News & Events

Marketing Expert Offers Look at Social Media

By Rachel Judy

January 25, 2012

In a culture obsessed with social media, storytelling remains a fundamental aspect of the communication process, asserted Gordon Pennington, managing director of the Burning Media Group. Pennington shared his thoughts on social media and its impact on society as the featured speaker at the School of Communication & the Arts' first chapel of the semester on Wednesday, Jan. 11.

His address was titled, "The Role of Media and Social Networking in Transforming Culture," and his message was direct. "People are interested in people and people are interested in stories," he said. "So, how good is our storytelling?"

Ultimately, Pennington continued, "He who controls the story influences the communication process."

While channels of communicationparticularly social mediaare important to understand, Pennington urged the audience to remain focused on the people with whom they are communicating. "The way we communicate has a lot to do with what we communicate," he said.

Pennington was particularly adamant that Christians take the time to understand this concept in how they communicate their faith. "Christian influence has changed the cultural discussion," he said. But, "we haven't always functioned or expressed ourselves adequately in Christian community."

He stressed the need to couple digital interaction with face-to-face meetings. "I'd be a hypocrite to say I don't enjoy or employ many of these technologies," he said, referencing things like Facebook and Skype. But, it is face-to-face interactions that are truly going to most deeply impact a culture, he added.

Pennington also pointed out that Christians often fail to provide a context for their faith in a way that people who don't share their beliefs can understand. "This is a mission field that requires patience, skill and understanding to become legit .... You have to 'find, follow and fuel' conversations," he said, noting the proprietary method developed and refined by Pascal Van Knife, Burning Media Group's director of social media.

Pennington was described by The Wall Street Journal as a "Hi-Tech Traveler in Lo-Tech Countries." After developing marketing communications in the emerging electronic banking services sector for Citicorp and serving as a consultant to both Chase Manhattan Bank and J.P. Morgan Bank, he served as director of marketing for Tommy Hilfiger, where he helped position it as the fastest growing menswear company in the world.

In various marketing capacities, Pennington has worked with Apple, British Airways, CBS, the Coca-Cola Company, Equinox Fitness, Rollerblade, the Oxford Analytica, Meyado Investment Bank of London, the Ministry of Defense in the UK and the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University where he is also a board member.