What is the thing that when you see it in the news you get stopped dead in your tracks or it takes your breath away? Or, what is the thing that has happened in your life, or the life of a loved one, that has impacted you so deeply that you still feel that in your bones? What is the thing that you have a deep and unique connection to? That is the thing that you need to focus on and dive into.
The next step is ultimately taking one step towards doing something about it. You may need to find others who have already started doing something.
Like Mr. Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
There will always be someone who is helping so sometimes you just have to look for that person first and join in with the work they are doing. Often this can be online advocacy and sharing how you can make a difference. When you share that post online you are actually reminding yourself that you have the power to make a difference. This gives you the energy to pull yourself out of the hole or cynicism and take more action. That first step is just a catalyst to your second step. The second step might be a bit more of a sacrifice, but you’ve got the energy to do it. It’s just one step after another.
Branden has created tools to help people know how to help and just launched a monthly membership. They offer a membership that includes a monthly Goodnewspaper where every page has practically action steps and a weekly email newsletter. The newsletter talks about a topic that is overwhelming that week. They say here is what is going on, here are the helpers, and here is the practical way for you to get involved.
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Check him out on Miley Cyrus’s Bright Minded: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpmaqkRqmn0&list=PLri1SD7nMWCHPSpnQgiOhJJDKvZ-qECYJ&index=22&t=0s
New York Times article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/14/style/good-news-coronavirus.html
Podcast inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
WASSUP FRIENDS. We’re Evie + Lindsey, co-founders of this wild partayyy called The Heart University. Our goal is to empower entrepreneurs to kick freaking BUTT in their businesses, dive down into the heart of their why and how, and serve you with all possible tools you’ll need to up-level your business game and CRUSH those goals of yours.
Whether you’re coming to an in-person workshop, joining our online course, or soaking up all the strategies via this blog or our podcast, we’re STOKED you’re here + can’t wait to see you out there kicking butt.
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