Small Business Spotlight

Storytelling is at the heart of Mindset Digital's message

From the May 2014 issue of Columbus CEO

At Mindset Digital, the executives believe in the power of storytelling.

Whether the Columbus-based company is teaching social media to marketing executives, training medical workers to increase patient satisfaction or coaching salespeople about best practices, stories are at the heart of their message.

“People take in and retain stories,” says company co-founder Betsy Hubbard. “It’s fascinating.”

The company, which began as a side business for Hubbard and co-founder Debra Jasper, initially focused on social media training for journalists. The women, who spent seven years at Ohio State University directing the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism, created a social media fellowship in 2009.

The trend toward telling shorter, more visual stories inspired the fellowship, Jasper says. The program generated so much interest the women soon realized they had the potential to start a new business. They opened Mindset Digital in 2010. Since then they have given presentations around the world.

Managing growth and building a team of people who understand the role of storytelling and visuals in education were two of the early challenges, the women say.

“There’s such a demand. You can’t be experts at everything,” adds CEO Pamela Springer, who joined the company last year. They also have hired former journalists and a video game designer.

Springer was brought in to help the company manage its growth and expansion into new fields. The former CEO of Manta sees potential for Mindset Digital to “disrupt the training world” with its “unique approach.”

The company has begun using its approach to disseminating information – a technique they call “Unpack Digital” – for other businesses and processes. They are targeting finance, insurance and health industries.

Unpacking information means taking complex information and concepts and presenting in a visual way that’s easy to understand.

Rather than offering a list of reasons why a person might be scared to go to the hospital, their presentation on patient satisfaction shows a frail woman in a hospital bed.

“We know visuals can double memory. People don’t remember a lot of text,” says Jasper, a former journalist who has a doctorate in educational policy and leadership. “What we’ve created is much more in tune with how people acquire information.”

Mindset Digital’s presentations routinely include music, photos, personal stories and humor.

The way the company relays information “captivates,” the audience, says John Palmer, director of public affairs for the Ohio Hospital Association in Columbus. The company has helped OHA’s members see the value in social media. Mindset Digital also worked with OHA to survey members about how they used social media, which offered opportunities for increased communication and understanding, he says.

“They have the ability to capture people’s attention around this topic,” he says.

They understand the “way people digest information,” adds Dale E. Heydlauff, vice president of corporate communications for AEP. The company worked with Mindset Digital to create, launch and hone its social media platforms and to train employees to understand and use them.

Heydlauff appreciates working with Mindset Digital because its employees are informed and curious. The company constantly “scans the horizons” for new trends, Heydlauff says.

“They’re doing that for us, which is a significant help and value to us,” he says.

Mindset Digital currently has two main areas of focus: a standard training program that covers, among other things, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, digital advertising and mobile marketing and customized training opportunities.

More and more companies are turning to Mindset Digital to help them train workers at all levels and in a variety of departments on how to use social media.

“As social media has evolved, it’s a tool set that everybody needs and everybody needs to understand,” says Hubbard, who has a master’s degree in public policy and spent a year studying at the London School of Economics.

While she and Jasper used to do much of their training in person, they now use online courses that people take at their convenience and review when necessary.

“It’s available 24/7. On their phone. As needed. On demand,” Hubbard adds.

Much of the information is presented in “flipped classroom,” where students get their initial lessons online via their phone or other device. Once they’ve seen the online presentation, they come together with a group or their supervisor to discuss or fine tune techniques.

The training programs also provide reports to companies about associates’ progress. It tracks participants and tests them on their understanding of the material.

The customized training operates similarly, focusing on whatever information or skills the company requests. Currently, business is split pretty evenly between the two branches.

Changing technologies, the emphasis on doing more with less and importance of continuing education will provide a foundation for long-term relationships with clients, the women say.

“We know, more than ever before, the importance of lifelong learning–keeping your skills up to date,” Hubbard says. “It’s a huge need.”Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.